Thursday 28th May 2020

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Posts tagged ‘aluminum’

Mapped: The geology of the moon in astronomical detail

May 11th, 2020

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

View the medium resolution version of this map (9 MB) | View the full resolution version (47 MB)

Mapped The geology of the moon in astronomical detail

View the medium resolution version of this map (9 MB) | View the full resolution version (47 MB)

 

If you were to land on the moon, where would you go?

This post shows the incredible Unified Geologic Map of the Moon from the U.S. Geological Survey, combining information from six regional lunar maps created during the Apollo era, as well as recent spacecraft observations.

Feet on the ground, head in the sky

Since the beginning of humankind, the moon has captured our collective imagination. It is one of the few celestial bodies visible to the naked eye from Earth. Over time different cultures wrapped the moon in their own myths. To the Egyptians it was the god Thoth, to the Greeks, the goddess Artemis, and to the Hindus, Chandra.

Thoth was portrayed as a wise counsellor who solved disputes and invented writing and the 365-day calendar. A headdress with a lunar disk sitting atop a crescent moon denoted Thoth as the arbiter of times and seasons.

Artemis was the twin sister of the sun god Apollo, and in Greek mythology she presided over childbirth, fertility and the hunt. Just like her brother who illuminated the day, she was referred to as the torch-bringer during the dark of night.

Chandra means “moon” in Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages. According to one Hindu legend, Ganesha—an elephant-headed deity—was returning home on a full moon night after a feast. On the journey, a snake crossed his pathway, frightening his horse. An overstuffed Ganesha fell to the ground on his stomach, vomiting out his dinner. On observing this, Chandra laughed, causing Ganesha to lose his temper. He broke off one of his tusks and hurled it toward the moon, cursing him so that he would never be whole again. This legend explains the moon’s waxing and waning, as well as the big crater visible from Earth.

Such lunar myths have waned as technology has evolved, removing the mystery of the moon but also opening up scientific debate.

Celestial evolution: Two theories

The pockmarks on the moon can be easily seen from the earth’s surface with the naked eye, and have led to numerous theories as to the history of the moon. Recent scientific study brings forward two primary ideas.

One opinion of those who have studied the moon is that it was once a liquid mass, and that its craters represent widespread and prolonged volcanic activity, when the gases and lava of the heated interior exploded to the surface.

However, there is another explanation for these lunar craters. According to G.K. Gilbert of the USGS, the moon was formed by the joining of a ring of meteorites which once encircled the earth, and after the formation of the lunar sphere, the impact of meteors, not volcanic activity, produced “craters.”

Either way, mapping the current contours of the lunar landscape will guide future human missions to the moon by revealing regions that may be rich in useful resources or areas that need more detailed mapping to land a spacecraft safely.

Lay of the land: Reading the contours of the moon

This map is a 1:5,000,000-scale geologic map built from six separate digital maps. The goal was to create a resource for scientific research and analysis to support future geologic mapping efforts.

Mapping purposes divide the moon into the near side and far side. The far side of the moon is the side that always faces away from the earth, while the near side faces towards the earth.

The most visible topographic feature is the giant far side South Pole-Aitken Basin, which possesses the lowest elevations of the moon. The highest elevations are found just to the northeast of this basin. Other large-impact basins, such as the Maria Imbrium, Serenitatis, Crisium, Smythii and Orientale, also have low elevations and elevated rims.

Mapped The geology of the moon in astronomical detail

 

The colours on the map help define regional features while also highlighting consistent patterns across the lunar surface. Each one of these regions hosts the potential for resources.

Lunar resources

Only further study will resolve the evolution of the moon, but it is clear that there are resources earthlings can exploit. Hydrogen, oxygen, silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminum, manganese and titanium are some of the metals and minerals on the moon.

Interestingly, oxygen is the most abundant element on the moon. It’s a primary component found in rocks, and this oxygen can be converted to a breathable gas with current technology. A more practical question would be how to best power this process.

Lunar soil would be relatively easy to mine. As material for construction, it can provide protection from radiation and meteoroids. Ice can provide water for radiation shielding, life support, oxygen and rocket propellant feedstock. Compounds from permanently shadowed craters could provide methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

This is just the beginning—as more missions are sent to the moon, there is more to discover.

