Thursday 4th June 2020

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Posts tagged ‘philippines’

Legendary mine finder David Lowell dead at 92

May 6th, 2020

by Greg Klein | May 6, 2020

An axe injury while staking claims in central Saskatchewan helps illustrate the working life of an intrepid geologist in the 1950s. While topping trees David Lowell slashed his hand, but heavy blood loss hardly justified helicopter transport for medical attention. A few days later, as bleeding continued despite application of a rag bandage, a fellow geologist sewed up the cut with black carpet thread.

Legendary mine finder David Lowell dead at 92

Although Lowell admitted the process had him howling with pain, he concluded with stoic simplicity: “This worked fine.” They stayed in the bush for another week before heading back to Lac La Ronge, where a couple of Cree nurses examined the amateur stitch-up with amusement.

Lowell also spent time in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories as well as in British Columbia, where he worked at Highland Valley, Endako, Gibraltar and Craigmont. But the legend who passed away earlier this week was best known for discoveries farther south, starting in his native Arizona. The grandson of an Ontario-born prospector is credited with 17 major discoveries over 50 years in Arizona, Argentina, the Philippines, B.C., Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay.

Intrepid Explorer: The Autobiography of the World’s Best Mine Finder attributes significant work from others for seven of those achievements, which he categorizes as “maybe-I-was-responsible-for orebodies.” As he added, “there always are many more discoverers than discoveries.”

Lowell’s boots hit ground over much of the world but he also delivered university lectures in several countries and published widely. A longstanding collaboration with John Guilbert brought fame for the duo, better understanding of geology and many new mines through the Lowell-Guilbert Porphyry Copper Model, first published in 1970.

The model led to Lowell’s first discoveries, Kalamazoo and Vekol in Arizona, “which were remarkable at the time given the lack of visible copper mineralization at surface,” said a May 5 statement from Solaris Resources. Those finds were followed by Bajo Alumbrera in Argentina, to which Lowell acknowledged the contribution of others.

“David went on to discover the world’s largest copper deposit, La Escondida, in Chile in 1981,” Solaris pointed out. “This came from recognizing how the signature of his porphyry copper model would be modified in an extremely arid environment by a process known as ‘super leaching,’ which five prior companies exploring the property previously had failed to recognize.

“Likewise, in Peru, David identified the Northern Peru Gold Belt after library study, regional mapping, reconnaissance and sampling in a region that was not thought to be prospective. This work allowed him to narrow his focus and make the Pierina gold discovery in 1996, which was acquired by Barrick Gold for over $1 billion later that year.

“With Peru Copper, David took what was a known but under-appreciated deposit in Toromocho, relogged the existing drill core and completely reinterpreted the geology to lay the foundation for an exploration program that would increase its size by more than an order of magnitude. The project was acquired in 2007 for over $800 million.”

His last discoveries included Mirador in Ecuador, which began operation last year under a Chinese consortium, and Solaris’ flagship project Warintza in Ecuador, along with Lowell’s participation in finding Alto Parana in Paraguay. Lowell remained a Solaris consultant and strategic partner until his passing.

“Up until the very end of his life, David was busy designing programs to test his vision for the future of discovery in the Americas,” the company stated. “Innovation and ingenuity were constants throughout his legendary career.”

Crisis response

April 3rd, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains under the pandemic

by Greg Klein | April 3, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

 

Idled explorers: Can you help?

“Essential supplies and personnel are needed to create and operate temporary facilities for testing, triage, housing and isolation areas for vulnerable populations,” states the Association for Mineral Exploration. “As mineral explorers, we have access to the supplies needed and are in a unique position to help.”

AME calls on the industry to contribute excess capacity of the following:

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

  • Camp support personnel such as caterers, housekeepers, janitors, etc.

  • Available medical staff including such qualifications as OFA3s, paramedics, RNs, etc.

  • Other supplies or skills

If you can help, please fill out this form and AME will be in touch. 

