Sunday 29th March 2020

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Posts tagged ‘copper’

Work suspended

March 26th, 2020

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

by Greg Klein

Shut Down Canada has largely been achieved, but not by the forces that advocated it nor—until someone finds a way of blaming this on climate change—by the doomsday belief they were pushing. Residents of our strangely quiet cities and towns watch the horror unfold elsewhere while wondering how long and hard the pandemic will hit Canada. Meanwhile, workers and business owners might consider themselves lucky if the economy fares no worse than a very serious recession.

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

A reminder that one crisis can trigger another unwittingly came from FortisAlberta on March 23. The company that provides 60% of the province’s electricity “is taking the necessary actions and precautions to protect the health and well-being of its employees and to provide electricity service to its customers.”

The obvious but demoralizing question arises: What happens if too many key people get sick? That danger could apply to any number of essential services. Economic collapse, social disorder, a breakdown of supply chains add to the nightmarish possibilities.

All of which might not happen. In the meantime we can thank the front line workers who keep our society functioning to the extent that it does. Those one- or two-buck-an-hour temporary pay raises hardly acknowledge society’s debt to retail staff who interact constantly with a potentially plague-ridden public. Care workers for the elderly constitute another group of low-paid heroes, several of whom have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

In the meantime here are some reports on Canadian mining’s response to the crisis.

Inconsistent closures suggest an ambivalent industry

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

IAMGOLD sidelined its Westwood operation in Quebec but
continues work on its Coté project in Ontario. (Photo: IAMGOLD)

Mining hasn’t actually been banned in Ontario and Quebec, although shutdowns of non-essential services continue to April 8 and April 13 respectively. Extensions, of course, look likely. Quebec has ordered the industry, along with aluminum smelting, to “minimize their activities.” Ontario specifically exempted mineral exploration, development, mining and their support services from mandatory closures.

Interpreting Quebec’s decree as a ban, IAMGOLD TSX:IMG suspended its Westwood gold mine in that province but continued work at its 64.75%-held, advanced-stage Coté gold project in Ontario as an “essential service.” Production continues at the company’s Burkina Faso and Suriname operations.

But regardless of government bans or directives, voluntary suspensions take place. Restrictions on travel and social distancing have made projects non-viable, while the threat of localized outbreaks looms large—not just at the job sites and accommodations, but in the isolated communities that supply much of the labour.

In Canada, that often means native communities. “They have a bad history with disproportionate impacts from epidemics,” a Vale Canada spokesperson told the Financial Post. The company put its Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador on care and maintenance, and planned reductions at its associated Long Harbour nickel-copper-cobalt processing plant in Newfoundland.

So far alone of the Northwest Territories’ three operations, Dominion Diamond Mines announced an indefinite suspension for Ekati on March 19. The Union of Northern Workers stated its intention to grieve the manner in which its members were laid off.

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

Having laid off its native staff, Agnico Eagle continues its Nunavut
operations largely with workers from Quebec. (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM made the ramp-down decision a day after Quebec’s March 23 order, after discussions with government “to get additional clarity.” The suspensions applied to three Quebec mines but the company planned “reduced operations” at Meliadine and Meadowbank in Nunavut, largely under Quebecois workers.

Five days earlier Agnico Eagle began sending home Nunavummiut staff from its Nunavut mines and exploration projects to prevent virus transmission “from a southern worker to a Nunavut worker, with the risk of it moving into the communities,” explained CEO Sean Boyd. Production was expected to continue under the remaining staff.

The following day residents blocked a road from Rankin Inlet airport to Meliadine to protest the use of replacement workers from Mirabel and Val d’Or, Quebec. Although the territory has banned travel from other jurisdictions, critical workers may apply for an exemption. They’re also required to undergo two weeks of isolation in their own region prior to travel.

From boots on the ground to fingers on the keyboard

Exploration suspensions haven’t come at a bad time for some projects, which had completed or nearly completed winter programs. Where labs remain open, assays might provide some badly needed good news.

