Monday 18th February 2019

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Posts tagged ‘gold’

Periodic table: New version warns of elements that are endangered

January 25th, 2019

by David Cole-Hamilton, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of St Andrews | posted with permission of The Conversation | January 25, 2019

Periodic table New version warns of elements that are endangered

Period pains. (Image: European Chemical Society)

 

It is amazing to think that everything around us is made up from just 90 building blocks—the naturally occurring chemical elements. Dmitri Mendeleev put the 63 known during his time into order and published his first version of what we now recognize as the periodic table in 1869. In that year, the American Civil War was just over, Germany was about to be unified, Tolstoy published War and Peace and the Suez Canal was opened.

There are now 118 known elements but only 90 that occur in nature. The rest are mostly super-heavy substances that have been created in laboratories in recent decades through nuclear reactions and rapidly decay into one or more of the natural elements.

Where each of these natural elements sits in the periodic table allows us to know immediately a great deal about how it will behave. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of this amazing resource, UNESCO has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table.

Periodic table New version warns of elements that are endangered

Dmitri Mendeleev.
(Artwork: Marusya Chaika)

As part of the celebrations, the European Chemical Society has published a completely new version of the periodic table. (See main image.) It is designed to give an eye-catching message about sustainable development. Based on an original idea in the 1970s from the American chemist William Sheehan, the table has been completely redrawn so that the area occupied by each element represents its abundance on a log scale.

Red for danger

Each area of the new table has been colour-coded to indicate its vulnerability. In most cases, elements are not lost but, as we use them, they become dissipated and much less easy to recover. Red indicates that dissipation will make the elements much less readily available in 100 years or less—that’s helium (He), silver (Ag), tellurium (Te), gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), strontium (Sr), yttrium (Y), zinc (Zn), indium (In), arsenic (As), hafnium (Hf) and tantalum (Ta).

To give just a couple of examples, helium is used to cool the magnets in MRI scanners and to dilute oxygen for deep-sea diving. Vital rods in nuclear reactors use hafnium. Strontium salts are added to fireworks and flares to produce vivid red colours. Yttrium is a component of camera lenses to make them shock- and heat-resistant. It is also used in lasers and alloys. Gallium, meanwhile, is used to make very high-quality mirrors, light-emitting diodes and solar cells.

Meanwhile, the orange and yellow areas on the new periodic table anticipate problems caused by increased use of these elements. Green means that plenty is available—including the likes of oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), aluminium (Al) and calcium (Ca).

Four elements—tin (Sn), tantalum (Ta), tungsten (W) and gold (Au)—are coloured in black because they often come from conflict minerals; that is, from mines where wars are fought over their ownership. They can all be more ethically sourced, so it’s intended as a reminder that manufacturers must carefully trace their origin to be sure that people did not die in order to provide the minerals in question.

Smartphone shortages

Out of the 90 elements, 31 carry a smartphone symbol reflecting the fact that they are all contained in these devices. This includes all four of the elements from conflict minerals and another six with projected useful lifetimes of less than 100 years.

Let us consider indium (In), for instance, which is coloured red on the table. Every touch screen contains a transparent conducting layer of indium tin oxide. There is quite a lot of indium, but it is already highly dispersed. It is a byproduct of zinc manufacture, but there is only enough from that source for about 20 years. Then the price will start to rise quickly unless we do something to preserve current stocks.

The three main possibilities are: replace, recycle or use less. Huge efforts are being made to find alternative materials based on Earth-abundant elements. Reclaiming indium from used screens is possible and being attempted. But when we look at the periodic table and the very precious nature of so many of the elements, can we possibly justify changing our phone every two or so years?

At present over one million phones are traded every month in the UK alone, as well as 10 million in Europe and 12 million in the U.S.

At present over one million phones are traded every month in the UK alone, as well as 10 million in Europe and 12 million in the U.S. When we trade in our smartphones, many of them go to the developing world initially for reuse. Most end up in landfill sites or undergo attempts to extract a few of the elements under appalling conditions. The other elements remain in acidic brews. Along with the very many that lie around in drawers, this is how the elements in mobile phones become dissipated.