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

Preparing for a wider emergency

Given the danger of one crisis triggering others, essential infrastructure remains at risk. One plan to safeguard Ontario’s electricity service would require Toronto workers to bunk down in employer-supplied accommodation under lockdown conditions better known to isolated locations.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Quarantines might require essential
services to provide job-site bed and board.
(Photo: Independent Electricity System Operator)

It hasn’t happened yet, but the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator stands ready for the possibility, according to a Canadian Press story published by the Globe and Mail. A not-for-profit agency established by the province, the IESO co-ordinates Ontario electricity supply to meet demand.

About 90% of its staff now work at home but another 48 employees must still come into work, CEO Peter Gregg said. Eight six-person teams now undergo 12-hour shifts in two Toronto-area control rooms.

“Should it become necessary, he said, bed, food and other on-site arrangements have been made to allow the operators to stay at their workplaces as a similar agency in New York has done,” CP reported.

Similar plans may well be underway not only for essential infrastructure but also for essential production, processing, manufacturing, communications, transportation and trade. One sign of the times to come could be locked-down camps in supermarket parking lots for our under-appreciated retail-sector heroes.

Meanwhile, retaining and protecting care-home staff already constitute a crisis within a crisis.

Australia guards against predatory foreign takeovers

With China prominently in mind, Australia has taken extra measures to protect companies and projects shattered by the COVID-19 economy. Canberra has temporarily granted its Foreign Investment Review Board extra powers to guard distressed companies and assets against acquisitions by opportunistic foreigners. Although previous foreign acquisitions came under review only when the price passed certain thresholds, now all such transactions get FIRB scrutiny.

The changes follow concerns raised by MPs on Australia’s intelligence and security committee. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted committee chairperson Andrew Hastie warning of “foreign state-owned enterprises working contrary to our national interest. More than ever, we need to protect ourselves from geo-strategic moves masquerading as legitimate business.”

Committee member Tim Wilson added, “We can’t allow foreign state-owned enterprises and their business fronts to use COVID-19’s economic carnage as a gateway to swoop distressed businesses and assets.”

Among protected assets are exploration and mining projects, utilities, infrastructure and an interest of 20% or more in a company or business.

Critical minerals become ever more critical

As Lynas Corp extended the suspension of its rare earths processing facility in line with Malaysian government pandemic orders, the company noted the importance of its products “in permanent magnets used in medical devices including ventilators, and in lanthanum products used in oil refineries for petroleum production.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

The suspension of its Malaysian plant prompted
Lynas to emphasize REs’ criticality to virus treatment.
(Photo: Lynas Corp)

Originally set to expire on March 31, the government order currently stays in force until April 14. RE extraction continues at Lynas’ Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.

In late February Malaysia granted the company a three-year licence renewal for the processing facility, which had been threatened with closure due to controversy about its low-level radioactive tailings. Among conditions for the renewal are development of a permanent disposal facility for existing waste and putting a cracking and leaching plant in operation outside Malaysia by July 2023 to end the practice of transporting radioactive material to the country.

Committed to maintaining a non-Chinese supply chain, the company plans to locate the C&L plant in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Sharing the disease, hoarding the treatment

A problem recognized in American defence procurement has hit health care—the need to build non-Chinese supply chains. Most of the world’s ventilators and about half the masks are manufactured in China, points out a recent column by Terry Glavin.

The West is learning, finally and the hard way, “that thriving liberal democracies cannot co-exist for long within a model of neo-liberal globalization that admits into its embrace such a tyrannical state-capitalist monstrosity as the People’s Republic of China.”

The U.S., for example, relies heavily on China for antibiotics, painkillers, surgical gowns, equipment that measures blood oxygen levels and magnetic resonance imaging scanners. China effectively banned medical equipment exports as soon as Wuhan went on lockdown, Glavin adds.