Much of the crucial work of analyzing results and planning future exploration can be done by desktop. One example of a company with a multinational work-at-home team is Turmalina Metals TSXV:TBX, which completed a seasonal field program at its San Francisco de Los Andes gold project shortly before Argentina imposed a nation-wide quarantine. “While Turmalina maintains a corporate office in Canada our technical and managerial team operate remotely from individual home offices located in Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Asia,” states a March 23 announcement. “The current compilation, analysis and modeling of recently collected data is being done on a physically decentralized basis from these individual home offices as the company prepares for drilling.”

Follow the money

No one’s saying so out loud, but travel restrictions just might divert money from conferences, trade shows and expense accounts to actual work. Then again, money can still be squandered on low-IQ promotional campaigns produced at the kitchen table.

Every metal and mineral has a silver lining

This isn’t a sector that overlooks opportunity. Two days after Vanstar Mining Resources TSXV:VSR reported that drilling “continues without stopping” at its 25%-held Nelligan project in Quebec, the company acknowledged that majority partner IAMGOLD had suspended work. But “it should be noted that current events can also bring certain opportunities for acquiring gold projects at a lower cost,” Vanstar pointed out. The junior was merely echoing comments made by others, including BHP Group NYSE:BHP earlier this month.

With the economic outlook as confused as a professional stock-picker’s thought processes, mining’s future remains profoundly uncertain. But diminished supply can certainly help chances of rebounding demand.

And suspensions might encourage advantageous awareness, as noted by Uranium Energy Corp NYSE:UEC president/CEO Amir Adnani. “The recent global events and supply disruptions further underscore the importance of domestic supply chains for vital resources,” stated the U.S. purveyor of U3O8.

How could we live without them?

Endeavours deemed essential by Ontario and Quebec include capital markets services and agencies like the TMX Group and securities commissions. The provinces also consider alcohol and cannabis retailers essential. As if the world wasn’t already facing worse consequences, Toronto medical officer Eileen de Villa said banning booze “would lead to pretty significant health consequences.”

She didn’t specifically mention geoscientists.

The experts speak

Some fatuous remarks at PDAC provided retrospectively grim humour, as well as an exhibition of prognosticator pomposity. Here’s Mickey Fulp’s take on COVID-19, as quoted by IKN:

  • “I think it’s overblown.”

  • “All these shows are flu incubators, anyway.”

  • “I think it (i.e. infections) are going to be less this year, because people are doing things like washing their hands.”

  • “This is a blip on the radar screen. Especially in the U.S. where I’m from, because our economy is absolutely roaring and virus fears are not going to do major damage to the U.S. market.”

  • “I think it absolutely is an overreaction and the quicker it’s realized, the better.”

  • “This is a variety of flu.”

Of course to sheltered North Americans, the first week of March might seem a long time ago. So here’s Doug Casey’s insight, as published by Kitco on March 24:

“The virus itself isn’t nearly as serious, I don’t know how serious it’s going to be, but not terribly in my opinion. What I’m really shocked at, Daniela, is the degree of hysteria on the part of the powers that be. They’ve actually just gone insane.”

Click here for objective data on the coronavirus pandemic.

Taranis Resources alleges “catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” with B.C. mines ministry

March 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 16, 2020

Stating it’s “in a unique position to experience every aspect of the permitting process in B.C.,” an explorer levelled strong complaints about how a bulk sampling application has been handled. Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO, operator of the Thor polymetallic project in southeastern British Columbia, made the charges in a March 16 news release following a conference call with ministry officials.

Taranis Resources alleges catastrophic deficiencies and concerns with B.C. mines ministry

Taranis received its most recent drill permit last January, after
filing an application in March 2019. (Photo: Taranis Resources)

In October 2018 the company applied for permission to conduct a 10,000-kilogram sample. The program would supply material for metallurgical tests as part of Thor’s PEA studies and also remove environmentally harmful stockpiles resulting from historic mining, Taranis states. Since then, the company maintains, it has dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Responding in 2018, the government applied requirements previously used only for large-scale commercial mining but which were to be adapted to the bulk mining proposal, the company states. Taranis says it agreed, but a technical review that should have taken 60 days has dragged on since September 2019.

