Thursday 5th December 2019

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Posts tagged ‘gold’

Potosí’s legacy

December 5th, 2019

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

by Greg Klein

Far overshadowed by the political violence plaguing Bolivia over the last several weeks was a slightly earlier series of protests in the country’s Potosí department. Arguing that a proposed lithium project offered insufficient local benefits, residents convinced then-president Evo Morales to cancel a partnership between the state-owned mining firm and a German company that intended to open up the country’s vast but unmined lithium resources.

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

In the heart of the Andes, 4,000 metres above sea level,
the city of Potosí sits beneath the infamous Cerro Rico.
(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Other events overtook the dispute, sending Morales into exile and the country towards an uncertain future that could bring elections, military coup or civil war. Yet Potosí serves as a stark example of Bolivia’s plight: a mineral-rich land that’s one of South America’s poorest countries. That’s one of the contradictions related in Kris Lane’s recent book Potosí: The Silver City that Changed the World.

Unlike so many other New World mineral rushes, the 1545 discovery held enduring global importance. More typically, and probably more dramatically, it was “rife with paradox from the start, a site of human depravity and ingenuity, oppression and opportunity, piety and profligacy, race mixture and ethnic retrenchment,” Lane recounts. “The list could go on.”

Looming over a boom town both squalid and magnificent was the great mountain of silver, Cerro Rico. For their first century of operation its mines and mills churned out nearly half the world’s silver, and then about 20% up to 1825.

The red mountain of Potosí is still producing silver, tin, zinc, lead, and other metals, and it never seems to have stopped doing so despite many cycles since its discovery in 1545. Current estimates range from 30,000 to 60,000 tons of silver produced to date, and geologists estimate that the Cerro Rico, easily the world’s richest silver deposit, contains an equivalent amount dispersed in low-grade, refractory ores that would require sophisticated processing.

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

This huge supply came online just as Europe was suffering a “bullion famine,” Lane writes. More than gold, silver served as the world’s exchange medium. Globalization can be dated to 1571, when Spain launched trans-Pacific trade and Chinese demand for silver “reset the clock of the world’s commercial economy just as Potosí was hitting its stride.”

Yet Spain served as little more than a transfer point for its share. With longstanding armed conflicts on a number of fronts, “the king’s fifth went to fund wars, which is to say it went to pay interest on debts to Charles V’s and Philip II’s foreign creditors in southern Germany, northern Italy, and Flanders.”

As for the rest, “once taxed, most private silver went to rich merchants who had advanced funds to Potosí’s mine owners. They then settled their accounts with distant factors, moving massive mule-loads and shiploads of silver across mountains, plains, and oceans. Global commerce was the wholesale merchants’ forte, and most such merchants were junior factors linked to larger wholesalers in Lima, Seville, Lisbon, and elsewhere. Some had ties to Mexico City and later to Manila, Macao, and Goa; still others were tied to major European trading hubs such as Antwerp, Genoa, and Lyons.”

But wealth wasn’t unknown near the source. Known for its “opulence and decadence, its piety and violence,” the boom town “was one of the most populous urban conglomerations on the planet, possibly the first great factory town of the modern world…. By the time its population topped 120,000 in the early seventeenth century, the Imperial Villa of Potosí had become a global phenomenon.”

It was also a “violent, vice-ridden, and otherwise criminally prolific” contender for the world’s most notorious Sin City.

By comparison the much-later Anglo-Saxon boom towns seem small time, only partly for their ephemeral nature. But the men (and later women) who moiled for Potosí silver weren’t the adventurous free spirits of gold rush legend. Slaves and, to a greater extent, conscripted Andean natives endured the inhumane conditions “perhaps exceeded only by work in the mercury mines of Huancavelica, located at a similarly punishing altitude in Peru.”

Native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.

At the same time some natives, like some foreigners, achieved affluence as merchants, contractors or traders in bootleg ore boosted by the conscripts. Andean innovation helped keep the mines going, for example by smelting with indigenous wind furnaces after European technology failed, and using a native method of cupellation.

“Put another way, native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.”

