Tuesday 14th July 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘REE’

Commerce Resources further tests acid-grade fluorspar potential of Quebec rare earths project

June 11th, 2020

by Greg Klein | June 11, 2020

Another round of metallurgical studies endeavours to add a critical mineral byproduct to a critical mineral project. Commerce Resources (TSXV:CCE) has re-engaged Hazen Research’s Colorado lab for Phase II studies on the fluorspar component of its Ashram rare earths deposit. Phase I results reported in February have already produced calcium fluoride grading 97.8%, exceeding the 97% level of fluorspar’s more expensive acid-grade.

Phase II will focus on removing impurities, taking advantage of a flowsheet that doesn’t require a complicated secondary circuit for fluorspar. Using conventional methods, coarser and looser fluorspar grains will be recovered prior to entering the initial rare earths circuit. Most of the remaining fluorspar will be recovered as a tailings stream.

Commerce Resources further tests acid-grade fluorspar potential of Quebec rare earths project

Although not considered in Ashram’s PEA report, fluorspar offers considerable economic potential as the project moves towards pre-feasibility.

Previous lab work has demonstrated the ability to produce over 45% rare earths oxides with an impressive 75% recovery rate. In addition to tests by Hazen Research, studies on Ashram material have been conducted at academic and research institutions including McGill University, l’Université du Québec, l’Université Laval, the University of Windsor and the CanmetMINING division of Natural Resources Canada. Earlier this month Ashram came to global attention through an article by PhD candidate Sophie Costis and her team in the international peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment.

Apart from hosting a domestic supply of critical minerals, Ashram’s advantages include carbonatite host rocks with relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy amenable to conventional rare earths processing. The near-surface and at-surface deposit features a strong presence of sought-after magnet feed elements.

Ashram’s resource uses a base case 1.25% cutoff to show:

  • measured: 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides

  • indicated: 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% TREO

  • inferred: 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO

Following extensive drilling, Commerce now has geological modelling underway for a resource update.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Commerce Resources’ Quebec rare earths project gets international academic attention

June 1st, 2020

by Greg Klein | June 1, 2020

Not a subject that normally excites investors, tailings management is nevertheless an important consideration for advanced-stage projects. A previously announced academic article on Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram rare earths deposit now comes to an international audience.

Commerce Resources’ Quebec rare earths project gets international academic attention

Written and researched by a six-person team led by PhD candidate Sophie Costis, Assessment of the Leaching Potential of Flotation Tailings from Rare Earth Mineral Extraction in Cold Climates was published last month in Science of the Total Environment, an international peer-reviewed journal.

The study results from tailings characterization test programs still underway by le Centre Eau Terre Environnement of l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS).

Funding comes from a $300,000 grant provided jointly by le Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies and le Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles. Although the program was scheduled to finish next December, Commerce and INRS hope to extend the project through the same funding sources.

An earlier presentation on her Ashram research won Costis first prize in the Geoscience Research Challenge held by l’Association Québécoise des Sciences de la Terre. Her award was announced in November at the Quebec Mines + Energy conference in Quebec City.

“We continue to be impressed by the quality of work being completed by Sophie Costis and the team at the INRS, and are very happy to have been able to be involved and contribute to REE research in Quebec, and now globally,” said Commerce president Chris Grove.

The company’s work continues on the northern Quebec Ashram rare earths-fluorspar project, which hosts two of the 35 minerals considered critical by the U.S. Rare earths have been an increasing cause of concern to the American government, which relies heavily on China for these elements essential to defence, medicine and clean energy technology, among other applications.

Apart from a friendly jurisdiction, Ashram benefits from carbonatite host rocks with relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy that’s familiar to conventional rare earths processing.

See other news about flowsheet studies for Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths deposit.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Commerce Resources announces tailings management progress for Canadian rare earths deposit

May 14th, 2020

by Greg Klein | May 14, 2020

Commerce Resources announces tailings management progress for Canadian rare earths deposit

The laboratory set-up for
kinetic testing by le Centre
Eau Terre Environnement.

