Tuesday 11th August 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘mexico’

A critical first for the U.S.

June 26th, 2020

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

by Greg Klein | June 26, 2020

The way James Walker tells it, Utah’s Lost Sheep fluorspar mine was down to a part-time operation for just two men. Having seen better days between 1948 and 2007, operations dwindled to the point that “a couple of old guys were just driving a loader straight into the face of the fluorspar and putting that into bags. The grade was so rich that was all they had to do. So they just did that a couple of days a week and then they’d go off and fish most of the time.”

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

VP of exploration Raul Sanabria at
one of the project’s fluorspar showings.

Sounds idyllic, but the president/CEO of Ares Strategic Mining TSXV:ARS saw far greater potential. Walker was looking for a project “that was close to cash-flow and didn’t need a huge investment like $20 million to boost production,” he relates. “We looked over a couple of hundred projects and this one came up. It had been overlooked because the mineral itself wasn’t very well known. It was the only mine in all of America that was permitted and producing fluorspar.”

A year of effort consummated in February with Ares’ 100% acquisition which, along with additionally staked claims, delivered a 586-hectare potentially near-term producer that would comprise an American mining monopoly.

That’s based on a bold plan to move forward without the usual 43-101 de-risking stages. Walker attributes his confidence partly to the project and partly to the market.

As he said, fluorspar isn’t well known. But it’s highly coveted nonetheless. Also known as fluorite and more technically referred to as calcium fluoride (CaF2), it’s considered a critical mineral by the U.S. and EU.

Acidspar, the higher-priced fluorspar grading over 97% CaF2, is used to create hydrofluoric acid for refrigerants, pharmaceuticals and electronics, among other applications, and is also used in lithium-ion batteries and aluminum production. Lower-priced metspar, grading under 97%, goes into steel and cement production.

China produced over 57% of world fluorspar supply last year, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, followed by Mexico at 17%. With no significant production of its own, the U.S. has been importing about 66% of supply from Mexico, 13% from Vietnam, 8% from South Africa and 6% from China. Several of the world’s mines have been operating at or near full capacity, the USGS added. Roskill considers China likely to become a net fluorspar importer.

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

Assays are pending from last spring’s
delineation and exploration drill campaigns.

Ares’ work so far has Walker enthusiastic.

Although assays are still to come, last spring the company sunk 12 holes totalling 900 metres to delineate the old guys’ target area. Another five-hole, 300-metre exploration program revealed visible fluorspar in three holes. Metallurgical tests, meanwhile, upgraded Lost Sheep material beyond 97% CaF2, into the higher-priced acidspar level. That highlights the potential for bulk mining instead of selective extraction, Walker says.

He foresees possible production by October or even September with an initial 15- to 20-person operation. The mine plan calls for an adit to intersect a fluorspar-bearing pipe which would be drilled and blasted from the bottom. An underground loader or conveyor belt would move material to a truck which would carry it to the company’s own crushing, grinding, flotation and bagging facility.

“We also have a stockpile of discarded low-grade just sitting there. The other guys couldn’t sell it, they didn’t have a refining process.”

An impressive vote of confidence quickly came from the Mujim Group, a multinational fluorspar mining and distribution company. Soon after Ares announced the Lost Sheep acquisition, Mujim engineers visited the property. A strategic partnership resulted, with the group buying a 9% stake in Ares. Mujim managing director Bob Li joined Ares’ board earlier this month, bringing with him experience running fluorspar mines in Thailand and Laos, along with fluorspar trading companies in India, China and the Emirates. He’ll advise Ares on topics ranging from equipment selection and mining methods to processing techniques.

Walker himself is an engineer, not a common background for a junior mining CEO but especially suitable for a near-term producer. He’s worked on design projects for nuclear reactors, submarines, chemical plants, factories, infrastructure and automotive machinery, as well as mine processing facilities.

In charge of the Lost Sheep mine plan is Keith Minty, a mining engineer with 26 years of project development and operation experience over three continents. “He’s helped put nine mines into production that are way bigger than ours,” enthuses Walker.

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

CEO James Walker foresees operations
by September or October.

VP of exploration Raul Sanabria’s 20-year background includes five years with the Minersa Group, an industrial minerals company that’s Europe’s largest fluorspar producer. Denise Nunes brings over 20 years of experience as a process engineer and metallurgist to manage Ares’ bench testing and design a processing facility.

