Saturday 29th April 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘argentina’

More critical than ever

April 13th, 2017

The USGS promotes awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

by Greg Klein

Let’s call it Critical Minerals Awareness Month. The U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t actually labelled April that way, but the agency does have a “big push” underway to inform American decision-makers and the general public about the country’s often tenuous hold on commodities vital to the economy and security of that country. Of course those concerns apply to its allies as well.

The USGS promotes public awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

“We decided to do a big push on critical minerals in April largely because we’ve got several big publications coming out on the subject,” USGS public affairs specialist Alex Demas tells ResourceClips.com.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on is supply chain security, so with the sheer number of mineral commodities that are used in the United States, and the number of them deemed critical, we felt it was important to emphasize where a lot of those mineral resources are coming from and if there are any potential issues in the supply chain, getting them from the source to the United States.”

Computers provide an obvious example, increasing their use from “just 12 elements in the 1980s to as many as 60 by 2006,” points out one recent USGS news release. Smartphones offer another example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” states another USGS release. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

Larry Meinert, USGS deputy associate director for energy and minerals, pointed out some of the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

That brings an ominous warning. “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

The campaign also reveals the agency’s methods for tracking this essential stuff. A USGS-designed early warning system described as “mathematically rigorous and elegant” helps the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency monitor a watch list of about 160 minerals. Not all have been labelled critical, but those so defined can change due to technological development and geopolitical conflict.

The USGS itself tracks something like 90 minerals important to the American economy or security but sourced from about 180 countries. For last year the agency identified 20 minerals on which the U.S. relied entirely on imports and 47 on which the country imported more than half its supply.

Not all the source countries are always best buddies with the West. China supplies most of America’s mined commodities, including 24 of the 47 minerals supplied 51% or more by imports. Among the critical items are rare earth elements, 100% imported, over 90% directly from China and much of the rest through supply chains originating there.

As a supplier, Canada came a distant second, the chief provider of 16 minerals, not all of them critical. Runners-up Mexico, Russia and South Africa were each chief suppliers for eight American mineral imports.

Among the research reports coming soon will be “a compendium of everything the USGS knows about 23 minerals critical to the United States,” Demas says. “It’s going to cover the industry side of things, the reserves, production, shipment, etc. It’s going to cover geology and sustainability. Each chapter on each mineral will have a section on how this can be mined sustainably so we can meet our needs not only today, but also in the future.”

In part the publications target “decision-makers in Congress, as well as the Defense Department and others who use mineral resources,” Demas adds. But he emphasizes the campaign wasn’t motivated by the proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security). Currently before U.S. Congress, the bill calls on government to support domestic resources and supply chains of critical and strategic minerals. On introducing the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the risk of foreign dependence to national security “is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

As Demas notes, “Since we are a non-regulatory, non-policy agency, we don’t directly influence policy. But we do want policy-makers to have our tools available so they can make the best science-informed decisions.”

And while this month will see special attention to critical minerals, Demas says the subject’s an ongoing concern for the USGS. Some of the reports coming out now will be updates of annual publications.

“We’re really trying to promote the idea that USGS has a lot of really useful information that we put out all the time,” he adds. “This information will hopefully be useful to people when they’re considering where their resources are coming from.”

Follow USGS news here.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

April 5th, 2017

by Greg Klein | April 5, 2017

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

Many and various are the sources of smartphone minerals.
(Map: U.S. Geological Survey)

 

In another article warning of foreign dependency, the U.S. Geological Survey uses smartphones as a cautionary example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” pointed out Larry Meinert of the USGS. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

Smartphones now require nearly 75% of the periodic
table of the elements. (Graphic: Jason Burton, USGS)

The increasing sophistication of portable communications results from a “symphony of electronics and chemistry” that includes, for example, “household names like silicon, which is used for circuit boards, or graphite used in batteries. Then there are lesser known substances like bastnasite, monazite and xenotime. These brownish minerals contain neodymium, one of the rare earth elements used in the magnets that allow smartphone speakers to play music and the vibration motor that notifies you of new, funny cat videos on social media,” the USGS stated.

Almost as varied are the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also sources of conflict minerals.

“With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever,” Meinert emphasized.

The April 4 article follows a previous USGS report on an early warning system used by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency to monitor supply threats. In January the USGS released a list of 20 minerals for which the country relies entirely on imports. Whether or not by design, the recent awareness campaign coincides with a bill before U.S. Congress calling on government to support the development of domestic deposits and supply chains for critical minerals.

