Monday 13th July 2020

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Crisis response

April 3rd, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains under the pandemic

by Greg Klein | April 3, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

 

Idled explorers: Can you help?

“Essential supplies and personnel are needed to create and operate temporary facilities for testing, triage, housing and isolation areas for vulnerable populations,” states the Association for Mineral Exploration. “As mineral explorers, we have access to the supplies needed and are in a unique position to help.”

AME calls on the industry to contribute excess capacity of the following:

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

  • Camp support personnel such as caterers, housekeepers, janitors, etc.

  • Available medical staff including such qualifications as OFA3s, paramedics, RNs, etc.

  • Other supplies or skills

If you can help, please fill out this form and AME will be in touch. 

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

Preparing for a wider emergency

Given the danger of one crisis triggering others, essential infrastructure remains at risk. One plan to safeguard Ontario’s electricity service would require Toronto workers to bunk down in employer-supplied accommodation under lockdown conditions better known to isolated locations.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Quarantines might require essential
services to provide job-site bed and board.
(Photo: Independent Electricity System Operator)

It hasn’t happened yet, but the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator stands ready for the possibility, according to a Canadian Press story published by the Globe and Mail. A not-for-profit agency established by the province, the IESO co-ordinates Ontario electricity supply to meet demand.

About 90% of its staff now work at home but another 48 employees must still come into work, CEO Peter Gregg said. Eight six-person teams now undergo 12-hour shifts in two Toronto-area control rooms.

“Should it become necessary, he said, bed, food and other on-site arrangements have been made to allow the operators to stay at their workplaces as a similar agency in New York has done,” CP reported.

Similar plans may well be underway not only for essential infrastructure but also for essential production, processing, manufacturing, communications, transportation and trade. One sign of the times to come could be locked-down camps in supermarket parking lots for our under-appreciated retail-sector heroes.

Meanwhile, retaining and protecting care-home staff already constitute a crisis within a crisis.

Australia guards against predatory foreign takeovers

With China prominently in mind, Australia has taken extra measures to protect companies and projects shattered by the COVID-19 economy. Canberra has temporarily granted its Foreign Investment Review Board extra powers to guard distressed companies and assets against acquisitions by opportunistic foreigners. Although previous foreign acquisitions came under review only when the price passed certain thresholds, now all such transactions get FIRB scrutiny.

The changes follow concerns raised by MPs on Australia’s intelligence and security committee. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted committee chairperson Andrew Hastie warning of “foreign state-owned enterprises working contrary to our national interest. More than ever, we need to protect ourselves from geo-strategic moves masquerading as legitimate business.”

Committee member Tim Wilson added, “We can’t allow foreign state-owned enterprises and their business fronts to use COVID-19’s economic carnage as a gateway to swoop distressed businesses and assets.”

Among protected assets are exploration and mining projects, utilities, infrastructure and an interest of 20% or more in a company or business.

Critical minerals become ever more critical

As Lynas Corp extended the suspension of its rare earths processing facility in line with Malaysian government pandemic orders, the company noted the importance of its products “in permanent magnets used in medical devices including ventilators, and in lanthanum products used in oil refineries for petroleum production.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

The suspension of its Malaysian plant prompted
Lynas to emphasize REs’ criticality to virus treatment.
(Photo: Lynas Corp)

Originally set to expire on March 31, the government order currently stays in force until April 14. RE extraction continues at Lynas’ Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.

In late February Malaysia granted the company a three-year licence renewal for the processing facility, which had been threatened with closure due to controversy about its low-level radioactive tailings. Among conditions for the renewal are development of a permanent disposal facility for existing waste and putting a cracking and leaching plant in operation outside Malaysia by July 2023 to end the practice of transporting radioactive material to the country.

Committed to maintaining a non-Chinese supply chain, the company plans to locate the C&L plant in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Sharing the disease, hoarding the treatment

A problem recognized in American defence procurement has hit health care—the need to build non-Chinese supply chains. Most of the world’s ventilators and about half the masks are manufactured in China, points out a recent column by Terry Glavin.

The West is learning, finally and the hard way, “that thriving liberal democracies cannot co-exist for long within a model of neo-liberal globalization that admits into its embrace such a tyrannical state-capitalist monstrosity as the People’s Republic of China.”

