Tuesday 22nd September 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘alberta’

Now all we need are mines

August 28th, 2020

The Saskatchewan Research Council plans commercial rare earths separation in 2022

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2020

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

This nondescript building will host a $31-million commercial REE facility in two years.
(Image: Saskatchewan Research Council)

 

Given China’s near-monopoly of these critical elements, the news from Saskatchewan is enormous—a commercial-scale rare earths separation facility up and running in two years. But the development is hardly sudden. The operator already boasts longstanding experience and world-leading expertise with the almost arcane endeavour. Moreover the August 27 announcement just confirms one of the ambitious mining-related goals in the province’s growth plan released last November.

Work begins this fall in Saskatoon on a $31-million processing and separating plant funded by the province. Canada’s only such facility, it constitutes a major step towards expanding REE supply chains independent of China. Operating the Saskatoon plant will be the Saskatchewan Research Council, a Crown corporation with 75 years of experience in mining-related research and technology, over 290 staff, $91 million in annual revenue and about 1,500 clients in 27 countries.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

SRC assets include the world’s largest potash, uranium and diamonds labs, and its research extends to the oil and gas sector as well as to environmental studies.

The SRC has already been separating rare earths at the bench and pilot scale level. Its REE team currently employs 10 full-time-equivalent positions. The plan calls for staffing to reach 24 highly qualified FTEs in the facility, along with at least 10 more in R&D.

“SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now,” points out president/CEO Mike Crabtree. “We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.”

That book—Separation Hydrometallurgy of Rare Earth Elements—was written by Jack Zhang, Baodong Zhao and Bryan Schreiner, SRC scientists of international stature.

The SRC anticipates ore or crushed sand will arrive by truck or rail from producers in Canada and the U.S., as well as potential overseas clients. Location of the tailings facility has yet to be determined.

One obvious caveat, however, is the current lack of North American primary producers. The sole exception is California’s Mountain Pass mining and processing operation. Although operator MP Materials has professed its commitment to an American supply chain, the company has been exporting its entire output to China.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

New separation capabilities bring considerable advantages
to rare earths projects in Canada and elsewhere.
(Photo: Saskatchewan Research Council)

Demonstrating a non-Chinese commitment, however, is Australia’s Lynas Corp. The company operates a refining and separation facility in Malaysia to process rare earths ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia. Lynas plans to open a WA cracking and leaching plant by 2023 to quell Malaysian concerns about low-level radioactive material shipped to the country. In the U.S., meanwhile, the company and its American JV partner Blue Line signed a contract last month with the Department of Defense, which would fund studies for a proposed American plant to separate heavy rare earths from Mount Weld.

But the SRC plant opens doors for potential North American sources, which last year totalled measured and indicated resources of 2.7 million tons in the U.S. and over 15 million tons in Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Fitting for the world’s second-largest uranium-producing jurisdiction, Saskatchewan will process rare earths from uranium raffinate as well as from bastnasite and monazite, the most common mineralogical sources of rare earths.

But the Chinese challenge remains formidable. Chinese domestic mining accounted for nearly 63% of last year’s global production, a drop from 70% in 2018 but a number that doesn’t include Chinese control over foreign sources. Moreover the country’s dominance of separation facilities and expertise extends its control to an estimated 70% to 95% of various points along the supply chain.

SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now. We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.—Mike Crabtree,
president/CEO,
Saskatchewan Research Council

Trade and other geopolitical tensions have brought fears—backed by implied threats—that the country will “weaponize” its rare earths dominance, repeating the 2010 machinations that staggered non-Chinese manufacturing industries.

The elements are vital to clean energy, electronics, transportation, defence, medical equipment and other necessities. American concern about rare earths and other critical minerals has triggered a number of initiatives including the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration with Canada announced in January and reaffirmed in June.

