Wednesday 24th October 2018

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘israel’

Flanders to Holland and back

March 13th, 2018

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

by Greg Klein

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

A stately building belies elaborate security guarding this Antwerp diamond bourse.

 

As if providing an outer defence, a solid line of retail jewellers blocks two broad avenues from Antwerp’s famed diamond district. Access comes mainly through a side street with a police-controlled traffic barrier. More cops and soldiers (the latter attesting to Belgium’s ongoing terror alert) patrol the narrow streets inside. The only vehicles seem to be armoured vans customized for the diamond trade or the occasional bicycle carrying an Orthodox Jew with long coat and side curls flowing in the wind but magnificent hat solidly perched.

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

Practitioners in Belgium and the Netherlands
perfected the art of transforming rough stones into jewelry.

Except for the Portuguese synagogue, the buildings look un-Antwerpishly drab, catering to four bourses, several major companies and many more smaller operations that buy and sell stones and/or cut and polish them, as well as businesses selling tools of the trade or offering services like laser inscription removal.

Travel agents advertise flights to Mumbai and the Emirates, the Union Bank of India maintains a local branch and the neighbourhood postal outlet flogs a “one-of-a-kind diamond postage stamp.”

And there are no photos allowed, a courteous but firm police officer insists.

“But I’m a journalist from Canada.”

“I realize that, but it’s not allowed.”

“Being a journalist from Canada?”

“They don’t like it.”

“They” apparently represent the world’s diamond capital, a status Antwerp still holds for grading rough, although no longer for the art of transforming those stones into jewelry. One polishing factory, however, is DiamondLand, which welcomes visitors to its workshop before ushering them into the sales department. A guide explains that Antwerp’s seemingly ubiquitous diamond retailers cater to an international clientele attracted by prices that justify travel expenses.

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

Traders in 15th-century Bruges met outside
the home of Jacob van der Beurze, from
whom the word “bourse” was derived.

Yet this global diamond centre’s far from any mine. Antwerp and other cities of the Low Countries gained that peculiar stature pretty much by inventing the modern diamond industry. Just how they did that can be explained by a visit to Bruges, aka Brugge.

Those able to tear themselves away from the insufferably pretty canal-side buildings of possibly Europe’s most beautiful fairy tale surroundings could spend a few interesting hours in the city’s Diamond Museum. There, visitors learn of Venetian traders who brought diamonds to Europe from India, once the world’s only known source, eventually establishing a permanent presence in this once-important trade centre by the 15th century. That was before 16th century Portuguese and 17th century Dutch took over the Asian trade routes.

Other European cities had diamond cutters too, but it was in Bruges in 1476 that Lodewijk van Bercken is said to have invented the technique of polishing stones using a wheel, diamond dust and olive oil. His existence might owe more to legend than fact, but the technique continued, enhanced by later refinements and more recent technology.

As local waterways silted up, Bruges lost its overseas trade and the diamond industry shifted to Antwerp, which in the late 15th century became the world’s greatest trade centre overall. The industry gained new blood with migrations of Jews fleeing the Spanish in Spain, the Spanish in Portugal and, later, the Spanish in Flanders as the industry moved once again, this time to Amsterdam. Diamonds played a part in the city’s Golden Age, which flourished especially well after Amsterdammers forced the closure of Antwerp’s port. Protestants from France and Flanders joined the religious diasporas that bolstered Europe’s diamond industry.

During all that time new diamond sources were found in Borneo, Brazil, Russia and Australia, with the greatest discoveries of all in late 19th-century South Africa. That country’s first consignment of stones sparked a boom in Amsterdam, bringing unprecedented demand for cutters and polishers.

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

This exacting profession continues
to draw new adherents.

Amsterdam’s decline began in the 1920s, to the advantage of Antwerp. Bruges also regained some stature as early 20th-century strikes encouraged some Antwerp companies to move their operations to job-starved West Flanders. Bruges’ on-and-off revival lasted about 61 years, Amsterdam held out with a few prominent companies but Antwerp prevailed. More recently, however, polishing has been moving to places like Tel Aviv, New York, Moscow and especially Surat, where the sector could be joined by the world’s largest diamond bourse, reportedly now under construction.

