Monday 13th July 2020

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Posts tagged ‘potash’

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

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 2003, 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.

Vatic Ventures president Nasim Tyab discusses the Saksrithai project in Thailand’s Khorat Basin

September 25th, 2017

…Read more

Where grade meets market

August 25th, 2017

The Khorat Basin’s potash advantages attract Vatic Ventures to Thailand

by Isabel Belger

Isabel Belger

Isabel Belger

Isabel: I would like to introduce the president of Vatic Ventures Corp [NEX:VCV.H], Nasim Tyab. Hi Nasim, it is a pleasure to talk to you again. Thank you for taking the time.

Nasim: It is a pleasure to talk to you again, Isabel.

Isabel: To get started I’d like to ask you to tell a bit about your background and how you became president of Vatic Ventures Corp.

Nasim: Basically, I have been working in the capital markets since the early 1990s, and one of the earlier companies that I worked with was a company called Asia Pacific Resources, which was exploring for potash in Thailand, where it made a fantastic discovery. The market capitalization of the company, based on that discovery, went up to $1 billion and the company moved from the Vancouver Stock Exchange to full TSX listing. The CEO of the company at that time was Dr. Gerry Wright. Gerry and I kept in touch over the years, and in the meantime I was looking for a project for Vatic. Gerry wanted to return to Thailand because he thought the timing and the opportunity were optimal. Through his contacts we managed to acquire 80% of a Thai company called Saksrithai Development that had two potash concessions in Thailand in a highly prospective area.

Isabel: I was going to ask you next why you chose to develop projects in Thailand, but you have basically covered that already.

Nasim: I can certainly expand on my answer! Vatic Ventures is exploring for potash, which most people know as a mineral required to produce fertilizer. Most of the growing demand comes from Asia. We know that the potash in Thailand represents the largest undeveloped known deposits in Asia, if not the world.

Isabel: You said potash is mostly used as an ingredient for manufacturing fertilizer and the growing demand is in Asia. What do they use it for, for growing rice?

The Khorat Basin’s potash advantages attract Vatic Ventures to Thailand

Terraced rice fields in Chiang Mai province, Thailand.

Nasim: Yes, exactly, for growing rice, palm oil and a number of other crops. If you look at the southeast Asian market, where Vatic’s project is, you have essential crops like rice, with Thailand and Vietnam being very large rice producers. Then there is palm oil, and countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are the biggest producers of palm oil. About 70% of total potash imports into our market area are used for these two crops.

Isabel: So it is a very smart move to develop a project where demand for potash is mostly growing.

Nasim: Yes, because it is a bulk commodity which is sold by the tonne. Presently most of the world’s potash comes from Canada, especially Saskatchewan, or from Russia and Europe.

Isabel: So it is a transportation cost problem, right?

Nasim: Yes, there is arguably a lot of potash in the world. But that is not the issue. The issue with potash is transportation costs, as you point out. Being in Thailand, which is the market we are planning to sell to, we could have a US$60 per tonne transportation cost advantage.

Isabel: That is a significant advantage. How is it as a foreign exploration company to work in Thailand?

Nasim: Dr. Gerry Wright became the CEO of Vatic Ventures when we closed the transaction earlier this year, and as I mentioned Gerry has very strong contacts there. Operationally we have got great experience on the ground in Thailand and also great governmental contacts. The other thing that is very significant is that we are the only Western company in that basin.

The Khorat Basin’s potash advantages attract Vatic Ventures to Thailand

A map shows Vatic Ventures’ Saksrithai project,
along with known deposits in Thailand.

We shot seismic recently and the reason we did so is because there is a potash mine beside us that is going into production with very good grades. The seismic proof is the same proof that he used for Asia Pacific Resources. The seismic contractor is the same contractor he used in his earlier discovery in the ’90s, and that is the same with the drilling contractor.

Isabel: You say Gerry has great contacts with the government. Is Thailand generally very mining-friendly, or does it mostly work through relationships built over the years?