The number of phones we trade in could be greatly reduced and lower the demand on limited resources such as indium. In this context, the recent Apple profit warning, partly due to customers replacing their iPhones slightly less frequently, was at least a sign of improvement.

But as the new version of the periodic table underlines, we must do all we can to conserve and recycle the 90 precious building blocks that make up our wonderfully diverse world. If we don’t start taking these problems more seriously, many of the objects and technologies that we now take for granted may become relics of a more abundant age a few generations from now—or available only to richer people.

David Cole-Hamilton is affiliated with the UK Liberal Democratic Party. He is vice-president of the European Chemical Society (EuChemS). He is past-president of the Royal Society of Chemistry Dalton Division covering Inorganic Chemistry. He is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Education Committee, RSE Learned Societies Group on STEM Education, RSE European Strategy Group and chairs the sub-group on Research, Innovation and Tertiary Education. He is a trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation.

Posted with permission of The Conversation.

More from The Conversation:

From Visual Capitalist:

The Conversation

Getting Frank

January 23rd, 2019

Frank Holmes discusses tips, disruptors, M&A, what drives HIVE, and more

by Greg Klein

Frank Holmes discusses tips, cryptos, disruptors, peak gold, M&A and more

With over 7,000 attendees, VRIC 2019’s numbers and enthusiasm suggested a buoyant market mood.

 

Definitely one of the busiest people at this year’s Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, Frank Holmes kicked off the event with a keynote speech to a capacity crowd, one of a number of times he took the stage during the two-day event. Even so, the CEO and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors found time to sit down with Resource Clips and discuss some wide-ranging issues.

A new feature at this year’s VRIC was the Top Picks Competition, which pitted three companies he chose against three selected by Marin Katusa. The fast pace had the rivals briefly introduce each of his three picks, followed by a company rep giving a concise six-minute presentation. The packed audience rated each company from one to 10. While waiting for results to appear on the big screen, Katusa said, “Man, I’ll be depressed if I lose to Frank.”

Frank Holmes discusses cryptos, disruptors, peak gold, M&A and more

The mainstay of this year’s VRIC, Holmes
tackled issues ranging from peak gold to data mining.

But the chart showed no definite winner, at least not to those who struggle with mental math. Katusa pronounced the results a tie but Holmes confidently told Resource Clips: “I won.”

As for the format, “that model of 20 seconds per slide, capped at 20 slides, 6.4 minutes, that model is working in 900 cities,” he explained, adding that it began in 2003 with the Tokyo-based Klein-Dytham architectural firm. “The PechaKucha model will drive more interest to a company’s booth than anything else.”

But isn’t there a danger that stock tips from influential people can affect share prices more than company performance does?

“I’ve invested in all six of those companies so I’m not getting up there with anyone I haven’t vetted.”

Are they long-term holds? “They have been.”

Katusa stuck with miners but Holmes’ list included two disruptors—a soon-to-be-listed company that creates gold and platinum jewelry as tradable investments, and another company that applies machine learning to mineral exploration as well as combining quantitative and fundamental analyses of mining investment.

Frank Holmes discusses cryptos, disruptors, peak gold, M&A and more

Investors heard first-hand pitches from company reps.

Disruption seems to increasingly command Holmes’ attention, but not at the expense of good old-fashioned gold. He sees peak gold as one application for AI and machine learning.

“There are fundamental supply-demand issues, there has to be a new way to replace it. The world’s GDP per capita for China, India and America is so strong and when you look at China and India, their GDP per capita is highly correlated to gold demand for love.

“When I first got in the business there was a four-year cycle from exploration to discovery to production. Now it’s a minimum eight to 12 years. We have declining reserves and each year the mines are getting deeper and deeper, the grades are getting lower and lower, and there’s also a falloff in exploration success. The timeline for getting projects on stream is getting longer and longer. We do have peak supply.”