“We’re quite well-connected in the mining world so we have access to the best personnel for this project,” Walker emphasizes.

He points to financial backing too. Sprott Capital Partners helped broker a private placement that closed on $1.97 million in February. Haywood Securities acted as financial adviser on an over-subscribed private placement that closed on $1.13 million earlier this month. Walker anticipates a debt financing with Sprott on completing the mine plan.

In northern British Columbia, meanwhile, the company acquired the Liard fluorspar project last April. The highway-accessible 476-hectare property comes with historic, non-43-101 resources for seven areas. A joint venture, possibly with Mujim, might be the vehicle to drive the project, Walker says.

Other acquisitions are possible too, especially in the U.S., he adds. Should all go to plan with Lost Sheep, Ares would hold an American mining monopoly on fluorspar. That’s a distinction Walker would like to maintain.

Watch a January interview with Roskill analyst Adam Coggins on fluorspar demand and prices.

Visual Capitalist: The impact of critical minerals on U.S. national security

April 28th, 2020

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | April 28, 2020

See Part 1: The United States and the new energy era’s lithium-ion supply chain

In 1954, the United States was fully reliant on foreign sources for only eight mineral commodities.

Fast forward 60-plus years, and the country now depends on foreign sources for 20 such materials, including ones essential for military and battery technologies.

This puts the U.S. in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the crucial materials such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth metals that can help build and secure a more sustainable future.

America’s energy dependence

This visualization comes from Standard Lithium TSXV:SLL and it outlines China’s dominance of the critical minerals needed for the new energy era.

Which imported minerals create the most risk for U.S. supply chains and national security?

 

The new energy era The impact of critical minerals on U.S. national security

 

Natural resources and development

Gaining access to natural resources can influence a nation’s ability to grow and defend itself. China’s growth strategy took this into account, and the country sourced massive amounts of raw materials to position itself as the number one producer and consumer of commodities.

By the end of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, China’s mining industry was largely in ruins. After the war, vast amounts of raw materials were required to rebuild the country.

In the late 1970s, the industry was boosted by China’s reform and opening policies, and since then China’s mining outputs have increased enormously. China’s mining and material industries fueled the rapid growth of China from the 1980s onwards.

Supply chain dominance

A large number of Chinese mining companies also invest in overseas mining projects. China’s going out strategy encourages companies to move into overseas markets.

They have several reasons to mine beyond Chinese shores: to secure mineral resources that are scarce in China, to gain access to global markets and mineral supply chains, and to minimize domestic overproduction of some mineral commodities.

This has led China to become the leading producer of many of the world’s most important metals while also securing a commanding position in key supply chains.

As an example of this, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rare earth materials. The country produces approximately 94% of the rare earth oxides and around 100% of the rare earth metals consumed globally, with 50% going to domestic consumption.

U.S.-China trade tensions

The U.S. drafted a list of 35 critical minerals in 2018 that are vital to American national security and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the country sources at least 31 of the materials chiefly through imports.

China is the third-largest supplier of natural resources to the U.S., behind Canada and Mexico.

Rank Country U.S. minerals imports by country (US$, 2018)
#1 Canada $1,814,404,440
#2 Mexico $724,542,960
#3 China $678,217,450
#4 Brazil $619,890,570
#5 South Africa $568,183,800

This dependence on China poses a risk. In 2010, a territorial dispute between China and Japan threatened to disrupt the supply of rare earth elements. Today, a similar threat still looms over trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

China’s scale of influence over critical minerals means that it could artificially limit supply and move prices in the global clean energy trade, in the same way that OPEC does with oil. This would leave nations that import their mineral needs in an expensive and potentially limiting spot.

Moon shot: Building domestic supply and production

Every supply chain starts with raw materials. The U.S. had the world’s largest lithium industry until the 1990s—but this is no longer the case, even though the resources are still there.

The U.S. holds 12% of the world’s identified lithium resources, but only produces 2% of global production from a single mine in Nevada.

In the clean energy economy of the future, critical minerals will be just as essential—and geopolitical—as oil is today.—Scientific American

There are a handful of companies looking to develop the U.S. lithium reserves, but there is potential for so much more. Less than 18% of the U.S. land mass is geologically mapped at a scale suited to identifying new mineral deposits.

The U.S. has the resources, it is just a question of motivation. Developing domestic resources can reduce its foreign dependence, and enable it to secure the new energy era.

