Wednesday 19th December 2018

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Posts tagged ‘nunavut’

Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners as Roundup approaches

December 6th, 2018

by Greg Klein | December 6, 2018

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

The Chidliak discovery brings another potential diamond mine to Canada’s Arctic.
(Photo: De Beers)

 

Mine finders, financiers and builders will be honoured, but so will others including educators and a gold panner, as well as leaders in social and environmental responsibility and in health and safety. It takes a wide range of abilities to supply the world with the stuff we need and the Association for Mineral Exploration recognizes diverse achievements in its Celebration of Excellence awards. Winners were announced on December 6 in advance of AME’s annual Roundup conference scheduled for January 28 to 31 in Vancouver.

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

Yukon Dan Moore shares an award with geologist
and social responsibility practitioner Peter Bradshaw.

Al McOnie, Seymour Iles and Jared Chipman of Alexco Resource TSX:AXR win the 2018 H.H. “Spud” Huestis Award for Excellence in Prospecting and Mineral Exploration. The trio gets credit for the recent discovery and delineation of over 60 million silver ounces in the Flame & Moth and Bermingham deposits in Yukon’s Keno Hill Silver District.

John McCluskey wins the Murray Pezim Award for Perseverance and Success in Financing Mineral Exploration. McCluskey played a crucial role in acquiring, financing and encouraging the discoveries of La India (Grayd Resources, bought out by Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM in 2012), Mulatos (Alamos Gold TSX:AGI) and Kemess East (AuRico Metals, acquired by Centerra Gold TSX:CG in January), as well as his ongoing success as CEO of Alamos.

Eric Friedland, executive chairperson of Peregrine Diamonds (acquired by De Beers in September), Geoff Woad, former head of world diamond exploration for BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP and Brooke Clements, former Peregrine president, win the Hugo Dummett Award for Excellence in Diamond Exploration and Development for their part in discovering the Chidliak Diamond Province in Nunavut.

Tom Henricksen wins the Colin Spence Award for Excellence in Global Mineral Exploration  for “outstanding contributions to mineral discovery, and being involved in some monumental discoveries and/or acquisitions across the world.”

Matt Andrews and Monica Moretto win the Robert R. Hedley Award for Excellence in Social and Environmental Responsibility for their work with Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS.

Paycore Drilling wins the David Barr Award for Excellence in Leadership and Innovation in Mineral Exploration Health and Safety for the Paycore crew’s rescue operation following a helicopter crash.

Yukon Dan Moore and Peter Bradshaw share the Gold Pan Award for separate endeavours demonstrating “exceptional meritorious service to the mineral exploration community.”

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

Norman Keevil’s award honours his achievements
in B.C. and adjacent parts of the Cordillera.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

J. Greg Dawson and Victoria Yehl win the Frank Woodside Award for Distinguished Service to AME and/or Mineral Exploration for achievements that include Dawson’s research in land use planning and Yehl’s work as an AME organizer.

AME’s 2019 Outreach Education Fund grants $10,000 each to two groups: MineralsEd for the Kids & Rocks Classroom Workshop, and Britannia Mine Museum for its Education Program.

Norman Keevil, chairperson emeritus/special adviser for Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B and author of Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time, wins a Special Tribute for his achievements and contributions to exploration, discovery and development.

Congratulating the winners, AME chairperson ‘Lyn Anglin said, “The theme of AME’s 2019 Roundup conference is Elements for Discovery and these individuals and teams, through their remarkable efforts in elements of exploration, development and outreach, have generated discoveries and advancements which will bring benefits to the many diverse communities throughout British Columbia and Canada.”

Winners will be feted at the January 30 Awards Gala, part of AME Roundup from January 28 to 31 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. Two days of short courses precede the event. Discounted early bird registration remains open until 4:00 p.m. December 14. Click here to register.

Read more about AME’s Celebration of Excellence award winners and their achievements.

Drill-ready money

November 19th, 2018

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

by Greg Klein

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Osisko Mining’s (TSX:OSK) Windfall project offers one reason why
Quebec leads Canada and gold leads metals for exploration spending.
(Photo: Osisko Mining)

 

Blockchain might offer intrigue and cannabis promises a buzz, but mineral exploration still attracts growing interest. A healthy upswing this year will bring Canadian projects a nearly 8% spending increase to $2.36 billion, the industry’s highest amount since 2012. According to recently released data, that’s part of an international trend that puts Canada at the top of a worldwide resurgence.

