Monday 21st August 2017

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Posts tagged ‘platinum’

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.

Numismatic news: Loonie turns 30, Rio Tinto unveils precious metal/diamond coins

June 8th, 2017

by Greg Klein | June 8, 2017

Its size and weight wore out pockets, its value raised panhandlers’ expectations and its name puzzled foreign visitors. But following its appearance 30 years ago this month, the loonie “found its way into our hearts,” the Royal Canadian Mint maintains. To celebrate this anniversary, the Mint released a limited edition set of two silver dollars. One depicts the loon, the other shows the originally intended canoe, a design that graced Canadian silver dollars from 1935 to 1986. The two $1 coins will cost collectors $79.95.

Numismatic news: Loonie turns 30, Rio Tinto unveils precious metals/diamond coins

The originally intended design for Canada’s dollar coin
distinguishes one of the anniversary set’s two silver pieces.
(Photo: Royal Canadian Mint)

The original voyageur design’s fate comprises a minor legend of numismatic history and bureaucratic bungling. The dies disappeared in November 1986 en route from Ottawa to Winnipeg, where they were supposed to generate an initial 450 million coins. But the Mint did save nearly $80 by using regular courier instead of an armoured courier.

According to media reports at the time, federal officials covered up the suspicious loss and made excuses for the new coin’s delayed appearance. Finally, to foil counterfeiters, the Mint replaced the canoe with an uninspiring Plan B.

The missing dies never did turn up, Mint spokesperson Alex Reeves informs ResourceClips.com.

With no embarrassment in calling the loonie one of Canada’s “most recognizable symbols,” Mint president/CEO Sandra Hanington said it’s “also known around the world as an innovative trailblazer for its composition and cutting-edge security features.”

Additionally the loonie “changed stripping forever,” according to the National Post. Those who’ve experienced pre-1987 peelers’ bars might agree. But the NP writer’s expertise sounds less certain when he claims the loonie amounts to a hidden tax because “banknotes get spent almost immediately, whereas coins get stashed into jars and piggy banks.”

Australian icons got more majestic treatment when Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO teamed up with the Perth Mint to produce three magnificent coins celebrating that country’s unique fauna and rich resources. Although declared legal tender, they’re not likely to see circulation. Weighing a kilo each, respectively made of gold, platinum and rose gold (an alloy used in jewelry) and set with coloured diamonds from Rio’s Argyle mine, the three-coin Australian Trilogy comes with a price tag of AU$1.8 million.

Just one set has been struck.

Argyle, by the way, “produces virtually the world’s entire supply of rare pink diamonds, and yet less than 0.1% of the diamonds produced by the Argyle mine are pink,” Rio stated.

Numismatic news: Loonie turns 30, Rio Tinto unveils precious metals/diamond coins

Gold, platinum and rose gold combine with pink, violet and
purple-pink diamonds in this one-of-a-kind set. (Photo: Perth Mint)

Related:

Ivanhoe veteran Matthew Hornor joins Aurvista Gold as president/CEO

May 23rd, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 23, 2017

Management changes should help Aurvista Gold TSXV:AVA move to the next level as Matthew Hornor takes charge of financial and business development while Jean Lafleur leads exploration at the company’s Douay project in Abitibi.

Ivanhoe veteran Matthew Hornor joins Aurvista Gold as president/CEO

Hornor’s background includes 10 years as VP and executive VP for Ivanhoe Mines, where he negotiated deals with international banking syndicates, strategic alliances and equity financings totalling more than $450 million. He also spent 10 years as managing director for Ivanhoe Capital and four years as chairperson for Ivanplats Holding SARL, owner of the Platreef platinum-palladium mine in South Africa.

As president/CEO of Kaizen Discovery TSXV:KZD from 2013 to 2016, Hornor arranged project acquisitions, equity financings and a collaboration agreement with ITOCHU Corp, a prominent Japanese trading and investment house. Fluent in Japanese, he began his mining career in Japan 27 years ago. He visits the country frequently, maintaining relationships with major corporations, mining companies, investment firms and trading houses.

The appointment also allows Jean Lafleur to move from president/CEO to VP of exploration on the Douay project in Abitibi’s Casa Berardi deformation zone. Hornor’s experience “speaks for itself,” Lafleur said, “and having his corporate, capital markets and project financing leadership will help us accelerate the company’s growth and true value. I look forward to leading our exploration team in Quebec and working with our group to define the ultimate extent of gold mineralization at Douay.”