One day after reporting on the Ashram rare earths flowsheet studies conducted by Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetMINING division, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced findings from tailings management studies for the Quebec deposit. Undertaken by le Centre Eau Terre Environnement of l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique, the tests found the flotation tailings are “relatively benign with no major issues identified with the material or its management,” Commerce stated.

The study found “tailings are not acid-generating due to the material’s high carbonate and low sulphide content resulting in a natural neutralization effect,” an advantage that also cuts costs.

Additionally, the tailings aren’t considered hazardous or radioactive according to Quebec’s Hazardous Materials Regulations and Environmental Quality Act.

“Concentrations of all elements in the tailings’ leachate fall below the ‘high-risk’ criteria as outlined in Directive 019,” Commerce pointed out.

Further test work is required on freeze-thaw cycles, which “appear to play an important role in mineral solubility.”

Kinetic tests continue to provide data “for better understanding of how the tailings may be altered over time and for proper mitigation measures to be implemented if any elements are indicated to be potentially problematic to the environment.”

The next steps will include creating a model of tailings weathering.

The project was expected to conclude in December but Commerce and the INRS are considering an extension under similar funding. The studies have been backed by a $300,000 grant provided jointly by le Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies and le Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles.

See recent news about flowsheet studies for Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths deposit.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Poll shows Canadians back sustainable production of critical minerals

May 13th, 2020

by Greg Klein | May 13, 2020

A Mining Week announcement from the Mining Association of Canada expresses public opinion on an issue of increasing prominence. A survey by Abacus Data shows almost 90% of respondents “like the idea of Canada being a preferred source for critical minerals and would like to see government take a number of steps to support this approach,” MAC reported.

Poll shows Canadians back sustainable production of critical minerals

Increasing demand, supply chain weaknesses, and rivalries in trade and geopolitics have heightened concern for raw materials necessary for the aerospace industry, defence, communications, computing, medicine and clean energy.

“China has been a major supplier of these minerals but Canada has an opportunity to play a larger role in this marketplace as customers look for products made to high environmental standards,” MAC stated, pointing to its Towards Sustainable Mining program.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 88% of respondents want Canada to increase its role in producing critical minerals for world markets

  • 86% want to encourage international investment in Canadian critical minerals and metals companies that are sustainability leaders

  • 83% want to encourage Canadian production of critical minerals to compete with China

  • 81% want to promote interest in Canadian critical minerals by drawing attention to Canada’s high standards of sustainability

MAC commissioned the online nationwide poll. Conducted between March 3 and 11, it surveyed 2,600 people weighted according to census data. Abacus gave the results a margin of error of plus or minus 1.92%, 19 times out of 20.

Canada is a top five country in global production of 15 minerals and metals, including several critical minerals essential to new technologies such as cobalt, copper, precious metals, nickel, uranium. We have the potential to expand in lithium, magnesium and rare earths.—Pierre Gratton, president/CEO,
Mining Association of Canada

“More than a decade of Canadian leadership in responsible mining practices is giving us an additional edge, and we see more investors and customers examining how their suppliers approach environmental responsibility,” said MAC president/CEO Pierre Gratton. “The market is growing and Canada’s opportunity is clear.”

In January Canada and the U.S. announced their Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, which the Canadian industry expects will attract investment and encourage further development of supply chains. The plan follows a number of American initiatives to reduce its dependence on rival countries, especially China.

MAC also pointed to the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, a federal-provincial effort intended to enhance competitiveness, innovation and native participation in mining.

“Canadians may not all have a detailed knowledge about the mining sector,” added Gratton, “but they can clearly spot the chance to leverage our advantages in terms of abundant resources and the high standards of responsibility that our industry is known for. They know that winning a bigger share of this growing market means more well-paying jobs and stronger communities.”