But Amsterdam, second only to Bruges for canal-side prettiness, to Vancouver for drugs and hookers, and to nowhere for massive mobs of selfie-snapping sightseers, still hosts companies offering workshop tours. Among them is Gassan Diamonds, now ensconced in a building that originally housed Boas Bros, once Europe’s largest company. Among the newer company’s achievements is the patented Gassan Cut with 121 facets.

Further factory visits make facet envy evident. One such operation is Coster Diamonds, founded in 1840 and the world’s oldest remaining diamond company. It was Coster that cut history’s most fabled stone, the Koh-i-Noor, now part of Britain’s Crown Jewels.

Crediting lengthy experience and new technology, Coster created the Royal 201 eight years ago by adding 144 facets to the more traditional brilliant cut, aka the Amsterdam cut. Coster also claims a Guinness record for the smallest polished stone ever—a tiny, tiny brilliant cut of 0.0000743 carats.

But with its 257-facet Star of Amsterdam created two years ago, Amsterdam’s Zazare Diamonds surpasses Gassan and Coster in the many-sided contest. This isn’t just a numbers game, a Zazare rep insists. “More facets mean more sparkle, more life,” she says.

But much of the industry’s sparkle and life have moved elsewhere, especially India. Numbers provided by Rapaport News show the country’s net polished exports, representing exports minus imports, climbed 3.8% to $20.71 billion last year. Belgium’s share fell 34% to $269.2 million.

Although India already hosts the world’s largest gem exchange in Mumbai’s Bharat Diamond Bourse, the Surat Diamond Bourse would far overshadow its neighbour. Construction has begun on a nine-tower complex that could accommodate more than 4,400 merchants, sources told Rapaport. Expected to be fully operational by 2021, the long-delayed proposal would be located within the government-planned Diamond Research and Mercantile (DREAM) City, confirming much of the world’s trade in the country that first found and coveted the gems.

 

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

Dozens of diamond shops form a solid wall curving
along two streets outside Antwerp’s diamond district.

 

Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands

But not all of them thrive.

Archeologist Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University finds evidence of military battles over critical metals during Old Testament times

February 14th, 2017

…Read more

Diggers shed new light on Biblical fight for strategic metals

January 19th, 2017

by Greg Klein | January 19, 2017

Fable and fiction have often associated King Solomon’s mines with diamonds or gold. But Israeli archeologists say they’ve gained a new perspective on a 10th century BC site that produced the critical element of its time—copper.

An ancient smelting facility in southern Israel’s Timna Valley was discovered in 1934 but recent excavations have revealed a military fortification, shedding new light on long-distance trade and wars fought over a strategic metal.

Diggers shed new light on the Biblical fight for strategic metals

An aerial view shows remains of the gatehouse, indicating
a “substantial investment in deterrence and defence.”
Secondary metallurgical processes took place nearby.

“While there is no explicit description of ‘King Solomon’s mines’ in the Old Testament, there are references to military conflicts between Israel and the Edomites in the Arava Valley,” said archeologist Erez Ben-Yosef in a statement from Tel Aviv University. “According to the Bible, David travelled hundreds of miles outside of Jerusalem and engaged in military conflict in the desert—striking down ‘18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.’ Now, having found evidence of defensive measures—a sophisticated fortification—we understand what must have been at stake for him in this remote region: copper.”

The reddish metal “was a rare product and very challenging to produce,” he continued. “Because copper—like oil today, perhaps—was the most coveted commodity, it landed at the very heart of military conflicts. The discovery of the fortification indicates a period of serious instability and military threats at that time in the region.”

Focus of ongoing study by Tel Aviv University, the Timna Valley hosts a number of ancient smelting operations and thousands of mine shafts.

“The historical accuracy of the Old Testament accounts is debated, but archaeology can no longer be used to contradict them,” Ben-Yosef added. “On the contrary, our new discoveries are in complete accordance with the description of military conflicts against a hierarchical and centralized society located south of the Dead Sea.”

