Saturday 24th October 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘coal’

The Mining Association of Canada criticizes Ottawa’s intention to subject Teck Resources’ Castle coal proposal to federal review in addition to provincial assessment

October 9th, 2020

…Read more

Crisis: More studies needed

October 1st, 2020

The U.S. responds to a critical minerals “emergency” with additional reports

by Greg Klein | October 1, 2020

A national emergency normally calls for action. But although the U.S. faces “an unusual and extraordinary threat”—not referring to insurrectionary riots but foreign dependency on critical minerals—the country intends to respond with more studies and reports. Such was the gist of President Donald Trump’s September 30 executive order.

Yet he made his awareness of the problem manifest. Referring to 35 critical minerals the U.S. deems essential for uses including national security, economic well-being, electronics, transportation and infrastructure, Trump cited U.S. Geological Survey data showing his country imports over half its supply of 31 of the 35 minerals. For 14 of the minerals, the U.S. depends completely on foreign sources.

The U.S. responds to a critical minerals “emergency” with more reports

U.S. President Trump arrives in Pennsylvania days ahead of
his declaration of a national emergency on critical minerals
and call for a rejuvenated mining industry.
(Photo: White House/Tia Dufour)

That leaves the country vulnerable “to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster or other supply disruptions. Our national security, foreign policy and economy require a consistent supply of each of these minerals.”

Standing out as the greatest foreign supplier and greatest foreign threat is China. Rare earths provide a stark example. While the U.S. led global production back in the 1980s, China now provides 80% of American supply directly and, indirectly through other countries, some of the remainder too. Since the 2010 Senkaku incident, China’s machinations have included withholding RE exports, then flooding the market to ruin potential non-Chinese suppliers, and forcing RE-dependent manufacturers to relocate to the Middle Kingdom.

Among the critical 35, Trump also emphasized barite (more than 75% of U.S. supply is imported, over half the total from China), gallium (95% of global supply comes from China) and graphite (100% of U.S. supply is imported; China provides over 60% of global supply and almost all high-purity flake graphite).

What Trump actually ordered, however, are further studies and reports—lots of them. Often with overlapping areas of concern and some with recurring updates, federal studies will consider ways to encourage domestic extraction and processing, as well as expand and protect domestic supply chains. Some strategies include import restrictions against China and other countries, and loan guarantees to companies linked to a supply chain.

Our nation’s undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.—U.S. President Donald Trump

Trump’s concern dates at least to December 2017 with an executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” The order followed closely on a 900-page USGS report that was the country’s first comprehensive update since 1973.

The 35 list followed in 2018. Later that year the U.S. Department of Defense presented its own report to Trump. In 2019 alone he signed five “presidential determinations finding that domestic production of rare earth elements and materials is essential to the national defence.”

Some more tangible developments this year included undisclosed amounts funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to study the feasibility of two potential rare earths separation facilities, one by California RE miner MP Minerals, and the other by Australian RE miner Lynas Corp with its American JV partner Blue Line Corp, to be located in Texas.

Last month Washington awarded $7.97 million in 2020 funding to the Earth Mapping Resource Initiative for critical geoscientific studies in 21 states.

As one of the 35 essentials, uranium rates strategies of its own. It fuels about 20% of American electricity, not including U.S. Navy nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. But the country relies on imports for about 90% of supply. Backed by Trump’s 2021 budget, the U.S. Department of Energy formed a working group to encourage domestic uranium mining, support nuclear fuel cycle capabilities and establish emergency uranium reserves.

Another energy-related presidential order aims to safeguard vital infrastructure including electricity substations and water treatment facilities from foreign control.

Some positive steps notwithstanding, China’s dominance remains unchallenged. Trump’s latest round of studies, under the guise of a national emergency, might have more to do with courting job-hungry voters. “In many cases, the aggressive economic practices of certain non-market foreign producers of critical minerals have destroyed vital mining and manufacturing jobs in the United States,” he said.