Well underway is a 43-hole, 30,000-metre campaign with an update planned later this year for a resource that currently shows an inferred 83.3 million tonnes averaging 1.05 g/t for 2.81 million gold ounces. Among results released so far, the company announced stepout intercepts earlier this month despite an assay lab backlog caused by the pace of drilling. In March Aurvista announced initial metallurgical test results in line with comparable Abitibi projects.

Last month the company more than doubled its Douay land position, which now stands at 30,500 hectares. Aurvista holds a 100% interest in about 29,300 hectares and a 75% interest in the 1,190-hectare North West zone, with the remainder held by JV partner SOQUEM, the mineral exploration branch of the provincial government’s Investissement Québec.

Read more about Aurvista Gold.

Infographic: Platinum and its uses, from fuel to food, medicine to money

May 15th, 2017

Posted with permission of BullionVault | May 15, 2017

Platinum Week starts in London today, the key annual gathering of industry players and analysts, meeting in the platinum market’s key global hub.

To mark this series of platinum industry meetings, seminars and events, BullionVault’s latest infographic looks at the incredible uses of this unique and increasingly vital precious metal.

Heavier and more hard-wearing than gold, tiny quantities of platinum today help make anti-cancer drugs as well as the electrodes on your car’s spark plugs.

Most dramatically, platinum’s unique catalytic properties help create enough fertilizer to keep the world fed, as well as turning crude oil into gasoline and aviation fuel, plus cleaning toxic exhaust emissions from diesel engines around the world.

Discover where this invaluable metal comes from, what it is used for, and how it supports key aspects of modern life in this new platinum infographic.

Incredible platinum uses

 

Diesel autocats

The biggest single use of platinum each year, automotive catalytic converters reduce toxic emissions from combustion engines. Over 41% of all platinum used in 2016 went to cut emissions in diesel autocats. The global push to reduce diesel emissions further will likely see platinum use grow. As the giant economies of China and India upgrade their regulations, adopting the Euro 5 standards and moving towards new Euro 6 rules, some analysts predict the global catalytic converter market could grow 47% in the five years to 2021 to a value over $55 billion.

Jewelry

Platinum engagement rings, wedding bands, necklaces and bracelets account for over a third of the metal’s use each year, almost as much as autocats. Most popular in China, platinum jewelry is generally purer than its gold counterpart because the metal is denser (21.5 grams per cubic centimetre versus 19.3 g/cm3) and more hard-wearing. An identically shaped wedding ring made from platinum will weigh 40% more than that made of 18-carat gold. So although bullion platinum prices are currently cheaper than gold per ounce, this high purity adds to the retail price, as do the extra costs of working this significantly harder metal with its higher melting point (1758°C versus 1064°C).

Fibreglass

Platinum’s high melting point and resistance to abrasion or corrosion makes it ideal for handling very hot substances, most notably molten glass. Platinum tools are used both to channel the liquid and to create the hair-like strands making fibreglass, now used for everything from printed circuit boards to kayaks, home insulation to water pipes in sewage systems. “Fiberization” is the term for extruding molten glass from a “bushing”—a platinum alloy container with tiny holes or jets for drawing out the fibres. Bushings are recycled once they are worn or have lost sufficient platinum to require replacement.

Fertilizers

Without the synthetic fertilizers developed 100 years ago, the Earth could feed perhaps only half as many people as are alive today. Platinum catalysts are vital to making nitric acid, 90% of which goes to produce the 190 million tonnes of fertilizer nutrients used each year. The first stage of making nitric acid means oxidizing ammonia gas with air to form nitric oxide. To achieve high conversion efficiencies above 95%, this is normally carried out at pressure over precious-metal catalyst gauzes made of platinum with one-tenth rhodium.

Petrol

Platinum is vital to the world’s supply of petroleum. Without it, oil refineries couldn’t produce enough fuel to meet demand. Coated onto catalysts made from silica or alumina, platinum aids the chemical process of turning low-octane naphtha into gasoline, diesel, gasoil and jet-engine fuel, cracking large molecules of hydrocarbons into smaller, reformed structures. The developed-world’s OECD economies go through 32 million barrels of these liquids per day.

Spark plugs

Traditionally made with a copper electrode due to its superior conductivity, spark plugs using a harder element such as platinum are a popular choice for all but the highest-performance petrol engines. Because copper is one of the softest metals, platinum spark plugs can last roughly 50% longer, giving around 45,000 miles of driving. Each electrode is tiny; just one kilo of platinum could make enough for 46,000 spark plugs.