Kimberley Process under fire again as watchdog coalition launches boycott

November 18th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 18, 2015

Angered by the upcoming leadership of the United Arab Emirates, an alliance of watchdog groups plans to boycott the Kimberley Process next year. The Civil Society Coalition made the announcement November 17 at a KP meeting in Luanda, Angola. The UAE, home to the world’s third-largest diamond trading centre but accused of lax policies towards conflict stones, takes over the rotating position of chairperson next year.

Through its diamond certification scheme, the KP works to eliminate the trade in conflict stones that finance rebel violence against legitimate governments. Enforcement is left to its 81 member nations.

Judging by UAE’s favoured status as the go-to place for illicit gold and diamonds, it would appear Dubai is not only a tax-free haven, but an ethics-free haven as well.—Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo,
Civil Society Coalition

“In the last year, repeated concerns have been raised by Partnership Africa Canada, Amnesty International, the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic and others about negligent import controls that allow illicit diamonds from conflict areas such as the Central African Republic to enter the legitimate supply chain,” Civil Society stated.

“Judging by UAE’s favoured status as the go-to place for illicit gold and diamonds, it would appear Dubai is not only a tax-free haven, but an ethics-free haven as well,” coalition representative Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo told KP members. “From the Bangui to Kinshasa to Marange, the UAE’s policy of not checking values on imported parcels, or applying added vigilance on diamonds emanating from problematic areas, has had grave implications on the integrity of the entire diamond chain.”

Bamenjo also accused UAE companies of “the obscene theft of African diamond revenues” by undervaluing imports, then exporting stones at prices 40% higher. “With competing trading centres averaging a 10% mark-up on re-sorted and re-exported parcels, it does make one wonder what Dubai knows about ‘value addition’ that competitors in Antwerp and Tel Aviv don’t know.”

Bamenjo said his group had been working with the KP to prevent the UAE from assuming the leadership role. The KP’s contrary decision “will send a message to the world that the KP no longer has standards, that the lowest common denominator still gets to lead, whatever the reputational and long-term impacts to this initiative.”

The 11-member Civil Society’s founder and co-ordinator is Partnership Africa Canada, whose 1998 study was one of three seminal reports that launched the campaign against conflict diamonds, according to the coalition. The KP was established in 2000.

The boycott follows charges that the KP is being used to certify conflict diamonds from Brazil and allegations from Amnesty International that the process “camouflages” conflict stones from the Central African Republic.

The stuff of life

March 23rd, 2015

Little-known but essential commodities can offer near-term potential, says MGX Minerals

 

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Without them, modern life wouldn’t be very modern. A wide range of industrial minerals make possible so much of what we take for granted, from luxuries to conveniences to necessities. Although few of the commodities are familiar to investors, CEO Jared Lazerson of MGX Minerals CSE:XMG believes he’s found opportunities for potentially near-term domestic production to supply North American markets.

Since its trading debut last October, MGX has been busy acquiring properties in British Columbia, mostly with a goal of producing magnesite. In fact the company has tracked down and claimed most of B.C.’s significant magnesite occurrences. The province currently hosts one of the only two magnesite mines in North America.

Little-known but essential commodities can offer near-term potential, says MGX Minerals

Driftwood Creek drilling confirmed near-surface magnesite mineralization.

As a source of magnesium, magnesite—not to be confused with magnetite—meets a number of agricultural, pharmaceutical, environmental and industrial applications. Exceptionally light for a structural metal, magnesium is used to manufacture cars and planes, among other uses. As part of an alloy, it helps make more rigid metals suitable for shaping into manufactured products.

Magnesium can be mined from magnesite or dolomite and can also be extracted from seawater or natural brines, which accounted for about 69% of American domestic magnesium compounds production in 2014, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS data shows about 52% of magnesium compounds consumed in that country last year went to agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental and industrial applications. The remaining 48% was used for refractories.

As for magnesium metal, USGS numbers show 35% of American consumption in 2014 went to aluminum-based alloys used largely in packaging and transportation. Another 30% was used as a reducing agent in the production of titanium and other metals, 15% for structural purposes, 10% for desulfurization of iron and steel, and 10% for other applications.