With the Newmont-Goldcorp buyout following closely on the Barrick-Rangold merger, M&A has returned to prominence. When asked whether the activity could have a trickle-down effect on junior explorers, the Toronto native brought up a nationalist perspective.

A locally headquartered major means “a junior explorer or mid-cap developer can knock on their door, pitch them a story and maybe they’re your partner. But now you’d have to go to Denver, and the process of what they look at is very different from what Canadians look at. So I think there’s a vacuum being created and it’s not helping the Canadian mining industry.”

Additionally, “I think Canada will be hurt because the geological brain trust that was with Barrick in Toronto will go to Europe or South Africa. With Newmont, the brain trust will go to Denver.”

Frank Holmes discusses cryptos, disruptors, peak gold, M&A and more

Attendees gleaned intel from speakers, exhibitors and each other.

He suggested gold might attract more M&A than other metals because it’s “more bullish.” Elsewhere in metals, he expects to see further shareholder activism as seen by Waterton Global Resource Management with Hudbay Minerals and Paulson & Co with Detour Gold. “I’m surprised there isn’t more in the mid-cap space,” he noted.

He considers the activism constructive—“anything that keeps people accountable.” As chairperson of cryptocurrency miner HIVE Blockchain Technologies, however, he has to account for a share price that’s plunged about 78% over the last year.

“All of us are down, but it’s only because of the Bitcoin and Ethereum prices,” he said. “With gold stocks, most of them rise or fall as gold rises or falls that day. They correlate. What HIVE has done is become a proxy [for buying cryptos]. So HIVE has become incredibly liquid and moves every day with the price action of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Bitcoin and Ethereum have a volatility such that if gold’s daily volatility is 1%, their daily volatility is 6% to 8%. So that’s what drives HIVE. If Bitcoin goes this quarter to $10,000, we’ll go to a dollar. And if Bitcoin falls, we’ll go down with it. We’re at the mercy of where the cryptocurrencies are going. But the positive part for an investor or trader is that you can call up during market hours and use that as a proxy.”

One indication of continuing crypto enthusiasm, he added, was a very strong turnout at the previous week’s North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami, despite a hefty admission fee.

As for VRIC, he likes the event for “energy—it’s the vibe, what people are talking about. Are they skewing to optimism, or to doubt and fear and pessimism? I get the energy and vibrations here, and whether there’s an appetite for risk. This is all venture capital. Most of these companies are speculation. As I said at the opening, I’m so happy people came here and didn’t go to the casino or buy a lottery ticket to speculate.”

Watch for videos of VRIC presentations to be posted in the coming weeks by Cambridge House International.

Frank Holmes discusses cryptos, disruptors, peak gold, M&A and more

Moderated by Daniela Cambone, the Ultimate Gold Panel
included Holmes, Peter Hug, Roy Sebag and Peter Schiff.

 

Frank Holmes discusses tips, disruptors, M&A, what drives HIVE, and more

Although soliciting was strictly prohibited,
a hint of hustle might have been evident.

Ximen Mining and GGX Gold report more high-grade, near-surface gold-silver with tellurium from B.C.

January 21st, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 21, 2019

Ximen Mining and GGX Gold report more high-grade, near-surface gold and silver with tellurium from southern B.C.

Visible gold brings new potential to an historic British Columbia camp.

 

Heralding the results as once again “some of the highest-grade intersections ever drilled over the last 100 years in the Greenwood gold mining camp,” Ximen Mining TSXV:XIM CEO Chris Anderson welcomed the latest Gold Drop news from optionee GGX Gold TSXV:GGX. The property was one of the former gold and silver mining sites in the historic camp about 500 kilometres by highway east of Vancouver.

Following the previous week’s batch featuring 129 g/t gold and 1,154 g/t silver over 7.28 metres, these assays come from the final four holes of an 11-hole November campaign on the southern extension of Gold Drop’s COD vein. All holes were sunk within 25 metres of two 2018 holes and “suggest a continuous high-grade gold mineralized structure has been confirmed,” Ximen stated.