Space-faring humans

NASA plans to land astronauts—one female, one male—to the moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis 3 mission, and after that, about once each year. It’s the beginning of an unfulfilled promise to make humans a space-faring civilization.

The moon is just the beginning. The skills learned to map near-Earth objects will be the foundation for further exploration and discovery of the universe.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

See USGS unveils comprehensive moon map amid lunar controversy.

Robust or bust

May 7th, 2020

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

by Greg Klein | May 7, 2020

It might take premature complacency or enormously good fortune to look back and laugh at the Early 2020 Toilet Paper Panic. But from today’s viewpoint, bumwad might be the least of our worries. There won’t be much need for the stuff without enough food to sustain life. Or water. Medicine, heat and electricity come in handy too.

Sparsely stocked supermarket shelves have been blamed on hoarders who thwart the industry’s just-in-time system, a process credited with “robust” reliability when not challenged by irrational buying sprees. Consumer concern, on the other hand, might be understandable given the credibility of official positions such as Ottawa’s facemask flip-flop and initial arguments that closing borders would actually worsen the pandemic.

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

A North Vancouver supermarket seen in mid-March. While
stockpiling has abated, supply lines show signs of stress.
(Photo: Steeve Raye/Shutterstock.com)

Meanwhile Canadian farmers worry about the supply of foreign labour needed to harvest crops, dairy farmers dump milk for lack of short-distance transport and deadly coronavirus outbreaks force widespread closures of meat and poultry plants across Canada and the U.S.

Highlighting the latter problem were full-page ads in American newspapers from meat-packing giant Tyson Foods. “The food supply chain is breaking,” the company warned in late April. “Millions of animals—chickens, pigs and cattle—will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”

Within days the U.S. invoked the Defense Production Act, ordering meat plants to stay open despite fears of additional outbreaks. 

Just a few other pandemic-related food challenges in Canada include outbreaks at retail grocers, a shortage of packaging for a popular brand of flour and an Ontario supermarket warning customers to throw away bread in case it was tainted by an infected bakery worker.

Infrastructure supplying necessities like energy, fuel, water and communications faces pandemic-related challenges of its own, including availability of labour and expertise.

Supply chain complexity has been scrutinized in The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age. One example from author David S. Abraham was the electric toothbrush, a utensil comprising something like 35 metals that are sourced, refined and used in manufacturing over six continents.

Dissecting a 2017 smartphone, the U.S. Geological Survey found 14 necessary but mostly obscure elements. As a source country, China led the world with nine mineral commodities essential to mobile devices, and that list included rare earths in a single category.

In a recent series of COVID-19 reports on the lithium-ion necessities graphite, cobalt, lithium and nickel, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence stated: “From the raw material foundations of the supply chain in the DRC, Australia, Chile and beyond, through to the battery cell production in China, Japan and Korea, it is likely that the cells used by the Teslas of the world have touched every continent (sometimes multiple times over) before they reach the Model 3 that is driven (or drives itself) off the showroom floor.”

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

Consumers might not realize the complex
international networks behind staple items.

Or consider something more prosaic—canned tuna.

That favourite of food hoarders might be caught in the mid-Pacific, processed and canned in Thailand following extraction of bauxite (considered a critical mineral in the U.S.) in Australia, China, Guinea or elsewhere, with ore shipped for smelting to places where electricity’s cheap (China accounted for over 56% of global aluminum production last year). Then the aluminum moves on to can manufacturers, and transportation has to be provided between each point and onward to warehouses, retailers and consumers. Additional supply chains provide additional manufactured parts, infrastructure, energy and labour to make each of those processes work.

Still another supply chain produces the can opener.

Daily briefings by Canada’s federal and provincial health czars express hope that this country might “flatten the curve,” a still-unattained goal that would hardly end the pandemic when and if it’s achieved. Meanwhile the virus gains momentum in poorer, more populous and more vulnerable parts of the world and threatens a second, more deadly wave coinciding with flu season.

And if one crisis can trigger another, social order might also be at risk. Canada’s pre-virus blockades demonstrated this country’s powerlessness against a force not of nature but of self-indulgence. Even a cohesive, competent society would have trouble surviving a general infrastructure collapse, a scenario dramatized in William R. Forstchen’s novel One Second After. When transportation, communications, infrastructure and the financial system break down, so do a lot of people. Dangerous enough as individuals, they can form mobs, gangs and cartels.

