Friday 18th January 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘oil’

‘The great enabler’

January 16th, 2019

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

by Greg Klein

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

 

Gold and precious metals can attract people seeking wealth or beauty, while diamonds and other gems convey an intrigue of their own. But who becomes downright passionate about a base metal? To those who’ve head him talk, Gianni Kovacevic quickly comes to mind. Copper’s his metal of interest but his real fascination is the future—that, and a vision of the importance this metal holds to a new era of energy history.

Chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, an authority on energy systems and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche?, he’s an especially engaging public speaker who’s possibly more effective than anyone in communicating mining’s importance to non-mining people.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

The era of electrification offers promise to both
developed and emerging economies, says Kovacevic.

But those in the industry find his message captivating too. He calls mining, metals and especially copper “the great enabler” of electrification. And electrification’s the key to a new era in which copper usage will grow by magnitudes, he declares.

That’s happening already as developed countries wean themselves off fossil fuels and emerging countries use more and more electricity for consumer items and transportation or—from village to village and home to home—as they adopt electricity for the first time.

Among other vital metals are aluminum, lithium, vanadium and cobalt. “I like anything that enables electrification,” Kovacevic explains. “The sensitive one is cobalt. If people are talking about reducing cobalt in batteries or eliminating it altogether, who wins? Nickel. But no question about it, we will require hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of new battery cells.”

Overall, approximately 19% of energy use now comes from electricity, he says. But he expects the number to reach about 50% by 2050. His data for current and planned copper production, however, shows alarming shortfalls in capacity.

Half of the world’s primary copper production now comes from 25 mines. Just two countries, Peru and Chile, provide a combined 45%. One major copper mine, First Quantum Minerals’ (TSX:FM) Cobre Panama, has commissioning planned this year. Nothing else over 110,000 tonnes is expected until around 2022.

A new era of energy depends on mining and especially copper, says Gianni Kovacevic

First Quantum’s Cobre Panama will be the only
major new copper mine until about 2022, Kovacevic says.

In 2010 the 15 largest copper producers boasted average grades around 1.2%. The 2016 average was 0.72% and falling. Over the next half-century he expects average grades to slip below 0.5%.

Clearly more copper production will require much higher prices to make lower grades economic, Kovacevic emphasizes. He’s not alone in that outlook. Among others extolling the metal’s virtues is Robert Friedland, who also considers copper the key to electrification and maintains that declining grades will require higher prices.

Over the last nine months, however, prices haven’t co-operated. In late May spot copper approached a five-year high in the range of $3.30 a pound, but fell steeply after June 1. Current prices sit around $2.60 to $2.65, although that’s well above levels seen through most of 2015 and 2016. But Kovacevic says warehouse inventories suggest the market has reached a supply deficit.

Two decades of prices show an ironic connection with the commodity that fueled the previous energy era, he adds. “Copper’s never left its long-term bull market but it’s been pushed around by oil, because 90% of the time it’s correlated with oil. But now the prices have to decouple. Copper has to go much, much higher.”

Referring to himself as a “realistic environmentalist,” Kovacevic says the metals and mining crucial to the new energy era also remain crucial to emerging societies. Blocking new mines from development hinders new economies from development. “I can’t say to someone in India, for example, that they’re never going to have electricity or running water in their homes. You can’t say ‘build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.’ People want basic human progress. Fortunately, as we go into this new pivot of energy we’re going to bypass the old ways of receiving energy in many applications.”

Kovacevic expands on his message in an illustrated keynote speech and also hosts a lithium investment panel discussion at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 20 and 21. To avoid the $30 admission fee, click here for free registration.

DRC on the brink

January 3rd, 2019

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

by Greg Klein

Update: After the DRC’s electoral commission announced Felix Tshisekedi had won the December 30 presidential election, Catholic church observers disputed the outcome and the other opposition frontrunner, Martin Fayulu, asked the Constitutional Court to order a recount. “The court, made up of nine judges, is considered by the opposition to be friendly to Kabila, and Fayulu has said he is not confident that it will rule in his favour,” Al Jazeera reported.

