Aeramentum set to weigh into EU battery metals markets

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Outcropping copper mineralisation from Aeramentum Resources’ Treasure project in Cyprus.
Camera IconOutcropping copper mineralisation from Aeramentum Resources’ Treasure project in Cyprus. Credit: File.

When Cyprus was granted membership of the European Union on May 1 2004, it was widely regarded as the final validation of the country’s claim it conformed to the standards of the “Copenhagen criteria”. The elite club required member countries to demonstrate a functioning market economy, a stable democracy and adherence to the rule of law in addition to accepting all EU legislation and the adoption of the euro.

Cyprus ticked all the boxes.

Importantly, following admission to the trading bloc, companies operating within the borders of Cyprus suddenly had the ability to trade freely within the EU without any of the limitations faced by those on the outside.

At the time of the decision, few would have given any thought electric vehicles, the batteries that power them and the minerals that form of the foundation of the green energy revolution.

Fast forward to 2022 and soon to be ASX-listed Aeramentum Resources has its foot on a swag of projects in Cyprus that are beaming with signs of historic mineralisation all which sit at the heart of the battery metals market.

The company has its hands on a treasure trove of old geological reports that point to historic occurrences of battery metals at its Treasure project such as copper, nickel, cobalt and others with grades going up to 18 per cent copper, 10 per cent nickel, 4 to 5 grams per tonne gold and 0.6 per cent cobalt across its ground on the lucrative island. Aeramentum is currently raising money ahead of listing its Cyprus projects on the ASX next month and will immediately set about applying modern exploration techniques to them with a view to immersing itself in the burgeoning European electric vehicle markets.

Aeramentum is aiming to raise up between $5m and $7m in an initial public offering and plans to hit the ASX boards before following up historic drill intercepts on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea in Cyprus.

Copper mining in Cyprus dates back to the fourth millennium BC and evidence of historic mining throughout the island suggests it was one of the major sources of copper for the ancient world.

With several listed companies now active on the island and a growing demand for battery metals, Aeramentum foresees a full renaissance of mining in Cyprus in coming years.

The explorer’s landholding takes in about 40km of strike length prospective for nickel, copper, gold and cobalt within ultramafic-hosted volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits.

Volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits are compact, high-grade accumulations of metals that are known to form in clusters and are deemed important sources of copper, zinc, lead, gold, and silver by the US Geological Survey.

The project comprises three premier prospects, Laxia, Pevkos and Apsiou that collectively host numerous high-grade metal occurrences and come with evidence of past mining with multiple shafts and old mine entrances.

Sampling across 1.5km of the old mine entrances scattered throughout the project returned an impressive average grade of 3.4 per cent copper with intervals including 8m at 11.2 per cent copper, 4m going a solid 16.8 per cent copper and 14m running 3.5 per cent nickel, 0.6 per cent cobalt. Another2m historic intersection came in at 2m grading a solid 5.3 per cent nickel and 2 per cent cobalt.

The company aims to quickly establish resources by focusing on areas with past drilling and mining operations.

Laxia is currently at the top of the priority hit list with a multitude of high-grade rock chip samples and historical drill intersections that look like they are begging for follow up.

Previous rock chips sampling at Laxia has yielded up to 17 g/t gold and 3.55 per cent copper. Holes drilled in 2013 by ASX-listed BMG Resources returned significant intersections including 2.25m at 4.15 per cent copper from 153m downhole, containing a higher-grade 0.45m at 18 per cent copper and 0.37 per cent cobalt.

The drilling conducted by BMG also encountered large voids, thought to be unrecorded extractions of ore.

In addition to the high grades, transect sampling by Aeramentum has revealed mineralisation at the prospect is up to 7m wide, grading 3.6 g/t gold, 1.25 per cent copper and 0.16 per cent nickel with a higher-grade 1m interval at 14.6 g/t gold, 4.8 per cent copper and 0.11 per cent nickel.

Aeramentum plans to target the mineralisation at Laxia with up to 20 holes in the company’s inaugural drilling program.