How seriously Washington considers apocalyptic scenarios isn’t known. But prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had already been taking measures to reduce its dependency on China and other risky sources for critical minerals. Now, Reuters reports, COVID-19 has broadened American concerns to include other supply chains and inspired plans for an Economic Prosperity Network with allied countries. Questions remain about the extent that the West can achieve self-sufficiency and, in the U.S., whether another administration might undo the current president’s efforts.

Certainly globalist confidence persists. The Conference Board of Canada, for example, expects a slow return of supply chain operations to pre-pandemic levels but a renewed international order just the same. “Global co-operation is needed not only to tackle the health crisis, but also to restore trust in global supply chains and maintain the benefits that the growth in global trade has brought over the last two decades.”

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

New cars leave the manufacturing hub and disease
epicentre of Wuhan prior to the pandemic.
(Photo: humphery/Shutterstock.com)

One early COVID-19 casualty, the multi-continent diamond supply chain, already shows signs of gradual recovery according to Rapaport News. Despite mine suspensions, “there is more than enough rough and polished in the pipeline to satisfy demand as trading centres start to reopen. Belgium and Israel have eased lockdown restrictions, while India has allowed select manufacturing in Surat and special shipments to Hong Kong.”

Also struggling back to its feet is global automotive manufacturing. Writing in Metal Bulletin, Andrea Hotter outlines how the disease epicentre of Wuhan plays a vital role in making cars and supplying components to other factory centres. “If ever there was a masterclass in the need to disaster-proof a supply chain, then the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a harsh reminder to the automotive sector that it’s failing.”

So regardless of whether apocalyptic fears are overblown, there are lessons to be learned. As Benchmark points out, COVID-19 has disrupted “almost every global supply chain to such a profound extent that mechanisms for material sourcing, trade and distribution will likely never be the same again.”

In the meantime, a spare can opener or two might be prudent. Or maybe several, in case they become more valuable than bullion.

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.

Canada and U.S. formalize action plan for critical minerals deposits and supply chains

January 10th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 10, 2020

A new commitment binds two neighbouring allies to produce resources essential to the economy, defence, technology and clean energy. Announced January 9, the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration reflects both Canada’s mining potential and American concern about reliance on rival and potentially hostile countries.

Canada and U.S. formalize action plan for critical minerals deposits and supply chains

“Canada is an important supplier of 13 of the 35 minerals that the U.S. has identified as critical to economic and national security,” stated the Natural Resources Canada announcement. “We have the potential to become a reliable source of other critical minerals including rare earth elements, key components in many electronic devices that we use in our daily lives. Canada is currently the largest supplier of potash, indium, aluminum and tellurium to the U.S. and the second-largest supplier of niobium, tungsten and magnesium. Canada also supplies roughly one-quarter of the uranium needs of the U.S. and has been a reliable partner to the U.S. in this commodity for over 75 years.”

Among goals of the action plan are joint initiatives in R&D, supply chain modelling and increased support for industry, NRCan added. Experts from both countries will meet in the coming weeks.

Reflecting Washington’s concern, in 2017 the U.S. Geological Survey released the country’s first thorough study of critical minerals since 1973. Later that year President Donald Trump ordered a federal strategy that initially focused on 23 essential minerals. In 2018 the U.S. officially declared 35 minerals to be critical and at risk of supply disruption.

Since then, discussions have taken place between Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other representatives from both countries.

By finalizing the collaboration agreement, “we are advancing secure access to the critical minerals that are key to our economic growth and security—including uranium and rare earth elements—while bolstering our competitiveness in global markets and creating jobs for Canadians,” said Canadian Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan.

Read more about the U.S. critical minerals strategy.

Read about the U.S. list of 35 critical minerals.

Infographic: Climate Smart Mining and minerals for climate action

March 14th, 2019

sponsored by the World Bank | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | March 14, 2019

Climate Smart Mining Minerals for climate action

 

Countries are taking steps to decarbonize their economies by using wind, solar and battery technologies, with an end goal of reducing carbon-emitting fossil fuels from the energy mix.

