Monday 18th February 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘copper’

‘The great enabler’

January 16th, 2019

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

by Greg Klein

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

 

Gold and precious metals can attract people seeking wealth or beauty, while diamonds and other gems convey an intrigue of their own. But who becomes downright passionate about a base metal? To those who’ve head him talk, Gianni Kovacevic quickly comes to mind. Copper’s his metal of interest but his real fascination is the future—that, and a vision of the importance this metal holds to a new era of energy history.

Chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, an authority on energy systems and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche?, he’s an especially engaging public speaker who’s possibly more effective than anyone in communicating mining’s importance to non-mining people.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

The era of electrification offers promise to both
developed and emerging economies, says Kovacevic.

But those in the industry find his message captivating too. He calls mining, metals and especially copper “the great enabler” of electrification. And electrification’s the key to a new era in which copper usage will grow by magnitudes, he declares.

That’s happening already as developed countries wean themselves off fossil fuels and emerging countries use more and more electricity for consumer items and transportation or—from village to village and home to home—as they adopt electricity for the first time.

Among other vital metals are aluminum, lithium, vanadium and cobalt. “I like anything that enables electrification,” Kovacevic explains. “The sensitive one is cobalt. If people are talking about reducing cobalt in batteries or eliminating it altogether, who wins? Nickel. But no question about it, we will require hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of new battery cells.”

Overall, approximately 19% of energy use now comes from electricity, he says. But he expects the number to reach about 50% by 2050. His data for current and planned copper production, however, shows alarming shortfalls in capacity.

Half of the world’s primary copper production now comes from 25 mines. Just two countries, Peru and Chile, provide a combined 45%. One major copper mine, First Quantum Minerals’ (TSX:FM) Cobre Panama, has commissioning planned this year. Nothing else over 110,000 tonnes is expected until around 2022.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

First Quantum’s Cobre Panama will be the only
major new copper mine until about 2022, Kovacevic says.

In 2010 the 15 largest copper producers boasted average grades around 1.2%. The 2016 average was 0.72% and falling. Over the next half-century he expects average grades to slip below 0.5%.

Clearly more copper production will require much higher prices to make lower grades economic, Kovacevic emphasizes. He’s not alone in that outlook. Among others extolling the metal’s virtues is Robert Friedland, who also considers copper the key to electrification and maintains that declining grades will require higher prices.

Over the last nine months, however, prices haven’t co-operated. In late May spot copper approached a five-year high in the range of $3.30 a pound, but fell steeply after June 1. Current prices sit around $2.60 to $2.65, although that’s well above levels seen through most of 2015 and 2016. But Kovacevic says warehouse inventories suggest the market has reached a supply deficit.

Two decades of prices show an ironic connection with the commodity that fueled the previous energy era, he adds. “Copper’s never left its long-term bull market but it’s been pushed around by oil, because 90% of the time it’s correlated with oil. But now the prices have to decouple. Copper has to go much, much higher.”

Referring to himself as a “realistic environmentalist,” Kovacevic says the metals and mining crucial to the new energy era also remain crucial to emerging societies. Blocking new mines from development hinders new economies from development. “I can’t say to someone in India, for example, that they’re never going to have electricity or running water in their homes. You can’t say ‘build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.’ People want basic human progress. Fortunately, as we go into this new pivot of energy we’re going to bypass the old ways of receiving energy in many applications.”

Kovacevic expands on his message in an illustrated keynote speech and also hosts a lithium investment panel discussion at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 20 and 21. To avoid the $30 admission fee, click here for free registration.

Visual Capitalist: The bull case for energy metals going into 2019

January 10th, 2019

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | January 10, 2019

 

The rapid emergence of the world’s renewable energy sector is helping set the stage for a commodity boom.

While oil has traditionally been the most interesting commodity to investors in the past, the green energy sector is reliant on the unique electrical and physical properties of many different metals to work optimally.

To build more renewable capacity and to store that energy efficiently, we will need to increase the available supply for these specific raw materials, or face higher costs for each material.

