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Posts tagged ‘MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd (BMK)’

The optimistic route

August 26th, 2016

As one Ring of Fire road study disappoints proponents, another surfaces

by Greg Klein

A 2013 expression of Ring of Fire optimism now sounds dispiriting: “With the support of the critical parties, planning and permitting for the main all-weather access road could be completed in 2014, and actual construction operations could commence in 2015.” That was the conclusion of a study commissioned by KWG Resources CSE:KWG three years ago but not published until August 26.

The company posted the 18-page “preliminary scoping exercise” on its website four days after CBC reported that a federally and provincially funded study on the same subject had been completed but not released. Although anticipated to herald a breakthrough, that study simply called for more study, the network stated. Moreover the report didn’t even consider a route to the proposed mining region, focusing only on connecting four native bands with a highway.

As one Ring of Fire road study disappoints proponents, another surfaces

Warmer temperatures make winter roads increasingly
unreliable, according to a KWG-commissioned study.

Release of the $785,000 report would be up to the four communities that led it, Ontario mines minister Michael Gravelle told the CBC. The network somehow obtained a copy but quoted only a few short excerpts. KWG president Frank Smeenk tells he wanted to counter disappointment with “an alternative that is feasible, financeable and attractive.”

KWG’s study estimated the cost of connecting its proposed north-south rail line with an existing road near Pickle Lake, about 305 kilometres west, between $83.6 million and $99.9 million. Trunk roads to four reserves would add another $36.1 million to $73.1 million. The four communities total roughly 2,500 people, according to numbers then available to the researchers.

The study didn’t consider expenses related to potential cultural or archaeological surveys, or the environmental assessment.

As for the region’s existing winter road, access “appears … increasingly unreliable as a consequence of warmer winter temperatures.”

Socio-economic benefits would include training and employment, as well as easier access to health care, police, schools and social services. The road would lower shipping and personal travel costs. Economic spinoffs could encourage growth in forestry and tourism, along with industrial, mechanical, transportation, commercial, financial and legal sectors, according to the study.

It was conducted by GreenForest Management, a Thunder Bay-based firm whose previous work included planning, construction and maintenance of 700 kilometres of all-weather roads north of Sioux Lookout and of 360 kilometres of all-weather roads north of Nakina.

Smeenk calls the report, which cost KWG between $25,000 and $35,000, “a good news story” that counters disappointment in the government-funded study.

While a proponent of a north-south railway, Smeenk says year-round east-west road access will be “a necessary ingredient to building the rail, which in turn is a necessary ingredient to creating a mining camp at the Ring of Fire.” A railway would be necessary to develop chromite deposits, the company argues.

But Noront Resources TSXV:NOT proposes to develop its Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-PGE project first, using an east-west road. That company holds about 75% of the region’s claims, having closed a 75% acquisition of MacDonald Mines Exploration’s (TSXV:BMK) RoF properties this week. Noront holds 70% of the Big Daddy chromite deposit and 85% of the McFaulds copper-zinc deposits. Noront is also KWG’s largest shareholder.

KWG holds 30% of Big Daddy, an 80% option on the Koper Lake project/Black Horse chromite deposit and 15% of McFaulds.

KWG has an agreement with China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group to conduct a feasibility study on a link to a Canadian National Railway TSX:CNR line 340 kilometres south. China Railway expects to add that to the Ring of Fire library by year-end.

News of the government-funded study prompted opposition politicians to criticize the federal and provincial Liberals. But the proposals seem mired in the duty to consult. On August 25 the Globe and Mail stated it obtained that report’s three-page conclusion. “Some of the unresolved issues include who would own and manage the roads and how the new road connections would affect social assistance payments,” the paper stated. “Some social programs pay more to residents of remote fly-in communities.”

Late August 26 the G&M said it now had the entire 147-page final report, which estimated road-building costs between $264 million and $559 million. “Among the positives, people said road access would make it easier for parents to visit children who must move away to attend high school,” the story noted. “Cheaper food and other goods from the south are also viewed as a benefit, along with new links between first nations communities. Common concerns were that a road could bring more hunters from the south, which could negatively affect trap lines and other traditional hunting practices. Many fear that more drugs and alcohol could reach the communities.”