But this global energy transition also has a trade-off: to cut emissions, more minerals are needed.

Therefore, in order for the transition to renewables to be meaningful and to achieve significant reductions in the Earth’s carbon footprint, mining will have to better mitigate its own environmental and social impacts.

Advocates for renewable technology are not walking blindly into a new energy paradigm without understanding these impacts. A policy and regulatory framework can help governments meet their targets, and mitigate and manage the impacts of the next wave of mineral demand to help the communities most affected by mining.

This infographic comes from the World Bank and it highlights this energy transition, how it will create demand for minerals and also the Climate Smart Mining building blocks.

Renewable power and mineral demand

In 2017, the World Bank published The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future, which concluded that to build a lower carbon future there will be a substantial increase in demand for several key minerals and metals to manufacture clean energy technologies.

Wind
Wind power technology has drastically improved its energy output. By 2025, a 300-metre-tall wind turbine could produce about 13 to 15 MW, enough to power a small town. With increased size and energy output comes increased material demand.

A single 3 MW turbine requires:

  • 4.7 tons of copper

  • 335 tons of steel

  • 1,200 tons of concrete

  • 2 tons of rare earth elements

  • 3 tons of aluminum

Solar
In 2017 global renewable capacity was 178 GW, of which 54.5% was solar photo-voltaic technology (PV). By 2023, it’s expected that this capacity will increase to one terawatt with PV accounting for 57.5% of the mix. PV cells require polymers, aluminum, silicon, glass, silver and tin.

Batteries
Everything from your home, your vehicle and your everyday devices will require battery technology to keep them powered and your life on the move.

Lithium, cobalt and nickel are at the centre of battery technology that will see the greatest explosion in demand in the coming energy transition.

Top five minerals for energy technologies

Add it all up, and these new sources of demand will translate into a need for more minerals:

 

  2017 production 2050 demand from energy technology Percentage change (%)
Lithium 43 KT 415 KT 965%
Cobalt 110 KT 644 KT 585%
Graphite 1200 KT 4590 KT 383%
Indium 0.72 KT 1.73 KT 241%
Vanadium 80 KT 138 KT 173%

 

Minimizing mining’s impact with Climate Smart Mining

The World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining (CSM) supports the sustainable extraction and processing of minerals and metals to secure supply for clean energy technologies, while also minimizing the environmental and climate footprints throughout the value chain.

The World Bank has established four building blocks for Climate Smart Mining:

  • Climate change mitigation

  • Climate change adaptation

  • Reducing material impacts

  • Creating market opportunities

Given the foresight into the pending energy revolution, a coordinated global effort early on could give nations a greater chance to mitigate the impacts of mining, avoid haphazard mineral development and contribute to the improvement of living standards in mineral-rich countries.

The World Bank works closely with the United Nations to ensure that Climate Smart Mining policies will support the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

A sustainable future

The potential is there for a low carbon economy, but it’s going to require a concerted global effort and sound policies to help guide responsible mineral development.

The mining industry can deliver the minerals for climate action.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

‘The great enabler’

January 16th, 2019

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

by Greg Klein

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

 

Gold and precious metals can attract people seeking wealth or beauty, while diamonds and other gems convey an intrigue of their own. But who becomes downright passionate about a base metal? To those who’ve head him talk, Gianni Kovacevic quickly comes to mind. Copper’s his metal of interest but his real fascination is the future—that, and a vision of the importance this metal holds to a new era of energy history.

Chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, an authority on energy systems and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche?, he’s an especially engaging public speaker who’s possibly more effective than anyone in communicating mining’s importance to non-mining people.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

The era of electrification offers promise to both
developed and emerging economies, says Kovacevic.

But those in the industry find his message captivating too. He calls mining, metals and especially copper “the great enabler” of electrification. And electrification’s the key to a new era in which copper usage will grow by magnitudes, he declares.

That’s happening already as developed countries wean themselves off fossil fuels and emerging countries use more and more electricity for consumer items and transportation or—from village to village and home to home—as they adopt electricity for the first time.

Among other vital metals are aluminum, lithium, vanadium and cobalt. “I like anything that enables electrification,” Kovacevic explains. “The sensitive one is cobalt. If people are talking about reducing cobalt in batteries or eliminating it altogether, who wins? Nickel. But no question about it, we will require hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of new battery cells.”