“It probably didn’t help that Ottawa sent 16,000 tonnes of gear to China back in February. That was a lot of gear—1,101 masks, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 medical coveralls, 200,000 pairs of gloves and so on—but a drop in Beijing’s bucket. A New York Times investigation last month found that China had imported 56 million respirators and masks, just in the first week of the Wuhan shutdown.

“It is not known how much of that cargo came from the massive bulk-buying campaign organized and carried out across Canada by affiliates of the United Front Work Department, the overseas propaganda and influence-peddling arm of the Chinese Communist Party.”

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Desperate need for health care supplies
pits country against country. (Photo: 3M)

Nor does the non-Chinese world display altruism. In response to the crisis, the EU and more than 50 countries have either banned or restricted exports of medical equipment, Glavin states.

By April 3 global health care products supplier 3M revealed that Washington asked the company to stop exporting U.S.-manufactured N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America. 3M noted “significant humanitarian implications” but also the possibility of trade retaliation. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.”

The company did win China’s permission to import 10 million of its own Chinese-manufactured N95s into the U.S.

Meanwhile the Canadian government comes under increasing criticism for discouraging the public from wearing masks.

Chinese supply chains also jeopardized by Chinese disease

As the world’s main exporter of manufactured goods, China’s the main importer of raw materials, especially metals. But, as the world’s main exporter of disease, China managed to threaten its own supplies.

Reuters columnist Andy Home outlined lockdown-imposed cutbacks of copper, zinc and lead from Chile and Peru, and chrome from South Africa; reductions in cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in tin from already depleting Myanmar, and in nickel from the Philippines, the latter a hoped-for replacement after Indonesia banned unprocessed exports.

The longer the lockdowns, “the greater the potential for supply chain disruption,” Home comments. “As the biggest buyer of metallic raw materials, this is a ticking time-bomb for China’s metals producers.”

Miners’ providence unevenly distributed

Probably no other foreign shutdowns have affected as many Canadian miners and explorers as that of Mexico. Considered non-essential, their work will be suspended until April 30, with extensions more than likely. Mexico’s announcement must have sounded familiar to Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS, which had already pressed the pause button to comply with national quarantines in Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. That currently limits the company’s mining to Timmins, where production has been reduced by about 10% to 20% to allow physical distancing.

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

Mauritania exempted Kinross Gold’s Tasiast mine
from domestic travel restrictions. (Photo: Kinross Gold)

One company more favourably located, so far, is Kinross Gold TSX:K. As of April 1, operations continued at its seven mines in Nevada, Alaska, Brazil, Mauritania, Russia and Ghana, while work went on at its four non-producing projects in Alaska, Mauritania, Russia and Chile.

Expanded shutdowns ordered by Ontario on April 3 include many construction and industrial projects but exempt mining. Earlier that day New Gold TSX:NGD announced Rainy River’s restart after a two-week suspension to allow self-isolation among employees. Many of the mine’s workers live locally and made short trips into Minnesota before the border closed.

Quebec border restrictions have hindered the Ontario operations of Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, cutting off a source of employees and contractors. As a result the company reduced production at its Macassa mine and suspended work at its Holt complex, comprising three gold mines and a mill. Kirkland reduced operations at its Detour Lake mine effective March 23, after a worker showed COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolated on March 14. He tested positive on March 26. Production continues at the company’s Fosterville mine in Australia.

Some explorers have been idled by government restrictions, others by market conditions. Still, some companies have money and jurisdictions in which to spend it. Liberty Gold TSX:LGD, for example, resumed drilling its Black Pine gold project in Idaho on March 31.

Some jurisdictions, like B.C. and New Brunswick, have extended work requirement deadlines to help companies keep exploration claims active.

“China needs to be held responsible”

A few Canadian journalists are saying what we might never hear from our politicians. Here, for example, is Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein:

“China needs to be held responsible. The problem is, because of its political power— and you see it in the World Health Organization announcements, in Canadian announcements—they’ve been praising what China did. There would have been a virus anyway. China made it worse. More people are dying, more people are being infected, and its dictators need to be held to account.”

