Monday 12th November 2018

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Posts tagged ‘california’

And the mania continues

August 10th, 2018

How gold rushes helped make the modern world

by Benjamin Wilson Mountford/La Trobe University and Stephen Tuffnell/University of Oxford | posted with permission of The Conversation

How gold rushes helped make the modern world

Detail from an 1871 lithograph by Currier & Ives portraying the Californian goldfields in 1849.

 

This year is the 170th anniversary of one of the most significant events in world history: the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. On January 24, 1848, while inspecting a mill race for his employer John Sutter, James Marshall glimpsed something glimmering in the cold winter water. “Boys,” he announced, brandishing a nugget to his fellow workers, “I believe I have found a gold mine!”

Marshall had pulled the starting trigger on a global rush that set the world in motion. The impact was sudden—and dramatic. In 1848 California’s non-Indian population was around 14,000; it soared to almost 100,000 by the end of 1849, and to 300,000 by the end of 1853. Some of these people now stare back at us enigmatically through daguerreotypes and tintypes. From Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands; from South and Central America; from Australia and New Zealand; from Southeastern China; from Western and Eastern Europe, arrivals made their way to the golden state.

How gold rushes helped make the modern world

JCF Johnson’s Euchre in the Bush, circa 1867, depicts a card game
in a hut on the Victorian goldfields in the 1860s. (Oil on canvas
mounted on board, courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ballarat)

Looking back later, Mark Twain famously described those who rushed for gold as

a driving, vigorous restless population … an assemblage of two hundred thousand young men—not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved weaklings, but stalwart, muscular, dauntless young braves…

“The only population of the kind that the world has ever seen gathered together,” Twain reflected, it was “not likely that the world will ever see its like again.”

Arriving at Ballarat in 1895, Twain saw first-hand the incredible economic, political and social legacies of the Australian gold rushes, which had begun in 1851 and triggered a second global scramble in pursuit of the precious yellow mineral.

“The smaller discoveries made in the colony of New South Wales three months before,” he observed, “had already started emigrants towards Australia; they had been coming as a stream.” But with the discovery of Victoria’s fabulous gold reserves, which were literally Californian in scale, “they came as a flood.”

Between Sutter’s Mill in January 1848, and the Klondike in the late 1890s, the 19th century was regularly subject to such flooding. Across Australasia, Russia, North America and Southern Africa, 19th century gold discoveries triggered great tidal waves of human, material and financial movement. New goldfields were inundated by fresh arrivals from around the globe: miners and merchants, bankers and builders, engineers and entrepreneurs, farmers and fossickers, priests and prostitutes, saints and sinners.

How gold rushes helped make the modern world

A nugget believed to be the first piece of gold
discovered in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill in California.
(Smithsonian National Museum of American History)

As the force of the initial wave began to recede, many drifted back to more settled lives in the lands from which they hailed. Others found themselves marooned, and so put down roots in the golden states. Others still, having managed to ride the momentum of the gold wave further inland, toiled on new mineral fields, new farm and pastoral lands, and built settlements, towns and cities. Others again, little attracted to the idea of settling, caught the backwash out across the ocean—and simply kept rushing.

From 1851, for instance, as the golden tide swept towards NSW and Victoria, some 10,000 fortune seekers left North America and bobbed around in the wash to be deposited in Britain’s Antipodean colonies alongside fellow diggers from all over the world.

Gold and global history

The discovery of the precious metal at Sutter’s Mill in January 1848 was a turning point in global history. The rush for gold redirected the technologies of communication and transportation, and accelerated and expanded the reach of the American and British Empires.

Telegraph wires, steamships and railroads followed in their wake; minor ports became major international metropolises for goods and migrants (such as Melbourne and San Francisco) and interior towns and camps became instant cities (think Johannesburg, Denver and Boise). This development was accompanied by accelerated mobility—of goods, people, credit—and anxieties over the erosion of middle class mores around respectability and domesticity.

But gold’s new global connections also brought new forms of destruction and exclusion. The human, economic and cultural waves that swept through the gold regions could be profoundly destructive to Indigenous and other settled communities, and to the natural environment upon which their material, cultural and social lives depended. Many of the world’s environments are gold rush landscapes, violently transformed by excavation, piles of tailings and the reconfiguration of rivers.