Overall, approximately 19% of energy use now comes from electricity, he says. But he expects the number to reach about 50% by 2050. His data for current and planned copper production, however, shows alarming shortfalls in capacity.

Half of the world’s primary copper production now comes from 25 mines. Just two countries, Peru and Chile, provide a combined 45%. One major copper mine, First Quantum Minerals’ (TSX:FM) Cobre Panama, has commissioning planned this year. Nothing else over 110,000 tonnes is expected until around 2022.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

First Quantum’s Cobre Panama will be the only
major new copper mine until about 2022, Kovacevic says.

In 2010 the 15 largest copper producers boasted average grades around 1.2%. The 2016 average was 0.72% and falling. Over the next half-century he expects average grades to slip below 0.5%.

Clearly more copper production will require much higher prices to make lower grades economic, Kovacevic emphasizes. He’s not alone in that outlook. Among others extolling the metal’s virtues is Robert Friedland, who also considers copper the key to electrification and maintains that declining grades will require higher prices.

Over the last nine months, however, prices haven’t co-operated. In late May spot copper approached a five-year high in the range of $3.30 a pound, but fell steeply after June 1. Current prices sit around $2.60 to $2.65, although that’s well above levels seen through most of 2015 and 2016. But Kovacevic says warehouse inventories suggest the market has reached a supply deficit.

Two decades of prices show an ironic connection with the commodity that fueled the previous energy era, he adds. “Copper’s never left its long-term bull market but it’s been pushed around by oil, because 90% of the time it’s correlated with oil. But now the prices have to decouple. Copper has to go much, much higher.”

Referring to himself as a “realistic environmentalist,” Kovacevic says the metals and mining crucial to the new energy era also remain crucial to emerging societies. Blocking new mines from development hinders new economies from development. “I can’t say to someone in India, for example, that they’re never going to have electricity or running water in their homes. You can’t say ‘build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.’ People want basic human progress. Fortunately, as we go into this new pivot of energy we’re going to bypass the old ways of receiving energy in many applications.”

Kovacevic expands on his message in an illustrated keynote speech and also hosts a lithium investment panel discussion at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 20 and 21. To avoid the $30 admission fee, click here for free registration.

Old Testament turf begets newly identified mineral

January 7th, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 7, 2019

Northern Israel’s Mount Carmel is known for a more miraculous event, but that’s where a company exploring Biblical lands for material riches has made a novel discovery. On January 7 London-listed Shefa Yamim announced a new mineral named carmeltazite won official recognition from the International Mineralogical Association.

Old Testament turf begets newly identified mineral

Imperfections within the unique Carmel
sapphire can hold a newly discovered mineral.

The new entity came to light within the company’s trademarked Carmel sapphire. Made up of titanium, aluminum and zirconium, carmeltazite “is part of the remarkable mineral assemblage” found as tiny inclusions or impurities in the gemstone, the company stated. While not exactly the most compact abbreviation, carmeltazite can be denoted as ZrAl2Ti4O11.

Shefa Yamim also claims distinction for the Carmel sapphire itself, described as “a newly discovered type of corundum… unlike any other sapphire found in the world.” Typically black, blue-to-green or orange-brown in colour, it has so far manifested its largest size at 33.3 carats. That stone came from an area proximal to the River Kishon, associated with Old Testament stories of the Canaanites’ defeat.

Nearby Mount Carmel gained fame when a miraculous fire helped the prophet Elijah upstage Ahab and the idolatrous worshippers of Baal. Shefa Yamim’s exploration focuses on the mountain’s volcanic sources and the river’s alluvial prospects. The company expects to begin trial mining at its Kishon Mid-Reach project this year, targeting diamonds, rubies, moissanite and hibonite, in addition to its proprietary sapphire.

While the Carmel stone has yet to prove itself among buyers of bling, other sapphires have prompted pecuniary appreciation. A late November Christie’s auction achieved its maximum pre-sale estimate of $15 million for a necklace comprised of 21 Kashmir sapphires that outshone the accompanying 23 cushion-shaped diamonds. Originating in a mine that closed in 1887, the exceptionally rare sapphires were collected over a period of more than 100 years prior to the necklace’s creation.

