Friday 28th October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘coal’

B.C. coal mine comes back as province and new owner fast-track restart

September 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | September 26, 2016

More than two long years after shutting down and less than two short weeks after its acquisition closed, northeastern British Columbia’s Brule coal mine is moving from care and maintenance to production. The province’s Ministry of Energy and Mines confirmed the restart on September 23.

Along with Wolverine and Willow Creek, Brule’s one of three regional coal assets picked up by privately owned Conuma Coal Resources from Walter Energy Canada, a holding company for U.S.-based Walter Energy Inc. The latter entity shut down the Peace River-region projects in April 2014, throwing 695 people out of work. Walter Energy Inc was one of a number of coal giants that filed for bankruptcy the following year.

B.C. coal mine comes back as province, new owner fast-track restart

Conuma will act as a contract miner for Walter until permits can be transferred, according to the province. The re-start should eventually restore about 170 jobs. Plans call for the mine to be “fully staffed and operating at full production levels by December 2016,” the ministry stated. “The company estimates it will produce two million tons of metallurgical coal annually from the Brule mine.”

The open pit deposit has “proven to yield a very strong and highly sought-after metallurgical-quality coal,” added Conuma president Mark Bartkoski. “The co-operation between the previous owners, the local communities, numerous First Nations groups, the ministry and Conuma was unprecedented and will quickly result in blessing numerous families with employment opportunities.”

The company also proposes to bring Wolverine back to life. Timing depends on Conuma’s “ability to complete the necessary work to satisfy all its permit requirements,” the province stated.

A new company led by experienced coal miners, Conuma benefits from Walter’s debt and coal’s resurgence, co-owner Ken McCoy told the Tumbler Ridge News. “When Walter bought this property, they bought it right at the very top of the market. They paid over $3 billion for it, and as soon as they bought it, it started going down, down, down. If you look at the graph, we bought it right at what we think is the bottom. Now the market has turned up. In the last two months, the price of this coal has gone up significantly, which justifies us to come in and open these coal mines up.”

Conuma is a member of the ERP Group of Companies built around West Virginia-based ERP Compliant Fuels, which bundles reforestation carbon credits with coal sales “to produce a ‘compliance instrument’ effectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions.” But Conuma has no carbon offset plans for the time being, McCoy told the Tumbler Ridge News.

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.

The real backbone of green technology

June 15th, 2016

Posted with permission of Resource Works

Renewable energy has an enviable position in the court of public opinion. All the while, natural resources that make renewables possible are regularly decried by self-proclaimed progressives pushing to leave everything in the ground.

It’s true—our planet’s climate is changing and humans are the central instigators. Though even as the reality of carbon emission strikes home, we must be careful that our understanding of the state of energy transition doesn’t become mired in conflicting agendas with contrasting narratives about the path to an effective shift into clean tech.

The real backbone of green technology

The simple reality is that we subsist on energy produced by carbon emission and goods built on mineral extraction. Think it ends with renewables? Not a chance.

To serve as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, already a major task for the brightest innovators we’ve got, green technologies depend on mineral development, as well as global production and supply chains that are almost entirely driven by petroleum products.

A Tesla car battery or a solar panel doesn’t just come into existence and begin creating limitless energy. Before ingenious technologies built to harness the sun’s power or that of the wind can come online and begin feeding into a power grid, the raw materials that make them must be sourced and transported. Mining is the first step. A solar panel is just one good example of the complexity of high-tech manufacturing.

Once minerals like neodymium (a rare earth metal used to make magnets in wind turbines) or quartz (the most common ingredient in the panel part of a solar panel) are sourced, they go to refining to render them suitable for industrial application.

An 80-foot-tall wind turbine typically carries 19,000 pounds of steel in the tower itself. Steelmaking, in case you didn’t know, requires coal both as an energy source and as a source of carbon, which when combined with iron is used to create steel. Based on the steel industry’s global annual figures, the total coal used in making steel is about half the weight of the total steel output.

Next these materials must be assembled, often in many places cumulatively. By the time a typical wind turbine starts moving, its parts will have traversed thousands of kilometres.