A 2016 retrospect

December 20th, 2016

Was it the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

by Greg Klein

Some say optimism was evident early in the year, as the trade shows and investor conferences began. Certainly as 2016 progressed, so did much of the market. Commodities, some of them anyway, picked up. In a lot of cases, so did valuations. The crystal ball of the industry’s predictionariat often seemed to shine a rosier tint. It must have been the first time in years that people actually stopped saying, “I think we’ve hit bottom.”

But it would have been a full-out bull market if every commodity emulated lithium.

By February Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported the chemical’s greatest-ever price jump as both hydroxide and carbonate surpassed $10,000 a tonne, a 47% increase for the latter’s 2015 average. The Macquarie Group later cautioned that the Big Four of Albermarle NYSE:ALB, FMC Corp NYSE:FMC, SQM NYSE:SQM and Talison Lithium had been mining significantly below capacity and would ramp up production to protect market share.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

That they did, as new supply was about to come online from sources like Galaxy Resources’ Mount Cattlin mine in Western Australia, which began commissioning in November. The following month Orocobre TSX:ORL announced plans to double output from its Salar de Olaroz project in Argentina. Even Bolivia sent a token 9.3 tonnes to China, suggesting the mining world’s outlaw finally intends to develop its lithium deposits, estimated to be the world’s largest at 22% of global potential.

Disagreeing with naysayers like Macquarie and tracking at least 12 Li-ion megafactories being planned, built or expanded to gigawatt-hour capacity by 2020, Benchmark in December predicted further price increases for 2017.

Obviously there was no keeping the juniors out of this. Whether or not it’s a bubble destined to burst, explorers snapped up prospects, issuing news releases at an almost frantic flow that peaked in mid-summer. Acquisitions and early-stage activity often focused on the western U.S., South America’s Lithium Triangle and several Canadian locations too.

In Quebec’s James Bay region, Whabouchi was subject of a feasibility update released in April. Calling the development project “one of the richest spodumene hard rock lithium deposits in the world, both in volume and grade,” Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX plans to ship samples from its mine and plant in Q2 2017.

A much more despairing topic was cobalt, considered by some observers to be the energy metal to watch. At press time instability menaced the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces an estimated 60% of global output. Far overshadowing supply-side concerns, however, was the threat of a humanitarian crisis triggered by president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate on December 20.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

But the overall buoyant market mood had a practical basis in base metals, led by zinc. In June prices bounced back from the six-year lows of late last year to become “by far the best-performing LME metal,” according to Reuters. Two months later a UBS spokesperson told the news agency refiners were becoming “panicky.”

Mine closures in the face of increasing demand for galvanized steel and, later in the year, post-U.S. election expectations of massive infrastructure programs, pushed prices 80% above the previous year. They then fell closer to 70%, but remained well within levels unprecedented over the last five years. By mid-December one steelmaker told the Wall Street Journal to expect “a demand explosion.”

Lead lagged, but just for the first half of 2016. Spot prices had sunk to about 74 cents a pound in early June, when the H2 ascension began. Reaching an early December peak of about $1.08, the highest since 2013, the metal then slipped beneath the dollar mark.

Copper lay at or near five-year lows until November, when a Trump-credited surge sent the red metal over 60% higher, to about $2.54 a pound. Some industry observers doubted it would last. But columnist Andy Home dated the rally to October, when the Donald was expected to lose. Home attributed copper’s rise to automated trading: “Think the copper market equivalent of Skynet, the artificial intelligence network that takes over the world in the Terminator films.” While other markets have experienced the same phenomenon, he maintained, it’s probably the first, but not the last time for a base metal.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

Nickel’s spot price started the year around a piddling $3.70 a pound. But by early December it rose to nearly $5.25. That still compared poorly with 2014 levels well above $9 and almost $10 in 2011. Nickel’s year was characterized by Indonesia’s ban on exports of unprocessed metals and widespread mine suspensions in the Philippines, up to then the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore.

