Monday 5th December 2016

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘North American Tungsten Ltd (NTC)’

Canada’s new diamond mines: Gahcho Kué ramping up, Renard catching up

August 3rd, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 3, 2016

“On time, on budget and in a challenging environment,” as De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver proudly noted, the world’s largest new diamond mine has begun full commissioning. The Northwest Territories open pit should reach full production in Q1 next year with average output of 4.5 million carats annually over its 13-year lifespan, according to an August 3 statement from Anglo American. Or a 12-year life, according to a same-day statement from Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV.

Canada’s new diamond mines: Gahcho Kué ramping up, Renard catching up

Sub-arctic conditions hardly deter De Beers,
which has opened three diamond mines in Canada’s north.

The company owns a 49% stake in the JV, with operator De Beers holding the rest. De Beers, in turn, is held 85% by Anglo and 15% by Botswana.

Mountain Province reported two large gem-quality stones recovered over the past few days, weighing in at 12.1 carats and 24.65 carats. The company expects its first diamond sale by year-end.

Located about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, Gahcho Kué sits in the diamondiferous Lac de Gras region that also hosts Dominion Diamond’s (TSX:DDC) majority-held Ekati mine, the Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO/Dominion 60/40 JV at Diavik, and Snap Lake, De Beers’ first mine outside Africa. De Beers also operates the Victor mine in northern Ontario.

Snap Lake, a money-loser since opening in 2008, shut down last December. The company plans to flood the mine unless a buyer can be found. Output from Ekati and Diavik, however, sustained the NWT’s rank as the world’s third-largest diamond producer by value.

The two operations also sustained mining as the NWT’s largest private sector employer, despite the closures of Snap Lake and North American Tungsten’s Cantung mine in October 2015.

In Quebec’s James Bay region, meanwhile, Stornoway Diamond TSX:SWY began processing ore at its Renard project last month, slated to achieve full nameplate capacity within nine months. The company will declare commercial production after 30 days of processing ore at 60% of nameplate capacity, expected to happen by year-end. The combined open pit/underground operation would average 1.8 million carats annually for the first 10 years of its 14-year life. Average prices have been estimated at $155 per carat.

Read more about Canadian diamond projects.

See Chris Berry’s report on long-term diamond demand.

Mining’s intangibles

March 18th, 2016

The NWT tries to gauge social impacts of its largest industry

by Greg Klein

Does diamond mining affect rates of STDs? Tuberculosis, family violence, teen pregnancy or suicide? The Northwest Territories government actually tried to find answers to those questions and others. An exercise that arose out of socio-economic agreements with the territory’s diamond miners, many of its results were—not surprisingly—inconclusive. Even so, the report offers perspective on mining-related issues that are often overlooked.

Two diamond operations comprise the sum total of NWT mining now that a third, De Beers’ Snap Lake, went on care and maintenance last December. That shutdown followed North American Tungsten’s (TSXV:NTC) C&M decision for its Cantung mine. But during the last fiscal year, the three diamond mines paid taxes of $44 million to the territory, an 11% increase over the previous year. Miners also pay the territory royalties.

Up to 2013 the territory diverted $39 million in diamond royalties to three native governments with settled land claims, according to figures supplied by the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. In 2015, the NWT shared nearly $6.3 million with nine native groups that signed the devolution agreement. The territory says it collected $63 million in diamond royalties in 2014 to 2015, half of which went to the feds.

In 2014 diamond mines created over 3,200 person-years of employment and paid more than $653 million to northern businesses, about 33% of which were aboriginal-owned.

Those outcomes can be quantified. What’s harder to assess are changes for better or worse on individuals, communities and culture since diamond mining started in 1998. Nevertheless, the NWT tried, looking at a range of factors affecting Yellowknife and seven small communities, all roughly 250 kilometres southwest of the Lac de Gras diamond camp.

