Tuesday 25th April 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘coal’

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

April 20th, 2017

With a provincial election weeks away, Peter Caulfield asked sources in three British Columbia regions to comment on the importance of mining for the Association for Mineral Exploration’s quarterly magazine, Mineral Exploration. In general terms, the responses differ from views commonly heard in cities geographically removed but hardly independent of resource economies and the commodities they produce. In that respect, the relevance of Caulfield’s article applies far beyond B.C. The article is posted here with the permission of AME.

 

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

by Peter Caulfield

In a province that is as large and diverse as British Columbia, it’s natural that opinions on most topics—including mineral exploration and development—will be diverse too.

What the average person in Oak Bay or Yaletown thinks about a new mine or pipeline will be very different from what’s going through the head of somebody who lives in the northwestern corner of British Columbia or in the Kootenays in southeastern B.C.

As the province’s May 9 election approaches, Mineral Exploration wanted to know what’s on the mind of voters who live in the parts of the province that are most dependent on resource development. We talked to three well-connected observers of local politics in four provincial constituencies: Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson, Stikine and Kootenay East. We asked each of them what the hot-button issues are in their respective constituencies and whether mineral exploration and mine development is important to their fellow voters.

The following interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

 

Stikine

Maria Ryder, District of Stewart councillor for 2.5 years, chief of the volunteer fire department and 25-year Stewart resident

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Carl Ryan/AME)

The main projects in the Stewart region are Brucejack (Pretium Resources TSX:PVG), the Premier mine (Ascot Resources TSXV:AOT), Red Mountain (IDM Mining TSXV:IDM) and the Red Chris mine (Imperial Metals TSX:III).

Along with Terrace and Kitimat, Stewart is one of the largest communities in the district. We are growing in population, especially in the summer, when workers and their families descend on the town, drawn by mineral exploration and hydro projects and by Stewart’s two ports.

It’s very different here from urban British Columbia, and the people from down south who come up here to work find out just how different it is. And some of them discover how different some of our opinions and concerns are from theirs.

Because we get a lot of snow in the winter, much of the employment in Stewart is seasonal and the people who live here adjust their lives accordingly. Every year between March and November we’re busy, and between November and March things are pretty slow. But we’re used to it and we adjust.

The main election issue here is sustainable job creation through industrial development. We want jobs that stay and that provide stability to Stewart.

 

Kootenay East

Lois Halko, District of Sparwood second-term councillor and former mayor, born and raised in Sparwood

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Malcom Lennox/AME)

The main economic drivers of the region are the mining of metallurgical coal, which is B.C.’s single biggest export, and the activities of the local suppliers to the coal industry.

There are five Teck [Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B] metallurgical coal mines in the region: Coal Mountain, Elkview, Fording River, Greenhills and Line Creek. In addition, there are four mining companies that are interested in developing mines in the Elk Valley area: CanAus Coal, Centermount Coal, NWP Coal Canada and Riversdale Resources.

The five Teck mines have a total of 3,600 full-time employees, of whom 2,400 live in four communities in the Elk Valley area.

Because it is used to make steel, and because steel is such an essential product in everyone’s life, metallurgical coal should be recognized as a critical resource. It’s certainly critical to the people who live in Sparwood.

Teck has earned its social licence to continue mining here. The public has accepted the company’s efforts to mitigate any of the effects of coal mining, such as contaminants leaching into the water supply. Teck has done a lot of work to reduce the problem.

At the same time, we know that we need to diversify our economy. It’s something the local municipalities talk about a lot. The Sparwood regional economy is one of the least diversified in the province, which has made us very vulnerable to a cycle of boom and bust. The region has lots more to offer than just coal deposits, and we’re trying to leverage our mountains and natural beauty to build a thriving tourist industry.

 

Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson

Ryan Scorgie, president of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce

The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and its 850 members take a great deal of interest in all kinds of resource development, including mineral development in Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson.

The main mineral projects in the area are the Ajax project (KGHM International), the New Afton mine (New Gold TSX:NGD) and Highland Valley Copper (Teck).

Opinions about resource development are mixed in Kamloops. Most of the working people here are for it, but many of the academics at Thompson Rivers University are against, so the Chamber of Commerce hears both sides of the argument. Our position is that if a project goes through the appropriate review process and passes it, then we support it.

In fact, the Chamber thinks process is so important that our Policy Development Committee developed a policy regarding resource development in 2016 called Supporting Canada’s Responsible Resource Development.

The policy statement is more important than its brevity might indicate, because it was adopted provincially just a few months after it was written.

