Monday 21st September 2020

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Posts tagged ‘new brunswick’

Now all we need are mines

August 28th, 2020

The Saskatchewan Research Council plans commercial rare earths separation in 2022

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2020

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

This nondescript building will host a $31-million commercial REE facility in two years.
(Image: Saskatchewan Research Council)

 

Given China’s near-monopoly of these critical elements, the news from Saskatchewan is enormous—a commercial-scale rare earths separation facility up and running in two years. But the development is hardly sudden. The operator already boasts longstanding experience and world-leading expertise with the almost arcane endeavour. Moreover the August 27 announcement just confirms one of the ambitious mining-related goals in the province’s growth plan released last November.

Work begins this fall in Saskatoon on a $31-million processing and separating plant funded by the province. Canada’s only such facility, it constitutes a major step towards expanding REE supply chains independent of China. Operating the Saskatoon plant will be the Saskatchewan Research Council, a Crown corporation with 75 years of experience in mining-related research and technology, over 290 staff, $91 million in annual revenue and about 1,500 clients in 27 countries.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

SRC assets include the world’s largest potash, uranium and diamonds labs, and its research extends to the oil and gas sector as well as to environmental studies.

The SRC has already been separating rare earths at the bench and pilot scale level. Its REE team currently employs 10 full-time-equivalent positions. The plan calls for staffing to reach 24 highly qualified FTEs in the facility, along with at least 10 more in R&D.

“SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now,” points out president/CEO Mike Crabtree. “We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.”

That book—Separation Hydrometallurgy of Rare Earth Elements—was written by Jack Zhang, Baodong Zhao and Bryan Schreiner, SRC scientists of international stature.

The SRC anticipates ore or crushed sand will arrive by truck or rail from producers in Canada and the U.S., as well as potential overseas clients. Location of the tailings facility has yet to be determined.

One obvious caveat, however, is the current lack of North American primary producers. The sole exception is California’s Mountain Pass mining and processing operation. Although operator MP Materials has professed its commitment to an American supply chain, the company has been exporting its entire output to China.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

New separation capabilities bring considerable advantages
to rare earths projects in Canada and elsewhere.
(Photo: Saskatchewan Research Council)

Demonstrating a non-Chinese commitment, however, is Australia’s Lynas Corp. The company operates a refining and separation facility in Malaysia to process rare earths ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia. Lynas plans to open a WA cracking and leaching plant by 2023 to quell Malaysian concerns about low-level radioactive material shipped to the country. In the U.S., meanwhile, the company and its American JV partner Blue Line signed a contract last month with the Department of Defense, which would fund studies for a proposed American plant to separate heavy rare earths from Mount Weld.

But the SRC plant opens doors for potential North American sources, which last year totalled measured and indicated resources of 2.7 million tons in the U.S. and over 15 million tons in Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Fitting for the world’s second-largest uranium-producing jurisdiction, Saskatchewan will process rare earths from uranium raffinate as well as from bastnasite and monazite, the most common mineralogical sources of rare earths.

But the Chinese challenge remains formidable. Chinese domestic mining accounted for nearly 63% of last year’s global production, a drop from 70% in 2018 but a number that doesn’t include Chinese control over foreign sources. Moreover the country’s dominance of separation facilities and expertise extends its control to an estimated 70% to 95% of various points along the supply chain.

SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now. We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.—Mike Crabtree,
president/CEO,
Saskatchewan Research Council

Trade and other geopolitical tensions have brought fears—backed by implied threats—that the country will “weaponize” its rare earths dominance, repeating the 2010 machinations that staggered non-Chinese manufacturing industries.

The elements are vital to clean energy, electronics, transportation, defence, medical equipment and other necessities. American concern about rare earths and other critical minerals has triggered a number of initiatives including the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration with Canada announced in January and reaffirmed in June.

But encouraging as the Saskatchewan initiative is, it hardly constitutes a slingshot to the Chinese Goliath. That country’s advantages include seemingly bottomless government subsidies, free use of black market or conflict material, and the backing of a savvy totalitarian government, according to Clint Cox. Speaking in Vancouver last January, the analyst and rare earths specialist with The Anchor House warned that Chinese dominance can’t be underestimated.

Nevertheless, the Saskatoon facility can only encourage junior mining activity. “The juniors are definitely the place where the last crop of potential mines came from, and it looks like they might be the next out there,” Cox told his January audience. “There’s some out there today.”

