Saturday 19th September 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘diamonds’

Meet the Zimtu teams

September 3rd, 2020

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

by Greg Klein | September 3, 2020

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

 

Their projects span early exploration to advanced development. Their goals include base, precious and critical minerals, but also extend to technology and energy. A wide range of potential comes to the fore on September 10, when Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC presents a Zoom conference highlighting eight of its colleague companies.

Below we offer an overview of each company. But first here’s how to take part.

To attend, RSVP MPatience@Zimtu.com.

The event takes place September 10 at 8 a.m. Vancouver/Pacific time, 11 a.m. Toronto/Eastern time, 5 p.m. Frankfurt/Central European time.

Click this link to connect.

If prompted, enter meeting ID 868 2490 1684 and meeting passcode 679221.

To take part by phone, dial by location:

Canada toll-free
855 703 8985     

U.S. toll-free
833 548 0276
833 548 0282
877 853 5257
888 475 4499       

Germany toll-free
0 800 000 6954
0 800 000 1590

Switzerland
+41 43 210 71 08
+41 44 529 92 72
+41 22 591 00 05
+41 22 591 01 56
+41 31 528 09 88
+41 43 210 70 42

Meeting ID: 868 2490 1684

Click here to find your local number.

 

And here are the companies

 

Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD

Promising geology and proven methodology will come together at Arctic Star Exploration’s (TSXV:ADD) Diagras project in the Northwest Territories’ diamondiferous Lac de Gras region. Currently holding 40% of a joint venture, the company intends to assume operation and increase its ownership when spring offers optimum work conditions.

In addition to drilling, Arctic Star’s plans include gravity and electromagnetic surveys on seven of the property’s 21 known kimberlites. The gravity/EM approach follows that of Kennady Diamonds, which successfully employed the methodology on its Kennady North project two kilometres away. In 2018 Kennady North was acquired by Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPVD, De Beers’ JV partner on the adjacent Gahcho Kué mine. Gravity and EM have so far found five drill targets at Diagras.

Arctic Star’s 100%-held Timantti diamond project in Finland hosts nine known diamondiferous kimberlites. With some 150 kilograms of samples ready for processing, ground work is expected to resume once pandemic conditions allow.

Read more about Arctic Star Exploration.

 

Ares Strategic Mining TSXV:ARS

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

Once re-opened, Lost Sheep will be
America’s only producing fluorspar mine.

The U.S. currently imports its entire supply of this critical mineral but Ares Strategic Mining TSXV:ARS plans to change that soon by opening the country’s only fluorspar operation. Production at Utah’s Lost Sheep mine could begin this autumn without de-risking through successive PEA and feasibility studies, but with the apparent confidence of the Mujim Group. The multinational fluorspar mining and distribution company visited the property earlier this year prior to buying a 9% stake in Ares.

Three of five exploration holes found visible fluorspar, while assays have just been released from 12 holes totalling 900 metres of delineation drilling. Results show high grades over wide intervals from near-surface and at-surface intercepts. Metallurgical tests have upgraded Lost Sheep material above 97% CaF2, achieving the level of higher-priced acidspar.

Ares also holds the Liard fluorspar project in northern British Columbia. Seven areas of the highway-accessible 476-hectare property host historic, non-43-101 estimates.

Read more about Ares Strategic Mining.

September 9 update: Ares launches this summer’s second drill program at Lost Sheep.

 

Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

Well-understood host minerals, distribution of magnet
feed elements and a friendly jurisdiction distinguish
Commerce Resources’ RE-fluorspar project.

Few if any elements dominate concern about critical minerals like rare earths. That places all the more focus on Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit, an advanced-stage Quebec project that also hosts one of the world’s largest fluorspar resources. While working towards pre-feasibility, the company has metallurgical studies advancing on a number of levels, benefiting not only Ashram but the creation of supply chains independent of China. The deposit’s carbonatite-hosted mineralization and relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy complement conventional rare earths processing. Metallurgy has also upgraded Ashram’s fluorspar content to higher-priced acidspar.

Ashram also features a strong presence of high-demand magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium. Work is underway to upgrade the 2012 resource that used a 1.25% cutoff to show:

  • measured and indicated: 29.27 million tonnes averaging 1.9% total rare earth oxides and 2.94% fluorine

  • inferred: 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO and 2.21% F

The deposit starts at surface.

Looking at other critical minerals, Commerce also holds the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southern British Columbia.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

September 10 update: Saville Resources, Commerce Resources find more fluorspar in re-assayed core from Quebec niobium-tantalum project.

 

Core Assets Corp CSE:CC

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

Historic results, more recent sampling and a
greater understanding of regional geology prompted
Core Assets’ major land expansion in B.C.

