Saturday 24th October 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘molybdenum’

Crisis: More studies needed

October 1st, 2020

The U.S. responds to a critical minerals “emergency” with additional reports

by Greg Klein | October 1, 2020

A national emergency normally calls for action. But although the U.S. faces “an unusual and extraordinary threat”—not referring to insurrectionary riots but foreign dependency on critical minerals—the country intends to respond with more studies and reports. Such was the gist of President Donald Trump’s September 30 executive order.

Yet he made his awareness of the problem manifest. Referring to 35 critical minerals the U.S. deems essential for uses including national security, economic well-being, electronics, transportation and infrastructure, Trump cited U.S. Geological Survey data showing his country imports over half its supply of 31 of the 35 minerals. For 14 of the minerals, the U.S. depends completely on foreign sources.

The U.S. responds to a critical minerals “emergency” with more reports

U.S. President Trump arrives in Pennsylvania days ahead of
his declaration of a national emergency on critical minerals
and call for a rejuvenated mining industry.
(Photo: White House/Tia Dufour)

That leaves the country vulnerable “to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster or other supply disruptions. Our national security, foreign policy and economy require a consistent supply of each of these minerals.”

Standing out as the greatest foreign supplier and greatest foreign threat is China. Rare earths provide a stark example. While the U.S. led global production back in the 1980s, China now provides 80% of American supply directly and, indirectly through other countries, some of the remainder too. Since the 2010 Senkaku incident, China’s machinations have included withholding RE exports, then flooding the market to ruin potential non-Chinese suppliers, and forcing RE-dependent manufacturers to relocate to the Middle Kingdom.

Among the critical 35, Trump also emphasized barite (more than 75% of U.S. supply is imported, over half the total from China), gallium (95% of global supply comes from China) and graphite (100% of U.S. supply is imported; China provides over 60% of global supply and almost all high-purity flake graphite).

What Trump actually ordered, however, are further studies and reports—lots of them. Often with overlapping areas of concern and some with recurring updates, federal studies will consider ways to encourage domestic extraction and processing, as well as expand and protect domestic supply chains. Some strategies include import restrictions against China and other countries, and loan guarantees to companies linked to a supply chain.

Our nation’s undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.—U.S. President Donald Trump

Trump’s concern dates at least to December 2017 with an executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” The order followed closely on a 900-page USGS report that was the country’s first comprehensive update since 1973.

The 35 list followed in 2018. Later that year the U.S. Department of Defense presented its own report to Trump. In 2019 alone he signed five “presidential determinations finding that domestic production of rare earth elements and materials is essential to the national defence.”

Some more tangible developments this year included undisclosed amounts funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to study the feasibility of two potential rare earths separation facilities, one by California RE miner MP Minerals, and the other by Australian RE miner Lynas Corp with its American JV partner Blue Line Corp, to be located in Texas.

Last month Washington awarded $7.97 million in 2020 funding to the Earth Mapping Resource Initiative for critical geoscientific studies in 21 states.

As one of the 35 essentials, uranium rates strategies of its own. It fuels about 20% of American electricity, not including U.S. Navy nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. But the country relies on imports for about 90% of supply. Backed by Trump’s 2021 budget, the U.S. Department of Energy formed a working group to encourage domestic uranium mining, support nuclear fuel cycle capabilities and establish emergency uranium reserves.

Another energy-related presidential order aims to safeguard vital infrastructure including electricity substations and water treatment facilities from foreign control.

Some positive steps notwithstanding, China’s dominance remains unchallenged. Trump’s latest round of studies, under the guise of a national emergency, might have more to do with courting job-hungry voters. “In many cases, the aggressive economic practices of certain non-market foreign producers of critical minerals have destroyed vital mining and manufacturing jobs in the United States,” he said.

Over the last several decades, our nation’s mining industry has suffered due to political inaction, a broken permitting process and predatory foreign competition from China.—A White House statement

Yet other mining issues question his ability to support the sector. This is the president who failed to protect the Appalachian coal industry despite 2016 assurances. Alaska’s Pebble saga presents a giant copper-gold-molybdenum deposit backed by Trump but mired in regulatory battles. Just recently scandal joined the imbroglio as now-resigned Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier was recorded talking up his company’s relationship with U.S. politicians and officials.

