Wednesday 17th January 2018

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘coal’

Visual Capitalist and VRIC 2018 look at the raw materials that fuel the green revolution

January 10th, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | January 10, 2018

 

Records for renewable energy consumption were smashed around the world in 2017.

Looking at national and state grids, progress has been extremely impressive. In Costa Rica, for example, renewable energy supplied five million people with all of their electricity needs for a stretch of 300 consecutive days. Meanwhile, the UK broke 13 green energy records in 2017 alone, and California’s largest grid operator announced it got 67.2% of its energy from renewables (excluding hydro) on May 13, 2017.

The corporate front also looks promising and Google has led the way by buying 536 MW of wind power to offset 100% of the company’s electricity usage. This makes the tech giant the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

But while these examples are plentiful, this progress is only the tip of the iceberg—and green energy still represents a small but rapidly growing segment. For a full green shift to occur, we’ll need 10 times what we’re currently sourcing from renewables.

To do this, we will need to procure massive amounts of natural resources—they just won’t be the fossil fuels that we’re used to.

Green metals required

Today’s infographic comes from Cambridge House as a part of the lead-up to its flagship conference, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018.

A major theme of the conference is sustainable energy—and the math indeed makes it clear that to fully transition to a green economy, we’ll need vast amounts of metals like copper, silicon, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, rare earths and silver.

These metals and minerals are needed to generate, store and distribute green energy. Without them, the reality is that technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, nuclear reactors and electric vehicles are simply not possible.

First principles

How do you get a Tesla to drive over 300 miles (480 kilometres) on just one charge?

Here’s what you need: a lightweight body, a powerful electric motor, a cutting-edge battery that can store energy efficiently and a lot of engineering prowess.

Putting the engineering aside, all of these things need special metals to work. For the lightweight body, aluminum is being substituted for steel. For the electric motor, Tesla is using AC induction motors (Models S and X) that require large amounts of copper and aluminum. Meanwhile, Chevy Bolts and soon Tesla will use permanent magnet motors (in the Model 3) that use rare earths like neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium.

The batteries, as we’ve shown in our five-part Battery Series, are a whole other supply chain challenge. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs need lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and many other metals or minerals to function. Each Tesla battery, by the way, weighs about 1,200 pounds (540 kilograms) and makes up 25% of the total mass of the car.

While EVs are a topic we’ve studied in depth, the same principles apply for solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, grid-scale energy storage solutions or anything else we need to secure a sustainable future. Solar panels need silicon and silver, while wind turbines need rare earths, steel and aluminum.

Even nuclear, which is the safest energy type by deaths per TWh and generates barely any emissions, needs uranium in order to generate power.

The pace of progress

The green revolution is happening at breakneck speed—and new records will continue to be set each year.

Over $200 billion was invested into renewables in 2016 and more net renewable capacity was added than coal and gas put together:

Power Type Net Global Capacity Added (2016)
Renewable (excl. large hydro) 138 GW
Coal 54 GW
Gas 37 GW
Large hydro 15 GW
Nuclear 10 GW
Other flexible capacity 5 GW

The numbers suggest that this is only the start of the green revolution.

However, to fully work our way off of fossil fuels, we will need to procure large amounts of the metals that make sustainable energy possible.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018 takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from January 21 to 22. Click here for more details and free registration.

B.C. government minister Doug Donaldson comments on initial efforts to save the historic Morden Mine structures

November 7th, 2017

…Read more

Paved with mineralization

October 27th, 2017

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

by Greg Klein

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Profitable right from the beginning, Teck’s Elkview mine “would become
the key chip in the consolidation of the Canadian steelmaking coal industry.”
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

“We were all young and relatively inexperienced in such matters in those days.”

He was referring to copper futures, a peril then unfamiliar to him. But the remark’s a bit rich for someone who was, at the time he’s writing about, 43 years old and president/CEO of a company that opened four mines in the previous six years. Still, the comment helps relate how Norman B. Keevil enjoyed the opportune experience of maturing professionally along with a company that grew into Canada’s largest diversified miner. Now chairperson of Teck Resources, he’s penned a memoir/corporate history/fly-on-the-wall account that’s a valuable contribution to Canadian business history, not to mention the country’s rich mining lore.

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—road to success

Norman B. Keevil
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time follows the progress of a group of people determined to avoid getting mined out or taken out. In addition to geoscientific, engineering and financial expertise, luck accompanies them (much of the time, anyway), as does acumen (again, much of the time anyway).