 

This is the place that inspired the term “crimes against humanity.” As a timely new book points out, American writer George Washington Williams coined that phrase in 1890 after witnessing the cruel rapaciousness of Belgian King Leopold II’s rubber plantations in the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. After rubber, the land and its people were exploited for ivory, copper, uranium, diamonds, oil, ivory, timber, gold and—of increasing concern for Westerners remote from the humanitarian plight—cobalt, tin, tungsten and tantalum. Controversy over recent elections now threatens the DRC with even greater unrest, possibly full-scale war.

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

The country of 85 million people typically changes governments through coup, rebellion or sham elections. Outgoing president Joseph Kabila ruled unconstitutionally since December 2016, when his mandate ended. He belatedly scheduled an election for 2017, then postponed it to last December 23 before pushing that date back a week. The December 30 vote took place under chaotic conditions and with about 1.25 million voters excluded until March, a decision rationalized by the Ebola epidemic in the northeast and violence in a western city.

The epidemic marks the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, the DRC’s tenth since 1976 and the country’s second this year. Although the government delayed regional voting on short notice, the health ministry officially recognized the current epidemic on August 1.

Responsible for hundreds of deaths so far, this outbreak takes place amid violence targeting aid workers as well as the local population. Like other parts of the country, the region has dozens of military groups fighting government forces for control, and each other over ethnic rivalries and natural resources. The resources are often mined with forced labour to fund more bloodshed.

With no say from two areas that reportedly support the opposition, a new president could take office by January 18. Already, incumbent and opposition parties have both claimed victory.

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

Voting in two regions has been delayed
until after the new president takes office.
(Map: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency)

Kabila chose Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor candidate but didn’t rule out a future bid to regain the president’s office himself.

Election controversy contributed to additional violent protests in a month that had already experienced over a hundred deaths through ethnic warfare as well as battles between police and protesters. Yet that casualty toll isn’t high by DRC standards.

Published just weeks before the election, Congo Stories by John Prendergast and Fidel Bafilemba relates a harrowing story of a country the size of Western Europe that’s fabulously rich in minerals but desperately poor thanks to home-grown kleptocracies and foreign opportunists. Forced labour, war and atrocities provide a deeply disturbing backdrop to the story of conflict minerals.

According to 2017 numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the DRC supplied about 58% of global cobalt, 34.5% of tin and 28.5% of tantalum. The U.S. has labelled all three as critical metals. Tin and tantalum, along with tungsten and gold, are currently the DRC’s chief conflict metals, Prendergast and Bafilemba note. In addition to Congo tantalum, the world got 30% of its supply from DRC neighbour Rwanda, another source of conflict minerals.

Prendergast and Bafilemba outline the horror of the 1990s Rwandan Tutsi-Hutu bloodshed pouring into the Congo, making the country the flashpoint of two African wars that involved up to 10 nations and 30 local militias. During that time armies turned “mass rape, child soldier recruitment, and village burnings into routine practice.”

For soldiers controlling vast swatches of mineral-rich turf, rising prices for gold and the 3Ts (tantalum, tungsten and tin) provided an opportunity “too lucrative to ignore.” Brutal mining and export operations drew in “war criminals, militias, smugglers, merchants, military officers, and government officials,” Prendergast and Bafilemba write. “Beyond the war zones, the networks involved mining corporations, front companies, traffickers, banks, arms dealers, and others in the international system that benefit from theft and money laundering.”

DRC leaders did well too. “Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Congo from 1965 to 1997, is seen as the ‘inventor of the modern kleptocracy, or government by theft,’” Prendergast and Bafilemba state. “At the time of our writing in mid-2018, President Joseph Kabila is perfecting the kleptocratic arts.”

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern

Westerners might be even more disturbed to learn of other beneficiaries: Consumers “who are usually completely unaware that our purchases of cell phones, computers, jewelry, video games, cameras, cars, and so many other products are helping fuel violence halfway around the world, not comprehending or appreciating the fact that our standard of living and modern conveniences are in some ways made possible and less expensive by the suffering of others.”