Medical implants

The least reactive of all metals, platinum and gold cause no irritation to human skin or flesh. But platinum is harder-wearing, making it best for the connections and wires in implants such as pacemakers, protecting against corrosion by acids inside the body. Estimates say more than five tonnes of platinum go into biomedical devices worldwide each year, around 80% for proven treatments (such as pacemakers and guidewires to fit catheters) and the rest in newer devices for neuromodulation (to help control pain and neurological dysfunction) and stents (mesh tubes to widen arteries and improve blood flow).

Chemotherapy

Tiny quantities of platinum go into many antineoplastic drugs, helping curb the growth of tumours by blocking the DNA in cancer cells. If a drug’s brand name contains the word “platin,” chances are it contains the precious metal. One such drug claims to be particularly effective against testicular cancer, improving the cure rate from 10% to 85%. In total, this form of chemotherapy uses around three-quarters of a tonne of platinum each year.

Legal tender coins

Having discovered platinum mining deposits at the start of the 19th century, Russia has been the only country to mint platinum coins for general circulation, running from 1830 to 1845. Nearly 16 tonnes of coins were minted, but production stopped because of low acceptance, volatility in world metal prices, and high minting costs due to platinum’s high melting point and hardness. No other legal tender platinum coin has yet to be struck, but bloggers and economists say that under U.S. law the Treasury could create a small coin with a face value of $1 trillion, and hand it to the Federal Reserve in exchange for that much cash. Debt-ceiling crisis solved at a stroke!

The International Prototype Kilogram (IPK)

How do you know your kilogram of flour or sugar actually weighs a kilogram? First made in 1889 from platinum alloyed with 10% iridium, the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK) remains the reference standard to calibrate one-kilo prototypes worldwide. This cylinder measures 39.17 millimetres in both diameter and height, and is stored at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) near Paris. The BIPM now holds five additional copies, with all access strictly controlled and supervised by the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM).

Fuel cells

If you think electric cars are the future of ecological transport, where will the energy for these engines come from? Fuel cell vehicles look like ordinary cars or buses, but mix hydrogen gas with oxygen from the air to create electricity. Aided by a vital platinum catalyst, the only tailpipe emission is pure water. First demonstrated in 1801 by Cornish chemist Humphry Davy, this process became a working fuel cell three decades later under Welsh scientist William Grove. NASA used platinum-catalyst fuel cells between 1961 and 1972 to put electricity and drinking water on the Apollo moon missions. Now a stationary fuel cell with 45 grams of platinum (1.4 troy ounces) has powered 35 homes with three kilowatt hours of electricity per day in a field trial in South Africa, proving that fuel-cell technology offers a viable, economic option for off-grid power.

Posted with permission of BullionVault.

Nickel One Resources signs definitive agreement to acquire Finnish PGE-polymetallic deposit

February 1st, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 1, 2017

Nickel One Resources signs definitive agreement to acquire Finnish PGE-polymetallic deposit

The 3,750-hectare LK property
benefits from $10 million of previous work.

Jurisdiction, infrastructure, two deposits and a mouthful of a name attracted Nickel One Resources TSXV:NNN to Finland and the Lantinen Koillismaa platinum group element-copper-nickel project. But the company calls it LK for short. On February 1 two parties signed a definitive agreement on a deal that’s been several months in the making.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Nickel One gets the property by taking over a subsidiary of Finore Mining CSE:FIN, which outlined resources for two potential open pits in 2013.

(Update: In a later clarification issued March 22, Nickel One stated the estimates aren’t supported by a compliant NI 43-101 technical report and “should not be relied on until they have been verified and supported by a compliant technical report.” The company expected to file a technical report within three weeks.)

The property’s Kaukua estimate shows:

  • indicated: 10.4 million tonnes averaging 0.73 g/t palladium, 0.26 g/t platinum, 0.08 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 65 g/t cobalt

  • inferred: 13.2 million tonnes averaging 0.63 g/t palladium, 0.22 g/t platinum, 0.06 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 55 g/t cobalt

Three zones of LK’s Haukiaho estimate total:

  • inferred: 23.2 million tonnes averaging 0.31 g/t palladium, 0.12 g/t platinum, 0.1 g/t gold, 0.21% copper, 0.14% nickel and 61 g/t cobalt

Companies accustomed to the Canadian north might look with envy at LK’s location, 65 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. The property has power, year-round road access, rail 40 kilometres away and a port 160 kilometres west. Nickel One describes the region as “populated by several large-scale producers and three smelters,” while the company’s management “is highly experienced in the exploration and development of ultramafic intrusion-hosted nickel-copper-PGE projects.”