Teck gains its first foothold as a predecessor company headed by Keevil’s father, Norman Bell Keevil, drills Temagami, a project that came up barren for Anaconda. The new guys hit 28% copper over 17.7 metres. Further drilling leads to the three-sentence feasibility study:

Dr. Keevil: What shall we do about Temagami?

Joe Frantz: Let’s put it into production.

Bill Bergey: Sounds good to me.

They schedule production for two and a half months later.

A few other stories relate a crucial 10 seconds in the Teck-Hughes acquisition, the accidental foray into Saskatchewan oil, the Toronto establishment snubbing Afton because of its VSE listing, an underhanded ultimatum from the British Columbia government, getting out of the oyster business and winning an unheard-of 130% financing for Hemlo.

Readers learn how Murray Pezim out-hustled Robert Friedland. But when it came to Voisey’s, Friedland would play Inco and Falconbridge “as though he were using a Stradivarius.” Keevil describes one guy welching on a deal with the (apparently for him) unarguable excuse that it was only a “gentleman’s agreement.”

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Through it all, Teck gets projects by discovery or acquisition and puts them into production. Crucial to this success was the Teck team, with several people getting honourable mention. The author’s closest accomplice was the late Robert Hallbauer, the former Craigmont pit supervisor whose team “would go on to build more new mines in a shorter time than anyone else had in Canadian history.” Deal-making virtuoso David Thompson also gets frequent mention, with one performance attributed to his “arsenal of patience, knowledge of the opponents, more knowledge of the business than some of them had, and a tad of divide and conquer…”

Partnerships span the spectrum between blessing and curse. International Telephone and Telegraph backs Teck’s first foray into Chile but frustrates its ability to do traditional mining deals. The Elk Valley Coal Partnership puts Teck, a company that reinvests revenue into growth, at odds with the dividend-hungry Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Working with a Cominco subsidiary, Keevil finds the small-cap explorer compromised by the “ephemeral response of the junior stock market.” And smelters rip off miners. But that doesn’t mean a smelter can’t become a valued partner.

Keevil argues the case for an almost cartel-like level of co-operation among miners. Co-ordinated decisions could avoid surplus production, he maintains. Teck’s consolidation of Canada’s major coal mines helped the industry stand up to Japanese steelmakers, who had united to take advantage of disorganized Canadian suppliers. “Anti-trust laws may be antediluvian,” he states.

Keevil admits some regrets, like missing Golden Giant and a Kazakhstan gold project now valued at $2 billion. The 2008 crash forced Teck to give up Cobre Panama, now “expected to be a US$6 billion copper mine.” Teck settled a coal partnership impasse by buying out the Ontario Teachers’ share for $12 billion. Two months later the 2008 crisis struck. Over two years Teck plunged from $3.6 billion in net cash to $12 billion in net debt.

But he wonders if his own biggest mistake was paying far too much for the remaining 50% of Cominco when an outright purchase might not have been necessary. Keevil attributes the initial 50%, on the other hand, to a miracle of deal-making.

For the most part Keevil ends his account in 2005, when he relinquishes the top job to Don Lindsay. By that time the company had 11 operating mines and a smelting/refining facility at Trail. A short chapter on the following 10 years, among the most volatile since the early ’70s, credits Teck with “a classic recovery story which deserves a full chapter in the next edition of Never Rest on Your Ores.” Such a sequel might come in another 10 years, he suggests.

Let’s hope he writes it, although it’ll be a different kind of book. As chairperson he won’t be as closely involved in the person-to-person, deal-to-deal, mine-to-mine developments that comprise the greatest strength of this book—that and the fact that the author grew with the company as it became Canada’s largest diversified miner.

Meanwhile, maybe Lindsay’s been keeping a diary.

The author’s proceeds go to two organizations that promote mining awareness, MineralsEd and Mining Matters.

Teck Resources’ Norman B. Keevil recalls the negotiation style of a 1970s British Columbia cabinet minister

October 25th, 2017

…Read more

Threatened B.C. mining heritage site gets a new lease on life

October 10th, 2017

by Greg Klein | October 10, 2017

A structure vital to Vancouver Island mining history might not be doomed for destruction after all. The Morden mine headframe and tipple date to 1913 but remain the last significant signs of the Nanaimo region’s coal industry, where British Columbia’s first successful mining began in 1852. Located on a provincial park in an NDP-voting region, the site had been neglected by B.C.’s previous Liberal government. But on October 6 the new NDP government announced a $25,000 conservation grant.

Threatened B.C. mining heritage site gets a new lease on life

Closed in by encroaching forest and deteriorating seriously, the Morden
headframe and (right) tipple still provide a monument to the past.

