A round-up of exploration and mining news for September 15 to 21, 2012
By Greg Klein
Next Page 1 | 2
The elephant in B.C. boardrooms
On Thursday the long, long process of advancing Taseko Mines’ TSX:TKO $1.1-billion New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project crept forward—or, according to the company, reached a “major milestone”—when Taseko formally filed its Environmental Impact Statement to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority. A three-member panel will review the submission and conduct public hearings over the next year.
Although the project passed a British Columbia environmental review, a federal panel rejected it in November 2010, condemning a plan to convert Fish Lake into a tailings dump. Taseko then came up with a $300-million plan to preserve the 118-hectare lake by positioning the tailings two kilometres north.
In a Vancouver Sun op-ed on Friday, Taseko President/CEO Russell Hallbauer sells the project’s economic benefits. But no one in the industry seems willing to speak openly about the previous CEAA decision, which often used subjective and non-environmental reasoning to pan the proposal. The report described Fish Lake as “a place of spiritual power and healing” for the Tsilhqot’in native band, concluding that the mine would have “a significant adverse effect” on established native rights, potential rights, potential title, and traditional and cultural uses.
The controversy highlights the uncertainty resource companies face in B.C. In September 2011 Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, stated Taseko’s plan “will trigger a province-wide and nation-wide backlash that will severely jeopardize relationships between First Nations and the mining industry for years to come.”
Young miners make more than Harvard grads
“Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology,” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The story adds, “Demand for mining-school graduates is exceptional in the U.S., where the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees was 11.8% in July.” The U.S. will need some 78,000 additional mining personnel by 2019 to replace retirees, while Australia will need 1,700 mine engineers, 3,000 geoscientists and 36,000 others by 2015, the report states.
Last March Aurizon Mines TSX:ARZ President/CEO George Paspalas told ResourceClips, “Recruiting new employees is, I believe, one of the biggest issues facing the industry globally. A lot of development and operational plans hinge on the human resource, not the resource in the ground. There’s a lot of very experienced people coming up to retirement. There’s a gap where people didn’t go into the industry when metal prices were depressed in the mid- and late-1990s. That’s the age group from about 35 or 40 years to about 50 years. The industry was depressed, and the dot-com boom was on, so people wanted to get into the sexy stuff.”
Lack of expertise can subject projects to delays and disappointments. Bloomberg quotes Robin Adams, a managing consultant with research company CRU, who attributes setbacks to “haste, inexperience, lack of properly done mining studies [which reflect] the fact that mining is missing a generation. They are learning though, so that problem is going to go away in a few years.”
Honoured and pleased, despite the misunderstanding
For a few days this week Belo Sun Mining’s TSX:BSX stock hit enough turbulence to induce airsickness. The cause, according to President/CEO Mark Eaton, was a misunderstanding about what Brazilian public prosecutors mean by an “investigation.” As he suggested to the Globe and Mail, it’s more of a routine inquiry. Even if someone just wants to build “a cow shed, the federal prosecutor has to open an ‘investigation’,” Eaton told the G&M.
But when news reports stated that a federal prosecutor was “investigating” the company’s Volta Grande Gold Project, the misunderstanding almost sank a $50-million private placement.
Belo Sun opened at $1.50 on Monday, and that afternoon the company announced a bought deal of 35.72 million shares at $1.40. The stock closed that day at $1.54.
Come Tuesday morning, however, it opened at $1.40 and plummeted to $1.27, before closing at $1.37. That evening the company tried to clear things up: “The federal Public Prosecutor Office in the state of Pará opens an investigation proceeding for each and every environmental licensing process in the state. The investigation proceeding regarding the project does not imply any irregularity or particular concern regarding the environmental licensing process for the project.”
About 28 minutes later, the company cancelled the private placement.
By Wednesday the stock opened a bit higher at $1.40. That afternoon the company re-announced the private placement on the previous terms, including a share price of $1.40. The share closed the day at $1.39.
In his Tuesday statement, Eaton said he was “honoured and pleased with the participation and interest of the Public Prosecutor Office.” Should all go well, Volta Grande will begin its feasibility study in Q1 2013.
Next Page 1 | 2