Sunday 21st October 2018

Resource Clips

September, 2012

Week in review

September 28th, 2012

A mining and exploration retrospect for September 22 to 28, 2012

by Greg Klein

Saskatchewan miners safe after 17-hour ordeal

Widespread relief greeted the news Tuesday evening that 20 miners surfaced safely after 24 hours underground—including 17 hours trapped by a fire.

Smoke spread through PotashCorp’s TSX:POT Rocanville Mine in southeastern Saskatchewan as plastic insulation on coiled electrical cable caught fire just before 2:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. Nine workers made it to surface within minutes but 20 others had to make their way through smoke to refuge stations.

A rescue squad spent nearly 12 hours fighting the fire with water and foam, then waited hours for the mine to cool and ventilate.

All 20 were reported safe at about 6:42 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 17 hours after the fire started and over 24 hours after their shift began. The mine re-opened Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement released Wednesday, President Dave Coles of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union said, “The potash industry has seen more than 50 fatalities in Saskatchewan since its inception in the late 1950s.”

Mining and exploration week in review

Last June a backup operator died at the PotashCorp Allan Mine. Two others died in accidents at Agrium’s TSX:AGU Vanscoy Mine in May 2010 and Mosaic’s MOS Esterhazy Mine in November 2009.

Reports suggest this week’s emergency was handled effectively, with the trapped miners waiting out their vigil safely in four well-provisioned refuge stations. Some of the miners recounted their experience to the Globe and Mail. At press time, however, the cause of the fire hadn’t been determined. An internal investigation is underway.

With a market cap of $36.7 billion, PotashCorp says it is the world’s largest potash producer, providing about 20% of global capacity.

Unsettling questions about South Africa

Turmoil continues in South Africa, increasing concerns about how far the labour strife will go. After strike-related violence killed 46 people at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine last August the company settled with employees, most of whom returned to work on September 20. But approximately 75,000 others remain on strike at mines operated by other companies, including Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats), AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Villa Main Reef. An additional 20,000 transport workers have joined the walkouts.

Adding to the tension is rivalry among unions and politicians, including President Jacob Zuma and his arch-foe Julius Malema. The latter talks of nationalizing the country’s mining sector and has encouraged strikers to make the industry “ungovernable.” Zuma counters that the strikes could plunge the country back into recession.

Meanwhile Lonmin’s pay raises, ranging from 11% to 22%, haven’t pacified the situation. On Wednesday Bloomberg quoted SBG Securities gold analyst David Davis, who says, “Workers are now demanding wage increases according to the ‘Lonmin settlement.’” That prompts the despairing question of whether a significant pay hike from one employer can help destabilize poverty-stricken countries.

Riot shuts down Chinese factory city

Last Sunday’s riot at one of China’s sprawling labour camps might indicate deeper problems within the world’s largest consumer of resources. Although details are murky, reports indicate a personal dispute in a Foxconn factory barracks may have lead to security guards beating a worker severely, which then sparked a much bigger confrontation. As of Friday, work was still shut down and the 79,000-person company city was being patrolled by riot-equipped company cops.

As the Sydney Morning Herald explains, “The unrest underscores the social strains of a Chinese export-manufacturing model where thousands of workers, mostly young, work long hours in military-style conditions, sleeping in dormitories and surrounded by security guards.”

Foxconn’s factory cities came to Western attention in 2010 after a wave of suicides at its 300,000-person complex in Shenzhen, China. The company manufactures electronic components for Apple, Nokia, Dell and Sony.

Guess what—Bre-X has no money

That revelation came out in a Calgary courtroom Thursday as bankruptcy trustee Deloitte & Touche applied to have investors’ class action suits dismissed. The infamous gold scam came to light in March 1997, when Bre-X shares plunged faster than a geologist falling from a helicopter.

But University of Calgary Finance Professor Gordon Sick comments on the futility of the lawsuits, asking, “Who else can pay but other shareholders?” As he told the CBC, “Shareholders are essentially suing themselves. The only winner is the lawyer…”

The hearing was adjourned until December 4.

Bean honoured

Gold bugs continue to gain mainstream support. On Tuesday the Financial Post reported Morgan Stanley’s top picks for commodity investments. Gold holds the #1 spot due to “interest rates, risk aversion and strong physical market fundamentals.” The firm’s commodities team likes silver for the same reasons. Among base metals, copper, nickel and, looking further ahead, zinc get good marks. Platinum, however, “lacks safe haven status and has limited investment demand.”