Not all DRC mines, even the artisanal operations, are considered conflict sources. But increasing instability could threaten legitimate supply, even the operations of major companies.

The example of Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining TSX:KAT, furthermore, shows at least one major failing to rise above the country’s endemic problems. In mid-December Katanga and its officers agreed to pay the Ontario Securities Commission a settlement, penalties and costs totalling $36.25 million for a number of infractions between 2012 and 2017.

Katanga admitted to overstating copper production and inventories, and also failing to disclose the material risk of DRC corruption. That included “the nature and extent of Katanga’s reliance on individuals and entities associated with Dan Gertler, Gertler’s close relationship with Joseph Kabila, the president of the DRC, and allegations of Gertler’s possible involvement in corrupt activities in the DRC.”

In December 2017 the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Gertler, a member of a prominent Israeli diamond merchant family, describing him as a “billionaire who has amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in the DRC.

“As a result, between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler.”

Just one day before imposing sanctions, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” Approaches to be considered include amassing more geoscientific data, developing alternatives to critical minerals, recycling and reprocessing, as well as “options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.”

Unofficial DRC election results could arrive by January 6. Official standings are due January 15, with the new president scheduled to take office three days later. Should the Congo see a peaceful change of government, that would be the DRC’s first such event since the country gained independence in 1960.

 

January 7 update: The DRC’s electoral commission asked for patience as interim voting results, expected on January 6, were delayed. Internet and text-messaging services as well as two TV outlets remain out of service, having been shut down since the December 30 election ostensibly to prevent the spread of false results. On January 4 the U.S. sent 80 troops into nearby Gabon in readiness to move into the DRC should post-election violence threaten American diplomatic personnel and property. The United Nations reported that violence in the western DRC city of Yumbi over the last month has driven about 16,000 refugees across the border into the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville.

You’re invited—Geoscience BC presents webinar on Peace region groundwater research

November 14th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 14, 2018

November 21 marks the date for a live, interactive online event open to anyone interested in a four-year groundwater study conducted at northeastern British Columbia’s oil- and gas-producing Peace River region. Hosted by Geoscience BC through YouTube Live, the two-hour webinar will feature researchers from around the world who’ll present their findings and take audience questions.

When: Wednesday, November 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PST

Where: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Zy354jH49M

For more info: http://www.geosciencebc.com/s/Workshops.asp?ReportID=839811&_Type=Workshops-and-Conferences&_Title=Peace-Project-Technical-Webinar-to-be-held-November-21-2018

Geoscience BC presents webinar on Peace region groundwater research

The Peace Project used airborne geophysics
as well as drilling in the first large-scale program
to map northeastern B.C. groundwater.
(Photo: Geoscience BC)

Draft agenda:

8:30 a.m. Peace Project introduction, Carlos Salas

8:40 a.m. Airborne geophysical survey, SkyTEM and Aarhus Geophysics, Q&A

9:05 a.m. Characterization of sediments and groundwater wells, Brad Hayes and Mel Best, Q&A

9:40 a.m. Summary of final report, Samantha Morgan, Q&A

10:10 a.m. Peace Project conclusions, next steps, Carlos Salas, Q&A

10:30 a.m. Close

Following the event, a video of the webinar will appear at the same YouTube location.

The non-profit group says the project’s maps, data and interpretations “provide an increased understanding of the aquifers and shallow groundwater in northeast B.C. and make it possible for First Nations, energy companies, communities and government to make informed decisions about the use and protection of water resources in the Peace region.”

Having undertaken over 160 projects so far, Geoscience BC encourages informed use of land, water and resources by making its findings available to local communities, governments, industry and the wider public.

Read more about the Peace Project.

See the Peace Project Final Report.

Read more about Geoscience BC here and here.

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)

Canada’s spy agency monitors pipeline opposition, B.C. to overhaul environmental process

November 6th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2018

An analysis from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service “clearly indicates the spy service’s ongoing interest in anti-petroleum activism,” Canadian Press reports. The news agency obtained the June document, originally classified top secret, through the Access to Information Act.