More controversial for other reasons, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte began ordering suspensions shortly after his June election. His environmental secretary Regina Lopez then exhorted miners to surpass the world’s highest environmental standards, “better than Canada, better than Australia. We must be better and I know it can be done.”

Uranium continued to present humanity with a dual benefit—a carbon-free fuel for emerging middle classes and a cautionary example for those who would predict the future. Still oblivious to optimistic forecasts, the recalcitrant metal scraped a post-Fukushima low of $18 in December before creeping to $20.25 on the 19th. The stuff fetched around $72 a pound just before the 2011 tsunami and hit $136 in 2007.

Alberta most attractive mining destination in Canada, third worldwide

March 3rd, 2014

by Cecilia Jamasmie | March 3, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Alberta most attractive mining destination in Canada, third worldwide

Oilsands development in northern Alberta.

 

For the second consecutive year, Alberta—home to the booming and controversial oilsands industry—ranked first in the country and third worldwide as the most attractive jurisdiction for mining investors in the Fraser Institute’s annual global survey of mining executives.

The study, released March 3 as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention kicked off in Toronto, is based on input from 690 mineral exploration and development company executives.

Sweden and Finland scored the top places in this year’s survey, which spotlighted 112 jurisdictions worldwide. Kyrgyzstan and Venezuela were named the worst two countries to venture.

“Miners praise Alberta for its transparent and productive approach to mining policy. The province offers competitive taxation regimes, sound legal systems and relatively low uncertainty around land claims. That’s what miners look for,” said Kenneth Green, Fraser Institute senior director of energy and natural resources.

Two other Canadian jurisdictions—New Brunswick (7), and Newfoundland and Labrador (9)—ranked in the top 10 worldwide, followed by Saskatchewan (12), Yukon (19), Quebec (21), Manitoba (26), Ontario (28), Nova Scotia (29), British Columbia (32), Nunavut (44) and the Northwest Territories (47).

Quebec, once the darling of mining investors, continued to fall down the rabbit hole. From 2007 to 2009, the French-speaking district topped the survey, then dropped to fifth in 2011, 11th in 2012 and finally 21st worldwide in 2013, due in part to amendments to Quebec’s mining act and recent tax policy changes.

“If Quebec wants to renew confidence in the global mining sector, it should reduce red tape, minimize the risk associated with policy changes and tax increases, and respect negotiated contracts,” Green said.

B.C. dropped to 32nd from 31st in 2012, though the survey recorded improved perceptions regarding the western province’s political stability and availability of labour and skills.

The Canadian public policy think tank also identified the 10 places mining enthusiasts should avoid. From the bottom, they are Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela, Philippines, Argentina (La Rioja and Mendoza), Angola, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Madagascar.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Despite the downturn

January 31st, 2014

Roundup 2014 speakers discuss how investors can profit and companies thrive

by Greg Klein

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We’re near bottom, we’ve hit bottom, the worst is behind us—over the last few wretched years those comments have come repeatedly from speakers at industry conferences. So maybe Victoria Yehl put it best in her January 30 closing remarks at Roundup 2014: “You, as the attendees and the delegates, let us know what’s going on in this industry … almost every evening at the Seawall Bar and Grill. It was certainly a higher level of enthusiasm than we’ve seen for a number of years.”

As chairperson of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia’s annual event, Yehl was referring to the evening get-togethers, known for a non-market type of liquidity. But boozy as it might have been, can so much enthusiasm be dismissed?

Roundup 2014 speakers discuss how investors can profit and companies thrive

Near-record attendance and growing optimism characterized
AME BC’s Roundup 2014, “the world’s premier technical
mineral exploration conference.”

Yehl thanked company sponsors who came through despite tough times and noted a near-record crowd of 6,643 people from 37 countries, a possible indication of not-so-tough times ahead. Roundup 2014’s five last speakers further developed that sentiment.

