Monday 16th September 2019

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Posts tagged ‘potash’

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

NRG Metals readies geophysics, drilling, 43-101 for new Argentina lithium project

July 13th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 13, 2017

A property optioned in June has a busy agenda scheduled as NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ prepares to explore its Hombre Muerto North project on an Argentinian salar that also hosts an FMC Corp NYSE:FMC lithium mine and Galaxy Resources’ advanced-stage Sal de Vida lithium-potash project. With drill permitting underway, NRG intends to begin with geophysics, followed by up to eight holes ranging from 150 to 200 metres in depth. Results might encourage the company to extend some holes down to 400 metres, with some larger-diameter holes for pumping tests.

NRG Metals readies geophysics, drilling, 43-101 for new Argentina lithium project

A newly commissioned 43-101 technical report
will assess previous surface sample results.

NRG also plans to build a pilot test pond to assess the brine’s evaporative conditions and chemical features.

A 43-101 technical report will be compiled by a Chilean company to verify previous samples and provide details of the upcoming drill program. Twenty surface samples taken in 2016 and 2017 brought non-43-101 results ranging from 48 milligrams lithium per litre to 1,064 mg/L, averaging 587 mg/L. Ratios of magnesium to lithium remained low by industry standards, averaging 4.6 to 1, the company added.

In addition to this 3,287-hectare project, NRG has drill permitting underway for its optioned 29,182-hectare Carachi Pampa property, also on the prolific Salar del Hombre Muerto.

Now leading exploration is NRG’s new director/COO, José de Castro. A chemical engineer with extensive lithium project experience, he headed Orocobre’s (TSX:ORL) Olaroz Salar lithium project from exploration to commercial production. He also supervised exploration of Argentina’s Salinas Grandes salar and developed a patent to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate.

One week before de Castro’s June appointment, Gordon Neal joined NRG’s board. Having served with several explorers, Neal has raised over $500 million for resource companies since 2004.

Saskatchewan Mining Association chairperson Jessica Theriault signals “growing leadership role of women in mining”

May 25th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 25, 2017

The director of environmental affairs for The Mosaic Company NYSE:MOS, Jessica Theriault has been elected to lead the Saskatchewan Mining Association board. A former SMA director and member of its environment committee, she has an environmental engineering degree and MBA from the University of Regina, along with 19 years of environmental experience in Saskatchewan potash mining.

Saskatchewan Mining Association chairperson Jessica Theriault signals “growing leadership role of women in mining”

Jessica Theriault

Theriault succeeds Neil McMillan, who serves as chairperson of Cameco Corp TSX:CCO.

“Given the importance of mining to the Saskatchewan and Canadian economies, and the strength of our industry’s reputation, my focus as chair will be to ensure that we continue to deliver, but also drive improvements across the sector,” said Theriault.

Elected as SMA vice-chairperson was Tammy Van Lambalgen, VP of corporate affairs and general counsel for AREVA Resources Canada.

Although the SMA already has a female president in Pamela Schwann, the association noted that Theriault will be the first woman to lead its board. Her election, along with that of Van Lambalgen, “represents a significant milestone in signalling the growing leadership role of women in mining,” the SMA stated. “It also shines a light on the diversity of rewarding careers for women in the mining sector in Saskatchewan, home to global mining and exploration companies and the top jurisdiction in the world for attracting mineral investment according to the annual Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies.”

The news follows last week’s appointment of Edie Thome as president/CEO of the British Columbia-based Association for Mineral Exploration, which already had a female chairperson in Diane Nicolson. But in 2002, when the position of AME president was voluntary and the executive director was the staff lead position, Shari Gardiner served as president.

That province lost a prominent female industry spokesperson in April, however, when Karina Briño stepped down as B.C. Mining Association president/CEO to take on a mining role in her native Chile.

Earlier this month Saskatchewan mining companies pledged $1 million to the International Minerals Innovation Institute to help encourage greater employment of women and natives in the industry.

With nearby deposits and markets, Vatic Ventures explores for potash in Thailand

March 16th, 2017

by Greg Klein | March 16, 2017

Contiguous to a potash mine in development and within the world’s largest potash-importing region, Vatic Ventures NEX:VCV.H has begun Phase I exploration on its Saksrithai project in Thailand. Up to 40 line-kilometres of 2D seismic surveying will test the continuity of the geological structure and thickness of a potash-bearing layer. Operator Geocon has wide experience in potash exploration in the Khorat evaporate basin, where Saksrithai’s located.

With nearby deposits and markets, Vatic Ventures explores for potash in Thailand

A seismic survey kicks off Phase I potash
exploration at Vatic Ventures’ Saksrithai project.

