Friday 19th July 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘Cameco Corp (CCO)’

Washington continues critical inquiries into rare earths and uranium supply chains

July 15th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 15, 2019

While somewhat relaxing its concern about uranium, the U.S. appears increasingly worried about rare earths supply. A Reuters exclusive says Washington has begun an inventory to itemize domestic RE projects.

Washington continues critical inquiries into rare earths and uranium supply chains

With an inventory of domestic RE projects
already underway, the U.S. called for a study
of uranium supply chain potential.

“The Pentagon wants miners to describe plans to develop U.S. rare earths mines and processing facilities, and asked manufacturers to detail their needs for the minerals, according to the document, which is dated June 27,” the news agency reported. “Responses are required by July 31, a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon’s urgency.”

The request mentions the possibility of investment by the military, Reuters added.

The move marks another development in American plans to reduce the country’s dependency on critical minerals from economic and geopolitical rivals. Last month the U.S. announced a new critical minerals strategy calling for closer co-operation with allies. Out of an official list of 35 critical minerals, rare earths repeatedly come up for special attention. China supplies 80% of American demand for this economic and military essential, with more imports coming indirectly from China. Compounding the conundrum is the fact that America’s only rare earths mine, Mountain Pass in California, ships its entire output to China.

Last month Reuters stated that U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed their officials “to develop a joint action plan on critical minerals collaboration.”

But if heightened American urgency about some critical minerals looks positive for Canadian projects, so does a reduction in urgency about U.S. uranium supplies.

Cameco Corp TSX:CCO expressed itself pleased with Trump’s decision not to introduce new trade restrictions on uranium imports.

The president disagreed with a July 12 report stating that the country’s heavy reliance on imports threaten to impair U.S. national security. The secretary of commerce found the country’s foreign dependency now accounts for 93% of American uranium supply, up from 85.8% in 2009. The secretary attributed the number to “increased production by foreign state-owned enterprises, which have distorted global prices and made it more difficult for domestic mines to compete,” the White House stated.

But, citing significant concerns nonetheless, Trump called for the creation of a nuclear fuel working group “to develop recommendations for reviving and expanding domestic nuclear fuel production” within 90 days.

Cameco president/CEO Tim Gitzel said the company “also sees tremendous value in increasing co-operation between the United States and Canada to address critical mineral issues and strengthen security of supply on a North American, rather than strictly national, basis.”

Trump and Trudeau’s commitment to a joint action plan “is an excellent initiative, and we see uranium being a key component of that strategy,” Gitzel added.

The U.S. report results from a petition by Energy Fuels TSX:EFR and Ur-Energy TSX:URE, who together took credit for over half of U.S. uranium production in 2017. Yet their estimates for last year showed total domestic production supplied only about 2% of U.S. demand.

The companies called for a 25% domestic quota on uranium purchases in the U.S., suggesting state-owned companies in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan keep prices below a profitable threshold for American producers. The Eurasian trio provided about one-third of U.S. demand in 2017.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” the companies maintained.

Active participants

November 7th, 2018

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

by Greg Klein

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

Representatives of Nemaska Lithium and Nemaska Cree negotiate the Chinuchi Agreement in 2014.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

 

Trans Mountain—it’s likely been Canada’s biggest and most discouraging resource story this year. The subject of well-publicized protests, the proposed $9.3-billion pipeline extension met federal court rejection on the grounds of inadequate native consultation. But any impression of uniform aboriginal opposition to that project in particular or resource projects in general would be false, a new report emphasizes. In fact native involvement increasingly advances from reaping benefits to taking active part, with corresponding advantages to individuals and communities.

That’s the case for the oil and gas sector, forestry, hydro-electricity and fisheries, with mining one of the prominent examples provided by the Montreal Economic Institute in The First Entrepreneurs – Natural Resource Development and First Nations. “While some First Nations oppose mining and forestry or the building of energy infrastructure, others favour such development and wish to take advantage of the resulting wealth and jobs,” state authors Germain Belzile and Alexandre Moreau. “This cleavage is no different from what is found in non-indigenous cities and villages in Canada, where there is no vision for the future that everyone agrees upon.”