While encouraging to the volunteer Friends of Morden Mine Society, the money falls far short of the $2.7 million that a previous engineering study estimated necessary for the structure’s preservation. That amount included $500,000 for emergency repairs.

For years the FMMS website has warned that the structure’s preservation faces “a race against time. The deterioration of concrete components of the headframe and tipple structures is escalating at an alarming rate. Every spring more dislodged chunks of concrete can be found on the ground below the structures and more reinforcing steel becomes exposed to the elements.”

Some 22.5 metres tall and built of concrete-encased steel, the headframe and tipple, which dumped coal into railcars, collectively hold status as one of only three such structures ever built and one of two still standing.

“This work will bring history to life and, at the same time, honour the coal miners who lived, worked and died in Vancouver Island coal mines while building families and creating strong communities,” a government communique quoted forests and lands minister Doug Donaldson.

The statement made no mention of further funding but FMMS representative Sandra Larocque sounded optimistic. The engineering study looked at “quite an elaborate plan,” she told ResourceClips.com. “We’re just looking at saving the mine from falling down, doing some basic stabilization, taking down some timbers that have deteriorated…. $25,000 isn’t going to go very far, no, but it’s a start and the structure’s in dire straits of falling down.”

The money will be used to inspect the shaft, remove loose timbers from the headframe, clean out organic muck in and around the tipple and begin stabilizing the structure.

The perseverance of Helen Tilley, an early FMMS member, proved instrumental in getting the provincial support, Larocque said. She hopes for more money from the province, as well as the Regional District of Nanaimo and private donors.

As daughter of a coal miner who died of black lung, she’s well aware of the industry’s dark side. Calamitous accidents and bitter labour disputes also characterized local mining history. But she emphasizes the structure’s value, especially to young people, as a link to previous generations.

“It’s a tangible thing people can look at…. Just to save it, to make sure it’s still standing, is everything to me.”

Read more about the Morden mine.

Norman B. Keevil book reveals tactics of 1970s B.C. flirtation with resource nationalism

September 29th, 2017

by Greg Klein | September 29, 2017

The year was 1973. No sooner had Teck Resources transplanted its HQ to Vancouver than British Columbia premier W.A.C. Bennett’s 20-year reign fell to defeat at NDP hands. Resource nationalism proved to be one of new premier Dave Barrett’s earliest enthusiasms. But the guy who bragged about his commitment to doing “what was needed and right” showed a peculiar modus operandi.

That’s just one of the stories related by Norman B. Keevil in a history of Teck to be released next week, Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time.

Norman B Keevil book reveals tactics of 1970s B.C. flirtation with resource nationalism

Norman B. Keevil
(Photo: Teck)

Keevil relates that on summoning him and Bob Hallbauer into the premier’s Victoria office, Barrett’s first words were, “I want your coal.”

Interest had been growing in northeastern B.C.’s deposits, among them Teck’s Sukunka. “Well, at least he did call it our coal,” Keevil notes. “That would become questionable as the situation evolved.”

The duo declined but Barrett wouldn’t give up. He kept calling them back to Victoria on an almost weekly basis.

At about the seventh such meeting, a very strange thing happened. Barrett had a curtain angled across a corner in his office. We’d never paid much attention to it, but in that seventh meeting the curtain rustled a bit, and a thin, sepulchral, white-haired professorial type jumped out from behind it. It was almost as though he was wearing a superhero cape, or super-villain. I think Dave must have gotten him out of Marvel Comics. Was there a door to another room behind the curtain, or had this strange figure just been hiding behind it, taking it all in? I never did find out.

It turned out this was the patrician Alex Macdonald, Barrett’s attorney general and the upholder of law and order—the NDP way. The honourable gentleman said to us: ‘I want you to understand just one thing. I guarantee that you will never be able to put that coal property into production. All you have is an exploration licence and, if you don’t sell to us right now, I’ll cancel it tomorrow.’

Calling it an “unseemly ultimatum from the upholder of justice,” Keevil states the company reluctantly agreed on a $20-million sale that would close in June, a few months away.

But when June arrived, the government announced it had “dropped its option,” writes Keevil—who insists that it wasn’t an option but a firm deal.

Musing over the new government’s equivocation, Keevil wonders if it just came down to money: “Certainly they had been spending like drunken sailors on redecorating some of the higher-profile, cabinet ministers’ offices.

“As to Alex Macdonald, a quote of his survives all of this: ‘In politics, your opponents are on the other side of the legislature, but your enemies are all around you.’ With him, I’m not too surprised.”

Viewing that vignette in a wider context, Keevil sees much of the mining world as chaotic for much of the 1970s and early ’80s, whether it was in B.C., Panama, Chile, El Salvador or Saskatchewan. Compounding the mess were peripheral problems ranging from the OPEC oil embargo to Trudeauvian taxes.