See an illustrated USGS report: A World of Minerals in Your Mobile Device.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba first and second globally as mining jurisdictions

March 1st, 2017

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2017

Saskatchewan edged one notch upwards to take first place worldwide while Manitoba soared from 19th to second in this year’s Fraser Institute survey of mining and exploration jurisdictions. Those two provinces pushed last year’s top performer, Western Australia, down to third place. Canada’s other top 10 spot went to Quebec, rising to sixth from eighth the year before. All continents but Antarctica came under scrutiny but Canadian, American, Australian and European locales monopolized the top 10.

Farther down the list, the strongest Canadian improvements were Newfoundland and Labrador, climbing to 16th from 25th, and the Northwest Territories, now 21st, previously 35th. Most disappointing were British Columbia (falling to 27th from 18th), Nunavut (31st from 23rd) and Alberta (47th from 34th).

Those findings come from the survey’s Investment Attractiveness Index, which combines two other indices—Policy Perception, a “report card” on government attitudes, and Best Practices Mineral Potential, concerning geological appeal. Representatives of 104 companies responded with their 2016 experiences in mind, giving a numerical rating to questions in several categories regarding their likelihood of investing in a particular jurisdiction. The previous year 109 companies responded.

Here’s the top 10 globally for overall investment attractiveness, with last year’s standings in parentheses:

1 Saskatchewan (2)

2 Manitoba (19)

3 Western Australia (1)

4 Nevada (3)

5 Finland (5)

6 Quebec (8)

7 Arizona (17)

8 Sweden (13)

9 Ireland (4)

10 Queensland (16)

Here are the Canadian runners-up:

15 Yukon (12)

16 Newfoundland and Labrador (25)

18 Ontario (15)

21 Northwest Territories (35)

27 British Columbia (18)

31 Nunavut (23)

40 New Brunswick (45)

47 Alberta (34)

52 Nova Scotia (59)

At least those provinces and territories steered far clear of the bottom 10, where Argentina figures prominently:

95 Mozambique (84)

96 Zimbabwe (98)

97 India (73)

98 Mendoza province, Argentina (101)

99 La Rioja province, Argentina (109)

100 Afghanistan (not available)

101 Chubut province, Argentina (104)

102 Venezuela (108)

103 Neuquen province, Argentina (93)

104 Jujuy province, Argentina (86)

“We believe that the survey captures, at least in broad strokes, the perceptions of those involved in both mining and the regulation of mining in the jurisdictions included in the survey,” stated authors Taylor Jackson and Kenneth P. Green.

Download the Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2016.

NRG Metals expands size of potential lithium option in Argentina, resumes trading

February 21st, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 21, 2017

NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ resumed TSXV activity February 21, following the expansion of its Carachi Pampa option and completion of a 43-101 technical report. The company has also applied for a drill permit for the Argentinian lithium prospect, now increased from 6,387 hectares to 29,182 hectares.

NRG Metals expands size of potential lithium option in Argentina, resumes trading

Now 29,182 hectares in size, Carachi Pampa hosts
a low-resistivity zone that’s open in all directions.

Located about 3,000 metres’ elevation in the Andes, the property sits in the same region as FMC’s Salar del Hombre Muerto lithium mine and Galaxy Resources’ Sal de Vida lithium-potash project, which reached feasibility in 2013. Carachi Pampa has road access within 10 kilometres.

Using a common geophysical approach to finding potential brine zones in Argentina, NRG conducted a vertical electrical survey on the property. Of four zones tested, one showed extremely low resistivity, a characteristic of brine zones. The zone begins at 70 metres in depth and dips to 300 metres, the company stated. At least 150 metres thick, it’s open at depth and in all directions laterally. Awaiting a permit, the company anticipates exploration drilling.

With all figures in American currency, the acquisition comes with an initial price of $172,911 and 100,000 shares. Pending satisfactory exploration results, NRG would pay another $535,000 and 100,000 shares to sign a definitive agreement. Additional payments would bring the total to $6.72 million over 54 months.

Earlier this month NRG completed the spinout of its non-core assets, the Groete gold-copper project in Guyana and the LAB graphite project in Quebec, to Gold Port Resources. The new company will focus on Groete, which has a 2013 inferred resource that used a 0.22 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff:

  • 74.8 million tonnes averaging 0.49 g/t gold and 0.12% copper, or 0.66 g/t gold-equivalent, for 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces

LAB sits adjacent and contiguous to Lac des Iles, the largest of North America’s two flake graphite mines.