The U.S., for example, relies heavily on China for antibiotics, painkillers, surgical gowns, equipment that measures blood oxygen levels and magnetic resonance imaging scanners. China effectively banned medical equipment exports as soon as Wuhan went on lockdown, Glavin adds.

“It probably didn’t help that Ottawa sent 16,000 tonnes of gear to China back in February. That was a lot of gear—1,101 masks, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 medical coveralls, 200,000 pairs of gloves and so on—but a drop in Beijing’s bucket. A New York Times investigation last month found that China had imported 56 million respirators and masks, just in the first week of the Wuhan shutdown.

“It is not known how much of that cargo came from the massive bulk-buying campaign organized and carried out across Canada by affiliates of the United Front Work Department, the overseas propaganda and influence-peddling arm of the Chinese Communist Party.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Desperate need for health care supplies
pits country against country. (Photo: 3M)

Nor does the non-Chinese world display altruism. In response to the crisis, the EU and more than 50 countries have either banned or restricted exports of medical equipment, Glavin states.

By April 3 global health care products supplier 3M revealed that Washington asked the company to stop exporting U.S.-manufactured N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America. 3M noted “significant humanitarian implications” but also the possibility of trade retaliation. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.”

The company did win China’s permission to import 10 million of its own Chinese-manufactured N95s into the U.S.

Meanwhile the Canadian government comes under increasing criticism for discouraging the public from wearing masks.

Chinese supply chains also jeopardized by Chinese disease

As the world’s main exporter of manufactured goods, China’s the main importer of raw materials, especially metals. But, as the world’s main exporter of disease, China managed to threaten its own supplies.

Reuters columnist Andy Home outlined lockdown-imposed cutbacks of copper, zinc and lead from Chile and Peru, and chrome from South Africa; reductions in cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in tin from already depleting Myanmar, and in nickel from the Philippines, the latter a hoped-for replacement after Indonesia banned unprocessed exports.

The longer the lockdowns, “the greater the potential for supply chain disruption,” Home comments. “As the biggest buyer of metallic raw materials, this is a ticking time-bomb for China’s metals producers.”

Miners’ providence unevenly distributed

Probably no other foreign shutdowns have affected as many Canadian miners and explorers as that of Mexico. Considered non-essential, their work will be suspended until April 30, with extensions more than likely. Mexico’s announcement must have sounded familiar to Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS, which had already pressed the pause button to comply with national quarantines in Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. That currently limits the company’s mining to Timmins, where production has been reduced by about 10% to 20% to allow physical distancing.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Mauritania exempted Kinross Gold’s Tasiast mine
from domestic travel restrictions. (Photo: Kinross Gold)

One company more favourably located, so far, is Kinross Gold TSX:K. As of April 1, operations continued at its seven mines in Nevada, Alaska, Brazil, Mauritania, Russia and Ghana, while work went on at its four non-producing projects in Alaska, Mauritania, Russia and Chile.

Expanded shutdowns ordered by Ontario on April 3 include many construction and industrial projects but exempt mining. Earlier that day New Gold TSX:NGD announced Rainy River’s restart after a two-week suspension to allow self-isolation among employees. Many of the mine’s workers live locally and made short trips into Minnesota before the border closed.

Quebec border restrictions have hindered the Ontario operations of Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, cutting off a source of employees and contractors. As a result the company reduced production at its Macassa mine and suspended work at its Holt complex, comprising three gold mines and a mill. Kirkland reduced operations at its Detour Lake mine effective March 23, after a worker showed COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolated on March 14. He tested positive on March 26. Production continues at the company’s Fosterville mine in Australia.

Some explorers have been idled by government restrictions, others by market conditions. Still, some companies have money and jurisdictions in which to spend it. Liberty Gold TSX:LGD, for example, resumed drilling its Black Pine gold project in Idaho on March 31.

Some jurisdictions, like B.C. and New Brunswick, have extended work requirement deadlines to help companies keep exploration claims active.

“China needs to be held responsible”

A few Canadian journalists are saying what we might never hear from our politicians. Here, for example, is Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein:

“China needs to be held responsible. The problem is, because of its political power— and you see it in the World Health Organization announcements, in Canadian announcements—they’ve been praising what China did. There would have been a virus anyway. China made it worse. More people are dying, more people are being infected, and its dictators need to be held to account.”