Input from 28 technical reviewers led to modifications of site layouts, water treatment and other aspects of the original proposal, Taranis avers, but the process also featured “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” as well as “moving goalposts.”

The latter consisted of a demand that engineering drawings be stamped “final” instead of “draft,” undermining “the spirit of technical review.” The company called for assurance that “‘final’ site-engineering plans aren’t modified multiple times based on whims of improperly managed technical reviewers.”

During a March 12 conference call between the company and ministry officials, Taranis states, deputy chief mines inspector Lowell Constable attributed Mount Polley to the decision to apply large-scale commercial mining standards to the bulk sample application.

In a 2014 tailings dam failure at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold operation, some eight million cubic metres of waste poured into the waterways of B.C.’s Cariboo region.

According to Taranis, Constable said that “there are no minor tailings facilities anymore in the code. So big or small, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of pieces still moving around in the tailings management code.”

The company argues that “it is unreasonable that full-scale commercial mine permitting scope and associated costs be applied carte blanche to any and all test production scenarios.”

While the company believed conditional permitting would be a “cornerstone” of its application, Taranis quoted mines ministry executive regional director Heather Cullen as saying, “We are getting away from issuing conditional permits—conditional permits are not the way we are going.…”

It is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation…—Taranis Resources
board of directors

Taranis maintains that the conference call demonstrated that “there are no clear, concise, reasonable permitting allowances for exploration bulk sampling in B.C.—an essential exploration tool to the mining business. Up until 2018, there was a well-defined permitting process for exploration bulk sampling.”

The company’s board of directors states: “Based on our experience, it is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation, with a complement of inexperienced and unqualified civil servants in positions of authority whose obvious intention is nothing less than making sure nothing gets done.”

A week before the conference call, independent MLA and former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver criticized the New Democratic government for prolonging “regulatory inconsistencies” regarding Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine. After the initial rejection by B.C.’s previous Liberal government in 2012, the provincial Supreme Court found the decision “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.” Ordered to reassess the proposal, the NDP government “once again rejected the project in order to undergo further assessment,” Weaver argued. “However, in its order, the government appeared to issue unclear directions that substantially delay the process.”

Thor’s 2013 maiden resource gave the project open pit and underground resources totalling:

  • indicated: 640,000 tonnes averaging 0.88 g/t gold, 187 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.51% lead and 3.51% zinc

  • inferred: 424,000 tonnes averaging 0.98 g/t gold, 176 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.26% lead and 3.2% zinc

The property includes five zones that began mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for an LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

March 9th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 9, 2020

While Greens might seem unlikely defenders of mining, an independent MLA who served as British Columbia party leader has taken up the case of Pacific Booker Minerals TSXV:BKM. In doing so, Andrew Weaver voiced concerns that the previous BC Liberal government, supposedly a supporter of resource development, may have pitted one project against another. He also criticized the current New Democratic Party government for stalling on the company’s latest environmental review.

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

Considerations more political than environmental
might have caused a B.C. mine’s rejection,
said a climate scientist/MLA.

In legislature on March 5, Weaver criticized the NDP for “regulatory inconsistencies” involving Pacific Booker’s Morrison project. The proposed copper-gold-molybdenum mine first met provincial rejection in 2012 despite an Environmental Assessment Office report which found that, with successful mitigation measures, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.”

Weaver stated, “There’s some suspicion that the decision around the Morrison mine had less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with political calculation.”

A staunch LNG opponent, Weaver told the legislature that “certain natural gas projects were located in areas close to the Morrison mine. Comments from groups engaged in the Pacific Booker project have indicated that the province was facing significant pressure to avoid reopening discussions around the Morrison mine in order to obtain the support necessary for the Prince Rupert gas transmission line.”