Here’s the point to take with you: “Fossil fuel-free” favourites like wind, solar or even hydro rely on extracted natural resources. With enough research and development, the methods of manufacturing them will continuously become more efficient and we may reach an entirely zero emissions lifestyle. Until that point comes, mining and fuel extraction remain essential activities not just to our daily lives, but also to our best hopes for a shift to renewable energy production.

Resource Works is a non-profit society that encourages “respectful, fact-based dialogue on responsible resource development in British Columbia.”

Video contest fosters mining awareness among Nova Scotian students

April 11th, 2016

by Greg Klein | April 11, 2016

Okay, there was a cash incentive. But the enthusiasm’s genuine. The Mining Association of Nova Scotia asked high school students to research a brief topic on mining and quarrying, then find a way to portray it on video. The results were not only informative but inventive and entertaining. And they brought contest winners a total of $8,000 in prizes, MANS announced April 11.

Mining ROCKS! video contest gets Nova Scotia students excited about mining

Now in its second year, Mining ROCKS! pulled in 22 entries from students across the province. Judges included film and media pros as well as Minister of Natural Resources Lloyd Hines and Membertou Chief Terry Paul, among others. Another 1,848 people cast votes for the People’s Choice Award.

The winners (shown here) use wide-ranging approaches to explain, illustrate, dramatize and emphasize the many uses of minerals and the industry’s importance to Nova Scotia. This is, after all, a province where coal mining dates back to 1672—and coal’s a relative newcomer. MANS says Canada’s oldest mine, possibly North America’s oldest, would be Davidson Cove, where Mi’kmaq extracted jasper and agate for arrowheads and cutting tools 1,500 years ago.

Mining and quarrying now provide around 5,500 jobs and put $420 million into the provincial economy each year.

As for the Ontario Mining Association, it now has judging underway for its student video contest, So You Think You Know Mining. Winners will be announced June 1.

See the winning entries for Mining ROCKS!

Criminal consequences

April 8th, 2016

As Blankenship plans an appeal, other miners in the U.S. and Canada fare worse

by Greg Klein

One year in prison and another on supervised release—six days apart from each other two American courts handed two former mining executives identical jail time. One ex-boss was implicated in polluting a river, the other in 29 mining deaths.

The latter, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, also got a $250,000 fine. The sentence came almost exactly six years after the underground explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine operated by a Massey subsidiary.

As Blankenship plans an appeal, other miners in the U.S. and Canada fare worse

Widespread outrage greeted the sentence but the judge—a coal miner’s daughter—gave Blankenship the maximum penalty allowed for a misdemeanor of conspiring to violate safety regulations. In December a jury acquitted him of felony charges of securities fraud, lying to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and conspiring to impede mine safety officials. Convictions could have brought him 31 years in prison.

In the past Blankenship reportedly donated millions to friendly politicians and judges including, Bloomberg reports, $3 million to support a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals judge “who helped overturn a $50-million jury award against some of Massey’s units.”

John Grisham cited Blankenship as the novelist’s inspiration for The Appeal, depicting a ruthless Wall Street billionaire and his bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court judge. Grisham later wrote Gray Mountain, a fictional indictment of the Appalachian coal industry.

Alpha Natural Resources took out Massey in 2011 for $7.1 billion. Alpha eventually paid about $209 million for fines, restitution and mine safety improvements. The company also settled a securities class action suit for $265 million, as well as settling undisclosed amounts with 29 families.

Other former Upper Big Branch staff convicted after the disaster include superintendent Gary May, who got 21 months in prison, security chief Hughie Elbert Stover, who got three years, and Massey executive David Hughart, who got 42 months.

According to the United Mine Workers of America, 52 people died on Massey property under Blankenship’s reign. Still maintaining his innocence on the misdemeanor, Blankenship intends to appeal.

The week before his sentence, a federal judge in Alaska gave Canadian James Slade one year in prison and another on supervised release for criminal violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Prosecutors described Slade as the senior on-site executive of XS Platinum during the 2010 and 2011 mining seasons when salmon-spawning streams “turned muddy brown with waste water,” according to an earlier ADN story.

