Tuesday 22nd September 2020

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Posts tagged ‘potash’

European Union looks to Canada and others for critical minerals supply

September 4th, 2020

by Greg Klein | September 4, 2020

The EU’s newly released 10-point critical raw materials action plan calls for development of European supplies and supply chains, as well as further re-use and recycling. But for those materials not found on the continent, the European Commission says, “pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood will start as of 2021. In these and other fora of international co-operation, the commission will promote sustainable and responsible mining practices and transparency.”

European Union looks to Canada and others for critical minerals supply

The commission made the proclamation September 3 as part of its Green Deal, a program to achieve a climate-neutral, digital economy and “stronger Europe.” As has been the case in the U.S. over the last four years, the continent has been expressing increasing concern about security of supply for necessary resources. The EU also released an updated list of critical raw materials, the first since 2017.

Using the same methodology that emphasizes economic importance and supply challenges, the new list numbers 30, compared with 27 in 2017. Added for the first time are lithium, bauxite, titanium and strontium. Helium was dropped due to a decline in economic importance.

Heavy rare earths, light rare earths and scandium rate three separate categories. Also included are critical standbys like niobium, tantalum, fluorspar, cobalt and platinum group metals. Not exclusive to minerals, the list includes natural rubber.

Coking coal, phosphorus and silicon metal ranked among EU choices that didn’t make the most recent (from 2018) U.S. list of 35 critical minerals. Some other American exclusives not listed by the EU are helium, manganese, potash and chromium.

The commission referenced World Bank data showing “demand for metals and minerals increases rapidly with climate ambition. The most significant example of this is electric storage batteries, where the rise in demand for relevant metals aluminium, cobalt, iron, lead, lithium, manganese and nickel would grow by more than 1,000% by 2050 under a 2°C scenario, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.”

The commission’s Maroš Šefčovič added, “For e-car batteries and energy storage alone, Europe will for instance need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050.”

Supply security can be jeopardized by reliance on a single country or company, the commission warned. “China provides 98% of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements, Turkey provides 98% of the EU’s supply of borate, and South Africa provides 71% of the EU’s needs for platinum and an even higher share of the platinum group metals iridium, rhodium and ruthenium. The EU relies on single EU companies for its supply of hafnium and strontium.”

The commission’s specific mention of Canada as a preferred supply source follows the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration that the U.S. and Canada announced in January and reaffirmed last June.

Now all we need are mines

August 28th, 2020

The Saskatchewan Research Council plans commercial rare earths separation in 2022

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2020

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

This nondescript building will host a $31-million commercial REE facility in two years.
(Image: Saskatchewan Research Council)

 

Given China’s near-monopoly of these critical elements, the news from Saskatchewan is enormous—a commercial-scale rare earths separation facility up and running in two years. But the development is hardly sudden. The operator already boasts longstanding experience and world-leading expertise with the almost arcane endeavour. Moreover the August 27 announcement just confirms one of the ambitious mining-related goals in the province’s growth plan released last November.

Work begins this fall in Saskatoon on a $31-million processing and separating plant funded by the province. Canada’s only such facility, it constitutes a major step towards expanding REE supply chains independent of China. Operating the Saskatoon plant will be the Saskatchewan Research Council, a Crown corporation with 75 years of experience in mining-related research and technology, over 290 staff, $91 million in annual revenue and about 1,500 clients in 27 countries.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

SRC assets include the world’s largest potash, uranium and diamonds labs, and its research extends to the oil and gas sector as well as to environmental studies.

The SRC has already been separating rare earths at the bench and pilot scale level. Its REE team currently employs 10 full-time-equivalent positions. The plan calls for staffing to reach 24 highly qualified FTEs in the facility, along with at least 10 more in R&D.

“SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now,” points out president/CEO Mike Crabtree. “We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.”

That book—Separation Hydrometallurgy of Rare Earth Elements—was written by Jack Zhang, Baodong Zhao and Bryan Schreiner, SRC scientists of international stature.

The SRC anticipates ore or crushed sand will arrive by truck or rail from producers in Canada and the U.S., as well as potential overseas clients. Location of the tailings facility has yet to be determined.

