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Open and shut cases: East

January 7th, 2020

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

by Greg Klein

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

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

 

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

Quebec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Brunswick

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

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

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

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

Labrador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Part 4 of a series.

Open and shut cases: North

December 18th, 2019

How do the territories’ mine openings compare with closures for 2019 and 2020?

by Greg Klein

This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

  • See Part 2, covering the western provinces.
  • See Part 3, covering Ontario.
  • See Part 4, covering Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
  •  

    One indication of the state of mining involves the vital statistics of births and deaths—the new mines that arrived and the old mines that left. To that end we survey each Canadian region for some of the major gains and losses that occurred over the past year or are expected for the next. The first of this multi-part series looks at the country’s three northern territories, with each distinct jurisdiction contributing to a study in contrasts.

    Yukon

    Yukon without mining? That might surprise people better acquainted with the territory’s past than its present. But such was the case for nearly a year, following the suspension of Minto, Yukon’s sole remaining hardrock mine up to 2018. Nevertheless operations returned to this fabled mining region in September as Victoria Gold TSXV:VIT celebrated Eagle’s debut. By late November the company reported 10,400 ounces of gold and 1,600 ounces of silver from the heap leach operation.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    Victoria Gold finished construction a month early on
    Yukon’s largest-ever gold mine. (Photo: Victoria Gold)

    Less than two weeks later the company unveiled an updated feasibility study raising the annual production target for the territory’s largest-ever gold mine from 200,000 to 220,000 gold ounces, based on a 20% increase in proven and probable reserves for the Eagle and Olive deposits. Victoria expects to reach commercial production in Q2 2020.

    By mid-October Minto came back to life under LSE-listed Pembridge Resources. Capstone Mining TSX:CS had placed the underground mine on care and maintenance in 2018, after about 11 years of continuous operation, as acquisition negotiations with Pembridge stalled. But the companies sealed the deal last June. Within weeks of restart Pembridge reported 1,734 dry metric tonnes of copper-gold-silver concentrate. Proven and probable reserves totalling 40,000 tonnes copper, 420,000 ounces silver and 45,000 ounces gold give Minto an estimated four more years of production.

    Among the most advanced Yukon projects is BMC Minerals’ Kudz Ze Kayah, a zinc deposit with copper, lead, gold and silver. The privately owned UK-based company reached feasibility in June and hopes to begin at least nine years of mining in 2021.

    Environmental/socio-economic reviews continue into Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) Coffee gold project and Western Copper and Gold’s (TSX:WRN) Casino polymetallic project. Should Casino make it into operation, the copper-gold-silver-molybdenum operation would be by far the territory’s largest mine.

    Read more about Yukon mining.

    Northwest Territories

    Confidence in the territorial economy fell last October when Moody’s downgraded a $550-million bond issued by Dominion Diamond. “There’s no plan in place to extend the mine life at a time when the debt is coming closer and closer to coming due,” the credit ratings agency’s Jamie Koutsoukis told CBC. “We continue to see a contraction in the time they have to develop this mine plan.”

    Part of the Washington Group, Dominion holds a majority stake in Ekati and 40% of Diavik, where Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO holds the remaining 60%. Along with De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué, the three diamond operations comprise the territory’s largest private sector employer.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    Agnico Eagle once again laid claim to Arctic riches with the
    Amaruq satellite deposit, over 300 kilometres west of Hudson Bay.
    (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

    In an October presentation before the territory’s newly elected legislative assembly, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines urged the government to safeguard the economy by improving investor confidence in the mining industry.

    An election year in the NWT and Canada-wide, 2019 brought optimistic talk and initial funding for the NWT’s Slave Geological Province Corridor and Nunavut’s Grays Bay Road and Port, two transportation proposals that would offer enormous potential for mineral-rich regions in both territories.

    Nunavut

    “Whispers could be heard throughout the room as intervenors turned to their colleagues. Members of the audience turned their heads, looking for Baffinland’s reaction to what was unfolding. Baffinland officials sat stone-faced, sometimes crossing their arms and looking down at the table as [Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki] Kotierk spelled out the motion.”

    That was the scene described by the Nunatsiaq News as the Nunavut Impact Review Board abruptly suspended hearings into Baffinland Iron Mines’ $900-million Phase II expansion plans for Mary River. The proposals, already accepted by Ottawa, include building a railway to replace a 100-kilometre road north to the company’s Milne Inlet port and doubling annual production to 12 million tonnes iron ore. The new railway proposal comes in addition to a previously approved but un-built 150-kilometre southern rail link to a harbour that had been planned for Steensby Inlet.