The November election outcome adds more uncertainty to Trump’s stated goals. But bipartisan concern over foreign dependency has emerged in the U.S. House of Representatives. In July both parties came together to form a Critical Minerals Caucus to encourage domestic production. In September a bipartisan bill tabled in the House called for tax incentives for mining, reclaiming and recycling critical minerals.

Of course the U.S. hardly stands alone. This week the EU created the European Raw Materials Alliance to “identify barriers, opportunities and investment cases to build capacity at all stages of the raw materials value chain, from mining to waste recovery. In a first phase, the alliance focuses on the most pressing need, which is to increase EU resilience in the rare earths and permanent magnets value chains, as these are vital to most EU industrial ecosystems.”

The alliance follows a critical raw materials action plan announced earlier last month. But participants need not be European. “Pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood will start as of 2021,” the EU stated.

Another transnational proposal would bring the U.S. and Canada together. The two countries announced their Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration in January and, without specifying anything tangible, reaffirmed their intentions in June.

October 16, 2020, update: Canada, Australia and U.S. announce the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative.

Geoscience BC uses bacterial DNA to help guide mineral exploration

August 27th, 2020

by Greg Klein | August 27, 2020

Imagine that—tens of thousands of bacterial species teeming in every little gram of soil. It might take even greater imagination to see opportunity therein. But ever-innovative Geoscience BC has found ways to analyze the bacteria’s DNA for clues about possible underlying deposits.

That’s the topic of the non-profit society’s newly released report, Microbial-Community Fingerprints as Indicators for Buried Mineralization in British Columbia. The findings can point to deposits covered by glacial overburden, a particular challenge for exploration in much of the province.

“Soil microbes are very sensitive and responsive to chemical and physical changes in their environment,” noted Sean Crowe, a project co-leader and University of British Columbia professor. “Comparing the quantity and species of bacteria found in soil samples collected over ore deposits with soils from other areas can help to zero in on buried mineral deposits.”

Researchers came from three UBC departments: Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Microbiology and Immunology; and the Mineral Deposit Research Unit. They collected samples surrounding two copper porphyry deposits in south-central B.C.: Consolidated Woodjam Copper’s (TSXV:WCC) Deerhorn copper-gold deposit near Williams Lake and Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) Highmont South copper-molybdenite deposit near Kamloops.

“By combining the results of high-throughput DNA sequencing with geomicrobiological knowledge, the researchers identified groups of indicator bacterial species that help distinguish soils above mineralization from background soils,” Geoscience BC stated.

“We found that sequence-based anomaly detection is both sensitive and robust, and could go a long way towards helping discover new mineral resources,” said microbiologist and lead report author Rachel Simister.

Geoscience BC VP of minerals Christa Pellett added, “This project is a good example of Geoscience BC supporting the application of innovative technologies for mineral exploration, and confirms the potential for using genomic sequencing as a tool to identify mineral deposits beneath glacial sediments.”

Work on the project continued despite the passing of co-leader Peter Winterburn, whom Geoscience BC acknowledged for his “valuable and lasting legacy.”

The non-profit society uses a number of leading-edge approaches to study B.C.’s mineral, energy and water resources. Information published in the public domain helps industry, government and communities make resource-based decisions. Last month Geoscience BC asked explorers in the Golden Triangle region to contribute geophysical findings for a public dataset.

Read more about the genome sequencing project.

Read about the collaboration between Geoscience BC and the B.C. Geological Survey.

A resource-less approach

August 21st, 2020

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

by Greg Klein | August 21, 2020

“Very disheartened,” the Mining Association of Canada expressed more than usual frustration as another resource project faced another unexpected setback. This one caused special pain since it resulted from Bill C-69, which the industry group had controversially supported. MAC did so thinking the bill would fix problems associated with the federal environmental act of 2012. But the association had also supported Ottawa back then, before becoming disillusioned with the legislation’s implementation. Could there be a pattern here?