One obvious caveat, however, is the current lack of North American primary producers. The sole exception is California’s Mountain Pass mining and processing operation. Although operator MP Materials has professed its commitment to an American supply chain, the company has been exporting its entire output to China.

Saskatchewan to offer commercial rare earths separation in 2022

New separation capabilities bring considerable advantages
to rare earths projects in Canada and elsewhere.
(Photo: Saskatchewan Research Council)

Demonstrating a non-Chinese commitment, however, is Australia’s Lynas Corp. The company operates a refining and separation facility in Malaysia to process rare earths ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia. Lynas plans to open a WA cracking and leaching plant by 2023 to quell Malaysian concerns about low-level radioactive material shipped to the country. In the U.S., meanwhile, the company and its American JV partner Blue Line signed a contract last month with the Department of Defense, which would fund studies for a proposed American plant to separate heavy rare earths from Mount Weld.

But the SRC plant opens doors for potential North American sources, which last year totalled measured and indicated resources of 2.7 million tons in the U.S. and over 15 million tons in Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Fitting for the world’s second-largest uranium-producing jurisdiction, Saskatchewan will process rare earths from uranium raffinate as well as from bastnasite and monazite, the most common mineralogical sources of rare earths.

But the Chinese challenge remains formidable. Chinese domestic mining accounted for nearly 63% of last year’s global production, a drop from 70% in 2018 but a number that doesn’t include Chinese control over foreign sources. Moreover the country’s dominance of separation facilities and expertise extends its control to an estimated 70% to 95% of various points along the supply chain.

SRC is a leader in the development of REE extraction and processing technologies and has worked closely with individual mining companies in Saskatchewan, Canada and globally on the concentration of REE ore for over a decade now. We employ world-leading experts on REEs who literally wrote the book on REE processing.—Mike Crabtree,
president/CEO,
Saskatchewan Research Council

Trade and other geopolitical tensions have brought fears—backed by implied threats—that the country will “weaponize” its rare earths dominance, repeating the 2010 machinations that staggered non-Chinese manufacturing industries.

The elements are vital to clean energy, electronics, transportation, defence, medical equipment and other necessities. American concern about rare earths and other critical minerals has triggered a number of initiatives including the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration with Canada announced in January and reaffirmed in June.

But encouraging as the Saskatchewan initiative is, it hardly constitutes a slingshot to the Chinese Goliath. That country’s advantages include seemingly bottomless government subsidies, free use of black market or conflict material, and the backing of a savvy totalitarian government, according to Clint Cox. Speaking in Vancouver last January, the analyst and rare earths specialist with The Anchor House warned that Chinese dominance can’t be underestimated.

Nevertheless, the Saskatoon facility can only encourage junior mining activity. “The juniors are definitely the place where the last crop of potential mines came from, and it looks like they might be the next out there,” Cox told his January audience. “There’s some out there today.”

Among other goals, the Saskatchewan Growth Plan calls for studies into extracting lithium from the province’s brines as well as from oil and gas wastewater. The plan also considers adding nuclear energy to the province’s electrical mix from small modular reactors. Earlier this month Alberta joined Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick in a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on SMR studies.

Read more about the Saskatchewan Research Council.

Canada and U.S. formalize action plan for critical minerals deposits and supply chains

January 10th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 10, 2020

A new commitment binds two neighbouring allies to produce resources essential to the economy, defence, technology and clean energy. Announced January 9, the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration reflects both Canada’s mining potential and American concern about reliance on rival and potentially hostile countries.

Canada and U.S. formalize action plan for critical minerals deposits and supply chains

“Canada is an important supplier of 13 of the 35 minerals that the U.S. has identified as critical to economic and national security,” stated the Natural Resources Canada announcement. “We have the potential to become a reliable source of other critical minerals including rare earth elements, key components in many electronic devices that we use in our daily lives. Canada is currently the largest supplier of potash, indium, aluminum and tellurium to the U.S. and the second-largest supplier of niobium, tungsten and magnesium. Canada also supplies roughly one-quarter of the uranium needs of the U.S. and has been a reliable partner to the U.S. in this commodity for over 75 years.”

Among goals of the action plan are joint initiatives in R&D, supply chain modelling and increased support for industry, NRCan added. Experts from both countries will meet in the coming weeks.