Visual Capitalist considers the hydrogen city: How hydrogen can help achieve zero emissions

May 14th, 2019

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 14, 2019

In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities can improve the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the paradox

This infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The hydrogen city How hydrogen can help achieve zero emissions

 

The urban economic engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and, according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050—or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization, which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Furthermore, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and CO2 emissions.

The hydrogen-fueled city

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossil fuels are used today for heat, power and transportation.

When used, hydrogen and fuel cell technology creates water vapour and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050 hydrogen could generate annually:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity

  • 10% of the heat and power required by households

  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

See Part 1 of this series: Evolution of hydrogen, from the Big Bang to fuel cells.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

A 2016 retrospect

December 20th, 2016

Was it the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

by Greg Klein

Some say optimism was evident early in the year, as the trade shows and investor conferences began. Certainly as 2016 progressed, so did much of the market. Commodities, some of them anyway, picked up. In a lot of cases, so did valuations. The crystal ball of the industry’s predictionariat often seemed to shine a rosier tint. It must have been the first time in years that people actually stopped saying, “I think we’ve hit bottom.”

But it would have been a full-out bull market if every commodity emulated lithium.

By February Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported the chemical’s greatest-ever price jump as both hydroxide and carbonate surpassed $10,000 a tonne, a 47% increase for the latter’s 2015 average. The Macquarie Group later cautioned that the Big Four of Albermarle NYSE:ALB, FMC Corp NYSE:FMC, SQM NYSE:SQM and Talison Lithium had been mining significantly below capacity and would ramp up production to protect market share.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

That they did, as new supply was about to come online from sources like Galaxy Resources’ Mount Cattlin mine in Western Australia, which began commissioning in November. The following month Orocobre TSX:ORL announced plans to double output from its Salar de Olaroz project in Argentina. Even Bolivia sent a token 9.3 tonnes to China, suggesting the mining world’s outlaw finally intends to develop its lithium deposits, estimated to be the world’s largest at 22% of global potential.

Disagreeing with naysayers like Macquarie and tracking at least 12 Li-ion megafactories being planned, built or expanded to gigawatt-hour capacity by 2020, Benchmark in December predicted further price increases for 2017.

Obviously there was no keeping the juniors out of this. Whether or not it’s a bubble destined to burst, explorers snapped up prospects, issuing news releases at an almost frantic flow that peaked in mid-summer. Acquisitions and early-stage activity often focused on the western U.S., South America’s Lithium Triangle and several Canadian locations too.

In Quebec’s James Bay region, Whabouchi was subject of a feasibility update released in April. Calling the development project “one of the richest spodumene hard rock lithium deposits in the world, both in volume and grade,” Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX plans to ship samples from its mine and plant in Q2 2017.

A much more despairing topic was cobalt, considered by some observers to be the energy metal to watch. At press time instability menaced the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces an estimated 60% of global output. Far overshadowing supply-side concerns, however, was the threat of a humanitarian crisis triggered by president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate on December 20.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

But the overall buoyant market mood had a practical basis in base metals, led by zinc. In June prices bounced back from the six-year lows of late last year to become “by far the best-performing LME metal,” according to Reuters. Two months later a UBS spokesperson told the news agency refiners were becoming “panicky.”

Mine closures in the face of increasing demand for galvanized steel and, later in the year, post-U.S. election expectations of massive infrastructure programs, pushed prices 80% above the previous year. They then fell closer to 70%, but remained well within levels unprecedented over the last five years. By mid-December one steelmaker told the Wall Street Journal to expect “a demand explosion.”

Lead lagged, but just for the first half of 2016. Spot prices had sunk to about 74 cents a pound in early June, when the H2 ascension began. Reaching an early December peak of about $1.08, the highest since 2013, the metal then slipped beneath the dollar mark.

Copper lay at or near five-year lows until November, when a Trump-credited surge sent the red metal over 60% higher, to about $2.54 a pound. Some industry observers doubted it would last. But columnist Andy Home dated the rally to October, when the Donald was expected to lose. Home attributed copper’s rise to automated trading: “Think the copper market equivalent of Skynet, the artificial intelligence network that takes over the world in the Terminator films.” While other markets have experienced the same phenomenon, he maintained, it’s probably the first, but not the last time for a base metal.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

Nickel’s spot price started the year around a piddling $3.70 a pound. But by early December it rose to nearly $5.25. That still compared poorly with 2014 levels well above $9 and almost $10 in 2011. Nickel’s year was characterized by Indonesia’s ban on exports of unprocessed metals and widespread mine suspensions in the Philippines, up to then the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore.