Nasim: He works through long-term contacts. First, you must remember that in Thailand potash is regarded as a very strategic resource and they give out very few licences, and only to parties that they have substantially vetted. Second, in terms of being mining-friendly, there was a steering committee recently set up which basically was mandated to develop Thailand´s potash resources. The thing with potash is it is like coal. It just keeps going on and on unless there is faulting. But based on the seismic, if you look at our last news release (July 26), it clearly indicates [structural] connectivity between us and the deposit next door. The other important fact about Thai potash is that it is relatively shallow. It is about 300 metres, compared with up to 1.7 kilometres or more down in Saskatchewan. This allows us great savings in capital and operating costs, not only when you are mining but also in exploration costs. So you could say one drill hole has maybe one-tenth of the cost compared to drilling costs in Canada. So two major competitive advantages Vatic enjoys in Thailand are shallow depth and proximity to the market.

Isabel: The shallowness and the proximity of the market give you already a big advantage. Is there something else that makes your project special?

Nasim: We anticipate similar grades to the adjoining project where reported grades are better than the majority of average potash grades held by most other potash juniors. Obviously, we will have to drill it to confirm the grade. One other aspect to consider is a number of these junior potash companies have compelling market caps. There is for example Danakali Resources in Eritrea, with a $186-million market cap, and Highfield Resources in Spain with a $347-million market cap. These are projects not yet in production, although drilled out…. So Vatic Ventures, which has a market cap of less than $2 million, has great leverage if the company is successful in its exploration.

Isabel: What are the highlights so far on the project? You mentioned the seismic survey.

Nasim: The highlight is that the seismic survey shows structural continuity with the project next door. And based on the tabular nature of potash, it greatly increases the prospectivity of what we are going to be drilling.

Isabel: So you are really happy about the outcome of the seismic survey.

Nasim: Absolutely. It is very positive.

Isabel: What will be your next steps on the project?

We have highlighted some areas for the initial drilling program. We may shoot a bit more seismic to further define those targets. We expect to commence drilling in early November, after the end of the rainy season in the area.—Nasim Tyab

Nasim: We have highlighted some areas for the initial drilling program. We may shoot a bit more seismic to further define those targets. We expect to commence drilling in early November, after the end of the rainy season in the area.

Isabel: How much money do you have in the bank right now? Do you plan to raise money soon?

Nasim: Yes, we will be conducting a share offering at some point in the near future to further develop the company´s assets.

Isabel: Do you know how much stock management owns?

Nasim: About 10%.

Isabel: Are you going to change your listing to the TSX Venture any time soon?

Nasim: Yes, that is our planning. Coincident to the upcoming financing, and the fact that we shot the seismic program, we will file the 43-101 report and we expect to move to the TSX Venture.

Isabel: This is going to be this year?

Nasim: Yes, our plan is for October.

Isabel: When will there be the next news, and can we expect a news flow within the upcoming months?

Nasim: Yes. There is the upcoming financing. We are expecting to file the technical report, going to TSX Venture, drilling and then the drilling results coming out.

Isabel: That sounds like a news flow to me. Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the drilling.

Nasim: Thank you for having me, Isabel.

The Khorat Basin’s potash advantages attract Vatic Ventures to Thailand

Nasim Tyab, president of
Vatic Ventures

 

Bio

Mr. Tyab is a businessman with a background in management, corporate development and public company finance. He has over 25 years of experience with public companies and has served as a director and senior officer of a number of public companies, principally in the minerals and energy sectors. He has been the president of Oracle Energy since 2000 and was the president of Senco Sensors from 1995 to 2001.

Mr. Tyab has also been a director of Mohave Exploration and Production from November 2006 to August 2010, an oil and gas company which amalgamated with Porto Energy. He served as a consultant to Asia Pacific Resources and, as a member of the corporate development team for the Udon Thani project, he is familiar with the regional potash industry. Mr. Tyab received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University in 1995. He has been president of Vatic since 2011.

Fun facts

My hobbies: Hiking, practising on my instruments, spending time with my family
My favourite airport: Vancouver
My favourite tradeshow: PDAC
My favourite commodity: Potash and copper
With this person I would like to have dinner: Elon Musk
If I could have a superpower, it would be: To tell the future