OZ Minerals has acquired a 51% stake in the West Musgrave copper-nickel project in Western Australia (WA) after achieving the earn-in milestone of spending A$22m ($15.6).

Pursuant to the terms of an agreement signed in October 2016, OZ Minerals already made an initial payment of A$3m ($2.1m) to Cassini Resources, the company’s joint venture partner on the project.

The company followed it up with an additional $19m ($13.49m) prefeasibility study (PFS) at the Nebo-Babel deposits and regional exploration.

The companies are currently conducting a PFS of the West Musgrave project and are targeting completion by the second quarter of next year.

OZ Minerals CEO Andrew Cole said: “Recent early metallurgical test work shows significant improvements over the results achieved during the Further Scoping Study with a material improvement in copper and nickel recoveries.

“On results to date, we have also seen an increase in copper concentrate grade while nickel concentrate grade remains in line with the Further Scoping Study.

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“We have also seen an increase in copper concentrate grade while nickel concentrate grade remains in line with the Further Scoping Study.”

“These encouraging improvements together with results from our regional exploration drill programme that intersected massive sulphides at Yappsu (located approximately 6km from the Nebo-Babel deposits, which are the primary focus of the PFS), further support our view that West Musgrave has the potential to be an exciting new mineral province with near mine and district opportunities.”

OZ Minerals can increase its interest in the project by a further 19% by incurring an expenditure of an additional A$14m ($9.9m) towards project studies and regional exploration.

Located 30km from Jameson near the borders of South Australia and the Northern Territory and touted as the largest undeveloped nickel-copper project in Australia, the project comprises three existing nickel and copper sulphide deposits, in addition to several other significant regional exploration targets.