ASX-listed tin explorer Limited has outlined plans to undertake a scoping study in 2016 for the fast track development of the Lower Queen Hill deposit of its Tin project near Zeehan, Tasmania.

Of the three tin deposits at the site, Queen Hill has been chosen for a smaller-scale, start-up, mining option as it is exposed at the surface and is closer to the portal for the PFS underground mine than the neighbouring Montana and Severn deposits. In addition, only limited drilling would be required for an ore reserve upgrade. The study will focus on the lower section of the deposit, which has a resource of 1.09 Mt of ore at 1.36% Sn, or 14,824 tonnes of tin, with relatively coarse cassiterite grains compared to the rest of Queen Hill, although by-product concentrations are lower. The study will investigate construction of a decline, which could be extended to the Severn deposit and reduce the cost of DFS development work for the wider project.

The Heemskirk project is 18 km from Australia’s oldest and largest tin mine, Renison Bell. In the last quarter of 2015, Stellar was focussed on the optimised PFS base case for a 600,000 tpa underground mine at the location and has planned a new drilling programme to update the existing inferred mineral resource of 6.3 Mt at 1.14% to the ore reserve category. An external expert has recommended a 55 diamond drill hole infill programme of 22,000m in order to achieve the upgrade.

ITRI View: Heemskirk joins a number of tin projects, including Achmmach and Abu Dabbab in Africa and Taronga in New South Wales, who have considered small-scale start-up mine operations in the last year. This trend correlates with lower tin prices and an increasingly challenging investment climate for mine projects. A less capex intensive mining operation reduces risk for investors and can demonstrate, on a small scale, that metallurgical parameters are achievable in reality before the decision is taken to scale-up the operation to full capacity.