But encouraging as the Saskatchewan initiative is, it hardly constitutes a slingshot to the Chinese Goliath. That country’s advantages include seemingly bottomless government subsidies, free use of black market or conflict material, and the backing of a savvy totalitarian government, according to Clint Cox. Speaking in Vancouver last January, the analyst and rare earths specialist with The Anchor House warned that Chinese dominance can’t be underestimated.

Nevertheless, the Saskatoon facility can only encourage junior mining activity. “The juniors are definitely the place where the last crop of potential mines came from, and it looks like they might be the next out there,” Cox told his January audience. “There’s some out there today.”

Among other goals, the Saskatchewan Growth Plan calls for studies into extracting lithium from the province’s brines as well as from oil and gas wastewater. The plan also considers adding nuclear energy to the province’s electrical mix from small modular reactors. Earlier this month Alberta joined Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick in a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on SMR studies.

Read more about the Saskatchewan Research Council.

Economist Atif Kubursi explains negative oil prices

July 3rd, 2020

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A look at Canada’s future

June 8th, 2020

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Oil crash explained

April 21st, 2020

How are negative oil prices even possible?

by Atif Kubursi, McMaster University
posted with permission of The Conversation | April 21, 2020

It’s hard to believe that the price of any commodity, let alone oil, can dip into negative territory. But that’s just what’s happened to oil prices.

COVID-19 has prompted lockdowns, shuttered factories and stopped people from travelling. The global economy is contracting.

Oil crash explained How are negative oil prices even possible?

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alberta, more than a decade
ago. Oil prices have plunged into negative territory due to the glut
created by the COVID-19 global economic shutdown.
(Photo: Canadian Press/Larry MacDougall)

The pandemic has also reduced global demand for oil by about 29 million barrels a day from about 100 million a year ago. OPEC and other producers agreed to cut production by 9.7 million barrels a day, far less than the decrease in demand, leaving a huge surplus of oil on the market and no buyers.

Storage capacity on land has filled up quickly. Many oil-importing countries have stored large quantities of oil, taking advantage of cheap prices that may not last.

Some oil producers, hoping to maintain their market share, have taken to storing their excess oil at sea, leasing tankers at high costs. Some are believed to be paying in excess of $100,000 per day for each tanker. (All dollar amounts in U.S. currency.)

Oil prices will come back up

So how have Alberta oil prices and even future prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) slipped into negative territory?

It starts with the futures contracts for WTI—oil to be delivered in a few months at today’s price. It lost $6 a barrel on Monday, fetching $11.66, but ended the day at -$37 as holders of future contracts tried to dump their contracts before oil is actually delivered with nowhere to store it.

But Alberta oil, primarily derived from oilsands (referred to as Western Select), typically sells at $10 to $15 below the price of WTI, because it has to be extracted from deep rocky terrain. That makes it harder to refine, and it also has to be transported thousands of kilometres to American refineries.

Oil crash explained How are negative oil prices even possible?

An oil refinery in Kansas: Oil from Alberta’s oilsands is processed
at American refineries. (Photo: Canadian Press/AP/Charlie Riedel)

And so Alberta oil prices have become negative in the sense that the benchmark price is now lower than the cost of production, transport and storage.

This state of affairs cannot be expected to last for long. Producers, in the short term, may accept prices below their variable cost as long as they are able to pay some of the costs they will incur even if oil production shuts down.

As time passes, more and more rigs will stop operating (technically, a few will be kept operational in order to avoid being compromised) and a new balance between supply and demand will be established at prices that exceed total average cost. But this doesn’t bode well for either Alberta or the United States.

Collateral damage

Alberta oil is now the collateral damage of the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, with COVID-19 launching an additional attack. Either of these two factors could have disrupted Alberta’s oil production. But the Saudi-Russia hostilities combined with the global pandemic have proven catastrophic for Canada, and could have a similar outcome for the U.S. energy industry.

Russia and Saudi Arabia depend heavily on their oil revenues to sustain their economies. Of course, Saudi Arabia’s economy is less diversified than the Russian economy, but both share a similar distortion, where oil revenues represent a very high share of their GDPs (Saudi Arabia about 50%, Russia 38.9%), budgets (Saudi Arabia 87% and Russia 68%), and exports (Saudi Arabia 90% and Russia 59%). It’s difficult to believe that either country can do with such low prices.