    The company maintains that expanded production and a northern rail line will be crucial to the existing operation’s viability. Responses at public hearings ranged from support to skepticism and outright opposition. Within weeks of the hearings’ suspension and a month ahead of a scheduled layoff, Baffinland let go 586 contractors who had been working on expansion preparations.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    About 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank, Agnico
    Eagle celebrated Meliadine’s first gold pour in February.
    (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

    Despite all that, operations continue at Mary River and Nunavut remains a bright spot in Canadian mining.

    That’s largely due to Agnico Eagle TSX:AEM, which brought two new operations to the territory. Meliadine began commercial production months ahead of schedule in mid-May, followed by Amaruq in late September.

    As a satellite deposit, Amaruq brings new life to the Meadowbank mine and mill complex 50 kilometres southeast. With the latter mine wrapping up its ninth and last year of operation, Amaruq’s open pit offers an estimated 2.5 million ounces up to 2025. Should hoped-for permitting come through in late 2020, a Phase II expansion could broaden the lifespan. Meanwhile drilling seeks to upgrade the project’s underground resource.

    Meliadine began with underground production but has an open pit scheduled to come online by 2023. Combined open pit and underground reserves of 3.75 million gold ounces give the operation a 14-year life.

    TMAC Resources’ (TSX:TMR) expansion plans moved forward in October as construction began on an underground portal to Madrid North, a fully permitted deposit that could enter production by late 2020. The new operation’s probable reserves of 2.17 million gold ounces far overshadow the company’s other three Hope Bay deposits, which total 3.59 million ounces proven and probable.

    By comparison, the current Doris operation hosts 479,000 ounces proven and probable. Hope Bay has updated resource/reserve and prefeas studies scheduled for Q1 2020.

    This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

  • See Part 2, covering the western provinces.
  • See Part 3, covering Ontario.
  • See Part 4, covering Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
  • Visual Capitalist looks at the 10 strongest metals

    October 22nd, 2019

    by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 22, 2019

    Visual Capitalist looks at the top 10 strongest metals

     

    The use of metals and the advancement of human civilization have gone hand in hand—and throughout the ages, each metal has proved its worth based on its properties and applications.

    This visualization from Viking Steel Structures outlines the 10 strongest metals on Earth and their applications.

    What are metals?

    Metals are solid materials that are typically hard, shiny, malleable and ductile, with good electrical and thermal conductivity. But not all metal is equal, which makes their uses as varied as their individual properties and benefits.

    The periodic table below presents a simple view of the relationship between metals, nonmetals and metalloids, which you can easily identify by colour.

    Visual Capitalist looks at the top 10 strongest metals

     

    While 91 of the 118 elements of the periodic table are considered to be metals, only a few of them stand out as the strongest.

    What makes a metal strong?

    The strength of a metal depends on four properties:

    • Tensile strength: How well a metal resists being pulled apart

    • Compressive strength: How well a material resists being squashed together

    • Yield strength: How well a rod or beam of a particular metal resists bending and permanent damage

    • Impact strength: The ability to resist shattering upon impact with another object or surface

    Here are the top 10 metals based on these properties.

     

    Rank Type of metal Example use Atomic weight Melting point
    #1 Tungsten Making bullets and missiles 183.84 u 3422°C / 6192 °F
    #2 Steel Construction of railroads, roads, other infrastructure and appliances n/a 1371°C / 2500°F
    #3 Chromium Manufacturing stainless steel 51.96 u 1907°C / 3465°F,
    #4 Titanium In the aerospace industry, as a lightweight material with strength 47.87 u 1668°C / 3032°F
    #5 Iron Used to make bridges, electricity, pylons, bicycle chains, cutting tools and rifle barrels 55.85 u 1536°C / 2800°F
    #6 Vanadium 80% of vanadium is alloyed with iron to make steel shock- and corrosion-resistant 50.942 u 1910°C / 3470°F
    #7 Lutetium Used as catalysts in petroleum production 174.96 u 1663 °C / 3025°F
    #8 Zirconium Used in nuclear power stations 91.22 u 1850°C / 3.362°F
    #9 Osmium Added to platinum or indium to make them harder 190.2 u 3000°C / 5,400°F
    #10 Tantalum Used as an alloy due to its high melting point and anti-corrosion 180.94 u 3,017°C / 5462°F

     

    Out of the forge and into tech: Metals for the future

    While these metals help to forge the modern world, there is a new class of metals that are set to create a new future.

    Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of metals that do not rely on their strength, but instead their importance in applications in new technologies, including those used for green energy.