The $2.36 billion allotted for Canadian exploration and deposit appraisal forms just a small part of the year’s total mineral resource development investments, which see $11.86 billion committed to this country, up from $10.61 billion in 2017.

Those numbers come from Natural Resources Canada, which surveyed companies between April and September on their spending intentions within the country for 2018. The $2.36-billion figure includes engineering, economic and feasibility studies, along with environmental work and general expenses.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Trial extraction for Pure Gold Mining’s (TSXV:PGM)
Madsen feasibility studies encourages interest in
Ontario’s Red Lake region. (Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

Of that number, Quebec edges out Ontario for first place with $623.1 million in spending this year, 26.4% of Canada’s total. Ontario’s share comes to $567.5 million or 24%. Last year’s totals came to $573.9 million for Quebec and $539.7 million for its western neighbour. Prior to that, however, Ontario held a comfortable lead year after year.

Third-place British Columbia gets $335.5 million or 14.2% of Canada’s total this year, an increase from $302.6 million in 2017.

On a per-capita basis, Yukon’s enjoying an exceptional year with an expected $249.4 million or 10.6% of Canada’s total. That’s the territory’s second substantial increase in a row, following $168.7 million the previous year.

Saskatchewan dips this year to $187.2 million (7.9%) from $191.2 million in 2017. But the Fraser Institute’s last survey of mining jurisdictions placed the province first in Canada and second worldwide.

Nunavut drops too, for the third consecutive time, to $143.9 million (6.1%), compared with $177 million in 2017. The Northwest Territories’ forecast declines to $86.2 million (3.7%) this year after $91.2 million last year.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Among companies leading Yukon’s exceptional performance
is White Gold TSXV:WGO, with substantial backing from
Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM and Kinross Gold TSX:K.
(Photo: White Gold)

Especially troubling when contrasted with Yukon’s performance, data for the other territories prompted NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Gary Vivian to call on federal, territorial and native governments and boards to help the industry “by creating certainty around land access, by reducing unnecessary complexity and by addressing the higher costs they face working in the North. Sustaining and growing future mining benefits depend on it.”

The pursuit of precious metals accounts for $1.5 billion in spending, nearly 64% of Canadian exploration. Ontario gets almost 31% of the precious metals attention, with 27% going to Quebec.

Base metals, mostly in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, get 15.5% of the year’s total. Uranium gets 5%, almost entirely in Saskatchewan. Diamonds get nearly 4%, most of it going to the NWT and Saskatchewan. But nearly 11% of this year’s total goes to a category vaguely attributed to other metals, along with coal and additional non-metals.

Getting back to this year’s exploration total ($2.36 billion, remember?), senior companies commit themselves to nearly 55%, compared with nearly 51% last year. But the juniors’ share remains proportionately much larger than the pre-2017 years.

Additional encouragement—and on an international level—comes from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Using different methodology to produce different results, the Metals and Mining Research team found worldwide budgets for nonferrous exploration jumping 19% this year to $10.1 billion.

Juniors have been reaping the biggest budget gains at 35%. Over 1,651 functional exploration companies represent an 8% improvement over last year and the first such increase since 2012. But that’s “still about 900 companies less than in 2012, representing a one-third culling of active explorers over the past five years.”

The most dramatic spending increase hit cobalt and lithium, this year undergoing an 82% leap in exploration spending. That’s part of a 500% climb since 2015, SPGMI says.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Nemaska Lithium’s Whabouchi project in Quebec
contributes to the enthusiasm for energy metals.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

Even so, precious and base metals retained their prominence as gold continues “to benefit the most from the industry recovery.” The global strive for yellow metal will claim $4.86 billion this year, up from $4.05 billion in 2017. Base metals spending will grow by $600 million to $3.04 billion. “Copper remained by far the most attractive of the base metals, although zinc allocations have increased the most, rising 37% in 2018, the report states. “Budgets are up for all targets except uranium.”

SPGMI finds Canada keeping its global top spot for nonferrous exploration with a 31% year-on-year budget increase. Second-place Australia achieved a 23% rise. The U.S. total places third, although with a 34% increase over the country’s 2017 performance.