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

Visitors tour a cultural site at the Éléonore mine.
(Photo: Goldcorp)

Mining provides a case in point, and the reason’s not hard to understand. “In 2016, First Nations members working in the mining sector declared a median income twice as high as that of workers in their communities overall, and nearly twice as high as that of non-indigenous people as a whole.”

“Between 2000 and 2017, 455 agreements were signed in this sector, guaranteeing benefits in addition to those stemming from extraction royalties due to rights held by First Nations on their territories.” Those agreements often include native priority in hiring and subcontracting, which helps explain why “6% of indigenous people work in the mining sector, compared to only 4% in other industries.”

Of course the proportion rises dramatically in communities close to mines. MEI notes that Wemindji Cree make up about 25% of Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) Éléonore staff in Quebec’s James Bay region. The native total comes to 225 workers out of a community of 1,600 people. Their collaboration agreement also makes provisions for education, training and business opportunities.

At another Quebec James Bay project, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX expects to begin producing concentrate in H2 of next year. Collaboration with the Nemaska Cree began in 2009 and brought about the 2014 Chinuchi Agreement covering training, employment and revenue sharing, among other benefits. The community holds 3.6% of Nemaska stock.

Even stalled projects can benefit communities. Uranium’s price slump forced Cameco TSX:CCO to put its majority-held Millennium project in northern Saskatchewan on hold in 2014. But the 1,600-member English River First Nation still gained $50 million from the project in 2014 and $58 million in 2015.

Or, to take an example not mentioned in the report, natives can also profit from an operating mine that fails to make a profit. In Nunavut, a benefit agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation gave the Qikiqtani Inuit Association $11.65 million this year, as well as the better part of $3.7 million that the QIA reaped in leases and fees. In production since 2014, Mary River remains in the red.

Of course some natives still oppose some projects. Last month Star Diamond TSX:DIAM received provincial environmental approval for its Star-Orion South project in southern Saskatchewan’s Fort à la Corne district. That decision followed federal approval in 2014.

Star says the mine would cost $1.41 billion to build and would pay $802 million in royalties as well as $865 million in provincial income tax over a 20-year lifespan. The mine would employ an average 669 people annually for a five-year construction period and 730 people during operation. But continued opposition from the James Smith Cree Nation calls into question whether environmental approval will suffice to allow development.

Similar circumstances played out in reverse for Mary River. Last summer the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended Ottawa reject Baffinland’s proposed production increase. But support from the QIA and territorial Premier Joe Savikataaq convinced the feds to approve the company’s request. So the veto, if it exists, can work both ways.

James Smith opposition stems largely from Saskatchewan’s lack of revenue-sharing programs, a basic component of benefit agreements in other jurisdictions. “As a government it’s our position that we will not and do not consider resource revenue sharing as a part of any proposal going forward,” enviro minister Dustin Duncan told the Prince Albert newspaper paNOW. He said the province uses mining revenue “to fund programs for the benefit of all Saskatchewan residents and not just one particular group or region.”

The MEI report quotes an estimated $321 million in 2015-to-2016 revenues from natural resources overall for First Nations, a category that doesn’t include Inuit or Metis, and a dollar figure that doesn’t include employment or business income and other benefits.

While Trans Mountain stands out as an especially discouraging process, MEI points out that proponent Kinder Morgan signed benefit agreements with 43 First Nations totalling $400 million. After Ottawa bought the company, “several First Nations showed interest in a potential takeover. For some of them, the possibility of equity stakes was indeed the missing element in the Kinder Morgan offer.”

That might take negotiations well past the stage of benefits and further into active participation. As JP Gladu of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business told MEI, “The next big business trend that we are going to see, and that is happening already, is not only that aboriginal businesses are going to be stronger components of the corporate supply chain, but we are also going to see them as stronger proponents of equity positions and actual partners within resource projects.”