A “noisy, crushing, twenty-four-hour polluting killer, a monster that ate men and poisoned women and children” needed some rationale for its existence. Spain’s excuse was the money-burning responsibility of defending the faith. Still “the steady beat of Potosí’s mills and the clink of its newly minted coins hammered away at the Spanish conscience. Priests, headmen, and villagers, even some local elites denounced the mita [forced native labour] as immoral. As one priest put it, even if the king’s demand for treasure was righteous, [the] Potosí and Huancavelica mitas were effectively killing New World converts in the name of financing the struggle against Old World heresy. God’s imagination could not possibly be so limited.”

More practical matters stained the empire’s reputation too, as the 1649 Potosí mint debasement scandal unfolded. World markets recoiled and Spain’s war efforts suffered as money lenders and suppliers refused the once-prized Spanish coins. “Indeed, the great mint fraud showed that when Potosí sneezed, the world caught a cold.”

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

Potosí miners, seen here in 2017, work at
surface with Cerro Rico in the background.
(Photo: SL-Photography/Shutterstock.com)

With the 1825 arrival of Simón Bolívar, “the Liberator symbolically proclaimed South American freedom from atop the Cerro Rico. Yet British investors were close on his heels.”

Foreign owners brought new investment and infrastructure. But “the turn from silver to tin starting in the 1890s revolutionized Bolivian mining and also made revolutionaries of many miners. The fiercely militant political sensibility of the Potosí miner so evident today was largely forged in the struggles of the first half of the twentieth century.”

Those clashes bring to mind events of recent weeks, in which dozens have been killed by police and military.

Lane’s narrative continues to Morales’ “seeming ambivalence” toward miners and Potosí’s transformation into a “thriving metropolis” that hopes tourism will offset mineral depletion. Meanwhile underpaid, often under-age, miners continue to toil in woefully unhealthy conditions.

The breadth of Lane’s work is tremendous. He covers Potosí’s history from global, colonial, economic and social perspectives, outlines different practices of mining and metallurgy, recites contemporary accounts and provides quick character studies of the people involved. All that gives the book wide-ranging Christmas gift potential. It also offers considerable context as the geologically bountiful country once again experiences troubled times.

International Montoro Resources finds greater massive sulphide potential at Elliot Lake, Ontario

December 3rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 3, 2019

After adding results from a ZTEM MVI inversion magnetic survey, estimates of the Pecors anomaly double in size.

 

The Serpent River property shows enhanced prospects for nickel, copper, gold, platinum and palladium, according to a recent compilation and analysis of geophysical data. International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT reported two likely massive sulphide targets over the project’s Pecors anomaly. Now measured to about 5.7 kilometres by 4.2 kilometres by 2.2 kilometres, the anomaly extends to twice the size of a previous estimate.

International Montoro Resources finds greater massive sulphide potential at Elliot Lake, Ontario

A 2015 drill program tested the property’s magnetic anomaly.

The findings come from Mira Geoscience, considered a pioneer of advanced geological and geophysical modelling. The firm analyzed data using its Geoscience Analyst 3D visualization and exploration platform.

Following a 2007 VTEM survey, Montoro sunk two holes totalling 2,322 metres in 2015. One hole intersected a magnetic anomaly’s source, a gabbro body with minor sulphides showing nickel, copper and PGE values near the base. The other hole also intersected the gabbro, finding low-grade gold, platinum, palladium, copper and nickel values, the company stated.

“In essence we are exploring for a massive sulphide nickel-copper-PGE-gold deposit,” said president/CEO Gary Musil.

Last October the company announced a 51% earn-in on the 2,250-hectare Camping Lake property in Ontario’s Red Lake district. In British Columbia’s Cariboo region, Montoro completed rock and soil sampling last July on its 2,138-hectare property bordering Defense Metals’ TSXV:DEFN Wicheeda rare earths project.

Montoro’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties held 50/50 with Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA.