How gold rushes helped make the modern world

The Earth, at the End of the Diggings.
(Courtesy, Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute)

As early as 1849, Punch magazine depicted the spectacle of the earth being hollowed out by gold mining. In the “jaundice regions of California,” the great London journal satirised: “The crust of the earth is already nearly gone … those who wish to pick up the crumbs must proceed at once to California.” As a result, the world appeared to be tipping off its axis.

In the U.S. and beyond, scholars, museum curators and many family historians have shown us that despite the overwhelmingly male populations of the gold regions, we cannot understand their history as simply “pale and male.” Chinese miners alone constituted more than 25% of the world’s goldseekers, and they now jostle with white miners alongside women, Indigenous and other minority communities in our understanding of the rushes—just as they did on the diggings themselves.

Rushes in the present

The gold rushes are not mere historic footnotes—they continue to influence the world in which we live today. Short-term profits have yielded long-term loss. Gold rush pollution has been just as enduring as the gold rushes’ cultural legacy. Historic pollution has had long-range impacts that environmental agencies and businesses alike continue to grapple with.

At the abandoned Berkley pit mine in Butte, Montana, the water is so saturated with heavy metals that copper can be extracted directly from it. Illegal mining in the Amazon is adding to the pressures on delicate ecosystems and fragile communities struggling to adapt to climate change.

The phenomenon of rushing is hardly alien to the modern world either—shale gas fracking is an industry of rushes. In the U.S., the industry has transformed Williston, North Dakota, a city of high rents, ad hoc urban development and an overwhelmingly young male population—quintessential features of the gold rush city.

In September last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that a new gold rush was underway in Texas: for sand, the vital ingredient in the compound of chemicals and water that is blasted underground to open energy-bearing rock. A rush of community action against fracking’s contamination of groundwater has followed.

The world of the gold rushes, then, is not a distant era of interest only to historians. For better or worse, the rushes are a foundation of many of the patterns of economic, industrial and environmental change central to our modern-day world of movement.

Benjamin Mountford and Stephen Tuffnell’s forthcoming edited collection A Global History of Gold Rushes will be published by University of California Press in October 2018. A sample of their work can also be found in the forthcoming volume Pay Dirt! New Discoveries on the Victorian Goldfields (Ballarat Heritage Services, 2018).

Benjamin Wilson Mountford, David Myers Research Fellow in History, La Trobe University and Stephen Tuffnell, Associate Professor of Modern U.S. History, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related:

Fraser River rush revisited

August 3rd, 2018

A new book reveals how gold fever brought American warfare north of the border

by Greg Klein

Is this the price of gold—the murder of defenceless people followed by retaliatory beheadings as a private American army threatens genocidal war in the future Canada? There’s more to British Columbia’s first great gold rush than has been acknowledged and, 160 years after the fact, a newly published book casts harsh light on the Fraser River mania and its accompanying Fraser River War.

When gold fever brought American warfare north of the border

Natives mined and traded gold for about
two years prior to being overrun by newcomers.
(Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum)

That the war even happened will take many people by surprise. Downplayed or ignored in Canadian research, its significance gets special emphasis in Claiming the Land: British Columbia and the Making of a New El Dorado. The war constitutes one of a number of surprises in what author Daniel Marshall, a University of Victoria professor and descendant of 1858 arrivals from Cornwall, calls a “substantial revisionist history.”

Officially, the rush began with the sudden arrival of some 450 “dregs” of the California goldfields, unloaded by steamboat in April 1858 at the Hudson’s Bay Company fort in Victoria. But HBC officials including chief factor and Vancouver Island colonial governor James Douglas had been anticipating such an event for two years, all the while buying gold from native placer miners. That ongoing trade, of course, belies stories of a dramatic discovery that sparked the rush.

Douglas even tried to discourage such an event by posting pre-rush ads in American newspapers asserting British authority over the mainland of present-day B.C. (then under HBC jurisdiction) and warning that the natives “are decidedly dangerous and that they have forcibly expelled all the whites who have attempted to work Gold in their country.” Hedging his bets, he also ordered the company to manufacture California-style mining gear that the HBC could flog to new arrivals via roving teams of travelling salesmen.