Determined to become a major explorer in northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle, Core Assets Corp CSE:CC started trading in July, then began September with a nine-fold property expansion. The inspiration for boosting its Blue and Silver Lime holdings to 14,815 hectares comes from continual advancements in the understanding of porphyry, skarn and carbonate replacement-type deposits globally and in the Triangle itself.

The new ground covers the Llewelyn fault zone, which the company believes to be the main transport corridor for high-grade metals found on the property at surface. An historic, non-43-101 drill hole at Blue reached 0.27% copper over 173.2 metres. Grab samples from 2018 graded up to 1.57 g/t gold, 46.5 g/t silver and 8.46% copper.

The 2018 grab samples from never-drilled Silver Lime included 1.16 g/t gold, 913 g/t silver, 12.45% zinc and 20% lead. Core’s regionally experienced team plans a regional magnetic survey over the property.

Watch an interview with the Core Assets team.

 

Dimension Five Technologies CSE:DFT

Creating high-value products, even energy, from waste materials is the goal of Aduro Energy, now subject of an LOI for a reverse takeover by Dimension Five Technologies CSE:DFT. Founded in 2012, Ontario-based Aduro has developed a smart chemistry approach using three water-based technologies to transform diverse feedstocks that include renewable oils as well as waste plastics, foams and rubber. The result can be new plastics, foams, hydrocarbon fuels or specialty chemicals.

Aduro has its three areas of technology—trademarked as Hydrochemolytic Plastics Upgrading, Hydrochemolytic Renewables Upgrading and Hydrochemolytic Bitumen Upgrading—now undergoing demonstration and commercialization stages.

Learn more about Aduro Energy.

 

Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

Despite extensive previous mining, Aznalcollar
hosts an impressive historic base metals estimate.

Most of Spain’s bullion came from the New World but Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO believes there’s untapped gold-silver potential on its Paymogo polymetallic project. Located amid former and current operations in southern Spain’s Iberian Pyrite Belt, Paymogo’s Romanera deposit hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 2.2% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44.4 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold.

Eight kilometres away, Paymogo’s Infanta area has historic, non-43-101 reports of high-grade copper-lead-zinc-silver intervals. While preparing an exploration permit application, Emerita is compiling data from 51 holes at Romanera and 48 at Infanta for a digital database to guide another round of drilling.

The company also awaits a court decision regarding a disputed tender for the Aznalcollar zinc-lead past-producer on the same Iberian belt. In May Emerita signed a binding letter agreement to earn a 55% interest in the Sierra Alta gold property in northern Spain. Company assets also include a 50% JV interest in the Plaza Norte zinc project near Spain’s northern coast.

Read more about Emerita Resources.

September 9 update: Emerita releases historic assays prior to drilling Paymogo.

 

Saville Resources TSXV:SRE

Eight companies offer eight opportunities at one online event

Saville outperformed historic intercepts with its
Phase I drill program on the Niobium Claim Group in Quebec.

Two kilometres from Commerce Resources’ Ashram RE-fluorspar deposit, another company explores for other critical minerals—niobium and tantalum. Working on a 75% earn-in from Commerce, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE has also found fluorspar potential on the early-stage Niobium Claim Group.

Saville sunk five holes last year in a promising Phase I campaign on the property’s Mallard prospect. Along with historic results, three drill programs total 14 holes and 3,537 metres on Mallard. Each program surpassed its predecessor for grades and widths while expanding three zones of mineralization that remain open in all directions. Encouraging historic drill results have also come from the project’s Northwest and Star Trench prospects. Yet to be drilled are other high-priority areas, especially Miranna where high-grade boulder samples have reached an exceptional 5.93% Nb2O5.

The property’s host rock predominates in pyrochlore-group minerals and/or ferrocolumbite, amenable to familiar processing methods as the world’s main source of niobium supply.

September 10 update: Saville Resources, Commerce Resources find more fluorspar in re-assayed core from Quebec niobium-tantalum project.

 

Zinc8 Energy Solutions CSE:ZAIR

Intermittent green electricity, grid backup and off-grid supply call for long-term electrical storage. Zinc8 Energy Solutions CSE:ZAIR has made inroads into New York by offering a low-cost, reliable approach.

The company’s system stores electricity in zinc particles, avoiding expensive battery minerals like lithium, vanadium and cobalt. When the storage system provides electricity, zinc particles combine with oxygen. When the system recharges, the zinc particles are regenerated and oxygen is returned.

Storage can be scaled from 20 kW to megawatts, making Zinc8’s system suitable for microgrids and utilities. The latter have already shown interest. 

In January the New York Power Authority, America’s largest public power organization, selected the Zinc8 system out of more than 60 contenders for a commercial or industrial demonstration facility. Two months later Digital Energy Corp chose Zinc8 to install a 100 kW/1.5 MWh storage system at a combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Brooklyn. Buoyed by New York interest, Zinc8 has since created a U.S. subsidiary.