     

    Metal Uses
    Neodymium Magnets containing neodymium are used in green technologies such as the manufacture of wind turbines and hybrid cars
    Lanthanum Used in catalytic converters in cars, enabling them to run at high temperatures
    Cerium This element is used in camera and telescope lenses
    Praseodymium Used to create strong metals for use in aircraft engines
    Gadolinium Used in X-ray and MRI scanning systems, and also in television screens
    Yttrium, terbium, europium Making televisions and computer screens and other devices that have visual displays

     

    If the world is going to move towards a more sustainable and efficient future, metals—both tough and smart—are going to be critical. Each one will serve a particular purpose to build the infrastructure and technology for the next generation.

    Our ability to deploy technology with the right materials will test the world’s mettle to meet the challenges of tomorrow—so choose wisely.

    Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

    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.

    Site visits for sightseers IV

    July 31st, 2019

    Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage can captivate visitors

    by Greg Klein

    Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

    Among the Bell Island operations that produced about 81 million tonnes of
    iron ore by 1966, this Newfoundland mine gives visitors a glimpse of the past.
    (Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

     

    Our survey of historic mining sites and museums wraps up with a trip through Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. With places known for precious and base metals as well as mineralogical exotica like salt, fluorspar and asbestos, these Atlantic provinces once hosted a globally important coal and steel industry—important enough to merit military attacks during World War II. Even where mining’s a practice of the past, many people continue to recognize the industry’s influence on their communities.

    As usual with these visits, check ahead for footwear and other clothing requirements, for additional info like kids’ age restrictions, and to confirm opening times.

    Three previous installments looked at Yukon and British Columbia, the prairie provinces, and Ontario and Quebec.

     

    Nova Scotia

     

    In a region where the industry goes back nearly 300 years, the Cape Breton Miners Museum tells the stories of coal diggers, their work, lives and community. The scenic six-hectare coastal site also includes a few restored buildings from the company village and the Ocean Deeps Colliery, where retired miners lead underground/undersea tours to offer first-hand accounts of a miner’s life. The museum also presents occasional concerts by the Men of the Deeps, made up entirely of people who’ve worked in or around coal mines: “We’re the only choir where the second requirement is that you have to be able to sing.”

    Located on Birkley Street north from Route #28, about 1.5 kilometres southeast of downtown Glace Bay. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until October 20, with daily tours. Phone 902-849-4522 for off-season hours and tours.

     

    Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

    Coal production in the Sydney Mines area dates as far back as 1724.
    (Photo: Sydney Mines Heritage Museum)

    Farther west along the serrated coast, the Sydney Mines Heritage Museum looks at not only coal extraction but also the time when this town was a major steelmaking centre. Originally a 1905 railway station, the building also houses a transportation exhibit, the Cape Breton Fossil Discovery Centre and a sports museum.

    Located at 159 Legatto Street, just north of Main Street (Route #305), Sydney Mines. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00 until September 7. Phone 902-544-0992 for Sydney Coalfield fossil field trips held on Thursdays and Saturdays to August 24, weather and tides permitting.

     

    About 76 kilometres east of Amherst was Canada’s first industrial source of an edible mineral, now commemorated by the Malagash Salt Mine Museum. This small building features the mine’s off-and-on operations between 1918 and 1959, and the local miners, farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks who worked the deposit until it was replaced by another salt source at nearby Pugwash.

    Located at 1926 North Shore Road, east of Route #6, Malagash. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, Sunday noon to 5:00 until September 15. Call 902-257-2407 for more info.

     

    In the Annapolis Valley about 95 kilometres southeast of Moncton, the Springhill Miners’ Museum portrays the historically dangerous work that prevailed in these coal mines between the late 1800s and the 1950s. Guides lead underground tours of about an hour’s duration.

    Located at 145 Black River Road, about 1.5 kilometres south of Springhill, just east of Route #2. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00, with tours available hourly from 9:00 to 4:00 until October 15. Call 902-597-3449 for more info.

     

    Newfoundland and Labrador

    Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

    Kids tour a mine that once employed boys as young as 10.
    (Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

    Complementing coal from Cape Breton was iron ore from Bell Island in Conception Bay, where six mines operated at various times between 1895 and 1966. The Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum hosts exhibits and offers one-hour tours through an underground operation that closed in 1949. Another feature relates the 1942 U-boat attacks at Belle Island that sunk four ore-carrying ships and killed over 60 men, leading to Allied fears that Germany would occupy St. John’s.

    Located at 13 Compressor Hill, Bell Island. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until September 30. Call 709-488-2880 or toll-free 1-888-338-2880 for more info.