Natives had already fended off gold miners at the aborted Queen Charlottes rush of 1851, when they expelled an HBC crew and fought off American boats. Haida Gwaii aboriginals had devised a way of extracting sub-surface gold by heating rock with fire, then cooling the expanded rock with water to break it up. They reportedly made bullets of gold, an ironic choice of ammo to use on rival miners. But on the mainland, HBC traders worked amicably with native miners, who added yellow metal to the furs and salmon that they provided the company for export.

When gold fever brought American warfare north of the border

No stronger contrast could be imagined with circumstances south of the border. All-out war raged between the U.S. Army and massed tribes of eastern Washington territory. In one battle, 1,200 natives delivered a monumental defeat to their adversaries just as the rush was gaining momentum.

As for California’s ’49ers, some of them considered “Indian fighting” an integral part of gold mining. Between 1848 and 1870, an estimated 50,000 California natives died of disease, starvation or murder. When placer mining played out and news arrived of gold on the Fraser, “much of the cultural mentality that informed the genocidal attitudes of the California mining frontier was baggage carried north with the requisite pick, pan, and shovel.”

Among those joining the rush were Chinese veterans of California, Cornish and Welsh miners with experience in a number of camps, hundreds of blacks and some “violently” republican former French soldiers encouraged to emigrate by Paris police after their country’s 1848 revolution.

But, with British military presence ending at the Fraser’s mouth, it was the white Americans—sometimes egalitarian and racist at the same time—who proved the biggest threat to colonial authority and aboriginal security.

Among them were not only Indian fighters but filibusters, Americans who had joined privately organized militias in attempted conquests of foreign territory. Some targets included Sonora, Baja California, Cuba and Nicaragua, where in the latter case a short-lived filibuster regime gained official recognition from the U.S.

Dreams of American Manifest Destiny and loose talk of 54-40 or Fight extended in time and space past the international boundary set at the 49th Parallel in 1846. With at least 30,000 newcomers, maybe many more, pouring into the yet-to-be-proclaimed colony of B.C., Americans flouted the almost non-existent British authority to establish their own California-style laws and customs.

The old Californian miners and Indian-fighters were the worst, [believing that] they could travel in small parties and clean out all the Indians in the land.—A gold rush prospector

Miners who fought their way through the dangerous overland routes from Washington territory brought the Indian Wars with them, as they took revenge on defenceless targets north of the border. As one witness recounted, “The old Californian miners and Indian-fighters were the worst, [believing that] they could travel in small parties and clean out all the Indians in the land.”

Both rumours and credible reports circulated of increasing harassment and shootings on both sides, with dozens dead and headless corpses floating downriver, nine past Fort Yale, another six at Union Bar and stories of many more. Thousands of natives were said to have united, pushing newcomers back to Yale, where hundreds of miners formed five mounted militias. “Some were for exterminating all Native peoples encountered,” Marshall writes, “while others offered to broker a peace settlement supported by a large demonstration of armed force.”

The latter sentiment prevailed, as Captain Henry Snyder of the 250-strong Pike Guards, supported by a French militia, overshadowed the much smaller Whatcom Guards, who advocated wholesale slaughter. Pushing north, Snyder’s group held a dramatic meeting with Spintlum, described as the war chief for the Fraser region. He convinced 10 other Nlaka’pamux chiefs to pursue peace. An American army, supported by a French army, and the massed aboriginal bands ended their war in the nominally British region.

Within Canadian historical study “it is usually assumed that there is no parallel incident in Canada to the kinds of Native-newcomer violence that occurred in the American mining West,” Marshall points out. “There was, however, a most notable and neglected exception.”

Read more about B.C. mining history.

Senkaku II

July 23rd, 2018

How might a U.S.-China trade war affect rare earths?

 

At first glance, the rare earths aspect of the U.S.-China tariffs tussle looks like small change—a proposed 10% duty on American RE imports that might cause a smallish markup on some manufactured goods and wouldn’t necessarily apply to defence uses. But all that’s part of a much bigger battle that will probably target $250 billion of Chinese exports to the U.S. China used an incomparably smaller incident in 2010 to rationalize a ruthless sequence of rare earths trade machinations. Could something like that happen again, this time with different results?