More controversial for other reasons, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte began ordering suspensions shortly after his June election. His environmental secretary Regina Lopez then exhorted miners to surpass the world’s highest environmental standards, “better than Canada, better than Australia. We must be better and I know it can be done.”

Uranium continued to present humanity with a dual benefit—a carbon-free fuel for emerging middle classes and a cautionary example for those who would predict the future. Still oblivious to optimistic forecasts, the recalcitrant metal scraped a post-Fukushima low of $18 in December before creeping to $20.25 on the 19th. The stuff fetched around $72 a pound just before the 2011 tsunami and hit $136 in 2007.

Infographic: Countries of origin for raw materials

November 16th, 2016

Graphic by BullionVault | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 16, 2016

Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well or forest somewhere in the world.

This infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee and iron.

Infographic Countries of origin for raw materials

 

The many and the few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials are interesting to examine because the production of certain commodities is much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil-producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia—but that only makes up 38% of the total market.

Contrast this with the market for some base metals such as iron or lead and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, so it tries to get them domestically. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: It is the second-largest producer for each of those commodities and ships much of its output to Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison with the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

Graphic by BullionVault | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Chris Berry examines nickel, its paradox and potential

October 23rd, 2015

by Greg Klein | October 23, 2015

What happened to the nickel bull? Chris Berry sees an interesting contrarian case study and a pricing paradox that might indicate a future supply deficit. His latest Zimtu Research report looks at the factors that kept prices down despite a 2014 export ban by Indonesia, then the source of 15% of global supply.

But he considers the current price as not only unsustainable but “sowing the seeds for higher nickel prices in the coming years and, along with it, additional exploration and development.”

His conclusion states, “One would think that those companies brave enough to be developing early-stage nickel deposits at this point in the commodity cycle could fill the gap of lost production in coming years. This is of course all subject to a rebound in the nickel price. This rebound could commence as early as next year…”

Berry’s six-page report shows his usual combination of clarity, detail and insight, as he discusses prospects for one of the “most ubiquitous” metals in our lives.

Download A Closer Look at Nickel: An Unsustainable Current Reality?

Read about Chris Berry’s Zimtu Research report on magnesium.

Vale to add at least 15 years to Voisey’s Bay lifespan

August 10th, 2015

by Greg Klein | August 10, 2015

The commitment was made in March 2013 but confirmed August 10: Vale NYE:VALE intends to develop two underground deposits that would extend its Voisey’s Bay nickel operation past 2035. A joint announcement by the company and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador projected hundreds of construction jobs as well as a workforce that would grow from 450 to 850 people at the mine and its Long Harbour processing plant.

Vale to add at least 15 years to Voisey’s Bay lifespan

Production began in 2005 and will continue past
2035 as Voisey’s Bay goes underground.

“We are very excited about our future here and we look forward to the continued support of all of our stakeholders as we move forward,” said Stuart Macnaughton, Vale’s Newfoundland and Labrador VP.

The Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps deposits sit adjacent to the current open pit. Procurement planning begins immediately, with construction slated to start next year. The company expects to begin ore production by 2020.

Although Vale made the commitment with the province in 2013, confirmation had been expected last June following completion of an engineering report. The mine, which opened in 2005 following the historic 1993 discovery, currently produces 6,000 tonnes per day of nickel-cobalt-copper and copper concentrate.

Long Harbour, a $4.3-billion hydrometallurgical facility 117 kilometres west of Saint John’s, is expected to begin processing Voisey’s concentrate next year after ramping up operations. While Long Harbour began operations in 2014 with higher-grade concentrate from Indonesia, Voisey’s material still goes to Vale’s Sudbury and Thompson locations for processing.

Disruption and energy metals

June 4th, 2015

Old paradigms can’t meet emerging demands, says Chris Berry

by Greg Klein

There was a time when epoch-making events happened, well, only every epoch or so. Now upheavals in technology, demographics and business bring “disruption” to mind more frequently. But whether the word’s a cliché or not, Chris Berry insists real disruption, not incremental change, will be necessary to accommodate new and emerging market forces. The president of House Mountain Partners and co-editor of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal sees particular significance for energy minerals.