As for rubies, the gems “have seen a more-than-fourfold price increase per carat in the past four years, with the finest rubies fetching $1 million per carat for the first time, as much as top-tier diamonds,” Bloomberg reported in November.

Buying rubies a decade ago would be “like someone who bought Google stock in Year 3 versus buying it now,” Seth Holehouse of the Fortuna auction house told the news agency. Chinese demand has helped push prices, especially for red rubies and other gems in red.

Driven largely by previous ownership, a pearl and diamond pendant that once belonged to Marie Antoinette sold for $36.16 million at a November Sotheby’s event. The auctioneer had hoped for a mere $2 million.

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec in new hands, New Brunswick still deadlocked

October 1st, 2018

by Greg Klein | October 1, 2018

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec government in new hands

CAQ incoming premier Francois Legault argued against unacculturated immigrants,
made popular funding promises and vowed to cut taxes. (Photo: Coalition Avenir Québec)

 

Updated Quebec results (with 2014 figures in parentheses)

  • Coalition Avenir Québec: 75 seats, 37.4% of the popular vote (21 seats, 23%)
  • Quebec Liberal Party: 29 seats, 24.8% (68 seats, 41.5%)
  • Parti Québécois: 10 seats, 17% (28 seats, 25.4%)
  • Québec Solidaire: 10 seats, 16.1% (3 seats, 7.6%)
  • Independent: 1 seat

 

A seven-year-old party jumped from third place to government status as the Coalition Avenir Québec won the October 1 provincial election. Leading in a majority of seats half an hour after polls closed, the CAQ pushed the incumbent Liberals to second place, leaving the former official opposition Parti Québécois struggling to stay above fourth spot. Easily winning his riding of L’Assomption was incoming premier Francois Legault, a CAQ co-founder who previously created Air Transat and served as a PQ government minister. His CAQ has attracted disaffected Liberals as well as Péquistes.

PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee lost his seat to a Québec Solidaire challenger.

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec government in new hands

Mining issues held little prominence as debate focused heavily on immigration but sidelined independence. Spending promises flowed freely with health care, education and child care giveaways coinciding with CAQ promises to cut taxes.

But just one week before the campaign’s official start date, the Liberal government announced $185 million of provincial money for the privately held BlackRock Metals’ iron ore-vanadium-titanium open pit development in the northern riding of Ungava. The money consisted of $100 million in loans and an $85-million investment, part of a total package of $1.3 billion attracted to the project. The Liberals also promised $63 million to build energy infrastructure in the Chicoutimi riding that would host BlackRock’s secondary processing facility.

Ungava’s Liberal incumbent placed third while the CAQ narrowly beat the PQ in a very tight three-way contest. In Chicoutimi, the CAQ won a strong victory over the PQ incumbent.

Last May Premier Philippe Couillard joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce $60 million in federal funding for an Alcoa NYSE:AA/Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO aluminum smelter to be built in the overlapping federal riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord. Three days later Trudeau called a by-election, only to see a Conservative defeat his Liberal incumbent.

The Quebec government invests heavily in projects ranging from junior exploration to operating mines through the Ressources Québec subsidiary of Investissement Québec. In August Legault said he would cut bureaucracy at Investissement Québec.

Quebec’s March budget posted a $1.3-billion surplus, but the province receives equalization payments that came to $11.8 billion this year and will rise to $13.3 billion in 2019. Currently the entire amount comes from the western provinces. Legault opposed the Energy East pipeline proposal from Alberta to New Brunswick.

Pundits might wonder to what extent the CAQ’s success depended on its proposal to expel unacculturated immigrants. But any criticism of la province spéciale will have to be muted, even if the plan calls for unwanted foreigners to be packed off to Anglo Canada.

The PQ’s demotion hardly spells the end of separatism now that the party shares the independence vote with QS and possibly the CAQ, which has equivocated on the subject.

As for last week’s New Brunswick election, results remain in limbo. With 22 seats, the Conservatives edged out the incumbent Liberals by a single riding. Speculation focuses on either party making a deal with the People’s Alliance or the Greens, which won three seats each.