Over the last several decades, our nation’s mining industry has suffered due to political inaction, a broken permitting process and predatory foreign competition from China.—A White House statement

Yet other mining issues question his ability to support the sector. This is the president who failed to protect the Appalachian coal industry despite 2016 assurances. Alaska’s Pebble saga presents a giant copper-gold-molybdenum deposit backed by Trump but mired in regulatory battles. Just recently scandal joined the imbroglio as now-resigned Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier was recorded talking up his company’s relationship with U.S. politicians and officials.

The November election outcome adds more uncertainty to Trump’s stated goals. But bipartisan concern over foreign dependency has emerged in the U.S. House of Representatives. In July both parties came together to form a Critical Minerals Caucus to encourage domestic production. In September a bipartisan bill tabled in the House called for tax incentives for mining, reclaiming and recycling critical minerals.

Of course the U.S. hardly stands alone. This week the EU created the European Raw Materials Alliance to “identify barriers, opportunities and investment cases to build capacity at all stages of the raw materials value chain, from mining to waste recovery. In a first phase, the alliance focuses on the most pressing need, which is to increase EU resilience in the rare earths and permanent magnets value chains, as these are vital to most EU industrial ecosystems.”

The alliance follows a critical raw materials action plan announced earlier last month. But participants need not be European. “Pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood will start as of 2021,” the EU stated.

Another transnational proposal would bring the U.S. and Canada together. The two countries announced their Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration in January and, without specifying anything tangible, reaffirmed their intentions in June.

October 16, 2020, update: Canada, Australia and U.S. announce the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative.

A resource-less approach

August 21st, 2020

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

by Greg Klein | August 21, 2020

“Very disheartened,” the Mining Association of Canada expressed more than usual frustration as another resource project faced another unexpected setback. This one caused special pain since it resulted from Bill C-69, which the industry group had controversially supported. MAC did so thinking the bill would fix problems associated with the federal environmental act of 2012. But the association had also supported Ottawa back then, before becoming disillusioned with the legislation’s implementation. Could there be a pattern here?

MAC expressed its most recent discouragement on August 20 after federal environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) Castle coal proposal would face a federal review under the Impact Assessment Act in addition to the provincial review already underway.

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

Teck’s Fording River operation: Does a supposedly green economy
have no room for steel-making coal? (Photo: Teck Resources)

As a new source of metallurgical coal just south of Teck’s Fording River mine in southeastern British Columbia, Castle would add “several decades” of life to the currently depleting operation, the company maintains. Teck hoped to begin Castle development in 2023 and production in 2026, to replace the existing operation early next decade.

Yet the size of the proposal calls for an environmental review at the provincial level only, Teck and MAC say, arguing that federal IAA intervention isn’t necessary.

“It seems clear that this decision was political in nature as there are many projects across the country with equal or more significant impacts that are not subject to the IAA,” MAC president/CEO Pierre Gratton asserted. “This is a case of the government succumbing to pressure from political interest groups while also placating the U.S. government’s EPA and the state of Montana.”

Yet Canada’s new regimen was supposed to end much of the federal-provincial review duplication, which helped explain MAC’s support for C-69 last year even after Parliament rejected most of the Senate’s proposed amendments. Over objections from the oilpatch and some uranium companies, MAC declared the new legislation an improvement over the former Tory government’s 2012 Environmental Assessment Act.

MAC had supported the 2012 transformation too. But later the group decided it did not “live up to its promise,” Gratton told CBC last year.

In making this decision, the federal government is sending a clear message that instead of providing support for resource projects and jobs in a time of unprecedented economic crisis, it will choose to do the opposite. —The Mining Association
of Canada

On August 20 he stated MAC’s support for the new IAA had been “contingent on it being implemented well. It is unfortunate that the past month has now given our industry reason to question whether it will be implemented in a fair and efficient manner.”

Weeks earlier, MAC noted, Ottawa released its new Strategic Assessment on Climate Change, “which included numerous requirements that are unworkable for the mining sector and is calling into question whether the act will be well and fairly implemented.”