Reflecting Washington’s concern, in 2017 the U.S. Geological Survey released the country’s first thorough study of critical minerals since 1973. Later that year President Donald Trump ordered a federal strategy that initially focused on 23 essential minerals. In 2018 the U.S. officially declared 35 minerals to be critical and at risk of supply disruption.

Since then, discussions have taken place between Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other representatives from both countries.

By finalizing the collaboration agreement, “we are advancing secure access to the critical minerals that are key to our economic growth and security—including uranium and rare earth elements—while bolstering our competitiveness in global markets and creating jobs for Canadians,” said Canadian Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan.

Read more about the U.S. critical minerals strategy.

Read about the U.S. list of 35 critical minerals.

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.

Mining for the future

November 21st, 2019

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

by Greg Klein | November 21, 2019

Predictably for a jurisdiction so rich in potash and uranium, mining plays a prominent role in the Saskatchewan Growth Plan, a 10-year economic program announced last week. Skeptics, however, might question the goal to extract lithium and rare earths locally and even set a near-precedent in non-Chinese commercial REE separation. But it turns out that some of that work has been underway for years, while other targets have already been in the planning stage. That’s just part of a wide range of mining expertise developed and applied by the Saskatchewan Research Council.

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

SRC employees look over the remediated Lorado mill site
in northern Saskatchewan. (Photo provided by SRC)

SRC figures strongly in the province’s new agenda, whose mining-related initiatives include a continuation of the PST exception on drilling, streamlining permitting, creating a Geoscience Data Management System, boosting annual uranium and potash sales, upgrading and building road, rail, pipeline and power infrastructure, and developing nuclear energy.

If some of the mining-specific plans sound over-ambitious, it’s reassuring to learn how few of them are actually new. “The fact that the projects have been promoted in an integrated growth plan is in some ways new, and some of the projects themselves are fairly new in the public domain,” says SRC president/CEO Mike Crabtree. But a surprising amount of work is well underway at his organization, which plays an integral role in the growth plan, in Saskatchewan industry and, increasingly, on the global mining scene.

A Crown corporation with over 340 employees, 1,400 clients in 23 countries and $75 million in annual revenue, SRC focuses its largest division on mining and energy. Mining-related R&D covers everything from early exploration to remediation, with growing attention to sustainability and innovation.

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

Rare earths solvent extraction helps develop another
source of critical minerals. (Photo provided by SRC)

The SRC boasts the largest potash, uranium and diamonds labs in the world. Most Canadian diamond production and a substantial amount of kimberlite from around the world passes through the Saskatoon facility.

“With uranium we test tens of thousands of ore samples per year, predominantly for Saskatchewan but also on a global basis. In terms of that, we’re very much the largest laboratory in the world and, for very similar reasons, for potash.”

But SRC’s work goes far beyond assays. “We’ve also used those laboratories for designing and modelling mine feasibility, through to diagnostics and optimization of ongoing mine operations, and then monitoring and remediation for closure,” Crabtree explains. “That’s full-cycle mining and minerals, making SRC probably one of the largest integrated testing, research and development facilities for mining, certainly in Canada and possibly in the world.”

One sustainability project focuses on comminution, the highly expensive and energy-consuming practice of breaking, crushing or grinding rock for further processing. SRC’s advanced ore sensor and sorting techniques can greatly reduce the procedure with no loss of production and sometimes even an improvement.

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

The SRC’s mineral processing labs handle extensive
work in addition to assays. (Photo provided by SRC)

“We’re already seeing the opportunity to reduce energy costs and therefore the carbon footprint by anywhere from 20% to 40%. That’s huge, given that often 40% of operating costs are in energy. That kind of sustainability and economic optimization really just shows different sides of the same coin.”

Remediation work applies leading edge expertise to former mines through SRC’s Project CLEANS, which takes on the challenge of mitigating some 37 former uranium sites that shut down during the 1960s and earlier.

On another front, Crabtree says SRC oil and gas expertise brings “a lot of synergies” to the development of in-situ mining, a method that’s being tested on potash and uranium projects in Saskatchewan.

As for strategic minerals, the SRC harbours some surprising ambitions: local lithium and rare earths extraction, along with processing in both areas including commercial-scale REE separation. That last goal could give Saskatoon a key role in challenging China’s near-monopoly on rare earths supply chains.