Part of that experience comes from Nickel One’s Tyko property in northwestern Ontario, from where the company announced drill results last spring.

Read more about Nickel One Resources and the Lantinen Koillismaa acquisition.

Infographic: Countries of origin for raw materials

November 16th, 2016

Graphic by BullionVault | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 16, 2016

Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well or forest somewhere in the world.

This infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee and iron.

Infographic Countries of origin for raw materials

 

The many and the few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials are interesting to examine because the production of certain commodities is much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil-producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia—but that only makes up 38% of the total market.

Contrast this with the market for some base metals such as iron or lead and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, so it tries to get them domestically. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: It is the second-largest producer for each of those commodities and ships much of its output to Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison with the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

Graphic by BullionVault | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

How much money could be made mining asteroids?

November 3rd, 2016

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 3, 2016

If humans were ever able to get their hands on just one asteroid, it would be a game-changer. That’s because the value of many asteroids is measured in the quintillions of dollars, which makes the market for Earth’s annual production of raw metals—about $660 billion per year—look paltry in comparison.

The reality is that the Earth’s crust is saddled with uneconomic materials, while certain types of asteroids are almost pure metal. X-type asteroids, for example, are thought to be the remnants of large asteroids that were pulverized in collisions in which their dense, metallic cores got separated from the mantle.

There is one such X-type asteroid near Earth that is believed to hold more platinum than ever mined in human history.

Near-Earth mining targets

Asteroid mining companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are the first-movers in the sector and they’ve already started to identify prospective targets to boldly mine where no man has mined before.

Both companies are looking specifically at near-Earth asteroids in the near-term, which are the easiest ones to get to. So far, roughly 15,000 such objects have been discovered.

Planetary Resources has identified eight of these as potential targets and has listed them publicly, while Deep Space Industries has claimed to have “half a dozen very, very attractive targets.”

While these will be important for verifying the feasibility of asteroid mining, the reality is that near-Earth asteroids are just tiny minnows in an ocean of big fish. Their main advantage is they are relatively easy to access, but most targets identified so far are less than 300 metres in diameter—meaning the potential economic payoff of a mission is still unclear.

Where the money might be made

The exciting part of asteroid mining is the asteroid belt itself, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. It is there that over one million asteroids exist, including about 200 that are over 100 kilometres in diameter.

NASA estimates this belt to hold $700 quintillion of bounty. That’s about $100 billion for each person on Earth.

There are obviously many technical challenges that must be overcome to make such mining possible. As it stands, NASA aims to bring back a grab sample from the surface of asteroid Bennu that is about 60 to 2,000 grams in weight. The cost of the mission? Approximately $1 billion.

To do anything like that on a large scale will require robots, spacecraft and other technologies that simply do not exist yet. Furthermore, missions like this could cost trillions of dollars—a huge risk and burden in case a mission is unsuccessful.

Until then, the near-Earth asteroids are the fertile testing ground for aspirational asteroid miners—and we look forward to seeing what is possible in the future.

How much money could be made mining asteroids?

 

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Index page image: NASA

Read more about asteroid mining here and here.

Nickel One Resources moves closer to PGE-copper-nickel acquisition in Finland

October 19th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 19, 2016

Nickel One Resources moves closer to Finnish PGE-copper-nickel acquisition

Over $10 million in previous work has gone into Lantinen Koillismaa.

Nickel One Resources’ (TSXV:NNN) Finland entry took another step forward with a binding letter agreement announced October 19. Already holding the Tyko project in western Ontario, Nickel One would get a 100% interest in Finore Mining’s (CSE:FIN) Lantinen Koillismaa platinum group element-copper-nickel project in north-central Finland. An LOI was announced in August.

The property would come through the purchase of Finore subsidiary Nortec Minerals Oy in a deal costing five million shares and 2.5 million warrants exercisable at $0.12 for two years. Nickel One has paid $50,000, which would be applied to a private placement of up to $100,000 into Finore following due diligence.

Benefiting from over $10 million in previous work, LK has 2013 resource estimates for two potential open pits.

(Update: In a later clarification issued March 22, Nickel One stated the estimates aren’t supported by a compliant NI 43-101 technical report and “should not be relied on until they have been verified and supported by a compliant technical report.” The company expected to file a technical report within three weeks.)