In 2013 then-BC Liberal leader Christy Clark made LNG the focal point of her re-election campaign, vowing the new industry would build three plants by 2020, create 100,000 jobs and provide $100 billion in government revenue, erasing B.C.’s debt. Her party won the election but no LNG facilities were built.

The 900-kilometre Prince Rupert gas transmission line would have connected B.C.’s oil-rich Peace district with the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant on the coast. That $11.4-billion project was shelved in July 2017 after the lead investor, Malaysia’s state-owned PETRONAS, backed out.

Morrison’s 2012 rejection “had serious repercussions for Pacific Booker,” Weaver pointed out. “Their share price plummeted from $14.95 to $4.95 in one day and many investors lost their life savings. What’s more is that the ministry failed to inform Pacific Booker of its intention to issue an adverse recommendation and did not provide the company with an opportunity to respond to it.”

In December 2013 B.C.’s Supreme Court ordered the province to reconsider the mine, ruling that the cabinet’s rejection “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.”

But when the BC Liberal government ordered further assessment of the proposal in July 2015, Weaver charged, the province failed to provide clear directions, further stalling the project into the NDP’s administration, which started in June 2017.

Mines minister Bruce Ralston replied that “the EAO continues to work with the company on this, and I’m advised that the latest submission was received by the EAO in December 2019.”

Weaver’s blog stated he was “not particularly impressed with the minister’s response to my questions. I intend to explore this issue further in the coming weeks.”

In a March 9 statement on “recent volatility in our market activity,” Pacific Booker director John Plourde expressed the company’s “appreciation to Dr. Weaver for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and Mr. Ralston, and our hope that his intent to explore this further in the coming weeks brings a resolution to the issue.”

Greens hold the balance of power in B.C.’s minority government. Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist, left the party in January for family reasons and announced his intention to retire from politics.

Update: Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results, vends project

March 3rd, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 2, 2020, updated March 3, 2020

Update: On March 3 Saville Resources announced the sale of its Bud property to Ximen Mining TSXV:XIM for 388,888 Ximen shares, subject to TSXV approval.

A company focused on critical minerals in Quebec has also kept busy in an historic southern British Columbia mining camp. On March 2 Saville Resources TSXV:SRE released grab sample assays from a 2019 field program at the Bud property in the Boundary district that includes the Republic, Belcher, Rossland and Greenwood camps of B.C. and Washington. Some highlights included:

  • 3.84 g/t gold, 105 ppm cobalt, 2,200 ppm copper and 824 ppm zinc

  • 1.52 g/t gold, 247 ppm cobalt, 4,070 ppm copper and 50 ppm zinc

  • 0.864 g/t gold, 476 ppm cobalt, 6,540 ppm copper and 127 ppm zinc
Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results

Grab samples from the previous year reached up to 4.57 g/t gold, 27.7 g/t silver and 6.7% copper; as well as 4.44 g/t gold, 17 g/t silver and 6.84% copper.

Saville stated the 381-hectare property potentially hosts copper-gold skarn mineralization similar to the Motherlode and Sunset properties 500 metres away that had historic production of 4.2 million tonnes averaging 0.8% copper and 1.3 g/t gold. The company also sees potential for gold-bearing epithermal veins.

Reporting on its flagship Niobium Claim Group in northern Quebec last month, Saville announced completion of a preliminary mineralogical analysis conducted as part of a University of Windsor research project. Among the results, the study found three encouraging signs for the project:

The dominant niobium minerals are pyrochlore and columbite, a potential processing advantage with the most common minerals for niobium globally.

The niobium may have been mobilized, which might enhance a project’s grade.

The mineralogy supports a model of a continuous niobium-mineralized trend through the complex.

Saville drew parallels between the project’s Mallard prospect and Magris Resources’ Niobec mine in Quebec. Both feature carbonatites, while Niobec’s mineralization is hosted by pyrochlore and columbite similar in grain size to that found in Mallard’s preliminary analysis. Additionally, both Mallard and Niobec show mineralization in moderate to steeply dipping elongate lenses.