We read about the use of aboriginal languages (declining in the smaller communities but showing a slight increase in Yellowknife and elsewhere), suicide (especially difficult to track on numerical trends), teen births (declining), sexually transmitted infections (increasing in the smaller communities but not Yellowknife), TB (little change), family violence (a series of spikes and declines in the smaller communities, relatively flat in Yellowknife), school achievement (significant improvement) and so on. Again and again, the report concedes that it can’t link those issues with mining.

So what’s the point of the study? If anything, it demonstrates that communities expect mining to provide intangible benefits as well as material rewards. Those communities also show concern about how a large industrial operation might affect their society. Although mining’s by far the territorial economy’s largest private sector driver, companies can’t betray complacency about their importance.

That too was demonstrated by statements miners made during their environmental assessments. In addition to singing the praises of their proposals, companies acknowledged potential disadvantages, for example the possibility of “increasing stress and related alcohol abuse, by alienating people from traditional lifestyles and by increasing the pace of change in communities.”

That comment came from BHP Billiton, which later sold its share of Canada’s first diamond mine to Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC. Holding a majority stake in Ekati and 40% of a JV with Rio Tinto NYE:RIO in Diavik, the company looms large over NWT mining. With pre-feas complete on Ekati’s Sable kimberlite, the pipe’s scheduled to begin mine construction next year and possible production in 2019. Diavik’s fourth pipe, meanwhile, has production slated for 2018.

But the biggest diamond development story in the NWT, and indeed the world, is Gahcho Kué. The 51%/49% De Beers/Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV JV has surpassed 87% completion, staying on schedule for production in H2 this year. Barring a drastic decline in demand, diamonds will likely remain the jewels of the NWT economy.

Strongbow Exploration wants to revive Cornwall’s last tin mine

March 17th, 2016

by Greg Klein | March 17, 2016

Four millennia of mining have yet to exhaust this region’s potential, Strongbow Exploration TSXV:SBW believes. On March 17 the company announced an agreement to acquire Cornwall’s South Crofty tin project, a past-producer dating to the 16th century.

The mine had already begun production by 1592, Wikipedia states, reaching large-scale production in the mid-17th century and continuing operations until 1998. According to another Wikipedia post, its closure marked the end of Cornish mining, which began circa 2150 BC.

Strongbow Exploration wants to revive Cornwall’s last tin mine

By 2012, extensions to South Crofty covered 34 earlier mines.

Some historians have attributed Rome’s AD 43 invasion of Britain to the empire’s lust for tin.

Declining metal prices during the late 19th century shut down many Cornish operations, coinciding with the Great Migration of 1815 to 1915, when the county lost 250,000 to 500,000 people, according to the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The region’s miners, known as Cousin Jacks, brought their skills and technology to at least 175 locations across six continents, the organization adds.

Strongbow’s grasp of history seems a tad confused, though. At one point its press release says Cornwall’s tin mining history lasted over 400 years. Later, the communiqué says mining took place “since at least 2300 BC.” Nevertheless president/CEO Richard Williams said South Crofty “represents one of the best tin opportunities currently available globally.”

Other companies have tried to revive the mine, Strongbow acknowledges. The project comes with a mining permit valid until 2071, “subject to certain planning conditions being met.”

The company plans to evaluate tin mineralization occurring about 400 metres below surface and expects to release a resource estimate within two weeks.

The deal would have Strongbow make a series of payments and share issues to Galena Special Situations Fund, the creditor of the companies holding rights to South Crofty, as well as payments to Tin Shield Production, which would forego its option to acquire the project.

Last July Strongbow picked up two tin projects in Alaska, Sleitat and Coal Creek. Earlier this month the company closed its purchase from Teck Resources TSX:TCK.A and TCK.B of two royalties on the Mactung and Cantung projects formerly of North American Tungsten TSXV:NTC, which is now under creditor protection.