But no metal follows gold into second place. Morgan Stanley reserves that honour for soybeans. “U.S. production continues to get slammed and South American harvest results have also been disappointing,” the FP states. “Meanwhile demand remains high.”

Juniors are the only way to invest in graphite

In an interview published Tuesday by the Gold Report, Industrial Minerals writer Simon Moores points out that Chinese companies and private companies dominate the graphite market. Therefore “juniors are really the only way to participate directly in this market. The non-Chinese major players, like TIMCAL Graphite & Carbon in Canada, are part of larger minerals companies. So when you invest in Imerys, which is the parent company, you’re not investing in an exclusively graphite-focused company. Graphite is only a tiny percentage of its business…. Ultimately, your most direct option is to go for the juniors.”

Moores sees a bright future for graphite, which he attributes to “layers of demand.” The commodity’s new uses don’t replace older uses, so demand keeps growing. “Electric vehicles should be the catalyst for explosive growth in graphite demand,” he adds.

Just what this industry needs

The shortage of skilled mining specialists could reach 50,000 to 100,000 people in the next five years, according to one prediction reported by the Financial Post on Tuesday. Not only that, but the industry needs new types of expertise. The paper quotes Richard Ross, former CEO of Inmet Mining TSX:IMN, who says executive responsibilities are no longer limited to “building and running a mine.” They now include “all the issues around that mine, such as sustainability, government relations, business modeling, strategic planning, etc.”

To address those issues, Ross is now program director for York University’s Global Mining Management studies, a new field for MBA specialization. Additionally Laurentian University has created a School of Mines which will eventually turn out MBAs.

The FP quotes Dave Constable, former VP of FNX Mining (now Quadra FNX Mining TSX:QUX): “You need people with the full integration of skill sets, from capital market and business development to the technical, cultural and environmental aspects of the business.”

And if there’s anything MBAs don’t learn in their theoretical studies, someone can always show them how to do it.

How junior might help the juniors

While industry executives were preparing for the Toronto Resource Investment Conference this week, five minutes of fun called Gangnam Style went viral. The video might have inspired reflection for any CEOs disappointed with offspring pursuing celebrity ambitions instead of the practical world of business. According to a Tuesday Reuters dispatch, Psy’s video helped his father’s software firm double its share price.

September 27th, 2012

Grandich gold update by the Grandich Report
Gold hits record versus euro and franc by the Financial Post
Simon Moores on the great graphite supply shakeup by the Gold Report
Creating currency is a blank check for miners by GoldSeek
All signs pointing to gold by VantageWire
Five dumbest things on Wall Street by Equedia

Repeating history

September 26th, 2012

“If the past is anything to go by,” graphite’s future is strong

By Greg Klein

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Although graphite lost considerable market interest last April, exploration and development continued through the summer. That brought some companies a corresponding uptick in share price. Standard Graphite TSXV:SGH ranks among those with an historical advantage—a project with non-43-101 drill results and a resource estimate that were filed away when China flooded the world with the carbon commodity. The reports are non-compliant but, if recent drilling can confirm them, they’ll help push progress along.

On September 26 Standard announced completion of 12 confirmation drill holes at its Mousseau East Graphite Deposit in southwestern Quebec.

Some 62 holes totalling 4,996 metres had been drilled previously by Graphicor. A 1992 non-43-101 resource estimate showed 800,000 tonnes grading 8% carbon, using a 3% cutoff. The resource went to a vertical depth of only 40 metres but Standard says graphite continues deeper and along strike. With Phase I now complete, drilling continues to potentially expand the resource beyond the historic numbers.

Graphite One Resources has been releasing assays from its property 65 kilometres north of Nome, Alaska.

But Standard’s not the only one showing an historical interest in Graphicor. On September 20 Lomiko Metals TSXV:LMR announced completion of 23 holes totalling 1,600 metres on its Quatre Milles East Flake Graphite Property, also in southwestern Quebec. The company hopes assays will confirm 1992 results from Graphicor, which found impressive, albeit non-43-101 grades including 8.07% carbon over 28.6 metres, 8.07% over 8.7 metres and 5.88% over 11.2 metres.