In each of the top three countries, over 55% of the budgets focused on gold.

“Improved metals prices and margins since 2016 have encouraged producers to expand their organic efforts the past two years,” commented SPGMI’s Mark Ferguson. “Over the same period, equity market support for the junior explorers has improved, leading to an uptick in the number and size of completed financings. This allowed the group to increase exploration budgets by 35% in 2018.”

Baffinland Iron Mines sets high Arctic high volume shipping record

November 8th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 8, 2018

Competing with northern European coal and its own past performance, Baffinland Iron Mines claims the largest shipping program by volume for the Canadian and Scandinavian high Arctic. During an 86-day season that ended October 17, some 71 voyages carried an average 71,750 tonnes of iron ore each from the company’s Milne Inlet port at 71.25 degrees latitude. Destinations included continental Europe, the UK and, in a first for iron ore bulk transport, two trips along the Russian coast to Taiwan and Japan.

Total tonnage came to about 5.1 million, surpassing the previous 4.1-million-tonne record set by Baffinland in 2017. The ore comes from Mary River, 100 kilometres by road from the port.

Baffinland Iron Mines sets high Arctic high volume record

This year’s season included the world’s first two bulk transports
of iron ore through the Northern Sea Route to Asia.
(Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines)

President/CEO Brian Penney attributed “a successful, safe and responsible shipping season” to employees and shipping partners, as well as the support of northern Baffin Island communities and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization support an onboard monitoring program “to ensure no adverse environmental impacts or impacts on Inuit shipping vessels,” the company stated. “These programs combined scientific and traditional Inuit knowledge. No health and safety or environmental incidents occurred during the shipping program.”

An application before the Nunavut Impact Review Board proposes to replace Baffinland’s tote road with a railway linking the mine with Milne Inlet. Following community consultations, NIRB expects to make its recommendation in June, Baffinland communications officer Jason Leite tells ResourceClips.com. The federal cabinet decision should follow in 30 to 90 days.

The company also hopes to lay track south to a proposed Baffin Island port at Steensby Inlet. The Steensby route and facilities were approved in 2014, although market conditions prompted the company to scale its plans down radically to an Early Revenue Phase.

“The plan to go south to Steensby is still on the horizon and it’s part of our expanded growth outlook over the next decade, or even 15 to 20 years,” Leite says. “We’re taking a tiered approach to our expansion programs.”

The company’s eventual goal is 30 million tonnes per year. Last month Baffinland received federal approval to increase annual production from 4.2 million to six million tonnes despite a negative NIRB recommendation.

Held jointly by Nunavut Iron Ore and ArcelorMittal, Baffinland credits Mary River with “the highest grade of direct shipping iron ore in the world.”

Read more about Canadian arctic shipping.

Active participants

November 7th, 2018

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

by Greg Klein

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

Representatives of Nemaska Lithium and Nemaska Cree negotiate the Chinuchi Agreement in 2014.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

 

Trans Mountain—it’s likely been Canada’s biggest and most discouraging resource story this year. The subject of well-publicized protests, the proposed $9.3-billion pipeline extension met federal court rejection on the grounds of inadequate native consultation. But any impression of uniform aboriginal opposition to that project in particular or resource projects in general would be false, a new report emphasizes. In fact native involvement increasingly advances from reaping benefits to taking active part, with corresponding advantages to individuals and communities.

That’s the case for the oil and gas sector, forestry, hydro-electricity and fisheries, with mining one of the prominent examples provided by the Montreal Economic Institute in The First Entrepreneurs – Natural Resource Development and First Nations. “While some First Nations oppose mining and forestry or the building of energy infrastructure, others favour such development and wish to take advantage of the resulting wealth and jobs,” state authors Germain Belzile and Alexandre Moreau. “This cleavage is no different from what is found in non-indigenous cities and villages in Canada, where there is no vision for the future that everyone agrees upon.”

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

Visitors tour a cultural site at the Éléonore mine.
(Photo: Goldcorp)

Mining provides a case in point, and the reason’s not hard to understand. “In 2016, First Nations members working in the mining sector declared a median income twice as high as that of workers in their communities overall, and nearly twice as high as that of non-indigenous people as a whole.”