The Kaukua deposit shows:

  • indicated: 10.4 million tonnes averaging 0.73 g/t palladium, 0.26 g/t platinum, 0.08 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 65 g/t cobalt

  • inferred: 13.2 million tonnes averaging 0.63 g/t palladium, 0.22 g/t platinum, 0.06 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 55 g/t cobalt

The Haukiaho deposit has three zones totalling:

  • inferred: 23.2 million tonnes averaging 0.31 g/t palladium, 0.12 g/t platinum, 0.1 g/t gold, 0.21% copper, 0.14% nickel and 61 g/t cobalt

The acquisition would bring Nickel One into “a mining-friendly jurisdiction with some of the best infrastructure in the world,” commented president Vance Loeber. The project also provides “a foothold in Finland from which we will be taking a hard look at other opportunities to continue to build a strong portfolio of projects,” he added.

Read more about Nickel One Resources and the Lantinen Koillismaa acquisition.

Cry, the resource-rich country

September 30th, 2016

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

by Greg Klein

South African gold mining really got its start with an 1886 discovery and subsequent rush at Langlaagte, then an isolated farm. Already the world’s largest diamond producer, the country went on to become the behemoth of global gold reserves until 2007. But all that wealth left a damning legacy in an extensive network of abandoned tunnels that lure illegal and desperate gold hunters, often to their deaths. A cave-in and several fatalities in mid-September brought Langlaagte back to international prominence. It’s just one of many such stories playing out in South Africa.

The rising death toll shows the problem’s “spiralling out of control,” Bloomberg quoted Christo de Klerk. Addressing a Johannesburg news conference on September 27, the CEO of Mines Rescue Services said his highly trained volunteer group had recovered 24 bodies so far this year, the largest number in seven years of records.

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

The impetus to Johannesburg’s growth came
from an industry with a highly disturbing death rate.

Even this year’s total marks “the tip of the iceberg,” he stressed. Maybe 90% of the casualties never get reported, which would mean hundreds of missing people have died in their graves.

Speaking with Warren Dick of MineWeb.com, de Klerk explained that many of the mines have been abandoned for 60 to 70 years, lacking maps or plans. Without ventilation, gas build-ups can occur. Moreover the diggers often target the pillars, increasing their instability and exacerbating an already dangerous enterprise.

It’s no way to live and a horrible way to die, as shown by some very disturbing photos released by de Klerk’s organization.

This is the world of the zama-zamas, people who might live underground for months at a time. Often working in gangs, they haul in explosives, generators and stockpiles of food, de Klerk told Bloomberg.

Deprived of sunlight for so long, “their skin turns grey,” Matthew Hart wrote in his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. “The wives and prostitutes who live with them turn grey. In South Africa they call them ghost miners. They inhabit an underground metropolis that in some goldfields can extend for 40 miles, a suffocating labyrinth in which the only glitter is the dream of gold.”

Gang warfare delivers additional menace. De Klerk said most of the illegal miners come from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, whose factions fight underground turf wars. His rescuers have encountered murder victims, in one case a grisly pile of 10 bodies that had been shot execution style, he told MineWeb.com.

The deadly business puts conflict gold on the market. A spokesperson for the SA police elite Hawks unit told Hart that organized crime sends the illicit gold to the Persian Gulf, India and Russia, where it’s laundered into the legitimate bullion trade. “Big players” in police and government support the trade, he said. A 2001 industry study by Peter Gastrow “reached the same conclusion: that an untouchable elite was behind the theft of gold,” Hart wrote.

While rogue miners are said to be predominantly immigrants, they include some South Africans, even legitimate mine employees looking for extra income. In February Sibanye Gold NYSE:SBGL reported two contractors became trapped after entering an abandoned part of the company’s Cooke mine at the end of their shift.

That same day Sibanye reported a fatality in one of its own operations. The SA industry remains deadly, legal or illegal. Harmony Gold Mining NYSE:HMY, for example, reported six separate fatalities so far this year, nearly reaching last year’s total of seven.

In the first eight months of this year 61 people died in South African mines, according to Department of Mineral Resources numbers reported by MiningWeekly.com. Last year’s 12-month total came to 77, according to the industry’s Chamber of Mines.

But in February the Mail and Guardian stated the number of accidents, fatal or not, had risen by 500 in the 12 months prior to February. “In the past five years, there have been at least eight accidents a day in mines, injuring more than 15,000 people,” wrote Athandiwe Saba.