Implementation aside, the IAA is hardly free of inherent faults. A February 2019 commentary by Grant Bishop and Grant Sprague of the C.D. Howe Institute warned that C-69 threatened projects by “congesting the assessment process with wider public policy concerns and exacerbating the political uncertainty facing proponents with a highly subjective ‘public interest’ standard.” That allowed for “increasing subjectivity and politicization in project approvals,” the authors contended.

Additionally, they said the new bill failed to clarify the duty to consult natives.

C-69 passed at the same time as Bill C-48, aka the “tanker moratorium,” and shortly after a ban on offshore Arctic drilling.

Problems are obvious at the provincial level too. One early sign of a growing trend was B.C.’s 2012 rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum proposal despite an environmental assessment that found the project was “not likely to have significant adverse effects.” In the legislature last spring MLA Andrew Weaver, B.C.’s former Green leader, suggested the previous BC Liberal government rejected Morrison as a trade-off to gain native support for a gas transmission line to the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant.

The BC Liberal government did, however, support Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity proposal. Ottawa scrapped that one, partly by expanding its environmental mandate to include spiritual and cultural issues.

B.C.’s current NDP government, meanwhile, has come under fire from Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO for a process that it said involved 28 government reviewers, “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” and “moving goalposts.” These are, of course, just a few examples of ongoing frustration that characterizes resource and infrastructure development across Canada.

Most vexing is the duty to consult. Does that create a veto? Not according to Gratton, who has previously insisted: “We’re not in a world of veto. We’re in a world of deep and meaningful engagement.”

But that deep and meaningful stuff can work in reverse too. When the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended federal rejection of an expansion proposal for Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation in 2018, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association convinced Ottawa to approve the company’s request.

The Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, moreover, appear to show some natives trying to veto others. The cause was taken up by Canada’s wider protest culture following its mass adulation for a Swedish teenager in demonstrations that at least hinted at religious fervour. The anti-pipeline movement quickly morphed into Shut Down Canada, an effort that showed signs of succeeding until quelled by the pandemic. Yet widespread demonstrating resumed with an American issue imported to this country awkwardly but with immediate and uniform support from Canadian media, political and business elites.

Will that support follow when protesters channel their emotions en masse back to environmental issues? Certainly much of the political and media establishment already grant credibility to seriously disruptive tactics that, for example, block people’s freedom of movement.

It’s in this milieu that the prime minister is speculated to be preparing an unprecedented social spending program that would dwarf previous deficit budgets.

Gold bugs might believe the outcome will vindicate their predictions for fiat currency. They might also feel vindicated by this week’s investment of US$560 million in Barrick Gold TSX:ABX by Berkshire Hathaway, whose legendary CEO Warren Buffett was previously known to disparage gold.

One of the world’s largest gold producers and nominally a Canadian company, Barrick has just one mine and no exploration or development projects in this country. For its part, Berkshire Hathaway expressed its opinion of Canada in early March when the company cancelled its planned $4-billion investment in GNL Québec. A spokesperson for the LNG proponent cited investor nervousness about the “current Canadian political context” demonstrated by rail blockades.

If Canada’s abandoning its resource economy, the replacement remains uncertain. That might be a situation better understood by investors than policy-makers, but it carries implications much wider than stock prices.

Energy storage

July 29th, 2020

It’s key to carbon-neutrality. But how to overcome raw material cost and supply security challenges?

by Ron MacDonald | July 29, 2020

The development of new, clean energy sources is of vital importance for a sustainable society. As the world, collectively, is increasingly pushing aside non-renewable sources such as natural gas, oil and coal, we look to clean energy sources such as hydro, wind and solar generation. However, in order to support the economics of renewables, energy storage allows for the capture of energy produced at one time for use at a later time and is the key to ensuring a carbon-neutral world.

It’s key to carbon-neutrality. But how to overcome raw material costs and supply security?