“Between 2000 and 2017, 455 agreements were signed in this sector, guaranteeing benefits in addition to those stemming from extraction royalties due to rights held by First Nations on their territories.” Those agreements often include native priority in hiring and subcontracting, which helps explain why “6% of indigenous people work in the mining sector, compared to only 4% in other industries.”

Of course the proportion rises dramatically in communities close to mines. MEI notes that Wemindji Cree make up about 25% of Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) Éléonore staff in Quebec’s James Bay region. The native total comes to 225 workers out of a community of 1,600 people. Their collaboration agreement also makes provisions for education, training and business opportunities.

At another Quebec James Bay project, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX expects to begin producing concentrate in H2 of next year. Collaboration with the Nemaska Cree began in 2009 and brought about the 2014 Chinuchi Agreement covering training, employment and revenue sharing, among other benefits. The community holds 3.6% of Nemaska stock.

Even stalled projects can benefit communities. Uranium’s price slump forced Cameco TSX:CCO to put its majority-held Millennium project in northern Saskatchewan on hold in 2014. But the 1,600-member English River First Nation still gained $50 million from the project in 2014 and $58 million in 2015.

Or, to take an example not mentioned in the report, natives can also profit from an operating mine that fails to make a profit. In Nunavut, a benefit agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation gave the Qikiqtani Inuit Association $11.65 million this year, as well as the better part of $3.7 million that the QIA reaped in leases and fees. In production since 2014, Mary River remains in the red.

Of course some natives still oppose some projects. Last month Star Diamond TSX:DIAM received provincial environmental approval for its Star-Orion South project in southern Saskatchewan’s Fort à la Corne district. That decision followed federal approval in 2014.

Star says the mine would cost $1.41 billion to build and would pay $802 million in royalties as well as $865 million in provincial income tax over a 20-year lifespan. The mine would employ an average 669 people annually for a five-year construction period and 730 people during operation. But continued opposition from the James Smith Cree Nation calls into question whether environmental approval will suffice to allow development.

Similar circumstances played out in reverse for Mary River. Last summer the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended Ottawa reject Baffinland’s proposed production increase. But support from the QIA and territorial Premier Joe Savikataaq convinced the feds to approve the company’s request. So the veto, if it exists, can work both ways.

James Smith opposition stems largely from Saskatchewan’s lack of revenue-sharing programs, a basic component of benefit agreements in other jurisdictions. “As a government it’s our position that we will not and do not consider resource revenue sharing as a part of any proposal going forward,” enviro minister Dustin Duncan told the Prince Albert newspaper paNOW. He said the province uses mining revenue “to fund programs for the benefit of all Saskatchewan residents and not just one particular group or region.”

The MEI report quotes an estimated $321 million in 2015-to-2016 revenues from natural resources overall for First Nations, a category that doesn’t include Inuit or Metis, and a dollar figure that doesn’t include employment or business income and other benefits.

While Trans Mountain stands out as an especially discouraging process, MEI points out that proponent Kinder Morgan signed benefit agreements with 43 First Nations totalling $400 million. After Ottawa bought the company, “several First Nations showed interest in a potential takeover. For some of them, the possibility of equity stakes was indeed the missing element in the Kinder Morgan offer.”

That might take negotiations well past the stage of benefits and further into active participation. As JP Gladu of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business told MEI, “The next big business trend that we are going to see, and that is happening already, is not only that aboriginal businesses are going to be stronger components of the corporate supply chain, but we are also going to see them as stronger proponents of equity positions and actual partners within resource projects.”

 

A new study finds greater native involvement in resource projects

The category of First Nations excludes Inuit and Metis.
(Chart: Montreal Economic Institute. Sources: Statistics Canada,
2016 Census, 98-400-X2016359, March 28, 2018)

Tom Hoefer of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines points out that northern miners must create their own infrastructure

October 9th, 2018

…Read more

Looking up, up north

October 5th, 2018

The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

by Greg Klein

The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

Baffinland president/CEO Brian Penney joins QIA president P.J. Akeeagok
and others at a signing ceremony for Mary River’s amended benefit agreement.
(Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines)

 

Nunavut’s environmental review said no to a mining proposal but Ottawa said yes. What happened?

Hoping to finally make a profit at its four-year-old Mary River operation, Baffinland Iron Mines asked permission to boost production from 4.2 million tonnes annually to six million tonnes. Worried about possible environmental effects, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended in late August that the federal government reject the proposal. But it was the NIRB recommendation that got rejected. Five cabinet ministers approved the mine’s request, for the time being anyway.