Metal bull cases

Ahead of Cambridge House’s annual Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 20 and 21, 2019, we thought it would be prudent to highlight the “bull case” for relevant metals as we start the year.

It’s important to recognize that the commodity market is often cyclical and dependent on a multitude of factors, and that these cases are not meant to be predictive in any sense.

In other words, the facts and arguments illustrated sum up what we think investors may see as the most compelling stories for these metals—but what actually happens in the market, especially in the short term, may be different.

Overarching trends

While we highlight 12 minerals ranging from copper to lithium, most of the raw materials in the infographic fit into four overarching, big-picture stories that will drive the future of green energy:

Solar and wind
The world hit 1 TW of wind and solar generation capacity in 2018. The second TW will be up and running by 2023, and will cost 46% less than the first.

Electric vehicles
Ownership of electric vehicles will increase 40 times in the next 13 years, reaching 125 million vehicles in 2030.

Energy storage
The global market for energy storage is rapidly growing, and will leap from $194 billion to $296 billion between 2017 and 2024.

Nuclear
150 nuclear reactors with a total gross capacity of about 160,000 MW are on order or planned, and about 300 more are proposed—mostly in Asia.

Which of these stories has the most potential as a catalyst for driving the entire sector?

Based on these narratives, and the individual bull cases above, which metal has the most individual potential?

Visit Visual Capitalist at Booth #1228 at #VRIC19.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Click here for free VRIC registration up to January 11.

Read more about the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference.

DRC on the brink

January 3rd, 2019

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

by Greg Klein

Update: In what’s been called the DRC’s first peaceful transfer of power since 1960, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as president on January 24. That follows a controversial election in which two parts of the country had voting delayed until March and supporters of candidate Martin Fayulu accused the electoral commission of rigging the results in favour of Tshisekedi, who they say struck a pact with outgoing president Joseph Kabila. Catholic church observers had earlier disputed the outcome and Fayulu asked the Constitutional Court to order a recount. “The court, made up of nine judges, is considered by the opposition to be friendly to Kabila, and Fayulu has said he is not confident that it will rule in his favour,” Al Jazeera reported.

 

This is the place that inspired the term “crimes against humanity.” As a timely new book points out, American writer George Washington Williams coined that phrase in 1890 after witnessing the cruel rapaciousness of Belgian King Leopold II’s rubber plantations in the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. After rubber, the land and its people were exploited for ivory, copper, uranium, diamonds, oil, ivory, timber, gold and—of increasing concern for Westerners remote from the humanitarian plight—cobalt, tin, tungsten and tantalum. Controversy over recent elections now threatens the DRC with even greater unrest, possibly full-scale war.

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

The country of 85 million people typically changes governments through coup, rebellion or sham elections. Outgoing president Joseph Kabila ruled unconstitutionally since December 2016, when his mandate ended. He belatedly scheduled an election for 2017, then postponed it to last December 23 before pushing that date back a week. The December 30 vote took place under chaotic conditions and with about 1.25 million voters excluded until March, a decision rationalized by the Ebola epidemic in the northeast and violence in a western city.

The epidemic marks the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, the DRC’s tenth since 1976 and the country’s second this year. Although the government delayed regional voting on short notice, the health ministry officially recognized the current epidemic on August 1.

Responsible for hundreds of deaths so far, this outbreak takes place amid violence targeting aid workers as well as the local population. Like other parts of the country, the region has dozens of military groups fighting government forces for control, and each other over ethnic rivalries and natural resources. The resources are often mined with forced labour to fund more bloodshed.

With no say from two areas that reportedly support the opposition, a new president could take office by January 18. Already, incumbent and opposition parties have both claimed victory.

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

Voting in two regions has been delayed
until after the new president takes office.
(Map: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency)

Kabila chose Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor candidate but didn’t rule out a future bid to regain the president’s office himself.

Election controversy contributed to additional violent protests in a month that had already experienced over a hundred deaths through ethnic warfare as well as battles between police and protesters. Yet that casualty toll isn’t high by DRC standards.