Looking at lithium, Saskatchewan has two potential sources, the continental brines of the southern province, as well as oil and gas-produced waste water.

Starting with lithium levels of 50 ppm to 150 ppm, “SRC has developed technology to concentrate those brines up to maybe 2,500 or 3,000 ppm while excluding the contaminants, which makes processing to lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate much easier and financially viable,” Crabtree says.

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

SRC oversees the Cowessess First Nation Renewable
Energy Storage Facility. (Photo provided by SRC)

Another possible source of critical minerals from waste comes from the world’s highest-grade uranium resources, which offer rare earths potential from tailings.

Of course with rare earths, the greatest challenge remains processing and separation. SRC plans to develop technology that could be applied to liquid raffinate from waste, or to the bastnasite or monazite minerals often associated with RE deposits.

Phase I begins next year. Working with industrial partners, SRC intends to produce a concentrate of 99.95% mixed rare earths oxides or rare earths carbonate.

Phase II, subject to funding from industry and government, will be to separate the concentrate into individual elements. He foresees “a smaller-scale commercial plant that would demonstrate the commercial viability of that technology. We can see a plant operating within about three years, assuming we can get funding. If no other plant is built by 2023, it would be the first commercial plant in North America.”

And a momentous achievement. Except for the Lynas facility in Malaysia and possibly a small-scale operation in France, there’s currently no commercial RE separation outside China, he points out.

Additionally, “we believe the process will be substantially more economically viable and much more environmentally sustainable than current techniques.”

Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan also calls for nuclear power. By becoming a consumer of its own uranium, the province hopes to drastically cut its dependence on coal and natural gas-fired electricity.

Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability

Staff operate SRC’s Centre for the Demonstration of
Emissions Reductions Mobile Facility. (Photo provided by SRC)

Again, SRC can offer a range of expertise. “We have experience not only with mining and processing uranium but also with an operational research reactor, which we just de-fueled in September. So we are the only entity in the province that has a nuclear reactor operating licence. In addition, other parts of SRC are highly skilled at environmental assessment and engineering assessment, so we hope SRC will be playing a role in Saskatchewan for small modular reactors.”

What comes up repeatedly in SRC’s work is the convergence of economics and sustainability as researchers find newer, less expensive and greener methods of producing materials that are, in turn, crucial to economic and environmental well-being. Ongoing innovation, of course, plays a vital role.

So it’s not surprising that a growing SRC priority is artificial intelligence—“specifically for industrial and resource processes in Saskatchewan,” Crabtree emphasizes.

“A lot of the processes that we’re talking about, whether it’s rare earths, lithium, sensor-based sorting, in-situ mining, all these things are going to have a significant deep data analytics and artificial intelligence component. That’s something we’re working very closely on.”

Looking ahead, he adds, “It will be difficult to envisage major projects like these in the next five years that don’t have a significant AI component.”

Read more about mining’s role in the Saskatchewan Growth Plan.

Read the Saskatchewan Research Council blog.

Saskatchewan mining plans include drilling incentive, lithium extraction and rare earths processing

November 14th, 2019

by Greg Klein | November 14, 2019

It’s interesting enough now but the manifesto might make even more compelling reading 10 years from now. That’s the due date for no less than 30 lofty economic and social goals announced in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan on November 14. Not surprising for a province where mining plays such an important role, the government intends to further encourage the industry. But the agenda goes well beyond Saskatchewan’s standbys of potash and uranium to call for the development of nuclear energy, lithium extraction technologies and “the first North American REE processing plant to deliver individual high-purity REEs.”

Saskatchewan mining plans include drilling incentive, lithium extraction and rare earths processing

Among the objectives already achieved is the renewed PST exemption on drilling. In a news release from the Saskatchewan Mining Association, Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU VP of exploration Scott Frostad describing drilling as “the lifeblood of a sustainable mining sector.

“All discoveries are made through drilling and the life of a mine is extended through drilling off additional reserves. Monies recovered through reinstatement of the PST exemption on drilling will be invested in more holes being drilled, which will increase the prospects of finding the next Saskatchewan mineral deposit or extending the life of an existing mine.” 