 

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

The category of First Nations excludes Inuit and Metis.
(Chart: Montreal Economic Institute. Sources: Statistics Canada,
2016 Census, 98-400-X2016359, March 28, 2018)

Double discovery

November 18th, 2017

The USGS reports new American uranium potential and a new uranium “species”

by Greg Klein

The USGS reports new American uranium potential and a new uranium “species”

The Southern High Plains of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma
might someday boost U.S. domestic uranium supply.
(Photo: Public domain)

 

The dream of discovery must motivate many a geologist. Through skill, effort and luck they hope to eventually find something precious, useful or otherwise valuable—something well known yet found in a previously unknown location. But a group of geo-boffins from the U.S. Geological Survey not only identified a type of uranium deposit previously unknown to their country, they discovered a new mineral.

It’s finchite, “a new uranium mineral species,” as a press release described it last week. The discovery actually dates to 2015, says Brad Van Gosen, the USGS scientist who did the discovering.

While surveying a Texas cotton ranch Van Gosen collected samples of what he and his colleagues thought was carnotite, “a pretty common yellow, near-surface uranium mineral.” Back in the lab, he put it under a scanning electron microscope, which kept showing strontium with the uranium and vanadium, he recalls. To a geologist, it was unusual—very unusual. A eureka moment was looming.

The USGS reports new American uranium potential and a new uranium “species”

First to recognize the new mineral finchite, USGS scientist
Brad Van Gosen examines rock layers in Texas.
(Photo: Susan Hall/USGS, public domain)

“We looked it up and there’d been no strontium-uranium mineral ever reported before. So [team leader Susan Hall] worked with a crystallography/mineralogy lab that specializes in micro-analysis up at Notre Dame and they concluded, ‘By gosh you’re right.’” Further study continued before sending the evidence to the International Mineralogical Association. “They’re the high council and they blessed it as a new mineral.” Finchite’s moniker honours the late Warren Finch, a USGS uranium expert.

Another major finding was that the uranium was hosted in calcrete rock formations, a style of deposit known elsewhere but reported for the first time in the U.S.

Some previously secret info led to the twin epiphanies. Hall, as leader of a project that’s reassessing national uranium resources, gained privy to some unpublished 1970s and ’80s data from the former Kerr-McGee company. Included were estimates for two deposits, Sulphur Springs Draw and Buffalo Draw, with marginal grades of 0.04% and 0.05% U3O8 respectively. Together they held an estimated 2.6 million pounds U3O8.

(Of course data from historic sources and the U.S. government agency falls outside the framework of NI 43-101 regulations.)

The newly transpired, near-surface deposits led Hall and her group to the Southern High Plains spanning parts of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. It was there that they recognized calcrete, its first known manifestation in the U.S.

The USGS reports new American uranium potential and a new uranium “species”

Surface showings of yellow finchite might have previously
been mistaken for sulphur, says Van Gosen.
(Photo: Susan Hall/USGS, public domain)

The stuff’s associated with uranium in other countries. Among major calcrete-style deposits listed by the World Nuclear Association are Yeelirrie in Western Australia, along with Trekkopje and Langer Heinrich in Namibia. Yeelirrie is a potential open pit held by a Cameco Corp TSX:CCO subsidiary and averaging 0.16% U3O8. Trekkopje, a potential open pit majority-held by AREVA Resources, averages 0.01%. Langer Heinrich, an open pit mine operated on behalf of Paladin Energy, the majority owner now under administrative control, averages 0.052%.

According to the USGS, grades for potential Southern High Plains deposits range from 0.012% to 0.067%, with a median 0.034% U3O8. Gross tonnage estimates range from 200,000 to 52 million tonnes, with a median 8.4 million tonnes. Together, the region’s calcrete-style potential comes to 39.9 million pounds U3O8.