Clearly nothing is going to be built in that part of Canada without social licence.—Frank Smeenk,
president of KWG Resources

While emphasizing the positive, Smeenk seems resigned to slow progress. “Clearly nothing is going to be built in that part of Canada without social licence,” he emphasizes. “We’ve flown a number of trial balloons on how that might best be accomplished. The best is that the first nations whose traditional territories will be traversed by this transportation infrastructure should be equal partners in it. So we’ve proposed to the first nations of Webequie and Marten Falls that we create an equal partnership in both the mine and transportation.”

In June KWG announced that chiefs of those bands were considering a proposal to place its mining claims in a limited partnership to be held half by KWG and half by the two communities. To buy their way in, KWG offered the bands a non-recourse loan of $40 million.

This week a Webequie drum group opened a new drill program at Eagle’s Nest “to ensure minimal disturbance to the land and water and for the health and safety of the workers,” Noront stated. The project reached feasibility in 2012. Earlier this month, in apparent expectation of the latest government-funded study, Noront said it “anticipates that mine construction will begin in 2018 when road construction starts, resulting in first concentrate production in 2021.”

Despite pessimistic reports of the government-funded study, Noront reiterated its expectation that Ontario will “make a joint announcement with local first nations regarding plans for a shared regional access road before the end of this year.”

The province has committed $1 billion for RoF infrastructure and has asked Ottawa for matching funds.

Update: Ring of Fire road study stalls as KWG rail study proceeds

August 22nd, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 22, 2016

Hours after KWG Resources CSE:KWG updated its Ring of Fire rail proposal, CBC reported that a highly anticipated government-funded road study simply called for more study. Specifically excluded from its scope, the network added, was a route to the potential mining sites.

CBC obtained a copy of the document entitled All Season Community Road Study, Final Report June 30, 2016 and quoted this excerpt:

KWG’s Ring of Fire rail study proceeds, government road announcement anticipated

KWG looks to China to support its proposed railway.

“This study has always been considered to be focused on an all-season community service road rather than an industrial road to connect to the Ring of Fire mineralized zone. Its intention was always to (1) link the four communities together and (2) link the communities to the existing highway system.”

Release of the federally and provincially funded report had been expected since its scheduled completion in June. Ontario has pledged $1 billion to Ring of Fire infrastructure and asked Ottawa for matching funds.

“This study was going to be the one that was going to give us the road map forward, literally,” the network quoted NDP MP Charlie Angus. “Now it’s just going to be kicked down the road for more delay, more study and more excuses.”

CBC stated that Ontario mines minister Michael Gravelle “said those discussions are ongoing and there is no timeline for coming to definitive answers. The study was led by the First Nations and it’s up to them to release it to the public, he added.”

Besides the report’s disappointing lack of a call to action, news that the study excluded the Ring’s mineral deposits will take many observers by surprise. Noront Resources TSXV:NOT favoured an all-season east-west road that would connect its deposits and four native communities with Highway 599 at Pickle Lake, which leads south to a Canadian National Railway TSX:CNR line at Savant Lake.

KWG maintained that rail would be necessary to develop the region’s chromite assets. Noront countered that its nickel-copper-platinum-palladium deposits should be developed first, pending better market conditions for chromite. A road would be the faster, cheaper option, the company argued. KWG has said Chinese investors have shown interest in a railway.

Hours before CBC posted its exclusive, KWG announced that a “conditional bankable feasibility study” for its proposed railway should be complete by year-end. The company stated it has “agreed on the deliverables and timetable” with China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group to examine a 340-kilometre north-south route linking its properties with CN at Exton.

Noront’s flagship Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-PGE project reached feasibility in 2012. In an optimistic news release earlier this month, the company stated it “anticipates that mine construction will begin in 2018 when road construction starts, resulting in first concentrate production in 2021.”

Noront’s other Ring of Fire assets include the Blackbird chromite deposit and the Black Thor and Black Label chromite deposits. Noront and KWG hold 70%/30% respectively of the Big Daddy chromite deposit and 85%/15% of the McFaulds copper-zinc deposits. Noront is KWG’s largest shareholder.