The Green result triples its N.B. legislative standing, continuing the party’s progress in Canada. Last June the Ontario riding of Guelph elected that province’s first Green. Canada now has eight Greens elected provincially (three in N.B., three in B.C., and one each in Ontario and Prince Edward Island), along with one elected federally in B.C. In B.C.’s legislature, the party holds the balance of power under an agreement with the New Democratic Party minority government.

Infographic: A new bull market in base metals?

July 11th, 2018

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | July 11, 2018

Base metals are the most fundamental minerals produced for the modern economy and metals such as copper, zinc, nickel, lead and aluminum are the key components that support sustained economic growth.

During periods of economic expansion, these are the first materials to support a bustling economy, reducing inventory at metal warehouses and eventually their source, mines.

A base metals boom?

This infographic comes to us from Tartisan Nickel CSE:TN and it takes a look at the surging demand for base metals for use in renewable energy and EVs, and whether this could translate into a sustained bull market for base metals.

The base metals boom: Start of a new bull market?

 

Over the last three years, prices of base metals have risen on the back of a growing economy and the anticipation of usage in new technologies such as lithium-ion batteries, green energy and electric vehicles:

Cobalt: +232%
Zinc: +64%
Nickel: +59%
Copper: +45%
Lead: +34%
Tin: +36%
Aluminum: +42%

As goes the success and development of nations, so goes the production and consumption of base metals.

Why higher prices?

Development outside of the Western world has been the main driver of the base metals boom and it will likely continue to push prices higher in the future.

China has been the primary consumer of metals due to the country’s rapid economic expansion—and with recent efforts to improve environmental standards, the country is simultaneously eliminating supplies of low-quality and environmentally toxic metal production. India and Africa will also be emerging sources of base metal demand for the coming decades.

But this is not solely a story of developing nations, as there are some key developments that will include the developed world in the next wave of demand for base metals.

New sources of demand

Future demand for base metals will be driven by the onset of a more connected and sustainable world through the adoption of electronic devices and vehicles. This will require a turnover of established infrastructure and the obsolescence of traditional sources of energy, placing pressure on current sources of base metals.

The transformation will be global and will test the limits of current mineral supply.

Renewable energy technology

The power grids around the world will adapt to include renewable sources such as wind, solar and other technologies. According to the World Energy Outlook (IEA 2017), it is expected that between 2017 and 2040, a total of 160 GW of global power net additions will come from renewables each year.

Renewables will capture two-thirds of global investment in power plants to 2040 as they become, for many countries, the cheapest source of new power generation. Renewables rely heavily on base metals for their construction and would not exist without them.

Electric vehicles

Gasoline cars will be fossils. According to the International Energy Agency, the number of electric vehicles on the road around the world will hit 125 million by 2030. By this time, China will account for 39% of the global EV market.

Dwindling supply

Currently, warehouse levels in the London Metals Exchange are sitting at five-year lows, with tin leading the pack with a decline of 400%.

According to the Commodity Markets Outlook (World Bank, April 2018), supply could be curtailed by slower ramp-up of new capacity, tighter environmental constraints, sanctions against commodity producers and rising costs. If new supply does not come into the market, this could also drive prices for base metals higher.

New supply?

There is only one source to replenish supply and fulfill future demand, and that is with mining.

New mines need to be discovered, developed and come online to meet demand. In the meantime, those that invest in base metals could see scarcity drive prices up as the economy moves towards its electric future on a more populated planet.

An extended base metals boom may very well be on the horizon.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Infographic: The history of North American co-operation on aluminum and steel

May 23rd, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

As the global rhetoric around trade heats up, aluminum and steel are two metals that have been unexpectedly thrust into the international spotlight.

Both metals are getting considerable attention as journalists and pundits analyze how tariffs may impact international markets and trade relations. But in that coverage so far, one thing that may have been missed is the interesting history and context of these metals, especially within the framework of trade in North America.

Aluminum and steel in North America

This infographic tells the story of an ongoing North American partnership in these goods, and how this co-operation even helped U.S. and Canadian efforts in World War II, as well as addressing other issues of national security.

 

The history of North American co-operation on aluminum and steel

 

Aluminum and steel are metals that are not only essential for industry to thrive, but they are also needed to build infrastructure and ensure national security.

Because of the importance of these metals, countries in North America have been co-operating for many decades to guarantee the best possible supply chains for both aluminum and steel.