The company was extracting platinum from tailings on a former mine site near the Bering Sea coast of southwestern Alaska. Slade argued that his Australian supervisors refused his request to provide equipment that would have stopped the discharge.

But the ADN quoted the judge saying Slade “really had a choice, and when it became clear the two Australians were adamant about making as much money as they could and to heck with any pollution control equipment, he could have walked away from this job.”

Two Americans face sentencing after pleading guilty to related charges. Prosecutors declined to extradite the Australians, Bruce Butcher and Mark Balfour.

The British Columbia legislature has amendments pending that could impose $1 million in fines and three years in prison for Mining Act violations. Triggered by the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam collapse, the new regs strengthen penalties currently capped at $100,000 and one year. But following a 2015 Vancouver Sun investigation, the paper reported that “no fines had been levied in the courts under the Mines Act since 1989.”

Notwithstanding the lack of Bre-X convictions, Canada might do more to deter fraud than other mining-related offences. In 2013 the Ontario Securities Commission slapped geologist Bernard Boily with a $750,000 fine and $50,000 costs for fraudulent assays that brought a class action suit against his employer. The previous year geologist John Gregory Paterson got six years for a nearly four-year-long assay-faking scam.

Infographic: The minerals behind solar energy

February 23rd, 2016

Posted with permission of Resource Works | February 23, 2016

“Mining is not antithetical to a green economy; it’s a necessity.” That’s how David S. Abraham expressed it in The Elements of Power. But it’s a point not always realized by some environmentally conscious people. Miners, of course, have an obligation to follow strict environmental standards. But without mining, green energy’s impossible.

Resource Works, a non-profit society that encourages “respectful, fact-based dialogue on responsible resource development in British Columbia,” produced this infographic looking at just one aspect of green energy, the minerals comprised in solar panels.

Most important is silica but even coal comes into play.

The minerals behind solar energy

Posted with permission of Resource Works.

Study enumerates coal’s benefits to B.C.

November 16th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 16, 2015

Coal might be perceived as a dirty 19th century throwback but it’s hard to imagine life without steel. For British Columbians, it might be hard to imagine life without the province’s traditional industries. To underscore that point, Resource Works released a study on the economic benefits of five B.C. metallurgical coal mines operated by Teck Resources TSX:TCK.A and TCK.B.

Coal still fuels B.C. economy, report finds

Among the findings, the five mines supported 3,993 jobs in 2014 with a payroll totalling $457.6 million. Teck spent another $1.02 billion on goods and services for the quintet in 2014. Also attributed to the mines that year from a “small sample” of six suppliers were 345 jobs with a payroll totalling $34.5 million. With about 1,400 suppliers in B.C. and Alberta, “it is reasonable to deduce that the actual full benefits are much larger,” wrote author Marlyn Chisholm.

Her study didn’t consider taxes and royalties.

Although the five mines are concentrated in southeastern B.C.’s Elk Valley, the spinoffs spread widely. Nearly 60% of goods and services spending went to the Vancouver region, largely to shippers and suppliers.

Even during the downturn, B.C.’s “two largest revenue-generating commodities” are metallurgical coal and copper, according to a May report from PwC. Teck’s five B.C. coal operations soldier on but, to help cut Q3 production by 19%, each of them underwent three-week suspensions this year.

In last month’s Q3 results, Teck reported an average price of $88 per tonne, 20% lower than the same period in 2014, “reflecting oversupplied steelmaking coal market conditions and a decline in spot price assessments.” Prices reached as high as $300 a tonne in 2011. The company’s long-term assumptions foresee $130 per tonne.

Of $2.2 billion in impairments reported last quarter, Teck attributed an after-tax $1.45 billion to its steelmaking coal assets, which include the Cardinal River mine in Alberta. Another $300 million in after-tax impairments went to copper and $400 million to the company’s Fort Hills oilsands project.

Teck is Canada’s largest diversified miner and the world’s second-largest exporter of seaborne steelmaking coal, which accounted for 32% of the company’s business in 2014.