The CSIS review outlines opposition to the federal government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, saying some critics call it a betrayal of Canada’s positions on global warming and native rights.

Canada’s spy agency monitors pipeline opposition, B.C. to overhaul environmental process

Over 200 people have been arrested for breaching court orders at a Burnaby Mountain demonstration site in British Columbia, while other protests have taken place across Canada. But CP added that the report concedes “no acts of serious violence” took place. While activists questioned the spy agency’s interest, the report was heavily redacted, making any CSIS concerns unclear.

CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti told CP the agency follows legislation forbidding investigations into lawful protest. The news service quoted her saying, “While we cannot publicly disclose our investigative interests, we can say that it is important for the service to pose important analytical questions on these types of issues, such as the question of whether developments such as the purchase of a pipeline could give rise to a national security threat to Canada’s critical infrastructure.”

Ottawa bought the Trans Mountain project after a federal Court of Appeal rejected a proposed extension that the federal government had approved. The same court had previously rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which won federal government approval in 2016. The court attributed both decisions to “inadequate” consultations with natives.

On November 5 the B.C. government introduced legislation to create a new Environmental Assessment Act requiring native participation at the outset of the review process.

“Having indigenous collaboration from the beginning means a more certain and efficient process where good projects can move forward more quickly, providing benefits to indigenous peoples while respecting their rights, values and culture,” said a statement from environmental minister George Heyman. “We want to reduce the potential for the types of legal challenges we’ve too frequently seen in B.C. These have impacted our province’s economic development, eroded public trust, alienated indigenous communities and left project proponents trying to navigate through a costly, time-consuming process.”

Although B.C.’s First Nations Leadership Council praised some aspects of the proposed act, the group objected that it would allow projects to proceed without native consent, according to another CP dispatch.

The legislation forms part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement in which B.C.’s Green Party agrees to support the minority NDP government.

Who’s doing what, and why?

May 10th, 2018

Four banks manipulate six commodities to manage other markets, says Ed Steer

by Greg Klein

Probably the most facile way to dismiss a conspiracy theorist is to label the person “a conspiracy theorist.” Conventional thinking gives the term negative connotations, even though history and current events have an inconvenient tendency to reveal conspiracies in action. Ed Steer’s interest in bullion manipulation started with the Hunt brothers’ 1970s silver conspiracy. Having spent decades watching the machinations of others, the newsletter writer and Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee board member adamantly declares that “there are no markets, just interventions.”

Four banks manipulate six commodities to manage other markets, says Ed Steer

Ed Steer speaks at the International Mining
Investment Conference, held in
Vancouver on May 15 and 16.

Drawing on the work of GATA and analyst Ted Butler, Steer believes precious metals “have been managed actively” in the COMEX futures market since 1973. Price suppression supports “the paper game they’re playing in the stock and bond markets,” a game that’s continued since the U.S. dropped the gold standard in 1971, he argues.

“We’ve had a complete blow-up of paper assets because of unlimited money printing. They don’t want that showing up in the commodities market because the moment that it does, all the paper’s going to rush out of Wall Street, the bond market, the Dow and every other index, and into gold and silver in particular and commodities in general. And that’s not what they want to happen.”

If those two metals merit suppression, so do platinum and palladium. “You couldn’t have a $3,000 or $4,000 platinum price while gold’s sitting at $1,200,” he states. “People would start asking questions.”

Not just bullion but, more recently, copper and crude too. “If you can control the prices of those six, you can pretty well control the prices of other commodities, whether they’re wheat, oats, sugar, lumber or whatever. There will be circumstances of course when supply-demand factors in some commodities will cause a run-up in prices. But overall, they keep those six commodities under price control and, when they do that, they can control everything else.”

Who are they? He attributes special prominence to JPMorgan Chase. “They’re the biggest players in all four precious metals, and they’re also in the crude oil market to a certain extent. It’s JPMorgan Chase, HSBC USA, Scotiabank here in Canada, and most likely Citigroup, but JPMorgan is by far the ringleader. There may be some investment houses involved as well like Morgan Stanley and I think Goldman Sachs, which is now a bank. So it’s the Wall Street paperhangers, four or five of them versus everybody else. There’s also lots of foreign banks involved, maybe up to 30, but their positions are very, very minor compared to the big traders that control almost 50% of the COMEX futures market in gold right now.