But that’s a regional assessment, not a resource estimate, reflecting how USGS methodology contrasts with that of exploration companies. The agency uses a three-part approach, explains Mark Mihalasky, who co-ordinated the assessment. The procedure first delineates areas that would allow the occurrence of a particular kind of deposit. Using additional geoscientific evidence, the agency estimates how many deposits might be awaiting discovery. How much those potential deposits hold can be estimated through comparisons with similar known deposits around the world.

Mineral assessment and mineral exploration are two different things…. It’s not a ‘drill here’ assessment.—Mark Mihalasky

“Mineral assessment and mineral exploration are two different things,” Mihalasky emphasizes. “The purpose of our assessment is to help land planners, decision-makers and people in the region get an idea of what could be there, based upon probability. It’s not a ‘drill here’ assessment.

“This whole region is a relatively newly recognized area of potential and while we’re not saying this is a new uranium province we are saying there’s something here that hasn’t been found before in the United States and this might be worth looking into in greater detail if you’re an exploration company.”

Already one company from Australia has been asking “lots of questions,” says Van Gosen. Although most uranium mining in the American west uses in-situ recovery, the shallow depth and soft host rock of the Southern High Plains could present open pit opportunities “assuming uranium prices and other factors are favourable.”

Any positive price assumption will have to wait, however. One week earlier Cameco announced the impending suspension of its high-grade McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. The company said that long-term contracts had shielded it from uranium’s post-Fukushima plunge of over 70%, but those contracts are now expiring. Cameco had previously suspended its Rabbit Lake mine and reduced production at its American operations.

But while production faces cutbacks, controversy over American dependence on foreign uranium flared up again last month with renewed questions about the sale of Uranium One to Russia’s state-owned Rosatom. The formerly TSX-listed Uranium One holds American resources that could potentially produce up to 1,400 tonnes of uranium annually, according to the WNA. But last year the company’s sole U.S. operation, the Willow Creek ISR mine, produced just 23 tonnes of the country’s total output of 1,126 tonnes.

As the world’s largest consumer of uranium for energy, the U.S. relies on nukes for about 19% of the country’s electricity, according to USGS numbers. Only 11% of last year’s uranium purchases came from domestic sources.

Update: The full USGS report is now available here.

USGS reports new domestic uranium potential and new uranium “species”

November 14th, 2017

This story has been expanded and moved here.

Saskatchewan Mining Association chairperson Jessica Theriault signals “growing leadership role of women in mining”

May 25th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 25, 2017

The director of environmental affairs for The Mosaic Company NYSE:MOS, Jessica Theriault has been elected to lead the Saskatchewan Mining Association board. A former SMA director and member of its environment committee, she has an environmental engineering degree and MBA from the University of Regina, along with 19 years of environmental experience in Saskatchewan potash mining.

Saskatchewan Mining Association chairperson Jessica Theriault signals “growing leadership role of women in mining”

Jessica Theriault

Theriault succeeds Neil McMillan, who serves as chairperson of Cameco Corp TSX:CCO.

“Given the importance of mining to the Saskatchewan and Canadian economies, and the strength of our industry’s reputation, my focus as chair will be to ensure that we continue to deliver, but also drive improvements across the sector,” said Theriault.

Elected as SMA vice-chairperson was Tammy Van Lambalgen, VP of corporate affairs and general counsel for AREVA Resources Canada.

Although the SMA already has a female president in Pamela Schwann, the association noted that Theriault will be the first woman to lead its board. Her election, along with that of Van Lambalgen, “represents a significant milestone in signalling the growing leadership role of women in mining,” the SMA stated. “It also shines a light on the diversity of rewarding careers for women in the mining sector in Saskatchewan, home to global mining and exploration companies and the top jurisdiction in the world for attracting mineral investment according to the annual Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies.”