Russia needs a price of $60 a barrel to balance its government budget and even a higher price to balance its current account, meaning exports of goods and services minus imports of goods and services, plus net short-term capital transfers.

Oil crash explained How are negative oil prices even possible?

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, leads a recent virtual summit of the G20 energy ministers at his office
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Saudi Energy Ministry via AP)

Saudis also need a much higher oil price

Saudi Arabia, which remains the lowest-cost oil producer in the world, can make money when the price per barrel exceeds $20, and Russia can at a price of $40.

But making a profit when prices are higher than cost is not sufficient. Saudi Arabia needs an $80-per-barrel price to balance its budget, realize its plans to diversify its economy and sustain a heavily subsidized economy. In the balance is the stability of both the Russian and Saudi Arabian political systems and current regimes.

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, the greater the damage oil producers will endure. It’s hard to tell now how high oil prices will rise once the pandemic subsides. They will likely go higher as marginal producers are eliminated, but not for long. Using oil and other fossil fuels is no longer consistent with avoiding the expected disasters of climate change. Oil is increasingly becoming a stranded asset.
The Conversation

Atif Kubursi, Professor Emeritus of Economics, McMaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Oil crash explained: How are negative oil prices even possible?

April 21st, 2020

This story has been moved here.

Work suspended

March 26th, 2020

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

by Greg Klein | March 26, 2020

Shut Down Canada has largely been achieved, but not by the forces that advocated it nor—until someone finds a way of blaming this on climate change—by the doomsday belief they were pushing. Residents of our strangely quiet cities and towns watch the horror unfold elsewhere while wondering how long and hard the pandemic will hit Canada. Meanwhile, workers and business owners might consider themselves lucky if the economy fares no worse than a very serious recession.

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

A reminder that one crisis can trigger another unwittingly came from FortisAlberta on March 23. The company that provides 60% of the province’s electricity “is taking the necessary actions and precautions to protect the health and well-being of its employees and to provide electricity service to its customers.”

The obvious but demoralizing question arises: What happens if too many key people get sick? That danger could apply to any number of essential services. Economic collapse, social disorder, a breakdown of supply chains add to the nightmarish possibilities.

All of which might not happen. In the meantime we can thank the front line workers who keep our society functioning to the extent that it does. Those one- or two-buck-an-hour temporary pay raises hardly acknowledge society’s debt to retail staff who interact constantly with a potentially plague-ridden public. Care workers for the elderly constitute another group of low-paid heroes, several of whom have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

In the meantime here are some reports on Canadian mining’s response to the crisis.

Inconsistent closures suggest an ambivalent industry

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

IAMGOLD sidelined its Westwood operation in Quebec but
continues work on its Coté project in Ontario. (Photo: IAMGOLD)

Mining hasn’t actually been banned in Ontario and Quebec, although shutdowns of non-essential services continue to April 8 and April 13 respectively. Extensions, of course, look likely. Quebec has ordered the industry, along with aluminum smelting, to “minimize their activities.” Ontario specifically exempted mineral exploration, development, mining and their support services from mandatory closures.

Interpreting Quebec’s decree as a ban, IAMGOLD TSX:IMG suspended its Westwood gold mine in that province but continued work at its 64.75%-held, advanced-stage Coté gold project in Ontario as an “essential service.” Production continues at the company’s Burkina Faso and Suriname operations.

But regardless of government bans or directives, voluntary suspensions take place. Restrictions on travel and social distancing have made projects non-viable, while the threat of localized outbreaks looms large—not just at the job sites and accommodations, but in the isolated communities that supply much of the labour.

In Canada, that often means native communities. “They have a bad history with disproportionate impacts from epidemics,” a Vale Canada spokesperson told the Financial Post. The company put its Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador on care and maintenance, and planned reductions at its associated Long Harbour nickel-copper-cobalt processing plant in Newfoundland.

