Saturday 18th January 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘oilsands’

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

January 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 16, 2020

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

The SunMine sits atop reclaimed land over a onetime world leader in zinc-lead production.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

A former mine that’s been regenerated to generate clean electricity has come back to a former owner. A recent purchase returns the surface site of southeastern British Columbia’s legendary Sullivan mine to Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B, bringing with the property a 1.05 MW solar farm.

Built by the city of Kimberley on land provided by Teck after Sullivan’s 2001 shutdown, SunMine began operation in 2015 as B.C.’s first grid source of solar electricity. But declining revenues in recent years prodded the municipality into negotiations with the company, resulting in a $2-million payment that meets Kimberley’s SunMine-related debt.

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

Affluent travelers can lap up luxury at
a former open pit near Shanghai airport.
(Photo: InterContinental Hotels and Resorts)

An 1892 discovery that became a major zinc-lead-silver producer, Sullivan was taken over in 1910 by Cominco, which merged with Teck in 2001. During Kimberley’s tourist season, visitors can take an open air train ride into the former underground operation.

Numerous former industrial sites have been refashioned into green energy production, notably the solar farm that opened at Chernobyl in 2018. In other cases reclaimed land hosts recreational facilities, such as the ski resort on the surface area of North Star, another Kimberley silver-lead mine.

Former open pits and underground workings have also been put to new uses. Billed as the world’s first underground hotel when it opened in 2018, the Shanghai Wonderland rises just two storeys above a former andesite quarry that contains the other 16 floors.

Some underground examples reported by the Smithsonian consist of cycling, zip-lining and ATV riding. More fanciful uses, however, include a onetime Polish salt mine that’s now a resort offering a “subterraneotherapy” spa as well as “religious services, adventure tours, art galleries, a museum and two underground hotels.”

A former Romanian salt mine now features “a surreal theme park complete with a Ferris wheel, mini-golf course, a lake with paddle boats, a bowling alley, an amphitheater, sports fields and ping pong tables.”

Apart from supplying grid power, Teck gets 81% of its own electricity consumption from renewable sources, the company stated. “Our involvement with SunMine is part of our commitment to taking action on climate change, advancing renewable energy development and supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy,” said president/CEO Don Lindsay.

More contentiously, the company now has its proposed $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mine awaiting a federal decision. In July a joint federal/provincial environmental review recommended approval but Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has suggested his cabinet might reject the Alberta project.

 

A 1993 episode of Gold Trails and Ghost Towns discusses the Sullivan mine.

Open and shut cases: West

December 20th, 2019

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

by Greg Klein

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Western Potash began Saskatchewan’s first solution mining operation for this commodity in July.
(Photo: Western Potash)

 

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

The Exxon Valdez of Canadian mining went into dry dock at the end of May, as Imperial Metals TSX:III put its Mount Polley copper-gold operation on care and maintenance. The company that traded above $16.50 prior to the August 2014 tailings dam failure spent most of 2019 well below $3. Now holding two suspended mines, the company’s operational portfolio has dwindled to a 30% stake in B.C.’s Red Chris copper-gold open pits. In August Imperial sold the other 70% to ASX-listed Newcrest Mining for US$775 million.

But if human error can dump eight million cubic metres of tailings muck into the waterways, human ingenuity can respond. As the five-year anniversary approached, Geoscience BC founding president/CEO and Imperial’s former chief scientific officer ’Lyn Anglin offered her perspective on the $70-million clean-up program, which continues during the mine’s suspension.

 

Maybe its status as Canada’s largest diversified miner leaves Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B open to greater diversity in downturns. The company blamed global economic uncertainties for “a significant negative effect on the prices for our products, particularly steelmaking coal.” But the company attributes its most recent coal mine closures not to market forces but to depletion. That was the verdict for the mid-year shutdown of B.C.’s Coal Mountain and for Alberta’s Cardinal River, scheduled to follow in mid-2020.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Some depleted mines notwithstanding, Teck Resources
has over four decades of B.C. coal reserves.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Although Teck warned employees in September of layoffs, noting a price drop from about $210 to about $130 per tonne over the previous weeks, further mine closures weren’t specified. Depletion hardly concerns Teck’s four remaining Kootenay-region coal operations. The company says there’s enough steelmaking stuff to keep Line Creek, Greenhills, Elkview and Fording River busy for 18, 28, 38 and 43 years respectively.