That’s not counting occupational diseases. Earlier this month acting chief mines inspector Xolile Mbonambi told an industry conference that 6,577 cases of mining-related diseases were recorded in 2014, MiningWeekly.com reported. Interim figures for 2015 show a slight improvement in the number of silicosis cases but an increase in TB, which Mbonambi called “an indictment on the industry broadly.”

“Moreover, he highlighted that the repercussions of fatalities extended well beyond the boundaries of mines and had substantial socio-economic impacts, affecting the poorest of the poor locally and communities of neighbouring countries the most,” MiningWeekly.com added.

As for the violence, it doesn’t end with gang rivalries. Rival unions have been killing each other’s members at the rate of several murders a year. Meanwhile the newcomer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union gains members at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers. Some observers attribute the NUM slide to a lack of confidence following Marikana, where in a single burst of gunfire police killed 34 striking platinum miners in 2012.

If there’s truth to the accusations, South African mining might harbour yet another threat. After Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe was gunned down in front of his family last March, some people attributed the murder to his work as an anti-mining activist.

September 16 marked the 30th anniversary of the country’s Kinross disaster, which killed 177 miners.

Update: Ring of Fire road study stalls as KWG rail study proceeds

August 22nd, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 22, 2016

Hours after KWG Resources CSE:KWG updated its Ring of Fire rail proposal, CBC reported that a highly anticipated government-funded road study simply called for more study. Specifically excluded from its scope, the network added, was a route to the potential mining sites.

CBC obtained a copy of the document entitled All Season Community Road Study, Final Report June 30, 2016 and quoted this excerpt:

KWG’s Ring of Fire rail study proceeds, government road announcement anticipated

KWG looks to China to support its proposed railway.

“This study has always been considered to be focused on an all-season community service road rather than an industrial road to connect to the Ring of Fire mineralized zone. Its intention was always to (1) link the four communities together and (2) link the communities to the existing highway system.”

Release of the federally and provincially funded report had been expected since its scheduled completion in June. Ontario has pledged $1 billion to Ring of Fire infrastructure and asked Ottawa for matching funds.

“This study was going to be the one that was going to give us the road map forward, literally,” the network quoted NDP MP Charlie Angus. “Now it’s just going to be kicked down the road for more delay, more study and more excuses.”

CBC stated that Ontario mines minister Michael Gravelle “said those discussions are ongoing and there is no timeline for coming to definitive answers. The study was led by the First Nations and it’s up to them to release it to the public, he added.”

Besides the report’s disappointing lack of a call to action, news that the study excluded the Ring’s mineral deposits will take many observers by surprise. Noront Resources TSXV:NOT favoured an all-season east-west road that would connect its deposits and four native communities with Highway 599 at Pickle Lake, which leads south to a Canadian National Railway TSX:CNR line at Savant Lake.

KWG maintained that rail would be necessary to develop the region’s chromite assets. Noront countered that its nickel-copper-platinum-palladium deposits should be developed first, pending better market conditions for chromite. A road would be the faster, cheaper option, the company argued. KWG has said Chinese investors have shown interest in a railway.

Hours before CBC posted its exclusive, KWG announced that a “conditional bankable feasibility study” for its proposed railway should be complete by year-end. The company stated it has “agreed on the deliverables and timetable” with China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group to examine a 340-kilometre north-south route linking its properties with CN at Exton.

Noront’s flagship Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-PGE project reached feasibility in 2012. In an optimistic news release earlier this month, the company stated it “anticipates that mine construction will begin in 2018 when road construction starts, resulting in first concentrate production in 2021.”

Noront’s other Ring of Fire assets include the Blackbird chromite deposit and the Black Thor and Black Label chromite deposits. Noront and KWG hold 70%/30% respectively of the Big Daddy chromite deposit and 85%/15% of the McFaulds copper-zinc deposits. Noront is KWG’s largest shareholder.

Noront recently signed a definitive agreement to buy a 75% stake in MacDonald Mines Exploration’s (TSXV:BMK) regional properties, increasing Noront’s portfolio to around 75% of the Ring’s staked claims.

KWG also holds an 80% option on the Koper Lake project with its Black Horse chromite deposit.

Both companies have faced recent public criticism. Last week CBC reported the Neskantaga First Nation issued a “cease and desist” order to Noront, after the company announced a drill program. An online video posted by KWG drew widespread censure for its display of bikini-clad women.