Updated: Belmont Resources’ Greenwood expansion continues with new acquisitions

November 21st, 2019

Update: On November 21, 2019, the company announced two more Greenwood-area acquisitions totalling 45 hectares in the Pride of the West and Great Bear claims.

by Greg Klein | October 30, 2019

Newly acquired turf shows continued interest in an historic southern British Columbia mining camp. On October 30 Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA announced 127 hectares of new claims to add to its existing holdings in the area.

The Glenora acquisition sits adjacent to Golden Dawn Minerals’ (TSXV:GOM) Golden Crown project, about three kilometres from Golden Dawn’s processing plant and one kilometre from the former Phoenix mine.

Belmont Resources expands its presence in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

Although neighbouring deposits don’t necessarily reflect on the potential of other properties, an idea of Greenwood activity can be gleaned from historic production at Phoenix. The open pit reportedly produced over one million ounces of gold and 500 million pounds of copper up to 1978. Golden Crown reached PEA in 2017 with a resource that uses a 3.5 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff:

Indicated: 163,000 tonnes averaging 11.09 g/t gold and 0.56% copper for 11.93 g/t gold-equivalent containing 62,500 gold-equivalent ounces

Inferred: 42,000 tonnes averaging 9.04 g/t gold and 0.43% copper for 9.68 g/t gold-equivalent containing 13,100 gold-equivalent ounces

Belmont plans further assessment of Glenora while considering other possible acquisitions in the camp.

The new claims will cost the company 420,000 units on TSXV approval, with each unit containing one share and one warrant. Another 420,000 shares are payable within a year and a 1.5% NSR will apply.

Earlier this month Belmont reported sample results from its Greenwood-area Pathfinder project, with grades up to 4.999 ppm gold, 35.86 ppm silver, 20700 ppm copper and 45.1 ppm cobalt. The autumn campaign followed a summer program that returned sample assays up to 29.2 g/t gold, along with silver, copper and lead. The company currently has contract proposals under review for an airborne VTEM survey over the property.

Belmont’s portfolio also includes a 75% interest in Nevada’s Kibby Basin lithium project, where drill results have graded up to 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres. In northern Saskatchewan the company shares a 50/50 stake with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT in two uranium properties.

Belmont currently has private placements on offer totalling up to $300,000. The company closed a $252,000 private placement last June and arranged two loans totalling $50,000 in August.

Northern challenge

November 8th, 2019

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

by Greg Klein

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

 

What happens when a mining-based economy runs out of mines? The Northwest Territories risks finding out the hard way but the reason won’t be a lack of mineral resources. For too long, investors have been discouraged from backing territorial exploration. That’s the message the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines delivered to the legislative assembly in Yellowknife last month. Now the industry group awaits a response, one backed with action, as the newly elected government prepares for its four-year term.

The territory’s three mines, all diamond operations, have passed peak production, facing closures over the coming decade. The NWT hosts only a few advanced projects, none comparing in potential economic clout with the big three. The problem contrasts with the NWT’s two northern neighbours, where the industry continues to thrive.

Projections released in July by the Conference Board of Canada call for Nunavut to lead the country in annual economic expansion, with an average 4.6% up to 2025. “Mining will be the main driver of growth, as Agnico Eagle prepares to bring its Meliadine mine and Amaruq satellite deposit into operation, and Sabina works on its Back River project.”

More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.—Conference Board of Canada

Yukon “will also experience a boom, with growth of 4.6% this year and 6.2% in 2019,” again thanks to mining. But the NWT faces decline:

“Two new metal mines should help offset some of the losses for the mining sector, but not until after 2020,” the Board stated. “More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.”

A lack of exploration spending explains the lack of projects in the pipeline, according to the Chamber of Mines. “The NWT has basically been flat-lining for the last 12 years,” says executive director Tom Hoefer. “That’s a problem because that’s the very investment you need to come up with new mines.”

But it’s a problem industry can’t solve without government help, he emphasizes.

“The government goes to Roundup and other conferences with really good marketing tools and they’re putting out all the right messages, such as: ‘Come unlock our potential.’ But if it’s that easy, why hasn’t the industry picked up?” Hoefer asks.

“Well, it’s because these other things happen.”