While the company now focuses on its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper development project in Chile and its JV at the port of Vancouver’s Neptune terminal, Teck’s $20-billion proposal for Alberta might serve as an affront to the great cause of our time. In July Teck managed to get a recommendation of approval from a joint federal/provincial environmental review panel for its Frontier oilsands project. Media reports, however, suggest Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his cabinet might reject the panel’s recommendation.

 

Whether it brought relief or astonishment to local supporters, in July Western Potash finally began building its long-delayed Milestone potash project in southern Saskatchewan.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

A determined-looking Western Potash group
celebrates a milestone in Saskatchewan mining.
(Photo: Western Potash)

Expectations had risen and fallen a few too many times since at least 2015, when the company announced it had secured funds sufficient for a scaled-down capex. But in October Western began solution mining, the first application of this method for potash in Saskatchewan. The innovative operation will also be “the first potash mine in the world that will leave no salt tailings on the surface, thereby significantly reducing water consumption.”

Now a subsidiary of Western Resources TSX:WRX, the company plans “hot mining” early in the new year to pump brine containing potassium chloride into a crystallization pond at surface, leaving unwanted sodium chloride underground. By Q3 2020 a newly built plant will process the potash for an off-take agreement covering all Phase I production. Phase II calls for expanded operations to support an average 146,000 tpa output over a 12-year life.

 

Yet the mine starts up amid cutbacks and shutdowns elsewhere. The province’s big three potash producers, Nutrien TSX:NTR, Mosaic NYSE:MOS and K+S Potash Canada, all reduced output in 2019. Between them, Nutrien and Mosaic suspended four operations, at least one indefinitely.

In August workers at Mosaic’s Colonsay operation learned of an indefinite layoff, reportedly to last anywhere from six months to a matter of years. Further discouragement came in November when the United Steelworkers confirmed that the company was moving equipment from Colonsay to its Esterhazy operation, itself subject to reduced output.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Saskatchewan’s tallest structure stands over a shaft reaching
more than a kilometre underground at Mosaic’s Esterhazy K3.
(Photo: Mosaic)

Esterhazy’s ambitious K3 expansion project, however, continues unfazed by current market conditions. With construction started in 2011, commissioning begun in December 2018 and full production not scheduled until 2024, the new underground operation will replace Esterhazy’s K1 and K2 mines, keeping the K1 and K2 mills busy at the world’s largest potash mining complex.

In September Nutrien announced it would “proactively” suspend its Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy potash mines. Workers at the first two got December 29 recall notices, but Vanscoy’s resumption has yet to be revealed.

Nevertheless, company bosses expressed optimistic 2020 foresight. It will be “a strong year for crop input demand for which we are well-positioned to benefit,” predicted Nutrien president/CEO Chuck Magro. His Mosaic counterpart Joc O’Rourke expects “a very strong application season in Brazil and North America, and a better supply and demand balance in 2020.” .

 

That year or the next just might be momentous for Saskatchewan potash. BHP Group NYSE:BHP’s board of directors has until February 2021 to decide whether to complete Jansen, a $17-billion project that would challenge the province’s potash protocol.

The threat of competition might take an unexpected turn, however. As reported in the Financial Post, at least two analysts say rival companies could attack pre-emptively by boosting production to lower prices and discourage new mine development.