     

    A number of mines produced fluorspar between 1933 and 1978 on the Rock’s southern-most peninsula, where Canada Fluorspar hopes to revive the industry. The St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum recounts workers’ lives, including the danger they faced before the presence of radon gas was recognized. Emphasizing the sacrifice, the neighbouring graveyard can be seen from museum windows. On a more pleasant note, new uses for the colourful mineral can be found in the gift shop’s fluorspar jewelry.

    Located on Route #220, east of Memorial Drive, St. Lawrence. Open daily 8:30 to 4:30 until September 1. Call 709-873-3160 for more info.

     

    The Baie Verte Miners’ Museum stands above one of six major mines locally, the former Terra Nova copper producer that dates back to the mid-1800s in a north-coastal region that also provided gold, silver and asbestos. On display are mining and mineralogy exhibits and a mining locomotive, along with aboriginal artifacts. Museum tours are available.

    Located at 319 Route 410, Baie Verte. Open Monday 10:00 to 4:00, Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 to 6:00 until mid-September. Call 709-532-8090 for more info.

     

    The Iron Ore Company of Canada no longer provides tours of its Labrador City facilities but the Gateway Labrador tourism centre offers an alternative—an 18-minute virtual reality experience of IOC’s operations, from mining to processing to delivery at Sept-Îles. Gateway’s museum hosts additional mining exhibits as well as presentations on other industries “to debunk the popular misconception that Labrador West’s history is comprised only of mining.”

    Located at 1365 Route #500, Labrador City. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 to 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 5:00 until mid- or late August. Off-season hours Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00. Call 709-944-5399 for more info.

     

    See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 2 about the prairie provinces, and Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec.

    Nunavut art, Nunavut gold celebrate Nunavut anniversary numismatically

    June 26th, 2019

    by Greg Klein | June 26, 2019

    A bit late for the April 1 birthday but an impressive work just the same, the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled its latest collector coin commemorating Nunavut’s creation. The gold comes from two territorial mines and the design from a Nunavummiuq artist.

    Nunavut art, Nunavut gold celebrate Nunavut anniversary

    The most recent coin displays
    Germaine Arnaktauyok’s work.

    “The Mint is passionate about honouring Canadian talent and celebrating our exceptional cultural diversity through beautifully crafted coins,” said president/CEO Marie Lemay. “We are proud to honour Germaine Arnaktauyok’s artistic legacy, in pure Nunavut gold, to wish the people of this important territory a happy 20th anniversary.”

    With one-tenth of an ounce of 99.99% yellow metal from Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX:AEM) Meadowbank and TMAC Resources’ (TSX:TMR) Hope Bay mines, the coin has a face value of $20 but sells for $359.95 in a limited edition of 1,500. The piece depicts an Inuit drummer that Arnaktauyok created for a circulating toonie struck in 1999 on the new territory’s birth. The flip side portrays the Queen.

    Nunavut art, Nunavut gold celebrate Nunavut anniversary

    A 2018 coin featured Andrew Qappik’s images.
    (Photos: Royal Canadian Mint)

    It’s the second coin in a year featuring Nunavut gold and artistry. In June 2018 the Mint released a $20 piece using Meadowbank and Hope Bay gold as the canvas for Andrew Qappik’s images of a walrus, ptarmigan, polar bear, bowhead whale and narwhal.

    By far Nunavut’s largest private sector employer, the industry now has four territorial mines in operation, including Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River and Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine, which achieved commercial gold production just last month. Agnico Eagle also has Amaruq, a satellite project 50 kilometres northwest of Meadowbank, slated for commercial production in Q3.

    At Hope Bay, TMAC hopes to begin production on its Madrid and Boston gold deposits in 2020 and 2022 respectively, adding to current output from the Doris operation.

    Baffinland currently has community consultations underway as part of a Nunavut Impact Review Board process for two railways that the company proposes building to expand Mary River output.

    Among Nunavut’s other promising projects are Sabina Gold and Silver’s (TSX:SBB) Back River gold project, which has received all major permits since reaching feasibility in 2015, and De Beers’ Chidliak project, subject of the giant’s buyout of Peregrine Diamonds last year.

    Read more about the Royal Canadian Mint.

    Ever unconventional

    May 24th, 2019

    Rick Rule might be even more contrarian than you thought

    by Greg Klein

    Not for the faint-hearted, resource stocks hardly suit reckless investors either. Rick Rule’s long and successful career in this volatile world likely stems from shrewd insight borne of a non-conformist outlook. The president/CEO of Sprott U.S. Holdings took time to talk with ResourceClips.com about his favourite commodities, mining management, trade wars and critical minerals as well as—if only to demonstrate the principle of enlightened self-interest—the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium returning to Vancouver from July 29 to August 2.