Among other goals, the Saskatchewan Growth Plan calls for studies into extracting lithium from the province’s brines as well as from oil and gas wastewater. The plan also considers adding nuclear energy to the province’s electrical mix from small modular reactors. Earlier this month Alberta joined Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick in a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on SMR studies.

Read more about the Saskatchewan Research Council.

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.”

Policy or geology?

February 28th, 2020

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2020

If you think that’s bad news, be glad the poll ended when it did. The Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019 imposed a November 8 deadline on respondents. Shut Down Canada didn’t really gain momentum until a bit later.

Even so, for the first time in a decade no Canadian jurisdiction made the top 10 for the survey’s main list, the Investment Attractiveness Index (IAI). Media coverage played up the role of provincial and territorial governments in jeopardizing what was—until recently and at least by Canadians—generally considered the world’s pre-eminent mining country. In doing so, reporters followed the institute’s commentary which, in keeping with its advocacy purpose, emphasized politicians’ ability to help or hinder the industry. But a closer look suggests miners and explorers gave other concerns higher priority.

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

(Image: Fraser Institute)

The survey bases the IAI on two other indices, Policy Perception and Mineral Potential. The first is determined by company responses to government actions or in-actions affecting the industry. The second (assuming an un-interfering nirvana of “best practices” by those governments) considers companies’ appraisals of geology. The survey provides separate ratings for policy and geology, but also weighs them 40% and 60% respectively to compile the IAI. The 40/60 split reflects institute intel about how companies make investment decisions.

Despite Canada’s disappearance from the IAI top 10, three provinces rated highly for Policy Perception. Alberta, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan rated sixth, eighth and ninth in the world respectively. Five Canadian jurisdictions showed Policy Perception improvements over the previous year. Moreover, the most dramatic declines from 2018 appeared in the Mineral Potential index.

“We know there’s not a lot that policy-makers can do about the geology in particular areas,” says Fraser Institute senior policy analyst Ashley Stedman. “But when we see declines on the policy index, that’s something policy-makers should be paying attention to.

“In particular we saw significant declines in Saskatchewan, which dropped from third the previous year to 11th, and that was largely the result of concerns about policy factors including taxation, regulatory duplication and inconsistencies, and trade barriers. And in Quebec we saw a decline from fourth to 18th, with uncertainties about environmental regulations and about the administration or enforcement of existing regulations. We can see from both these jurisdictions and a number of other Canadian jurisdictions that regulatory issues are escalating and this should be a serious concern for policy-makers.”

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

But while Saskatchewan’s Policy Perception rating fell from first place to ninth, the province’s Mineral Potential rank fell farther, from seventh to 21st. Quebec dropped from 10th to 21st in Policy Perception but plummeted from sixth to 25th in Mineral Potential.

Other dramatic Mineral Potential declines included Manitoba (from 11th to 26th), New Brunswick (49th to 72nd), Newfoundland (18th to 50th), the NWT (fourth to 29th), Nunavut (fifth to 16th) and Yukon (10th to 22nd).

Four provinces—Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario—did show improvements. Still, the question remains: What the hell happened to Canadian geology?

Some causes might be resource depletion, recalcitrant commodity prices or (talk to enough CEOs and this seems very possible indeed) confusion about how to answer survey questions.

Stedman suggests another likelihood. Discoveries in some jurisdictions might dampen enthusiasm for others. “We do have to keep in mind that this is a relative ranking, so if other places are seen as more attractive, that can have an impact on other jurisdictions as well.”

Although policy factors affect just 40% of a jurisdiction’s IAI ranking, “our write-up focuses on the policy rankings as an area that policy-makers can pay attention to,” Stedman explains. In some cases governments do respond to the survey’s findings. “Reporters will often ask policy-makers to comment on the rankings.”

As for other countries, “we do get quite a bit of interest globally for this survey and we’ve seen a lot of countries and jurisdictions ask us questions about the rankings. There’s quite a lot of interest in this publication in particular.”

Confidentiality, however, prevents her from divulging how many respondents are based in Canada.

The survey provides “a policy report card for governments on areas that require improvement and areas where certain jurisdictions are performing well,” she adds.

In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.—Ashley Stedman,
senior policy analyst
for the Fraser Institute

With geology beyond the reach of government power, policy improvement would be Canada’s only means of re-entering the IAI’s global top 10. “In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.”