Noront recently signed a definitive agreement to buy a 75% stake in MacDonald Mines Exploration’s (TSXV:BMK) regional properties, increasing Noront’s portfolio to around 75% of the Ring’s staked claims.

KWG also holds an 80% option on the Koper Lake project with its Black Horse chromite deposit.

Both companies have faced recent public criticism. Last week CBC reported the Neskantaga First Nation issued a “cease and desist” order to Noront, after the company announced a drill program. An online video posted by KWG drew widespread censure for its display of bikini-clad women.

MacDonald Mines Exploration president/CEO Kirk McKinnon discusses the challenges facing northern Ontario’s resource-rich region

June 27th, 2013

…Read More

Facing Ontario’s challenges

June 14th, 2013

More must be done for the Ring of Fire, says MacDonald Mines’ Kirk McKinnon

by Greg Klein

“The Ring of Fire truly has an array of mineralization unlike any other in the world, says Kirk McKinnon, president/CEO of MacDonald Mines Exploration TSXV:BMK. “Our scientists tell me the Bushveld in South Africa has many of these attributes but the James Bay lowlands has all of them.”

More must be done for the Ring of Fire, says MacDonald Mines’ Kirk McKinnon

There’s even talk of rock worth some $30 billion to $50 billion. But despite the region’s potential for a “suite of minerals” including chromite, vanadium, nickel, copper, zinc and titanium, exploration and development are stymied by a lack of infrastructure. McKinnon discussed these challenges with ResourceClips following news that Cliffs Natural Resources had suspended work on Black Thor, by far the area’s largest project. That June 12 announcement re-kindled debate on how best to build access to the Ring of Fire—from the south or southwest, by road or rail—and whether governments effectively address the region’s challenges.

About 35 kilometres west of Black Thor, MacDonald drills its Butler property, focusing on the Butler 3 volcanogenic massive sulphide target. McKinnon also heads Energizer Resources TSXV:EGZ, whose wholly owned and joint venture claims in Madagascar undergo feasibility for one of the world’s largest known flake graphite deposits. The property also hosts the world’s third-largest known vanadium resource. Yet he can’t speak highly enough about the Ring of Fire’s potential. Another discovery comparable to Cliffs’ could be the catalyst for stronger government commitment to develop infrastructure, he says. But lack of infrastructure makes those discoveries more difficult.

Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines struck a Ring of Fire Secretariat specifically to work “with all levels of government, industry and aboriginal peoples to encourage responsible and sustainable economic development in the region.” Last February the federal government appointed Treasury Board president Tony Clement as the go-to guy who would untangle the web of various bureaucracies and stakeholders. But McKinnon says, “For all the conversations we’ve had with the federal and provincial governments focusing on the Ring of Fire, I haven’t seen [commitment] manifested in a vigorous way.”

Not that they’ve lost interest. “I don’t think the zeal for development is gone,” he points out. “The manufacturing sector, which used to drive the province, has significantly shrunk. Because of that they’re looking for secondary activity that will replace that historic engine. The only place it can come from is the development of resources.”

If you’re going to get government funding, a transportation corridor coming out of Pickle Lake would benefit communities like Webequie and something like five to seven different communities overall.—Kirk McKinnon, president/CEO of MacDonald Mines Exploration

Backing the region’s biggest player, the Ontario government supported Cliffs’ proposed road south to the CN TSX:CNR rail line at Nakina. McKinnon thinks a comparable discovery by another company might make the province consider other approaches. Certainly, the transportation debate continues. KWG Resources TSXV:KWG studies the feasibility of a southbound railway while Noront Resources TSXV:NOT promotes an east-west road. McKinnon also favours the east-west route, although he’d prefer rail.

“If you’re going to get government funding, a transportation corridor coming out of Pickle Lake [roughly 260 kilometres southwest of Butler] would benefit communities like Webequie and something like five to seven different communities overall,” he says. “The route that Cliffs is talking about interacts with one community called Marten Falls. Now Marten Falls has about 250 people living there. There are over 600 at Webequie alone.”