Read an op-ed by Zinc8 president/CEO Ron MacDonald.

 

The Zoom with Zimtu event takes place September 10 at 8 a.m. Vancouver/Pacific time, 11 a.m. Toronto/Eastern time, 5 p.m. Frankfurt/Central European time. Click here and learn how to attend.

 

Now all we need are mines

August 28th, 2020

The Saskatchewan Research Council plans commercial rare earths separation in 2022

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2020

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

This nondescript building will host a $31-million commercial REE facility in two years.
(Image: Saskatchewan Research Council)

 

Given China’s near-monopoly of these critical elements, the news from Saskatchewan is enormous—a commercial-scale rare earths separation facility up and running in two years. But the development is hardly sudden. The operator already boasts longstanding experience and world-leading expertise with the almost arcane endeavour. Moreover the August 27 announcement just confirms one of the ambitious mining-related goals in the province’s growth plan released last November.

Work begins this fall in Saskatoon on a $31-million processing and separating plant funded by the province. Canada’s only such facility, it constitutes a major step towards expanding REE supply chains independent of China. Operating the Saskatoon plant will be the Saskatchewan Research Council, a Crown corporation with 75 years of experience in mining-related research and technology, over 290 staff, $91 million in annual revenue and about 1,500 clients in 27 countries.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

SRC assets include the world’s largest potash, uranium and diamonds labs, and its research extends to the oil and gas sector as well as to environmental studies.

The SRC has already been separating rare earths at the bench and pilot scale level. Its REE team currently employs 10 full-time-equivalent positions. The plan calls for staffing to reach 24 highly qualified FTEs in the facility, along with at least 10 more in R&D.

“SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now,” points out president/CEO Mike Crabtree. “We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.”

That book—Separation Hydrometallurgy of Rare Earth Elements—was written by Jack Zhang, Baodong Zhao and Bryan Schreiner, SRC scientists of international stature.

The SRC anticipates ore or crushed sand will arrive by truck or rail from producers in Canada and the U.S., as well as potential overseas clients. Location of the tailings facility has yet to be determined.

One obvious caveat, however, is the current lack of North American primary producers. The sole exception is California’s Mountain Pass mining and processing operation. Although operator MP Materials has professed its commitment to an American supply chain, the company has been exporting its entire output to China.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

New separation capabilities bring considerable advantages
to rare earths projects in Canada and elsewhere.
(Photo: Saskatchewan Research Council)

Demonstrating a non-Chinese commitment, however, is Australia’s Lynas Corp. The company operates a refining and separation facility in Malaysia to process rare earths ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia. Lynas plans to open a WA cracking and leaching plant by 2023 to quell Malaysian concerns about low-level radioactive material shipped to the country. In the U.S., meanwhile, the company and its American JV partner Blue Line signed a contract last month with the Department of Defense, which would fund studies for a proposed American plant to separate heavy rare earths from Mount Weld.

But the SRC plant opens doors for potential North American sources, which last year totalled measured and indicated resources of 2.7 million tons in the U.S. and over 15 million tons in Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Fitting for the world’s second-largest uranium-producing jurisdiction, Saskatchewan will process rare earths from uranium raffinate as well as from bastnasite and monazite, the most common mineralogical sources of rare earths.

But the Chinese challenge remains formidable. Chinese domestic mining accounted for nearly 63% of last year’s global production, a drop from 70% in 2018 but a number that doesn’t include Chinese control over foreign sources. Moreover the country’s dominance of separation facilities and expertise extends its control to an estimated 70% to 95% of various points along the supply chain.

SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now. We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.—Mike Crabtree,
president/CEO,
Saskatchewan Research Council

Trade and other geopolitical tensions have brought fears—backed by implied threats—that the country will “weaponize” its rare earths dominance, repeating the 2010 machinations that staggered non-Chinese manufacturing industries.

The elements are vital to clean energy, electronics, transportation, defence, medical equipment and other necessities. American concern about rare earths and other critical minerals has triggered a number of initiatives including the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration with Canada announced in January and reaffirmed in June.

But encouraging as the Saskatchewan initiative is, it hardly constitutes a slingshot to the Chinese Goliath. That country’s advantages include seemingly bottomless government subsidies, free use of black market or conflict material, and the backing of a savvy totalitarian government, according to Clint Cox. Speaking in Vancouver last January, the analyst and rare earths specialist with The Anchor House warned that Chinese dominance can’t be underestimated.

Nevertheless, the Saskatoon facility can only encourage junior mining activity. “The juniors are definitely the place where the last crop of potential mines came from, and it looks like they might be the next out there,” Cox told his January audience. “There’s some out there today.”