Swaying the decision was the support of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, whose members “strongly support the Production Increase Proposal as a method of furthering Inuit aspirations in the region,” Ottawa stated. Support also came from Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who urged a swift decision in favour.

The territories reap tangible and intangible benefits from their biggest industry

It wasn’t long coming. Just one month after the NIRB forwarded its recommendation, Ottawa announced its approval, expressing concern about the socio-economic effects of shutting down the mine for part of the year once the 4.2-million-tonne limit is reached and about the mine’s long-term viability. Increased production will “allow the Inuit of the region the opportunity to maintain and more fully realize the economic and other benefits of the mine.”

That’s not to dismiss environmental concerns. Monitoring will take place until the end of next year, when permission comes up for review. Among other considerations will be the effects of dust on wildlife along a 100-kilometre trucking route from mine to port and of increased shipping on marine life. Considered one of the world’s richest iron ore deposits, Mary River also ranks as one of the planet’s northern-most mines.

The company received additional permission to build a 15-million-litre fuel tank and a 380-person camp at the Milne Inlet port, projects which the NIRB supported. Still under consideration by the board is Baffinland’s proposal to replace the truck route with a 110-kilometre railway.

The QIA, which will participate in environmental monitoring, represents some 14,000 people in the Baffin region. Baffinland, co-owned by Nunavut Iron Ore and ArcelorMittal, employs about 2,000 staff and contractors at Mary River and Milne Inlet. This year the QIA’s Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement with Baffinland brought in $11.65 million, a considerable jump from $3.11 million the previous year. The group netted another $3.7 million in leases and fees, most of it from Mary River. That, from a mine that’s yet to turn a profit.

The benefit agreement looks even better with amendments announced just days after the production increase approval. “Our goal was to increase training and employment opportunities, and we have done that and much more,” said QIA president P.J. Akeeagok. 

The agreement comes up for review every three years. Apart from a modified royalty structure, these amendments call for Baffinland to spend $10 million on a state-of-the-art training centre, significantly expand the Inuit training budget, provide four communities with research vessels currently priced at $300,000 each and fund a $200,000 annual monitoring program. The amendments intend to “increase Inuit employment in all aspects of Baffinland’s organization” as well as provide “improved support for all residents of the Qikiqtani communities,” the company stated.

The same day the agreement was announced came news from the Northwest Territories of diamond mining’s benefits, tangible and intangible. Compiling information from recent socio-economic reports for the territory’s three mines, the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines reported 3,450 person-years of employment in 2017, 46% of that going to northerners. Natives comprised 51% of the northern workers and women 15% of all jobs.

Altogether the three operations—the Washington Group’s Ekati, Washington Group/Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO) Diavik and De Beers/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué—brought $1.2 billion in spending last year, $834 million spent in the north and $325 million to northern natives.

“In addition to jobs, business spending and training, the diamond mines have also contributed billions of dollars in community contributions and in taxes and royalties paid to public and indigenous governments,” pointed out Chamber president Gary Vivian. “With continued progress on infrastructure investment, and regulatory and land access improvements, mining in the north is truly a sunrise industry. Our mining potential is huge.”

As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

September 10th, 2018
As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past an iceberg in Lancaster Sound in 2008.
(Photo: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

 

by Edward Struzik | Queen’s University | posted with permission of The Conversation | September 10, 2018

I was aboard the 111-metre Russian research/cruise ship Akademik Ioffe when it came to a violent stop after grounding on a shoal in a remote region of the Gulf of Boothia in Canada’s Arctic. Fortunately, none of the 102 passengers and 24 crew members was injured. Chemical contaminants that may or may not have been pumped out with the bilge water seemed to be minor.

It could have ended up a lot worse. I was on the ship representing Yale Environment 360, which commissioned me to report on climate change in the Arctic and the research that scientists and students with the U.S. National Foundation-sponsored Northwest Passage Project were to be conducting on that three-week voyage.

It took nearly nine hours for a Hercules aircraft to fly in from the Canadian National Defence Joint Rescue Centre in Trenton, Ontario, 12 hours for another DND plane to come in from Winnipeg and 20 hours for a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter to fly over. By then we were boarding the Akademik Vavilov, a Russian sister ship that had come to the rescue.