His group outlined a number of causes in its presentation to the assembly: high cost of living, relative lack of infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty, unsettled land claims and additional expanses of land (over 30% of the territory) deemed off limits for exploration and development.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Benefiting from previously built infrastructure,
NorZinc hopes to begin zinc-lead-silver mining
at Prairie Creek by 2022. (Photo: NorZinc)

Hoefer also mentions “contortions” imposed on companies. As examples he cites some early-stage exploration projects that were sent to environmental assessment, “something that would never happen in southern Canada,” and two companies being required to collect data about lakes from which they might or might not draw water in small amounts for diamond drilling, “a totally new requirement, totally out of step with what happens in the rest of the country.

“What that says to investors is, ‘You’d better be careful when you come up to the NWT because there are these surprises coming out of the woodwork.’”

Convincing the territorial government calls for a different approach than in most of Canada. With no political parties, the Chamber deals with 19 individual MLAs tasked with working on consensus. They put together collective priorities, Hoefer explains, then create a mandate for their four-year term. His group looks forward to seeing the current mandate, expected to be released soon.

“Candidates don’t run on a platform but on a community-by-community basis, saying ‘this is what I would do for our community.’ So the challenge is pulling them all together to serve the entire NWT and try to keep them on that path over the next four years.”

Should problems remain unresolved, however, the territory risks an unfortunate repeat of late 1990s history.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Considerable infrastructure remains at the former
Pine Point operation, where Osisko Metals upgrades
Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”
(Photo: Osisko Metals)

“We were in a similar situation before the first diamond mine opened because the gold mines were winding down. At the same time Nunavut was created, and the new territory pulled a lot of funding away to create a parallel government. The Yellowknife economy really took a dive and housing prices went way down. At the time the government was actually offering $10,000 grants to encourage people to buy homes. We went through a lot of pain then, but I think a lot of people have forgotten that.”

Even Ekati seemed insufficient to buoy the economy. “But when Diavik got its approval the change was palpable. There was this big sigh of relief, money started to flow and the economy turned around.”

Now the challenge is to overturn 12 years of neglect that have made investors “gun shy about the NWT,” he says. “We have to rebuild that trust by showing that things are different now. It’s going to take all of us working together to help make it better.”

With no other industries ready to take mining’s place, “we have to encourage companies to come up here and bring their expertise to do what government can’t do, and that’s turn rock into opportunity.”

 

Current and potential mines: Comparing job numbers and durations

 

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

While updating indicated and inferred resources,
Vital Metals sees near-term potential for a short-lived
operation at its Nechalacho rare earths deposits.
(Photo: Avalon Advanced Materials)

Employment numbers reported by the Chamber for the NWT’s existing diamond mines in 2018 show 1,625 workers at Dominion Diamond Mines’ majority-held Ekati, 1,113 at Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO)/Dominion’s Diavik and 527 at De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué.

Projections for the territory’s four likeliest potential mines show estimated average annual employment of 363 workers at Prairie Creek (for 15 years), 300 at Pine Point (13 years), 225 at NICO (21 years) and 30 at Nechalacho (four years).

The NWT’s next mine will be Prairie Creek, according to NorZinc TSX:NZC. Built to near-completion by 1982 but never operated, the zinc-lead-silver project reached feasibility in 2017. The company hopes to receive its final permit, for an all-season road, this month. Should financing fall in place, NorZinc plans to begin production in 2022.

Having operated from 1964 to 1987, the Pine Point zinc-lead camp retains infrastructure including an electrical substation and an all-season 96-kilometre link to Hay River, the head of Canada’s only industrial railway north of 60. A previous operator reached PEA in 2017 but current owner Osisko Metals TSX:OM has been drilling the property to upgrade a 2018 inferred resource of 38.4 million tonnes averaging 4.58% zinc and 1.85% lead, for 6.58% zinc-equivalent, Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”

Fortune Minerals’ (TSX:FT) NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project reached feasibility in 2014 based on a mill production rate of 4,650 tpd for a combined open pit and underground operation. A further study considered but rejected a rate of 6,000 tpd. Fortune now has several other proposals under consideration to improve the project’s economics and “align the development schedule with the expected deficit in cobalt supply in 2022-23.”