Following near-surface, high-grade niobium and tantalum intercepts from last year’s drilling, Saville plans further exploration this year. The company also plans to evaluate the property’s fluorspar potential after reviewing impressive historic grades for calcium fluoride.

Niobium, tantalum and fluorspar appear on the United States list of 35 critical minerals. Amid increasing concern, in January the U.S. and Canada signed a Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals to develop deposits and supply chains.

Saville operates the Niobium Claim Group under a 75% earn-in from Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE, which holds the advanced-stage Ashram rare earths deposit two kilometres away.

Read more about Saville Resources.

Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results

March 2nd, 2020

This story has been updated and moved here.

Belmont Resources plans to expand portfolio in B.C.’s Greenwood camp, add nearby claims in Washington

February 27th, 2020

by Greg Klein | Updated February 27, 2020

An international border runs through this historic mining region, but geology knows no such barriers. Two recently signed letters of intent would build Belmont Resources’ (TSXV:BEA) presence in southern British Columbia’s Greenwood camp and extend into Washington’s adjacent Republic area.

Belmont Resources plans to expand portfolio in B.C. Greenwood camp, add nearby claims in Washington

Greenwood gave up plenty of gold despite using, by today’s standards, primitive techniques. Now Belmont hopes more sophisticated analysis will help rejuvenate regional mining. The company’s proposed Athelstan-Jackpot acquisition sits adjacent to the Republic district, where Kinross Gold TSX:K applied newly developed metallogenic models that led to discovery and mining of several epithermal gold deposits. Although a “similar geologic regime” applies to Greenwood, Belmont stated, previous exploration and development on the B.C. side of the border focused on skarn-type copper-gold deposits with little attention to epithermal-type gold.

Bringing impressive credentials for a more contemporary approach, president/CEO George Sookochoff comes from a mining family in Grand Forks, about eight kilometres east of Athelstan-Jackpot, and has an extensive Greenwood background as well as GIS database expertise. He’s spent years building a digital database storing more than a century of Greenwood geoscientific info. This digital library would allow him to assess the probability of regional epithermal gold deposits by searching for characteristics comparable with those in Washington, the company added.

The review would precede recommendations for a 2020 exploration program on Athelstan-Jackpot. Intermittent mining on the property between 1901 and 1940 produced around 33,200 tonnes averaging about 5.4 g/t gold and 6.3 g/t silver for approximately 6,324 ounces of gold and 7,378 ounces of silver, according to historic records. Trenching and sampling took place in 2003, with historic, non-43-101 trench intervals up to 6.6 g/t gold and 12 g/t silver over 3.7 metres. Other historic 2003 grades reached as high as 28.4 g/t gold and 166 g/t silver over 0.3 metres.

Maybe the cross-border geological interest spanning Greenwood and Republic attracted Belmont to a nearby former mine in Washington. Just two days after reporting the proposed Athelstan-Jackpot acquisition, Belmont announced an LOI to pick up Lone Star, in operation from 1897 to 1918 and 1977 to 1978. Using a 1.5% copper-equivalent cutoff, an historic, non-43-101 report from 2007 estimated:

  • indicated: 63,000 tonnes averaging 1.28 g/t gold and 2.3% copper for 2,600 ounces gold and 3.19 million pounds copper

  • inferred: 682,000 tonnes averaging 1.46 g/t gold and 2% copper for 32,000 ounces gold and 30.07 million pounds copper

Should the deal close, Belmont plans to compile a 43-101 resource and prepare an IP survey prior to infill drilling for a potential deposit upgrade.

A 100% interest in Athelstan-Jackpot would cost Belmont 200,000 shares on signing. After a year Belmont would issue another 200,000 shares, and also pay US$50,000 in cash or US$25,000 in cash and the equivalent of US$25,000 in shares. The vendor would retain a 2% NSR, half of which Belmont could buy back for US$500,000.

A 100% stake in Lone Star would call for C$25,000 on signing and 1.5 million shares issued in three installments over two years. An additional C$100,000 payment would follow a major financing to be completed by Belmont.