Whether the pre-PDAC week timing will cast a pall on the Canadian industry’s biggest annual bash remains to be seen. COVID-19 has cast a bigger pall on travel while, at time of writing, there seems nothing to stop Shut Down Canada from turning its attention to airports, hotels and convention centres.

The following charts show the global IAI top 10, Canada’s IAI top 10, Canada’s top 10 for Policy Perception and Mineral Potential, and—consoling for its lack of Canadian content—the global bottom 10.

With fewer responses this time, the 2019 survey covers 76 jurisdictions compared with 83 the previous year. Here are the global IAI rankings for 2019, with 2018 spots in parentheses.

  • 1 Western Australia (5)

  • 2 Finland (17)

  • 3 Nevada (1)

  • 4 Alaska (5)

  • 5 Portugal (46)

  • 6 South Australia (8)

  • 7 Irish Republic (19)

  • 8 Idaho (16)

  • 9 Arizona (8)

  • 10 Sweden (21)

All Canadian jurisdictions except Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia fell in the IAI. Here’s the list for Canada, with global numbers provided for 2019 and 2018:

  • 11 Saskatchewan (3)

  • 16 Ontario (20)

  • 18 Quebec (4)

  • 19 British Columbia (18)

  • 23 Yukon (9)

  • 26 Nunavut (15)

  • 28 Newfoundland and Labrador (11)

  • 30 Alberta (51)

  • 34 Manitoba (12)

  • 35 Northwest Territories (10)

  • 52 Nova Scotia (57)

  • 60 New Brunswick (30)

Here’s Canada’s Policy Perception ratings. Alberta, Newfoundland, Ontario, B.C. and Nunavut improved their standings.

  • 6 Alberta (14)

  • 8 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 9 Saskatchewan (11)

  • 13 New Brunswick (9)

  • 18 Nova Scotia (11)

  • 21 Quebec (10)

  • 24 Ontario (30)

  • 32 Yukon (24)

  • 36 British Columbia (44)

  • 44 Nunavut (45)

  • 50 Northwest Territories (42)

  • 53 Manitoba (33)

Mineral Potential showed Canada’s most dramatic downfalls, although Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario managed to move upwards.

  • 10 British Columbia (13)

  • 16 Nunavut (5)

  • 18 Ontario (20)

  • 21 Saskatchewan (7)

  • 22 Yukon (10)

  • 25 Quebec (6)

  • 26 Manitoba (11)

  • 29 Northwest Territories (4)

  • 50 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 54 Alberta (74)

  • 61 Nova Scotia (79)

  • 72 New Brunswick (49)

And finally the global IAI bottom 10:

  • 67 Nicaragua (81)

  • 68 Mali (50)

  • 69 Democratic Republic of Congo (67)

  • 70 Venezuela (83)

  • 71 Zambia (45)

  • 72 Dominican Republic (76)

  • 73 Guatemala (80)

  • 74 La Rioja province, Argentina (75)

  • 75 Chubut province, Argentina (69)

  • 76 Tanzania (66)

Download the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019.

Read about last year’s survey.

Open and shut cases: East

January 7th, 2020

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

by Greg Klein

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

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

 

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

Quebec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Brunswick

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

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

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

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

Labrador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Part 4 of a series.

PDAC infographics: Highlighting mining’s contributions to Canada’s economy

October 28th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 28, 2019

Although Canadian miners hold global stature, Canadians don’t always recognize the industry’s importance to our own country. Yet the numbers tell a story that’s not only impressive but vital to understanding an economy in which mining supports one in 29 jobs and provides the largest private sector source of native employment.

To state the case clearly, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada created a series of infographics outlining the industry’s contributions. Check them out yourself by scrolling down to see facts and figures for Canada overall and for each province or territory. Or click on the menu below for a direct link to each jurisdiction.