The guardedly optimistic group included Rick Rule, who told investors they can be contrarians or victims: “The choice is yours.” Discussing some potential “fire sale prices” in resource stocks, the chairman of Sprott US Holdings said, “When I talk about coal now people say, ‘Global warming, you’re the culprit.’ I love it when people aren’t merely bored, they’re hostile.”

Uranium, he added, “is cheap. Zinc is cheap. People hate nickel…. Until three or four months ago natural gas was cheap, cheap, cheap.”

Bull markets follow bear markets “as day follows night,” Rule argued. But he warned that although a valuation’s increase might be inevitable, it isn’t necessarily imminent. Profits require time and patience, he emphasized.

Turning the forum’s attention from investors to companies, Silver Wheaton TSX:SLW president/CEO Randy Smallwood said most financing has been coming from various types of debt. The streaming model, he maintained, allows companies to optimize their portfolios through deals on non-core assets. “Seventy percent of silver does not come from silver mines,” he pointed out. About 40% comes from copper mines, another 15% from lead-zinc operations. Those miners “aren’t interested in silver. They’re driven by copper, they’re driven by lead-zinc.”

A new type of deal announced in November offers some juniors additional hope, Smallwood said. Silver Wheaton stepped in earlier than usual to give Sandspring Resources TSXV:SSP an initial $13.5 million to take its Toroparu gold project in Guyana to feasibility.

“If they had gone out and raised $13.5 million in the market, their current shareholders would have lost 33% of the value of that project…. What they did was give us 10% of the gold, if we fund them another $135 million when they get to the point of construction. It’s pretty attractive for their shareholders. It makes a lot of sense for juniors to consider this.”

But with prefeasibility in place, Toroparu was already quite advanced. Exploration geologist Miles Thompson discussed earlier-stage projects and the “bizarre disconnect between markets and the time needed to find and develop mines.”

“Unfortunately the easy stuff has already been found and our job is becoming increasingly harder,” said the director of Reservoir Minerals TSXV:RMC and CEO/chairman of Lara Exploration TSXV:LRA. For all that, Reservoir has been successfully raising money and spending it in Serbia for over 10 years. “We follow the prospect generator business model, which means we work the same way the pharmaceutical industry works, the software industry…. We see ourselves as R&D teams. We build projects, we define targets, we work out projects for mining companies and investors.”

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Rating the risks

February 28th, 2013

A Fraser Institute survey shows how miners and explorers see the world they work in

by Greg Klein

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“Great mineral assets, highly corrupt government….” That’s sometimes the conundrum under which exploration and mining companies operate. And that was just one comment published by the Fraser Institute as it evaluated a world of challenges and opportunities in its annual Survey of Mining Companies released on February 28.

Between October 2012 and January 2013, 742 companies rated 96 jurisdictions which included countries and, in the case of Canada, Australia, the U.S. and Argentina, provinces, states and territories. Respondents considered 15 policy factors affecting investment decisions in those jurisdictions, for a possible maximum score of 100. Some factors included regulations, corruption, taxation, aboriginal land claims, infrastructure, the local workforce, political stability and physical security.

While the full report provides breakdowns by category, here are the top 10 jurisdictions for overall scores. The 2011-to-2012 rankings are in parentheses.

A Fraser Institute survey shows how miners and explorers see the world they work in

The Fraser Institute’s annual survey rates jurisdictional risk
for a number of factors concerning mining and exploration.

1. Finland (New Brunswick)
2. Sweden (Finland)
3. Alberta (Alberta)
4. New Brunswick (Wyoming)
5. Wyoming (Quebec)
6. Ireland (Saskatchewan)
7. Nevada (Sweden)
8. Yukon (Nevada)
9. Utah (Ireland)
10. Norway (Yukon)

Last but least, here are the bottom 10:

87. Greece (Vietnam)
88. Philippines (Indonesia)
89. Guatemala (Ecuador)
90. Bolivia (Kyrgyzstan)
91. Zimbabwe (Philippines)
92. Kyrgyzstan (India)
93. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Venezuela)
94. Venezuela (Bolivia)
95. Vietnam (Guatemala)
96. Indonesia (Honduras)

Utah and Norway knocked Saskatchewan and Quebec out of the top 10. Greece was added to the survey for the first time, only to join Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their bottom 10 debut. Another first-timer, French Guiana placed 27th overall, a fairly impressive ranking for a newcomer and non-First-World country.

