Monday 21st September 2020

Resource Clips

Week in review

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Malartic raid follows community dissension

Monday’s Financial Post reported that community relations have hit a bad patch for Osisko Mining’s TSX:OSK Malartic gold mine near Val-d’Or, Quebec. The head of a citizens’ committee that monitors the project quit, while another member said the rest were ready to leave, the newspaper stated, “to protest the alleged heavy-handedness of the company in their affairs.” CEO Sean Roosen told the FP the events caught him completely by surprise.

Osisko Mining Malartic gold mine

Osisko Mining built its Malartic gold mine
partly within a community of 3,600 people.

The FP noted some background: “The company moved an entire section of homes to another part of town to make way for the project and negotiate with holdouts who refused to budge. A fire this year at the site shut down production for 10 days while activity was impacted again in October by a delay in executing a 940,000-tonne dynamite blast that limited access to higher-grade ore. The blast eventually occurred without major incident, but it proved to be a significant flashpoint for tension in the community of 3,600.”

According to a 2011 Université du Quebec study, “roughly 60% of local residents have a positive opinion of the mine,” the FP stated. “The company says it is confident the social licence is moving in the right direction. It set up the monitoring committee voluntarily and is not required by law to keep it.”

But on Wednesday, in what might be a related incident, the mine was raided. Officials from the provincial environment ministry entered the site “to conduct a search. [They] requested and obtained documents relating to drilling, loading and blasting activities for certain dates between April 2011 and October 2012,” Osisko stated.

Which way Quebec?

Monday’s Financial Post also reported a twist to the controversy over Plan Nord, Quebec’s on-again, off-again infrastructure program. During last summer’s provincial election campaign the Parti Quebecois challengers criticized the Liberal government’s plan, saying it was overly generous towards business. But on November 15, the first significant Plan Nord announcement since the PQ won the election suggested the new government was following the Liberal example, at least for the time being.

Now, according to the FP, the Liberal opposition says the new government is too generous. “This is a gift handed to a miner by eight million Quebecers,” the FP quoted Liberal MNA Jean D’Amour. “It’s indecent.”

At issue is a $77-million government loan to Stornoway Diamond TSX:SWY to build a 97-kilometre road linking its Renard diamond project with the Route 167 Extension. At 3.35% interest amortized over 15 years, “the government is giving a company financing terms that are even better than those it enjoys itself,” D’Amour said.

Nevertheless, Quebec companies seem wary. The FP also noted that “Quebec’s Chambers of Commerce Federation says several companies have told its officials they are currently suspending new natural resource and mining investments in the province until the Parti Quebecois government finalizes a royalties regime and further clarifies exploration rules.”

That could happen within a matter of months.

A battle for hearts, minds and minerals

Afghanistan has mineral resources potentially worth an often-cited although somewhat apocryphal $1 trillion. But getting the stuff out of the ground is just a tad dangerous. Hence the country has yet to develop a major mining operation. Rocket attacks forced 170 Chinese workers to flee the country’s biggest foreign investment project, the Aynak copper deposit. By Thursday most had returned, Reuters stated.

With the government very anxious to see successful resource development, additional security was applied to the region, the news agency reported. Aynak’s commercial production is scheduled by the end of 2014 and could bring nearly half a billion dollars’ income a year.

Limited infrastructure and not-so-limited government corruption also plague industry, but security remains the top concern.

Mining Minister Wahidullah Shahrani told Reuters that mining could offset the Taliban’s influence by providing jobs and basic services. “The Taliban have fired rockets at mining projects, planted improvised explosive devices along roads and arrived armed on motorcycles to threaten people,” Reuters stated. As the news agency quoted Shahrani, however, “The Taliban are not strong enough to take control of a big mining area. But they will try to disturb the area. It has been happening for a while.”

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