So far alone of the Northwest Territories’ three operations, Dominion Diamond Mines announced an indefinite suspension for Ekati on March 19. The Union of Northern Workers stated its intention to grieve the manner in which its members were laid off.

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

Having laid off its native staff, Agnico Eagle continues its Nunavut
operations largely with workers from Quebec. (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM made the ramp-down decision a day after Quebec’s March 23 order, after discussions with government “to get additional clarity.” The suspensions applied to three Quebec mines but the company planned “reduced operations” at Meliadine and Meadowbank in Nunavut, largely under Quebecois workers.

Five days earlier Agnico Eagle began sending home Nunavummiut staff from its Nunavut mines and exploration projects to prevent virus transmission “from a southern worker to a Nunavut worker, with the risk of it moving into the communities,” explained CEO Sean Boyd. Production was expected to continue under the remaining staff.

The following day residents blocked a road from Rankin Inlet airport to Meliadine to protest the use of replacement workers from Mirabel and Val d’Or, Quebec. Although the territory has banned travel from other jurisdictions, critical workers may apply for an exemption. They’re also required to undergo two weeks of isolation in their own region prior to travel.

From boots on the ground to fingers on the keyboard

Exploration suspensions haven’t come at a bad time for some projects, which had completed or nearly completed winter programs. Where labs remain open, assays might provide some badly needed good news.

Much of the crucial work of analyzing results and planning future exploration can be done by desktop. One example of a company with a multinational work-at-home team is Turmalina Metals TSXV:TBX, which completed a seasonal field program at its San Francisco de Los Andes gold project shortly before Argentina imposed a nation-wide quarantine. “While Turmalina maintains a corporate office in Canada our technical and managerial team operate remotely from individual home offices located in Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Asia,” states a March 23 announcement. “The current compilation, analysis and modeling of recently collected data is being done on a physically decentralized basis from these individual home offices as the company prepares for drilling.”

Follow the money

No one’s saying so out loud, but travel restrictions just might divert money from conferences, trade shows and expense accounts to actual work. Then again, money can still be squandered on low-IQ promotional campaigns produced at the kitchen table.

Every metal and mineral has a silver lining

This isn’t a sector that overlooks opportunity. Two days after Vanstar Mining Resources TSXV:VSR reported that drilling “continues without stopping” at its 25%-held Nelligan project in Quebec, the company acknowledged that majority partner IAMGOLD had suspended work. But “it should be noted that current events can also bring certain opportunities for acquiring gold projects at a lower cost,” Vanstar pointed out. The junior was merely echoing comments made by others, including BHP Group NYSE:BHP earlier this month.

With the economic outlook as confused as a professional stock-picker’s thought processes, mining’s future remains profoundly uncertain. But diminished supply can certainly help chances of rebounding demand.

And suspensions might encourage advantageous awareness, as noted by Uranium Energy Corp NYSE:UEC president/CEO Amir Adnani. “The recent global events and supply disruptions further underscore the importance of domestic supply chains for vital resources,” stated the U.S. purveyor of U3O8.

How could we live without them?

Endeavours deemed essential by Ontario and Quebec include capital markets services and agencies like the TMX Group and securities commissions. The provinces also consider alcohol and cannabis retailers essential. As if the world wasn’t already facing worse consequences, Toronto medical officer Eileen de Villa said banning booze “would lead to pretty significant health consequences.”

She didn’t specifically mention geoscientists.

The experts speak

Some fatuous remarks at PDAC provided retrospectively grim humour, as well as an exhibition of prognosticator pomposity. Here’s Mickey Fulp’s take on COVID-19, as quoted by IKN:

  • “I think it’s overblown.”

  • “All these shows are flu incubators, anyway.”

  • “I think it (i.e. infections) are going to be less this year, because people are doing things like washing their hands.”

  • “This is a blip on the radar screen. Especially in the U.S. where I’m from, because our economy is absolutely roaring and virus fears are not going to do major damage to the U.S. market.”