Speaking at a May 31 Canvest ’15 presentation, Berry portrayed Western economies as slowing, stagnant or even shrinking. Productivity, to offer one key metric, has stalled. That’s holding back wages, consumption and growth.

Old paradigms can’t meet emerging demands, says Chris Berry

Chris Berry: Incremental growth can’t
meet the needs of emerging markets.

Another pull on Western economies is what Berry calls the supercycle hangover. “The first decade of the century saw unprecedented increases in metal prices and metals demand. In addition to that, what we also saw was increases in supply, increases in capacity, the expectation and thinking being that metals prices would either continue to increase or stay permanently high for longer, and that demand from the Chinas, the Indias, the Indonesias of the world would underpin that. Obviously that has not happened.”

But while countries like China and India have slowed their rate of growth, they’re still growing “in many cases well above global GDP.” Can they be accommodated by change that occurs at a merely incremental rate?

Berry thinks not—not when some 600 million people in Africa, half the continent’s population, lack reliable access to electricity. Or when China’s population is only 53% urbanized. In India the figure drops to 32%. “Talk to demographics experts, economists, they say 75% is the benchmark,” Berry said.

Africans, Chinese and Indians “know how we live and ultimately aspire to that,” Berry maintained. But “the current economic paradigm, the growth model, obviously has failed.”

At the same time, deflationary forces can play a positive role, he argues.

Lithium-ion batteries provide one example. On a compound annualized basis, their costs per kilowatt hour have been falling about 14% annually. That means the technology, “whether it’s storage or iPhones, is only set to become more ubiquitous because it’s becoming more affordable, more powerful, every single year.”

Electric vehicle batteries now cost about $400 per kilowatt hour, Berry said. To compete with internal combustion engines, the price would have to drop to an estimated $175. “If the 14% annualized growth rate continues, we’ll be there by about 2022 or 2024. So we’re not that far away.”

Along with the “collapse” of battery prices comes a corresponding fall for silicon photovoltaic cells, measured in price per watt. “This is going to reshape how we produce and consume energy going forward.”

Stepping aside from energy, Berry mentioned the cost to sequence a human genome. “As recently as 2001 it was a $100-million endeavour,” he said. “Now they’re saying within five years you’ll be able to sequence your own genome, so you’ll know everything there is to know about your health, all the good and the bad and how to control that, for about $1,000. That’s amazing. That has huge implications for health care and insurance industries as well.”

If you extrapolate the potential demand, there simply is just not enough lithium and cobalt and graphite above ground and ready to be implemented into these supply chains.—Chris Berry

While media seem to give Tesla Motors a near-monopoly on publicity, the electric vehicle industry goes well beyond one company. After Toyota introduced America’s first e-v in 2000, the market now features 24 plug-ins and 36 hybrids. “Consumers have a choice because technology is rapidly changing and rapidly decreasing in price.”

As for metals implications, “I think you have to look at this disruption thesis for mining in a five- to 10-year window.”

Should e-vs capture 10% of global market share in 10 years, they’d amount to about 10 million cars annually. “That would require one million tonnes of copper every single year. That’s the equivalent of the largest copper mine output in the world, Escondida.”

Do today’s producers anticipate such expansion? “I think the biggest issue everyone is overlooking right now is raw materials access.” Apart from Tesla, an LG Chem joint venture plans to churn out 100,000 e-v batteries by the end of 2016. “If you extrapolate the potential demand, there simply is just not enough lithium and cobalt and graphite above ground and ready to be implemented into these supply chains.” That can only raise prices, Berry stated.

“The question is, what does it mean for specific juniors, specific companies along the entire value chain?” With the converging phenomena of urbanization, declining energy costs, sustainable growth and larger, healthier populations spending more money, the longer-term outlook remains positive for a number of energy metals.

But the disruption Berry sees in this context doesn’t come from technology. It comes from new business models, like the way Tesla’s vertical integration eliminates middlemen. “The car’s amazing, but it’s not disruptive,” he insisted. “It’s an incremental improvement. Similarly, you can look at Apple. The iPod was not disruptive, it was the iTunes store. It’s different business models, that’s what’s disruptive.”