See Part 1: The United States and the new energy era’s lithium-ion supply chain

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

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.”

U.S. critical minerals strategy includes Canada and other allies

June 5th, 2019

by Greg Klein | June 5, 2019

The country’s tariff tactics might present an image of Fortress America battling its adversaries, but a new critical minerals strategy advocates greater co-operation between the U.S. and its friends. The manifestation of Washington’s growing concern about securing resources and building supply chains, a federal report released June 4 announces six calls to action, 24 goals and 61 recommendations accompanied by timelines for accomplishment.

The U.S. includes Canada and other allies in its critical minerals strategy

Clearly, the Donald Trump administration recognizes the problem of relying on potentially unreliable sources, especially when they’re economic and geopolitical rivals: “If China or Russia were to stop exports to the United States and its allies for a prolonged period—similar to China’s rare earths embargo in 2010—an extended supply disruption could cause significant shocks throughout U.S. and foreign critical mineral supply chains.”

Rare earths provide an especially stark example of the problem, the report emphasizes. “The REE industry has experienced downsizing, business failure, and relocation in all phases of the supply chain, including mining, separation, metal reduction, alloying and downstream manufacturing of advanced technology products such as high performance rare earth permanent magnets.”

The report, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, follows a number of American initiatives including the formal classification of 35 critical minerals and a Secretary of Defense study released last September.

For 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the U.S. imports over 50% of its supply. For 14 of them, imports account for 100% of supply, creating “a strategic vulnerability for both our economy and our military with respect to adverse foreign government actions, natural disasters, and other events that could disrupt supply.”

If China or Russia were to stop exports to the United States and its allies for a prolonged period—similar to China’s rare earths embargo in 2010—an extended supply disruption could cause significant shocks throughout U.S. and foreign critical mineral supply chains.

Apart from finding new deposits, the report calls for specific measures to encourage R&D, new supply chains, additional and publicly available exploration data, land access and permitting, a workforce with appropriate skills and expertise, as well as international trade and co-operation.

On the latter topic, the report notes significant American reliance on Canada and Mexico for many essentials. “Working with them to develop their critical mineral deposits can help improve the security of U.S. supply.”

Washington’s agenda also calls for expanded collaboration with Canada, Australia, the EU, Japan and South Korea on a range of issues, from finding and developing resources to creating supply chains.

Although the U.S. began addressing the issue early in Trump’s administration, the report’s timing coincides with fears that another Chinese rare earths embargo could happen imminently. The U.S. relies on China directly for 80% of its imports, while much of the remainder comes from China indirectly. America’s sole REE mine, Mountain Pass in California, exports all its production to China.

That leaves Western Australian miner Lynas Corp as the only major producer outside China that is, as CEO/managing director Amanda Lacaze stated, “focused on rest-of-the-world markets, that is non-Chinese markets.” Although her company faces tremendous challenges meeting Malaysian government demands for its processing facility in that country, the government has made mildly conciliatory statements in advance of a June 28 meeting with Lynas.

Update: Following a June 20, 2019, meeting between Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the two leaders “instructed officials to develop a joint action plan on critical minerals collaboration,” according to Reuters.

Unapologetically unorthodox

April 30th, 2018

Jayant Bhandari rejects convention as he discusses economies, cultures and opportunities

by Greg Klein

There are contrarians and there are contrarians. But maybe Jayant Bhandari would be better called a controversian. As a prolific writer/commentator and an adviser to institutional investors, his comments reflect a mind unsatisfied with received wisdom. Now a resident of Singapore, his travels have taken him to 80 countries, seven of which he’s lived in. That background has influenced his perspective on a number of topics including the emerging markets—or emerging market singular. China’s the only one, he insists.

Jayant Bhandari rejects convention to discuss emerging markets, the West and China

Jayant Bhandari goes beyond the
mainstream to examine the West,
China, emerging markets and gold.

Speaking on the phone to ResourceClips.com while visiting central India, he used that country to illustrate what he considers to be the emerging market fallacy. With a per-capita GDP of about $1,800, the country enjoys 7.5% growth. Multiplying those numbers shows India’s economy increasing by $135 per capita.

“Now 7.5% looks very good, but look at America,” Bhandari points out. Although it’s growing at “only” 2.3%, its per-capita GDP reaches nearly $50,000. “That translates into $1,150 growth per capita, which means that America’s GDP, on a per-capita basis, is growing nine times faster than India’s.”