Four banks manipulate six commodities to manage other markets, says Ed Steer

“This is total collusion. They all buy at the same time, they all sell at the same time…. There’s no free market in any of this.”

Now, with the gold-silver ratio sometimes surpassing 80 to one, Steer blames this extraordinary divergence on the same tactics.

“JPMorgan has taken silver down from $49 in 2011 all the way to $16 or $17, and they’ve held it there. If the gold-silver ratio were even close to normal it would be around 25 or 30 to one. Of course that would be double or triple the silver price that we have today, and even that doesn’t fully take into account supply and demand. As far as I’m concerned the silver price should be well over $100 an ounce by now and the ratio should be about 20 to one.”

Oil presents another example. “It’s up over 30% since the middle of December. The gold price has done basically nothing. That’s not what normally happens. When oil prices rise, it’s a sign that commodity prices will rise and of course gold and silver are normally the leading indicators. The metals aren’t being allowed to function as leading indicators because they’re trying to get the oil price up without affecting gold and silver prices—and they’ve done an awesome job of that.”

It doesn’t make any difference how many bombs fall on Syria, Iraq or Iran, or what the supply-demand situation is. It all depends on what’s happening in the COMEX futures market.

External forces play little or no role, he maintains. “It doesn’t make any difference how many bombs fall on Syria, Iraq or Iran, or what the supply-demand situation is. It all depends on what’s happening in the COMEX futures market.”

He does concede, however, “If things got really extreme, if downtown Tehran disappeared under a mushroom cloud, that would probably move the markets.”

But sometime in the foreseeable future, those in control will have to let bullion rise, he adds. “It’s very hard to defend this price right now. Demand is exceeding supply, certainly in gold. They’re going to have to increase the prices in both gold and silver, but whether they’ll allow prices to run free remains to be seen. They might just allow gold to rally $300 or $400 or so, and up to $50 in silver, and hold the prices at that new level. But they’re going to have to let it go sooner or later and I think the day is coming sooner.”

That would mean the two metals do offer a safe haven after all. “I think this COMEX futures paper game is going to end pretty soon and those who were already positioned are going to reap substantial rewards. It’s better to be a year or two early rather than five minutes or two days late.”

Ed Steer speaks at the International Mining Investment Conference, held in Vancouver from May 15 to 16. For a 25% admission discount click here and enter the code RESOURCECLIPS.

Read about conference speakers Jayant Bhandari and Simon Moores.

Visual Capitalist looks at China’s staggering demand for commodities

March 4th, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

China’s staggering demand for commodities

 

Over 50% of all steel, cement, nickel and copper goes there

The Chart of the Week is a Friday feature from Visual Capitalist.

It’s said that in China, a new skyscraper is built every five days.

China is building often, and it’s building higher. In fact, just last year, China completed 77 of the world’s 144 new supertall buildings, spread through 36 different Chinese cities. These are structures with a minimum height of 656 feet (200 metres).

For comparison’s sake, there are only 113 buildings in New York City’s current skyline that are over 600 feet.

Unbelievable scale

It’s always hard to put China’s size and scope in perspective—and Visual Capitalist has tried before by showing you 35 Chinese cities as big as countries, or highlighting the growing prominence of the domestic tech scene.

This chart also falls in that category and it focuses on the raw materials that are needed to make all this growth possible.

Year of data Commodity China’s % of global demand Source
2017 Cement 59% Statista
2016 Nickel 56% Statista
2017 Coal 50% NAB
2016 Copper 50% Global X Funds
2017 Steel 50% World Steel Association
2017 Aluminum 47% MC Group
2016 Pork 47% OECD
2017 Cotton 33% USDA
2017 Rice 31% Statista
2017 Gold 27% China Gold Association, WGC
2017 Corn 23% USDA
2016 Oil 14% Enerdata

Note: Because this data is not all in one easy place, it is sourced from many different industry associations, banks and publications. Most of the data comes from 2017, but some is from 2016.