How might a U.S.-China trade war affect rare earths?

Hostilities began earlier this month as the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on approximately $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with levies on another $16 billion likely to come. China retaliated with tariffs on equal amounts of American imports.

The U.S. re-retaliated with a threatened 10% on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports in a process that would follow public consultation. The additional list includes rare earth metals along with yttrium and scandium, which are often considered REs but rate distinct categories in this case.

Last year the U.S. imported $150 million worth of 15 RE metals and compounds, up from $118 million the previous year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some 78% came directly from China, with much of the rest derived from Chinese-produced concentrates. Yttrium shows a similar story, with 71% coming directly from China and nearly all the rest from Chinese concentrates. Although lacking hard numbers for scandium, the USGS states that too comes mostly from China.

Globally, China produced over 80% of world RE supply last year, but with less than 37% of the planet’s reserves.

Rare earths plus scandium comprise two of 35 mineral categories pronounced critical to the American economy and defence by Washington last May, after Donald Trump called for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” Now the same administration wants to slap those commodities with a 10% price hike.

And at risk of provoking powerful Chinese retaliation.

Rare earths watchers will remember the 2010 confrontation around the disputed South China Sea islands of Senkaku. The Japanese navy arrested a Chinese fishing crew captain who had twice rammed his boat against the military vessel. Within days, China banned all rare earths exports to Japan, crippling its globally important but RE-dependent manufacturers. China also imposed heavy cutbacks and duties on exports to other countries.

While some Western manufacturers relocated to China, Western resource companies strove to develop alternative supplies. Lynas Corp’s Mount Veld project in Western Australia and Molycorp’s Mountain Pass project in California both reached production in 2013. The following year the U.S. claimed victory as the World Trade Organization ordered China to drop its export restrictions on rare earths, as well as tungsten and molybdenum.

China complied with a vengeance, flooding the world with cheap RE supply. America’s WTO victory proved Pyrrhic as a burgeoning non-Chinese supply chain failed to compete. The most salient casualty was Mountain Pass, which went on care and maintenance in 2015.

So does China have more rare earths machinations in mind, this time responding not to a minor territorial dispute but tariffs affecting $250 billion of Chinese exports?

Maybe, but different circumstances might bring a different outcome. Since the Senkaku-induced RE crisis, advanced-stage projects have developed potential mines outside China. Work has progressed on non-Chinese supply chains, working to eliminate that country’s near-monopoly on processing expertise. Most recently, the U.S. has begun an official critical minerals policy to encourage development of supplies and supply chains in domestic and allied sources.

Of course any future scenario remains speculative. But this time the West might be better prepared for China’s tactics. Any new export restrictions might spur development of the deposits that now exist outside China. Any Chinese attempts to dump cheap supply could face further, far more punishing tariffs. While some other industries might suffer in the shorter term, Western resource companies might welcome Senkaku II.

Electrifying the future

June 5th, 2018

Solid state’s a contender, but lithium-ion has years of growth: Simon Moores

by Greg Klein

Lithium bulls faced a bearish backlash last February, when Morgan Stanley circulated a note predicting “2018 to be the last year of the global lithium market deficit, followed by significant surpluses emerging from 2019 onwards.” More pessimism rained on lithium from a report by Wood Mackenzie. Meanwhile some prognosticators talk up the solid state battery’s inevitability. Does all that indicate an end to the Li-ion battery’s quarter-century run?

Solid state batteries will come, but Li-ion still has years of growth: Simon Moores

Not according to Simon Moores. After a dozen years of following energy minerals, the managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence maintains that enhancements in Li-ion prices, availability, capacity and use will sustain the battery and its raw materials for years to come.

He presented the case at his annual world tour appearance in Vancouver, this year held in conjunction with the Cambridge House International Mining Investment Conference.

Although lithium-ion batteries typically sold for about $280 per kilowatt hour back in 2014, he pointed out, Benchmark foresees prices dropping below $130 this year. “Selling prices are still coming down, even though raw material prices have been high.”