The native communities currently rely on light plane service and, during winter, ice roads.

Exploration would benefit too, he maintains. The east-west corridor “would spread along the breadth of a much bigger mineralization opportunity.”

As for electricity, he believes the province could do more to connect the region with the grid. But failing that “there has to be a deal with Manitoba or Quebec.”

“We’ve been up there 10 years and I think we know the people very well,” he adds. Governments could work harder to find “common ground with the natives for development so that after a discovery they can come in and get the appropriate partnership arrangements that they’re looking for. But to do that the government has to stimulate exploration through infrastructure and taking a much more pro-active approach to opening up the country to development.”

As it stands now, “it’s damn expensive to operate up there,” he says. “But there are very big prizes to be had.”

Read more about Ontario’s Ring of Fire.

Read about Kirk McKinnon’s remarks on the state of the juniors.

Which way to the Ring of Fire?

June 13th, 2013

As Cliffs stands down, Noront and KWG propose alternate transport routes

by Greg Klein

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As Cliffs stands down, Noront and KWG propose alternate transport routes

Left: KWG Resources’ rail proposal. Right: A north-south route from the
Eagle’s Nest vicinity shows Cliffs’ road proposal, while Noront’s plan veers southwest.


It’s a suspension, not a cancellation. Yet the June 12 announcement from Cliffs Natural Resources dumped cold water all over Ontario’s Ring of Fire. By putting the region’s largest project on hold, the company has also shelved plans for an all-weather road to the south, a vital link some other companies were counting on to develop the McFaulds Lake area about 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. But Noront Resources TSXV:NOT quickly responded that its own projects are “still good to go” thanks to a proposed east-west road. Not to be outdone, KWG Resources TSXV:KWG pursues the feasibility of north-south rail.

Seemingly a Plan B, Noront’s east-west corridor was actually the company’s first idea. It would link the Eagle’s Nest project to Highway 808, roughly 230 kilometres southwest. But in May 2012, the Ontario government conditionally agreed to help finance the north-south route, part of Cliffs’ $3.3-billion proposal to build the Black Thor mine with road access to a new processing facility near Sudbury. On that basis, Noront used the north-south route in the base case for the September 2012 Eagle’s Nest feasibility study. Noront retained the east-west route as back-up.

A mining and exploration retrospect

Northern Ontario’s muskeg poses development challenges, as this photo from Noront Resources shows.

Prudently, it now seems. Explaining the suspension of what would have been North America’s first major chromite mine, Cliffs’ senior vice-president of global ferroalloys Bill Boor said, “Certain critical elements of the project’s future are not solely within our control and require the active support and participation by other interested parties such as government agencies and impacted first nation communities.”

Reacting to Cliffs’ suspension, Noront chairman/interim CEO Paul Parisotto said his company’s east-west proposal “balances first nations objectives, the environment and job growth. We’re confident this alternative will be attractive to each level of government, the local communities and the people who will benefit from this sensible approach.”

The route would upgrade an existing winter road to all-weather status. Among its advantages, it “avoids provincial parks, avoids areas of special interest to aboriginal groups and provides the greatest benefit to first nation communities,” the feasibility report stated. The native bands are currently served by air travel and winter road.

With Cliffs temporarily out of action, Noront emerges as the regional bigshot. Its Eagle’s Nest project achieved feasibility last September, using an 8% discount rate to calculate an after-tax net present value of $543 million and a 28% internal rate of return. With initial capital costs of $160 million, payback would come after three years of the 11-year mine life for a project showing:

  • proven reserves of 5.26 million tonnes averaging 2.02% nickel, 1.04% copper, 1.01 grams per tonne platinum, 3.45 g/t palladium and 0.19 g/t gold
  • probable reserves of 5.87 million tonnes averaging 1.38% nickel, 0.72% copper, 0.78 g/t platinum, 2.76 g/t palladium and 0.18 g/t gold.