As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

Passengers aboard the Russian research/cruise ship Akademik Ioffe
watch a Canadian military aircraft fly overhead as they wait to be
rescued after running aground on a shoal in the Arctic.
(Photo: Edward Struzik)

Dangerous scenarios

Had the weather not worked in our favour and had there been thick ice such as the kind we had sailed through hours earlier, we would have faced a number of challenging and potentially dangerous scenarios.

Powerful winds could have spun us around on that rock, possibly ripping a hole into the hull that might have been bigger than the one that was presumably taking in the water we saw being pumped out of the ship. Thick ice grinding up against the ship would have made it almost impossible to get everyone off into lifeboats.

I had warned about a scenario like this in my book Future Arctic, Field Notes from A World On The Edge. Only 10% of the Arctic Ocean in Canada, and less than 2% of the Arctic Ocean in the United States, is charted. Only 25% of the Canadian paper charts are deemed to be good. Some of the U.S. charts go back to the days of captains Cook and Vancouver and the time when the Russians owned Alaska.

I’m not the only one who has been raising the red flag. Arctic experts such as Rob Huebert, Whitney Lackenbauer, Michael Byers and the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development have all highlighted the rising risks of shipping in the Arctic, and the formidable challenges associated with timely search and rescues and the staging of oil spill cleanups.

Groundings have increased

Since the catastrophic grounding of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989, the list of groundings of fuel tankers, drilling ships, cargo ships and passenger vessels plying the waters of the North American Arctic has risen significantly.

Most notable among them were the cruise ship Hanseatic which ran aground in the Canadian Arctic in 1996, the Clipper Adventurer which ran aground in Coronation Gulf in 2010 and the Nanny, a fuel tanker that ran aground near Baker Lake in 2012 in an area where marine investigators say there is little margin for error. It was the fifth grounding in that area since 2007.

As sea ice continues to recede in the Arctic, it provides cruise, cargo and tanker companies with new opportunities, and emboldens small vessels to venture into uncharted areas. A recent analysis suggests that the average arctic ship route has moved more than 290 kilometres closer to the North Pole in the past seven years. Mines such as the one at Mary River on Baffin Island use ships to transport their ore. Bigger cruise ships such as the Crystal Serenity that sailed through the Northwest Passage with 1,000 passengers and 600 crew members in 2017 are beginning to test these opportunities.

No rescue ports

There are other factors portending future disasters. There are no ports in the North American Arctic from which to stage a rescue or an oil spill cleanup.

Icebreakers are few and far between. The U.S. Coast Guard has just one in operation. Canada has a few more, but many of them are well on their way to being decommissioned.

Weather forecasting capabilities are poor due to the shortage of meteorological stations and the increasingly unpredictable nature of arctic weather. Powerful summer storms such as the record-breaking cyclone that tore through the Arctic in 2012 are on the increase. Stable shorefast ice is letting go in unpredictable ways.

Our ship, for example, was forced to make a last-minute change to the starting route because of ice that was blocking passage into Resolute Bay. Recognizing the challenges, two cruise companies reportedly cancelled their expeditions this year on short notice.

There is a lot that can and needs to be done to reduce future risks. The Canadian government could compel ships to use forward-looking multi-beam sonar with Bluetooth technology. Charts can and need to be updated rapidly. More weather stations are needed. The dumping of bilge water should be banned. A search and rescue team should be seasonally based in a strategic part of the Arctic. An arctic port is needed sooner rather than later.

There is also a need to determine what impact future shipping will have on beluga and narwhal migrations.

There is time to play catch-up because there are few signs that shipping companies are in a hurry to exploit the shortcuts that the Northwest Passage offers between the Atlantic and the Pacific. But the number of partial transits will increase as cruise ships, mining companies and future oil and gas activity focus their eyes on the Arctic.

As things stand now, we are not prepared.

This article was originally published in The Conversation.

Related:

The Conversation

Reaching arctic mines by sea

September 10th, 2018

Operating in northern Canada often means creating your own transportation routes

by Greg Klein

Amid all the controversy over spending $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a pipeline project whose $9.3-billion expansion might never go through, Ottawa managed to come up with some good, if relatively minor, infrastructure news. Rehab work will begin immediately on an idled railway connecting with a port that together linked Churchill, Manitoba, with the rest of Canada by land and the world by sea. Should all go to plan the private-public partnership would be one of just a few recent success stories in northern infrastructure.