Canada nationwide | Yukon | Northwest Territories/Nunavut | British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario | Quebec | New Brunswick/Nova Scotia | Newfoundland and Labrador/Prince Edward Island

Posted with permission of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

 

PDAC infographics Highlighting mining’s contributions to Canada’s economy

 

PDAC Yukon mining infographic

 

PDAC NWT Nunavut mining infographic

 

PDAC BC mining infographic

 

PDAC Alberta mining infographic

 

PDAC Saskatchewan mining infographic

 

PDAC Manitoba mining infographic

 

PDAC Ontario mining infographic

 

PDAC Quebec mining infographic

 

PDAC Nova Scotia New Brunswick mining infographic

 

PDAC Newfoundland Labrador PEI mining infographic

Posted with permission of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

Canadian Greens surge again as party takes second place in PEI election

April 23rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | April 23, 2019

Press time results (seats at dissolution in parentheses)

  • Progressive Conservatives: 12 seats, 36.5% of the popular vote (8)
  • Greens: 8 seats, 30.6% (2)
  • Liberals: 6 seats, 29.5% (16)
  • New Democrats: 0 seats, 3% (0)
  • Independent: 0 seats, 0.4% (1)
  • (Voting in one district was postponed)

Promoting its use of wind energy, Prince Edward Island likes to call itself “Canada’s Green Province.” On April 23 PEI’s government just missed turning Green itself.

In an historic first for Canada, the home of Confederation voted Greens into second place, following a few years of electoral gains for the once-marginal party in other parts of the country. At press time the popular vote showed Dennis King’s Progressive Conservatives just 6% higher than Peter Bevan-Baker’s Green Party, which came in barely ahead of the incumbent Liberals whose leader Wade MacLauchlan lost his district to a Tory. But the seat count gave PCs 12, Greens eight and Liberals six. That raises the question of who will rule the province, and how. Among the possibilities is a Green-supported minority government, as is the case in British Columbia.

Canadian Greens surge again as party takes second place in PEI election

PCs won more seats but Greens flourished in the
land of Green Gables. (Photo: PEI government)

Voting in one of the province’s 27 districts was postponed following the death of Green candidate Josh Underhay and his six-year-old son in a Good Friday canoeing accident.

The Liberals collapsed after three terms in office despite budget surpluses and avowals that PEI had built Canada’s strongest economy. Still the country’s biggest potato producer, the province’s other main resource industry is fishing. Economic diversification includes an aerospace industry that accounts for 20% of provincial exports and a bioscience sector employing over 1,000 people.

With 27 electoral districts for a population estimated at 154,748, most winning candidates draw well under 1,500 votes. At 5,660 square kilometres, the province holds just over one-sixth the landmass of Vancouver Island.

But the Greens’ performance suggests continuing growth in some parts of Canada. Last October the party took three places each on Vancouver’s council, parks board and school board, along with one each on neighbouring Burnaby’s council and school board. In B.C.’s 2017 provincial election, Greens rose from one MLA to three, a feat matched by New Brunswick Greens last September. Ontario elected its first Green MPP in June.

Southern Vancouver Island hosts Canada’s sole Green MP, as well as the three MLAs who hold the balance of power supporting B.C.’s minority NDP government.

The environmentalist-nationalist Québec Solidaire went from three to 10 seats in October’s Quebec election.

Not surprisingly, however, Greens fared poorly in last week’s Alberta election, where the party polled only 0.4%. Should PEI PCs hold onto government, they’ll join Alberta along with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick in a bloc of provincial conservative governments.

A referendum asking whether PEI should switch to a mixed-member proportional voting system passed in 15 of 27 districts but failed to reach the 17-district threshold.

Miners and explorers pick their spots in Fraser Institute’s latest report card

February 28th, 2019

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2019

Ontario dropped dramatically but an improved performance by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut helped Canada retain its status as the planet’s most mining-friendly country. That’s the verdict of the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2018, a study of jurisdictions worldwide. Some 291 mining and exploration people responded to questions on a number of issues, supplying enough info to rank 83 countries, provinces and states.

Canadian and American jurisdictions dominated the most important section, with four spots each on the Investment Attractiveness Index’s top 10. Combined ratings for all Canadian jurisdictions held this country’s place as the miners’ favourite overall.