Li-ion’s availability keeps increasing as more megafactories begin operation. Back in 2015 three such facilities were in operation or in the planning stage. Currently Moores counts 41 scheduled for operation by 2023 and expects more to be announced. “Not all of those are going to happen,” he cautioned. But “even if you take that down by half—and that won’t be enough to supply all these EV plans—you’ve got a major raw materials problem. The raw materials industries are not fit and not suitable to supply this amount of batteries.”

As of last year, the capacity of existing plants totalled about 112 gigawatt hours. “By 2023, you’re looking at around 450 gigawatt hours of capacity.” More than half will be in China, where some non-Chinese companies are building their plants, likely to be joined by Tesla and Panasonic. The Gigafactory duo will become the world’s largest Li-ion battery producers, with a capacity of just over 250 GWh in 10 years, Moores said.

Solid state batteries will come, but Li-ion still has years of growth: Simon Moores

Simon Moores: Total Li-ion capacity could reach
“anywhere from 800 gigawatt hours to a terawatt,
but it’s huge…. We believe the battery capacity will
be there, but the raw materials will be the problem.”

By that time, total capacity could experience a “massive, 10-fold” increase: “It could be anywhere from 800 gigawatt hours to a terawatt, but it’s huge…. We believe the battery capacity will be there, but the raw materials will be the problem.”

Meanwhile Li-ion continues to beat expectations as the batteries become increasingly energy-dense. Measured in watt-hours per litre, the energy density of an 18-650 cell in 1992 stood at 200. “Then scientists said commercially we could get to about 350 watt-hours per litre—not theoretically, but in the real world. In 2002, that reached 420. Then the scientists said we could probably get to 550 watt-hours per litre in the real world. Then in 2012 we got to 600. Right now we’re at 770. But there is a limit… the limit’s 800. So the question is, where does lithium-ion go from here?”

The answer is battery packs, he noted. Using the example of Romeo Power Technology, Moores said, “It depends on the applications and types of batteries, but they can improve lithium-ion batteries by anything from 25% to 200% with pack engineering.”

Meanwhile Li-ion uses expand, especially with stationary storage: “underestimated, not talked about, it’s got to be on your radar.” Large-scale storage arrived last year at Aliso Canyon, California, after a leak shut down a natural gas-generated electricity plant. With Tesla, Samsung and others involved, “essentially they did 329 megawatt-hours in eight months.”

In December current began flowing from the 129-MWh plant that Tesla installed in South Australia, winning Elon Musk’s bet that he could complete the project in less than 100 days. Since then Musk has talked about building a one-GWh facility—“and he might do that just for the headlines,” Moores suggested.

Utility batteries are getting bigger and being installed quicker…. This is about to impact the market and no one’s even talked about it.

Those projects demonstrate that “utility batteries are getting bigger and being installed quicker…. This is about to impact the market and no one’s even talked about it.”

As for solid state batteries, they’re “about five years away from seeing something real and in place,” Moores said. “The other question is whether they’ll actually be real, truly solid state batteries. But they’re coming.”

A key difference between the two technologies involves replacing Li-ion’s graphite anode with a lithium metal anode, which of course calls for even more lithium. “That gives a 70% better energy density on paper than lithium-ion. But there is a cost to that.”

The lithium metal comes from lithium chloride, produced through electrolysis, which is “really bloody expensive.” Another important difference involves replacing Li-ion’s liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte. Scarce so far is publicly available info on the materials used to make it.

Discussions of solid state tend to neglect “the niche supply chain that’s needed to feed it,” Moores said. “That’s probably the most critical factor to commercialization.”

Still, he emphasized, solid state has attracted “a lot of disciplines, a lot of money, a lot of brainpower going into this industry. It’s one to watch.”

Read Simon Moores discussing Bolivia’s lithium potential.

Cambridge House International president Jay Martin looks forward to the San Francisco Silver and Gold Summit on November 20 and 21

November 14th, 2017

…Read more

Finance legend James Rickards to speak at San Francisco Silver and Gold Summit

October 19th, 2017

October 19, 2017

His book titles hardly suggest an optimistic outlook. But for James Rickards, pessimism has proved no impediment to profit. Others might benefit from his success when he appears as keynote speaker at the Silver and Gold Summit to be held in San Francisco on November 20 and 21.

Finance legend James Rickards to speak at San Francisco Silver and Gold Summit

Rickards’ books have been translated into 14 languages.