Opinions vary by region when it comes to mineral exploration and mine development

(Photo: Neil Leonard/AME)

The committee writes, in part: “The Chamber believes that it is critical that B.C. maintains its reputation as a jurisdiction open to investment. Achieving the investments needed to ensure Canada’s competitiveness will require an efficient regulatory review process that ensures continued health and environmental protection of Canadians while generating jobs, economic growth and prosperity.

“A streamlined process will encourage investment by providing businesses with a clear and predictable process to protect the environment while making the best use of limited government resources.

“Inefficient and unpredictable processes may turn away potential investors and prevent businesses from being able to make informed location and logistic decisions. For example, the World Economic Forum has cited inefficient government bureaucracy as one of the biggest impediments to improving Canada’s economic competitiveness.

“We need to make sure that the regulatory review process is efficient and has a clear scope, reasonable timelines and the flexibility to address unforeseen circumstances.”

Originally published in the spring 2017 edition of Mineral Exploration. Posted here with the permission of the Association for Mineral Exploration.

Coal mine could produce green, renewable electricity

March 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | March 17, 2017

Should all go to plan, the transformation from dirty to clean energy might come to be symbolized by this German coal producer. A longstanding idea to convert mine shafts to hydro chutes got further encouragement in a March 14 speech reported by Bloomberg. North-Rhine Westphalia state governor Hannelore Kraft has declared her support for a project that would convert the Prosper Haniel coal mine into a pumped storage facility.

Coal mine could produce green, renewable electricity

Dirty old Prosper Haniel could get a new, clean lease on life.

Referred to as a type of battery, it would use excess wind or solar energy to pump water from a reservoir at the depths of the mine to another reservoir above the shafts. When wind or solar fails to meet demand, the water would be released, plunging something like 1,300 metres to electricity-generating turbines.

A 2014 article on Grist.org said the mine could store up to about 990,000 cubic metres of H2O, “roughly the volume of the Empire State Building.” That could produce a 200 megawatt capacity, enough to power more than 400,000 homes, Bloomberg reported.

Prosper Haniel’s mining days are expected to end in 2018, when federal subsidies for the industry expire. Other mines could follow this reincarnation as the coal mining region of North-Rhine Westphalia intends to double its production of renewable energy to 30% by 2025, Bloomberg stated.

According to the National Energy Board, Canada’s only pumped storage facility is the 174 MW Sir Adam Beck station operated by Ontario Power Generation, which diverts water from the Niagara River to a 300-hectare reservoir. The transition from turbine to pumping sequence takes just minutes and occurs several times a day, the utility states.

The NEB attributes over 30 pumped storage facilities to the U.S., producing about 23,000 gigawatt hours a year but using about 29,000 GWh to do so. “Despite this net loss of energy, the grid reliability provided by PSH facilities and the ability to generate when demand is strong is highly beneficial and will become increasingly important as Canada and the U.S. integrate more renewable power into their grids.”

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

February 23rd, 2017

Among the news from Resource Works is the #ThinkAgain campaign, a series of infographics that “set the record straight on myths, misunderstandings, ‘alternative facts’ and fake news about resources.”

Here’s the current batch. Resource Works promises more to come.

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Infographics: Think again about natural resources

Posted with permission of Resource Works, a non-profit research and advocacy organization “supporting a respectful, fact-based public dialogue on responsible resource development in B.C.”

Cobalt: A precarious supply chain

January 14th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

Cobalt: A precarious supply chain

 

How does your mobile phone last for 12 hours on just one charge? It’s the power of cobalt, along with several other energy metals, that keeps your lithium-ion battery running.

The only problem? Getting the metal from the source to your electronics is not an easy feat, and this makes for an extremely precarious supply chain for manufacturers.

This infographic comes to us from LiCo Energy Metals TSXV:LIC and it focuses on where this important ingredient of green technology originates from, and the supply risks associated with its main sources.

What is cobalt?

Cobalt is a transition metal found between iron and nickel on the periodic table. It has a high melting point (1493° C) and retains its strength to a high temperature.

Similar to iron or nickel, cobalt is ferromagnetic. It can retain its magnetic properties to 1100° C, a higher temperature than any other material. Ferromagnetism is the strongest type of magnetism: it’s the only one that typically creates forces strong enough to be felt and is responsible for the magnets encountered in everyday life.

These unique properties make the metal perfect for two specialized high-tech purposes: superalloys and battery cathodes.

