Votorantim Metais Níquel and Votorantim Novos have secured a contract to conduct test work on Search Minerals' starved acid leaching technology (SALT) process.
Votorantim will carry out the work at a pilot plant, which will be designed and assembled at Brazil's Centro de Tecnologia Mineral.
Search Minerals has granted Votorantim a three-year option to acquire a 50% interest in the patent-pending SALT process.
According to the agreement, Votorantim must fund the tests to be carried out at the CETEM pilot plant and prepare a final report assessing the results.
Votorantim will also pay an advanced royalty of $500k a year in the event that it constructs a process plant utilising the SALT process at its Niquelândia or Cípo mine sites or other mineral projects in Brazil.