Among other goals, the Saskatchewan Growth Plan calls for studies into extracting lithium from the province’s brines as well as from oil and gas wastewater. The plan also considers adding nuclear energy to the province’s electrical mix from small modular reactors. Earlier this month Alberta joined Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick in a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on SMR studies.

Read more about the Saskatchewan Research Council.

Arctic Star Exploration to resume work and increase stake in NWT diamond project

July 27th, 2020

by Greg Klein | July 27, 2020

The idled but promising Diagras project should see new activity as one joint venture partner takes over operations from the other. New manager Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD, which holds the minority portion of the 60/40 JV, announced a proposed $1.6-million budget over the next 12 months to drill the Diagras property next spring. JV partner Margaret Lake Diamonds TSXV:DIA “has elected not to participate in this program and, in doing so, will dilute once the program completes and expenditures are met,” Arctic Star stated.

Arctic Star Exploration plans to resume work, increase stake in NWT diamond project

Hosting 21 kimberlites discovered by De Beers, Diagras sits within the Northwest Territories’ Lac de Gras diamond field that’s home to the recently suspended Ekati mine and the Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO/Dominion Diamond Mines Diavik operation.

Spring offers optimum work conditions in the region, when winter roads and rig-friendly frozen lakes coincide with over 12 hours of daily light. Arctic Star’s agenda also calls for geophysics on seven kimberlites that have yet to undergo gravity and electromagnetic surveys. Permitting is already underway.

Arctic Star’s approach borrows from the success of Kennady Diamonds on its Kennady North project, two kilometres southeast of Diagras. While previous Lac de Gras explorers relied heavily on magnetics, that approach might find only a portion of a larger kimberlite complex that contains other geophysical features. Kennady’s gravity and EM surveys showed the Kelvin and Faraday kimberlites to be “complexes with previously unknown kimberlite phases that were highly diamondiferous,” Arctic Star explained.

In 2018 Kennady and its project were taken over by Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPVD, which JVs with De Beers on the adjacent Gahcho Kué operation.

Gravity and EM surveys employed so far at Diagras have found at least five targets that warrant drilling, according to Arctic Star. Examples include the Black Spruce kimberlite, with distinct gravity and EM anomalies, and the HL01 kimberlite, where “previous workers may have thought an EM anomaly was explained by the magnetic kimberlite targeted and drill-tested. However our ground EM survey shows a distinct EM anomaly to be separate to the magnetic anomaly, and it deserves a dedicated drill test.”

Surveys also reveal drill targets at the property’s Jack Pine, Suzanne, Kong and Penelope kimberlites.

In Finland, however, Arctic Star has suspended field work on its 100%-held Timantti diamond project due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. Plans remain to process 150 kilograms of samples from the two most recently discovered of the property’s nine known diamondiferous kimberlites. The company intends to resume ground work when travel becomes viable.

In February Arctic Star closed a private placement totalling $868,400.

Robust or bust

May 7th, 2020

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

by Greg Klein | May 7, 2020

It might take premature complacency or enormously good fortune to look back and laugh at the Early 2020 Toilet Paper Panic. But from today’s viewpoint, bumwad might be the least of our worries. There won’t be much need for the stuff without enough food to sustain life. Or water. Medicine, heat and electricity come in handy too.

Sparsely stocked supermarket shelves have been blamed on hoarders who thwart the industry’s just-in-time system, a process credited with “robust” reliability when not challenged by irrational buying sprees. Consumer concern, on the other hand, might be understandable given the credibility of official positions such as Ottawa’s facemask flip-flop and initial arguments that closing borders would actually worsen the pandemic.

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

A North Vancouver supermarket seen in mid-March. While
stockpiling has abated, supply lines show signs of stress.
(Photo: Steeve Raye/Shutterstock.com)

Meanwhile Canadian farmers worry about the supply of foreign labour needed to harvest crops, dairy farmers dump milk for lack of short-distance transport and deadly coronavirus outbreaks force widespread closures of meat and poultry plants across Canada and the U.S.

Highlighting the latter problem were full-page ads in American newspapers from meat-packing giant Tyson Foods. “The food supply chain is breaking,” the company warned in late April. “Millions of animals—chickens, pigs and cattle—will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”

Within days the U.S. invoked the Defense Production Act, ordering meat plants to stay open despite fears of additional outbreaks. 

Just a few other pandemic-related food challenges in Canada include outbreaks at retail grocers, a shortage of packaging for a popular brand of flour and an Ontario supermarket warning customers to throw away bread in case it was tainted by an infected bakery worker.

Infrastructure supplying necessities like energy, fuel, water and communications faces pandemic-related challenges of its own, including availability of labour and expertise.