  • “I think it absolutely is an overreaction and the quicker it’s realized, the better.”

  • “This is a variety of flu.”

Of course to sheltered North Americans, the first week of March might seem a long time ago. So here’s Doug Casey’s insight, as published by Kitco on March 24:

“The virus itself isn’t nearly as serious, I don’t know how serious it’s going to be, but not terribly in my opinion. What I’m really shocked at, Daniela, is the degree of hysteria on the part of the powers that be. They’ve actually just gone insane.”

Click here for objective data on the coronavirus pandemic.

Policy or geology?

February 28th, 2020

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2020

If you think that’s bad news, be glad the poll ended when it did. The Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019 imposed a November 8 deadline on respondents. Shut Down Canada didn’t really gain momentum until a bit later.

Even so, for the first time in a decade no Canadian jurisdiction made the top 10 for the survey’s main list, the Investment Attractiveness Index (IAI). Media coverage played up the role of provincial and territorial governments in jeopardizing what was—until recently and at least by Canadians—generally considered the world’s pre-eminent mining country. In doing so, reporters followed the institute’s commentary which, in keeping with its advocacy purpose, emphasized politicians’ ability to help or hinder the industry. But a closer look suggests miners and explorers gave other concerns higher priority.

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

(Image: Fraser Institute)

The survey bases the IAI on two other indices, Policy Perception and Mineral Potential. The first is determined by company responses to government actions or in-actions affecting the industry. The second (assuming an un-interfering nirvana of “best practices” by those governments) considers companies’ appraisals of geology. The survey provides separate ratings for policy and geology, but also weighs them 40% and 60% respectively to compile the IAI. The 40/60 split reflects institute intel about how companies make investment decisions.

Despite Canada’s disappearance from the IAI top 10, three provinces rated highly for Policy Perception. Alberta, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan rated sixth, eighth and ninth in the world respectively. Five Canadian jurisdictions showed Policy Perception improvements over the previous year. Moreover, the most dramatic declines from 2018 appeared in the Mineral Potential index.

“We know there’s not a lot that policy-makers can do about the geology in particular areas,” says Fraser Institute senior policy analyst Ashley Stedman. “But when we see declines on the policy index, that’s something policy-makers should be paying attention to.

“In particular we saw significant declines in Saskatchewan, which dropped from third the previous year to 11th, and that was largely the result of concerns about policy factors including taxation, regulatory duplication and inconsistencies, and trade barriers. And in Quebec we saw a decline from fourth to 18th, with uncertainties about environmental regulations and about the administration or enforcement of existing regulations. We can see from both these jurisdictions and a number of other Canadian jurisdictions that regulatory issues are escalating and this should be a serious concern for policy-makers.”

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

But while Saskatchewan’s Policy Perception rating fell from first place to ninth, the province’s Mineral Potential rank fell farther, from seventh to 21st. Quebec dropped from 10th to 21st in Policy Perception but plummeted from sixth to 25th in Mineral Potential.

Other dramatic Mineral Potential declines included Manitoba (from 11th to 26th), New Brunswick (49th to 72nd), Newfoundland (18th to 50th), the NWT (fourth to 29th), Nunavut (fifth to 16th) and Yukon (10th to 22nd).

Four provinces—Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario—did show improvements. Still, the question remains: What the hell happened to Canadian geology?

Some causes might be resource depletion, recalcitrant commodity prices or (talk to enough CEOs and this seems very possible indeed) confusion about how to answer survey questions.

Stedman suggests another likelihood. Discoveries in some jurisdictions might dampen enthusiasm for others. “We do have to keep in mind that this is a relative ranking, so if other places are seen as more attractive, that can have an impact on other jurisdictions as well.”

Although policy factors affect just 40% of a jurisdiction’s IAI ranking, “our write-up focuses on the policy rankings as an area that policy-makers can pay attention to,” Stedman explains. In some cases governments do respond to the survey’s findings. “Reporters will often ask policy-makers to comment on the rankings.”