The project sits about 50 kilometres north of Whati, which will have an all-season connection to Yellowknife via the Tlicho road now under construction.

Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL brought its Nechalacho rare earths project to feasibility in 2013 but this year divided the property with another company, privately owned Cheetah Resources which was taken over by ASX-listed Vital Metals in October. Under a $5-million property acquisition that closed soon after the takeover, Vital gets two near-surface deposits while Avalon retains the ground below that. Now working on an update to the indicated and inferred resources, Vital says its deposits show near-term “potential for a start-up operation.”

See the Chamber’s PowerPoint presentation to the NWT government.

Related:

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

November 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2019

A lengthy legal battle has reached a favourable decision from Spain’s Supreme Court, Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO reported November 5. The company says judges affirmed its appeal and rejected a counter-appeal regarding the tender process for the Paymogo zinc project in the country’s southwest.

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

The dispute dates back to a 2014 public tender decision that awarded the property to another company. Emerita challenged the process behind that decision, alleging procedural errors and a lack of impartiality. In 2017 the Upper Court of Andalusia ordered that the two companies’ bids be reconsidered under altered criteria. The following month, Andalusia’s regional government appealed that order to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now upheld the regional court’s decision. Emerita maintains the court-ordered tender process would award the company 34.46 points over 29.37 points for the rival bidder.

Emerita is “prepared to begin work on the Paymogo project as soon as the tender can be finalized, in line with the instructions from the courts,” said CEO David Gower. “We are highly encouraged by public statements from senior officials of the new government in Andalusia that they will abide by the rulings of the court and that they look forward to seeing the economic activity and potential job creation such a project can generate. The Paymogo project is highly prospective in our view and we are excited to work on its development.”

With paved road access to the port of Huelva about 50 kilometres away, the property sits within the Iberian pyrite belt, one of the world’s most highly mineralized VMS terrains, Emerita states. Extensive drilling at Paymogo has probed two areas about eight kilometres apart, La Infanta and Romanera. The latter hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate dating to the 1990s that showed 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 2.2% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44.4 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold. The deposit reportedly extends from surface to about 350 metres in depth.

Within that deposit is a higher-grade resource, again historic and non-43-101, showing 11.21 million tonnes grading 0.4% copper, 2.47% lead, 5.5% zinc, 64 g/t silver and 1 g/t gold.

The Infanta zone has been drilled from surface outcrops to about 100 metres in depth, with historic, non-43-101 reports from the 1980s of several high-grade copper-lead-zinc-silver intervals.

In another disputed tender, last month the company announced the Appellate Court of Seville ordered an investigation into the process for the Aznalcollar zinc-lead property, which Emerita argues was wrongfully awarded to another bidder.

Reporting on summer drilling at its Plaza Norte project last August, Emerita released an initial result of 4.57% zinc over 9.5 metres. The company holds a 50% stake in the JV near the northern Spanish coast.

Belmont Resources expands its presence in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

October 30th, 2019

This story has been updated and moved here.

International Montoro Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp

October 23rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 23, 2019

A new acquisition brings another player into a busy northwestern Ontario mining and exploration region. Under an agreement announced October 23, International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT can earn a 51% interest in the 2,250-hectare Camping Lake property on the Birch-Uchi-Confederation Lakes greenstone belt, home to the Red Lake gold deposits and Great Bear Resources’ (TSXV:GBR) attention-grabbing Dixie Lake property 20 kilometres north.

International Montoro Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp

Previous work at Camping Lake includes petrographic studies, rock, soil and lake sediment samples, IP and ground geophysics, as well as drilling. Conducted between 2010 and 2013, the work was carried out by Laurentian Goldfields, Kinross Gold TSX:K and AngloGold Ashanti NYSE:AU. Montoro plans an immediate compilation of exploration data prior to its own program.