Supply chain complexity has been scrutinized in The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age. One example from author David S. Abraham was the electric toothbrush, a utensil comprising something like 35 metals that are sourced, refined and used in manufacturing over six continents.

Dissecting a 2017 smartphone, the U.S. Geological Survey found 14 necessary but mostly obscure elements. As a source country, China led the world with nine mineral commodities essential to mobile devices, and that list included rare earths in a single category.

In a recent series of COVID-19 reports on the lithium-ion necessities graphite, cobalt, lithium and nickel, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence stated: “From the raw material foundations of the supply chain in the DRC, Australia, Chile and beyond, through to the battery cell production in China, Japan and Korea, it is likely that the cells used by the Teslas of the world have touched every continent (sometimes multiple times over) before they reach the Model 3 that is driven (or drives itself) off the showroom floor.”

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

Consumers might not realize the complex
international networks behind staple items.

Or consider something more prosaic—canned tuna.

That favourite of food hoarders might be caught in the mid-Pacific, processed and canned in Thailand following extraction of bauxite (considered a critical mineral in the U.S.) in Australia, China, Guinea or elsewhere, with ore shipped for smelting to places where electricity’s cheap (China accounted for over 56% of global aluminum production last year). Then the aluminum moves on to can manufacturers, and transportation has to be provided between each point and onward to warehouses, retailers and consumers. Additional supply chains provide additional manufactured parts, infrastructure, energy and labour to make each of those processes work.

Still another supply chain produces the can opener.

Daily briefings by Canada’s federal and provincial health czars express hope that this country might “flatten the curve,” a still-unattained goal that would hardly end the pandemic when and if it’s achieved. Meanwhile the virus gains momentum in poorer, more populous and more vulnerable parts of the world and threatens a second, more deadly wave coinciding with flu season.

And if one crisis can trigger another, social order might also be at risk. Canada’s pre-virus blockades demonstrated this country’s powerlessness against a force not of nature but of self-indulgence. Even a cohesive, competent society would have trouble surviving a general infrastructure collapse, a scenario dramatized in William R. Forstchen’s novel One Second After. When transportation, communications, infrastructure and the financial system break down, so do a lot of people. Dangerous enough as individuals, they can form mobs, gangs and cartels.

How seriously Washington considers apocalyptic scenarios isn’t known. But prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had already been taking measures to reduce its dependency on China and other risky sources for critical minerals. Now, Reuters reports, COVID-19 has broadened American concerns to include other supply chains and inspired plans for an Economic Prosperity Network with allied countries. Questions remain about the extent that the West can achieve self-sufficiency and, in the U.S., whether another administration might undo the current president’s efforts.

Certainly globalist confidence persists. The Conference Board of Canada, for example, expects a slow return of supply chain operations to pre-pandemic levels but a renewed international order just the same. “Global co-operation is needed not only to tackle the health crisis, but also to restore trust in global supply chains and maintain the benefits that the growth in global trade has brought over the last two decades.”

Will supply chain challenges culminate in a long-overdue crisis?

New cars leave the manufacturing hub and disease
epicentre of Wuhan prior to the pandemic.
(Photo: humphery/Shutterstock.com)

One early COVID-19 casualty, the multi-continent diamond supply chain, already shows signs of gradual recovery according to Rapaport News. Despite mine suspensions, “there is more than enough rough and polished in the pipeline to satisfy demand as trading centres start to reopen. Belgium and Israel have eased lockdown restrictions, while India has allowed select manufacturing in Surat and special shipments to Hong Kong.”

Also struggling back to its feet is global automotive manufacturing. Writing in Metal Bulletin, Andrea Hotter outlines how the disease epicentre of Wuhan plays a vital role in making cars and supplying components to other factory centres. “If ever there was a masterclass in the need to disaster-proof a supply chain, then the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a harsh reminder to the automotive sector that it’s failing.”

So regardless of whether apocalyptic fears are overblown, there are lessons to be learned. As Benchmark points out, COVID-19 has disrupted “almost every global supply chain to such a profound extent that mechanisms for material sourcing, trade and distribution will likely never be the same again.”

In the meantime, a spare can opener or two might be prudent. Or maybe several, in case they become more valuable than bullion.

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return: GlobalData

April 28th, 2020

by Greg Klein | April 28, 2020

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return GlobalData

 

As of April 27 some 729 mines worldwide remain suspended, down from more than 1,600 shutdowns on April 3. The numbers, released by GlobalData, reflect government decisions to declare the industry an essential service, as well as implementation of new health standards and procedures. Those efforts, often involving staff reductions, contribute to “a slow return for the industry,” stated the data and analytics firm.