In January Vatic acquired an 80% interest in Saksrithai Development, which holds prospecting licences for the 3,200-hectare project. The Khorat Basin hosts the world’s largest undeveloped potash deposit and the only commercially viable potash deposits known in Asia, according to Vatic. Contiguous to Saksrithai, construction began last year on the Dan Khun Thot project, a carnallite-sylvinite deposit grading 21.5% potassium chloride. A mining licence is pending for another Basin project, Udon Thani, with a grade of 40% KCl.

Vatic CEO Gerry Wright led Asia Pacific Resources for 12 years, where he was directly responsible for the company’s acquisition, financing and development of Udon Thani.

According to figures cited by Vatic, Asia consumes over 40% of global potash production, while Southeast Asia is expected to show the highest growth rate in demand. Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam now consume over five million tonnes of potassium chloride a year, an amount growing about 6% annually.

The company’s next steps would include a 10-hole drill program, baseline environmental studies and community programs.

Lithium: from brine to market

November 29th, 2016

Voltaic Minerals aims to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

by Greg Klein

Update: With Thomas Currin a principal in the company, Lithium Selective Technologies has taken the place of Enertrex Corp in the selective extraction studies.

Cost of production and timeline to market—those are critical issues for any project in the increasingly crowded lithium space. And that’s what attracted Thomas Currin to Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT. The newly appointed director/project manager sees the company’s Green Energy project in Utah’s Paradox Basin as highly prospective for creating a selective extraction process that would address both challenges. With Currin on board, Voltaic hopes not only to develop a successful project but to market the process to other companies.

“Some people like to classify lithium as a commodity, but it’s a specialty chemical,” Currin explains. “In the specialty chemical business you don’t separate R&D and process development from manufacturing. A good specialty chemical company is one that’s been able to integrate all those applications.

Voltaic Minerals wants to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

“I’m a chemical engineer who’s been in the manufacturing process in the lithium field for 35 years,” he adds. “With a manufacturing process background everything is about opex and capex, and how to optimize both.”

Having managed lithium extraction projects in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., he’s worked for FMC Lithium, Li3 Energy, his own company Limtech Technologies and currently Enertrex Corp, which signed an MOU with Voltaic late last month.

As technical consultant for Enertrex he’s been working with two PhDs on selective removal of specific minerals from wastewater streams and geothermal brines. “We’ve come up with a technology that can extract lithium selectively, so we were looking for a project that could commercialize our technology. I’ve seen pretty much every lithium project in the world over the last 10 to 15 years, and what attracted me to Voltaic and the Paradox Basin are the oil and gas wells in a Basin that also has lithium salts and potassium salts.”

Located about 965 kilometres from the Tesla Motors Gigafactory and close to road, rail, power and the Intrepid Potash NYSE:IPI Cane Creek solution mine, the 1,683-hectare Green Energy property underwent oil and gas drilling during the 1960s. Historic analysis of regional drilling showed lithium in saturated brines grading 81 mg to 174 mg per litre.

“Here’s a project with historic wells, historic data, a few kilometres from a facility producing potash which is a very similar salt to lithium, and a company that realizes that time to market is critical.

“It seemed like a perfect match, the place to do process development work in parallel with resource development and demonstrate Enertrex’s lithium-specific process. If we could remove the lithium economically, we could market it to other lithium projects. The technology would be a paradigm-shifter.”

After evaluating historic data, Voltaic plans to re-perforate some of the wells and draw samples. While the company evaluates Green Energy’s resource potential, Currin will study the concentrations of lithium and impurities like magnesium, calcium and boron to develop the processing chemistry.

That’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.—Thomas Currin,
director/project manager
for Voltaic Minerals

“Sampling traditionally takes 20-litre amounts, but our first sample will be 20,000 litres so we can start processing it,” he explains. “Our money will be invested in developing not only a 43-101 resource but also a process by which we can be competitive.”

Call it optimistic or aggressive, Voltaic believes a property of merit could potentially offer customers a 100-kilogram sample of lithium carbonite within 14 months. Plans call for three 90-day testing phases into H2 of next year, when work would overlap with pilot-scale processing.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Currin notes.

With Limtech he developed a selective process to extract and concentrate silica from geothermal brines, which won the company a 2016 Outstanding Partnership Regional Award from the U.S. Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.

He’s also worked on selective lithium-ion exchange resins with FMC and, in his client project work, evaluated the use of several lithium-selective solvent exchange systems.

“The membrane technology for de-salinization has become much more economical, that technology has blossomed in the last 10 years, and that’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.”

In addition to replacing the lengthy solar evaporation stage, the process would feature a modular design that could speed progress from pilot plant to production. With Green Energy’s existing wells, the project’s fast-track potential looks good, he maintains.

Should success be achieved there, the process could be applied to deposits with different metallurgy, making the technique marketable to other companies.

“Chilean brines are the most cost-effective sources of lithium in the world,” he says. “But there’s growing demand for sources outside South America. Our selective extraction process could help other projects compete with the Lithium Triangle.”