 

Holding top positions globally are Saskatchewan as potash-producing jurisdiction and Saskatoon-headquartered Nutrien as potash miner. The province also boasts world stature for uranium but has no new U3O8 operations expected during this survey’s time frame. Even so, industry and investors watch with interest as Denison Mines TSX:DML, NexGen Energy TSX:NXE and Fission Uranium TSX:FCU each proceed with advanced large-scale projects.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Over a Barrel: Documentary now online about Vivian Krause vs. the U.S.-funded campaign against Canadian oil

October 25th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 25, 2019

What they’ve done to us is actually brilliant—it’s pure brilliance. Because they’re not doing it to themselves. They’re getting Canadians to do it to ourselves. And I don’t think Canadians understand that this is what’s happening to them. On a larger scale, they’re doing to Canada what they did to my community. So I don’t think Canada really understands that the real war here is an outside force pitting Canadians against Canadians.—Ellis Ross, B.C. MLA and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, from the documentary Over a Barrel

The impressive work of a singularly remarkable activist has come to the screen, both in movie theatres and on computers. Over a Barrel presents a half-hour documentary on the research of Vivian Krause into the American-backed anti-oilsands campaign. Having already appeared in Alberta theatres, the film’s now online and, until October 31, for free (although donations are accepted).

Starting November 1, and in lieu of rich U.S. backers, an online viewing will cost $4.99.

Through well over a decade of perseverance, Krause has documented a money trail leading to powerful American interests whose more than half a billion in funding, tactics of disinformation, and interference in Canadian elections targets Albertans and other Canadians to the benefit of Americans and their oil industry.

The documentary also portrays a human cost to the campaign, as native spokespeople discuss how foreign interference and urban activists deprive their communities of badly needed economic development.

Click here to watch Over a Barrel online, for free or by donation until October 31 and for $4.99 after that.

Read an October 22 op-ed by Vivian Krause: Obama wasn’t the only American interfering in the Canadian election.

Read more about Vivian Krause and her work.

Some Robert Friedland riffs

July 29th, 2015

The “miner’s miner” talks commodities, jurisdictions, markets and majors

by Greg Klein

A “miner’s miner” was how Rick Rule introduced Robert Friedland. The founder and executive chairperson of Ivanhoe Mines TSX:IVN also serves as executive chair of the Sprott-Stansberry Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver, where he delivered the opening day’s keynote speech on July 28. That was the original plan, anyway. Instead, a relaxed-looking Friedland eschewed a script to sit back and, in response to questions posed by Rule, discuss commodities, jurisdictional risk, markets and the problem with the majors.

Friedland’s favourite metals? They’re currently copper, platinum, palladium and zinc—stuff for which he sees bright futures and, not surprisingly, the stuff he’s currently pursuing. He also likes diamonds but considers himself “an agnostic on gold.”

The “miner’s miner” talks commodities, jurisdictions, markets and majors

A community group poses on Ivanhoe’s Platreef
project, expected for 2019 production.

“Copper is the metal if you believe in human advancement,” Friedland says. “Gold is the opposite.” Meanwhile this market has either hit bottom “or it’s the end of the world.” He says he’s never seen such a severe devaluation, with stocks “priced for Armageddon.”

He’s cynical of the prognosis industry. The media report obituaries for all commodities, disregarding the bullish case that Friedland sees for some metals. JP Morgan, he points out, couldn’t predict oil’s fall. Goldman Sachs’ forecasts come from “just two guys, they don’t really know, they go to the bathroom about as often as the rest of us.”

As for his own forecasts, Friedland sees economic recovery and growth, as well as specific mining opportunities because “you can’t have economic growth without copper.” He notes recovery in Europe and describes the U.S. undergoing a “slow, gentle, lousy recovery,” but a definite recovery just the same.

He considers the collapse of Chinese equity markets to be an issue separate from the country’s underlying economy. “It’s definitely not 1929 in China,” Friedland emphasizes. Run by a powerful boss, the country’s “command economy” continues to grow. Chinese hold huge personal savings. With a currency stronger than the U.S. dollar, the country now has its own de facto reserve currency.

Even if China’s economy grows 3% to 4% a year, “it’s still an enormous disruption.”

Getting back to commodities, he argues that Saudis killed the Alberta oilsands and devastated U.S. shale “but no one can do that to copper.” Friedland dismisses some copper miners as “little old ladies waiting to die,” saying some grades fall so low that companies are “practically mining air.”