“Silver production is currently being severely damaged by lockdown measures,” pointed out GlobalData mining analyst Vinneth Bajaj. “As of 27 April, the equivalent of 65.8% of annual global silver production was on hold. Silver mining companies such as First Majestic, Hochschild, Hecla Mining and Endeavour Silver have all withdrawn their production guidance for 2020 in the wake of the outbreak.

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return GlobalData

“Progress has also been halted on 23 mines under construction, including the US$5.3-billion Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is one of the world’s biggest copper mines currently under development…. In Chile, while a lockdown is not in force, Antofagasta has halted work on its Los Pelambres project and Teck Resources has suspended work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase II mine.”

Jurisdictions that have lifted suspensions include Quebec, India, Argentina, Zimbabwe and South Africa, GlobalData added. Countries with government-ordered lockdowns still in force include Bolivia (until April 30), Namibia (May 4), Peru (May 10) and Mexico (May 30).

At least one Mexico operator, Argonaut Gold TSX:AR, plans to re-open on May 18 under an exception for businesses operating in municipalities with few or no cases of COVID-19.

Quebec’s resumption of mining drew strong criticism from Makivik Corporation, which represents the Inuit of the province’s Nunavik region.

“Makivik will not entertain the opening of any mines at this time in Nunavik. This is very dangerous,” said corporation president Charlie Watt on April 17. “The Inuit-elected officials in the communities and in the different regional organizations need to be heard and need to make the decisions and call the shots.”

One day later production resumed at Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine. The company stated that Nunavik authorities have banned travel between the mine and regional villages to protect the local population. Local workers stay home with compensation, while the mine employs workers from the south, including Inuit who live in the south.

Without question this is taking a toll on all of our mines and service/supply companies.—Ken Armstrong, NWT and
Nunavut Chamber of Mines

Six mines still operating in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories use similar staffing precautions. “The mines are operating with reduced workforces which they must fly in by charter from as far away as eastern Canada,” said NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Ken Armstrong. “To protect vulnerable northern communities from the virus they have sent their local employees home with pay and they are maintaining costly and unplanned virus protection measures.”

Meanwhile Labrador politicians expressed concern about renewed operations at Champion Iron’s (TSX:CIA) Bloom Lake mine on the Quebec side of the Labrador Trough. On April 28 VOCM radio reported that MP Yvonne Jones asked the company to avoid the Wabush airport in her riding and transport employees entirely through Quebec. Member of the House of Assembly Jordan Brown said contractors were making unnecessary trips to the Newfoundland and Labrador side.

Another pandemic-caused Quebec mining suspension will stay on care and maintenance due to market forces. Renard owner Stornoway Diamond stated, “Despite positive signs in the diamond market in early 2020, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the entire marketing chain and diamond price collapse.”

Prior to the suspension, Renard operated only through creditor support.

Another diamond casualty has been the Northwest Territory’s Ekati mine, which suspended operations last month. Majority owner Dominion Diamond Mines received insolvency protection on April 22.

Discovered in 1991 and opened in 1998, Ekati “provided nearly 33,000 person-years of employment, and $9.3 billion in business spending, with over half the benefits (51% of jobs and 69% of spending) going to northern residents and businesses,” the Chamber stated. “Billions of dollars in various taxes and royalties have also been paid to public and indigenous governments by the mine.”

Maintaining essential service

April 14th, 2020

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

by Greg Klein | April 14, 2020

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

A COVID-19 outbreak put Impala’s Lac des Iles on lockdown.
(Photo: Impala Canada)

 

With additional health standards in place and encouraged by a surging gold price, Quebec miners have been given a back-to-work go-ahead. On lifting a three-week suspension, the province allowed ramp-up procedures to begin April 15. A ban on non-essential industrial activities, including mineral exploration, has been extended to May 4.

Mine restarts announced so far include Eldorado Gold’s (TSX:ELD) Lamaque mine, IAMGOLD’s (TSX:IMG) Westwood operation, Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX:AEM) LaRonde complex and Goldex mine, and the Agnico Eagle/Yamana Gold TSX:YRI Canadian Malartic JV.

Glencore stated it’s “analyzing options” to restart its Raglan nickel and Matagami zinc operations in Quebec.

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold were quick to announce
Canadian Malartic’s ramp-up. (Photo: Canadian Malartic JV)

New measures mandated by the government and its health and workplace standards agencies require physical distancing, additional protective equipment, health monitoring and enhanced sanitation. The new regimen also calls for additional training and in some cases longer stints in job site accommodations to reduce travel.

But market forces aggravated by the pandemic will keep Stornoway Diamond’s Renard mine on care and maintenance. Prior to the March 24 government-ordered suspensions, Renard operated only through the support of creditors.