MAC expressed its most recent discouragement on August 20 after federal environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) Castle coal proposal would face a federal review under the Impact Assessment Act in addition to the provincial review already underway.

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

Teck’s Fording River operation: Does a supposedly green economy
have no room for steel-making coal? (Photo: Teck Resources)

As a new source of metallurgical coal just south of Teck’s Fording River mine in southeastern British Columbia, Castle would add “several decades” of life to the currently depleting operation, the company maintains. Teck hoped to begin Castle development in 2023 and production in 2026, to replace the existing operation early next decade.

Yet the size of the proposal calls for an environmental review at the provincial level only, Teck and MAC say, arguing that federal IAA intervention isn’t necessary.

“It seems clear that this decision was political in nature as there are many projects across the country with equal or more significant impacts that are not subject to the IAA,” MAC president/CEO Pierre Gratton asserted. “This is a case of the government succumbing to pressure from political interest groups while also placating the U.S. government’s EPA and the state of Montana.”

Yet Canada’s new regimen was supposed to end much of the federal-provincial review duplication, which helped explain MAC’s support for C-69 last year even after Parliament rejected most of the Senate’s proposed amendments. Over objections from the oilpatch and some uranium companies, MAC declared the new legislation an improvement over the former Tory government’s 2012 Environmental Assessment Act.

MAC had supported the 2012 transformation too. But later the group decided it did not “live up to its promise,” Gratton told CBC last year.

In making this decision, the federal government is sending a clear message that instead of providing support for resource projects and jobs in a time of unprecedented economic crisis, it will choose to do the opposite. —The Mining Association
of Canada

On August 20 he stated MAC’s support for the new IAA had been “contingent on it being implemented well. It is unfortunate that the past month has now given our industry reason to question whether it will be implemented in a fair and efficient manner.”

Weeks earlier, MAC noted, Ottawa released its new Strategic Assessment on Climate Change, “which included numerous requirements that are unworkable for the mining sector and is calling into question whether the act will be well and fairly implemented.”

Implementation aside, the IAA is hardly free of inherent faults. A February 2019 commentary by Grant Bishop and Grant Sprague of the C.D. Howe Institute warned that C-69 threatened projects by “congesting the assessment process with wider public policy concerns and exacerbating the political uncertainty facing proponents with a highly subjective ‘public interest’ standard.” That allowed for “increasing subjectivity and politicization in project approvals,” the authors contended.

Additionally, they said the new bill failed to clarify the duty to consult natives.

C-69 passed at the same time as Bill C-48, aka the “tanker moratorium,” and shortly after a ban on offshore Arctic drilling.

Problems are obvious at the provincial level too. One early sign of a growing trend was B.C.’s 2012 rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum proposal despite an environmental assessment that found the project was “not likely to have significant adverse effects.” In the legislature last spring MLA Andrew Weaver, B.C.’s former Green leader, suggested the previous BC Liberal government rejected Morrison as a trade-off to gain native support for a gas transmission line to the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant.

The BC Liberal government did, however, support Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity proposal. Ottawa scrapped that one, partly by expanding its environmental mandate to include spiritual and cultural issues.

B.C.’s current NDP government, meanwhile, has come under fire from Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO for a process that it said involved 28 government reviewers, “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” and “moving goalposts.” These are, of course, just a few examples of ongoing frustration that characterizes resource and infrastructure development across Canada.

Most vexing is the duty to consult. Does that create a veto? Not according to Gratton, who has previously insisted: “We’re not in a world of veto. We’re in a world of deep and meaningful engagement.”

But that deep and meaningful stuff can work in reverse too. When the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended federal rejection of an expansion proposal for Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation in 2018, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association convinced Ottawa to approve the company’s request.

The Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, moreover, appear to show some natives trying to veto others. The cause was taken up by Canada’s wider protest culture following its mass adulation for a Swedish teenager in demonstrations that at least hinted at religious fervour. The anti-pipeline movement quickly morphed into Shut Down Canada, an effort that showed signs of succeeding until quelled by the pandemic. Yet widespread demonstrating resumed with an American issue imported to this country awkwardly but with immediate and uniform support from Canadian media, political and business elites.