While Anglo American and Walter Energy have shut down their B.C. coal operations, HD Mining International won provincial environmental approval last month for its proposed Murray River metallurgical coal mine in northeastern B.C. The company, owned by Mandarin-speaking Chinese, intends to staff underground jobs with Mandarin-speaking Chinese.

Resource Works is a non-profit society that encourages “respectful, fact-based dialogue on responsible resource development” in B.C. A positive case for B.C.’s coal industry has also been presented by a coalition of B.C. miners, suppliers and unions.

Download the Resource Works study.

Read more about Resource Works here and here.

Update: On November 18 Teck announced the Q4 2017 closure of Coal Mountain, one of the company’s five Elk Valley mines, and the suspension of Coal Mountain Phase 2, which had been intended to extend the operation. “Teck will identify options between now and the end of 2017 to potentially replace the 2.25 million tonnes of annual coal production that were planned from CMO Phase 2 by optimizing production from its five other steelmaking coal mines,” the company stated.

The Coal Mountain decision came amid plans for 2016 spending cuts of $650 million and the elimination of 1,000 jobs globally.

November 16th, 2015

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Nearly $1.9 billion for 2015 Canadian exploration: Where goes the money?

November 6th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2015

Newly released numbers offer a glimpse of how exploration money’s being spent in this country by location and commodity. The info comes from a Natural Resources Canada survey asking companies about this year’s spending intentions for exploration and deposit appraisal. The feds then compared their responses with figures going back to 2010. Not surprisingly, we’re at a six-year low.

Total spending intentions for 2015 sunk to $1,879.8 million, almost 6.7% lower than last year and (read and weep) a nearly 56% plunge from the heady days of 2011. This year’s total breaks down to $1,037.3 million for exploration and $842.5 million for deposit appraisal.

Nearly $1.9 billion on 2015 Canadian exploration: Where goes the money?

Each jurisdiction’s share of nearly $1.9 billion planned
for Canadian exploration and deposit appraisal in 2015.

Ontario gets the most, $399.8 million or 21.3% of Canada’s total. Nearly 73% of the province’s outlay will go to the pursuit of precious metals.

British Columbia comes second, with $355.8 million, or 18.9% of the total. Precious metals will get nearly 41% while base metals get about 29%.

About $297.1 million, or 15.8% of the national total, goes to third-place Saskatchewan. Uranium gets nearly 52% of that.

Quebec’s share comes to $280.9 million, or 14.9%, with nearly 40% of that being spent on precious metals.

Nunavut places fifth nationally with $202.5 million or 10.8% of Canada’s total. Precious metals projects attract almost 80% of the territory’s spending this year.

Several jurisdictions improved over last year’s performance. This year’s plans show increases of 21% for Saskatchewan (from $245 million to $297.1 million), 27% for Alberta (from $26.1 million to $33.2 million), 28% for Nunavut (from $158 million to $202.5 million), 30% for Manitoba (from $28 million to $36.4 million) and 44% for Nova Scotia (from $7 million to $10.4 million).

Nor do all minerals have spending on six-year lows. Although coal sits at a five-year low of $113.1 million, that’s nearly double the amount spent in 2010. Uranium exploration and appraisal gets $172.1 million in 2015, a bit better than its 2013 low of $167.4 million. Diamond spending should reach a six-year high of $119.6 million. The Northwest Territories gets $76.7 million of that, which accounts for just over 81% of the NWT total.

Of the national total, majors plan to put up $1,130.9 million this year and juniors the other $748.9 million. Ontario has the greatest major/junior disparity, in which the big guys plan $308.8 million, compared to $91.1 million from their smaller cap cousins. The gap’s narrowest in Quebec, where majors plan $145.3 million, followed closely by the juniors’ $135.6 million.

Natural Resources Canada defines exploration and deposit appraisal as “on-mine-site and off-mine-site activities, field work, overhead costs, engineering, economic and pre- or production feasibility studies, environment and land access costs.”

See the Natural Resources Canada data.