Casualty in Lac de Gras

December 4th, 2015

The NWT looks to Gahcho Kué diamonds as Snap Lake goes on care and maintenance

by Greg Klein

Bad news can have a way of sounding sudden, even when it’s not surprising. De Beers had publicly discussed Snap Lake’s possible closure last March and again just one day before the December 4 official announcement. It comes as the global giant revamps operations in response to faltering rough diamond prices.

The company’s first mine outside Africa and this country’s only fully underground diamond mine, Snap Lake is unique in Canada. The kimberlite “is a dyke that averages about 2.5 metres thick and slopes down beneath Snap Lake at an average of 12 degrees, making it challenging and complex to mine,” according to the company. It’s a fly-in/fly-out operation for all but six to eight weeks a year, when heavy equipment and supplies arrive via ice road.

The NWT looks to Gahcho Kué as Snap Lake goes on care and maintenance

“Even the gains made this year are not enough to overcome
the market conditions and put us in a profitable position,”
lamented De Beers Canada chief executive Kim Truter.
Photo: De Beers

De Beers said it “will evaluate market conditions over the next year to determine the potential of the ore body as a viable mine.” Its capacity was 1.4 million carats annually.

The company, owned 85% by Anglo American and 15% by Botswana, recently announced a number of restructuring moves. The same day as the Snap Lake announcement, Bloomberg cited anonymous insiders who said Anglo might cut this year’s dividend. While the company has been selling assets to raise money, Anglo might get as much as $10 billion if it sold its stake in De Beers, according to an HSBC note quoted by Bloomberg last month.

Also last month Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC reported an approximately 8% drop in rough prices this year. RoughPrices.com pegs the year-on-year decline at 18%. Rapaport Group chairperson Martin Rapaport has called on De Beers to slash rough prices another 30% to 50% and replace CEO/diamond newbie Philippe Mellier with an experienced diamantaire.

Rapaport’s news service predicted De Beers’ revenue will fall approximately 44% this year. The company that once ran the global diamond industry has missed out on the sector’s more sensational recent news, such as Lucara Diamond’s (TSX:LUC) announcement of the world’s second-largest diamond find. President/CEO William Lamb has said it might fetch more than $60 million. The stone came from Botswana’s Karowe project, in which De Beers sold its 70% stake to Lucara in 2009 for US$49 million.

The NWT looks to Gahcho Kué as Snap Lake goes on care and maintenance

The NWT’s Lac de Gras region hosts Snap Lake,
two remaining mines and mine-to-be Gahcho Kué.
Map: De Beers

Putting 434 people out of work immediately, Snap Lake’s closure deals a heavy blow to the Northwest Territories, now down to two mines with the October shutdown of the Cantung mine as operator North American Tungsten TSXV:NTC sought creditor protection.

Last year the three diamond mines provided 3,234 jobs, 47% of them going to northerners, and spent $979 million in purchasing, with $653 million on northern companies, according to figures from the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. Direct and indirect benefits contribute nearly 40% of the territory’s GDP, making diamonds the largest private sector contributor to the economy, the chamber added.

But Snap Lake contributed less than the other mines, with a total of 747 jobs and $182 million in purchasing. By comparison the Rio Tinto NYE:RIO/Dominion Diavik JV created 948 jobs and spent $332 million, while Dominion’s majority-held Ekati operation created 1,539 jobs and spent $465 million.

Still, chamber of mines executive director Tom Hoefer said, “We’re hoping that this kind of devastating action on our economy is something that will make governments take notice.” That would depend on the response from people elected federally in October and territorially in November. Among the NWT’s specific problems are the lack of infrastructure and high cost of living.

“The new federal government has spoken about investing directly in infrastructure, but that was a Canada-wide statement, so we need to see how that affects the North,” Hoefer said. “On the territorial government side, it’s pretty early to tell.” Of 19 MLAs elected, 11 are new to the legislature. Not formally aligned by party, the MLAs have yet to choose a premier or form a cabinet.

An optimistic development for both De Beers and the NWT would be Gahcho Kué, a JV with Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV that’s scheduled for H2 2016 production. Heralded as “the world’s largest and richest new diamond mine,” it would more than make up for Snap Lake’s loss.