Under the JV agreement with Falcon Gold TSXV:FG, Montoro would issue 1.5 million shares over one year and assume Falcon’s payments of $65,000 over four years. Montoro’s exploration commitments would call for $100,000 within one year and another $200,000 over the second year. On earning the initial 51%, Montoro could up its stake to 75% by paying $500,000. A 2% NSR applies.

In Ontario’s Elliot Lake district, Montoro has found nickel-copper-PGE potential in addition to historic uranium and rare earths mineralization on the company’s Serpent River project. Last month Montoro engaged Mira Geoscience to undertake an extensive study of the company’s drilling and geophysics data, along with previous work on or around the property by other companies and regional programs by the Ontario Geological Survey.

In central British Columbia’s Cariboo region, Montoro holds a 2,138-hectare property bordering Defense Metals’ TSXV:DEFN Wicheeda rare earths project.

In southern Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, Montoro holds the Duhamel titanium-vanadium-chromium prospect. The company’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties held 50/50 with Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA.

Earlier this month Montoro closed a private placement first tranche of $47,500.

Read more about International Montoro Resources.

Read more about Ontario’s Red Lake camp.

Global decline affects exploration in Canada and abroad

October 18th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 18, 2019

Some optimistic indications are already apparent but 2019 marked a generally disappointing year for exploration spending world-wide. The upturn that began in 2016 slumped in late 2018 and continued to languish through most of this year. That’s the verdict of S&P Global Market Intelligence, which announced the exploration world’s first cumulative budget decrease since 2016 and Canada’s first slip behind Australia since 2001. Commodity prices and U.S.-China trade tensions played a role, but so did corporate mergers, S&P found.

Canadian companies follow global decline in exploration

“Difficult market conditions and high-profile M&A activity have unsurprisingly impacted budgets the most, as the amount of money being raised by companies dropped sharply from November 2018 through February of this year,” said S&P’s Mark Ferguson, who co-wrote the study with Kevin Murphy. “We are encouraged, however, by some positive signs, such as the rising number of active companies, and copper recording a year-over-year increase.”

The data comes from a survey of 3,300 public and private companies to determine their spending on non-ferrous exploration within continents and regions or, in the case of top three countries Canada, Australia and the United States, within national borders.

Preliminary data shows an estimated $300-million drop in global nonferrous exploration spending this year, to $9.8 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars). But the decline was hardly uniform. Of those countries that bucked the trend, Australia attracted the highest spending increase within its borders, gaining $199 million while Canada dropped by $134 million.

Despite Latin America’s $117-million decline, the region retained global first place with $2.62 billion in spending. Australia’s $1.53 billion took second place, followed by the Rest of the World category’s $1.44 billion, Canada’s $1.31 billion, Africa’s $1.12 billion, the United States’ $944.8 million and Pacific/Southeast Asia’s $327 million.

Exploration at existing mine sites outpaced grassroots and advanced-stage projects, continuing a trend since the 1990s. This year’s mine site exploration grew by $225.6 million to reach $3.6 billion, compared with reductions of $529.4 million for advanced stage projects and $35.7 million for grassroots work. “This marks the first year that mine site allocations have accounted for the largest share of global exploration at 38.5%, with late stage dropping to 35% and grassroots almost flat at 27%,” S&P stated.

As is normally the case in high-level mergers, the exploration budgets of the combined entities are much lower than the totals budgeted by the individual pre-merger companies, with Newmont Goldcorp Corp [TSX:NGT] and Barrick Gold Corp [TSX:ABX] allocating about $48 million and $54 million less, respectively, than the two pairs of companies did in 2018.—S&P Global Market Intelligence

Among culprits for the overall decline was M&A, “most notably the Newmont-Goldcorp and Barrick Gold-Randgold tie-ups.”

Additional factors included market apprehension about China and the U.S. along with generally disappointing commodity performance. Exceptions were “mostly smaller players.” Despite rising prices in nickel and palladium, the two metals combined attracted less spending than zinc. But thanks largely to copper, base metals exploration overall rose by $191.1 million to $3.23 billion.

Diamonds increased for the second time since 2012, by $75.8 million to $304.6 million.