The total energy storage market is expected to grow to $546 billion in annual revenue by 2035, according to a report released by Lux Research. In the United States, the market value is forecast to increase from $720 million today to $5.1 billion in 2024 according to market research firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, with the U.S. already seeing a 93% increase in the energy storage systems deployed in the third quarter of 2019.

Decreasing costs in accessible technologies have driven interest in energy storage forward like never before. For example, the price of lithium batteries has fallen by nearly 80% over the past five years, allowing for more integration of energy storage into solar power systems. Even more affordable than lithium is zinc. Zinc-air batteries empower the lowest cost of energy storage in the market for long-duration applications, resolving the intermittent and unpredictable nature of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar at an economic price.

Lithium-ion cells lose their charge over time, whereas zinc-air batteries maintain their full charging capacity for the up to 20-year lifecycle of the battery. Zinc-air energy storage systems are capable of economically storing energy from eight hours to 100-plus hours. This is considerably longer than the four-to-six-hour upper economic limit for lithium-ion. The lithium-ion battery costs flatten out at six hours, while zinc-air battery costs per kWh installed become even more cost-effective over longer durations.

A look at energy storage during and beyond COVID-19

Ron MacDonald: “Zinc is abundant in North
America and its price has been very stable
over the past 20 years. All of the other major
components of the zinc-air battery are also
available in North America.”

The growth of the energy storage market is driven by the growing demand for high-capacity, safe, cost-effective and eco-friendly energy storage solutions. The global metal-air battery market size is estimated to grow from US$438 million in 2020 to US$842 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 14%, reports ResearchAndMarkets.com, which segments the market into zinc-air, lithium-air, aluminum-air and iron-air.

Dependence on a supply chain of hardware components, metals and chemicals, many of which come from outside North America, is a challenge for the growing energy storage industry. Metals such as lithium, vanadium, rare earths and cobalt used today in many energy storage batteries are impacted by price volatility, geopolitical concerns, security of supply, as well as coronavirus-related supply chain disruptions. Those same risks do not apply to zinc energy flow batteries.

Countries that are major producers of raw materials required for battery production have been subject to strict restrictions to control the spread of the virus. For example, Australian lithium production companies have set up strict guidelines for businesses in the industry in terms of long-distance travel restrictions. In contrast, zinc is abundant in North America and its price has been very stable over the past 20 years. All of the other major components of the zinc-air battery are also available in North America, providing a low-cost, robust and safe energy storage solution that has not been impacted by the pandemic. Zinc-air batteries offer a homegrown solution supporting the transition to a cleaner, greener post Covid-19 world.

 

Ron MacDonald is president/CEO of Zinc8 Energy Solutions CSE:ZAIR, the leader in zinc-air battery technology. The Zinc-Air Flow Battery from Zinc8 is an energy storage unit designed to serve a wide range of long-duration applications for microgrids and utilities. He can be reached at ron@zinc8energy.com and on LinkedIn.

Read Keeping the Lights On by Ron MacDonald.

Watch an online presentation from Zinc8 Energy Solutions.

Maintaining essential service

April 14th, 2020

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

by Greg Klein | April 14, 2020

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

A COVID-19 outbreak put Impala’s Lac des Iles on lockdown.
(Photo: Impala Canada)

 

With additional health standards in place and encouraged by a surging gold price, Quebec miners have been given a back-to-work go-ahead. On lifting a three-week suspension, the province allowed ramp-up procedures to begin April 15. A ban on non-essential industrial activities, including mineral exploration, has been extended to May 4.

Mine restarts announced so far include Eldorado Gold’s (TSX:ELD) Lamaque mine, IAMGOLD’s (TSX:IMG) Westwood operation, Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX:AEM) LaRonde complex and Goldex mine, and the Agnico Eagle/Yamana Gold TSX:YRI Canadian Malartic JV.

Glencore stated it’s “analyzing options” to restart its Raglan nickel and Matagami zinc operations in Quebec.

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold were quick to announce
Canadian Malartic’s ramp-up. (Photo: Canadian Malartic JV)

New measures mandated by the government and its health and workplace standards agencies require physical distancing, additional protective equipment, health monitoring and enhanced sanitation. The new regimen also calls for additional training and in some cases longer stints in job site accommodations to reduce travel.