Exploration spending in the province’s north will surpass $200 million this year, the SMA stated. “Drilling costs represent almost half of a typical exploration budget. For every $1 spent on drilling, another $1.30 is spent on support activities such as geophysics, groceries, camp and air support, and professional services, with the majority of this spend with companies operating out of northern Saskatchewan.”

If the growth plan goes to plan, Saskatchewan will find another customer for its uranium. That would be Saskatchewan itself, which will work with New Brunswick and Ontario to generate electricity with small modular nuclear reactors. Combined with wind and solar, the province hopes to make up to 80% of its energy mix emissions-free. Saskatchewan currently generates most of its electricity from coal and natural gas.

The province also sees potential in strategic and critical metals, touting “world-class resources of both lithium and rare earth elements, which are extracted as part of oil and uranium production.”

The Saskatchewan Party government plans to consider partnerships with industry, universities and research institutes to develop lithium extraction, to work with miners to develop rare earths, “including production of high-value REE concentrate in Saskatchewan within the next two years,” and to host the continent’s first plant to process individual high-purity REEs.

[A rare earths processing plant] would be a first in Canada that would create jobs, increase exports and provide a significant opportunity for value-added manufacturing.—Government of Saskatchewan

“This would be a first in Canada that would create jobs, increase exports and provide a significant opportunity for value-added manufacturing,” the government stated.

The province also committed to streamline permitting and create a Geoscience Data Management System “to increase exploration efficiency, improve drilling and development outcomes, and make new discoveries.”

With Phase I pre-planning expected to finish this month, the project will “improve the province’s investment attractiveness for its mining and petroleum sectors by facilitating access to high-quality geoscience data and supporting the growing interest by industry in machine learning/artificial intelligence applications to guide natural resource exploration,” a government spokesperson told ResourceClips.com.

Among the plan’s 30 goals are increasing annual uranium sales to $2 billion and potash to $9 billion.

Ambitious infrastructure plans entail highway expansion and upgrades, a north-south rail line, and support for pipeline expansion and a national infrastructure corridor to enhance connections with the port of Vancouver and establish a link with the port of Churchill, Manitoba.

Last year mining contributed over $7 billion to Saskatchewan’s GDP, which reached an all-time high of $82.5 billion with the country’s third-highest growth rate. According to the SMA, the industry employs 30,000 people directly and indirectly, with a payroll of over $1.4 billion to direct employees, and is proportionally Saskatchewan’s largest private sector employer of indigenous workers. 

Read Mining for the future: Saskatchewan Research Council R&D fosters innovation and sustainability.

Site visits for sightseers II

July 23rd, 2019

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

by Greg Klein

Our survey of mining museums and historic sites continues east through the prairie provinces. Although some oil and gas sites have made this list, generally not included for reasons of space are museums of mineralogy and museums not mostly dedicated to mining. Keep in mind, though, that local museums in mining regions often merit a mining buff’s attention.

Be sure to confirm opening hours and inquire about footwear or other clothing requirements for industrial sites.

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Alberta

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A family follows in the footsteps of coal miners at Bellevue.
(Photo: Bellevue Underground Mine)

Don a lamp-equipped miner’s helmet and descend into Bellevue, a Crowsnest-region mine that gave up over 13 million tons of coal between 1903 and 1961. Forty-five minutes of the one-hour tour consist of a guided walk (accessible for strollers and wheelchairs) along 300 metres of what was once a 240-kilometre network of tunnels. Dress for temperatures as low as zero, even when it’s summer on surface.

Located in the community of Bellevue in the municipality of Crowsnest Pass, off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway. Access road starts at 2501 213 Street, by the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe parking lot. Tours begin every half hour from 10:00 to 5:00, daily to August 31. During September and October every half hour from 9:00 to 4:00; from November to April group tours by appointment; from May to June 9:00 to 4:00 daily. More info.

 

Maybe four kilometres southeast of Bellevue, Leitch Collieries offers “graceful ruins” of a processing plant for a “glorious failure” of a coal mine that lasted eight years up to 1915. Although the actual mine—beneath a former cattle rustlers’ haven 1.5 kilometres away—is off limits, visitors can learn about the operation from listening posts, storyboards and summer guides.