Along with the Quatre Milles West Property acquired last May, Lomiko’s two Quatre Milles claim blocks total 3,780 hectares.

Standard and Lomiko obviously hope assays will repeat history. But in the case of Focus Graphite TSXV:FMS, history seems to have repeated itself—or at least, to have been repeated—the wrong way.

On September 25 Focus was slapped with a Management Cease Trade Order. According to a company statement issued that day, the Ontario Securities Commission decided some of the company’s disclosures about its Lac Knife Project in northeastern Quebec were based on historic, non-43-101 data.

The company first announced the OSC review on September 10, when Focus referred to previously released “information on the project’s capital cost, mine life, estimates on yearly production, production costs per ton and revenue potential. Most of this information was taken from historical reports prepared by previous owners of the project before the introduction of NI 43-101 and should not be relied upon.”

The MCTO holds until the company files a compliant technical report. Focus plans to file a PEA in the coming weeks.

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September 26th, 2012

Saskatchewan mine fire traps 20 workers by the Financial Post
Simon Moores on the great graphite supply shakeup by the Gold Report
Creating currency is a blank check for miners by GoldSeek
Economic warfare in America’s future? by the Grandich Report
All signs pointing to gold by VantageWire
Five dumbest things on Wall Street by Equedia

A hesitant market

September 25th, 2012

Good news leaves investors unimpressed

By Greg Klein

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Impressive drill results can do wonders for an exploration company’s stock. Or they can leave people wondering. A darling of the junior resource sector, GoldQuest Mining TSXV:GQC announced more gold results on September 25. But if a share price bump was going to happen, it didn’t happen immediately.

Here are highlights from three holes at the Romero Gold-Copper Discovery of the company’s Las Tres Palmas Trend in the Dominican Republic.

  • 2.64 grams per tonne gold (uncut) or 2.5 g/t gold (top cut) and 0.33% copper over 122.7 metres
  • (including 6.35 g/t gold (uncut) or 5.97 g/t gold (top cut) and 0.53% copper over 44 metres)
  • 0.59 g/t gold and 0.24% copper over 110 metres
  • (including 1 g/t gold and 0.32% copper over 50 metres)
  • 0.42 g/t gold and 0.74% copper over 146.5 metres
  • (including 0.54 g/t gold and 1.47% copper over 72 metres)
  • 0.53 g/t gold and 0.16% copper over 71.7 metres
Good news leaves investors unimpressed

Drill core samples from SnipGold Corp’s Bronson Slope in northwestern B.C.

An arbitrary top cut of 50 g/t gold was used pending further geostatistical data. The top cut was applied to all results, but affected only one interval. True widths were not provided. Depths extend to 476 metres.

With these results, GoldQuest has now reported assays from 10 holes at Romero. Still to come are results for five additional holes. Drilling continues.

Two years ago GoldQuest stock traded just over $0.20. Its price gradually doubled but then sunk all the way to $0.04 last May 16. But despite the market downturn, May 23 began the company’s rapid recovery. That’s when assays from the Romero Discovery first hit the market. GoldQuest shot up to an August 21 high of $2.03 before dropping back. It climbed again to $2.00 on September 20, then fell to a September 24 close of $1.83. Despite the September 25 assays, however, the stock opened the day at $1.35 before a press time close of $1.23.

GoldQuest’s closest Tres Palmas neighbour is Unigold’s TSXV:UGD 22,616-hectare flagship Candelones Project. On September 13 Unigold released assays including

  • 0.71 g/t gold, 1.2 g/t silver, 0.09% copper and 0.42% zinc over 165.65 metres
  • (including 1.38 g/t gold, 4.1 g/t silver, 0.06% copper and 1.25% zinc over 27.65 metres)
  • 0.56 g/t gold, 1.8 g/t silver, 0.06% copper and 0.08% zinc over 89 metres
  • (including 1 g/t gold, 5.1 g/t silver, 0.11% copper and 0.21% zinc over 25 metres)
  • (including 1.3 g/t gold, 2.1 g/t silver and 0.22% copper over 10 metres)
  • 0.49 g/t gold, 0.6 g/t silver, 0.07% copper and 0.01% zinc over 28 metres
  • 0.62 g/t gold, 0.5 g/t silver, 0.09% copper and 0.06% zinc over 12 metres

The company estimates intervals to be true widths. No top cut was applied. Depths extend to 476 metres.