NRG closed an oversubscribed private placement of C$1.51 million in December.

A 2016 retrospect

December 20th, 2016

Was it the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

by Greg Klein

Some say optimism was evident early in the year, as the trade shows and investor conferences began. Certainly as 2016 progressed, so did much of the market. Commodities, some of them anyway, picked up. In a lot of cases, so did valuations. The crystal ball of the industry’s predictionariat often seemed to shine a rosier tint. It must have been the first time in years that people actually stopped saying, “I think we’ve hit bottom.”

But it would have been a full-out bull market if every commodity emulated lithium.

By February Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported the chemical’s greatest-ever price jump as both hydroxide and carbonate surpassed $10,000 a tonne, a 47% increase for the latter’s 2015 average. The Macquarie Group later cautioned that the Big Four of Albermarle NYSE:ALB, FMC Corp NYSE:FMC, SQM NYSE:SQM and Talison Lithium had been mining significantly below capacity and would ramp up production to protect market share.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

That they did, as new supply was about to come online from sources like Galaxy Resources’ Mount Cattlin mine in Western Australia, which began commissioning in November. The following month Orocobre TSX:ORL announced plans to double output from its Salar de Olaroz project in Argentina. Even Bolivia sent a token 9.3 tonnes to China, suggesting the mining world’s outlaw finally intends to develop its lithium deposits, estimated to be the world’s largest at 22% of global potential.

Disagreeing with naysayers like Macquarie and tracking at least 12 Li-ion megafactories being planned, built or expanded to gigawatt-hour capacity by 2020, Benchmark in December predicted further price increases for 2017.

Obviously there was no keeping the juniors out of this. Whether or not it’s a bubble destined to burst, explorers snapped up prospects, issuing news releases at an almost frantic flow that peaked in mid-summer. Acquisitions and early-stage activity often focused on the western U.S., South America’s Lithium Triangle and several Canadian locations too.

In Quebec’s James Bay region, Whabouchi was subject of a feasibility update released in April. Calling the development project “one of the richest spodumene hard rock lithium deposits in the world, both in volume and grade,” Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX plans to ship samples from its mine and plant in Q2 2017.

A much more despairing topic was cobalt, considered by some observers to be the energy metal to watch. At press time instability menaced the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces an estimated 60% of global output. Far overshadowing supply-side concerns, however, was the threat of a humanitarian crisis triggered by president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate on December 20.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

But the overall buoyant market mood had a practical basis in base metals, led by zinc. In June prices bounced back from the six-year lows of late last year to become “by far the best-performing LME metal,” according to Reuters. Two months later a UBS spokesperson told the news agency refiners were becoming “panicky.”

Mine closures in the face of increasing demand for galvanized steel and, later in the year, post-U.S. election expectations of massive infrastructure programs, pushed prices 80% above the previous year. They then fell closer to 70%, but remained well within levels unprecedented over the last five years. By mid-December one steelmaker told the Wall Street Journal to expect “a demand explosion.”

Lead lagged, but just for the first half of 2016. Spot prices had sunk to about 74 cents a pound in early June, when the H2 ascension began. Reaching an early December peak of about $1.08, the highest since 2013, the metal then slipped beneath the dollar mark.

Copper lay at or near five-year lows until November, when a Trump-credited surge sent the red metal over 60% higher, to about $2.54 a pound. Some industry observers doubted it would last. But columnist Andy Home dated the rally to October, when the Donald was expected to lose. Home attributed copper’s rise to automated trading: “Think the copper market equivalent of Skynet, the artificial intelligence network that takes over the world in the Terminator films.” While other markets have experienced the same phenomenon, he maintained, it’s probably the first, but not the last time for a base metal.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

Nickel’s spot price started the year around a piddling $3.70 a pound. But by early December it rose to nearly $5.25. That still compared poorly with 2014 levels well above $9 and almost $10 in 2011. Nickel’s year was characterized by Indonesia’s ban on exports of unprocessed metals and widespread mine suspensions in the Philippines, up to then the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore.

More controversial for other reasons, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte began ordering suspensions shortly after his June election. His environmental secretary Regina Lopez then exhorted miners to surpass the world’s highest environmental standards, “better than Canada, better than Australia. We must be better and I know it can be done.”