China demand > world

There are five particularly interesting commodity categories here—and in all of them, China’s demand equals or exceeds that of the rest of the world combined.

Cement: 59%
The primary ingredient in concrete is needed for roads, buildings, engineering structures (bridges, dams, etc.), foundations and in making joints for drains and pipes.

Nickel: 57%
Nickel’s primary use is in making stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant. It also gets used in superalloys, batteries and an array of other uses.

Steel: 50%
Steel is used for pretty much everything, but demand is primarily driven by the construction, machinery and automotive sectors.

Copper: 50%
Copper is one of the metals driving the green revolution and it’s used in electronics, wiring, construction, machinery and automotive sectors primarily.

Coal: 50%
China’s winding down coal usage—but when you have 1.4 billion people demanding power, it has to be done with that in mind. China has already hit peak coal, but the fossil fuel does still account for 65% of the country’s power generated by source.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Richard Truman of Geoscience B.C. discusses how various stakeholders benefit from the organization’s research

February 20th, 2018

…Read more

Paved with mineralization

October 27th, 2017

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

by Greg Klein

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Profitable right from the beginning, Teck’s Elkview mine “would become
the key chip in the consolidation of the Canadian steelmaking coal industry.”
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

“We were all young and relatively inexperienced in such matters in those days.”

He was referring to copper futures, a peril then unfamiliar to him. But the remark’s a bit rich for someone who was, at the time he’s writing about, 43 years old and president/CEO of a company that opened four mines in the previous six years. Still, the comment helps relate how Norman B. Keevil enjoyed the opportune experience of maturing professionally along with a company that grew into Canada’s largest diversified miner. Now chairperson of Teck Resources, he’s penned a memoir/corporate history/fly-on-the-wall account that’s a valuable contribution to Canadian business history, not to mention the country’s rich mining lore.

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—road to success

Norman B. Keevil
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time follows the progress of a group of people determined to avoid getting mined out or taken out. In addition to geoscientific, engineering and financial expertise, luck accompanies them (much of the time, anyway), as does acumen (again, much of the time anyway).

Teck gains its first foothold as a predecessor company headed by Keevil’s father, Norman Bell Keevil, drills Temagami, a project that came up barren for Anaconda. The new guys hit 28% copper over 17.7 metres. Further drilling leads to the three-sentence feasibility study:

Dr. Keevil: What shall we do about Temagami?

Joe Frantz: Let’s put it into production.

Bill Bergey: Sounds good to me.

They schedule production for two and a half months later.

A few other stories relate a crucial 10 seconds in the Teck-Hughes acquisition, the accidental foray into Saskatchewan oil, the Toronto establishment snubbing Afton because of its VSE listing, an underhanded ultimatum from the British Columbia government, getting out of the oyster business and winning an unheard-of 130% financing for Hemlo.

Readers learn how Murray Pezim out-hustled Robert Friedland. But when it came to Voisey’s, Friedland would play Inco and Falconbridge “as though he were using a Stradivarius.” Keevil describes one guy welching on a deal with the (apparently for him) unarguable excuse that it was only a “gentleman’s agreement.”

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Through it all, Teck gets projects by discovery or acquisition and puts them into production. Crucial to this success was the Teck team, with several people getting honourable mention. The author’s closest accomplice was the late Robert Hallbauer, the former Craigmont pit supervisor whose team “would go on to build more new mines in a shorter time than anyone else had in Canadian history.” Deal-making virtuoso David Thompson also gets frequent mention, with one performance attributed to his “arsenal of patience, knowledge of the opponents, more knowledge of the business than some of them had, and a tad of divide and conquer…”

Partnerships span the spectrum between blessing and curse. International Telephone and Telegraph backs Teck’s first foray into Chile but frustrates its ability to do traditional mining deals. The Elk Valley Coal Partnership puts Teck, a company that reinvests revenue into growth, at odds with the dividend-hungry Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Working with a Cominco subsidiary, Keevil finds the small-cap explorer compromised by the “ephemeral response of the junior stock market.” And smelters rip off miners. But that doesn’t mean a smelter can’t become a valued partner.