Will that support follow when protesters channel their emotions en masse back to environmental issues? Certainly much of the political and media establishment already grant credibility to seriously disruptive tactics that, for example, block people’s freedom of movement.

It’s in this milieu that the prime minister is speculated to be preparing an unprecedented social spending program that would dwarf previous deficit budgets.

Gold bugs might believe the outcome will vindicate their predictions for fiat currency. They might also feel vindicated by this week’s investment of US$560 million in Barrick Gold TSX:ABX by Berkshire Hathaway, whose legendary CEO Warren Buffett was previously known to disparage gold.

One of the world’s largest gold producers and nominally a Canadian company, Barrick has just one mine and no exploration or development projects in this country. For its part, Berkshire Hathaway expressed its opinion of Canada in early March when the company cancelled its planned $4-billion investment in GNL Québec. A spokesperson for the LNG proponent cited investor nervousness about the “current Canadian political context” demonstrated by rail blockades.

If Canada’s abandoning its resource economy, the replacement remains uncertain. That might be a situation better understood by investors than policy-makers, but it carries implications much wider than stock prices.

Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions

July 2nd, 2020

by Greg Klein | July 2, 2020

In what might be a unique approach to regulatory uncertainty, a would-be British Columbia miner says it has “helped set the trend towards more transparent, accessible and fair proceedings for bulk-sampling projects.” Exasperated by its dealings with the provincial mines ministry, Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO went to the province’s Ombudsperson. As a result, the company and the ministry have agreed to procedures and a timeline for the company’s permitting application.

Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions

Taranis has sunk about 250 holes at Thor
since acquiring the Kootenay property in 2006.
(Photo: Taranis Resources)

Taranis proposes to conduct a 10,000-tonne sample as part of the feasibility studies for the Thor project in southeastern B.C. The 3,172-hectare property hosts five historic mines and a potential silver-gold-lead-zinc-copper open pit.

Last March the company castigated B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, charging that a supposedly 60-day review had dragged on since September 2019, involving 28 government reviewers, “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” and “moving goalposts.”

But on July 2 CEO John Gardiner thanked the ministry and the Ombudsperson “for formulating a number of positive measures that pertain not only to Taranis, but to B.C.’s exploration and mining sector as a whole.”

The resolution calls for draft engineering drawings of a water management plan and tailings storage facility to be completed with ministry collaboration within three to four weeks before being sent to the province’s Mine Development Review Committee for comments.

“Taranis expects the permit recommendation to be sent from EMPR to the statutory decision maker this year,” the company stated. “EMPR will try to complete this work by August 31, 2020, in order to mitigate further delay.”

We wish to thank the Ombudsperson’s office and EMPR … for formulating a number of positive measures that pertain not only to Taranis, but to B.C.’s exploration and mining sector as a whole.—John Gardiner,
Taranis Resources CEO

Taranis also stated that the ministry committed to completing and posting online a draft policy and information bulletin entitled Permitting Custom and Pilot Mill Operations, and a fact sheet for bulk sampling.

The province has been blamed for “moving the goalposts” on another mining proposal, and in this case the criticism came from a Supreme Court judge. But although the court ordered the government in 2013 to reconsider Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) application to build the Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine, the company still faces regulatory uncertainty. Late last month independent MLA and former Green leader Andrew Weaver accused the government of imposing conditions too vague for compliance. “For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no,” he charged.

Also last month B.C.’s New Democrat government announced proposed updates to the province’s Mines Act. Among the changes would be the separation of health and safety enforcement from responsibility for permitting decisions.

A newly created chief auditor’s staff would inspect mines and issue orders to rectify dangers to people, property or the environment.

Mine inspectors would gain stronger powers to stop work until remedial environmental protection takes place, and broader authority to conduct inspections. Inspections could include “indigenous accompaniment.”