As for other countries, “we do get quite a bit of interest globally for this survey and we’ve seen a lot of countries and jurisdictions ask us questions about the rankings. There’s quite a lot of interest in this publication in particular.”

Confidentiality, however, prevents her from divulging how many respondents are based in Canada.

The survey provides “a policy report card for governments on areas that require improvement and areas where certain jurisdictions are performing well,” she adds.

In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.—Ashley Stedman,
senior policy analyst
for the Fraser Institute

With geology beyond the reach of government power, policy improvement would be Canada’s only means of re-entering the IAI’s global top 10. “In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.”

Whether the pre-PDAC week timing will cast a pall on the Canadian industry’s biggest annual bash remains to be seen. COVID-19 has cast a bigger pall on travel while, at time of writing, there seems nothing to stop Shut Down Canada from turning its attention to airports, hotels and convention centres.

The following charts show the global IAI top 10, Canada’s IAI top 10, Canada’s top 10 for Policy Perception and Mineral Potential, and—consoling for its lack of Canadian content—the global bottom 10.

With fewer responses this time, the 2019 survey covers 76 jurisdictions compared with 83 the previous year. Here are the global IAI rankings for 2019, with 2018 spots in parentheses.

  • 1 Western Australia (5)

  • 2 Finland (17)

  • 3 Nevada (1)

  • 4 Alaska (5)

  • 5 Portugal (46)

  • 6 South Australia (8)

  • 7 Irish Republic (19)

  • 8 Idaho (16)

  • 9 Arizona (8)

  • 10 Sweden (21)

All Canadian jurisdictions except Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia fell in the IAI. Here’s the list for Canada, with global numbers provided for 2019 and 2018:

  • 11 Saskatchewan (3)

  • 16 Ontario (20)

  • 18 Quebec (4)

  • 19 British Columbia (18)

  • 23 Yukon (9)

  • 26 Nunavut (15)

  • 28 Newfoundland and Labrador (11)

  • 30 Alberta (51)

  • 34 Manitoba (12)

  • 35 Northwest Territories (10)

  • 52 Nova Scotia (57)

  • 60 New Brunswick (30)

Here’s Canada’s Policy Perception ratings. Alberta, Newfoundland, Ontario, B.C. and Nunavut improved their standings.

  • 6 Alberta (14)

  • 8 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 9 Saskatchewan (11)

  • 13 New Brunswick (9)

  • 18 Nova Scotia (11)

  • 21 Quebec (10)

  • 24 Ontario (30)

  • 32 Yukon (24)

  • 36 British Columbia (44)

  • 44 Nunavut (45)

  • 50 Northwest Territories (42)

  • 53 Manitoba (33)

Mineral Potential showed Canada’s most dramatic downfalls, although Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario managed to move upwards.

  • 10 British Columbia (13)

  • 16 Nunavut (5)

  • 18 Ontario (20)

  • 21 Saskatchewan (7)

  • 22 Yukon (10)

  • 25 Quebec (6)

  • 26 Manitoba (11)

  • 29 Northwest Territories (4)

  • 50 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 54 Alberta (74)

  • 61 Nova Scotia (79)

  • 72 New Brunswick (49)

And finally the global IAI bottom 10:

  • 67 Nicaragua (81)

  • 68 Mali (50)

  • 69 Democratic Republic of Congo (67)

  • 70 Venezuela (83)

  • 71 Zambia (45)

  • 72 Dominican Republic (76)

  • 73 Guatemala (80)

  • 74 La Rioja province, Argentina (75)

  • 75 Chubut province, Argentina (69)

  • 76 Tanzania (66)

Download the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019.

Read about last year’s survey.

