Saturday 10th December 2016

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘papua new guinea’

Pushing the boundaries

October 12th, 2016

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes challenging human endurance

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

“Deep underground, deep sky and deep sea” comprise the lofty goals of Three Deep, a five-year program announced last month by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Part 1 of this feature looked at the country’s ambitions to take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land, at sea and into the heavens, and also outlined other countries’ space programs related to mineral exploration. Part 2 delves into undersea mining as well as some of the world’s deepest mines.

Looking to the ocean depths, undersea mining has had tangible success. De Beers has been scooping up alluvial diamonds off southwestern Africa for decades, although at shallow depths. Through NamDeb, a 50/50 JV with Namibia, a fleet of six boats mines the world’s largest-known placer diamond deposit, about 20 kilometres offshore and 150 metres deep.

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

Workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng operation
must withstand the heat of deep underground mining.

Diamond Fields International TSXV:DFI hopes to return to its offshore Namibian claims, where the company extracted alluvial stones between 2005 and 2008. The company also holds a 50.1% interest in Atlantis II, a zinc-copper-silver deposit contained in Red Sea sediments. That project’s now on hold pending a dispute with the Saudi Arabian JV partner.

With deeper, more technologically advanced ambitions, Nautilus Minerals TSX:NUS holds a mining licence for its 85%-held Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea waters. A seafloor massive sulphide deposit at an average depth of 1,550 metres, its grades explain the company’s motivation. The project has a 2012 resource using a 2.6% copper-equivalent cutoff, with the Solwara 1 and 1 North areas showing:

  • indicated: 1.03 million tonnes averaging 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc

  • inferred: 1.54 million tonnes averaging 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc

Using the same cutoff, the Solwara 12 zone shows:

  • inferred: 2.3 million tonnes averaging 7.3% copper, 3.6 g/t gold, 56 g/t silver and 3.6% zinc
Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

This Nautilus diagram illustrates
the proposed Solwara operation.

A company video shows how Nautilus had hoped to operate “the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine” beginning in 2018 using existing technology from land-based mining and offshore oil and gas. Now, should financial restructuring succeed, Nautilus says it could begin deployment and testing by the end of Q1 2019.

Last May Nautilus released a resource update for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific waters of Tonga.

Another deep-sea hopeful, Ocean Minerals last month received approval from the Cook Islands to explore a 12,000-square-kilometre seabed expanse for rare earths in sediments.

A pioneer in undersea exploration, Japan’s getting ready for the next step, according to Bloomberg. A consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal will begin pilot mining in Chinese-contested waters off Okinawa next April, the news agency stated. “Japan has confirmed the deposit has about 7.4 million tons of ore,” Bloomberg added, without specifying what kind of ore.

Scientists are analyzing data from the central Indian Ocean where nodules show signs of copper, nickel and manganese, the Times of India reported in January. The country has a remotely operated vehicle capable of an unusually deep 6,000 metres and is working on undersea mining technology.

In August the World Nuclear News stated Russia is considering a nuclear-powered submarine to explore northern seas for mineral deposits. A government report said the sub’s R&D could put the project on par with the country’s space industry, the WNN added.

If one project alone could justify China’s undersea ambitions, it might be a 470.47-ton gold deposit announced last November. Lying at 2,000 metres’ depth off northern China, the bounty was delineated by 1,000 workers and 120 kilometres of drilling from 67 sea platforms over three years, the People’s Daily reported. Laizhou Rehi Mining hopes to extract the stuff, according to China Daily.

China’s deep underground ambitions might bring innovation to exploration but have been long preceded by actual mining in South Africa—although not without problems, as the country’s deplorable safety record shows. Greater depths bring greater threats from rockfalls and mini-earthquakes.

At 3.9 kilometres’ depth AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) Mponeng holds status as the world’s deepest mine. Five other mines within 50 kilometres of Johannesburg work from at least three kilometres’ depth, where “rock temperatures can reach 60 degrees Celsius, enough to fry an egg,” according to a Bloomberg article posted by Mineweb.com.

In his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, Matthew Hart recounts a visit to Mponeng, where he’s told a “seismic event” shakes the mine 600 times a month.