But as for Sukunka, it never did go into production. Teck lost interest and, with intercession from pre-prime ministerial Jean Chretien, unloaded it on BP, which eventually abandoned the project.

Yet the BP deal let Teck retain 100% of the adjacent Bullmoose project. Partly thanks to new infrastructure from a new B.C. government, Bullmoose became Teck’s first coal mine. Now Canada’s largest diversified resource company is also the world’s second-largest supplier of seaborne steelmaking coal.

Read more about Never Rest on Your Ores.

Conuma Coal Resources CEO Mark Bartkoski says government and community support helped his company re-open a B.C. mine closed by Walter Energy

June 20th, 2017

…Read more

PwC numbers support B.C. mining’s resurgent mood

May 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 17, 2017

Not just shareholders but governments, employees and communities all benefit from the upturn in mining, according to British Columbia data. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual report on B.C. mining credits the industry’s “cautiously optimistic” mood on stabilized or improving commodity prices, continuing progress on development projects and new mines to come. The survey gleaned its findings from 28 companies whose main assets comprise 14 operating mines, one on care and maintenance, three exploration projects, nine projects undergoing permitting or environmental assessment and a smelter.

Year-over-year numbers help explain the optimism.

The participating companies drew gross mining revenue of $8.7 billion last year, compared with $7.7 billion in 2015, “driven by higher revenue at Teck’s [TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B] B.C. coal mines as well as Imperial Metals’ [TSX:III] Red Chris and Mount Polley operations.”

Net mining revenue for the participants totalled $7.3 billion, compared with $6.3 billion in 2015, “driven by an increase in gross mining revenue and a decrease in smelting and refining charges and freight costs.” Cash flow from operations rose to $2.6 billion in 2016 from $1.7 billion the previous year.

Participants’ exploration and development spending, however, fell from $320 million in 2015 to $102 million last year. But PwC attributed the decrease largely to Pretium Resources’ (TSX:PVG) Brucejack graduating from exploration and evaluation into construction, helping push 2016 capex for the 28 companies up to $1.37 billion, compared with $1.24 billion in 2015.

And those companies’ shareholders reaped rising returns—13.5% last year, compared with 6.3% in 2015 and 2.4% in 2014. With the 2016 figure slightly above 2013 results, “the hope is that it will continue to climb towards 2012 levels as we move into 2017.”

Governments did alright too, getting total payments of $650 million from the participants last year, up from $476 million in 2015. Last year saw the participants’ highest such payments since 2011.

Direct employment rose slightly to 9,329 jobs, compared with 9,221 in 2015.

Of all those numbers, of course, job figures have the most obvious impact on people and their communities. Even PwC’s beancounters appear moved by the intangible effects of the Tumbler Ridge coal mining revival. The inspirational story began last autumn when Conuma Coal Resources rescued some B.C. assets of bankrupt Walter Energy and reopened the Brule mine.

An “extreme and effective collaboration” of industry, government and First Nations helped Conuma put Brule back in operation quickly, Karina Briño told PwC. Briño, who stepped down as B.C. Mining Association president/CEO on April 30 to take on a mining role in her native Chile, added, “Mining really is a community-based activity that is not only valued but appreciated by the community.”

Conuma CEO Mark Bartkoski echoed those comments. “We felt really good about the properties and the spirit of the people in the community. It has truly been a testament to positive collaboration.”

Looking at the B.C. industry overall, PwC concluded, “While it may be too soon to call it a recovery, the outlook is brighter today than it has been in recent years…. While several challenges remain—including the volatility of commodity prices, keeping costs down, and attracting more investment in the short and long term—the future looks promising.”

Download Building for the Future: The Mining Industry in British Columbia 2016.

B.C. election: Inconclusive result puts focus on Green Party

May 10th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 10, 2017

What looks like British Columbia’s first minority government since 1952 will evoke plenty of speculation, not the least from miners. As cliff-hanger metaphors competed with seesaw comparisons throughout the night of May 9, the B.C. election came to an inconclusive result by ResourceClips.com press time. While the B.C. Elections website took most of the day and night off, CBC pegged the post-midnight results at 43 Liberals elected, 41 New Democrats elected and three Greens in the upper echelons (two elected and one leading, compared with just one seat last time).

B.C. election: Inconclusive result puts focus on Green Party

During the campaign all three parties professed support for mining, especially the continuation of flow-through tax credits. But the much more vexatious issue of permitting drew largely euphemistic responses.