If gold offered encouragement, it came too late for 2019 budgets. The yellow stuff suffered the worst exploration decrease of any of the survey’s commodities, dropping by $559.4 million to $4.29 billion. Although still a contender for 2020 improvement, “any rise in gold budgets will likely be offset by lower allocations for other commodities.” As a result, S&P predicts next year’s exploration budgets “to remain fairly flat.”

Global spending by Canadian explorers will total about $2.16 billion this year, according to a forecast released by Natural Resources Canada in August (these figures in Canadian dollars). That number compares with $2.3 billion last year. Juniors are expected to pony up about $961 million and seniors another $1.2 billion, marking declines of 4% and 9% respectively from 2018.

Belmont Resources announces B.C. gold-silver-cobalt samples, appoints Greenwood veteran to BOD

October 17th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 17, 2019

Recent surface sampling at southern British Columbia’s Greenwood camp brought further encouragement to Belmont Resources’ (TSXV:BEA) Pathfinder project. The field program follows a summer campaign that yielded samples grading up to 29.2 g/t gold, as well as silver, copper and lead, from the historic mining region. The current batch shows anomalous cobalt as well:

  • 4.999 ppm gold, 35.86 ppm silver, 20700 ppm copper, 45.1 ppm cobalt
Belmont Resources announces BC gold-silver-cobalt samples, appoints Greenwood veteran to BOD

  • 0.153 ppm gold, 6.46 ppm silver, 6234 ppm copper, 148.8 ppm cobalt

  • 1.329 ppm gold, 14.07 ppm silver, 6540 ppm copper, 1486.8 ppm cobalt

  • 4.374 ppm gold, 19.5 ppm silver, 6667 ppm copper, 31.7 ppm cobalt

  • 2.172 ppm gold, 14.31 ppm silver, 6551 ppm copper, 931.6 ppm cobalt

  • 5.228 ppm gold, 17.39 ppm silver, 7302 ppm copper, 47.9 ppm cobalt

Further plans call for an airborne VTEM survey to identify drill targets. Three sides of the 296-hectare project border claims held by Kinross Gold TSX:K subsidiary KG Exploration.

Belmont also announced George Sookochoff’s appointment as director. Coming from a southern B.C. mining family, Sookochoff has served as president of GGX Gold TSXV:GGX and executive VP of Golden Dawn Minerals TSXV:GOM, two other companies active in the Greenwood camp. He’s also served as president/CEO of International PBX Ventures, now Chilean Metals TSXV:CMX, which holds copper and gold projects in Chile.

“Throughout my long career in the junior mining sector and having worked on numerous exploration projects around the world, it has always been my strong belief that the Greenwood mining camp, with its rich history in mining, still remains to be one of the best exploration areas in the world,” Sookochoff commented.

In Nevada Belmont holds a 75% interest in the Kibby Basin lithium project, where drill results have graded up to 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres.

The company’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties shared 50/50 with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT.

Last month Belmont offered a private placement of up to $510,000. The company closed a $252,000 placement in June and arranged two loans totalling $50,000 in August.

Paved with promises II

October 9th, 2019

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

by Greg Klein

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Chinese government’s majority-held Izok Corridor project
would benefit from Canadian infrastructure. (Photo: MMG Ltd)

 

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Canada would gain a deep-water arctic port, Nunavut would get its first road out of the territory and mineral-rich regions would open up if two mega-proposals come to fruition. Recent funding announcements to study the Northwest Territories’ Slave Geological Province Corridor and Nunavut’s Grays Bay Road and Port projects could lead to a unified all-season route from a highway running northeast out of Yellowknife to stretch north through the Lac de Gras diamond fields, past the Slave and Izok base and precious metals regions, and on to Arctic Ocean shipping.