 

(Shanghai photo credit for index and archives pages: TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com)

South of Voisey’s Bay

March 25th, 2015

New developments put Equitas Resources in search of a nearby nickel discovery

by Greg Klein

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The greatest find of Canada’s first diamond rush failed to locate a single gemstone. Instead Robert Friedland’s Diamond Fields Resources stumbled onto nickel with cobalt and copper—much more prosaic stuff but in such magnificent quantities that, just three years after its 1993 discovery, Voisey’s Bay sold for $4.3 billion. Yet the Labrador region remains under-explored. Now, with the advantages of new technology plus single ownership of a recently compiled land package, Equitas Resources TSXV:EQT puts new impetus into the search for a second deposit.

Just 30 kilometres south of Voisey’s, the company’s 25,050-hectare Garland project came together after two years of research by Dahrouge Geological Consulting. According to Equitas VP of exploration Everett Makela, this puts the “most prospective area outside of the Vale mine property” under a single operator for the first time, a significant advantage for effective exploration.

New developments put Equitas Resources in search of a nearby nickel discovery

Despite its proximity to Voisey’s, patchwork ownership
and outdated methods left the region under-explored.

This, in an area where deposits could come in clusters. That’s the case for major nickel camps like Sudbury, Norilsk, Thompson and Raglan, Makela emphasizes. Therefore “the likelihood of discovering more Voisey’s Bay-type deposits in the region is high.” But if that’s so, why has the area been neglected?

“The reality is that, after 20 years of exploration by scores of companies combing the surface, the remaining prospective environments are buried,” he explains. “In the case of the Garland project, that is most likely under younger cover rocks. Voisey’s Bay itself was exposed by a fortunate erosional history. It takes a strong commitment to advance the next stage. Commitment to exploring the deeper sub-surface requires insight into critical elements of the mineralizing process and employment of state-of-the-art geophysical methods.”

State-of-the-art exploration is already underway at Garland, where a VTEM-plus survey began in February. Previously some 10 separate companies explored relatively small pieces of the current Garland project with now-outdated electromagnetic surveys that penetrated only to about 75 metres. Equitas’ regional-scale geophysics can reach a maximum 10 times that depth, all the better to detect large, highly conductive nickel sulphide deposits.

As for insight, Makela brings Equitas solid expertise. The Sudbury native began his career in 1981 as a geological assistant with pre-Vale Inco. By the time he retired in 2012, Makela was Vale’s principal geologist for North America. “I’ve worked alongside some of the leading experts in nickel exploration and benefited greatly from access to the resources of leading global nickel companies,” he says. “My experience spans the gamut from target generation through to resource definition.”

He’s worked in the U.S., Mexico, Greenland, South Africa and Brazil, along with “years of focus on Sudbury and Voisey’s Bay that gave me a strong background in world-class mineralized systems and the business of building mines.” In fact Makela served on the Inco team that conducted initial due diligence prior to the multi-billion-dollar Voisey’s acquisition.

So what does he see at Garland? Well, enough of what he saw at Voisey’s to stoke his enthusiasm.

“Aside from having the same favourable address, along an Archean-Proterozoic boundary, Garland and Voisey’s share a remarkable number of geological signatures,” he points out. “Both are located at the intersection of a regional-scale east-west corridor of faults with a northeast-trending fault set. The combined movement is likely to have caused the open space that allowed emplacement of the Voisey’s Bay ores. That’s the same style of structural offset that we believe we have on our own property. Magnetic signatures and interpreted structural deformation are very similar.

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Alberta most attractive mining destination in Canada, third worldwide

March 3rd, 2014

by Cecilia Jamasmie | March 3, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Alberta most attractive mining destination in Canada, third worldwide

Oilsands development in northern Alberta.

 

For the second consecutive year, Alberta—home to the booming and controversial oilsands industry—ranked first in the country and third worldwide as the most attractive jurisdiction for mining investors in the Fraser Institute’s annual global survey of mining executives.

The study, released March 3 as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention kicked off in Toronto, is based on input from 690 mineral exploration and development company executives.

Sweden and Finland scored the top places in this year’s survey, which spotlighted 112 jurisdictions worldwide. Kyrgyzstan and Venezuela were named the worst two countries to venture.

“Miners praise Alberta for its transparent and productive approach to mining policy. The province offers competitive taxation regimes, sound legal systems and relatively low uncertainty around land claims. That’s what miners look for,” said Kenneth Green, Fraser Institute senior director of energy and natural resources.