Located just off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway near the eastern limits of Crowsnest Pass municipality. Open all year but guides are available 10:00 to 5:00 daily until September 2. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Coal mining, processing and shipping
infrastructure survives at Brazeau Collieries.
(Photo: Government of Alberta)

Once Alberta’s most productive mine, Brazeau Collieries operated in the Rocky Mountain foothills between 1914 and 1955. Now two different two-hour guided walks take visitors through parts of the 31-hectare site. Tour A checks out workshops, houses and external workings, and also enters the mine shaft. Tour B goes through the 1950s briquette plant.

Tours begin at the Nordegg Heritage Centre on Stuart Street in the town of Nordegg, off Highway #11, about 80 kilometres west of Rocky Mountain House and 60 klicks northeast of Banff National Park. Each tour runs a few times daily, except Wednesdays. More info.

 

The Rockies’ Bow Valley had hosted numerous coal mines since the early 1880s, with the last shutting down in 1979 at Canmore. Mining awareness continues at the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre through a number of programs and a permanent exhibit called From Coal to Community.

Located in the Canmore Civic Centre, 902b Seventh Avenue. Open Monday to Friday noon to 4:30 and weekends 11:00 to 4:30 until September 2. Then open to October 14 Monday to Thursday noon to 4:30 and Friday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:30, then to June 1 Monday, Wednesday and Friday noon to 4:30, and weekends 11:00 to 4:30. More info.

 

Further into the Rockies, in fact right inside Banff National Park, the coal town of Bankhead once overshadowed the neighbouring tourist town. Little remains of Bankhead’s 20-year life but mining enthusiasts already visiting the park might take the interpretive trail featuring explanatory signage, exhibits in the transformer building and a mine train. The C-level Cirque Trail passes ventilation shafts and the skeleton of an old mine building, along with unmistakably Banff-style scenery.

More info here and here.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

An historic vehicle takes a trip through history.
(Photo: Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site)

 

The last of 139 operations in the Drumheller Valley Badlands from 1911 to 1979, the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site features numerous buildings, rail lines, machines and other artifacts within a 31-hectare property. In a number of separate tours, visitors look at a mine tunnel and Canada’s last wooden tipple, or they travel around the site via antique locomotive.

Located on Highway #10, 20 minutes southeast of Drumheller. Tours run daily to early October. Click here for schedule updates.

 

Coal was once Alberta’s main extractive commodity but a 1914 natural gas discovery turned attention to another type of fuel and a new petrochemical industry at the Turner Valley Gas Plant. Guided tours, an exhibit hall and historic buildings present western Canada’s first commercial oilfield and processing plant.

Located on Sunset Boulevard SE in the town of Turner Valley. Open weekends and stats from 10:00 to 5:00 until September 2. More info.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A tribute to tenacity, Leduc #1 followed 133 dry wells.
(Photo: Canadian Energy Museum)

 

Alberta’s energy industry changed again in 1947 when a geyser of oil erupted at Leduc. The nearby Canadian Energy Museum “celebrates Canada’s relationship with energy past, present and future.” A summer exhibit portrays the lives of those who experienced Leduc’s sudden boom, while a fall exhibit will look at the model town of Devon, a boom-time creation.

Located at 50339 Highway #60, Leduc County. Open Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00. Book ahead for individual or group tours.

 

The history, science and technology that unlocked another rich source of fuel comes alive in Fort McMurray’s Oil Sands Discovery Centre. Demonstrations, films and exhibits include an 850-tonne bucketwheel excavator and a 150-tonne truck.

Located at 515 MacKenzie Boulevard, Fort McMurray. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until September 2. Off-season hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:00. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Exhibits and mine simulations relate potash from
extraction to application. (Photo: Tourism Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan

“Just like being in a potash mine without the dust and heat” was how one visitor described it. The Saskatchewan Potash Interpretive Centre showcases the geology, how the stuff gets mined and refined, and what it’s used for. The centre comprises one of a number of attractions in Esterhazy Historical Park.

Located at 701 Park Avenue (Highway #22), Esterhazy. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until August 31. For off-season visits, phone 306-745-5406 or 306-745-3942.