The standout of this batch was COD18-70, which showed:

  • 107.5 g/t gold and 880 g/t silver over 6.9 metres, starting at 22.57 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 541 g/t gold, 4,532 g/t silver and >500 g/t tellurium over 0.85 metres)
Ximen Mining and GGX Gold report more high-grade, near-surface gold and silver with tellurium from southern B.C.

Some other highlights featured:

COD18-68

  • 8.77 g/t gold, 85.4 g/t silver and 56.3 g/t tellurium over 2.76 metres, starting at 19.49 metres
  • (including 14.47 g/t gold, 131.8 g/t silver and 87.9 g/t tellurium over 1.39 metres)

COD18-69

  • 5.76 g/t gold, 67.9 g/t silver and 61.2 g/t tellurium over 7.46 metres, starting at 26.72 metres
  • (including 9.77 g/t gold, 95 g/t silver and 110 g/t tellurium over 0.8 metres)
  • (and including 70.9 g/t gold, 569 g/t silver and 278 g/t tellurium over 0.4 metres)

True widths were unavailable.

GGX acts as operator under an option to earn 100% of the project. Should GGX fulfill the 100%, Ximen may form a JV by reimbursing GGX 30% of its spending to that date. Ximen retains a 2.5% NSR.

Also in southern B.C., Ximen plans springtime underground drilling and remedial work for its flagship Brett project in the Okanagan region. Metallurgical tests on 1990s material stockpiled during early-stage mine development support an historic report of 4 g/t to 5 g/t gold, the company announced in November.

About a three and a half hour drive northeast of Vancouver, Ximen holds the Treasure Mountain property near Nicola Mining’s (TSXV:NIM) Treasure Mountain silver project, the location of underground mining in 2008 and 2013.

In late December Ximen closed a private placement of $540,000 and offered another private placement of $250,000.

Ximen Mining/GGX Gold report near-surface 129 g/t gold and 1,154 g/t silver over 7.28 metres in B.C.

January 14th, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 14, 2019

Ximen Mining GGX Gold report near-surface 129 g/t gold and 1,154 g/t silver over 7.28 metres in B.C.

Gold Drop gives up high grades near surface at B.C.’s historic Greenwood camp.

 

With assays from seven of 11 November holes now in, Ximen Mining TSXV:XIM and GGX Gold TSXV:GGX report high gold and silver grades along with tellurium at the Gold Drop project in southern British Columbia’s Greenwood camp. All from near-surface intervals on the southern extension of the property’s COD vein, the batch featured a standout result of 129.1 g/t gold and 1,154.9 g/t silver over 7.28 metres. GGX operates the project under option from Ximen.

A closer look at hole COD18-67 shows the breakdown of sub-intervals:

  • 129.1 g/t gold and 1,154.9 g/t silver over 7.28 metres, starting at 23.19 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 106 g/t gold, 1,250 g/t silver and >500 g/t tellurium over 0.37 metres)
  • (and including 232.1 g/t gold, 2,001.1 g/t silver and >500 g/t tellurium over 3.13 metres)
  • (and including 143 g/t gold, 1,372.9 g/t silver and >500 g/t tellurium over 0.77 metres)
Ximen Mining GGX Gold report near-surface 129 g/t gold and 1,154 g/t silver over 7.28 metres in B.C.

Some of the program’s other highlights showed:

COD18-61

  • 5.29 g/t gold, 32.4 g/t silver and 31.4 g/t tellurium over 1.38 metres, starting at 22.62 metres

COD18-63

  • 28 g/t gold, 424.7 g/t silver and 150.4 g/t tellurium over 1.17 metres, starting at 26.14 metres
  • (including 49.7 g/t gold, 787 g/t silver and 245 g/t tellurium over 0.59 metres)

COD18-66

  • 6.97 g/t gold, 46.8 g/t silver and 34.4 g/t tellurium over 0.94 metres, starting at 22.96 metres

True widths were unavailable.

The autumn campaign followed two initial holes sunk last August within 25 metres’ distance. Again at near surface, those results featured 50.15 g/t gold and 375 g/t silver over 2.05 metres for COD18-45, along with 54.9 g/t gold and 379 g/t silver over 1.47 metres for COD18-46.