“Certainly having Gahcho Kué in the wings is a positive thing for us,” Hoefer acknowledged. But he’s waiting to see if guidance will be adjusted. “The other two mines are more resilient operations than Snap Lake, but they’re still facing the challenges of declining revenues, so what do you do about costs?”

Yet Canada might be the jurisdiction most likely to withstand the diamond downturn, according to analyst Paul Zimnisky. Speaking to Mining Weekly Online last month, he said Ekati and Diavik “are still quite profitable projects, even in a weaker price environment.” He suggested Dominion might pull in “$250 million in free cash flow next year and almost double that the following year, using what I would consider a conservative diamond price.”

Zimnisky also pointed out that financing’s fully in place for Gahcho Kué and Stornoway Diamond’s (TSX:SWY) Renard project in Quebec, slated to begin production late next year. With its Kennady North project surrounding Gahcho Kué on three sides, Kennady Diamonds TSXV:KDI expects its successful $48-million infusion to carry the company through 2017.

De Beers also runs the Victor mine in Ontario’s James Bay region. In February 2013 the company warned the mine could close if natives continued to block the ice road during the approximately 45-day period that trucks can reach the site.

Diamonds lift Northwest Territories mining revenue

March 20th, 2015

by Greg Klein | March 20, 2015

Copper and tungsten value slipped but diamonds were enough to raise Northwest Territories’ mining revenues by 14% last year. Citing new federal government stats, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines put the territory’s 2014 mining production at $1.886 billion, a $227-million increase over the previous year. The rise came from $1.561 billion in diamond revenue, a 15% jump over 2013.

That offset tungsten’s 2% decline to $84.71 million and copper’s 17% fall to $1.86 million.

Diamonds lift Northwest Territories mining revenue

The territory’s four operating mines include North American Tungsten’s (TSXV:NTC) CanTung operation and three diamond mines—Dominion Diamond’s (TSX:DDC) majority-held Ekati mine, the Dominion/Rio Tinto NYE:RIO Diavik joint venture and De Beers’ Snap Lake.

Even if De Beers’ Victor mine in Ontario were excluded, NWT diamond production would keep Canada in third place for global diamond production by value.

The Chamber of Mines also noted a 2% increase in Nunavut’s mining revenues, which came to $642 million last year. Gold accounted for $639 million, a 2% increase over 2013, while silver contributed $2.6 million, an 8% rise. Agnico Eagle TSX:AEM operates the Meadowbank mine, 300 kilometres west of Hudson Bay.

The data, from Natural Resources Canada, provided no figures for Nunavut’s other mine, Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River, which began iron ore production last September.

Read more about NWT mining.

Read about diamond mining in Canada.

NWT Metis sign accord with Gahcho Kué

December 15th, 2014

by Greg Klein | December 15, 2014

Proponents of the world’s largest diamond mining development project have signed an impact benefit agreement with a Northwest Territories Metis band. Announced December 15 by Gahcho Kué operator De Beers and the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, the two groups will “work together over the life of the mine to develop economic, environmental and cultural programs.”

NWT Metis sign accord with Gahcho Kue

Garry Bailey explains the significance of colours in the
NWT Metis Nation sash to Glen Koropchuk of De Beers Canada.
Photo: CNW Group/De Beers Canada Corp

The mine, a joint venture with Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV in the NWT’s Lac de Gras region, has production scheduled for 2016. Two years of construction will employ nearly 700 workers, while operation will require approximately 400 people.

NWT Metis Nation president Garry Bailey said the agreement “will provide socio-economic benefits including employment, training and business opportunities for our indigenous Metis members on an equitable basis as other aboriginal parties with IBAs.”

The group’s website traces their background to “French and mixed-blood coureurs de bois [who] travelled into the Athabasca country, living with Dene and Cree families” before the fall of Quebec in 1763.