Other recent Greenwood forays have already strengthened the company’s regional standing. In November the company picked up the 45-hectare Pride of the West and Great Bear claims, following the October acquisition of the 127-hectare Glenora property.

Pathfinder, another Greenwood-area Belmont holding, underwent two sampling programs last year. Assays reached up to 4.999 ppm gold, 35.86 ppm silver, 2.07% copper and 45.1 ppm cobalt, along with other results as high as 29.2 g/t gold.

Greenwood sits about 500 highway kilometres east of Vancouver.

The company’s portfolio also includes a 75% interest in the Kibby Basin lithium project in Nevada and, in northern Saskatchewan, two uranium properties shared 50/50 with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT.

Belmont Resources signs LOI for additional property in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

February 25th, 2020

This story has been updated and moved here.

“It’s time to be ambitious” on critical minerals: Mining Association of Canada

January 24th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 24, 2020

Canadian-American co-operation on essential elements means opportunity for this country’s wider economy, Pierre Gratton emphasizes. Speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade, the president/CEO of the Mining Association of Canada commented on the recent Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, as well as the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan.

Two weeks ago Natural Resources Canada announced the cross-border agreement to secure deposits and develop supply chains for minerals essential to the economy, defence, technology and clean energy. The initiative takes place as the U.S. seeks ways to reduce its dependency on sources considered unreliable, unethical or potential economic and military rivals.

It’s time to be ambitious on critical minerals Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton: “We have an opportunity to lay the foundation
for a new era in investment and middle class job creation,
not just in mining but in new, emerging downstream industrial
and manufacturing sectors.” (Photo: Matt Borck,
courtesy Greater Vancouver Board of Trade)

“Critical minerals are more than rare earth elements, and include several minerals and metals already mined in Canada including cobalt, copper, precious metals, nickel and uranium, which are critical to low-carbon electrification and new battery technologies in the automotive, space, defence and high-tech sectors,” said Gratton.

“It’s time to be ambitious. We have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a new era in investment and middle class job creation, not just in mining but in new, emerging downstream industrial and manufacturing sectors.”

Canada ranks among the world’s top five countries for 15 minerals and metals, MAC stated, and remains a global leader in responsible mining practices. Over the past five years MAC’s Towards Sustainable Mining program has been adopted by mining associations in seven countries on five continents.

“TSM focuses on enabling mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way through mandatory commitments to annually report and assure social and environmental performance with strong multi-stakeholder oversight,” the association added.

“Canadian metals come conflict-free, meeting the highest environmental standards and a commitment to transparency unmatched anywhere,” Gratton continued. “We are confident that with these sustainable standards and new government commitments, Canada’s mining industry has the tools and support to provide the responsibly sourced minerals vital to industries around the world.”

Gratton also spoke on the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, a federal-provincial initiative intended to enhance the industry’s competitiveness, innovation and native participation.

Mining contributes $97 billion to national GDP and 19% of domestic exports, employing 626,000 people directly and indirectly across the country. The industry is proportionally Canada’s largest private sector employer of natives and a major customer of native-owned businesses.

Kendra Johnston of the Association for Mineral Exploration acknowledges the work of Geoscience BC

January 22nd, 2020

…Read more

Open and shut cases: East

January 7th, 2020

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

by Greg Klein

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Eldorado workers celebrate another endowment from Lamaque’s legacy.
(Photo: Eldorado Gold)

 

This is the final installment of a series on mine openings and closures across Canada for 2019 and 2020.

Quebec

Val-d’Or flaunted its abundance yet again as Eldorado Gold TSX:ELD reached commercial production at Lamaque in March. Pre-commercial mining and toll milling began the previous year, with the first gold pour from the project’s refurbished Sigma mill in December 2018. Guidance for 2019 was set at 100,000 to 110,000 ounces, with 125,000 to 135,000 initially expected for each of 2020 and 2021.