Drilling and trenching have traced COD’s mineralized vein system for about 400 metres in strike, remaining open to the northeast, at depth and possibly to the southwest, the operator stated.

Gold Drop was one of the sites of historic gold and silver mining in the Greenwood camp, roughly 500 kilometres by highway east of Vancouver.

The Gold Drop option allows GGX to earn 100% of the project, with Ximen retaining a 2.5% NSR. If GGX completes the 100% earn-in, Ximen may form a JV by reimbursing GGX 30% of its work expenses to that date.

Ximen’s flagship Brett project in southern B.C.’s Okanagan region has underground drilling and remedial work planned for spring. In November the company announced that results from a batch test supported an historic report of 4 g/t to 5 g/t gold from material stockpiled when a mine portal was built during the 1990s. Ximen plans further metallurgical tests on the stockpiled material.

In southwestern B.C., Ximen holds the Treasure Mountain property proximal to Nicola Mining’s (TSXV:NIM) Treasure Mountain silver project, where underground mining took place briefly in 2008 and 2013.

After closing a private placement of $540,000 in late December, Ximen offered another private placement of $250,000.

World Gold Council hedges its forecasts for 2019

January 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 11, 2019

Both financial market instability and structural economic improvements bode well for its favourite metal, the World Gold Council reports. The WGC’s Outlook 2019 attributes an optimistic price outlook to an interplay of those two factors along with U.S. interest rates and the dollar.

Bullion and gold-backed ETFs would benefit as savings, investments, jewelry and technology drive up demand. The prognosis also sees central bank demand continuing to rise. Last year’s sovereign purchases reached the highest level since 2015 “as a wider set of countries added gold to their foreign reserves for diversification and safety.”

Accentuating gold’s safe haven status would be the financial market uncertainty apparent in higher volatility, European instability, protectionist policies and “an increased likelihood of a global recession,” the report states.

“Stubbornly low” bond yields offer poor protection against uncertainty, the WGC notes. Meanwhile Europe’s economy lags behind the U.S. as the continent faces Brexit, social unrest in France and separatism in Spain, among other challenges. Increasing protectionism and trade war rhetoric threaten economies with inflation and restrictions to “the flow of capital, goods and labour.”

Comprising 70% of consumer gold demand, emerging markets remain “very relevant” to gold’s long-term performance. China’s Belt and Road projects boost regional economic and infrastructure development. India’s economic modernization should continue last year’s 7.5% growth into 2019, “outpacing most global economies and showing resilience to geopolitical uncertainty.

“Given its unequivocal link to wealth and economic expansion, we believe gold is well poised to benefit from these initiatives. We also believe that gold jewellery demand will strengthen in 2019 if sentiment is positive, while increase marginally should uncertainty remain.”

To the allure of gold, the WGC attributes its returns on investment and its liquidity. Additionally, the metal provides an almost unique hedge that often correlates with the market in good times but detaches itself during negative periods, the council states.

While a stronger U.S. economy and dollar could stall gold, the last two months have shown a correction in equities along with weaknesses in other assets, said Joseph Cavatoni, WGC managing director for the U.S. and ETFs. With political uncertainty also troubling investors “we’re going to see gold start to have a much more relevant role to play in people’s investment portfolios.”

Not without skin in the game itself, the WGC represents some of the world’s top gold miners.

Download Outlook 2019: Global economic trends and their impact on gold.

IBM Canada partner Mark Fawcett comments on Goldcorp’s AI success at Red Lake

January 11th, 2019

…Read more

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

January 10th, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

Metal bull cases

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

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

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

Overarching trends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Visual Capitalist at Booth #1228 at #VRIC19.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Click here for free VRIC registration up to January 11.

Read more about the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference.

VRIC returns

January 9th, 2019

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

by Greg Klein

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

Capacity crowds packed keynote speeches at VRIC 2018.