Superalloys

High-performance alloys drive 18% of cobalt demand. The metal’s ability to withstand intense temperatures and conditions makes it perfect for use in:

  • Turbine blades

  • Jet engines

  • Gas turbines

  • Prosthetics

  • Permanent magnets

Lithium-ion batteries

Batteries drive 49% of demand—and most of this comes from cobalt’s use in lithium-ion battery cathodes:

Type of lithium-ion cathode Cobalt in cathode Spec. energy (Wh/kg)
LFP 0% 120
LMO 0% 140
NMC 15% 200
LCO 55% 200
NCA 10% 245

The three most powerful cathode formulations for li-ion batteries all need cobalt. As a result, the metal is indispensable in many of today’s battery-powered devices:

  • Mobile phones (LCO)

  • Tesla Model S (NCA)

  • Tesla Powerwall (NMC)

  • Chevy Volt (NMC/LMO)

The Tesla Powerwall 2 uses approximately seven kilograms and a Tesla Model S (90 kWh) uses approximately 22.5 kilos of the energy metal.

The cobalt supply chain

Cobalt production has gone almost straight up to meet demand, more than doubling since the early 2000s.

But while the metal is desired, getting it is the hard part.

1. No native cobalt has ever been found.

There are four widely distributed ores that exist but almost no cobalt is mined from them as a primary source.

2. Most cobalt production is mined as a byproduct.

Mine source % cobalt production
Nickel (byproduct) 60%
Copper (byproduct) 38%
Cobalt (primary) 2%

This means it is hard to expand production when more is needed.

3. Most production occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with elevated supply risks.

Country Tonnes %
Total 122,701 100.0%
United States 524 0.4%
China 1,417 1.2%
DRC 67,975 55.4%
Rest of World 52,785 43.0%

(Source: CRU, estimated production for 2017, tonnes)

The future of cobalt supply

Companies like Tesla and Panasonic need reliable sources of the metal and right now there aren’t many failsafes.

The United States hasn’t mined cobalt in significant volumes since 1971 and the USGS reports that the U.S. only has 301 tonnes of the metal stored in stockpiles.

The reality is that the DRC produces about half of all cobalt and it also holds approximately 47% of all global reserves.

Why is this a concern for end-users?

1. The DRC is one of the poorest, most corrupt and most coercive countries on the planet.

It ranks:

  • 151st out of 159 countries in the Human Freedom Index

  • 176th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index

  • 178th out of 184 countries in terms of GDP per capita ($455)

  • 148th out of 169 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index

2. The DRC has had more deaths from war since WWII than any other country on the planet.
Recent wars in the DRC:

  • First Congo War (1996-1997)—An invasion by Rwanda that overthrew the Mobutu regime.

  • Second Congo War (1998-2003)—The bloodiest conflict in world history since WWII, with 5.4 million deaths.

3. Human rights in mining

The DRC government estimates that 20% of all cobalt production in the country comes from artisanal miners—independent workers who dig holes and mine ore without sophisticated mines or machinery.

There are at least 100,000 artisanal cobalt miners in the DRC and UNICEF estimates that up to 40,000 children could be in the trade. Children can be as young as seven years old and they can work up to 12 hours with physically demanding work earning $2 per day.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International alleges that Apple, Samsung and Sony fail to do basic checks in making sure the metal in their supply chains did not come from child labour.

Most major companies have vowed that any such practices will not be tolerated in their supply chains.

Other sources

Where will tomorrow’s supply come from and will the role of the DRC eventually diminish? Will Tesla achieve its goal of a North American supply chain for its key metal inputs?

Mining exploration companies are already looking at regions like Ontario, Idaho, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to find tomorrow’s deposits.

Ontario: Ontario is one of the only places in the world where cobalt-primary mines have existed. This camp is near the aptly named town of Cobalt, which is located halfway between Sudbury, the world’s nickel capital, and Val-d’Or, one of the most famous gold camps in the world.

Idaho: Idaho is known as the Gem State while also being known for its silver camps in Coeur d’Alene—but it has also been a cobalt producer in the past.

B.C.: The mountains of B.C. are known for their rich gold, silver, copper, zinc and met coal deposits. But cobalt often occurs with copper and some mines in B.C. have produced cobalt in the past.

Northwest Territories: Cobalt can also be found up north, as the NWT becomes a more interesting mineral destination for companies. One hundred and sixty kilometres from Yellowknife, a gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper deposit is being developed.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Infographic: Countries of origin for raw materials

November 16th, 2016

Graphic by BullionVault | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 16, 2016

Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well or forest somewhere in the world.

This infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee and iron.

Infographic Countries of origin for raw materials

 

The many and the few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials are interesting to examine because the production of certain commodities is much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil-producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia—but that only makes up 38% of the total market.

Contrast this with the market for some base metals such as iron or lead and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, so it tries to get them domestically. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: It is the second-largest producer for each of those commodities and ships much of its output to Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison with the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

Graphic by BullionVault | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Conuma Coal Resources president Mark Bartkoski remarks on stakeholder support as a former Walter Energy mine re-opens in B.C.

October 28th, 2016

…Read more

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!