Does B.C. use regulatory uncertainty as a political ploy? Former Green leader cites Pacific Booker

June 25th, 2020

by Greg Klein | June 25, 2020

Regulatory limbo might have been deliberately imposed on a British Columbia mining proponent for political reasons. That’s a concern raised by MLA Andrew Weaver as he once again questioned the provincial government’s handling of Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison mine.

Does B.C. use regulatory uncertainty as a political ploy? Former Green leader cites Pacific Booker

Independent MLA Andrew Weaver

New environmental regulations introduced in 2018 don’t apply to the project, the New Democrat government states. But the former rules have been applied without clarity, Weaver argued. Addressing the legislature on June 24 the former Green leader, now an independent MLA, charged the government with stalling the project’s environmental assessment by confusing the process.

Acknowledging there’s “no smoking gun,” Weaver’s blog cited “suspicious circumstantial evidence” that the former BC Liberal government rejected the mine to gain native support for LNG projects. That government turned down the copper-gold-molybdenum proposal in 2012 although the province’s Environmental Assessment Office found that, with successful mitigation measures, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.”

Weaver’s post continued, “This is the same government that went to Ottawa in 2014 to lobby the federal government to approve [Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity proposal], a project that had received two negative assessments by federal review panels.”

At the time mines minister Bill Bennett refused to explain the apparent contradiction.

Pacific Booker lawyered up in 2012, resulting in a 2013 B.C. Supreme Court decision ordering the province to reconsider Morrison. As Weaver noted, “Justice [Kenneth] Affleck would describe the environmental assessment process as a ‘sham’ and accuse the province of repeatedly ‘moving the goalposts’ during the assessment process.”

But in 2015 the Liberals ordered the project to undergo further assessment. Weaver’s blog pointed out the Lake Babine Nation’s uncertain support for LNG projects including the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line. Referring to the pipeline in 2016, Weaver wrote, “Chief Wilf Adam was quoted in Business in Vancouver as saying: ‘If they overturn or change their decision in favour of PBM to start this mine, then all gloves are off—and any agreement we made with the province.”

For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no.—MLA Andrew Weaver

The NDP narrowly won the 2017 election, governing with the support of three Green MLAs. A new Environmental Assessment Act passed in 2018, but doesn’t apply to Morrison. The Liberal government’s section 17 order imposed in 2015 remains in force. But “Pacific Booker has been unable to clarify the precise nature of what is actually required in the section 17 order,” Weaver told the legislature. “For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no.”

Weaver asked environment minister George Heyman to amend and clarify the 2015 requirements. Weaver added that it’s impossible for the company to move through the regulatory process “when that process has not been defined.”

Heyman denied Weaver’s charges, saying the requirements have been specific and his staff “are working to help answer any questions that the proponent has with respect to the information required.”

Weaver quit the Greens in January after announcing his intention to leave politics for family reasons. A mathematician, climate scientist and University of Victoria professor who shared in a 2007 Nobel Prize, he accused his former party colleagues last month of preferring re-election to upholding Green principles.

Last March Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO lambasted B.C.’s current environmental review process, saying the Thor polymetallic project was stalled as the company dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Taranis directors argued that “it is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation, with a complement of inexperienced and unqualified civil servants in positions of authority whose obvious intention is nothing less than making sure nothing gets done.”

July 2, 2020, update: Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions.

B.C. MLA and former Green leader Andrew Weaver questions the province’s rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals’ proposed mine

April 20th, 2020

…Read more

Taranis Resources alleges “catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” with B.C. mines ministry

March 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 16, 2020

Stating it’s “in a unique position to experience every aspect of the permitting process in B.C.,” an explorer levelled strong complaints about how a bulk sampling application has been handled. Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO, operator of the Thor polymetallic project in southeastern British Columbia, made the charges in a March 16 news release following a conference call with ministry officials.