At least, that was the original plan. In September 2019 the company began a PEA to study an annual increase to 170,000 ounces. By November Eldorado announced an additional 19,000 ounces for Lamaque’s proven and probable reserves, along with 191,000 ounces for measured and indicated resources.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

A drill operator probes the Triangle deposit at Lamaque.
(Photo: Eldorado Gold)

That gives the deposit reserves of 972,000 ounces within a measured and indicated 1.55 million ounces.

But until further feasibility states otherwise, Lamaque’s life expectancy ends in seven years.

Eldorado picked up the property with its 2017 buyout of Integra Gold. The Triangle deposit now under production wasn’t part of the historic Lamaque mines, one of which was Quebec’s biggest gold producer between 1952 and 1985. In 2016 Integra’s Gold Rush Challenge offered geo-boffins a half-million-dollar prize to apply cutting edge technology in search of additional auriferous riches on historic turf adjacent to the current operation.

 

Attributing its setbacks more to cost overruns than an overinflated bubble, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX ended 2019 by suspending mine construction and demo plant operations, laying off 64 staff, getting creditor protection and halting trades. Hanging in the balance is a possible $600-million investment that’s been under negotiation since July.

Just over a year ago Nemaska confidently spoke of steady construction progress, with concentrate production expected in H2 2019 and lithium salts production in H2 2020. But by February 2019 the company warned of a $375-million capex shortfall revealed by “detailed engineering work, revised site geo-technical data and updated equipment and installation costs” not foreseen in the previous year’s feasibility update.

That same month Livent Corp (previously FMC Corp) cancelled an 8,000-tpa lithium carbonate supply agreement that was to start in April 2019.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Until funders come to the rescue, Nemaska’s
Whabouchi camp will resemble an instant ghost town.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

By September a US$75-million second tranche of a US$150-million stream agreement with Orion Mutual Funds fell into jeopardy. Bondholders called for repayment of US$350 million. The company had so far spent only $392 million towards a capex estimated at $1.269 billion.

Plan A calls for sealing a $600-million deal with the London-based Pallinghurst Group, which over the last 12 years has invested about US$2 billion in mining projects. But negotiation delays caused Nemaska to seek creditor protection, which was granted in December. Bracing for a possible fallout with Pallinghurst, Nemaska says it’s also considering other investment, debt or M&A alternatives.

Before suspending the Phase I plant at Shawinigan, however, the company did finish delivering samples to potential customers “ranging from cathode manufacturers to battery makers to industrial grease users, in addition to our existing offtake customers, which include LG Chemicals, Johnson Matthey and Northvolt” using proprietary methodology.

The mine plan calls for 24 years of open pit operation prior to nine years of underground mining, producing an annual 205,000 tonnes of 6.25% Li2O spodumene concentrate. On achieving commercial production, the Shawinigan plant’s annual capacity would reach 37,000 tonnes lithium hydroxide monohydrate.

Should funding allow, Nemaska would target Q3 2021 to begin spodumene concentrate production at Whabouchi and Q2 2022 to start producing lithium salts at Shawinigan.

The provincial government’s investment agency Ressources Québec holds about 12.5% of Nemaska.

 

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Although Nyrstar has moved mining equipment
out of Langlois, the company says exploration
potential remains. (Photo: Nyrstar)

Another James Bay-region operation, the Langlois zinc-copper mine went back on care and maintenance in December. A short-lived operation between July 2007 and November 2008, Langlois was taken over by Zurich-headquartered Nyrstar in 2011. Mining resumed the following year. But by October 2018 the suspension was decided “due to rock conditions having deteriorated,” making the mine uneconomic. Some 240 staff lost their jobs.

But Langlois “has exploration potential for other metals such as gold,” Nyrstar stated. “The company is in active discussions with interested parties in the mine and its assets.”

Usable equipment was slated for transfer to other Nyrstar properties in Tennessee and on Vancouver Island, where the company’s Myra Falls zinc-copper-polymetallic mine suspended operations briefly in early 2019.

As part of a debt restructuring, in July Nyrstar came under majority ownership of the Trafigura Group, one of the world’s largest physical commodities traders.