The IAI rates both geology and government policies. Respondents typically say they base about 40% of their investment decisions on policy factors and about 60% on geology. Here’s the IAI top 10 with the previous year’s numbers in parentheses:

  • 1 Nevada (3)

  • 2 Western Australia (5)

  • 3 Saskatchewan (2)

  • 4 Quebec (6)

  • 5 Alaska (10)

  • 6 Chile (8)

  • 7 Utah (15)

  • 8 Arizona (9)

  • 9 Yukon (13)

  • 10 Northwest Territories (21)

Here are Canada’s IAI rankings:

  • 3 Saskatchewan (2)

  • 4 Quebec (6)

  • 9 Yukon (13)

  • 10 Northwest Territories (21)

  • 11 Newfoundland and Labrador (11)

  • 12 Manitoba (18)

  • 15 Nunavut (26)

  • 18 British Columbia (20)

  • 20 Ontario (7)

  • 30 New Brunswick (30)

  • 51 Alberta (49)

  • 57 Nova Scotia (56)

Despite Ontario’s fall from grace, the province’s policy ratings changed little from last year. Relative to other jurisdictions, however, the province plummeted. Concerns include disputed land claims, as well as uncertainty about protected areas and environmental regulations.

The Policy Perception Index ignored geology to focus on how government treats miners and explorers. Saskatchewan ranked first worldwide, as seen in these Canadian standings:

The evidence is clear—mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract precious commodity investment dollars. A sound regulatory regime coupled with competitive fiscal policies is key to making a jurisdiction attractive in the eyes of mining investors.—Ashley Stedman,
senior policy analyst,
the Fraser Institute

  • 1 Saskatchewan (3)

  • 9 New Brunswick (13)

  • 10 Quebec (9)

  • 11 Nova Scotia (24)

  • 14 Alberta (16)

  • 18 Newfoundland (10)

  • 24 Yukon (22)

  • 30 Ontario (20)

  • 33 Manitoba (27)

  • 42 NWT (42)

  • 44 B.C. (36)

  • 45 Nunavut (44)

The NWT and Nunavut’s indifferent PPI performance suggests greater appreciation of the territories’ geology boosted their IAI rank.

This year’s study included a chapter on exploration permitting, previously the subject of a separate Fraser Institute study. Twenty-two jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., Australia and Scandinavia were evaluated for time, transparency and certainty. Cumulatively, the six American states did best, with 72% of explorers saying they got permits within six months, compared with 69% for the eight Canadian provinces, 53% for the two Scandinavian countries (Finland and Sweden) and 34% for the six Australian states.

A majority of respondents working in Canada (56%) said permitting waits had grown over the last decade, compared with 52% in Australia, 45% in Scandinavia and 28% in the U.S.

A lack of permitting transparency was cited as an investment deterrent by 48% of respondents working in Australia, 44% in Canada, 33% in Scandinavia and 24% in the U.S.

Eighty-eight percent of explorers working in the U.S. and Scandinavia expressed confidence that they’d eventually get permits, followed by 77% for Australia and 73% for Canada.

Saskatchewan led Canada for timeline certainty, transparency and, with Quebec, confidence that permits would eventually come through.

As for the IAI’s 10 worst, they include Bolivia, despite some recent efforts to encourage development; China, the only east Asian country in the study; and problem-plagued Venezuela.

  • 74 Bolivia (86)

  • 75 La Rioja province, Argentina (80)

  • 76 Dominican Republic (72)

  • 77 Ethiopia (81)

  • 78 China (83)

  • 79 Panama (77)

  • 80 Guatemala (91)

  • 81 Nicaragua (82)

  • 82 Neuquen province, Argentina (57)

  • 83 Venezuela (85)

Explorers made up nearly 52% of survey respondents, producers just over 25%, consulting companies over 16% and others nearly 8%.

“The evidence is clear—mineral deposits alone are not enough to attract precious commodity investment dollars,” said Ashley Stedman, who co-wrote the study with Kenneth P. Green. “A sound regulatory regime coupled with competitive fiscal policies is key to making a jurisdiction attractive in the eyes of mining investors.”

Download the Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2018.

B.C. votes down Greens’ voting reform proposal, but do Greens need it?

December 20th, 2018

by Greg Klein | December 20, 2018

If a new electoral system might have reduced British Columbian voter apathy, not many voters showed interest. Only 42.6% of registered voters bothered to take part in a mail-in referendum on proportional representation and 61.3% of them rejected change. Results were released late December 20, after the voting deadline ended December 7.

British Columbians vote down Greens’ voting reform proposal

With or without electoral changes, Greens increasingly
make inroads in B.C. and some other parts of Canada.

B.C.’s ruling NDP put the matter to test as part of an agreement with the province’s three-MLA Green Party, whose legislative support is necessary to the minority government. In theory proportional representation would give smaller parties like the Greens a better chance of electing members.