Crisis-torn South Africa dropped to 64th place overall compared to 54th last year, retaining its fourth-from-last spot for “labour regulations, employment agreements and labour militancy or work disruptions.”

Of Canadian jurisdictions, Nunavut ranked worst at number 37.

Some anonymous concerns listed under “horror stories” ranged from uncertainty about native rights in Ontario to potential corruption in Quebec. One response stated that “endless ‘community consultation’” in the Northwest Territories costs the company more than exploration. Others noted confiscation of mining rights in Indonesia and expropriation in Bolivia.

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Week in review

November 2nd, 2012

A mining and exploration retrospect for October 27 to November 2, 2012

by Greg Klein

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No one ever said mining’s risk-free

A Chinese gang leader has been sentenced to death for illegal mining and a number of assaults. A story covered by China Daily and Industrial Minerals on Wednesday reported that Pan Guangjuan and his gang had been running a rare earths operation in Guangdong province from November 2011 to February 2012. On conviction he was also fined $24,000 and deprived of his political rights for life. The death sentence comes with a two-year reprieve.

Other countries have been cracking down too—not only on illegal mining, but illegal mining by Chinese. On Monday prosecutors in the Philippines dropped charges against two Chinese after police and military raided gold dredging operations. According to Reuters, small-scale gold mining, legal and illegal, is widespread in the Philippines but up to 90% of production is smuggled to China via Hong Kong.

A mining and exploration retrospect

In Ghana over 90 Chinese were arrested last month during a crackdown in which a teenage boy died, the Financial Times reported. A previous Ghanaian raid on illegal miners resulted in 38 Chinese being deported last September. Chinese are playing an increasing role in illegal mining in Ghana, partly because of their access to Chinese dredging equipment, the FT stated. The story quoted an official for the Ghana Chamber of Mines, who said, “There are environmental issues, poor working conditions and child labour problems because they use Ghanaian children. They pay them whatever they want, and there are no contracts or safety standards.”

Another government official quoted by the FT said, “Most of these Chinese illegal miners are heavily armed and shoot at anyone that gets near them.”

Are gold reserves lent out, sold short or stored safely?

Over 60 countries store gold in underground vaults at New York’s Federal Reserve Bank. Now a GATA-esque movement is growing in the country that is, theoretically, the world’s second-largest gold owner. On Tuesday Spiegel reported that a member of Germany’s governing coalition, Peter Gauweiler, has finally found limited success in his long campaign to repatriate his country’s gold. The Frankfurt-based central bank will bring home 150 tons of gold over three years for inspection. The Bundesbank also plans to count and weigh the gold bars stored in New York.

The move responds to a damning indictment from Germany’s Federal Audit Office, which criticized the Fed for refusing access to German auditors. Hardly reassured by the planned audit, politician Heinz-Peter Haustein told media that “all the gold has to be shipped back,” Spiegel reported.

Not surprisingly, the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee was all over the story this week. An article by Lars Schall covered a Thursday speech given by Bundesbank executive Andreas Dombret. He told his New York audience that Germany’s “bizarre public discussion” will soon pass.

“We are confident that our gold is in safe hands with you,” Schall quoted him. “The days in which Hollywood Germans such as Gert Frobe, better known as Goldfinger, and East German terrorist Simon Gruber masterminded gold heists in U.S. vaults are long gone. Nobody can seriously imagine scenarios like these, which are reminiscent of a James Bond movie with Goldfinger playing the role of a U.S. Fed accounting clerk.”

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