Less than two kilometres away, the company’s Blackbird project has a March 2012 resource showing:

  • a measured category of 9.29 million tonnes averaging 37.44% chromite with a chromium-to-iron ratio of 2
  • an indicated category of 11.17 million tonnes averaging 34.36% with a Cr:Fe ratio of 1.95
  • an inferred category of 23.48 million tonnes averaging 33.14% with a Cr:Fe ratio of 1.97.

Noront PR rep Janice Mandel tells ResourceClips two levels of government know about the company’s east-west proposal. “Noront’s been talking to the provincial government and the federal government, and the environmental assessment has been underway for a while, so there have been lots of discussions. But [Ontario’s] formal proposal had been made with Cliffs.”

She added that Goldcorp TSX:G has shown interest in Noront’s proposal as a route for transmission infrastructure. The major’s fly-in/fly-out Musselwhite mine lies roughly 130 kilometres southwest of Eagle’s Nest and Blackbird.

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Week in review

January 11th, 2013

A mining and exploration retrospect for January 5 to 11, 2013

by Greg Klein

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A rescue plan for the juniors

What started as a routine update from MacDonald Mines Exploration TSXV:BMK quickly became a cri de coeur about the state of the juniors. But the company’s Wednesday news release blamed more than economic uncertainty. President/CEO Kirk McKinnon took on high-frequency traders, banks that discourage exploration investment and politicians who seem not to know or care.

He went on to make some recommendations: Ban high-frequency trading, disallow TSX trading credits for placing bids, ease the way for bank customers to allocate a small portion of their portfolio to junior explorers, require bank analysts to rate individual juniors, increase flow-through tax credits and stop short-selling stocks valued under $1.

Pointing to “dire predictions that over half of the junior mining companies will disappear within the next few years,” McKinnon warned that Canada could face higher unemployment while driving out expertise that’s “recognized as the world’s best” in a sector that stimulates the wider economy.

According to Friday’s Financial Post, “McKinnon’s comments have generated excitement, including many e-mails applauding his statements but wondering why they hadn’t been made in the past. One market participant, not a shareholder of MacDonald Mines, noted: ‘This guy is bang on about the HFT, flowthroughs [given that the low-hanging fruit has been harvested], banks’ non-participation, bid credits and no liquidity or capital in the junior markets.’”

In December Kaiser Research Online editor John Kaiser said algorithmic short-sellers could drive juniors from the TSXV to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Arctic iron mega-project suddenly slashed

Baffinland Mary River camp in Nunavut

Days before Nunavut regulators approved the original $4-billion
Mary River proposal, Baffinland directors decided on a
significantly more modest revision.

The announcement came as a “bolt from the blue,” the Nunatsiaq News reported on Thursday. Just weeks after receiving environmental approval for the largest mining project in the Canadian Arctic, Baffinland Iron Mines asked Nunavut regulators for permission to downsize and delay aspects of its Mary River iron ore project.

Under the revised proposal, Baffinland would put off building a 150-kilometre railway and deep-sea port, cut shipping from year-round to a three-month season and slash production from 18 million to 3.5 million tonnes a year.

The company blamed financing difficulties. “This same effect is being felt by many major projects around the world,” Baffinland stated. “Additionally, the risks associated with large capital developments are magnified during tight financial markets.”

Baffinland decided on the revision just before Christmas, the News reported. The Nunavut Impact Review Board approved the original proposal just after Christmas.

Baffinland said it’s still committed to the entire $4-billion plan. But the company didn’t set a date for full implementation.

Baffinland is owned 50/50 by ArcelorMittal and Iron Ore Holdings. Last October the Financial Times reported that ArcelorMittal was considering the sale of 30% of its Canadian operations.

Meanwhile “volatile iron ore prices in 2013 should prompt Chinese firms to continue investing in Canadian development projects,” stated a Canadian Press story in Wednesday’s Victoria Times Colonist. The news agency said Chinese bought into five Canadian iron projects last year, including the 15% acquisition of ArcelorMittal Mines Canada by China Steel and South Korea’s POSCO for $1.1 billion. Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Jackie Przybylowski told CP she thinks investments will continue on “an opportunistic basis.”

Click here for a Globe and Mail infographic showing Baffinland’s original proposal.

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