While awaiting Ottawa’s decision on the Frontier oilsands proposal, Teck Resources CEO Don Lindsay comments on a solar farm purchase

February 6th, 2020

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Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

January 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 16, 2020

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

The SunMine sits atop reclaimed land over a onetime world leader in zinc-lead production.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

A former mine that’s been regenerated to generate clean electricity has come back to a former owner. A recent purchase returns the surface site of southeastern British Columbia’s legendary Sullivan mine to Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B, bringing with the property a 1.05 MW solar farm.

Built by the city of Kimberley on land provided by Teck after Sullivan’s 2001 shutdown, SunMine began operation in 2015 as B.C.’s first grid source of solar electricity. But declining revenues in recent years prodded the municipality into negotiations with the company, resulting in a $2-million payment that meets Kimberley’s SunMine-related debt.

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

Affluent travelers can lap up luxury at
a former open pit near Shanghai airport.
(Photo: InterContinental Hotels and Resorts)

An 1892 discovery that became a major zinc-lead-silver producer, Sullivan was taken over in 1910 by Cominco, which merged with Teck in 2001. During Kimberley’s tourist season, visitors can take an open air train ride into the former underground operation.

Numerous former industrial sites have been refashioned into green energy production, notably the solar farm that opened at Chernobyl in 2018. In other cases reclaimed land hosts recreational facilities, such as the ski resort on the surface area of North Star, another Kimberley silver-lead mine.

Former open pits and underground workings have also been put to new uses. Billed as the world’s first underground hotel when it opened in 2018, the Shanghai Wonderland rises just two storeys above a former andesite quarry that contains the other 16 floors.

Some underground examples reported by the Smithsonian consist of cycling, zip-lining and ATV riding. More fanciful uses, however, include a onetime Polish salt mine that’s now a resort offering a “subterraneotherapy” spa as well as “religious services, adventure tours, art galleries, a museum and two underground hotels.”

A former Romanian salt mine now features “a surreal theme park complete with a Ferris wheel, mini-golf course, a lake with paddle boats, a bowling alley, an amphitheater, sports fields and ping pong tables.”

Apart from supplying grid power, Teck gets 81% of its own electricity consumption from renewable sources, the company stated. “Our involvement with SunMine is part of our commitment to taking action on climate change, advancing renewable energy development and supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy,” said president/CEO Don Lindsay.

More contentiously, the company now has its proposed $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mine awaiting a federal decision. In July a joint federal/provincial environmental review recommended approval but Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has suggested his cabinet might reject the Alberta project.

 

A 1993 episode of Gold Trails and Ghost Towns discusses the Sullivan mine.

Open and shut cases: West

December 20th, 2019

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

by Greg Klein

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Western Potash began Saskatchewan’s first solution mining operation for this commodity in July.
(Photo: Western Potash)

 

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

The Exxon Valdez of Canadian mining went into dry dock at the end of May, as Imperial Metals TSX:III put its Mount Polley copper-gold operation on care and maintenance. The company that traded above $16.50 prior to the August 2014 tailings dam failure spent most of 2019 well below $3. Now holding two suspended mines, the company’s operational portfolio has dwindled to a 30% stake in B.C.’s Red Chris copper-gold open pits. In August Imperial sold the other 70% to ASX-listed Newcrest Mining for US$775 million.

But if human error can dump eight million cubic metres of tailings muck into the waterways, human ingenuity can respond. As the five-year anniversary approached, Geoscience BC founding president/CEO and Imperial’s former chief scientific officer ’Lyn Anglin offered her perspective on the $70-million clean-up program, which continues during the mine’s suspension.

 

Maybe its status as Canada’s largest diversified miner leaves Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B open to greater diversity in downturns. The company blamed global economic uncertainties for “a significant negative effect on the prices for our products, particularly steelmaking coal.” But the company attributes its most recent coal mine closures not to market forces but to depletion. That was the verdict for the mid-year shutdown of B.C.’s Coal Mountain and for Alberta’s Cardinal River, scheduled to follow in mid-2020.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Some depleted mines notwithstanding, Teck Resources
has over four decades of B.C. coal reserves.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Although Teck warned employees in September of layoffs, noting a price drop from about $210 to about $130 per tonne over the previous weeks, further mine closures weren’t specified. Depletion hardly concerns Teck’s four remaining Kootenay-region coal operations. The company says there’s enough steelmaking stuff to keep Line Creek, Greenhills, Elkview and Fording River busy for 18, 28, 38 and 43 years respectively.