Operating in northern Canada often means building your own infrastructure

The arctic Quebec riches of Glencore’s Raglan mine
justify an especially roundabout route from mine to market.

Denver-based owner OmniTRAX shut down Churchill’s deep-water port in 2016, blaming the demise of grain shipping through that route. The following year the company said it couldn’t afford rail repairs after a flood washed out sections of the line. Now the railway, port and an associated tank farm come under new ownership in an “historic” deal involving the Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership and the Fairfax Financial Holdings & AGT Limited Partnership.

“The consortium brings together First Nations and community ownership and support, along with significant private sector leadership and global investment capacity, and further, short line rail operation and shipping experience,” Ottawa enthused. As stakeholders heaped praise on the federal government, the source for much of the money seemed clear. But not even the purchase price, let alone details on who pays how much, have been disclosed.

Still the revitalization program, which could re-open the railway this coming winter, heightens the potential of resource projects in northern Manitoba and Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. As such, the apparent P3 success contrasts with a northern infrastructure setback to the northwest.

In April Transport Canada rejected a request to fund the bulk of a $527-million proposal to build another deep-water port at Grays Bay, Nunavut, along with a 227-kilometre year-round road leading to the territory’s former Jericho diamond mine. The Northwest Territories offered to build its own all-weather link, where a winter road now connects Jericho with three operating diamond mines in the NWT’s portion of the Lac de Gras region.

However the federal refusal prompted Nunavut to pull its support for Grays Bay. Undeterred, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association joined the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines at last month’s Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Iqaluit to argue the case for Grays Bay and other infrastructure projects. Chamber executive director Tom Hoefer said that with the exception of the NWT’s 97-kilometre Tlicho all-season road, the two territories have gone more than 40 years without government support for major projects. The last came in 1975, when Ottawa partnered with industry to build the world’s first ice‐breaking cargo ship, serving the former Nanisivik and Polaris mines in present-day Nunavut, he said.

With no power grids to our remote mines, [companies] must provide their own diesel-generated power, or wind in the case of Diavik. Being off the highway system, they must build their own roads—whether seasonal ice roads or all-weather roads. The ice road melts every year and must be rebuilt annually for $25 million…. Some of our mines must build their own seaports and all provide their own airports.—Tom Hoefer, executive director
of the NWT and Nunavut
Chamber of Mines

Hoefer compared the Slave geological province, home to deposits of precious and base metals along with rare earths and Lac de Gras diamonds, to the Abitibi. Kivalliq, he added, also offers considerable potential in addition to the regional operations of Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM.

But while mining plays an overwhelming role in the northern economy, he stressed, it’s been up to northern miners to build their own infrastructure.

Baffinland’s Mary River iron ore mine co-owners ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron Ore want to replace their hauling road with a 110-kilometre railway to the company’s port at Milne Inlet, where ore gets stockpiled prior to summer shipping to Europe. Now undergoing environmental review, the railway would be part of a proposal to increase extraction from four million tonnes to 6.2 million tonnes annually and finally make the mine profitable. An environmental review already recommended rejection of the increased tonnage proposal, but the final decision rests with Ottawa. (Update: On September 30, 2018, Ottawa approved the increased tonnage application for a one-year trial period.)

The rail line, if approved in its separate application, could be in operation by 2020 or 2021.

That would make it Canada’s only railway north of 60, except for a CN spur line reaching Hay River, NWT, from Alberta and a tourist excursion to Carcross, Yukon, from the Alaska Panhandle town of Skagway. (Also connected by highway to the Yukon, Skagway provides year-round deep-water port facilities for the territory, including Capstone Mining’s (TSX:CS) Minto copper mine.)

Projected for production next year, Amaruq comprises a satellite deposit for Agnico’s Meadowbank gold mine in Nunavut. The company has built a 50-kilometre all-weather road linking Amaruq with Meadowbank’s processing facility and the company’s 110-kilometre all-weather road—by far the territory’s longest road—to Baker Lake. Interestingly that’s Nunavut’s only inland community but the hamlet has seasonal boat access to Chesterfield Inlet on northwestern Hudson Bay. From there, still restricted to the ice-free months, ships can reach Churchill or the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Also primed for 2019 gold production is Agnico’s Meliadine, 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank. The company’s 25-kilometre all-weather road connects with summer shipping facilities at Rankin Inlet, 90 klicks south of Chesterfield Inlet.