Two other Canadian jurisdictions—New Brunswick (7), and Newfoundland and Labrador (9)—ranked in the top 10 worldwide, followed by Saskatchewan (12), Yukon (19), Quebec (21), Manitoba (26), Ontario (28), Nova Scotia (29), British Columbia (32), Nunavut (44) and the Northwest Territories (47).

Quebec, once the darling of mining investors, continued to fall down the rabbit hole. From 2007 to 2009, the French-speaking district topped the survey, then dropped to fifth in 2011, 11th in 2012 and finally 21st worldwide in 2013, due in part to amendments to Quebec’s mining act and recent tax policy changes.

“If Quebec wants to renew confidence in the global mining sector, it should reduce red tape, minimize the risk associated with policy changes and tax increases, and respect negotiated contracts,” Green said.

B.C. dropped to 32nd from 31st in 2012, though the survey recorded improved perceptions regarding the western province’s political stability and availability of labour and skills.

The Canadian public policy think tank also identified the 10 places mining enthusiasts should avoid. From the bottom, they are Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela, Philippines, Argentina (La Rioja and Mendoza), Angola, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Madagascar.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Indonesia ban rocks nickel market

January 13th, 2014

by Frik Els | January 12, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Indonesia rocked the mining world on January 12, putting into effect an outright ban on nickel, bauxite and tin ore exports.

The Asian nation is the world’s premier thermal coal and tin exporter and is also a gold and copper powerhouse, but the ban on nickel and bauxite ore would have the most dramatic effect on markets.

Last week Indonesian energy and resource ministry officials scrambled to ease provisions of the raw mineral export prohibition that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed into law on January 12, the most controversial decision of his 10-year presidency.

Indonesia dominates the nickel export business, accounting for over a fifth of global supply at an estimated 400,000 tonnes of contained metal. Chinese nickel pig iron producers imported more than 30 million tonnes of nickel ore from Indonesia last year and China’s aluminium smelters rely on Indonesia for 20% of their feedstock.

According to the latest rules under the ban, base metals including copper, manganese, lead, zinc and tin will be allowed to be exported in concentrate until 2017.

This benefits producers like Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold NYE:FCX, which operates the world’s third-largest copper mine at Grasberg in the West Papua province and warned about a 60% drop in output should copper form part of the ban. Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan and Newmont Mining NYE:NEM together account for 97% of Indonesia’s copper exports.

[The ban] is the biggest supply risk facing base metals in a long time. The market has been very complacent, thinking the Indonesians would backtrack.

However against expectations of a last-minute climbdown by authorities, the nickel and bauxite ore ban, as well as the prohibition of unprocessed exports of tin, chromium, gold and silver, went into effect January 12.

FT.com quoted Gayle Berry, base metals analyst at UK bank Barclays earlier as saying the ban “is the biggest supply risk facing base metals in a long time. The market has been very complacent, thinking the Indonesians would backtrack.”

Privately owned Ibris Nickel last week announced it will cease operations in Indonesia, laying off 1,400 workers at its two-million-tonne-per-year mine. The nickel industry employs some 200,000 Indonesians across hundreds of small-scale operations.

Reuters reports the Indonesian Mineral Entrepreneurs Association said it planned to challenge the ban in the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court while almost 30,000 mine workers have been laid off, sparking protest in the capital Jakarta:

“We call on all mining workers to prepare to go on the streets and swarm the presidential palace if the government goes ahead with the implementation of the ban,” said Juan Forti Silalahi of the National Mine Workers Union in a statement on January 11.

So far the price of nickel has not reacted in a big way to the looming ban, but now all bets are off.

 

 

Three-months nickel on the LME retreated more than 20% in 2013 from opening levels of $17,450 and, after hitting a high of $18,700 in February, dropped to a four-year low in October amid an oversupplied market.

After a brief uptick in December to over $14,200, the steelmaking raw material last week fell back to the mid-$13,000s and on January 10 the contract closed at $13,725.

Even without the Indonesian ban, the prospects for nickel aren’t rosy.

Global output is forecast to rise for the first time to over two million tonnes in 2015. That’s up from 1.4 million tonnes in 2007.

Stockpiling of ore and metal in anticipation of Indonesian disruptions and the inexorable rise of nickel warehouse levels over the past two years—hitting a record 260,000 tonnes last week—have also kept prices subdued.

 

 

Indonesia, with a population of 240 million, goes to the polls for parliamentary elections in April and in July will choose a new president, so much can change over the course of the year before the true extent of the ban can be felt.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com