Voters who did want change had three options: Mixed Member Proportional, used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland; Rural-Urban Proportional, a never-tried approach that combines MMP and another system that’s used in Ireland, Australia and Malta; and Dual Member Proportional, a made-in-Canada system that’s used nowhere.

Of those who marked that part of the ballot, 41.24% chose MMP, 29.31% RUP and 29.45% DMP. But First Past the Post prevailed.

Small parties might be disappointed but Greens in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada have been increasing their presence under the current rules. B.C.’s Greens went from one MLA to three in the May 2017 election, holding the balance of power in a very tight result.

In June of this year Ontario elected its first Green MPP. Three months later the New Brunswick legislature increased its Green presence from one to three in an election where the new People’s Alliance also won three seats. Nevertheless electoral reform supporters said the top two parties’ standings showed the need for proportional representation. The Progressive Conservatives won 22 seats with 31.89% of the vote, while the incumbent Liberals won 21 seats with 37.8%. The Liberals managed to retain the government position for over five weeks until a non-confidence vote put the PCs into precarious power.

One week later Québec Solidaire, a new party sometimes described as separatist-environmentalist, won 10 seats in that province’s National Assembly. Three of the four elected Quebec parties support proportional representation.

Prince Edward Island has two Green MLAs, while Canada’s sole Green MP represents a B.C. riding.

Greens surged to prominence in Vancouver last October, electing three each to the city’s council, parks board and school board. Neighbouring Burnaby elected its first two Greens, a councillor and school trustee. New municipal electoral rules did play a role, however, by hindering the funding advantages that larger parties once held.

Back to the referendum, the NDP officially supported the Green stance on proportional representation but an NDP promoter ran the official anti-PR campaign. The group quickly pulled a sensationalist TV ad that suggested PR would bring goose-stepping Nazis into the legislature.

If the NDP appeared ambivalent, it might have been because FPTP has historically served the party well. In 1996 the NDP won a majority of provincial seats with 39.5% of the vote, although the rival BC Liberals won 41.8%. And arguably the NDP has more to fear than the BC Liberals from rising Green power.

In a 2005 B.C. referendum, PR got 57.7% support but failed to meet the 60% minimum requirement. B.C. PR support fell to 39.09% in a 2009 referendum.

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

October 2nd, 2018

by Greg Klein | October 2, 2018

Following the ounce-of-prevention principle, securities commissions across Canada plan a number of initiatives to encourage smarter, safer investment strategies. A month of events begins with World Investor Week, in which Canadian regulators join the International Organization of Securities Commissions from October 1 to 7. Here’s an outline of this country’s events from province to province.

British Columbia
The B.C. Securities Commission will release new research on millennials this month, along with new tools to help people understand their investment returns. The BCSC also plans design updates to InvestRight.org to improve its efficacy.

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

Alberta
A digital education campaign called Spot the Odd will raise awareness of the Alberta Securities Commission’s free resources as well as encourage financial literacy and fraud awareness. A number of activities across the province will include Don’t Get Tricked, to be held in Calgary on October 17.  The ASC provides other resources on CheckFirst.ca.  

Saskatchewan
The province’s Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority has a cryptocurrency awareness campaign slated for Facebook, Twitter, the FCAA website and YouTube. In addition, businesses planning to use cryptocurrencies are invited to discuss their project with the FCAA to learn whether it falls under securities legislation.

Manitoba
The Manitoba Securities Commission will formally launch MoneySmartManitoba.ca to promote financial literacy and planning. The MSC will also take to the Twittersphere with news, tips and strategies for investors.

Ontario
The Ontario Securities Commission plans social media chats on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #IEM2018. The OSC also hosts GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, plans a telephone townhall for October 10, presents public events around the province with OSC in the Community and further encourages awareness through an investor newsletter.

Participating in World Investor Week helps promote investor education and protection both locally and globally.—Tyler Fleming,
Ontario Securities Commission

Quebec
L’Autorité des marchés financiers will release results of its fourth Financial Awareness Index, measuring the public’s knowledge and use of financial products and services. The AMF will also present the third edition of its Talking Money in Class! contest for high school teachers and take part in the Quebec Seniors’ Fair.