Published just weeks before the election, Congo Stories by John Prendergast and Fidel Bafilemba relates a harrowing story of a country the size of Western Europe that’s fabulously rich in minerals but desperately poor thanks to home-grown kleptocracies and foreign opportunists. Forced labour, war and atrocities provide a deeply disturbing backdrop to the story of conflict minerals.

According to 2017 numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the DRC supplied about 58% of global cobalt, 34.5% of tin and 28.5% of tantalum. The U.S. has labelled all three as critical metals. Tin and tantalum, along with tungsten and gold, are currently the DRC’s chief conflict metals, Prendergast and Bafilemba note. In addition to Congo tantalum, the world got 30% of its supply from DRC neighbour Rwanda, another source of conflict minerals.

Prendergast and Bafilemba outline the horror of the 1990s Rwandan Tutsi-Hutu bloodshed pouring into the Congo, making the country the flashpoint of two African wars that involved up to 10 nations and 30 local militias. During that time armies turned “mass rape, child soldier recruitment, and village burnings into routine practice.”

For soldiers controlling vast swatches of mineral-rich turf, rising prices for gold and the 3Ts (tantalum, tungsten and tin) provided an opportunity “too lucrative to ignore.” Brutal mining and export operations drew in “war criminals, militias, smugglers, merchants, military officers, and government officials,” Prendergast and Bafilemba write. “Beyond the war zones, the networks involved mining corporations, front companies, traffickers, banks, arms dealers, and others in the international system that benefit from theft and money laundering.”

DRC leaders did well too. “Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Congo from 1965 to 1997, is seen as the ‘inventor of the modern kleptocracy, or government by theft,’” Prendergast and Bafilemba state. “At the time of our writing in mid-2018, President Joseph Kabila is perfecting the kleptocratic arts.”

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

Westerners might be even more disturbed to learn of other beneficiaries: Consumers “who are usually completely unaware that our purchases of cell phones, computers, jewelry, video games, cameras, cars, and so many other products are helping fuel violence halfway around the world, not comprehending or appreciating the fact that our standard of living and modern conveniences are in some ways made possible and less expensive by the suffering of others.”

Not all DRC mines, even the artisanal operations, are considered conflict sources. But increasing instability could threaten legitimate supply, even the operations of major companies.

The example of Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining TSX:KAT, furthermore, shows at least one major failing to rise above the country’s endemic problems. In mid-December Katanga and its officers agreed to pay the Ontario Securities Commission a settlement, penalties and costs totalling $36.25 million for a number of infractions between 2012 and 2017.

Katanga admitted to overstating copper production and inventories, and also failing to disclose the material risk of DRC corruption. That included “the nature and extent of Katanga’s reliance on individuals and entities associated with Dan Gertler, Gertler’s close relationship with Joseph Kabila, the president of the DRC, and allegations of Gertler’s possible involvement in corrupt activities in the DRC.”

In December 2017 the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Gertler, a member of a prominent Israeli diamond merchant family, describing him as a “billionaire who has amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in the DRC.

“As a result, between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler.”

Just one day before imposing sanctions, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” Approaches to be considered include amassing more geoscientific data, developing alternatives to critical minerals, recycling and reprocessing, as well as “options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.”

Unofficial DRC election results could arrive by January 6. Official standings are due January 15, with the new president scheduled to take office three days later. Should the Congo see a peaceful change of government, that would be the DRC’s first such event since the country gained independence in 1960.

 

January 7 update: The DRC’s electoral commission asked for patience as interim voting results, expected on January 6, were delayed. Internet and text-messaging services as well as two TV outlets remain out of service, having been shut down since the December 30 election ostensibly to prevent the spread of false results. On January 4 the U.S. sent 80 troops into nearby Gabon in readiness to move into the DRC should post-election violence threaten American diplomatic personnel and property. The United Nations reported that violence in the western DRC city of Yumbi over the last month has driven about 16,000 refugees across the border into the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville.

Updated: DRC’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

December 31st, 2018

This story has been updated, expanded and moved here.