A New York Times bestselling author whose work has been translated into 14 languages, his books include Currency Wars, The Death of Money, The New Case for Gold and The Road to Ruin. Rickards serves as chief global strategist for Meraglim Inc, which provides a new technology for predictive analytics in capital markets. He also edits the newsletter Strategic Intelligence and sits on the advisory board of the Center for Financial Economics at Johns Hopkins. An adviser on international economics and financial threats to the U.S. Department of Defense and the American intelligence community, Rickards served as a facilitator of the Pentagon’s first-ever financial war games.

This year’s Silver and Gold Summit features over 30 speakers with some of the best-known names including Marin Katusa, Frank Holmes, Rick Rule and Doug Casey. Their insights will complement an event showcasing 70 exhibitors and offering pre-booked one-on-one meetings to connect investors with companies.

Watch this space for new additions to the speaker list.

To save 25% on admission click here and enter promo code RESOURCE25.

Read more about the San Francisco Silver and Gold Summit.

Golden gateway

October 13th, 2017

San Francisco’s Silver and Gold Summit 2017 bridges investors and opportunities

 

What a year it’s been for some of the rare metals, energy metals and base metals that have shaken the markets. Still, precious metals have a way of retaining their distinctive allure. That helps explain why they get top billing as the Silver and Gold Summit returns to San Francisco on November 20 and 21, in an event that promises to be bigger than ever.

“Precious metals are a lot of what you’ll see at this show and the roots of this conference are based in the silver and gold market,” explains Cambridge House International president Jay Martin. But he emphasizes that they won’t monopolize the agenda, as some exhibitors and speakers have other commodities and strategies in mind.

San Francisco’s Silver and Gold Summit 2017 bridges investors and opportunities

Exhibitor space sold out early with 70 companies, Martin says. “We’re going to cap it at that. When you cap it like that you can maintain the quality.”

The speaker list, on the other hand, has many more presenters to come. Apart from big names like Katusa, Holmes, Rule and Casey, “we’ll be adding probably about 50 speakers to the agenda,” Martin says. “When we build this program we look at about two dozen topics in the mineral sector, then we drill down to what we see as demand, what investors are asking for. Then we assemble the topics and fill the speaker list from there.”

Through surveys, outreach programs, focus groups and social media, Cambridge House and co-producer Katusa Research determine “what attendees want to learn about, what’s getting traction, what’s controversial or exciting.”

Playing to what he calls “a healthy retail market,” the event shares similarities with the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, returning next year on January 21 and 22. “It’s easy to get to San Francisco from anywhere, so we see a lot of traffic coming in from all over the U.S. and Canada. But I’d say the number #1 difference with the San Francisco/Oakland area is there’s a larger appetite for wealth preservation. You’ll also see some content about new asset classes that are competing with gold, like cryptocurrencies.

“You’ll definitely hear speakers address questions about cryptocurrencies’ validity as an asset class for wealth preservation. That’s a big debate right now. People are asking if bitcoin is the new gold, and people will want to hear what our experts have to say about that. I anticipate that being a very large feature.”

With every single show we’re getting better at connecting investors with the opportunities they’re specifically looking for.—Jay Martin, president of
Cambridge House International

Other goals include “educating people on the opportunities in small cap mineral exploration. And with every single show we’re getting better at connecting investors with the opportunities they’re specifically looking for. We offer matchmaking services to help companies and attendees meet and discover opportunities.”

The summit’s online concierge service lets attendees schedule one-on-one appointments with exhibitors, and also lets exhibitors schedule appointments with speakers and qualified buyers. “That makes everyone’s time more productive,” Martin points out. “On top of that, we’re always reaching out to funds we know and investors we know to make sure they’re meeting the people they should be meeting.”

That promises to make a busy two days, especially since Martin expects about 1,500 attendees, up considerably from last year’s 800. The turnout follows a “phenomenal response” to the International Metal Writers Conference held in Vancouver last May.

“There’s a lot of demand now for high-quality junior mining deals on a global scale,” he adds. “We’re seeing more international traffic coming to the shows. We’re seeing more companies getting pre-booked prior to the event for one-on-one meetings.”