He argues that people and organizations—like the World Bank and IMF—are dead wrong in claiming the two countries shouldn’t be compared.

Taking a pessimistic view towards much of the globe, he emphasizes that “something like 75% of the world’s consumption of commodities happens in China. So it is China which is in the driver’s seat and in my view it will continue to do very well going forward.”

While Chile, Argentina and Peru hold out hope, the rest of South America shows little prospect, he believes. Central America faces serious crime and social unrest. “Just about everything in Africa is imploding. The international media are almost completely ignoring the problems of South Africa which is, in my view, rapidly moving in the direction of a civil war. And if South Africa implodes, it won’t take much for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to implode.”

Bhandari adds that “Chinese money and Chinese businesses enforce some kind of stability in many of these countries.” Yet lingering problems bode poorly for the future “and it is a reason why Trump is asking for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The Third World is not in good shape at all.”

Consequently many of its people appreciate gold’s safe haven status. “They don’t trust their institutions and they don’t trust their social structures,” Bhandari maintains.

Jayant Bhandari disregards convention to discuss emerging markets, the West and China

“The biggest buyers of gold are in the Middle East and south Asia because institutions in these countries simply don’t work and people do not trust them. They do not even trust their families and friends, basically. Pakistan is imploding right now, India is rapidly moving in that direction and wealthy people of these countries will rapidly move their investment wealth into gold once they realize that economic growth isn’t happening anymore.”

Although he regards himself “ambivalent about buying gold in Western countries,” he says: “If enough gold-buying happens in these poor countries, the gold price will do quite well and that will benefit buyers of gold in Western countries.

“Of course you have to protect yourself from government interference and it’s wise to keep some of your wealth in a form that you can keep in your own pocket.”

Still, Bhandari sees too much emphasis on gold’s price in U.S. dollars. Non-American buyers “look at gold in the currencies that they use at home. When people focus too much on U.S. dollar pricing of gold they might not understand the technical future of gold.”

What could trigger a significant and sustained price increase? One possibility could be turmoil in South Africa “because those problems would very rapidly spread across sub-Saharan Africa. But I also see problems continuing to increase in India and if this country increases its consumption very slightly on a per-capita basis, it will start consuming a lot more gold. And social instability is increasing in this country.”

People should pay attention to what Western civilization stands for in hopes that they can preserve it.

Among Bhandari’s more optimistic endeavours is Capitalism and Morality, a philosophy seminar that he hosts in Vancouver each year. “My purpose is to bring people together to discuss Western civilization, what I consider to be the only civilization that has ever existed.”

Considering the West unique for its respect towards reason and individuality, Bhandari says, “People should pay attention to what Western civilization stands for in hopes that they can preserve it.”

What does Bhandari’s perspective mean to investors? He examines the mistakes people make in junior resource stocks at the International Mining Investment Conference, held in Vancouver on May 15 and 16. For a 25% admission discount click here and enter the code RESOURCECLIPS.

Read about conference speakers Simon Moores and Ed Steer.

More critical than ever

April 13th, 2017

The USGS promotes awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

by Greg Klein

Let’s call it Critical Minerals Awareness Month. The U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t actually labelled April that way, but the agency does have a “big push” underway to inform American decision-makers and the general public about the country’s often tenuous hold on commodities vital to the economy and security of that country. Of course those concerns apply to its allies as well.

The USGS promotes public awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

“We decided to do a big push on critical minerals in April largely because we’ve got several big publications coming out on the subject,” USGS public affairs specialist Alex Demas tells ResourceClips.com.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on is supply chain security, so with the sheer number of mineral commodities that are used in the United States, and the number of them deemed critical, we felt it was important to emphasize where a lot of those mineral resources are coming from and if there are any potential issues in the supply chain, getting them from the source to the United States.”

Computers provide an obvious example, increasing their use from “just 12 elements in the 1980s to as many as 60 by 2006,” points out one recent USGS news release. Smartphones offer another example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” states another USGS release. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

Larry Meinert, USGS deputy associate director for energy and minerals, pointed out some of the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

That brings an ominous warning. “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

The campaign also reveals the agency’s methods for tracking this essential stuff. A USGS-designed early warning system described as “mathematically rigorous and elegant” helps the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency monitor a watch list of about 160 minerals. Not all have been labelled critical, but those so defined can change due to technological development and geopolitical conflict.