Zimtu Capital pursues B.C. copper-cobalt with new company

December 10th, 2018

by Greg Klein | December 10, 2018

As recent sampling brings new interest to an historic property south of the Yukon border, Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC has created Core Assets Corp to take the Blue copper-cobalt project further.

Zimtu Capital pursues B.C. copper-cobalt with new company

All areas sampled during the autumn program
returned very promising assays, Zimtu reported.

An autumn field program found rock samples up to 1.56 g/t gold, 43.3 g/t silver and 8.46% copper from the French Adit area of the 1,130-hectare property, as well as up to 1.57 g/t gold, 46.5 g/t silver and 1.86% copper from the North Adit area. The adits date to previous exploration. The property has never been mined.

Referring to a 1950s academic study, Zimtu stated that “sampling the north end of the property using an undescribed sampling method reported grades of 0.6% cobalt over 3 feet. Copper was found at 3.5% and silver at 1 ounce/tonne. Some samples were described to have an erythrite coating on the surface and have cobaltite scattered throughout the magnetite.”

A 1973 drill hole sunk about 15 metres south of the French Adit brought historic, non-43-101 results of 0.27% copper over 175 metres, including 1.2% copper over 27 metres. The assays didn’t test for cobalt.

Next plans include geophysics and drilling on the winter-accessible property, says Core Assets director Scott Rose. The Blue project can be reached by snowmobile, by boat in summer, or by an 11-minute helicopter ride from the town of Atlin, connected by highway to Whitehorse, Yukon.

Blue will cost the privately held Core $100,000 and three million shares payable to Zimtu over two years. Zimtu retains a 2% NSR, half of which may be bought back for $1 million.

In addition to Rose, Core’s experienced board will consist of MGX Minerals CSE:XMG president/CEO Jared Lazerson and geologist Nicholas Rodway, with Zimtu president Dave Hodge also holding the president’s position at Core.

Niobium-tantalum in Quebec

December 5th, 2018

Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

by Greg Klein

“Building momentum” is the way Saville Resources TSXV:SRE president Mike Hodge puts it. Steady progress, shown most recently through another encouraging sampling program, puts the company’s early-stage niobium-tantalum project in Quebec on track for drilling this winter. Assays so far have the company hopeful about proving up a maiden resource in this mining-friendly jurisdiction next door to a country increasingly concerned about sourcing critical metals.

Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

Conducted by Dahrouge Geological Consulting, the fall
program brought the Niobium claim group to drill-ready status.

The autumn field program met all of its objectives, Hodge enthuses. Twenty-two boulder samples surpassed 0.7% Nb2O5, with 14 of them exceeding 0.8% and one peaking at 1.5%. Tantalum made its presence known too. Those same 14 niobium samples also graded between 160 ppm and 1,080 ppm Ta2O5.

The project gained yet another target, where boulders reached 0.88% and 1.28% Nb2O5. A ground magnetics survey highlighted the prospectivity of the Moira area, already the location of exceptionally high-grade samples. In all, the results show a drill-ready project that should see action this winter.

Saville holds a 75% earn-in from Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE on the Niobium claim group, a 1,223-hectare package on the latter company’s Eldor property in Quebec. Just a few kilometres from the Niobium project and with obvious synergistic potential for Saville, Commerce has its Ashram rare earths deposit moving towards pre-feasibility. All this takes place in a province that demonstrates its support for mining through a number of initiatives, including direct investment and the Plan Nord infrastructure program. The northeastern Quebec region has two treaties in place that clearly define procedures for native consultation. Saville’s three-quarters stake in the Niobium claim group calls for $5 million in work over five years.

A 43-101 technical report filed in September followed field programs by previous companies including 41 holes totalling 8,175 metres drilled by Commerce. In addition to niobium-tantalum, the report noted phosphate and fluorspar as potential secondary commodities.

Some of the standout results from previous sampling came from the property’s as-yet undrilled Miranna area, where boulder samples graded as high as 2.75%, 4.24%, 4.3% and an exceptional 5.93% Nb2O5.