Unigold says the results support its belief that the Candelones Extension Zone remains open in three directions. Data from 36 holes has been released so far, with assays pending for seven more from the Candelones Extension. The company states that mineralization shows a strong correlation with IP chargeability anomalies.

On September 13 Unigold also closed a $5-million private placement of 11.2 million shares at $0.45.

The little country’s biggest mining project is Pueblo Viejo, which began pouring gold on August 14. With proven and probable reserves totalling 25.3 million gold ounces, the project is a 60%-40% JV between Barrick TSX:ABX and Goldcorp TSX:G. Barrick operates the mine, which is expected to reach commercial production in Q4 this year.

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September 25th, 2012

Simon Moores on the great graphite supply shakeup by the Gold Report
Creating currency is a blank check for miners by GoldSeek
Economic warfare in America’s future? by the Grandich Report
How the gold standard could actually work in today’s economy: Deutsche Bank by the Financial Post
All signs pointing to gold by VantageWire
Five dumbest things on Wall Street by Equedia

Meet the juniors

September 24th, 2012

Toronto Resource Investment Conference 2012 links investors with opportunities

By Ted Niles

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When market uncertainty prevails, perspective is one of the most valuable (and, needless to say, scarce) commodities an investor can hope for. And there will be perspective in abundance at Cambridge House’s Toronto Resource Investment Conference 2012 on September 27 and 28.

“It’s an anomaly right now,” says Cambridge House Owner and Founder Joe Martin. “You have record-setting prices for most of the mineral ore that we’re looking for, and yet the prices of the stocks are extremely depressed. That’s primarily because of the lack of available capital as a consequence of the world crisis, particularly in Europe. Looking at gold: companies are profitable at $800 gold, and yet we have clients who have more cash in the bank than their market cap. So it’s been a very tough period for these companies to raise money. You’re seeing financings at 10, 15, 20 cents when they should be in the 60-, 70-, 80-cent range.”

Martin notes that the last three months were particularly brutal for junior mining stocks, but he believes that August saw the bottom of the market. “We went through a very depressing summer, but the tempo of my sales force and the attitude of my whole staff in the last three weeks has been very upbeat. And we’re a good barometer of that, because we’re in touch with a wide variety of the exploration people. If you look at the TSX Venture index you’ll see that we’ve turned the corner.”

Toronto Resource Investment Conference 2012 links investors with opportunities

Investors, miners and explorers will converge on Toronto for one of the industry’s biggest annual events.

That said, it’s some indication of the strength of a number of Cambridge House’s exhibitors that they have remained reasonably unscathed despite the length and sharpness of this particular bear market’s claws. Most remarkable would be Argonaut Gold TSX:AR, whose share price has increased over 260% during the last two years, reporting in August record revenue and production from its La Colorada and El Castillo mines in Mexico. Not quite so dramatic but still noteworthy are GoldQuest Mining TSXV:GQC, Great Panther Silver TSX:GPR, Eurasian Minerals TSXV:EMX, Comstock Metals TSXV:CSL and Balmoral Resources TSXV:BAR, who have all performed well in recent months.

Martin says there is no shortage of opportunities for juniors moving forward. Consider that half the world’s population is living in countries whose economies are growing at 6% per year. Note too that central banks increased their gold purchases 571% in 2011. “Ore bodies run out, and it’s primarily up to the Canadian juniors to find new ones,” he declares. “Canadian juniors are very adept at doing this. Right now the big thing is the rush for battery-technology metals—lithium, graphite and, coming down the pipe, zinc. It’s the Canadian juniors that are meeting this demand.”

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September 24th, 2012

Precious metals—when financial repression fails by GoldSeek
Economic warfare in America’s future? by the Grandich Report
Scotiabank analyst uncovers mining opportunities in unusual places by the Gold Report
How the gold standard could actually work in today’s economy: Deutsche Bank by the Financial Post
All signs pointing to gold by VantageWire
Five dumbest things on Wall Street by Equedia

Looking back at last week

September 21st, 2012

A round-up of exploration and mining news for September 15 to 21, 2012

By Greg Klein

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The elephant in B.C. boardrooms
On Thursday the long, long process of advancing Taseko Mines’ TSX:TKO $1.1-billion New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project crept forward—or, according to the company, reached a “major milestone”—when Taseko formally filed its Environmental Impact Statement to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority. A three-member panel will review the submission and conduct public hearings over the next year.