The news follows last week’s appointment of Edie Thome as president/CEO of the British Columbia-based Association for Mineral Exploration, which already had a female chairperson in Diane Nicolson. But in 2002, when the position of AME president was voluntary and the executive director was the staff lead position, Shari Gardiner served as president.

That province lost a prominent female industry spokesperson in April, however, when Karina Briño stepped down as B.C. Mining Association president/CEO to take on a mining role in her native Chile.

Earlier this month Saskatchewan mining companies pledged $1 million to the International Minerals Innovation Institute to help encourage greater employment of women and natives in the industry.

Rio continues 100% option on Pistol Bay Mining’s Athabasca Basin uranium project

January 24th, 2017

by Greg Klein | January 24, 2017

Having resumed drilling, a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary advances towards a 100% interest in Pistol Bay Mining’s (TSXV:PST) C4, C5 and C6 uranium properties in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Rio Tinto Exploration Canada has so far earned 75% of the properties and stated its intention to exercise the full option. That would bring Pistol Bay $5 million by the end of 2019 and a 5% net profits interest.

Rio continues 100% option on Pistol Bay Mining’s Athabasca Basin uranium project

Located in a prolific area, C4, C5 and C6 adjoin Wheeler River, a JV of Denison Mines TSX:DML, Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and JCU (Canada) Exploration that hosts two exceptionally high-grade deposits. The Phoenix zone holds an indicated resource of 70.2 million pounds averaging 19.13% U3O8, the world’s highest-grade undeveloped uranium deposit.

Wheeler’s Gryphon zone shows an inferred 43 million pounds averaging 2.3%. C4, C5 and C6 are located about halfway between Cameco’s majority-held McArthur River, the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine, and Key Lake, the world’s largest uranium mill.

Rio plans four to six holes totalling about 2,600 metres on C5 beginning this month. Past work at C5 has included 12 holes totalling 6,104 metres, along with gravity and DC resistivity surveys.

Five kilometres of rough roads link the three properties to the all-weather route connecting McArthur River with Key Lake.

Last week Pistol Bay updated plans for its properties in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt, where the company holds the area’s largest property package. Pistol Bay plans to bring modern geophysics and a region-wide approach to a district where previous companies have explored individual properties at different times.

Late last month the company closed a private placement first tranche totalling $201,850.

Read more about Pistol Bay Mining.

Cigar Lake faces more challenges as wolves stalk and attack employees

October 21st, 2016

…Read more

ALX Uranium welcomes Denison Mines to southwestern Athabasca Basin’s “elephant country”

October 13th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 13, 2016

ALX Uranium TSXV:AL gets 7.5 million shares of Denison Mines TSX:DML, retains a 20% stake in the Hook-Carter project and has its portion of $12 million in spending covered as Denison moves into the southwestern Athabasca Basin. Under a deal announced October 13, Denison becomes project operator, bringing its expertise to the 16,805-hectare property in the Patterson Lake South region.

ALX Uranium welcomes Denison Mines to southwestern Athabasca Basin’s elephant country

“This is elephant country—a large property that has seen very little drilling on a geological trend with a precedent for large and high-grade uranium deposits,” commented Denison VP of exploration Dale Verran.

“The Hook-Carter property is uniquely situated on the Patterson Lake corridor, offering potential for both basement-hosted deposits, similar to Triple R and Arrow, and unconformity-hosted deposits which remain the largest and highest grade in the Athabasca Basin, namely McArthur River and Cigar Lake which are both operating mines. With Athabasca sandstone thicknesses similar to the Wheeler River project, the property plays to our team’s strengths and we are very excited to get started with exploration in 2017.”

So far Hook-Carter has undergone just eight historic holes, five of them on the property’s 15 kilometres of the Patterson Lake conductive corridor, which hosts Fission Uranium’s (TSX:FCU) Patterson Lake South, NexGen Energy’s (TSX:NXE) Rook 1 and Hook Lake, a joint venture of Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU, Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and AREVA Resources Canada. Hook-Carter also features additional potential along significant sections of the Derkson and Carter corridors.