Other locations have been drilled, but not since 2010. Some 17 holes and 4,328 metres on the Southeast area brought near-surface highlights that include:

  • 0.82% Nb2O5 over 21.89 metres, starting at 58.93 metres in downhole depth

  • 0.72% over 21.35 metres, starting at 4.22 metres
  • (including 0.9% over 4.78 metres)

  • 0.72% over 17.35 metres, starting at 70 metres

  • 0.71% over 15.33 metres, starting at 55.1 metres

True widths were unavailable. Southeast results also showed tantalum and phosphate, as well as suggesting a possible fluorspar zone.

A wide, near-surface interval from the Northwest area showed:

  • 0.46% Nb2O5 over 46.88 metres, starting at 30.65 metres
  • (including 0.61% over 11.96 metres)
Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

Surface outcrops and near-surface core
produce encouraging grades for Saville Resources.

As in the Southeast, the Northwest area showed encouraging signs of tantalum and phosphate. But tantalum came through most strongly in the property’s Star Trench area, with results as high as 1,810 ppm Ta2O5 (with 1.5% Nb2O5) over 0.52 metres, as well as 2,220 ppm Ta2O5 (with 1.69% Nb2O5, and phosphate grading 20.5% P2O5) over 0.31 metres.

Another area gains greater prominence too, thanks to this autumn’s ground magnetics survey. A strong anomaly at the Moira target, about 250 metres north of Miranna, coincides with several overlapping boulder trains that suggest Moira could be one of several possible sources of mineralization.

And a new, yet-to-be-named area gave up two of the fall program’s best assays. About 400 metres south of the drill area, the new target produced boulder samples hitting 1.28% Nb2O5 and 260 ppm Ta2O5, along with 0.88% Nb2O5 and 1,080 ppm Ta2O5.

Intriguingly, glacial ice suggests the two rocks, found about 100 metres apart, originated in an area farther southeast that’s had very little attention so far.

Saville also holds the 3,370-hectare Covette project in Quebec’s James Bay region, where last summer’s field program found surface samples including 1.2% zinc and 68.7 g/t silver. Three other samples returned nickel values ranging from 0.13% to 0.19%.

Work focused on a highly conductive area identified by a 2016 VTEM survey. Samples gathered in 2017 included grades of 0.18% nickel, 0.09% copper and 87 ppm cobalt. One historic, non-43-101 grab sample brought 4.7% molybdenum, 0.73% bismuth, 0.09% lead and 6 g/t silver, while another historic sample returned 1.2 g/t silver and 0.18% copper.

As for niobium, it’s considered a critical metal by the American government for its use in steels and super-alloys necessary for jet engine components, rocket sub-assemblies, and heat-resisting and combustion equipment, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Almost 90% of last year’s world production came from Brazil, where new president Jair Bolsonaro has expressed concern about increasing Chinese ownership of resources.

Also a component of military super-alloys, tantalum additionally plays a vital role in personal electronics including phones and computers. The U.S. imports its entire supply of tantalum. About 60% of last year’s world production came from the troubled countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the advantages of markets, jurisdiction and geology, Hodge looks forward to winter drilling. “We’ve now got about 20 targets that we can go after,” he says. “One priority would be to define the Southeast area because we’ve got such good niobium numbers there. On getting a potential inferred resource, we’d go after Miranna or Moira and the untested targets. We’re looking forward to a busy, productive season.”

Read more about U.S. efforts to secure critical minerals here and here.

The Ring of Fire: Some clarification and context from Stan Sudol

December 4th, 2018

by Greg Klein | December 4, 2018

Urban journalists hundreds of kilometres away might not get it, but regional opposition to Ring of Fire development is anything but unanimous. That’s emphasized in a recent post by Republic of Mining commentator Stan Sudol: Not all the region’s native bands oppose development. Those that do, moreover, have traditional territories outside the proposed mining areas.

The Ring of Fire Some clarification and context from Stan Sudol

“As with non-Aboriginal society, First Nations do not speak with one voice,” he points out. Two of five regional chiefs got considerable news coverage by criticizing a proposed road that would connect the provincial highway system with the mineral-rich region. Those chiefs represent the Eabametoong and Neskantaga bands, both with traditional territories outside the Ring of Fire.