Although the project passed a British Columbia environmental review, a federal panel rejected it in November 2010, condemning a plan to convert Fish Lake into a tailings dump. Taseko then came up with a $300-million plan to preserve the 118-hectare lake by positioning the tailings two kilometres north.

In a Vancouver Sun op-ed on Friday, Taseko President/CEO Russell Hallbauer sells the project’s economic benefits. But no one in the industry seems willing to speak openly about the previous CEAA decision, which often used subjective and non-environmental reasoning to pan the proposal. The report described Fish Lake as “a place of spiritual power and healing” for the Tsilhqot’in native band, concluding that the mine would have “a significant adverse effect” on established native rights, potential rights, potential title, and traditional and cultural uses.

The controversy highlights the uncertainty resource companies face in B.C. In September 2011 Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, stated Taseko’s plan “will trigger a province-wide and nation-wide backlash that will severely jeopardize relationships between First Nations and the mining industry for years to come.”

Read more about New Prosperity here, here and here.

Young miners make more than Harvard grads
“Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology,” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The story adds, “Demand for mining-school graduates is exceptional in the U.S., where the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees was 11.8% in July.” The U.S. will need some 78,000 additional mining personnel by 2019 to replace retirees, while Australia will need 1,700 mine engineers, 3,000 geoscientists and 36,000 others by 2015, the report states.

A round-up of exploration and mining news

Last March Aurizon Mines TSX:ARZ President/CEO George Paspalas told ResourceClips, “Recruiting new employees is, I believe, one of the biggest issues facing the industry globally. A lot of development and operational plans hinge on the human resource, not the resource in the ground. There’s a lot of very experienced people coming up to retirement. There’s a gap where people didn’t go into the industry when metal prices were depressed in the mid- and late-1990s. That’s the age group from about 35 or 40 years to about 50 years. The industry was depressed, and the dot-com boom was on, so people wanted to get into the sexy stuff.”

Lack of expertise can subject projects to delays and disappointments. Bloomberg quotes Robin Adams, a managing consultant with research company CRU, who attributes setbacks to “haste, inexperience, lack of properly done mining studies [which reflect] the fact that mining is missing a generation. They are learning though, so that problem is going to go away in a few years.”

Honoured and pleased, despite the misunderstanding
For a few days this week Belo Sun Mining’s TSX:BSX stock hit enough turbulence to induce airsickness. The cause, according to President/CEO Mark Eaton, was a misunderstanding about what Brazilian public prosecutors mean by an “investigation.” As he suggested to the Globe and Mail, it’s more of a routine inquiry. Even if someone just wants to build “a cow shed, the federal prosecutor has to open an ‘investigation’,” Eaton told the G&M.

But when news reports stated that a federal prosecutor was “investigating” the company’s Volta Grande Gold Project, the misunderstanding almost sank a $50-million private placement.

Belo Sun opened at $1.50 on Monday, and that afternoon the company announced a bought deal of 35.72 million shares at $1.40. The stock closed that day at $1.54.

Come Tuesday morning, however, it opened at $1.40 and plummeted to $1.27, before closing at $1.37. That evening the company tried to clear things up: “The federal Public Prosecutor Office in the state of Pará opens an investigation proceeding for each and every environmental licensing process in the state. The investigation proceeding regarding the project does not imply any irregularity or particular concern regarding the environmental licensing process for the project.”

About 28 minutes later, the company cancelled the private placement.

By Wednesday the stock opened a bit higher at $1.40. That afternoon the company re-announced the private placement on the previous terms, including a share price of $1.40. The share closed the day at $1.39.

In his Tuesday statement, Eaton said he was “honoured and pleased with the participation and interest of the Public Prosecutor Office.” Should all go well, Volta Grande will begin its feasibility study in Q1 2013.

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September 21st, 2012

Scotiabank analyst uncovers mining opportunities in unusual places by the Gold Report
How the gold standard could actually work in today’s economy: Deutsche Bank by the Financial Post
The reality of the 47% by the Grandich Report
All signs pointing to gold by VantageWire
Five dumbest things on Wall Street by Equedia
Winds of change for precious metals mining stocks by GoldSeek