The USGS itself tracks something like 90 minerals important to the American economy or security but sourced from about 180 countries. For last year the agency identified 20 minerals on which the U.S. relied entirely on imports and 47 on which the country imported more than half its supply.

Not all the source countries are always best buddies with the West. China supplies most of America’s mined commodities, including 24 of the 47 minerals supplied 51% or more by imports. Among the critical items are rare earth elements, 100% imported, over 90% directly from China and much of the rest through supply chains originating there.

As a supplier, Canada came a distant second, the chief provider of 16 minerals, not all of them critical. Runners-up Mexico, Russia and South Africa were each chief suppliers for eight American mineral imports.

Among the research reports coming soon will be “a compendium of everything the USGS knows about 23 minerals critical to the United States,” Demas says. “It’s going to cover the industry side of things, the reserves, production, shipment, etc. It’s going to cover geology and sustainability. Each chapter on each mineral will have a section on how this can be mined sustainably so we can meet our needs not only today, but also in the future.”

In part the publications target “decision-makers in Congress, as well as the Defense Department and others who use mineral resources,” Demas adds. But he emphasizes the campaign wasn’t motivated by the proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security). Currently before U.S. Congress, the bill calls on government to support domestic resources and supply chains of critical and strategic minerals. On introducing the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the risk of foreign dependence to national security “is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

As Demas notes, “Since we are a non-regulatory, non-policy agency, we don’t directly influence policy. But we do want policy-makers to have our tools available so they can make the best science-informed decisions.”

And while this month will see special attention to critical minerals, Demas says the subject’s an ongoing concern for the USGS. Some of the reports coming out now will be updates of annual publications.

“We’re really trying to promote the idea that USGS has a lot of really useful information that we put out all the time,” he adds. “This information will hopefully be useful to people when they’re considering where their resources are coming from.”

Follow USGS news here.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.

Opportunism knocks

December 5th, 2016

First Mining Finance found bad times beneficial for good deals

by Greg Klein

Struggling junior? Not this company. Since its trading debut in April 2015, First Mining Finance TSXV:FF has compiled 25 projects covering some 300,000 hectares, from early stage to a PEA with 4.4 million gold ounces indicated. Just as aggressively, the company boosted its treasury to a current $35 million. Now First Mining looks forward to a $21-million exploration and development program for 2017 that includes 47,000 metres of drilling.

“We were able to execute on the vision of the company, which last year was to take advantage of the bear market and acquire projects,” VP of investor relations Derek Iwanaka explains. “I don’t know of any other company that was able to acquire as many projects, or projects as good as we got, during that period.”

First Mining Finance found bad times beneficial for good deals

Located in northwestern Ontario’s Birch-Uchi greenstone belt,
First Mining’s 32,448-hectare Springpole flagship has an
updated PEA scheduled for next year.

Certainly there were deals to be had for canny acquisitors. But that was while many other companies faced financing difficulties. First Mining bucked the trend last August by closing a $27-million private placement. How did they pull that off?

“Quite easily,” responds Iwanaka. “We were literally turning down millions of dollars. We had over $70 million in orders but we didn’t want that kind of dilution. So we just took the $27 million. That should carry us for at least the next few years, including all the drilling and overhead.”

First Mining seems to have something that eludes others.

“First of all we have Keith Neumeyer at the helm, who runs a multi-billion-dollar company as it stands,” says Iwanaka. “Keith has been adept at starting companies during very bad times and manoeuvring them so when times are good we can reap the rewards for our shareholders.”

Among companies founded by the First Mining director were First Quantum Minerals TSX:FM and First Majestic Silver TSX:FR, where Neumeyer’s president/CEO. First Majestic acts as a sort of mentor to First Mining, placing some FR directors in FF’s management and board, helping to get the new company started, lending it about $1 million, vending three Mexican properties and even providing office space.

Among considerations behind an acquisition are “size and quality of the project,” Iwanaka points out. “We look at projects with good grade, scalability, exploration upside. The jurisdiction’s quite important to us. We’re basically looking at North America, but not the North. We will look at South America as well. Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland are our favourite places although we could go to other provinces too. In the U.S. we see Nevada and Arizona as fairly mining-friendly states. We could probably look at New Mexico as well. We do have some early-stage properties in Mexico, where First Majestic has its base, but we certainly focus on Canada.”