“We will continue to monitor the market conditions for improvements which would allow for a restart of mining activities,” said Stornoway president/CEO Patrick Godin. The diamond industry has been hit by broken supply chains as well as plunging prices.

Also on April 14 McEwen Mining TSX:MUX announced restarts of its Black Fox mine in the Timmins camp, along with the San Jose operation in Argentina. Although the Ontario government exempted mining and exploration from its list of suspensions, the company paused Black Fox for two weeks while implementing new policies and procedures.

“Our miners and teams are overwhelmingly supportive of returning to work with the new safety measures,” the company stated.

In northwestern Ontario, Implats subsidiary Impala Canada suspended its Lac des Iles palladium mine on April 13 after learning that a worker tested positive for COVID-19. By April 14 the company announced seven confirmed cases connected with LDI. 

Impala told all employees to go into isolation until April 27, during which time they’d get a $100-a-day bonus on top of base pay for the entire month. The company also arranged free hotel rooms and meals during the isolation period.

As Quebec mining resumes, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

McEwen Mining lifted the voluntary suspension
of its Black Fox operation. (Photo: McEwen Mining)

Industrial operations face numerous challenges in adapting to new health protocols. Last week the Globe and Mail reported concerns about conditions at Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) southeastern British Columbia coal operations.

A local resident “alleged that shortages of protective equipment, crowded commuter buses, packed site vehicles and ‘an absolute impossibility to self-distance because of the nature of the work,’ are fostering an environment where the virus could spread,” the paper stated.

The company had previously announced precautionary measures including “a temporary slowdown of operations and reduction of crews by up to 50%” at its B.C. mines.

According to the G&M, “Stephen Hunt, director of United Steelworkers union, which represents almost all of Teck’s B.C. workforce, said some members are satisfied the company’s mines are safe, while others are worried. He said Teck has made decent strides to reduce the risk for employees, including staggering shift start times to reduce congestion at the mine site as well as removing some of the seating on buses to ensure people are sitting at least six feet apart. Despite these precautions, he’s still on edge.”

On April 13 Cameco Corp TSX:CCO announced that the suspension of its 50%-held Cigar Lake uranium mine in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin would continue indefinitely. Orano Canada also lengthened the suspension of its 70%-held McClean Lake mill, which processes Cigar Lake ore.

The global challenges posed by this pandemic are not abating—in fact, they are deepening.—Tim Gitzel,
Cameco president/CEO

“The precautions and restrictions put in place by the federal and provincial governments, the increasing significant concern among leaders in the remote isolated communities of northern Saskatchewan, and the challenges of maintaining the recommended physical distancing at fly-in/fly-out sites with a full workforce were critical factors Cameco considered in reaching this decision,” the company stated.

President/CEO Tim Gitzel added, “The global challenges posed by this pandemic are not abating—in fact, they are deepening.”

As Quebec allows mining to resume, Canadian companies make open-or-shut decisions

April 14th, 2020

This story has been expanded and moved here.

Work suspended

March 26th, 2020

Some Canadian mining and exploration dispatches during the pandemic

by Greg Klein | March 26, 2020

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.

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.

Open and shut cases: Ontario

January 3rd, 2020

2019-2020 brings new technology, new gold, possible cobalt but diamond depletion

by Greg Klein

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Pure Gold’s plan to revive this Red Lake mine has deep-pocketed supporters.
(Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

 

Our survey of mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020 continues with a look at Ontario. This is Part 3 of a series.

 

While mining sustains the electric vehicle revolution, EVs enhance sustainability at Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) “mine of the future.” The company announced Borden’s commercial production on October 1, eight days after an official inauguration attended by representatives from industry, government and natives. The new operation boasts “state-of-the-art health and safety controls, digital mining technologies and processes, and low-carbon-energy vehicles.” The latter distinguish Borden as Canada’s first underground mine to spurn diesel-fueled vehicles in favour of EVs.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Borden’s fleet of underground EVs includes
this battery-powered bolter. (Photo: Business Wire)

Borden now begins a projected 15 years of operation, although milling takes place at the company’s Timmins-region Porcupine facility, 180 diesel-burning kilometres east.

Even so, Ottawa and Queen’s Park each contributed $5 million to subsidize the environmentally correct underground vehicles.

Borden comprises one of four mines in as many continents that Newmont Goldcorp brought to commercial production in 2019—all on schedule, within budget and, the company already claims, making a profit.

Such technical prowess might make this mechanically impractical mixed metaphor surprising, but president/CEO Tom Palmer said Borden “leverages our leading land position to anchor this new gold district in Ontario.” Anchors and levers notwithstanding, he gave up other Ontario turf by selling Red Lake to ASX-listed Evolution Mining in November. Expressing no nostalgia for an operation that was once integral to Goldcorp’s existence, the deal nonetheless contributes US$375 million to a total US$1.435 billion from three recent divestitures by Newmont Goldcorp, one of 2019’s biggest merger stories.