 

Fear of closure came to another Quebec mine in September after Stornoway Diamond followed its application for creditor protection with this ominous declaration: “There is and will be no recoverable or residual value in either Stornoway’s common shares or convertible debentures.”

Such an admission made the company’s October delisting something of a formality. But if investors got wiped out, the Renard mine continues operations due to creditors led by Osisko Gold Royalties TSX:OR and including Ressources Québec. As of November 1, Osisko became the largest shareholder, with a 35.1% stake. The royalty company also holds a 9.6% stream.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Despite Stornoway’s failure, creditors keep Quebec’s only
diamond mine in operation. (Photo: Stornoway Diamond)

Under a September LOI, the lenders agreed to take over all of Stornoway’s assets and liabilities. An initial $20-million financing should ensure Renard operations continue “in an uninterrupted manner.”

Open pit mining began in 2015, with an official opening following in 2016 and commercial production in 2017. But Renard encountered technical problems while shifting to underground operations and also faced a disappointing initial underground grade as well as the global slump in diamond markets.

Nevertheless, Osisko suggested the mine remained on target to meet the 2019 guidance set by Stornoway of 1.8 million to 2.1 million carats, with sales expectations of $80 to $105 per carat. A 2016 resource update expected prices ranging from $106 per carat for the Renard 4 pipe to $197 for Renard 2. The technical study assumed a 2.5% annual increase in diamond prices to the end of 2026.

New Brunswick

A casualty of an earlier mine closure, Glencore’s Brunswick lead-silver smelter shut down permanently by the end of 2019. “Despite years of efforts by committed employees and a strong management team, the smelter has been uneconomic since the closure of the Brunswick mine in 2013,” said company spokesperson Chris Eskdale. “We have thoroughly assessed all our options and come to the unavoidable conclusion that the smelter is simply not sustainable, regardless of the recent labour dispute.”

Termed a lockout by the United Steelworkers and a strike by management, the dispute had left 280 union members of the 420-person workforce off the job since April. The company’s November announcement of the impending shutdown also coincided with a strike at the CEZinc refinery near Montreal, which ended December 3 after 10 months. That facility is owned by Noranda Income Fund TSX:NIF.UN but operated by Glencore, which holds 25% of NIF.

Glencore’s Alexis Segal emphasized that Brunswick plant losses averaged $30 million annually for the last three years, CBC reported. Premier Blaine Higgs and labour minister Trevor Holder expressed concern but couldn’t offer reassurances, the network added.

The facility opened in 1966 to process concentrate from the Brunswick zinc-lead-silver mine, at one point the world’s largest underground zinc operation. Following the mine’s 2013 closure, the company was transforming the smelter into a custom plant.

Labrador

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Blasting began last June as Tacora brought new life
to the Scully iron ore operation. (Photo: Tacora Resources)

Western Labrador’s iron industry revived in May as production resumed at the Scully mine after nearly five years. Minnesota-based Tacora Resources bought the former Wabush Iron operation through a Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act process in 2017, conducted a new feasibility study and recruited strategic investors that include the metals branch of Cargill, which also agreed to 100% offtake for 15 years.

The restart benefits Quebec too. The Iron Ore Company of Canada’s railway, the Quebec North Shore & Labrador line, carries Scully production to a pellet plant at Pointe Noire on the St. Lawrence. Nearby Sept-Isles provides deep sea docks from where the resuscitated mine’s first shipment left for Europe in late August.

With life expectancy currently set at 15 years, the company expects the open pit to produce 6.25 million tpa. Tacora hopes to upgrade the 65.9% Fe concentrate and also pull profits from the deposit’s manganese, considered problematic by the previous operator.

“The manganese content was a hurdle and an impediment before,” Tacora CEO/chairperson Larry Lehtinen told CBC. “We’re turning that into an advantage.”

The mine previously opened in 1965. The operation shut down completely in 2015 but most staff had already lost their jobs the previous year.

This is Part 4 of a series.