Taranis Resources alleges catastrophic deficiencies and concerns with B.C. mines ministry

Taranis received its most recent drill permit last January, after
filing an application in March 2019. (Photo: Taranis Resources)

In October 2018 the company applied for permission to conduct a 10,000-kilogram sample. The program would supply material for metallurgical tests as part of Thor’s PEA studies and also remove environmentally harmful stockpiles resulting from historic mining, Taranis states. Since then, the company maintains, it has dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Responding in 2018, the government applied requirements previously used only for large-scale commercial mining but which were to be adapted to the bulk mining proposal, the company states. Taranis says it agreed, but a technical review that should have taken 60 days has dragged on since September 2019.

Input from 28 technical reviewers led to modifications of site layouts, water treatment and other aspects of the original proposal, Taranis avers, but the process also featured “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” as well as “moving goalposts.”

The latter consisted of a demand that engineering drawings be stamped “final” instead of “draft,” undermining “the spirit of technical review.” The company called for assurance that “‘final’ site-engineering plans aren’t modified multiple times based on whims of improperly managed technical reviewers.”

During a March 12 conference call between the company and ministry officials, Taranis states, deputy chief mines inspector Lowell Constable attributed Mount Polley to the decision to apply large-scale commercial mining standards to the bulk sample application.

In a 2014 tailings dam failure at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold operation, some eight million cubic metres of waste poured into the waterways of B.C.’s Cariboo region.

According to Taranis, Constable said that “there are no minor tailings facilities anymore in the code. So big or small, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of pieces still moving around in the tailings management code.”

The company argues that “it is unreasonable that full-scale commercial mine permitting scope and associated costs be applied carte blanche to any and all test production scenarios.”

While the company believed conditional permitting would be a “cornerstone” of its application, Taranis quoted mines ministry executive regional director Heather Cullen as saying, “We are getting away from issuing conditional permits—conditional permits are not the way we are going.…”

It is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation…—Taranis Resources
board of directors

Taranis maintains that the conference call demonstrated that “there are no clear, concise, reasonable permitting allowances for exploration bulk sampling in B.C.—an essential exploration tool to the mining business. Up until 2018, there was a well-defined permitting process for exploration bulk sampling.”

The company’s board of directors states: “Based on our experience, it is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation, with a complement of inexperienced and unqualified civil servants in positions of authority whose obvious intention is nothing less than making sure nothing gets done.”

A week before the conference call, independent MLA and former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver criticized the New Democratic government for prolonging “regulatory inconsistencies” regarding Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine. After the initial rejection by B.C.’s previous Liberal government in 2012, the provincial Supreme Court found the decision “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.” Ordered to reassess the proposal, the NDP government “once again rejected the project in order to undergo further assessment,” Weaver argued. “However, in its order, the government appeared to issue unclear directions that substantially delay the process.”

Thor’s 2013 maiden resource gave the project open pit and underground resources totalling:

  • indicated: 640,000 tonnes averaging 0.88 g/t gold, 187 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.51% lead and 3.51% zinc

  • inferred: 424,000 tonnes averaging 0.98 g/t gold, 176 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.26% lead and 3.2% zinc

The property includes five zones that began mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

July 2, 2020, update: Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions.

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for an LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

March 9th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 9, 2020

While Greens might seem unlikely defenders of mining, an independent MLA who served as British Columbia party leader has taken up the case of Pacific Booker Minerals TSXV:BKM. In doing so, Andrew Weaver voiced concerns that the previous BC Liberal government, supposedly a supporter of resource development, may have pitted one project against another. He also criticized the current New Democratic Party government for stalling on the company’s latest environmental review.

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

Considerations more political than environmental
might have caused a B.C. mine’s rejection,
said a climate scientist/MLA.

In legislature on March 5, Weaver criticized the NDP for “regulatory inconsistencies” involving Pacific Booker’s Morrison project. The proposed copper-gold-molybdenum mine first met provincial rejection in 2012 despite an Environmental Assessment Office report which found that, with successful mitigation measures, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.”

Weaver stated, “There’s some suspicion that the decision around the Morrison mine had less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with political calculation.”

A staunch LNG opponent, Weaver told the legislature that “certain natural gas projects were located in areas close to the Morrison mine. Comments from groups engaged in the Pacific Booker project have indicated that the province was facing significant pressure to avoid reopening discussions around the Morrison mine in order to obtain the support necessary for the Prince Rupert gas transmission line.”