Sometimes the quakes cause rockbursts, when rock explodes into a mining cavity and mows men down with a deadly spray of jagged rock. Sometimes a tremor causes a “fall of ground”—the term for a collapse. Some of the rockbursts had been so powerful that other countries, detecting the seismic signature, had suspected South Africa of testing a nuclear bomb.

AngloGold subjects job-seekers to a heat-endurance test, Hart explains.

In a special chamber, applicants perform step exercises while technicians monitor them. The test chamber is kept at a “wet” temperature of eighty-two degrees. The high humidity makes it feel like ninety-six. “We are trying to force the body’s thermoregulatory system to kick in,” said Zahan Eloff, an occupational health physician. “If your body cools itself efficiently, you are safe to go underground for a fourteen-day trial, and if that goes well, cleared to work.”

Clearly there’s more than technological challenges to mining the deeps.

By the way, credit for the world’s deepest drilling goes to Russia, which spent 24 years sinking the Kola Superdeep Bore Hole to 12,261 metres, halfway to the mantle. Work was halted by temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

In the beginning

May 20th, 2016

Baffin Bay’s “birthmarks” date back to Earth’s infancy, geologists say

by Greg Klein

The Book of Genesis somehow overlooks this country but Canada—traces of it, anyway—turns out to be an awful lot older than previously thought. In fact some Baffin Bay rocks contain relics an awful lot older than most of the planet, according to a team of scientists. The wonder of it is that, despite 4.5 billion years of geological turbulence, the Earth still retains these remnants of its 50-million-year babyhood.

Baffin Bay’s “birthmarks” date back to Earth’s infancy, geologists say

These Baffin Bay rocks host 4.5-billion-year-old silicate material
formed when “baby Earth” was less than 50 million years of age.
(Photo: Don Francis)

But don’t expect to see them, handle them or trip over them next time you’re footloose in Nunavut. Their presence can be detected only with an extremely sensitive mass spectrometer.

The findings were reported last week in the academic journal Science under the intimidating title Preservation of Earth-forming events in the tungsten isotopic composition of modern flood basalts. Richard Walker, a co-author and University of Maryland geology professor, took time to explain that to ResourceClips.com in laypeople’s lingo.

He came to this study through his work with high-precision isotopic measurements. That makes tungsten especially interesting. “Its isotopic composition varies primarily as the result of the decay of another element, hafnium, at the other end of solar system history,” Walker explains. “The isotope of hafnium that decays to tungsten, hafnium-182, has a half-life of only about nine million years. So it was present for maybe the first 50 million years of solar system history. Any variations in tungsten isotopic composition that would follow had to have been created within the first 50 million years of solar system history.”

Walker and his colleagues didn’t expect to find such variations in Earth rocks when they began their study of core formation. The hot, metallic centre of the planet seems to have formed in the first 30 million years of the solar system. “By inference it has a very different tungsten isotopic composition from the rest of the planet. So one of the reasons we got into tungsten isotopes is we’re looking for some geochemical evidence for core-mantle interaction.

“Surprisingly, things didn’t turn out at all like we expected. The isotopic composition of the core, by inference, is presumed to be considerably lower than you, me and light bulbs. Almost all the stuff we have measured in early Earth rocks is actually higher. So that requires some process other than extracting the tungsten from the core. That’s what this paper is all about.”

But the rocks that we’re reporting data for in this study are only a few tens of millions of years old. These are not old rocks, they’re what we consider practically modern rocks.—Richard Walker,
professor of geology at
the University of Maryland

His team and another group had previously found similar isotopic compositions in rocks ranging from 2.5 billion to four billion years of age. “But the rocks that we’re reporting data for in this study are only a few tens of millions of years old. These are not old rocks, they’re what we consider practically modern rocks. But they show the isotopic imprint of the process that happened within the Earth—wow!—really, really early in its history while it was still growing.”

Again, the finding isn’t the rocks themselves, as some media reported. It’s the isotopic measurement, imprint, signature or, to use a word concocted by the U of M press office, “birthmark.”

“I kinda like that term,” Walker says. It represents a portion of the Earth’s mantle that was somehow isolated from the rest of the planet’s middle part over 4.5 billion years ago.

Lead author Hanika Rizo of l’Université du Québec found the Canadian examples on Padloping Island off Baffin Island’s southeastern coast. Only a few rocks have been analyzed so far. “The general type of rock that’s being measured extends over thousands of square kilometres,” Walker points out. “We don’t know how much of this rock has that unusual isotopic signature. That’s something we’ll be working on for years to come.”

