Agata Mining Ventures Inc (AMVI) has completed a detailed drill program at the Agata Nickel Laterite Project in northern Mindanao comprising 986 holes for 16,768 metres. Results from this program will be used to increase the confidence level of the existing nickel laterite resources and potentially expand the size of the deposit.

AMVI is a joint venture company in which TVI Pacific’s Philippine affiliate TVI Resource Development (Phils) (TVIRD) holds a 60% interest and is the operator, and Mindoro Resources holds 40%. It expects to complete an updated NI 43-101 report for the project in the third quarter of 2015.

AMVI commenced a detailed diamond drilling program in October 2014 consisting of in-fill and step-out drill holes on the Agata nickel laterite ore body to upgrade and increase the resources previously disclosed in April 2013. The program was completed in with up to 17 drill rigs mobilized at one time and comprised 907 in-fill holes and 79 step-out holes.

Results have shown average nickel and iron grades for saprolite horizons of 1.3% nickel and 14% iron while limonite intersections averaged 1.1% nickel and 49% iron (both at a cut-off grade of 0.8% nickel). Significant intersections of up to 4.3% nickel and 55% iron were encountered at vertical thicknesses ranging from 6 to 22 metres. The results will be used primarily to upgrade the confidence level of current known resources from the indicated category to the measured category.

TVI’s chairman and CEO Clifford James says, “I am proud of the TVIRD team for completing such a substantial drill campaign in just six months to improve our understanding of the Agata nickel laterite deposit and its resource potential.

“The results will serve as a guide for ongoing mining activities at the Agata nickel laterite direct shipping ore (DSO) operations and will also support TVIRD’s valuation as it seeks to secure a listing on the Philippine Stock Exchange later this year – the achievement of which could substantially enhance TVI’s 30.66% investment and provide TVI with a possible source of funding for future projects.”

Meanwhile, AMVI completed three shipments of DSO nickel ore during April for gross proceeds of US$4.2 million from Agata. Going forward, AMVI is adjusting its shipment schedule to make up to two shipments of higher nickel grade saprolite ore and up to two shipments of high iron/low nickel limonite ore per month, based on market prices and demand.

The three shipments included two high iron/low nickel limonite ore shipments and one higher nickel grade saprolite ore shipment. They represent the 11th through 13th shipments completed by AMVI since operations commenced in October 2014. The company expected to receive gross revenue of more than US$4.194 million for the shipments.

For May, AMVI plans to make one shipment of saprolite ore instead of four shipments originally anticipated for the month. The reduction is being made in light of currently depressed prices and low demand for all grades of nickel laterite ore in the Philippines.

As at the end of April, limonite ore grading up to 0.9% nickel and 49% iron traded at US$12 per tonne, down 50% from early 2014, while saprolite ore containing 1.6% nickel traded at US$32 per tonne, down 40% since the end of 2014. AMVI is closely monitoring market conditions and will continue adjusting its shipment schedule as necessary to ensure continued operational profitability.

“While AMVI has made great strides in ramping up production capacity in the last few months, the extreme volatility in Philippine nickel laterite prices has necessitated a high level of flexibility in our operations,” says Clifford James. “Despite this challenging situation, we anticipate that a turnaround in nickel prices towards the latter part of the year.”