As for commodities, “we particularly like gold but silver, platinum and palladium are also attractive, as well as base metals—anything that’s exchange-tradeable.”

Other factors include “the price of the projects, the holding cost, the infrastructure. In many cases the projects we take already have roads and power lines going to them.”

If gold’s the company’s focus, the Springpole flagship explains why. Described as one of Canada’s largest undeveloped gold projects, the northwestern Ontario potential open pit came with the past owner’s 2013 PEA. Using a 0.4 g/t gold cutoff, the 2012 resource showed:

  • indicated: 128.2 million tonnes averaging 1.07 g/t gold and 5.7 g/t silver for 4.41 million ounces gold and 23.8 million ounces silver

  • inferred: 25.7 million tonnes averaging 0.83 g/t gold and 3.2 g/t silver for 690,000 ounces gold and 2.7 million ounces silver

First Mining has work underway to bring the resource and PEA up to date. But looking back at 2013, the report calculated a post-tax NPV of US$388 million using a 5% discount, with a 13.8% post-tax IRR. Initial capex came to US$438 million with payback in 35 months of an 11-year mine life.

First Mining Finance found bad times beneficial for good deals

Visible gold was one attraction of the Goldlund project,
which has another 27,000 metres of drilling planned.

“We expect the updated PEA will be even more robust,” Iwanaka says. “The U.S. dollar has appreciated since 2013, when it was at par. We’re also looking at increasing the recovery and the pit shell. Those three things could substantially improve the economics and we hope to have the new PEA out probably by the first half of next year.”

With assays pending, a four-hole, 1,712-metre fall program provided metallurgical fodder. Next summer’s agenda calls for another 6,000 metres of infill to upgrade the resource. In the meantime, pre-permitting environmental and baseline work will soon begin.

A newer acquisition gets even more rig attention next year. Goldlund, about 60 kilometres north of Dryden and roughly 200 klicks south of Springpole, has 27,000 metres planned to upgrade the resource and work towards an eventual PEA. The former open pit and underground operation came with an estimate that First Mining considers an historic non-43-101. Using a 0.4 g/t gold cutoff, it showed:

  • measured and indicated: 19.1 million tonnes averaging 1.94 g/t for 1.19 million ounces gold

  • inferred: 25.8 million tonnes averaging 2.51 g/t for 2.08 million ounces

Cameron, maybe another 100 kilometres south of Goldlund, gets up to 9,000 metres of infill to pump up the measured and indicated prior to PEA. Using a 0.5 g/t cutoff, a 2015 resource from Chalice Gold Mines TSX:CXN showed:

  • measured: 3.72 million tonnes averaging 2.64 g/t for 316,000 ounces gold

  • indicated: 4.1 million tonnes averaging 1.92 g/t for 253,000 ounces

  • inferred: 14.5 million tonnes averaging 1.92 g/t for 894,000 ounces

Moving to southwestern Newfoundland, Hope Brook will see 5,000 metres of exploration and infill. A high 3 g/t gold cutoff gives the current resource:

  • indicated: 5.5 million tonnes averaging 4.77 g/t for 844,000 ounces gold

  • inferred: 836,000 tonnes averaging 4.11 g/t for 110,000 ounces

Again, a resource upgrade precedes a PEA, this one slated for late 2017.

Back in Ontario and roughly 110 kilometres northeast of the Springpole flagship, autumn drilling has wrapped up at Pickle Crow. Assays from the nine-hole, 1,319-metre campaign are expected in early 2017. The former mine came with a 2011 inferred resource that used a 2.25 g/t gold cutoff for an underground deposit and a 0.35 g/t cutoff for an open pit deposit:

Underground

  • 6.52 million tonnes averaging 5.4 g/t for 1.14 million ounces gold

Open pit

  • 3.63 million tonnes averaging 1.1 g/t for 126,000 ounces

Total

  • 10.15 million tonnes averaging 3.9 g/t for 1.26 million ounces

With assays to come, drilling to do and announcements for other North American projects anticipated, First Mining plans a steady news flow, says Iwanaka.

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.

Canadian mining groups welcome Trans-Pacific Partnership

October 5th, 2015

by Greg Klein | October 5, 2015

In a deal supported by associations representing the country’s mining and exploration sector, Canada will become a founder of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ottawa announced the agreement on October 5 as a federal election loomed two weeks in the future.

