A mining and exploration retrospect for October 20 to 26, 2012
by Greg Klein
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B.C. avalanche kills mining contractor
A surveyor working for Seabridge Gold TSX:SEA lost his life in northwestern British Columbia on Tuesday. According to a company statement, “Two experienced surveyors were working on a slope near the camp located at Sulphurets Creek when the avalanche occurred. One was able to get to safety; the other was swept into a gully and did not survive. A trained emergency rescue team was at the site of the accident within minutes.”
A mountainous, isolated but busy mining and exploration region east of the Alaska Panhandle, B.C.’s Golden Triangle is subject to heavy snow. Media reports, however, said the avalanche came unusually early in the season.
The B.C. Coroners Service identified the victim as 50-year-old Pat Lawrence Desmarais of Telkwa, B.C.
Cautious optimism about South Africa
A somewhat reassuring tone accompanied news from South Africa this week. On Thursday Bloomberg reported that “gold producers represented by the Chamber of Mines signed an agreement with labour unions over changes to pay and job categories today. Members have ‘overwhelmingly’ accepted the offer which, when added to a [previous] two-year deal, will see wages increase by as much as 20.8%.” Media accounts imply that as gold miners return to work, other miners will follow.
Also on Thursday, Reuters said the strikes caused Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to cut his 2012 GDP forecast from 2.7% to 2.5%. He emphasized more time is needed to determine the strikes’ full impact but “we will take that knock, recover from it and move on because life doesn’t end now or next week. Life moves on.”
On Friday Kitco.com provided another weekly summary of how major companies are faring in South Africa.
Dehua debacle drags on
Mandarin is no longer a requirement for Canadian miners who want to work for Canadian Dehua International’s Canadian projects. But it’s “definitely an asset.”
The company ignited controversy earlier this month over its plan to import thousands of Chinese to work in four proposed coal mines in northeastern B.C. The federal and provincial governments support the plan, partly because the company said recruitment efforts within Canada failed. The United Steelworkers union then revealed that the company, along with HD Mining International (40% held by Canadian Dehua and 55% by Huiyong Holdings), had made Mandarin-language skills essential for at least 70 positions advertised in Canada.
Now the company has downgraded that requirement to “definitely an asset.” On Wednesday the Vancouver Province reported eight such ads on the Mining Association of British Columbia’s Web site. By Friday four were still in place, for a civil engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and mining engineer.
A Wednesday Vancouver Sun story reported that Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) urged the federal government to suspend the Chinese miners’ work permits “until an investigation determines whether Canadians were given an adequate chance to show they can fill the jobs.”
The outrage is hardly limited to Canada. On Friday Taiwanese animators Next Media Animation presented their take in a video. With admirable consideration for Canadians, they even provided an English-language version.
Central banks move in mysterious ways
Gold resumed its unsteady rise above $1,700 after dropping to Wednesday’s $1,698.70, the lowest price since September 7, Bloomberg reported. “More and more central banks are getting involved in the gold market,” the news agency quoted David Meger of Vision Financial Markets in Chicago. In an article re-posted by MarketWatch on Saturday, 24/7 Wall St. compared central bank gold reserves with their corresponding countries’ GDP and other economic highlights. There were some surprises.
The Netherlands ranks 63rd in the world for population and 17th for GDP, but ninth for gold reserves (612.5 tonnes). Like some other European countries, the Netherlands hasn’t yet sold all the gold required under the Central Bank Gold Agreement, 24/7 Wall St. stated. “It may need that gold to protect itself if the euro comes unravelled.”
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