The Lac de Gras region currently has three diamond mines in operation. Together they employed 3,109 workers in 2013, according to numbers released last month by the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. Of that total, 1,430 workers were northerners and 752 (53% of the northern total) were aboriginal.

Since 1996, NWT diamond mining created nearly 44,000 person-years of employment, the chamber stated. Half the total went to northerners, and half the northern total to aboriginals.

Additionally, diamond royalties have delivered $39 million to three aboriginal groups. “Royalty sharing with aboriginal groups will be increasing as the NWT government has committed to share 25% of the royalties they collect with aboriginal signatories to the devolution agreement” with the federal government, the chamber added.

Besides the three diamond mines, the NWT hosts Cantung, “one of the largest operating tungsten mines outside of China,” according to North American Tungsten TSXV:NTC.

Read more about NWT mining.

Read about diamond supply and demand.

“It’s a new NWT”

October 7th, 2014

Miners welcome the Northwest Territories’ plans to encourage investment

by Greg Klein

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His tone sounded taunting, if only slightly so. While attending a meeting of resource politicos in Sudbury last August, Northwest Territories minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment David Ramsay told the Globe and Mail that the NWT’s “Ring of Ice” has resources to rival Ontario’s Ring of Fire. The huge difference, of course, is that the Ring of Fire remains all but inaccessible while the NWT’s riches have already been opened up. Now the territory has taken specific measures to emphasize it’s open for business.

That came through in the first annual implementation plan of the NWT’s Mineral Development Strategy. And the plan drew praise in an October 6 announcement from the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. The organization sees last April’s devolution of federal responsibilities for land, water and resources to the territory as a turning point for the industry. “The legislature has said mining development has big consequences for our government now,” chamber executive director Tom Hoefer tells ResourceClips.com. “So it’s saying we’re going to be more nimble on our feet, we’re going to encourage economic development.”

Miners welcome the Northwest Territories’ plans to encourage investment

The NWT has done so by setting ambitious goals, some with established budgets and target dates, on a number of fronts including energy, transportation and a “new leading edge Mineral Resources Act.” That marks a major departure from past practice, according to Hoefer.

“We’ve suffered a loss of reputation over probably the last seven years. If you look at our exploration figures during that period you can see our investment just flatlined. We saw Yukon, Nunavut and the rest of the world getting huge investment. We languished.”

Indeed, last year’s Fraser Institute Policy Perception Index placed the NWT nearly halfway down a list of 112 jurisdictions globally and sixth on a list of 12 Canadian jurisdictions.

“A big piece of this was the regulatory front,” Hoefer explains. “It was getting very complex, in part because we had a number of different land claim groups and that created a number of different regulatory boards. So the federal government launched a northern regulatory improvement initiative in 2009 and that culminated in amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.” That was completed shortly before last April’s devolution milestone.

The NWT considers those amendments a starting point for a new regulatory environment. But the government’s not promising rapid reform. Calling this a “time of transition and learning,” the territory has come up with the slogan “devolve then evolve.” Still, it’s stated intentions to provide clear, concise documentation and to guide companies through regulatory processes and aboriginal engagement.

The territory already leads Canada in at least one respect, Hoefer maintains. “I’d say we’re probably a leader in the country for settling land claims. That helps provide more certainty.”

Devolution also brings the territory 50% of the royalties that once went solely to the feds. Aboriginal groups that signed onto the devolution agreement get 25% of the territory’s share, Hoefer says.

With grants announced just last week, a new mining incentive program has awarded a total of $396,000 to two prospectors and six exploration companies.

“A new and easier-to-use web portal for discovery and dissemination of geoscience information” will get $1.3 million over two years.

But that’s small change compared to price tags for infrastructure. Although money hasn’t been allocated yet, the NWT’s talking about a three-year, $31-million energy program and a 10-year, $200-million transportation plan.

None of the territory’s four existing mines connect to the grid. Only North American Tungsten’s (TSXV:NTC) CanTung operation has year-round road access—and that links to the Yukon.