Keevil argues the case for an almost cartel-like level of co-operation among miners. Co-ordinated decisions could avoid surplus production, he maintains. Teck’s consolidation of Canada’s major coal mines helped the industry stand up to Japanese steelmakers, who had united to take advantage of disorganized Canadian suppliers. “Anti-trust laws may be antediluvian,” he states.

Keevil admits some regrets, like missing Golden Giant and a Kazakhstan gold project now valued at $2 billion. The 2008 crash forced Teck to give up Cobre Panama, now “expected to be a US$6 billion copper mine.” Teck settled a coal partnership impasse by buying out the Ontario Teachers’ share for $12 billion. Two months later the 2008 crisis struck. Over two years Teck plunged from $3.6 billion in net cash to $12 billion in net debt.

But he wonders if his own biggest mistake was paying far too much for the remaining 50% of Cominco when an outright purchase might not have been necessary. Keevil attributes the initial 50%, on the other hand, to a miracle of deal-making.

For the most part Keevil ends his account in 2005, when he relinquishes the top job to Don Lindsay. By that time the company had 11 operating mines and a smelting/refining facility at Trail. A short chapter on the following 10 years, among the most volatile since the early ’70s, credits Teck with “a classic recovery story which deserves a full chapter in the next edition of Never Rest on Your Ores.” Such a sequel might come in another 10 years, he suggests.

Let’s hope he writes it, although it’ll be a different kind of book. As chairperson he won’t be as closely involved in the person-to-person, deal-to-deal, mine-to-mine developments that comprise the greatest strength of this book—that and the fact that the author grew with the company as it became Canada’s largest diversified miner.

Meanwhile, maybe Lindsay’s been keeping a diary.

The author’s proceeds go to two organizations that promote mining awareness, MineralsEd and Mining Matters.

Visual Capitalist: How commodities performed in H1 and why they’re very cheap

July 5th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | July 5, 2017

If you’re looking for action, the commodities sector has traditionally been a good place to find it.

With wild price swings, massive up-cycles, exciting resource discoveries and extreme weather events all playing into things, there’s rarely a dull day in the sector. That being said, it’s hard to remember a more lacklustre period for commodities than the last couple of years.

For commodity bulls, the good news is that the sector is no longer tanking. The bad news, however, is that all the recent action has been in relatively niche sectors, as metals like cobalt, zinc and lithium all have their day in the sun.

At the same time, the big commodities (gold, oil, copper) have all slid sideways, having yet to revisit their former periods of glory.

Commodity winners so far

Before we highlight why commodities could still be cheap, let’s look at recent performance to get some context. Here are the commodities that have positive returns in H1 2017 so far:

How commodities performed in H1 and why they’re very cheap

 

Palladium is the best performer in 2017 so far, and it has now almost passed platinum in price. That would be the first time since 2001 that this has happened, and for the stretch of 2007 to 2012 it was even true that palladium traded at a $1,000 deficit to platinum.

Agricultural goods like rough rice, lean hogs, oats and wheat have also gotten more expensive so far this year. Meanwhile, metals like gold, copper and silver have seen modest gains—but only after dismal performances in the last part of 2016.

The losers so far

Here is the scoreboard for the commodities in negative territory, with the most noticeable losses in sugar and energy.

How commodities performed in H1 and why they’re very cheap

 

Are commodities cheap?

From the post-crisis bottom in 2009 until today, the S&P 500 is up a staggering 215.4%.

During that same timeframe, most major commodities crashed and then went sideways. The Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) is down roughly 31.2%, which is a strong juxtaposition to how equities have done.

This extreme divergence can be best seen in this long-term chart, which compares the two indices since 1971.

How commodities performed in H1 and why they’re very cheap

 

In other words: Despite the lack of action in commodities that we noted earlier, the sector has never been cheaper relative to equities, even going back 45 years.

That means that there could be some much-needed action soon.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.