But market forces aggravated by the pandemic will keep Stornoway Diamond’s Renard mine on care and maintenance. Prior to the March 24 government-ordered suspensions, Renard operated only through the support of creditors.

“We will continue to monitor the market conditions for improvements which would allow for a restart of mining activities,” said Stornoway president/CEO Patrick Godin. The diamond industry has been hit by broken supply chains as well as plunging prices.

Also on April 14 McEwen Mining TSX:MUX announced restarts of its Black Fox mine in the Timmins camp, along with the San Jose operation in Argentina. Although the Ontario government exempted mining and exploration from its list of suspensions, the company paused Black Fox for two weeks while implementing new policies and procedures.

“Our miners and teams are overwhelmingly supportive of returning to work with the new safety measures,” the company stated.

In northwestern Ontario, Implats subsidiary Impala Canada suspended its Lac des Iles palladium mine on April 13 after learning that a worker tested positive for COVID-19. By April 14 the company announced seven confirmed cases connected with LDI. 

Impala told all employees to go into isolation until April 27, during which time they’d get a $100-a-day bonus on top of base pay for the entire month. The company also arranged free hotel rooms and meals during the isolation period.

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

McEwen Mining lifted the voluntary suspension
of its Black Fox operation. (Photo: McEwen Mining)

Industrial operations face numerous challenges in adapting to new health protocols. Last week the Globe and Mail reported concerns about conditions at Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) southeastern British Columbia coal operations.

A local resident “alleged that shortages of protective equipment, crowded commuter buses, packed site vehicles and ‘an absolute impossibility to self-distance because of the nature of the work,’ are fostering an environment where the virus could spread,” the paper stated.

The company had previously announced precautionary measures including “a temporary slowdown of operations and reduction of crews by up to 50%” at its B.C. mines.

According to the G&M, “Stephen Hunt, director of United Steelworkers union, which represents almost all of Teck’s B.C. workforce, said some members are satisfied the company’s mines are safe, while others are worried. He said Teck has made decent strides to reduce the risk for employees, including staggering shift start times to reduce congestion at the mine site as well as removing some of the seating on buses to ensure people are sitting at least six feet apart. Despite these precautions, he’s still on edge.”

On April 13 Cameco Corp TSX:CCO announced that the suspension of its 50%-held Cigar Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin would continue indefinitely. Orano Canada also lengthened the suspension of its 70%-held McClean Lake mill, which processes Cigar Lake ore.

The global challenges posed by this pandemic are not abating—in fact, they are deepening.—Tim Gitzel,
Cameco president/CEO

“The precautions and restrictions put in place by the federal and provincial governments, the increasing significant concern among leaders in the remote isolated communities of northern Saskatchewan, and the challenges of maintaining the recommended physical distancing at fly-in/fly-out sites with a full workforce were critical factors Cameco considered in reaching this decision,” the company stated.

President/CEO Tim Gitzel added, “The global challenges posed by this pandemic are not abating—in fact, they are deepening.”

As Quebec allows mining to resume, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

April 14th, 2020

This story has been expanded and moved here.

Open and shut cases: West

December 20th, 2019

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

by Greg Klein

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Western Potash began Saskatchewan’s first solution mining operation for this commodity in July.
(Photo: Western Potash)

 

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

The Exxon Valdez of Canadian mining went into dry dock at the end of May, as Imperial Metals TSX:III put its Mount Polley copper-gold operation on care and maintenance. The company that traded above $16.50 prior to the August 2014 tailings dam failure spent most of 2019 well below $3. Now holding two suspended mines, the company’s operational portfolio has dwindled to a 30% stake in B.C.’s Red Chris copper-gold open pits. In August Imperial sold the other 70% to ASX-listed Newcrest Mining for US$775 million.