Uranium continued to present humanity with a dual benefit—a carbon-free fuel for emerging middle classes and a cautionary example for those who would predict the future. Still oblivious to optimistic forecasts, the recalcitrant metal scraped a post-Fukushima low of $18 in December before creeping to $20.25 on the 19th. The stuff fetched around $72 a pound just before the 2011 tsunami and hit $136 in 2007.

NRG Metals completes due diligence on Argentinian lithium properties

November 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 21, 2016

Among the companies active in South America’s Lithium Triangle, NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ has finished due diligence on two properties that would comprise the Carachi Pampa project in northwestern Argentina. Totalling 6,387 hectares, the contiguous properties sit in an area hosting geological features common to other lithium-rich salars in the region, the company stated on November 18. “The lithium target is a paleo salar (basin) at depth that has the potential to host lithium-enriched brines.”

NRG Metals completes due diligence on Argentinian lithium properties

NRG sees potential for lithium-enriched brines
in the Lithium Triangle’s Carachi Pampa project.

Located 40 kilometres from the town of Antofagasta de la Sierra at about 3,000 metres in elevation, the properties have winter access, a paved road 10 kilometres away and nearby services.

NRG has retained experienced lithium explorers Rojas and Associates and Sergio Lopez and Associates to review the project, with Rojas to complete a 43-101 technical report.

The properties are subject to different four-year purchase agreements, according to an LOI announced September 21. With all dollar figures in U.S. currency, one property calls for $120,000 on signing a definitive agreement, $200,000 in each of three annual payments and $600,000 at the end of the fourth year. A 1% NSR applies, which NRG may buy back for $1 million.

The other project would cost $160,000 on signing, $100,000 in two annual payments, $250,000 in year three and $625,000 in year four. Again, the company may buy back the 1% NSR for $1 million.

NRG offered a private placement up to C$1 million. Additionally, the company has negotiations underway on other properties.

In October NRG announced a management team for its Argentinian subsidiary, NRG Metals Argentina S.A. Executive director James Duff has written several 43-101 reports for Argentinian projects and served as COO of McEwen Mining TSX:MUX acquisition Minera Andes and president of South American operations for Coeur Mining NYSE:CDE.

Non-executive director José Gustavo de Castro is a chemical engineer with extensive experience in the evaluation and development of Argentinian lithium projects including the continent’s largest lithium producer, FMC Corp’s Hombre Muerto operation.

Manager of business development and corporate relations José Luis Martin’s 35-year career includes senior positions with Galaxy Lithium S.A. and Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO) Argentinian projects.

Director Jorge Vargas specializes in property, mining and business law in Argentina.

Also last month NRG announced plans to spin out other assets to concentrate on lithium. The portfolio currently includes the LAB graphite project in Quebec and the Groete gold-copper resource in Guyana.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

October 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 21, 2016

A new company would take on graphite and gold-copper projects as NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ concentrates on lithium. In a proposed plan of arrangement announced October 21, the company would spin out its Groete gold-copper property in Guyana and its LAB graphite project in Quebec into a newly created subsidiary. NRG shareholders would get shares of the spinco on a pro rata basis.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

NRG signed an LOI to acquire the Carachi Pampa
properties in South America’s Lithium Triangle.

Subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, the deal would transfer the two properties and pay approximately $150,000 to an entity referred to as GPRL “as well as certain accounts payable attributable to these projects.” Plans call for the spinco to apply for a public listing.

NRG describes Groete as “one of the most easily accessed large gold-copper resources in Guyana, having both deep water and electrical power/support infrastructure within approximately 30 kilometres.” The project has a 2013 resource using a 0.22 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff for a pit shell showing:

  • inferred: 74.8 million tonnes averaging 0.49 g/t gold and 0.12% copper, or 0.66 g/t gold-equivalent, for 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces

The LAB project sits adjacent and contiguous to Lac des Iles, the largest of North America’s two flake graphite mines. NRG has conducted sampling, metallurgy, airborne magnetics and TDEM surveys, and a ground PhySpy survey on the project.

Last month the company announced two letters of intent to acquire Argentinian properties within South America’s Lithium Triangle and stated it’s “also negotiating on several other lithium opportunities located elsewhere in Argentina and Chile.”

NRG has offered a private placement of up to $1 million.

December 4th, 2015

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December 3rd, 2015

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December 2nd, 2015

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