Subject to approvals, Denison’s work requirement calls for $3 million over the first three years. Should the company fail to meet the commitment, ALX’s stake in the property increases from 20% to 25%. Additionally, Denison funds ALX’s portion of the first $12 million in spending. The companies plan a JV three years after closing the agreement.

“Denison has made a number of world class uranium discoveries within the Athabasca Basin and, given their experience, we believe that they will advance the project diligently and methodically,” said ALX president/CEO Jon Armes. “Knowing that Hook-Carter will see considerable exploration efforts over the next 36 months, the company will focus on exploration at its other high-quality exploration projects in and around the shallow margins of the Athabasca Basin, which include Gorilla Lake, Newnham Lake, Gibbon’s Creek and Lazy Edward Bay.”

Wolf attacks bring Jack London redux to Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin

September 14th, 2016

by Greg Klein | September 14, 2016

Nature has inflicted many challenges on Cigar Lake, but most of them have been geological. Now local wildlife has turned against the project.

In what’s reported as strange behaviour for the species, wolves are stalking and even attacking the uranium mine’s employees. On September 14 the National Post reported one such canine wrapped its jaws around the neck of a kitchen worker. A security guard’s vehicle scared the attacker away. Considered unusual, the wolf “had apparently lain in wait for the young mining camp worker,” the NP stated.

Wolf attacks bring Jack London redux to Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin

Cigar Lake staff have cited several instances of being watched or followed by wolves, the paper added. “They are absolutely huge … they have no fear of man and come into the job sites often at night,” a former employee informed the NP.

Cameco Corp’s (TSX:CCO) majority-held operation lies roughly halfway between two 2005 wolf attacks, one of them fatal. As a result, the company fenced off Cigar Lake, cautioned employees and implemented deterrence devices such as “scare cannons,” according to the NP. Nevertheless, wolves and also bears continue to breach the barricades, Cameco acknowledges.

The newspaper characterizes the canine actions as a startling new phenomenon. But Jack London portrayed much more disturbing events in his 1906 novel White Fang.

It’s 50 below as two Yukon prospectors and their dog team find themselves tracked by an increasingly aggressive wolf pack. With gleaming eyes, the predators circle the men’s camps night after night, encroaching closer and closer and closer.

At times like that, “it’s a blame misfortune to be out of ammunition,” one guy observes.

Simply food for the predators, the dog team dwindles one by one. The two men dwindle to one.

The surviving prospector realizes his “living flesh was no more than so much meat, a quest of ravenous animals, to be torn and slashed by their hungry fangs, to be sustenance to them as the moose and the rabbit had often been sustenance to him.”

Evidently the quest for metals has always called for fortitude. And the world’s highest-grade uranium mine continues to face challenges.

Saskatchewan miners sponsor six days of site visits for teachers

August 15th, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 15, 2016

A 5,000-kilometre tour offers Saskatchewan schools insight into mining’s importance to the province and the province’s importance to mining. This year’s Rock’n the Classroom GeoVenture Program began August 15 as 19 teachers took a half-day workshop in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Mining Association sponsors the annual event, paying all expenses except a $50 fee.

Saskatchewan miners sponsor six days of site visits for teachers

On the itinerary are PotashCorp’s (TSX:POT) Patience Lake solution mine, Mosaic’s (NYSE:MOS) Esterhazy underground potash mine and mill, Westmoreland Coal’s Poplar River open pit operation and the world’s largest uranium operation at Cameco Corp’s (TSX:CCO) majority-owned McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill.

Other destinations will include earth science-related attractions such as the Potash Interpretive Centre in Esterhazy. Handouts include resource kits, lesson plans, posters and maps for the classroom.

The program “offers educators a front-row seat to explore Saskatchewan’s mineral industry and learn of related career opportunities for their students,” the SMA stated.

Ontario teachers also qualify for multi-day mining tours, these ones hosted by the non-profit Canadian Ecology Centre.