But if human error can dump eight million cubic metres of tailings muck into the waterways, human ingenuity can respond. As the five-year anniversary approached, Geoscience BC founding president/CEO and Imperial’s former chief scientific officer ’Lyn Anglin offered her perspective on the $70-million clean-up program, which continues during the mine’s suspension.

 

Maybe its status as Canada’s largest diversified miner leaves Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B open to greater diversity in downturns. The company blamed global economic uncertainties for “a significant negative effect on the prices for our products, particularly steelmaking coal.” But the company attributes its most recent coal mine closures not to market forces but to depletion. That was the verdict for the mid-year shutdown of B.C.’s Coal Mountain and for Alberta’s Cardinal River, scheduled to follow in mid-2020.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Some depleted mines notwithstanding, Teck Resources
has over four decades of B.C. coal reserves.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Although Teck warned employees in September of layoffs, noting a price drop from about $210 to about $130 per tonne over the previous weeks, further mine closures weren’t specified. Depletion hardly concerns Teck’s four remaining Kootenay-region coal operations. The company says there’s enough steelmaking stuff to keep Line Creek, Greenhills, Elkview and Fording River busy for 18, 28, 38 and 43 years respectively.

While the company now focuses on its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper development project in Chile and its JV at the port of Vancouver’s Neptune terminal, Teck’s $20-billion proposal for Alberta might serve as an affront to the great cause of our time. In July Teck managed to get a recommendation of approval from a joint federal/provincial environmental review panel for its Frontier oilsands project. Media reports, however, suggest Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his cabinet might reject the panel’s recommendation.

 

Whether it brought relief or astonishment to local supporters, in July Western Potash finally began building its long-delayed Milestone potash project in southern Saskatchewan.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

A determined-looking Western Potash group
celebrates a milestone in Saskatchewan mining.
(Photo: Western Potash)

Expectations had risen and fallen a few too many times since at least 2015, when the company announced it had secured funds sufficient for a scaled-down capex. But in October Western began solution mining, the first application of this method for potash in Saskatchewan. The innovative operation will also be “the first potash mine in the world that will leave no salt tailings on the surface, thereby significantly reducing water consumption.”

Now a subsidiary of Western Resources TSX:WRX, the company plans “hot mining” early in the new year to pump brine containing potassium chloride into a crystallization pond at surface, leaving unwanted sodium chloride underground. By Q3 2020 a newly built plant will process the potash for an off-take agreement covering all Phase I production. Phase II calls for expanded operations to support an average 146,000 tpa output over a 12-year life.

 

Yet the mine starts up amid cutbacks and shutdowns elsewhere. The province’s big three potash producers, Nutrien TSX:NTR, Mosaic NYSE:MOS and K+S Potash Canada, all reduced output in 2019. Between them, Nutrien and Mosaic suspended four operations, at least one indefinitely.

In August workers at Mosaic’s Colonsay operation learned of an indefinite layoff, reportedly to last anywhere from six months to a matter of years. Further discouragement came in November when the United Steelworkers confirmed that the company was moving equipment from Colonsay to its Esterhazy operation, itself subject to reduced output.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Saskatchewan’s tallest structure stands over a shaft reaching
more than a kilometre underground at Mosaic’s Esterhazy K3.
(Photo: Mosaic)

Esterhazy’s ambitious K3 expansion project, however, continues unfazed by current market conditions. With construction started in 2011, commissioning begun in December 2018 and full production not scheduled until 2024, the new underground operation will replace Esterhazy’s K1 and K2 mines, keeping the K1 and K2 mills busy at the world’s largest potash mining complex.

In September Nutrien announced it would “proactively” suspend its Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy potash mines. Workers at the first two got December 29 recall notices, but Vanscoy’s resumption has yet to be revealed.

Nevertheless, company bosses expressed optimistic 2020 foresight. It will be “a strong year for crop input demand for which we are well-positioned to benefit,” predicted Nutrien president/CEO Chuck Magro. His Mosaic counterpart Joc O’Rourke expects “a very strong application season in Brazil and North America, and a better supply and demand balance in 2020.” .