By far the largest global supplier, China accounted for about 89% of the world’s magnesium metal production last year, according to the USGS. Israel and Russia managed to make up about 3.3% and 3.1% respectively.

As for magnesium compounds, China again dominated world production with about 70% last year. Russia came up with about 5.7% and Turkey 4.3%.

A new North American producer, especially one that’s close to existing transportation infrastructure, could offer the continent’s market considerable advantages, says Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC president Dave Hodge.

“MGX is a fairly unique story,” he points out. “It’s had a very recent IPO but it’s already in the permitting process. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms and one of the things they’re working on now is determining what form they would produce at what cost, versus the size of the market for that specific commodity. Those markets take different grades and different grades are produced at different costs. The opportunity here is to determine what’s the best product to produce and create value for their shareholders.”

Hodge adds, “In many respects this is not so much a mining story but more of a business story.”

Last July Lazerson signed a three-year cash, share and expenditure deal that would give the company a 100% interest in the 326-hectare Driftwood Creek project. Now MGX’s flagship, it’s located in southwestern B.C.’s Kootenays, a region that also hosts Baymag Inc’s Mount Brussilof magnesite mine. With logging roads on the property itself, Driftwood sits about 15 kilometres from highway, power and a CP spur line.

Lazerson sees near-term potential for a relatively simple quarry operation with a low strip ratio.

MGX also gained considerable expertise in CFO Michael Reimann and VP of exploration Andris Kikauka. Reimann, with a PhD in physics, has served over 45 years in senior corporate management positions, most recently with Skana Capital and PNG Gold TSXV:PGK. Kikauka’s 30-year background includes service as project geologist for the exploration and geotechnical consulting firm Rio Minerals. He’s currently a director of American Manganese TSXV:AMY.

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Divers strike gold in ancient Mediterranean harbour

February 18th, 2015

by Greg Klein | February 18, 2015

Divers strike gold in ancient Mediterranean port

Now exposed to winter storms, the Roman port of Caesarea was once protected by a massive breakwater.
(Photo: Greg Klein)

 

At first they were mistaken for toys. But the coins turned out to be real, leading to the largest hoard of medieval gold currency ever found in Israel. That resulted from the accidental find of amateur divers in the ancient harbour of Caesarea, recently announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The treasure trove amounts to nearly 2,000 gold coins dating as far back as the ninth century.

The value wasn’t reported and probably would be considered priceless anyway. Admirably, the divers reported their discovery to the authority, which extended the search using a metal detector.

Kobi Sharvit, director of the authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said winter storms might have exposed the coins. The historic site, where St. Paul was held prior to his voyage to Rome, was once protected by a massive breakwater. Now it’s regularly pummelled by Mediterranean waves.

Divers strike gold in ancient Mediterranean port

Several coins show bite marks, “evidence they were ‘physically’ inspected by their owners or the merchants.”
(Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

The coins probably came from a shipwrecked boat carrying taxes to Egypt or possibly were meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid garrison stationed in Caesarea, Sharvit said. “Another theory is that the treasure was money belonging to a large merchant ship that traded with the coastal cities … and sank there.” Archeologists hope to learn more through salvage excavations.

The authority described the oldest coin as a ninth century quarter dinar minted in Sicily. “Most of the coins, though, belong to the Fatimid caliphs Al-Ḥakim (996 to 1021) and his son Al-Ẓahir (1021 to 1036), and were minted in Egypt and North Africa,” the authority stated.

“The coins are in an excellent state of preservation and, despite the fact they were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not require any cleaning or conservation intervention from the metallurgical laboratory,” explained numismatist Robert Cole. “This is because gold is a noble metal and is not affected by air or water.

“Several of the coins that were found in the assemblage were bent and exhibit teeth and bite marks, evidence they were ‘physically’ inspected by their owners or the merchants,” he added. “Other coins bear signs of wear and abrasion from use while others seem as though they were just minted.”

Israel’s diamond exports rising while industry battles legislators

January 17th, 2014

by Ana Komnenic | January 16, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Israel’s polished diamond exports rose by 12% over the past year, after a 23% dip in 2012, the Israeli Diamond Industry announced on January 16.