    As miners and manufacturers struggle to secure adequate supplies of essential minerals, does he still see justification for gold’s special status?

    Rick Rule might be even more contrarian than you thought

    “I do,” he replies. “I think gold has a special place of its own among metals in the investment universe in that, while it has fabrication value in things like jewelry, iconography and electronics, it is also simultaneously a unit of exchange and a store of value.

    “It is also a metal that attracts a certain class of equity investors precisely because of its volatility, and what that means is that people who have a reputation for being able to either find or produce gold more efficiently than their competitors have the lowest cost of capital of any entrepreneurs in the mining business. So I would suggest that precious metals are unique in the mining space.”

    What other metals interest him?

    “Well the truth is I’m agnostic as to how I make my money. But traditionally two commodities, iron and copper, have been unusually profitable, although they’re usually the domains of the big mining companies. Iron doesn’t occupy a very large part of the exploration space. What are particularly attractive to me right now are commodities that are so deeply out of favour that, on a global basis, the cost to produce them exceeds the price that they sell for, implying industries that are ostensibly in liquidation. So minerals that especially attract me at present are nickel, zinc, copper and in particular uranium.

    “Having said that, Sprott will back a top-quality management team, or will finance what appears to be potentially a Tier I asset, irrespective of commodity.”

    Speaking of mining management, that’s a subject he’s previously lambasted with scathing comments. Does he see the problem as unique to mining?

    Rick Rule might be even more contrarian than you thought

    Rick Rule:
    An insider with an outsider’s perspective.

    “I’ve spent 40 years in extractive industries and don’t have experience in other industries, so I don’t know how widespread the problem is in other places. I do know that in one study, a young Sprott intern pulled at random financial statements and income statements over I believe five years from 25 junior miners. The median expenditure on general and administrative expenses exceeded 65% of capital raised. That’s not the prescription for a successful industry.

    “It’s worth noting that in joint ventures that we’ve observed where a major mining company is earning into an exploration project operated by a junior, the median general and administrative expenses allowed as a percentage of total expenditures is 12%. So that would suggest that the junior public company format is inefficient.

    “Now it bears noting that the junior mining industry has been enormously profitable to me personally and also to Sprott. And the conclusion that one has to draw is that functionally all of the value delivered over time by the junior mining industry is delivered by a fairly small number of teams. I would argue that less than 5% of the management teams in the business generate well in excess of 50% of the value created. Their contributions are so valuable that they add legitimacy and sometimes even lustre to a sector that overall has a very poor track record.”

    Rule applies his contrarianism to trade wars and legislated efforts to secure critical minerals. He opposes government intervention and considers the U.S.-China dispute unnecessary.

    “I believe that tariffs are an indirect form of tax and that protectionism ultimately backfires on the protector by making him or her less efficient. Now having said that, with regards to the Section 232 review of uranium, I would personally be a beneficiary of any action that Trump took. So it would be bad for the United States of America and good for me. I’m an unalloyed believer in free trade and free investment. To benefit a small number of claimants at the expense of a market is, I think, very bad policy.”

    While many observers fear the trade war will provoke a second Senkaku with China manipulating its rare earths dominance, Rule thinks the gambit would rebound to the benefit of non-Chinese producers.

    If the Chinese decided to obviate their competitive advantage with some stupid political ploy, they would find themselves with a much smaller proportion of the global market.

    “If the Chinese decided to obviate their competitive advantage with some stupid political ploy, they would find themselves with a much smaller proportion of the global market. So I’m unconcerned about access to those so-called critical metals.”

    Meanwhile he thinks the trade war “is political posturing and it is clientelist in the most pernicious sense, seeking to benefit a few interests who might be big campaign contributors at the expense of markets and consumers.”

    Does he think the Sino-American conflict will have long-lasting effects?

    “I’m not a political analyst, but I hope this is a circumstance where Xi benefits by looking tough to a domestic political constituency and Trump does the same, and nothing much comes of it. My hope is this is just populist puffery on behalf of both executives.

    “At least in my lifetime, every tariff that has ever existed is a euphemism for a tax, and has served no useful purpose and in fact has been destructive to global trade and to the nation imposing the tariff. Similarly, so-called free trade agreements are really political pacts that may serve a political purpose for a favoured few. But the truth is, a free trade agreement could be written on one piece of paper. You could say: There will be no legal impediments between the voluntary buying and selling of any willing parties. Period.

    “Instead, NAFTA was 3,600 pages.”