New Brunswick
The Financial and Consumer Services Commission will present online info with special emphasis on initial coin offerings. For more tips on fraud, investors may visit fcnb.ca and follow the commission on Facebook and Twitter. The Fortune online trivia game allows investors to compete with others across the province to learn more and win prizes.

In addition to all that, the Canadian Securities Administrators umbrella group offers its own online tools and resources. The CSA invites the public to take advantage of Investor Education Month and World Investor Week by following @CSA_News on Twitter and @CSA.ACVM on Facebook.

Read: Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail.

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec in new hands, New Brunswick still deadlocked

October 1st, 2018

by Greg Klein | October 1, 2018

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec government in new hands

CAQ incoming premier Francois Legault argued against unacculturated immigrants,
made popular funding promises and vowed to cut taxes. (Photo: Coalition Avenir Québec)

 

Updated Quebec results (with 2014 figures in parentheses)

  • Coalition Avenir Québec: 75 seats, 37.4% of the popular vote (21 seats, 23%)
  • Quebec Liberal Party: 29 seats, 24.8% (68 seats, 41.5%)
  • Parti Québécois: 10 seats, 17% (28 seats, 25.4%)
  • Québec Solidaire: 10 seats, 16.1% (3 seats, 7.6%)
  • Independent: 1 seat

 

A seven-year-old party jumped from third place to government status as the Coalition Avenir Québec won the October 1 provincial election. Leading in a majority of seats half an hour after polls closed, the CAQ pushed the incumbent Liberals to second place, leaving the former official opposition Parti Québécois struggling to stay above fourth spot. Easily winning his riding of L’Assomption was incoming premier Francois Legault, a CAQ co-founder who previously created Air Transat and served as a PQ government minister. His CAQ has attracted disaffected Liberals as well as Péquistes.

PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee lost his seat to a Québec Solidaire challenger.

Overwhelming majority puts Quebec government in new hands

Mining issues held little prominence as debate focused heavily on immigration but sidelined independence. Spending promises flowed freely with health care, education and child care giveaways coinciding with CAQ promises to cut taxes.

But just one week before the campaign’s official start date, the Liberal government announced $185 million of provincial money for the privately held BlackRock Metals’ iron ore-vanadium-titanium open pit development in the northern riding of Ungava. The money consisted of $100 million in loans and an $85-million investment, part of a total package of $1.3 billion attracted to the project. The Liberals also promised $63 million to build energy infrastructure in the Chicoutimi riding that would host BlackRock’s secondary processing facility.

Ungava’s Liberal incumbent placed third while the CAQ narrowly beat the PQ in a very tight three-way contest. In Chicoutimi, the CAQ won a strong victory over the PQ incumbent.

Last May Premier Philippe Couillard joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce $60 million in federal funding for an Alcoa NYSE:AA/Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO aluminum smelter to be built in the overlapping federal riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord. Three days later Trudeau called a by-election, only to see a Conservative defeat his Liberal incumbent.

The Quebec government invests heavily in projects ranging from junior exploration to operating mines through the Ressources Québec subsidiary of Investissement Québec. In August Legault said he would cut bureaucracy at Investissement Québec.

Quebec’s March budget posted a $1.3-billion surplus, but the province receives equalization payments that came to $11.8 billion this year and will rise to $13.3 billion in 2019. Currently the entire amount comes from the western provinces. Legault opposed the Energy East pipeline proposal from Alberta to New Brunswick.

Pundits might wonder to what extent the CAQ’s success depended on its proposal to expel unacculturated immigrants. But any criticism of la province spéciale will have to be muted, even if the plan calls for unwanted foreigners to be packed off to Anglo Canada.

The PQ’s demotion hardly spells the end of separatism now that the party shares the independence vote with QS and possibly the CAQ, which has equivocated on the subject.

As for last week’s New Brunswick election, results remain in limbo. With 22 seats, the Conservatives edged out the incumbent Liberals by a single riding. Speculation focuses on either party making a deal with the People’s Alliance or the Greens, which won three seats each.

The Green result triples its N.B. legislative standing, continuing the party’s progress in Canada. Last June the Ontario riding of Guelph elected that province’s first Green. Canada now has eight Greens elected provincially (three in N.B., three in B.C., and one each in Ontario and Prince Edward Island), along with one elected federally in B.C. In B.C.’s legislature, the party holds the balance of power under an agreement with the New Democratic Party minority government.