Similar findings came from the Ontong Java Plateau northeast of Papua New Guinea.

As for the world’s oldest actual rocks, Walker says that’s a matter of debate. “Everybody accepts that there are rocks that are more than 3.9 billion years old.”

He and some colleagues are among those who believe that rocks from the Nuvvuagittuq Belt of arctic Quebec’s Hudson Bay coast date back at least 4.3 billion years.

Zircons from Western Australia’s Jack Hills date back at least 4.4 billion years. “The rocks they’re found in are nowhere near that age but some of the minerals themselves can be dated to even older than 4.4 billion years.”

But as for the “birthmarks” of Nunavut and Micronesia, they convey a sense of drama to the cognoscenti. This planet, “despite having a very exciting and violent birth in the form of probably a sequence of giant impacts building a bigger and bigger Earth, never completely got itself chemically homogenized,” Walker says. “It’s surprising that we have somewhere down there remnants of the Earth that formed more than 4.5 billion years ago. That’s exciting, at least to a geologist—this goes back to the earliest stages of Earth history.”

Along with Walker and Rizo, report authors include Richard Carlson and Mary Horan of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Sujoy Mukhopadhyay, Vicky Manthos and Matthew Jackson of the University of California, and Don Francis of McGill University.

October 8th, 2015

Goldman Sachs still bullish on China, despite slashing target NAI 500
Great deposits: Grasberg Part 3, mining and engineering Geology for Investors
The world’s 10 most competitive countries GoldSeek
World Soda Ash 2015: Order out of chaos? Industrial Minerals
HD Mining’s Mandarin-speaking coal project gets B.C. environmental approval Stockhouse
When stock traders become market cheerleaders Equities Canada
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports

October 7th, 2015

Great deposits: Grasberg Part 3, mining and engineering Geology for Investors
The world’s 10 most competitive countries GoldSeek
World Soda Ash 2015: Order out of chaos? Industrial Minerals
HD Mining’s Mandarin-speaking coal project gets B.C. environmental approval Stockhouse
When stock traders become market cheerleaders Equities Canada
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500

September 25th, 2015

Nasdaq opening centre for private startups Stockhouse
Terse exchanges at Critical Raw Materials meeting as mineral industry bemoans regulation cost Industrial Minerals
Following Fed decision, confidence in gold as a safe-haven asset returns GoldSeek
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors

September 24th, 2015

Nasdaq opening centre for private startups Stockhouse
Terse exchanges at Critical Raw Materials meeting as mineral industry bemoans regulation cost Industrial Minerals
Following Fed decision, confidence in gold as a safe-haven asset returns GoldSeek
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors

September 22nd, 2015

Following Fed decision, confidence in gold as a safe-haven asset returns GoldSeek
Britain to guarantee $3-billion Chinese investment in UK’s first new nuclear plant in 20 years Stockhouse
UNITECR 2015: Focus on energy boosts refractory opportunities Industrial Minerals
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors

September 21st, 2015

Following Fed decision, confidence in gold as a safe-haven asset returns GoldSeek
Britain to guarantee $3-billion Chinese investment in UK’s first new nuclear plant in 20 years Stockhouse
UNITECR 2015: Focus on energy boosts refractory opportunities Industrial Minerals
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors

September 18th, 2015

No Fed rate hike good for gold, bad sign for economy Stockhouse
UNITECR 2015: Focus on energy boosts refractory opportunities Industrial Minerals
Thomas Drolet warns of a coming Grand Canyon of uranium supply deficit and suggests three ways to profit by it Streetwise Reports
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
Life is uncertain and so are interest rates GoldSeek
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors

September 18th, 2015

No Fed rate hike good for gold, bad sign for economy Streetwise Reports
UNITECR 2015: Focus on energy boosts refractory opportunities Industrial Minerals
Mid-sized miners seen as focus of next deals amid low prices NAI 500
New study: We’re nowhere near peak coal use in China and India Stockhouse
Life is uncertain and so are interest rates GoldSeek
Flinders CEO Blair Way: What Tesla needs to know about the graphite sector Equities Canada
Great deposits—Grasberg Part 2 Geology for Investors