 

That year or the next just might be momentous for Saskatchewan potash. BHP Group NYSE:BHP’s board of directors has until February 2021 to decide whether to complete Jansen, a $17-billion project that would challenge the province’s potash protocol.

The threat of competition might take an unexpected turn, however. As reported in the Financial Post, at least two analysts say rival companies could attack pre-emptively by boosting production to lower prices and discourage new mine development.

 

Holding top positions globally are Saskatchewan as potash-producing jurisdiction and Saskatoon-headquartered Nutrien as potash miner. The province also boasts world stature for uranium but has no new U3O8 operations expected during this survey’s time frame. Even so, industry and investors watch with interest as Denison Mines TSX:DML, NexGen Energy TSX:NXE and Fission Uranium TSX:FCU each proceed with advanced large-scale projects.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into the public domain

December 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 6, 2019

Additional base and precious metals could be waiting for discovery in a region already hosting some of British Columbia’s largest mines. A new program by Geoscience BC plans a number of measures to search for potential deposits hidden beneath glacial till.

Under scrutiny will be a 50,700-kilometre swath of Quesnel terrane between Centerra Gold’s (TSX:CG) Mount Milligan gold-copper mine to the northwest and, to the southeast, Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) 75%-held Gibraltar copper-molybdenum operation and Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley project, now on care and maintenance. Backed by $2.9 million in funding, the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project begins with two programs. One will analyze new and existing till samples with satellite imagery to trace samples and geochemical anomalies to their source. Another program will use existing geophysical data to identify, map and model potential copper-gold deposits.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into public domain

Receding glaciers may have helped hide valuable resources.
(Photo: Geoscience BC)

Results are scheduled for 2021, when drilling is anticipated and additional related projects may take place. Data will be made public for the benefit of communities, governments and academia, as well as the mining sector.

Consequently, support for the program came from communities as well as industry. At a December 5 open house North Central Local Government Association president Lara Beckett said, “The communities of the NCLGA benefit from the valuable public data on water, energy and minerals that these initiatives provide. NCLGA members have passed resolutions in support of the work of Geoscience BC and look forward to working together on future opportunities to strengthen communities throughout north-central British Columbia.”

Association for Mineral Exploration president/CEO Kendra Johnston called the work “important to AME members because the data and information that they provide inspire new mineral exploration and attract new investment to British Columbia. We look forward to seeing the results from the first two projects, and to learning more about future phases.”

Other recently announced Geoscience BC programs include Porphyry Vectoring Techniques in Advanced Argillic Altered Rocks, a study of three known porphyry copper-gold deposits in the province’s northwest and north-central regions.

Earlier last month Geoscience BC published a report on mineral deposit types in the Toodoggone area of B.C.’s north-central region. Among several other projects, the non-profit group is also studying methods of extracting rare earth elements from B.C. coal deposits.

Learn more about the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project.

Paved with promises II

October 9th, 2019

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

by Greg Klein

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Chinese government’s majority-held Izok Corridor project
would benefit from Canadian infrastructure. (Photo: MMG Ltd)

 

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Canada would gain a deep-water arctic port, Nunavut would get its first road out of the territory and mineral-rich regions would open up if two mega-proposals come to fruition. Recent funding announcements to study the Northwest Territories’ Slave Geological Province Corridor and Nunavut’s Grays Bay Road and Port projects could lead to a unified all-season route from a highway running northeast out of Yellowknife to stretch north through the Lac de Gras diamond fields, past the Slave and Izok base and precious metals regions, and on to Arctic Ocean shipping.

In mid-August, as federal and NWT elections neared, representatives from both levels of government announced a $40-million study into a possible 413-kilometre all-season route linking the NWT’s Highway #4 with a proposed Nunavut road. The project would also extend the NWT electrical grid to the Slave region, which straddles both sides of the NWT-Nunavut border.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

Isolated Grays Bay could become an arctic shipping hub,
helping fulfill a dream that dates back to John Diefenbaker
and, not exactly a contemporary, Martin Frobisher.
(Photo: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

That same month the federal and Nunavut governments, along with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, announced $21.5 million to study a possible 230-kilometre Nunavut section. That proposal includes building a deep-sea port at Grays Bay, about midway along the Northwest Passage. Supporters hope to reach the “shovel-ready” stage in two to three years.