Israel’s diamond exports rising while industry battles legislators

The Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, Israel.

The country’s trade in polished precious stones brought in $6.2 billion—$1 billion less than in 2011, a record year for polished diamond exports. Rough diamond exports totalled $2.9 billion, compared to $2.8 billion in 2012.

The U.S. is still Israel’s biggest customer with 37% of the market, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, Belgium and then India.

“The global diamond industry faced serious economic challenges in 2013—high rough diamond prices, a slowdown in Asian markets and a reduction in credit,” Moti Ganz, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute said in a statement. “Despite that, the Israeli Diamond Industry was able to achieve significant growth through creativity and resourcefulness.”

In an interview posted on the organization’s website, Israel’s diamond controller Shmuel Mordechai said that while exports have recovered somewhat from last year, profitability is still suffering.

“The percentage of profits has dropped, and it may be that some of the firms experienced losses,” Mordechai said.

The industry also faces a dilemma because while the price of uncut stones rose “dramatically … there was no corresponding increase in the prices of polished diamonds,” Mordechai explained.

Israeli diamond traders have also been fighting lawmakers who are introducing anti-money laundering legislation.

“We hope that the continued advancing of the restriction will happen in lockstep with the industry, but if it doesn’t, it will happen in any case without the industry’s approval,” Mordechai said.

The restrictions are currently being drafted and are part of a broader move to make Israel’s diamond industry more transparent, especially in regards to “blood diamonds.”

Mordechai recently told Haaretz that within a year gemological labs will have to be licensed and adhere to a set of standards for determining the origin of the stones.

Israel is a big player in the global diamond industry; the country’s Diamond Exchange is the largest of its kind in the world.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Canada to boost support for mining, but faces challenges

September 18th, 2013

by Cecilia Jamasmie | September 18, 2013 | Reprinted by permission of Mining.com

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ready to launch an aggressive campaign to promote the country’s mining sector abroad, in an effort to redirect trade spending and foreign affairs to core economic interests.

Canada to boost support for mining, but faces challenges

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces support
for Northern Innovation in Mining, August 2013.
(Photo: PMO)

Ed Fast, the international trade minister, began Wednesday a cross-country campaign to get feedback from experts and actors on what kind of support they think the government should offer mining companies.

According to the Globe and Mail, the move comes as the Harper administration starts warming up its campaign machine for the 2015 elections.

But Harper faces a challenging scenario. As a result of the global mining slowdown, Canada’s mining sector has been hit hard by weak commodity prices and lack of interest from foreign and local investors.

For the first time in a decade, Canada’s normally bustling resource industry failed to book a single initial public offering (IPO) on either the Toronto Stock Exchange or the TSX Venture Exchange in the first quarter of the year, a PwC survey revealed.

Tarnished name

While Canada remains the world’s top destination for mining investments, the sector has built a less-than-popular reputation abroad. Local miners have faced domestic opposition to their projects in all parts of the globe, including Greece, Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Israel.

In January, for example, hundreds of Greeks protested in Thessaloniki against several gold mining projects owned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold TSX:ELD.

The following month, Catholic priests and small-scale miners marched with 5,000 locals in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, against a project owned by Vancouver-based B2Gold TSX:BTO.

In April tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of Bucaramanga, the country’s sixth-largest city, to defend their water supply from Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals’ TSX:EOM gold project.

Recently, Toronto-based Barrick Gold TSX:ABX admitted before a Chilean judge it had committed several violations in regards to its touted $8.5-billion Pascua Lama gold and silver project, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina.

And the most fresh example is the renewed opposition Gabriel Resources TSX:GBU faces in Romania because of its Rosia Montana gold project. Only yesterday the country’s president, Traian Basescu, asked Parliament to withdraw a bill that would allow the London-based Canadian miner to move forward.

However the future looks auspicious. Canada is among the top five producers of potash, uranium, nickel, platinum, aluminum, diamonds and steel-making coal. And global demand for commodities is expected to grow by up to 75% over the next 15 years, according to the world’s No. 1 miner, BHP Billiton NYE:BHP.

Reprinted by permission of Mining.com