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Focused on Fox

July 25th, 2013

Happy Creek Minerals drills high-grade, near-surface tungsten in B.C.

by Greg Klein

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“It’s not often that a junior delivers the best drill result in the Western world, at least in recent memory.” That bold statement comes from David Blann, president/CEO of Happy Creek Minerals TSXV:HPY. He’s referring to just one of the assays that show near-surface, high-grade tungsten at his company’s Fox project in central British Columbia. But for all tungsten’s importance as a critical mineral, “no one I know of in Australia, South America, North America or Europe has found anything new,” Blann tells ResourceClips.com. “This is a brand new, from-scratch discovery.”

As pointed out by Core Consultants managing director Lara Smith, both the European Union and the U.S. Department of Defense rate tungsten in their top three list of critical minerals. Speaking at Vancouver’s World Resource Investment Conference in May, House Mountain Partners founder and Morning Notes co-editor Chris Berry called tungsten one of four critical metals on which he’s now focusing.

Happy Creek Minerals drills high-grade, near-surface tungsten in B.C.

Happy Creek Minerals says its near-surface tungsten grades
compare favourably with high-grade underground mines.

Among its refractory metal qualities, tungsten combines special strength, hardness and density, along with the highest melting point of any metal (3,422 degrees C). That gives tungsten a range of vital uses from light filaments, ballpoint pens, electronics, blades, drills, saws and munitions to fishing lures and strings for musical instruments.

As for its critical mineral status, the tungsten story is a familiar one. Mining Weekly quoted Smith saying that China accounted for most of the world’s supply as well as demand. “This has placed an unprecedented threat on the tungsten sector outside of China, which presents enormous opportunities for the development of tungsten ores, concentrates and intermediary products outside of China,” she said.

Naturally that draws attention to tungsten in reliable jurisdictions and, Blann maintains, further emphasizes Fox’s significance. Consisting of four zones along a three-kilometre north-south axis, as well as a fifth zone about four kilometres south, the 16,491-hectare Fox has been showing strong results since late 2011. The “best drill result in the Western world” that Blann speaks of was released in November 2012 from the BN zone, where hole F12-27 showed:

  • 4.04% tungsten trioxide (WO3), 0.91% zinc, 4.51 grams per tonne indium and 4.1 g/t silver over 14.8 metres, starting at 83.2 metres in downhole depth.

(True width wasn’t available.)

The same hole also showed:

  • 1.78% WO3, 0.36% zinc and 1.56 g/t indium over 4.1 metres, starting at 1.9 metres
  • 0.79% WO3 over 24 metres, starting at 136 metres
  • (including 2.01% WO3, 0.84% zinc, 3.9 g/t indium and 9 g/t silver over 5.8 metres).

Tungsten highlights from the RC zone showed:

  • 0.74% WO3 over 12.4 metres, starting at 8.3 metres
  • 0.82% over 19.4 metres, starting at 14 metres
  • 0.8% over 11 metres, starting at 15 metres
  • 0.68% over 14 metres, starting at 27 metres.

Blann maintains Fox’s grades stand up to those of North American Tungsten’s TSXV:NTC Cantung mine, a diesel-operated, fly-in/fly-out underground producer in the Northwest Territories that’s “probably considered the highest-grade tungsten mine in the Western world.” Fox’s location, however, makes infrastructure more accessible.

A power line to the former Boss Mountain molybdenum mine (under option to NMC Resource TSXV:NRC) passes within 17 kilometres of Fox. A logging road links Nightcrawler, Fox’s most southerly zone, to the community of Forest Grove, about 45 minutes away. From there it’s another 20 minutes to highway and rail at the town of 100 Mile House. Helicopter-supported drilling now takes place about four kilometres north of Nightcrawler, at about 1,800 metres in altitude. That could eventually require Happy Creek to extend the road. “A logging company already has a plan and permit to build a road halfway there anyway,” Blann says.

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