In 2013 then-BC Liberal leader Christy Clark made LNG the focal point of her re-election campaign, vowing the new industry would build three plants by 2020, create 100,000 jobs and provide $100 billion in government revenue, erasing B.C.’s debt. Her party won the election but no LNG facilities were built.

The 900-kilometre Prince Rupert gas transmission line would have connected B.C.’s oil-rich Peace district with the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant on the coast. That $11.4-billion project was shelved in July 2017 after the lead investor, Malaysia’s state-owned PETRONAS, backed out.

Morrison’s 2012 rejection “had serious repercussions for Pacific Booker,” Weaver pointed out. “Their share price plummeted from $14.95 to $4.95 in one day and many investors lost their life savings. What’s more is that the ministry failed to inform Pacific Booker of its intention to issue an adverse recommendation and did not provide the company with an opportunity to respond to it.”

In December 2013 B.C.’s Supreme Court ordered the province to reconsider the mine, ruling that the cabinet’s rejection “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.”

But when the BC Liberal government ordered further assessment of the proposal in July 2015, Weaver charged, the province failed to provide clear directions, further stalling the project into the NDP’s administration, which started in June 2017.

Mines minister Bruce Ralston replied that “the EAO continues to work with the company on this, and I’m advised that the latest submission was received by the EAO in December 2019.”

Weaver’s blog stated he was “not particularly impressed with the minister’s response to my questions. I intend to explore this issue further in the coming weeks.”

In a March 9 statement on “recent volatility in our market activity,” Pacific Booker director John Plourde expressed the company’s “appreciation to Dr. Weaver for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and Mr. Ralston, and our hope that his intent to explore this further in the coming weeks brings a resolution to the issue.”

Greens hold the balance of power in B.C.’s minority government. Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist, left the party in January for family reasons and announced his intention to retire from politics.

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.
  • Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into the public domain

    December 6th, 2019

    by Greg Klein | December 6, 2019

    Additional base and precious metals could be waiting for discovery in a region already hosting some of British Columbia’s largest mines. A new program by Geoscience BC plans a number of measures to search for potential deposits hidden beneath glacial till.

    Under scrutiny will be a 50,700-kilometre swath of Quesnel terrane between Centerra Gold’s (TSX:CG) Mount Milligan gold-copper mine to the northwest and, to the southeast, Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) 75%-held Gibraltar copper-molybdenum operation and Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley project, now on care and maintenance. Backed by $2.9 million in funding, the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project begins with two programs. One will analyze new and existing till samples with satellite imagery to trace samples and geochemical anomalies to their source. Another program will use existing geophysical data to identify, map and model potential copper-gold deposits.

    Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into public domain

    Receding glaciers may have helped hide valuable resources.
    (Photo: Geoscience BC)

    Results are scheduled for 2021, when drilling is anticipated and additional related projects may take place. Data will be made public for the benefit of communities, governments and academia, as well as the mining sector.

    Consequently, support for the program came from communities as well as industry. At a December 5 open house North Central Local Government Association president Lara Beckett said, “The communities of the NCLGA benefit from the valuable public data on water, energy and minerals that these initiatives provide. NCLGA members have passed resolutions in support of the work of Geoscience BC and look forward to working together on future opportunities to strengthen communities throughout north-central British Columbia.”

    Association for Mineral Exploration president/CEO Kendra Johnston called the work “important to AME members because the data and information that they provide inspire new mineral exploration and attract new investment to British Columbia. We look forward to seeing the results from the first two projects, and to learning more about future phases.”

    Other recently announced Geoscience BC programs include Porphyry Vectoring Techniques in Advanced Argillic Altered Rocks, a study of three known porphyry copper-gold deposits in the province’s northwest and north-central regions.

    Earlier last month Geoscience BC published a report on mineral deposit types in the Toodoggone area of B.C.’s north-central region. Among several other projects, the non-profit group is also studying methods of extracting rare earth elements from B.C. coal deposits.

    Learn more about the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project.