The history: Aluminum and steel

Here are some of the major events that involve the two metals, from the perspective of North American trade and co-operation.

1899
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company, later the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), begins construction of a power plant and aluminum smelter in Shawinigan Falls, Quebec.

1901
The company produces the first aluminum ever on Canadian soil.

1902
This Canadian division is renamed the Northern Aluminum Company

New uses and WWI

1903
The Wright brothers use aluminum in their first plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1908
The first Model T rolls off the assembly line, and steel is a primary component.

1910
The U.S. and Canadian steel industries surround the Great Lakes region. At this point the U.S. produces more steel than any other country in the world.

1913
The U.S. passes the Underwood Tariff, a general reduction in tariff rates that affected Canadian exporters. Zero or near-zero tariffs were introduced for steel. (The Canadian Encylopedia)

1914
At this point, 80% of American-made cars had aluminum crank and gear cases.

World War I
The Great War breaks out. It’s the first ever “modern war” and metals become strategically important in a way like never before. For the first three years, the U.S. helps the Allies—including Canada, which is already at war—by providing supplies.

Steel was crucial for ships, railways, shells, submarines and airplanes. Meanwhile, aluminum was used in explosives, ammunition and machine guns. The Liberty V12 engine, which powered Allied planes, was one-third aluminum.

During this stretch, America produced three times as much steel as Germany and Austria. By the end of the war, military usage of aluminum is sucking up 90% of all North American production.

Inter-war period

1919
After the war, the interruption of European aluminum shipments to North America drives up Northern Aluminum sales to the United States. In 1919, U.S. aluminum imports from Northern Aluminum total 5,643 tons, while all European producers add up to 2,360 tons.

1925
After aluminum gains post-war acceptance from consumers, Alcoa uses this new momentum to strike a deal to build one of the world’s greatest aluminum complexes in Quebec on the Saguenay River.

These facilities become the base for Northern Aluminum, which changes its name to the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan). By 1927, the area includes a new company town (Arvida), a 27,000-ton smelter and a hydro power plant. This complex would eventually become the world’s largest aluminum production site for WWII.

1929
The Roaring Twenties saw consumer culture take off, with auto and appliance sales escalating. Steel and aluminum demand continues to soar.

World War II

1940
Canada and the U.S. establish the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, still in operation today. Near the same time, the Canadian-American defence industrial alliance, known as the Defence Production Sharing Program, is also established.

1941
Canada and the U.S. agree to co-ordinate production of war materials to reduce duplication, and to allow each country to specialize, with The Hyde Park Declaration of 1941.

The record proves that in peaceful commerce the combined efforts of our countries can produce outstanding results. Our trade with each other is far greater than that of any other two nations on earth.—Harry Truman,
33rd U.S. president, 1947

The principles of this declaration recognize North America as a single, integrated defence industrial base.

1942
Canada builds the Bagotville airbase to protect the aluminum complex and hydro plants of the Saguenay region, which were crucial in supplying American and Canadian forces. A Hawker Hurricane squadron is permanently stationed to protect the area.

1945
The Saguenay facilities were so prolific that Canada supplied 40% of the Allies’ total aluminum production.

Cold War and North American integration

1952
The U.S. focuses on Canadian resources after the President’s Materials Policy Commission warns of future shortages of various metals, which could make the U.S. dependent on insecure foreign sources during times of conflict.

1956
Canada and the U.S. sign the Defence Production Sharing Agreement, which aims to maintain a balance in trade for defence products. At this point, Canada relies on the U.S. for military technology—and the U.S. relies on Canada for important military inputs.

1959
The St. Lawrence Seaway opens, providing ocean-going vessels access to Canadian and U.S. ports on the Great Lakes. This facilitates the shipping of iron ore, steel and aluminum.

1965
The Canada-U.S. Auto Pact allows for the integration of the Canadian and U.S. auto industries in a shared North American market. This paves the way for iron ore, steel and aluminum trade.

1989
The U.S. and Canada sign a free trade agreement, which eventually gets rolled into NAFTA in 1994.

Modern aluminum and steel trade

2007
U.S. Steel buys the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) for $1.9 billion.

Today
The U.S. and Canada are each other’s best international customer for a variety of goods—including steel and aluminum.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.