    Among the challenges facing junior mining is powerful competition from cannabis stocks. Does he see that as a short-term trend?

    “Yeah, I do. I think the cannabis craze will wear itself out the same way any other craze does. I don’t know that the hot money necessarily will move back to mining until after it isn’t needed anymore. Frankly I welcome the move of hot money, dumb money, out of mining and into crypto and cannabis. The mining business has been over-funded and the subject of unrealistic expectations for 30 years to the extent that the industry went on a forced diet for a while, a lot of issuers failed and rational expectations returned to the space. I think that would be a very good thing.

    I’m also delighted frankly that in places like Vancouver and Los Angeles management teams that were formally in mining have moved on to substances that they’re interested in and familiar with, like cannabis. If you live in Vancouver, it’s very clear that due diligence is conducted nightly on most street corners downtown.

    “I’m also delighted frankly that in places like Vancouver and Los Angeles management teams that were formally in mining have moved on to substances that they’re interested in and familiar with, like cannabis. If you live in Vancouver, it’s very clear that due diligence is conducted nightly on most street corners downtown.”

    And speaking of Vancouver, what’s Rule got to say about Sprott’s upcoming event?

    “We hope to deliver the best possible experience that we can, all the way from big picture commentators like Danielle DiMartino Booth, Nomi Prins, Jim Rickards and Doug Casey, but also including really interesting industry participants. One of the things we’ve been doing for 25 years is we have always made room for speakers who are active in the mining business today after building billion-dollar companies from scratch. This is important because they talk not just about mining but also how the lessons they learned building their companies impact the way they invest their own money, and the way that speculators should invest theirs. Further, unlike any other conference I know, an exhibitor has to be owned in a Sprott-managed account. Our attendees have told us our exhibitors are not from their point of view mere advertisers, but rather they’re content too.

    “Finally, while most resource-oriented conferences have shrunk demonstrably in size over the last four or five years, ours has grown every year. One of the benefits investors get attending our conference is that they do so in the company of 700 of their peers, high net worth investors who have been successful in natural resources. And there is a lot to be gained not merely from the dais or the exhibit hall, but also from talking to other experienced, successful and battle-scarred speculators and investors.”

    Rick Rule hosts the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver from July 29 to August 2. Click here for more information.

    Baffinland Iron Mines sets high Arctic high volume shipping record

    November 8th, 2018

    by Greg Klein | November 8, 2018

    Competing with northern European coal and its own past performance, Baffinland Iron Mines claims the largest shipping program by volume for the Canadian and Scandinavian high Arctic. During an 86-day season that ended October 17, some 71 voyages carried an average 71,750 tonnes of iron ore each from the company’s Milne Inlet port at 71.25 degrees latitude. Destinations included continental Europe, the UK and, in a first for iron ore bulk transport, two trips along the Russian coast to Taiwan and Japan.

    Total tonnage came to about 5.1 million, surpassing the previous 4.1-million-tonne record set by Baffinland in 2017. The ore comes from Mary River, 100 kilometres by road from the port.

    Baffinland Iron Mines sets high Arctic high volume record

    This year’s season included the world’s first two bulk transports
    of iron ore through the Northern Sea Route to Asia.
    (Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines)

    President/CEO Brian Penney attributed “a successful, safe and responsible shipping season” to employees and shipping partners, as well as the support of northern Baffin Island communities and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

    The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization support an onboard monitoring program “to ensure no adverse environmental impacts or impacts on Inuit shipping vessels,” the company stated. “These programs combined scientific and traditional Inuit knowledge. No health and safety or environmental incidents occurred during the shipping program.”

    An application before the Nunavut Impact Review Board proposes to replace Baffinland’s tote road with a railway linking the mine with Milne Inlet. Following community consultations, NIRB expects to make its recommendation in June, Baffinland communications officer Jason Leite tells ResourceClips.com. The federal cabinet decision should follow in 30 to 90 days.

    The company also hopes to lay track south to a proposed Baffin Island port at Steensby Inlet. The Steensby route and facilities were approved in 2014, although market conditions prompted the company to scale its plans down radically to an Early Revenue Phase.

    “The plan to go south to Steensby is still on the horizon and it’s part of our expanded growth outlook over the next decade, or even 15 to 20 years,” Leite says. “We’re taking a tiered approach to our expansion programs.”

    The company’s eventual goal is 30 million tonnes per year. Last month Baffinland received federal approval to increase annual production from 4.2 million to six million tonnes despite a negative NIRB recommendation.

    Held jointly by Nunavut Iron Ore and ArcelorMittal, Baffinland credits Mary River with “the highest grade of direct shipping iron ore in the world.”