“In fact, the Eabametoong reserve is a little over 170 kilometres southwest of the proposed first mine in the Ring of Fire—Noront Resources’ Eagle’s Nest underground nickel-copper mine—while Neskantaga is about 130 kilometres in the same direction.”

Concerns about a mine accident affecting water on their territories are unfounded, maintains Sudol, probably Canada’s most incisive mining commentator. “Eabametoong and Neskantaga are both up-river so if some problem did occur—and the risk for this is very, very low—neither community would be affected as the water flows eastward toward James Bay.”

Three other regional native communities consist of Nibinamik, Marten Falls and Webequie. The latter two have environmental assessments underway to study the proposed highway link. “And again it must be clearly stated the known Ring of Fire mineral discoveries and the proposed north/south road are on the traditional territories of Marten Falls and Webequie,” Sudol notes. “There are some overlapping claims between these two communities but they are not letting that issue stand in the way of the proposed north/south road.”

That’s not surprising when, as Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said last month, “This project is an opportunity to move forward on addressing many socio-economic needs of the community, including access to more affordable food and housing, access to training, education, health care and employment and access to neighbouring communities.”

Read Basic facts about the Ring of Fire including FNs’ traditional territories, by Stan Sudol.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

November 26th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 26, 2018

Researchers hail it as the material most similar to vibranium, the wondrous substance associated with the land of Wakanda and Captain America’s shield—except that this stuff actually exists outside of comic books, movies and games.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

A real-life Captain America would find himself
depending on geopolitical rivals. (Image: U.S. Army)

Described as a “super-strong alloy of copper and tantalum that can withstand extreme impact and temperature,” it was concocted by boffins from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Arizona State University.

Its features could prove useful in space exploration, weaponry, and protection for soldiers and military vehicles, said Kristopher Darling, a materials scientist with ARL.

The alloy’s strength and conductivity offer possibilities for other metals too. “Materials based on iron or aluminum for instance could be used for protection and lethality applications,” he added.

The copper-tantalum alloy “can withstand high rates of impact and temperatures in excess of 80% of their melting point, which is higher than 1,073 kelvin or greater than 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit, with very little change in its microstructure,” ARL explained.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

The new alloy’s fictional competition.
(Image: Natural Resources Canada)

The multidisciplinary team developed the new alloy originally to replace copper-beryllium. Although that alloy’s also known for its strength, conductivity, hardness and resistance to corrosion, exposure to beryllium can cause a serious lung condition.

Should the new alloy prove a practical substitute, it would also substitute one critical metal for another. Both beryllium and tantalum can be found in a list of 35 critical minerals drafted by the U.S. last February and confirmed in May.

Although the U.S. holds about 60% of the world’s known beryllium resources, the country relies entirely on imports for tantalum, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

American president Donald Trump has called for a national strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on critical minerals from potentially hostile or unstable jurisdictions.

Read more about U.S. efforts to secure critical minerals here and here.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

November 23rd, 2018

This story has been moved here.

Drill-ready money

November 19th, 2018

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

by Greg Klein

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Osisko Mining’s (TSX:OSK) Windfall project offers one reason why
Quebec leads Canada and gold leads metals for exploration spending.
(Photo: Osisko Mining)

 

Blockchain might offer intrigue and cannabis promises a buzz, but mineral exploration still attracts growing interest. A healthy upswing this year will bring Canadian projects a nearly 8% spending increase to $2.36 billion, the industry’s highest amount since 2012. According to recently released data, that’s part of an international trend that puts Canada at the top of a worldwide resurgence.

The $2.36 billion allotted for Canadian exploration and deposit appraisal forms just a small part of the year’s total mineral resource development investments, which see $11.86 billion committed to this country, up from $10.61 billion in 2017.