 

Manitoba

Heavy duty equipment befitting a hard rock heritage goes on display at the Snow Lake Mining Museum. Exhibits include jackleg drills, battery-powered trammers, rocker shovels, mock-ups of mining drifts and a mine rescue centre.

Located at 163 Poplar Avenue, Snow Lake. Generally open Mondays 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:00 to 6:00, and occasional Sundays, until August 30. Phone 204-358-7867 to confirm hours.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Rugged gear reflects the rugged life of northern Saskatchewan’s Snow Lake region.
(Photo: Snow Lake Mining Museum)

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Yesterday’s news today: Nutrien acknowledges 34 workers trapped underground

July 3rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 3, 2019

Update: Nutrien later reported that all 34 workers had surfaced uninjured by 6:15 p.m. July 3.

They reportedly have sufficient food, water and air, and there’s no fire or other danger looming. Still the question arises: Do people get stuck in Saskatchewan potash mines so frequently that it’s barely newsworthy? Thirty-four workers got trapped in Nutrien’s (TSX:NTR) Cory mine on July 2, but media didn’t find out until July 3.

Nutrien acknowledges 34 workers trapped underground

Cory comprises one of six Nutrien
potash mines in southern Saskatchewan.
(Photo: Nutrien Ltd)

An elevator breakdown keeps the workers underground until management comes up with an alternative means of egress. The mine had been undergoing scheduled summer maintenance.

Fire is the usual cause of confinement for Saskatchewan potash miners. Refuge stations provide safe rooms stocked with food, water and communications devices while fire crews extinguish the blaze and smoke clears. Those unable to reach a refuge station can try to use a battice, or safety curtain, to seal themselves off.

The Saskatchewan industry might claim an adequate fire safety record with few if any injuries reported at underground potash mine fires. But the fires themselves aren’t rare, as some previous examples show.

  • May 2019: 63 workers trapped underground for over seven hours during a fire at the Allan mine

  • September 2018: 101 workers trapped for five and a half hours at the Lanigan mine

  • March 2018: 55 workers trapped for about 20 hours at the K2 mine

  • February 2017: 87 workers trapped for up to 15 hours at the Rocanville mine

  • December 2016: 114 workers trapped for several hours at Allan

  • September 2014: 96 workers trapped for 26 hours at Allan

  • February 2014: over 50 workers trapped overnight at the Vanscoy mine

  • January 2013: 318 workers trapped for several hours at K2

  • September 2012: 20 workers trapped for 18 hours at Rocanville

With the exception of Mosaic’s (NYSE:MOS) K2 fires, all the above fires took place at mines now owned by Nutrien following last year’s merger of PotashCorp and Agrium.

Infographic: How Canada’s mining sector impacts the economy

August 14th, 2018

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

Canada is a mining nation.

From the Rockies to the Canadian Shield, and from the Prairies to the North, the variety of geology that exists in the country is immense—and this has created a large and unique opportunity for groundbreaking mineral discoveries.

As a result, Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of minerals and metals, supplying approximately 60 different mineral commodities to over 100 countries.

An intro to Canadian mining

This infographic comes to us from Natural Resources Canada and it highlights an industry that has given Canada a competitive advantage in the global economy.

 

How Canada’s mining sector impacts the economy

 

The mineral sector brings jobs, investment and business to Canada.

This impact stems from the whole lifecycle of mining, including exploration, extraction, primary processing, design and manufacturing processes.

Economic impact

Last year, the minerals sector contributed $72 billion to Canada’s GDP.

Here are the major minerals produced in Canada in 2017, along with their dollar values:

Rank Mineral Value (2017) Production (2017)
#1 Gold $8,700,000,000 164,313 kg
#2 Coal $6,200,000,000 59,893,000 tonnes
#3 Copper $4,700,000,000 584,000 tonnes
#4 Potash $4,600,000,000 12,214,000 tonnes
#5 Iron ore $3,800,000,000 49,009,000 tonnes
#6 Nickel $2,700,000,000 201,000 tonnes
#7 Diamonds $2,600,000,000 22,724,000 carats

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, more non-ferrous mineral exploration dollars come to Canada than to any other country. In 2017, roughly $1.1 billion—or about 14% of global exploration spending—was allocated to Canada, which edged out Australia for the top spot globally.