    Read more about Canadian arctic shipping.

    Active participants

    November 7th, 2018

    A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

    by Greg Klein

    A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

    Representatives of Nemaska Lithium and Nemaska Cree negotiate the Chinuchi Agreement in 2014.
    (Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

     

    Trans Mountain—it’s likely been Canada’s biggest and most discouraging resource story this year. The subject of well-publicized protests, the proposed $9.3-billion pipeline extension met federal court rejection on the grounds of inadequate native consultation. But any impression of uniform aboriginal opposition to that project in particular or resource projects in general would be false, a new report emphasizes. In fact native involvement increasingly advances from reaping benefits to taking active part, with corresponding advantages to individuals and communities.

    That’s the case for the oil and gas sector, forestry, hydro-electricity and fisheries, with mining one of the prominent examples provided by the Montreal Economic Institute in The First Entrepreneurs – Natural Resource Development and First Nations. “While some First Nations oppose mining and forestry or the building of energy infrastructure, others favour such development and wish to take advantage of the resulting wealth and jobs,” state authors Germain Belzile and Alexandre Moreau. “This cleavage is no different from what is found in non-indigenous cities and villages in Canada, where there is no vision for the future that everyone agrees upon.”

    A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

    Visitors tour a cultural site at the Éléonore mine.
    (Photo: Goldcorp)

    Mining provides a case in point, and the reason’s not hard to understand. “In 2016, First Nations members working in the mining sector declared a median income twice as high as that of workers in their communities overall, and nearly twice as high as that of non-indigenous people as a whole.”

    “Between 2000 and 2017, 455 agreements were signed in this sector, guaranteeing benefits in addition to those stemming from extraction royalties due to rights held by First Nations on their territories.” Those agreements often include native priority in hiring and subcontracting, which helps explain why “6% of indigenous people work in the mining sector, compared to only 4% in other industries.”

    Of course the proportion rises dramatically in communities close to mines. MEI notes that Wemindji Cree make up about 25% of Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) Éléonore staff in Quebec’s James Bay region. The native total comes to 225 workers out of a community of 1,600 people. Their collaboration agreement also makes provisions for education, training and business opportunities.

    At another Quebec James Bay project, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX expects to begin producing concentrate in H2 of next year. Collaboration with the Nemaska Cree began in 2009 and brought about the 2014 Chinuchi Agreement covering training, employment and revenue sharing, among other benefits. The community holds 3.6% of Nemaska stock.

    Even stalled projects can benefit communities. Uranium’s price slump forced Cameco TSX:CCO to put its majority-held Millennium project in northern Saskatchewan on hold in 2014. But the 1,600-member English River First Nation still gained $50 million from the project in 2014 and $58 million in 2015.

    Or, to take an example not mentioned in the report, natives can also profit from an operating mine that fails to make a profit. In Nunavut, a benefit agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation gave the Qikiqtani Inuit Association $11.65 million this year, as well as the better part of $3.7 million that the QIA reaped in leases and fees. In production since 2014, Mary River remains in the red.

    Of course some natives still oppose some projects. Last month Star Diamond TSX:DIAM received provincial environmental approval for its Star-Orion South project in southern Saskatchewan’s Fort à la Corne district. That decision followed federal approval in 2014.

    Star says the mine would cost $1.41 billion to build and would pay $802 million in royalties as well as $865 million in provincial income tax over a 20-year lifespan. The mine would employ an average 669 people annually for a five-year construction period and 730 people during operation. But continued opposition from the James Smith Cree Nation calls into question whether environmental approval will suffice to allow development.

    Similar circumstances played out in reverse for Mary River. Last summer the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended Ottawa reject Baffinland’s proposed production increase. But support from the QIA and territorial Premier Joe Savikataaq convinced the feds to approve the company’s request. So the veto, if it exists, can work both ways.

    James Smith opposition stems largely from Saskatchewan’s lack of revenue-sharing programs, a basic component of benefit agreements in other jurisdictions. “As a government it’s our position that we will not and do not consider resource revenue sharing as a part of any proposal going forward,” enviro minister Dustin Duncan told the Prince Albert newspaper paNOW. He said the province uses mining revenue “to fund programs for the benefit of all Saskatchewan residents and not just one particular group or region.”

    The MEI report quotes an estimated $321 million in 2015-to-2016 revenues from natural resources overall for First Nations, a category that doesn’t include Inuit or Metis, and a dollar figure that doesn’t include employment or business income and other benefits.