In mid-August, as federal and NWT elections neared, representatives from both levels of government announced a $40-million study into a possible 413-kilometre all-season route linking the NWT’s Highway #4 with a proposed Nunavut road. The project would also extend the NWT electrical grid to the Slave region, which straddles both sides of the NWT-Nunavut border.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

Isolated Grays Bay could become an arctic shipping hub,
helping fulfill a dream that dates back to John Diefenbaker
and, not exactly a contemporary, Martin Frobisher.
(Photo: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

That same month the federal and Nunavut governments, along with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, announced $21.5 million to study a possible 230-kilometre Nunavut section. That proposal includes building a deep-sea port at Grays Bay, about midway along the Northwest Passage. Supporters hope to reach the “shovel-ready” stage in two to three years.

A “champion and proponent” of the project, KIA president Stanley Anablak said, “We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.”

KIA perseverance helped revive the proposal after Ottawa refused to provide majority funding for the $527-million estimate in April of last year, 18 months before the federal election.

Another supporter is MMG Ltd, with two advanced base metals deposits in the region: Izok holds 15 million tonnes averaging 13% zinc and 2.3% copper, while High Lake shows 14 million tonnes averaging 3.8% zinc and 2.5% copper.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Nunavut portion of a grand trans-territorial proposal.
(Map: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

The Kitikmeot region “hosts some of the world´s more attractive undeveloped zinc and copper resources,” MMG stated. “However, located near the Arctic Circle and with no supporting infrastructure, these resources have remained undeveloped since their discoveries roughly 50 years ago.”

But could a supposed nation-building project become a nation-buster, compromising sovereignty for the sake of another country’s new silk roads? The proposal’s main beneficiary “will be the Chinese government, more so than the government of Nunavut or the government of Canada,” Michael Byers told the National Post in August.

About 26% of MMG stock trades on the ASX. China’s state-owned China Minmetals Corp owns the rest.

Byers, a political science prof and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, “does not see a problem with a Chinese-controlled company operating mines in Canada,” the NP stated, “but he wonders if the company will be allowed to bring in Chinese workers to build the road and if Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill.”

The prospect of a Chinese company importing Chinese workers for a Canadian resource project has already been demonstrated by HD Mining International. In 2012 the company planned to staff underground operations at a proposed British Columbia coal mine exclusively with Mandarin-speaking Chinese. The mine was later put on hold, but not before an 18-month bulk sampling program conducted entirely by Chinese workers.

A new Grays Bay port and 350-kilometre all-season road formed part of the 2012 pre-feasibility study for MMG’s proposed mine. The company has since backed away from the estimated $6.5-billion price tag, calling for collaboration with others to build regional infrastructure.

We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.—Stanley Anablak,
president of the
Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Certainly other companies would benefit too, as would the communities represented by the KIA. And as for sovereignty, neglecting infrastructure would cause the greater setback. That’s the perspective of a Senate report issued in June that called for several measures to expand the northern economy and enhance its culture. “The impact of federal under-investment hits hardest on the Arctic’s greatest asset, Indigenous youth,” the committee emphasized. “Opportunities for nation-building can no longer be missed.”

Among the senators’ priorities were energy and communications, as well as transportation, for the benefit of communities and industry. The committee recognized that mining comprises “the largest private sector employer in the Arctic, contributing to 20% to 25% of the GDP of the northern territories and supporting about 9,000 jobs directly, or one in every six jobs.”

The report also noted “growing global interest in the Arctic and rising international rivalry outside of the Arctic. Several non-arctic states in Europe and Asia have developed arctic policies or strategies.” Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and other arctic waters depends on the principle of use it or lose it, the committee suggested.

The Northwest Passage route to Asia had been an alternative considered by Baffinland Iron Mines, the Nunatsiaq News reported last month. With ambitious infrastructure proposals of its own, the Baffin Island company currently relies on  trans-Atlantic routes to Europe and has also used Russia’s Northern Sea Route to reach Asia.

As part of its Phase II plans to increase production, Baffinland has applied for permission to build the territories’ second railway, which would run north from the Mary River mine to the company’s Milne Inlet port, now reached by a 100-kilometre freight road. The new track would precede a 150-kilometre southern rail extension to a port the company would build at Steensby Inlet. The Steensby route and facilities received environmental approvals in 2014.

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Related reading: Reaching arctic mines by sea.