Serious debt prevents most majors from building big copper mines, Friedland contends. Yet his Oyu Tolgoi discovery, “the world’s highest-grade copper mine,” will undergo major expansion following last May’s agreement between operator Rio Tinto NYE:RIO and the Mongolian government.

The long, painful process of building Oyu Tolgoi “was like a woman giving birth to a 20-kilogram baby.” But it’s high grades, not jurisdictions, that attract Friedland. In fact he sees jurisdictional risk everywhere.

But the Democratic Republic of Congo inspires him to say, “If I were a dry cleaner I’d work there.” Just the same, a deal announced in May with the Zijin Mining Group on Ivanhoe’s Kamoa copper discovery would help “defuse” jurisdictional risk thanks to China’s “very good relations” with the DRC. Once again Friedland finds very high grades—the world’s largest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery—as well as the cost benefits of a country with cheaper currency.

Ivanhoe’s other DRC project, the past-producing Kipushi mine, boasts world-class zinc grades as well as copper. As an additive for agricultural fertilizer, zinc has “an absolutely brilliant future,” Friedland says.

More high grades in South Africa’s Bushveld complex are complemented by the “ever-depreciating rand.” Friedland expects Ivanhoe’s majority-held Platreef to begin production by 2019, making it among the world’s largest platinum-palladium mines, as well as a producer of nickel, copper, gold and rhodium.

While other South African miners struggle with very deep, highly labour-intensive operations, Platreef will be shallower and mechanized. “No one has to lift more than a pencil.”

As a self-made success, Friedland denigrates those who run some of the world’s biggest companies. Pointing to the iron ore wars, he says the big players seem committed to “destroying each other through a war of attrition”

He says the people who run major miners “are just driving the bus.” Heads of companies like Anglo American and BHP Billiton NYE:BHP don’t hold significant stock positions in their companies, he claims. While majors struggled through the adversity of the last few years, boards blamed CEOs and fired them. Their replacements, Friedland insists, are “risk-averse.”

As for the guy who first hit the big time over 20 years ago at Voisey’s Bay, “I made my own money.”

The Sprott-Stansberry Vancouver Natural Resource Symposium continues to July 31.

A Canadian REE powerhouse?

July 24th, 2014

It might be closer than you think, says the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network

by Greg Klein

Now here’s an ambitious goal—for Canada to supply 20% of the world’s critical REEs by 2018. That’s the target set by the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network, at the impetus of exploration companies among its membership. While CREEN chairperson Ian London concedes the plan might not be fulfilled so soon, he emphasizes that Canada has about a third of the non-Chinese world’s advanced rare earths projects, more than a third of the world’s known critical rare earths resources and a greater degree of rare earths expertise than many people realize.

A Canadian REE powerhouse might be closer than you think, according to the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network

The 2018 target was set a year ago, based on the fact that Canada has nine rare earths projects that have reached at least a preliminary economic assessment. “But if financing doesn’t happen, the projects aren’t going to proceed per the schedule,” London tells ResourceClips.com. Even so, the nine projects comprise “one-third of the best REE opportunities in the world,” he maintains.

And, despite the near cut-throat competition of junior explorers, at least some of the companies holding those projects actually co-operate with each other. That was another ambitious CREEN goal, but one that’s already been achieved.

CREEN describes its membership as “mining companies, academia, government, research centres, consulting firms and other organizations that are working together to develop innovative solutions to the various challenges faced by this sector.”

“We had a technical workshop about a month ago where I convened a meeting of about 35 technical leaders from the prospective producers and consulting engineering firms,” London says. “When the technical leaders and their consultants, many of whom have worked on several projects, got talking, by the end of the day they identified about 21 areas on which they shared some common issues and short-listed five prospective research projects.”

No CEOs were present. “When you get engineers talking, without any sort of corporate protocol, they actually speak the same language. CREEN has a technical advisory committee and we structured it so you roll up your sleeves and examine some hypotheses. Then you find engineers and scientists like solving problems.”