    While Trans Mountain stands out as an especially discouraging process, MEI points out that proponent Kinder Morgan signed benefit agreements with 43 First Nations totalling $400 million. After Ottawa bought the company, “several First Nations showed interest in a potential takeover. For some of them, the possibility of equity stakes was indeed the missing element in the Kinder Morgan offer.”

    That might take negotiations well past the stage of benefits and further into active participation. As JP Gladu of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business told MEI, “The next big business trend that we are going to see, and that is happening already, is not only that aboriginal businesses are going to be stronger components of the corporate supply chain, but we are also going to see them as stronger proponents of equity positions and actual partners within resource projects.”

     

    A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

    The category of First Nations excludes Inuit and Metis.
    (Chart: Montreal Economic Institute. Sources: Statistics Canada,
    2016 Census, 98-400-X2016359, March 28, 2018)

    Looking up, up north

    October 5th, 2018

    The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

    by Greg Klein

    The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

    Baffinland president/CEO Brian Penney joins QIA president P.J. Akeeagok
    and others at a signing ceremony for Mary River’s amended benefit agreement.
    (Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines)

     

    Nunavut’s environmental review said no to a mining proposal but Ottawa said yes. What happened?

    Hoping to finally make a profit at its four-year-old Mary River operation, Baffinland Iron Mines asked permission to boost production from 4.2 million tonnes annually to six million tonnes. Worried about possible environmental effects, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended in late August that the federal government reject the proposal. But it was the NIRB recommendation that got rejected. Five cabinet ministers approved the mine’s request, for the time being anyway.

    Swaying the decision was the support of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, whose members “strongly support the Production Increase Proposal as a method of furthering Inuit aspirations in the region,” Ottawa stated. Support also came from Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who urged a swift decision in favour.

    The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

    It wasn’t long coming. Just one month after the NIRB forwarded its recommendation, Ottawa announced its approval, expressing concern about the socio-economic effects of shutting down the mine for part of the year once the 4.2-million-tonne limit is reached and about the mine’s long-term viability. Increased production will “allow the Inuit of the region the opportunity to maintain and more fully realize the economic and other benefits of the mine.”

    That’s not to dismiss environmental concerns. Monitoring will take place until the end of next year, when permission comes up for review. Among other considerations will be the effects of dust on wildlife along a 100-kilometre trucking route from mine to port and of increased shipping on marine life. Considered one of the world’s richest iron ore deposits, Mary River also ranks as one of the planet’s northern-most mines.

    The company received additional permission to build a 15-million-litre fuel tank and a 380-person camp at the Milne Inlet port, projects which the NIRB supported. Still under consideration by the board is Baffinland’s proposal to replace the truck route with a 110-kilometre railway.

    The QIA, which will participate in environmental monitoring, represents some 14,000 people in the Baffin region. Baffinland, co-owned by Nunavut Iron Ore and ArcelorMittal, employs about 2,000 staff and contractors at Mary River and Milne Inlet. This year the QIA’s Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement with Baffinland brought in $11.65 million, a considerable jump from $3.11 million the previous year. The group netted another $3.7 million in leases and fees, most of it from Mary River. That, from a mine that’s yet to turn a profit.

    The benefit agreement looks even better with amendments announced just days after the production increase approval. “Our goal was to increase training and employment opportunities, and we have done that and much more,” said QIA president P.J. Akeeagok. 

    The agreement comes up for review every three years. Apart from a modified royalty structure, these amendments call for Baffinland to spend $10 million on a state-of-the-art training centre, significantly expand the Inuit training budget, provide four communities with research vessels currently priced at $300,000 each and fund a $200,000 annual monitoring program. The amendments intend to “increase Inuit employment in all aspects of Baffinland’s organization” as well as provide “improved support for all residents of the Qikiqtani communities,” the company stated.

    The same day the agreement was announced came news from the Northwest Territories of diamond mining’s benefits, tangible and intangible. Compiling information from recent socio-economic reports for the territory’s three mines, the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines reported 3,450 person-years of employment in 2017, 46% of that going to northerners. Natives comprised 51% of the northern workers and women 15% of all jobs.

    Altogether the three operations—the Washington Group’s Ekati, Washington Group/Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO) Diavik and De Beers/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué—brought $1.2 billion in spending last year, $834 million spent in the north and $325 million to northern natives.

    “In addition to jobs, business spending and training, the diamond mines have also contributed billions of dollars in community contributions and in taxes and royalties paid to public and indigenous governments,” pointed out Chamber president Gary Vivian. “With continued progress on infrastructure investment, and regulatory and land access improvements, mining in the north is truly a sunrise industry. Our mining potential is huge.”