Quoted by the Association for Mineral Exploration, NDP leader John Horgan pledged his party would address the uncertainty of permitting by working with Geoscience B.C., the B.C. Geological Survey and First Nations “to develop comprehensive mineral land use plans.”

In the same publication Green leader Andrew Weaver professed his commitment to fix B.C.’s “structurally broken” environmental review process, in which the “professional reliance model” has lost the confidence of First Nations and the general public.

Former mines minister Bill Bennett, who retired as the writ was dropped, reminded AME about his government’s inducements to native support, including royalty sharing and training programs.

But the mining-related issue that unexpectedly gained most prominence was thermal coal and its trans-shipment from the U.S. to Asia via B.C. The stuff “fouls the air. It fouls the oceans. It’s terrible for the environment,” Canadian Press quoted BC Liberal leader Christy Clark.

She spoke in response to the U.S. president’s 20% tariff on softwood lumber imports, most of which come from B.C.

Her proposed $70-a-tonne penalty would not only cripple thermal coal exports from the U.S., but also from Alberta, to the detriment of that province’s mines and this province’s ports. Clark’s comments didn’t acknowledge B.C.’s reliance—notwithstanding its hydro resources—on Alberta’s coal-generated electricity. That’s not to mention B.C.’s dependency on nuclear-generated power from Washington state. B.C. has banned uranium exploration.

Additionally Clark’s proposal would hammer the final nail in the coffin of Quinsam, B.C.’s last thermal coal mine. Hillsborough Resources suspended the Vancouver Island underground operation in January 2016 due to low prices.

A coal mining topic unacknowledged in the campaign was the election’s coincidence with the 25th anniversary of Nova Scotia’s Westray disaster, which killed 26 miners. Down Easterners marked that anniversary as a former director of mine-owner Curragh Inc, 83-year-old BC Liberal Ralph Sultan, swept to his fifth straight victory in the affluent riding of West Vancouver-Capilano.

Meanwhile preliminary results offer the Greens potential power that’s unprecedented for their party in Canada. All three projected Green seats are on southern Vancouver Island, also home to Canada’s sole Green MP, Elizabeth May. Apart from B.C., only New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have Green MLAs, one each in those two provinces.

However B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver stands apart from the other parties’ undistinguished professional politicians. A University of Victoria professor, he shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

His influence, with maybe two other Greens, could be formidable. That might be especially true since this election will mark the first new government after the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam disaster that challenged public support for mining.

B.C. and Nova Scotia commemorate coal mining disasters

May 7th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 7, 2017

Two anniversaries six days apart serve as grim reminders of the sometimes deadly work of extracting resources often taken for granted. May 3 marked 130 years since the No. 1 Esplanade coal mine explosion in Nanaimo, British Columbia that left a death toll estimated between 148 and 153 men. May 9 marks the 25th anniversary of Plymouth, Nova Scotia’s Westray disaster, which killed 26 workers.

The 1887 Esplanade disaster ranks as Canada’s second-worst, after the June 1914 explosion at a Hillcrest, Alberta coal mine that killed 189 men. Esplanade was just one of many disasters that gave the Vancouver Island coal fields international notoriety for deadly working conditions. The loss of so many breadwinners devastated a population estimated between 2,000 and 6,500.

B.C. and Nova Scotia commemorate coal mining disasters

A monument to Westray displays 26 names as rays of light under
a stylized miner’s lamp. (Photo: Nova Scotia Federation of Labour)

“There would have been not one living soul in Nanaimo at the time who didn’t lose a family member, in-law, workmate or a friend,” local historian Tom Paterson told NanaimoNewsNOW.

In parallel with Esplanade and Vancouver Island, the 1992 carnage at Westray was one of a number of Pictou County coal mining disasters. Although not as lethal as many of its predecessors, Westray took place under supposedly modern conditions and enlightened attitudes.

The mine was owned by privately held Curragh Inc, whose board of directors included former federal cabinet minister and short-term Liberal prime minister John Turner, and Ralph Sultan, now running for re-election as a BC Liberal MLA in a vote coinciding with the anniversary. A five-year inquiry brought a report entitled The Westray Story: A Predictable Path to Disaster.

Curragh declared bankruptcy in 1993. As CBC reported, criminal charges against two mine managers, as well as 52 non-criminal charges against the company, went nowhere.

The disaster did bring about the 2004 federal Westray Act, which “provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to corporations and representatives when workers are injured or killed on the job,” CBC added.

Every May 3rd Nanaimo City Hall flies flags at half mast. Among May 9th events near Plymouth will be a morning vigil and evening memorial service at Westray Memorial Park in Stellarton.