A short 2km east of Laxia lies the Pevkos prospect, containing an east and west lode. Pevkos is peppered with historical workings and high-grade nickel, cobalt and gold surface samples over a combined strike of 660m.

Across 21 surface samples collected from Pevkos, results as high as 18.25 g/t gold, 8.4 per cent copper and 3.67 per cent nickel were returned.

In 2014 BMG intercepted a 2m interval going 3.03 per cent nickel, 0.33 per cent copper, 0.16 per cent cobalt and 3.0 g/t gold from 94m in the western lode and another 1m interval of 0.54 per cent nickel, 3.14 per cent copper, 0.15 per cent cobalt and 2.3 g/t gold from 147m in the eastern lode.

Notably, the significant intersection from the western lode contained a jam-packed 1m interval of 9.45 per cent nickel and 7.12 g/t gold.

Aeramentum believes the mineralisation along strike and at depth remains thoroughly untested.

The company’s proposed work at Pevkos will be carried out in two stages. The first stage involves re-mapping and sampling of the historical workings and surface mineralisation before a potential second stage of drill testing along strike and at depth.

A limited amount of previous exploration data is available at Treasure’s third prospect, Apsiou, that adjoins Laxia. However, the area shows evidence of historic mining activities including podiform chromite workings, mine entrances and relics of Roman-era smelting.

The explorer’s surface sampling returned up to 4.26 per cent copper, however further work is required to ascertain the extent of potential mineralisation.

Apsiou is an early-stage prospect that covers a relatively large area with the potential to deliver similar targets to those found within Laxia and Pevkos.

In addition to drilling, Aeramentum plans to survey all three prospects with an array of geophysical methods to home in on the mineralisation.

Notably, the company draws parallels for the project’s geology with other volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits globally such as Bou Azzer in Morocco — one of the world’s highest-grade cobalt mines — and the high-grade nickel-copper-gold deposits of the Ural Mountains.

Such deposits are typically not depth-constrained and have the company thinking a combination of geophysical exploration and deep drilling will be able to demonstrate the tonnage potential of its deposits by proving the “depth theory” over time.

The initial holes have been designed to intersect the shallow orebody at about 100m below surface on average, with a follow-up program planned for early next year for a deeper push, potentially towards 300m.

In November last year, Pan-European banking group UniCredit Chief Economist, Erik Nielsen, said the EU has formed a “battery alliance” with “some 24 battery gigafactories” to be established domestically.

Nielsen also suggested the increased capacity would be enough to equip about 9 million electric vehicles per year.

Car manufacturing titan Volkswagen is said to be setting up six of its battery factories in Europe by 2030 and Swedish car maker Volvo is likely to build a third factory in Europe in 2025.

The timeline could prove serendipitous for Aeramentum who has a maiden resource estimation pencilled in for next year in Cyprus. It is even eyeing feasibility work to deliver highly sought-after battery metals to European buyers by 2026 when a large number of the gigafactories are due to open.

After a decade of exponential growth, there were 10 million electric cars on the road at the end of 2020, marking a 43 per cent increase from the previous year.

Bloomberg’s research arm New Energy Finance says to get on track for net-zero by 2050, the world needs to rally an electric vehicle fleet of 612 million by 2035.

The International Energy Agency says a typical electric car requires six times more mineral inputs than a conventional car, with the weighty list of metals including 53kg of copper, 8.9kg of lithium, almost 40kg of nickel, more than 13kg of cobalt and 66kg of graphite. The conventional car requires just 22kg

Whilst it is still early days for Aeramentum, it will be interesting to see if the company can transform its polymetallic project in Cyprus into a resource and then into an operating mine that is capable of feeding the insatiable European electric vehicle industry.

It is believed the name “Cyprus” is something of an ancient derivative of the word “copper” given its prevalence on the island where it was being mined when miners still wore sandals – which means Cyprus is probably not a bad place to start looking if you are chasing copper.

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