A “champion and proponent” of the project, KIA president Stanley Anablak said, “We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.”

KIA perseverance helped revive the proposal after Ottawa refused to provide majority funding for the $527-million estimate in April of last year, 18 months before the federal election.

Another supporter is MMG Ltd, with two advanced base metals deposits in the region: Izok holds 15 million tonnes averaging 13% zinc and 2.3% copper, while High Lake shows 14 million tonnes averaging 3.8% zinc and 2.5% copper.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Nunavut portion of a grand trans-territorial proposal.
(Map: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

The Kitikmeot region “hosts some of the world´s more attractive undeveloped zinc and copper resources,” MMG stated. “However, located near the Arctic Circle and with no supporting infrastructure, these resources have remained undeveloped since their discoveries roughly 50 years ago.”

But could a supposed nation-building project become a nation-buster, compromising sovereignty for the sake of another country’s new silk roads? The proposal’s main beneficiary “will be the Chinese government, more so than the government of Nunavut or the government of Canada,” Michael Byers told the National Post in August.

About 26% of MMG stock trades on the ASX. China’s state-owned China Minmetals Corp owns the rest.

Byers, a political science prof and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, “does not see a problem with a Chinese-controlled company operating mines in Canada,” the NP stated, “but he wonders if the company will be allowed to bring in Chinese workers to build the road and if Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill.”

The prospect of a Chinese company importing Chinese workers for a Canadian resource project has already been demonstrated by HD Mining International. In 2012 the company planned to staff underground operations at a proposed British Columbia coal mine exclusively with Mandarin-speaking Chinese. The mine was later put on hold, but not before an 18-month bulk sampling program conducted entirely by Chinese workers.

A new Grays Bay port and 350-kilometre all-season road formed part of the 2012 pre-feasibility study for MMG’s proposed mine. The company has since backed away from the estimated $6.5-billion price tag, calling for collaboration with others to build regional infrastructure.

We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.—Stanley Anablak,
president of the
Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Certainly other companies would benefit too, as would the communities represented by the KIA. And as for sovereignty, neglecting infrastructure would cause the greater setback. That’s the perspective of a Senate report issued in June that called for several measures to expand the northern economy and enhance its culture. “The impact of federal under-investment hits hardest on the Arctic’s greatest asset, Indigenous youth,” the committee emphasized. “Opportunities for nation-building can no longer be missed.”

Among the senators’ priorities were energy and communications, as well as transportation, for the benefit of communities and industry. The committee recognized that mining comprises “the largest private sector employer in the Arctic, contributing to 20% to 25% of the GDP of the northern territories and supporting about 9,000 jobs directly, or one in every six jobs.”

The report also noted “growing global interest in the Arctic and rising international rivalry outside of the Arctic. Several non-arctic states in Europe and Asia have developed arctic policies or strategies.” Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and other arctic waters depends on the principle of use it or lose it, the committee suggested.

The Northwest Passage route to Asia had been an alternative considered by Baffinland Iron Mines, the Nunatsiaq News reported last month. With ambitious infrastructure proposals of its own, the Baffin Island company currently relies on  trans-Atlantic routes to Europe and has also used Russia’s Northern Sea Route to reach Asia.

As part of its Phase II plans to increase production, Baffinland has applied for permission to build the territories’ second railway, which would run north from the Mary River mine to the company’s Milne Inlet port, now reached by a 100-kilometre freight road. The new track would precede a 150-kilometre southern rail extension to a port the company would build at Steensby Inlet. The Steensby route and facilities received environmental approvals in 2014.

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Related reading: Reaching arctic mines by sea.

Maria Holuszko and her Geoscience BC team look at coal as a possible source of REEs

September 5th, 2019

…Read more