The heightened quest for investor intel comes amid unsettling geopolitical and domestic circumstances. “It’s such a volatile time in the States right now, unlike any year I’ve ever seen,” Martin notes. “I think investors are more aware that it’s up to them to take care of themselves and make smart investment decisions. I think investors are getting more intelligent and more productive with their time at our conferences. That’s great to see.”

The Silver and Gold Summit takes place at San Francisco’s Hilton Union Square from November 20 to 21. To save 25% on admission click here and enter promo code RESOURCE25.

New to mining? Or want a refresher course? Consider the Mining Insight Seminar, a two-hour separate ticketed event offering an overview of the industry, its economics and stakeholder considerations.

Who gets a stake in this strategic U.S. asset—the Russian billionaire, the Chinese company or both?

June 16th, 2017

by Greg Klein | June 16, 2017

Efforts to reduce U.S. dependency on Chinese rare earths took an uncertain turn on June 15 as a group representing three American firms and a Chinese REE producer placed the winning bid for Mountain Pass. But the sale of bankrupt Molycorp Minerals’ former California mine, until its 2015 shutdown the only REE operation in the U.S., faces a number of challenges.

Who gets a stake in this strategic U.S. asset—the Russian billionaire, the Chinese company or both?

Mountain Pass: Could one rival bidder get the
mine while another holds the mineral rights?

The US$20.5-million top bid came from MP Mine Operations LLC, which “includes two noteholder groups from Molycorp’s original bankruptcy as well as Chinese investor Shenghe Resources Shareholding Co Ltd,” reported Law360.com. Shenghe Resources Holding is a Chinese company engaged in smelting, deep processing and sales of rare earths and other metals, according to Bloomberg, which notes Shenghe is a subsidiary of the China Geological Survey Institute of Multipurpose Utilization of Mineral Resources.

The bid surpassed a US$20-million stalking horse from ERP Strategic Minerals, part of the U.S.-based ERP Group of companies headed by Tom Clarke. The American billionaire credits his group with “a strong track record of restarting mines acquired out of U.S. bankruptcy and Canadian CCAA situations.” ERP planned to work with Pala Investments, headed by Russian-born billionaire Vladimir Iorich, and ASX-listed Peak Resources for financial, technical and operational support of the Mountain Pass mine and processing facility.

ERP had challenged the rival bid in court, saying the offer could be blocked by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment or other regulators, Law360.com stated. The journal quoted ERP arguing that, without a pre-bid review, “the stalking horse bidder will be prejudiced by having to compete against unfair, non-complying bids, and there is a real risk of a flawed auction and a failed sales process.”

Who gets a stake in this strategic U.S. asset—the Russian billionaire, the Chinese company or both?

Bankrupt Molycorp’s former assets include an REE processing facility.

A judge allowed the auction to proceed, “setting the stage for a sale hearing on June 23,” Law360.com added. The site previously reported that the hearing was scheduled to consider objections from three federal regulatory agencies that say the former operation’s permits can’t be transferred through the auction.

According to Peak Resources, ERP will file an objection to the auction by June 19 “and may consider other legal remedies” prior to the June 23 hearing.

But members of the winning group already hold the mineral rights, according to the Financial Times. Last month the paper stated the rights are held by MP Mine Operations members JHL Capital Group and QVT Financial, both Molycorp creditors, along with Oaktree Capital. The American firms planned to work with Shenghe, the Chinese REE processor.

Contemplating a successful ERP bid prior to the auction, “Mr. Clarke said his group could still use the mine site to process material from elsewhere if they did not get the mineral rights—but he hoped to negotiate for them if he wins,” the paper added.

Mountain Pass went on care and maintenance in 2015 after Molycorp piled up some US$1.7 billion in debt. That left Lynas Corp’s Mount Weld operation in Western Australia as the world’s only significant source of rare earths outside China, which produces and processes about 90% of global supply.

The U.S. Geological Survey considers rare earths critical to the country’s economy and defence. Under the proposed METALS Act, a bill before U.S. Congress, the federal government would support the development of domestic sources and supply chains for critical minerals including rare earths.

U.S. Congress to vote on support for domestic critical materials supply lines

March 9th, 2017

by Greg Klein | March 9, 2017

With an eye to national defence, American lawmakers will decide whether their government should help develop domestic supplies of rare minerals. A Congressional bill introduced March 7, Rep. Duncan Hunter’s proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security) would offer a number of inducements to create supply lines for strategic and critical commodities.