 

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Test mining readies Madsen for anticipated production in late 2020.
(Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

That’s not to say the company forsakes Red Lake altogether. As one of four entities together holding over 30% of Pure Gold Mining TSXV:PGM, Newmont Goldcorp backs the camp’s next miner-to-be. Other financial support comes from Rob McEwen, the man behind Goldcorp’s Red Lake success, AngloGold Ashanti NYSE:AU and especially Eric Sprott.

Having started construction in September, Pure Gold expects to start pouring yellow metal at Madsen by late 2020.

Lowering capex while speeding construction, refurbishable infrastructure from two former mines includes a 1,275-metre shaft, 27 levels of underground workings, a mill and a tailings facility.

The property gave up about 2.6 million ounces from 1938 to 1976 and 1997 to 1999. Madsen’s feasibility calls for 12.3 years to chew through a probable reserve of 3.5 million tonnes averaging 8.97 g/t for 1.01 million gold ounces. With the deposit open in all directions, Pure Gold continues exploration in hopes of extending the lifespan.

 

Ontario’s Cobalt camp, meanwhile, was much better known for silver but left a critical mineral legacy in North America’s only permitted primary cobalt refinery. With financial backing from global top cobalt producer Glencore, First Cobalt TSXV:FCC hopes to restart the facility by Q4 2020.

That depends, however, on findings of a pre-feasibility study that might get upgraded to full-feas for an initial 12-tpd operation.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Depending on feasibility and financing, First Cobalt
might reintroduce cobalt refining to North America.
(Photo: First Cobalt)

Commissioned in 1996 and on care and maintenance since 2015, the refinery was permitted for 12 tpd back in 2001. A possible advantage to the study’s economics might be the current improvement in cobalt prices, largely resulting from Glencore’s November suspension of its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The shutdown erased about 20% of worldwide cobalt production, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Should the 12-tpd scenario work out, First Cobalt plans another feasibility study for an expansion to 55 tpd in 2021, which would place the company fourth in cobalt refining outside China.

Glencore loaned US$5 million to fund the studies and could advance up to US$40 million for rehab work, to be repaid by processing Glencore feed. “The refinery will be an important strategic asset for the North American market and we look forward to working with First Cobalt to help the asset fulfill its potential,” said Nico Paraskevas, Glencore’s head of copper-cobalt marketing.

Faintly suggesting a possible North American supply chain, First Cobalt’s portfolio includes an inferred resource at the Iron Creek cobalt-copper project in Idaho. On its Ontario property, the company drilled some 23,300 metres in 2017 and 2018 around former operations which had historically been mined for silver with cobalt-copper byproducts.

 

Turning to the James Bay region, this diamond mine’s closure might have been preventable but Victor lived up to its name in a number of ways. The shutdown, for example, could have happened nearly six years earlier. Winter road blockades in 2013 almost prevented arrival of heavy crucial supplies that couldn’t be flown in. Some of the protesters from the Attawapiskat reserve 90 kilometres east wanted to renegotiate the Impact Benefit Agreement. Others reportedly wanted their dismissals rescinded.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

As humans replant a surrounding forest,
nature converts this 11-year mine to a northern lake.
(Photo: De Beers)

As quoted in the Timmins Daily Press, De Beers’ external and corporate affairs director Tom Ormsby warned that “Victor is a very solid, steady mine but it can’t keep taking all of these financial hits.”

Ontario Provincial Police initially refused to enforce a court order against the blockade, then finally moved in after protesters left voluntarily. Transport resumed and Victor lived out the rest of its nearly 11-year lifespan. Mining ended in early March 2019, by which time the total output of 8.1 million carats far surpassed the company’s original estimate of six million. Processing continued on stockpiled ore until late May.

But Tango, a smaller, lower-grade kimberlite seven kilometres away, might have added another five or six years of mining. Attawapiskat representatives, however, declined De Beers’ efforts to consult.

Victor’s closure leaves De Beers with just one mine outside Africa. The company holds the majority of a 51%/49% JV with Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPVD on Gahcho Kué in the Northwest Territories. De Beers put its NWT Snap Lake mine on extended care and maintenance in late 2015 as construction of Gahcho Kué neared completion. Efforts to sell Snap Lake proved unsuccessful.

But the global giant reiterated its interest in Canada with the 2018 purchase of Eric Friedland’s Peregrine Diamonds. That brought De Beers the Chidliak project on Baffin Island, with two of 74 kimberlites currently hosting inferred resources.

As for Victor, a $15.4-million reclamation program that began years earlier had planted its millionth tree within weeks of closure.

This is Part 3 of a four-part series.