A former president/CEO of Ontario Hydro International, London holds a degree in metallurgical engineering as well as an MBA. He’s also worked with several new technology and alternative energy companies.

A Canadian REE powerhouse might be closer than you think, according to the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network

The multi-stage continuous flotation unit at the Saskatchewan Research Council’s pilot plant is “ideally suited for rare earths separation.”
(Photo: SRC)

“I’ve been in this sector for eight years and I’m amazed at the number of individuals working on rare earths-related process technologies or applications at different universities that nobody knows about. There’s a scientist here, or an engineer there, who’s working on a PhD and is moving forward. But there was no forum for them to get together.”

Rare earths expertise in Canada and elsewhere in the West is further ahead than commonly perceived, London argues. “But it’s disjointed. There are experts at different Canadian universities who I’m not sure have ever spoken to each other because they have different areas of specialization. One would be on beneficiation, one would be on hydrometallurgy, one would be on separation. By establishing CREEN, we gave them a platform so they could get together and we now have a common goal.”

Actual mining should inspire even greater interest, he says. “If you get into production, you now have a playground for academics. It’s nice to do studies, but they want something to work on.”

Rare earths processing is “more chemistry than it is metallurgy or traditional processing,” London adds. “But we have a lot of smart guys who are comfortable with metallurgy and chemistry.”

One CREEN member, the Saskatchewan Research Council, operates a Saskatoon pilot plant that it calls “one of the few centres in Canada with an emphasis on rare earth minerals.” SRC chief geoscientist Bryan Schreiner tells ResourceClips.com, “There are other labs across the country that can do rare earths work too, but we’re emphasizing that as a major component for our pilot plant.”

The facility is intended to develop new and improved methods for processing a surprising array of minerals including potash, uranium, gold, base metals, coal, oilsands and oil shale. “We built this very modular so we can reconfigure the components of the equipment and develop a different process plant depending on what the mineral is,” Schreiner explains. “In particular we have a continuous flotation machine that’s ideally suited for rare earths separation.”

A Canadian REE powerhouse might be closer than you think, according to the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Network

Ian London

London says Canada also benefits from “tremendous relationships around the world.” In 2012 Canada’s Metallurgy and Materials Society asked London to organize one of the world’s first international symposiums on rare earths processing. It received 44 papers from nine countries. “Last year we had 53 papers from 17 countries—10 from China,” he points out. “They’ve been published in a book. If you keep it at a technical level, people will talk. The rare metals sector tends to be market-driven—what your shares are worth, how much money you can raise. But we’re at the stage now where there are Indians working with the Chinese, with Canadians and Americans.”

This year’s symposium takes place at COM14 in Vancouver from September 28 to October 1.

As for China, it not only holds much of the world’s expertise but it’s often estimated to provide about 90% of global supply—or even 95% according to evidence heard by a Canadian parliamentary committee. Mining analyst Luisa Moreno attributes about 36% of the world’s resources to China, but they’re diminishing. Recent reports from that country, meanwhile, show no easing of export restrictions.

The two Western sources, Molycorp’s (NYE:MCP) Mountain Pass mine in California and Lynas’ Mount Weld in Australia, “are both struggling,” London says. “More importantly, they’re primarily light rare earths. We have a unique advantage in the amount of critical rare earths we have.”

“The world wants alternative sources of supply. What they’re also looking for is the brains to go along with it. The Chinese created hundreds of thousands of jobs around the industry because the world buys their products, their technology.”

But he sees a limit to vertical integration at home. “Canada’s not fooling itself into thinking we’re going to be a magnet-maker to the world. We can provide separated rare earths and further downstream processed metals, and let others focus their attention on refining it into magnetic alloys, or magnets or phosphors, and together we can have supply chains.”

Over the next three years CREEN’s near-term goal is to support opportunities to place Canada as a key rare earths producer. Looking three to 10 years ahead, the organization wants to encourage further technological development, downstream processing, new applications and highly qualified personnel.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s clearly an opportunity,” London says.

Read more about Canadian rare earths research.