While the company now focuses on its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper development project in Chile and its JV at the port of Vancouver’s Neptune terminal, Teck’s $20-billion proposal for Alberta might serve as an affront to the great cause of our time. In July Teck managed to get a recommendation of approval from a joint federal/provincial environmental review panel for its Frontier oilsands project. Media reports, however, suggest Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his cabinet might reject the panel’s recommendation.

 

Whether it brought relief or astonishment to local supporters, in July Western Potash finally began building its long-delayed Milestone potash project in southern Saskatchewan.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

A determined-looking Western Potash group
celebrates a milestone in Saskatchewan mining.
(Photo: Western Potash)

Expectations had risen and fallen a few too many times since at least 2015, when the company announced it had secured funds sufficient for a scaled-down capex. But in October Western began solution mining, the first application of this method for potash in Saskatchewan. The innovative operation will also be “the first potash mine in the world that will leave no salt tailings on the surface, thereby significantly reducing water consumption.”

Now a subsidiary of Western Resources TSX:WRX, the company plans “hot mining” early in the new year to pump brine containing potassium chloride into a crystallization pond at surface, leaving unwanted sodium chloride underground. By Q3 2020 a newly built plant will process the potash for an off-take agreement covering all Phase I production. Phase II calls for expanded operations to support an average 146,000 tpa output over a 12-year life.

 

Yet the mine starts up amid cutbacks and shutdowns elsewhere. The province’s big three potash producers, Nutrien TSX:NTR, Mosaic NYSE:MOS and K+S Potash Canada, all reduced output in 2019. Between them, Nutrien and Mosaic suspended four operations, at least one indefinitely.

In August workers at Mosaic’s Colonsay operation learned of an indefinite layoff, reportedly to last anywhere from six months to a matter of years. Further discouragement came in November when the United Steelworkers confirmed that the company was moving equipment from Colonsay to its Esterhazy operation, itself subject to reduced output.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Saskatchewan’s tallest structure stands over a shaft reaching
more than a kilometre underground at Mosaic’s Esterhazy K3.
(Photo: Mosaic)

Esterhazy’s ambitious K3 expansion project, however, continues unfazed by current market conditions. With construction started in 2011, commissioning begun in December 2018 and full production not scheduled until 2024, the new underground operation will replace Esterhazy’s K1 and K2 mines, keeping the K1 and K2 mills busy at the world’s largest potash mining complex.

In September Nutrien announced it would “proactively” suspend its Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy potash mines. Workers at the first two got December 29 recall notices, but Vanscoy’s resumption has yet to be revealed.

Nevertheless, company bosses expressed optimistic 2020 foresight. It will be “a strong year for crop input demand for which we are well-positioned to benefit,” predicted Nutrien president/CEO Chuck Magro. His Mosaic counterpart Joc O’Rourke expects “a very strong application season in Brazil and North America, and a better supply and demand balance in 2020.” .

 

That year or the next just might be momentous for Saskatchewan potash. BHP Group NYSE:BHP’s board of directors has until February 2021 to decide whether to complete Jansen, a $17-billion project that would challenge the province’s potash protocol.

The threat of competition might take an unexpected turn, however. As reported in the Financial Post, at least two analysts say rival companies could attack pre-emptively by boosting production to lower prices and discourage new mine development.

 

Holding top positions globally are Saskatchewan as potash-producing jurisdiction and Saskatoon-headquartered Nutrien as potash miner. The province also boasts world stature for uranium but has no new U3O8 operations expected during this survey’s time frame. Even so, industry and investors watch with interest as Denison Mines TSX:DML, NexGen Energy TSX:NXE and Fission Uranium TSX:FCU each proceed with advanced large-scale projects.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.