With its Doris gold operation only five kilometres from the Northwest Passage port of Roberts Bay, TMAC Resources TSX:TMR hopes to mine two more deposits on the same Hope Bay greenstone belt by 2020 and 2022 respectively.

But the most circuitous route from northern mine to market begins in arctic Quebec using trucks, ship, rail and more rail, then another ship. Glencore hauls nickel-copper concentrate about 100 kilometres by road from Raglan to Deception Bay, roughly 2,000 crow-flying kilometres from Quebec City. That’s the next destination, but by water. From there the stuff’s offloaded onto rail for transport to a Sudbury smelter, then back by rail to Quebec City again. Ships then make the trans-Atlantic crossing to Norway.

This is Part 1 of a series about northern infrastructure.

Related reading:

The Northwest Territories celebrates gemstone mining milestones

August 24th, 2018

from the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines | August 24, 2018

The Northwest Territories diamond mining industry celebrated two milestones this month, gratefully acknowledged by northern government, Indigenous and industry leaders.

The Northwest Territories celebrates gemstone mining milestones

NWT government, miners and Indigenous community representatives
celebrate the official opening of Diavik’s fourth diamond pipe.
(Photo: Rio Tinto)

On August 9, Dominion Diamonds celebrated the 20th year of diamond mining at Ekati, the first diamond mine to have opened in Canada in 1998. An unexpected and initially unbelieved discovery of diamonds by geologists Chuck Fipke and Stu Blusson in 1991 proved that the ground they staked held significant deposits of jewelry-grade diamonds. In partnership with a major global mining corporation BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP, they would see the new Ekati mine approved, constructed and producing high-quality diamonds a short seven years later. The mine is owned and operated today by the Washington Group.

Just a short 30 kilometres to the south, Diavik Diamond Mines celebrated the start of mining of their fourth ore body, named A21, on August 20. The planned US$350-million project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Mining and diamond production is expected to reach full production in Q4 2018. As with Diavik’s other three ore bodies, A21 was discovered under the large lake Lac de Gras and required the construction of a highly engineered dyke to allow open pit mining. Diavik’s dyke design received Canada’s top engineering award as a Canadian engineering achievement for its significant positive impact on society, industry or engineering. The Diavik mine is operated today by Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO, which owns 60% of the mine, with the Washington Group owning 40%.

Generations of Northerners have benefited from our diamond mines. Our mining partners have provided thousands of rewarding careers for our residents; enriched our communities through grants, scholarships and contributions; and spent billions with local businesses.—Wally Schumann,
NWT Minister of Industry,
Tourism and Investment

Leaders and representatives of the NWT government and from the Indigenous groups that traditionally used the area participated in and helped celebrate the events at Ekati and Diavik.

In September, the NWT’s newest diamond mine—Gahcho Kué—will celebrate its second anniversary. In that short time, the mine has set production records, has hired over half of its workforce from the North (with one-third Indigenous) and this year has already spent $142.6 million with NWT businesses. The mine is operated by De Beers (51% ownership) and Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPVD (49%).

“The Ekati and Diavik mines are world class operations and have helped put Canada on the map as the third most valuable diamond producer in the world,” said Gary Vivian, president of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines. “Most importantly, along with our third diamond mine Gahcho Kué, they operate to the highest of environmental standards, they continue to create significant socio-economic benefits for the North, and are also leaders in Indigenous reconciliation.”

Since 1996 when construction of Ekati began, all the NWT diamond mines have created significant economic benefits for Canada and for the North. These include:

  • Over 58,000 person years of employment for Canada, with half northern and half of that Indigenous

  • $20 billion in spending, of which nearly $14 billion is northern and $6 billion Indigenous

See Mining North Works, a new website highlighting the opportunities and benefits of NWT and Nunavut mining.

Related:

Agnico Eagle CEO Sean Boyd remarks on the Arctic imagery of a collector’s coin minted from Nunavut gold

July 30th, 2018

…Read more