 

Described as the bellwether of junior mining for 25 years, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference maintains that reputation by adapting its content to ever-changing times. The event returns January 20 to 21 with a busy agenda and new features to keep the Convention Centre buzzing with insights, perspectives and the always anticipated tips. With about 360 exhibitors and nearly 70 speakers signed so far, Jay Martin expects to see 8,000 to 9,000 attendees, a number that bodes well for the sector overall.

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

Impromptu discussion brought together speakers,
company reps and investors at last year’s conference.

“I’m really happy with the advance registration—it’s above last year even though the market hasn’t been fantastic,” says the president/CEO of Cambridge House International. “But Q4 was really strong for gold compared to the Dow and the S&P, and gold stocks did relatively well.”

Although just one of many commodities to come under VRIC scrutiny, gold has regained its importance to market watchers. But Martin’s also excited about some new events scheduled this year, among them a competition that pits two of the best-known stock pickers against each other. Audience participation promises to make the contest even more unpredictable.

“When you walk into the Main Speaker Hall on Sunday morning, you’ll be handed a little electronic voting device, kind of like a cellphone but much simpler. Frank Holmes will open up with a 20-minute keynote and then we get into a battle between Frank Holmes and Marin Katusa with their top three stock picks. The companies get up and give a really quick six-minute pitch. Then we ask the audience to vote in real time on their top pick. The results go live on the big screen.

“Then we ask the audience a second question: ‘Which fund manager, Marin or Frank, would you trust with your money?’ That’ll really put some pressure on these guys.”

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

Of course the ultimate test will be the stocks’ subsequent performance. But another first for VRIC will be the iconoclastic Rex Murphy. Far beyond the narrow pale of Canadian journalism, the social and political commentator nevertheless is tolerated by the National Post and CBC, probably because he delivers his scathing pronouncements with such entertaining wit.

“He’s kind of an ambassador for the Canadian resource sector, he’s always been very outspoken in its defence,” Martin points out. “He’ll do a keynote and also sit on a panel to discuss the future of Canada’s resource economy and the junior mining sector. Rex has strong views on the resource sector although he doesn’t come from the industry. He’ll have a different perspective on how things work and how things will turn out.”

More iconoclasm, on the geopolitical front, will likely come from Jayant Bhandari who joins a roster of speakers including Katusa, Holmes, Gianni Kovacevic, Daniela Cambone and Brent Cook among other mining commentators, portfolio managers, newsletter writers, commodities analysts and company executives.

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

The latter category will be out in force at the Exhibit Hall too, representing 360 or more firms and ready to discuss their projects in person. Attendees can also sign up to meet CEOs over coffee in the Deal Room.

An exciting VRIC agenda and impressive pre-registration has Martin buoyant about the market’s prospects.

“I’ve been cautiously optimistic for a couple of years but there’s a lot going on right now that could suggest there’s going to be a rally,” he explains. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the U.S. markets, more than we’ve seen since 2008, bigger corrections than we’ve seen since 2008, and historically we’ve seen investors trend towards hard assets and conservative investments, and that’s gold and gold stocks. We’re seeing that boost already. If you look at Kirkland, Newmont, the big gold producers, they had a great fourth quarter. No other big stocks did. That’s classic behaviour. If you look at the gold price in Q4, we haven’t seen that in a long time. I look at investor registration at gold conferences, public company treasuries and marketing spend, and I see an increase in all three of those. I’m seeing all the right things.”

As a result, he expects yellow metal to regain prominence. “At our last three or four events, energy metals were the biggest draw. What we’re seeing leading up to this show is that gold is taking that position. We’re getting more interest in our gold companies, speakers and features. I expect the gold topics, conversations and panels to be the best-attended of this event.”

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference turns opportunity into an event

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2019 takes place January 20 to 21 at the
Vancouver Convention Centre West. To avoid the $30 admission fee, click here for free registration.

DRC on the brink

January 3rd, 2019

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

by Greg Klein

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

 

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

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

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

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

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

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

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Updated: DRC’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

December 31st, 2018

This story has been updated, expanded and moved here.