U.S. Congress to vote on support for domestic critical materials supply lines

A “dangerous lapse in the supply chain for strategic and
critical materials” will be examined by the U.S. Congress.

“The U.S. must no longer be wholly dependent on foreign sources of strategic and critical materials,” said Hunter, a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. “The risk of this dependence on national security is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

Pointing to China’s lockhold on over 90% of global rare earths supply, Hunter argued the U.S. has “ceded” its ability to produce REEs. Following the bankruptcy of the last U.S. rare earths miner, Molycorp “sold a portion of its assets to the Chinese,” said a statement from Hunter’s office. “The mine is now being considered for purchase by a firm with ties to a Russian billionaire.”

As reported by the Wall Street Journal last month, a group including Vladimir Iorich’s Pala Investments has offered US$40 million for Molycorp’s former Mountain Pass mine in California. The METALS Act would prohibit foreign acquisition of American rare earths deposits.

It would also provide five-year interest-free loans for new production or manufacturing techniques involving strategic or critical minerals. Additionally, Washington would reimburse defence programs for higher costs of domestic products. Funding would divert 1% of Department of Defense administration spending, Hunter said.

The act would also bar foreign interests from sourcing American supplies of ammonium perchlorate, a propellant for rockets and missiles. The bill further calls for a study on the viability of using thorium-fuelled nuclear reactors in naval vessels.

Besides encouraging supply chains essential to national security, the bill “supports the U.S. domestic industrial base by aiding domestic investment opportunities,” according to Hunter’s office.

Speaking with ResourceClips.com last month, David S. Abraham expressed skepticism about Hunter’s proposal. “Most bills on critical materials have not passed and his bills usually have the least chance of passing…” said the author of The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age. “That’s not to say the U.S. hasn’t given money to metallurgy and mining before, but with the exception of some dabbling in beryllium in the ’90s, I can’t recall a time where the U.S. was really investing in mines from a defence perspective.”

But Washington defence lobbyist Jeff Green told ResourceClips.com of “a totally different dynamic” in circles of power that would be willing to “invest in America to protect our national security and grow our manufacturing base.”

A January report from the U.S. Geological Survey stated the country was wholly dependent on foreign sources for 20 minerals last year, some of them considered critical or strategic “because they are essential to the economy and their supply may be disrupted.”

As of press time Hunter’s office hadn’t responded to an interview request.

Crown Mining begins metallurgical study of California copper deposits

December 14th, 2016

by Greg Klein | December 14, 2016

Crown Mining TSXV:CWM expects to have a metallurgical review of its Moonlight-Superior copper deposits finished in Q1, the company announced December 14. The study aims to verify recoveries found by Placer-Amex in the 1960s and update processing cost estimates. The northern California deposits sit about two kilometres apart.

Crown Mining begins metallurgical study of California copper deposits

Depression-era copper prices
shut down the former Superior mine.

Crown also reported receipt of an engineering and economic report on Moonlight-Superior that includes an examination of previous resource estimates and of Whittle pit shells using different copper prices. The report will be used to consider commissioning a PEA, the company stated.

Previous owners released a resource for Moonlight in 2007 and Superior in 2013. Using a 0.2% cutoff, the estimates showed:

Moonlight

  • indicated: 146.5 million tonnes averaging 0.32% for 1,044 million pounds copper

  • inferred: 80 million tonnes averaging 0.28% for 496 million pounds

Superior

  • inferred: 54.4 million tonnes averaging 0.41% for 487 million pounds

The deposits form part of Crown’s 18,000-hectare Lights Creek property, which also includes the Engels deposit. At a 0.2% cutoff, its 2013 resource showed:

  • inferred: 2.6 million tonnes averaging 1.05% for 60 million pounds

Totals for the three deposits come to 1.044 billion pounds indicated and 1.043 billion pounds inferred. Superior and Engels operated between the 1890s and 1930s. Moonlight was a 1960s discovery.

Crown now plans a small drill program to better define and assess the higher-grade areas of Moonlight-Superior.

Read more about Crown Mining.