Mining and communities

From mining in remote communities to the legal and financial activities in urban centres such as Vancouver or Toronto, mining touches all Canadian communities.

According to a study commissioned by the Ontario Mining Association, the economic impact of one new gold mine in Ontario can create around 4,000 jobs during construction and production, and can contribute $38 million to $43 million to the economy once operating.

Further, more than 16,500 indigenous people were employed in the mineral sector in 2016, accounting for 11.6% of the mining industry labour force, making it the second-largest private sector employee.

Innovation drives Canadian mining

Canada has an established network of academic thinkers, business associations, financial capital and government programs that support and promote new technologies that can help set a standard for mining worldwide.

Here are a few examples of innovation at work:

CanmetMINING is currently researching the implementation of hydrogen power to replace the use of diesel fuel in underground mines. Once this technology is adopted, it could reduce the GHG emissions of underground mines by 25% and improve the health of workers in mines by reducing their exposure to diesel exhaust.

New technology is turning what was once mine waste into a potential source for minerals. In the past three decades, six billion tonnes of mine tailings have accumulated with a potential value of US$10 billion. Reprocessing this waste can produce significant recoveries of rare earth elements, gold, nickel, cobalt and other valuable minerals.

Artificial intelligence and new remote-control technology can be deployed to operate mining equipment and find new discoveries.

All these innovations are going to change the nature of working in mines, while creating high-paid jobs and demand for an educated labour force.

Opportunity for future generations

A large number of Canadian miners are expected to retire over the next decade. In fact, Canada’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council forecasts 87,830 workers at a minimum will have to be hired over the next 10 years.

With game-changing technologies on the horizon, there will be plenty of opportunities for a new generation of high-tech miners. The future bodes well for Canadian mining.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Caution steadies the hand for Canada’s top miners: PwC

March 1st, 2018

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2018

Last year saw “few eye-popping deals and only limited financing activity” as TSX-listed mining companies responded cautiously to improved markets, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Like many of their peers internationally, the big board’s top 25 miners focused on “paying down debt, improving balance sheets and judiciously investing in capital projects as commodity prices largely stabilized.”

The findings come from Preparing for Growth: Capitalizing on a Period of Progress and Stability, released March 1.

Gold, the raison d’être for most of the miners, fell 3% during the year ending September 30. During that period the 225 TSX-listed miners (down from 230 the previous year) lost 4% of their aggregate value, compared with a 10% combined improvement for other sectors. Miners slipped to a 9% share of the entire TSX market, compared with 11% the previous year, holding ninth place among industries on the exchange. (Financial services came in first.)

Barrick Gold TSX:ABX, still the world’s top gold producer despite Newmont Mining’s (NYSE:NEM) challenge, held top place among TSX mining market caps as of September 30. The top stock was Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, with a 175% price increase over the full year, following its billion-dollar takeout of Newmarket Gold. The acquisition represented part of a trend of “mid-market, intermediate gold companies looking to build scale and gain efficiencies through consolidation,” said John Matheson of PwC Canada.

Two since-merged companies, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan and Agrium, followed Barrick with second and third place among TSX mining valuations. Currently at about $41 billion, the potash combination Nutrien Ltd TSX:NTR has far surpassed Barrick’s $16.8-billion market cap.

Nearly half of the 225 companies had valuations of $150 million or less. But the category between $150 million and $1 billion boasted 74 companies, compared with 59 the previous year.

Nineteen of the top 25 had exposure to gold, 10 to copper, seven to zinc, six to silver and four to nickel, PwC stated. The report noted increasingly bullish sentiment for copper, zinc, cobalt and lithium. The latter mineral did especially well for five companies, with an approximately 39% total increase in valuations over nine months to September 30 for Orocobre TSX:ORL, Lithium Americas TSX:LAC, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX, Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL and Globex Mining Enterprises TSX:GMX.

But overall, TSX miners “raised only half the equity capital in 2017 that they did the previous year. And for the second consecutive year, there were no mining initial public offerings on the TSX.”

That contrasts with a more buoyant, although still cautious mood among Venture-listed junior miners reported in November by PwC, which found a substantial increase in market caps, financings, M&A and IPOs for TSXV explorers.

Download Preparing for Growth: Capitalizing on a Period of Progress and Stability.