The Canadian government says the TPP will cut tariffs and other barriers, broadening markets for a range of Canadian industries that include metals and mining. The deal also offers Canadian investors in mining and other areas “transparent and predictable access to TPP markets,” the feds added.

Canada’s mining industry has been a strong advocate for liberalized trade and investment flows for many years…. TPP, representing such a massive trade bloc, including critical emerging markets, is a trading partnership Canada must not risk being left out of.—Pierre Gratton, president/CEO of the Mining Association of Canada

In a declaration of support six days previously, the Mining Association of Canada said the country’s metals and minerals exports to TPP members averaged $158.6 billion per year from 2012 to 2014. The group noted, however, pre-TPP tariffs of up to 5% in Australia, up to 7.9% in Japan, up to 10% in New Zealand, up to 20% in Brunei, up to 40% in Vietnam and up to 50% in Malaysia.

TPP negotiations also addressed “numerous challenges that companies currently face in getting products, people and services across borders on a day-to-day basis,” MAC added. “As one of Canada’s largest outward investing sectors—accounting for 10% ($81.5 billion) of the 2013 total—benefiting from the greater certainty, transparency and foreign investment protection that the TPP will enable is important for the mining industry to remain competitive on the global stage.”

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada stated its “8,000 members invest significant financial assets across the Asia-Pacific region to explore for and develop mineral deposits. PDAC is particularly supportive of aspects of the TPP that will facilitate two-way investment, including protection for investors that provides greater clarity, certainty and transparency.”

The world’s largest trading bloc, the TPP partners Canada with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Conspicuous for its absence is China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Even so, TPP membership represents nearly 800 million people and a combined GDP of $28.5 trillion, the Canadian government stated. The 12 include some of the world’s fastest-growing economies “and this is expected to continue to be the case” as the bloc’s expected to comprise two-thirds of the world’s middle class by 2030 and half of global GDP by 2050. Some 81% of Canada’s total exports already go to TPP countries.

Canada now has free trade agreements with 51 nations which “will give Canadian businesses preferential access to over 60% of the world’s economy and more than 1.3 billion consumers,” according to Ottawa.

A matter of necessity: Rob McEwen clarifies cartel comment

April 13th, 2015

by Greg Klein | April 13, 2015

McEwen Mining TSX:MUX CEO Rob McEwen wants to clear up any misunderstanding about any “relationship” with criminal cartels. In an April 9 BNN interview about the 7,000-ounce gold heist at his company’s El Gallo 1 mine in Mexico, he was asked if that part of the country is dangerous. McEwen responded: “It hasn’t been. I mean the cartels are active down there. Generally we have a good relationship with them.”

It is our policy to contact all property owners or impacted community members in an area to seek their permission and ascertain the appropriate timing to enter their properties to conduct mineral exploration. We respect their wishes as any good neighbour and responsible miner would.—Rob McEwen,
CEO of McEwen Mining

By April 13 McEwen found a clarification necessary. “My answer was related to gaining access to properties we wish to explore,” he stated. “It is our policy to contact all property owners or impacted community members in an area to seek their permission and ascertain the appropriate timing to enter their properties to conduct mineral exploration. We respect their wishes as any good neighbour and responsible miner would.

“Unfortunately, my use of the words ‘good relationship’ was careless and has created the entirely false impression with Mexican media that we have regular contact with criminal elements in their society. This is simply not true. I wish to apologize sincerely for any misunderstanding my words may have caused.”

McEwen had told BNN, “If you want to go explore somewhere you ask them, and they’ll tell you “no,” but then they’ll say come back in a couple of weeks [when] we finish what we’re doing.”

BNN’s Andrew Bell then asked, “What are they doing, transporting drugs or something?”

McEwen answered, “They might be harvesting them, or—a lot of the problems happen higher in the mountains and we’re in the foothills.”

While the word “relationship” might be misunderstood, the unfortunate necessity of consulting criminals isn’t unique to Mexico or McEwen. Nor is it new. In late 2011 Ian Ball, then senior VP for US Gold, McEwen’s predecessor company at El Gallo, told ResourceClips.com, “We have been very active there for three or four years and have been able to establish a pretty good relationship—and this might sound strange—with the cartel. You have to know who they are and inform them what you’re doing and where you’re moving to…. They don’t want you near their marijuana crops.”

US Gold was renamed McEwen Mining in January 2012.

Read more about Rob McEwen’s BNN interview.