Those numbers come from Natural Resources Canada, which surveyed companies between April and September on their spending intentions within the country for 2018. The $2.36-billion figure includes engineering, economic and feasibility studies, along with environmental work and general expenses.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Trial extraction for Pure Gold Mining’s (TSXV:PGM)
Madsen feasibility studies encourages interest in
Ontario’s Red Lake region. (Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

Of that number, Quebec edges out Ontario for first place with $623.1 million in spending this year, 26.4% of Canada’s total. Ontario’s share comes to $567.5 million or 24%. Last year’s totals came to $573.9 million for Quebec and $539.7 million for its western neighbour. Prior to that, however, Ontario held a comfortable lead year after year.

Third-place British Columbia gets $335.5 million or 14.2% of Canada’s total this year, an increase from $302.6 million in 2017.

On a per-capita basis, Yukon’s enjoying an exceptional year with an expected $249.4 million or 10.6% of Canada’s total. That’s the territory’s second substantial increase in a row, following $168.7 million the previous year.

Saskatchewan dips this year to $187.2 million (7.9%) from $191.2 million in 2017. But the Fraser Institute’s last survey of mining jurisdictions placed the province first in Canada and second worldwide.

Nunavut drops too, for the third consecutive time, to $143.9 million (6.1%), compared with $177 million in 2017. The Northwest Territories’ forecast declines to $86.2 million (3.7%) this year after $91.2 million last year.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Among companies leading Yukon’s exceptional performance
is White Gold TSXV:WGO, with substantial backing from
Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM and Kinross Gold TSX:K.
(Photo: White Gold)

Especially troubling when contrasted with Yukon’s performance, data for the other territories prompted NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Gary Vivian to call on federal, territorial and native governments and boards to help the industry “by creating certainty around land access, by reducing unnecessary complexity and by addressing the higher costs they face working in the North. Sustaining and growing future mining benefits depend on it.”

The pursuit of precious metals accounts for $1.5 billion in spending, nearly 64% of Canadian exploration. Ontario gets almost 31% of the precious metals attention, with 27% going to Quebec.

Base metals, mostly in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, get 15.5% of the year’s total. Uranium gets 5%, almost entirely in Saskatchewan. Diamonds get nearly 4%, most of it going to the NWT and Saskatchewan. But nearly 11% of this year’s total goes to a category vaguely attributed to other metals, along with coal and additional non-metals.

Getting back to this year’s exploration total ($2.36 billion, remember?), senior companies commit themselves to nearly 55%, compared with nearly 51% last year. But the juniors’ share remains proportionately much larger than the pre-2017 years.

Additional encouragement—and on an international level—comes from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Using different methodology to produce different results, the Metals and Mining Research team found worldwide budgets for nonferrous exploration jumping 19% this year to $10.1 billion.

Juniors have been reaping the biggest budget gains at 35%. Over 1,651 functional exploration companies represent an 8% improvement over last year and the first such increase since 2012. But that’s “still about 900 companies less than in 2012, representing a one-third culling of active explorers over the past five years.”

The most dramatic spending increase hit cobalt and lithium, this year undergoing an 82% leap in exploration spending. That’s part of a 500% climb since 2015, SPGMI says.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Nemaska Lithium’s Whabouchi project in Quebec
contributes to the enthusiasm for energy metals.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

Even so, precious and base metals retained their prominence as gold continues “to benefit the most from the industry recovery.” The global strive for yellow metal will claim $4.86 billion this year, up from $4.05 billion in 2017. Base metals spending will grow by $600 million to $3.04 billion. “Copper remained by far the most attractive of the base metals, although zinc allocations have increased the most, rising 37% in 2018, the report states. “Budgets are up for all targets except uranium.”

SPGMI finds Canada keeping its global top spot for nonferrous exploration with a 31% year-on-year budget increase. Second-place Australia achieved a 23% rise. The U.S. total places third, although with a 34% increase over the country’s 2017 performance.

In each of the top three countries, over 55% of the budgets focused on gold.

“Improved metals prices and margins since 2016 have encouraged producers to expand their organic efforts the past two years,” commented SPGMI’s Mark Ferguson. “Over the same period, equity market support for the junior explorers has improved, leading to an uptick in the number and size of completed financings. This allowed the group to increase exploration budgets by 35% in 2018.”