According to figures supplied by MAC, mining contributes $97 billion to national GDP and 19% of total domestic exports. Employing 626,000 people directly and indirectly, the industry is proportionally Canada’s largest private sector employer of natives and a major customer of native-owned businesses.

International Montoro Resources furthers rare earths potential in B.C.

May 13th, 2020

by Greg Klein | May 13, 2020

Detailed analysis of field work shows the rare earths prospects of an early-stage project in east-central British Columbia. On March 13 International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT announced a report culminating from last year’s grid-based survey of 535 soil samples on the 2,007-hectare Wicheeda North property.

International Montoro Resources furthers rare earths potential in BC

Previous work came under detailed analysis for International
Montoro Resources’ Wicheeda North REE prospect.
(Photo: International Montoro Resources)

“Thematic geochemical anomaly maps were generated for cerium and other values were received for light REEs including lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium, samarium, europium and gadolinium,” the company stated.

The report was prepared by Bob Lane, who managed 2008 and 2009 drilling programs on the adjacent Wicheeda project, later acquired by First Legacy Mining, now Defense Metals TSXV:DEFN. Lane also took part in First Legacy’s 43-101 report on Wicheeda.

Commenting on International Montoro’s Wicheeda North, Lane said it “has the potential to host, and should continue to be explored for, REE mineralization because it occurs within a favourable geological belt known to contain carbonatite-hosted REE mineralization, such as the Main zone” of the Defense project neighbouring to the southeast.

Future recommendations include further prospecting and grid-based soil sampling. Additionally, airborne electromagnetics were suggested for the southern part of the property, which wasn’t surveyed in the EM, magnetic and radiometric geophysics conducted in 2010.

Given favourable results, Lane’s report recommends the company consider excavator trenching.

Last February the company announced exploration plans for its Camping Lake property in Ontario’s Red Lake region. Under an October 2019 agreement with Falcon Gold TSXV:FG, International Montoro may earn a 51% interest in the gold-base metals project.

Reporting on another Ontario project, International Montoro released geophysical analysis from Serpent River in December. The conclusions could indicate massive sulphide nickel-copper-PGE-gold mineralization on the Elliot Lake-region property, the company stated.

International Montoro’s portfolio also includes the Duhamel polymetallic project in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Last month the company closed a private placement of $56,525.

Commerce Resources’ NRCan collaboration moves forward on rare earths metallurgy

May 13th, 2020

by Greg Klein | May 13, 2020

A co-operation with Natural Resources Canada brings significant progress to an advanced-stage northern Quebec critical minerals deposit. Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced the findings from NRCan’s CanmetMINING division, which has been working on the flotation circuit for material from the company’s Ashram rare earths and fluorspar project in northern Quebec.

Commerce Resources NRCan collaboration moves forward on rare earths metallurgy

As the U.S. shows increasing interest in Canadian
critical mineral deposits, a poll finds widespread
Canadian support for their development and export.

CanmetMINING “has completed collector screening, an evaluation of mixed collectors, reverse conditioning tests, cleaning stage tests and a continuous process simulation with a locked cycle test,” Commerce stated.

The work has identified “an alternative reagent scheme and flotation circuit to achieve, and potentially exceed, the target objective of less than 25% mass pull at more than 80% recovery. This has also been achieved using one-half to one-quarter of the quantity of reagents utilized in prior test work completed by other metallurgical labs. Previous work has identified reagents as a key area of optimization in the Ashram deposit’s flotation circuit and where significant cost advantages may be found by screening the performance of each pertinent reagent with respect to its consumption and purchase cost.”

Improved flotation performance “has been achieved through a combination of distributed reagent additions, reagent synergism and reverse conditioning in a very simple and basic flotation circuit,” the company added.

The findings precede a detailed report, Mineral Processing Flowsheet Approaches for the Ashram Rare Earth and Fluorspar Deposit, that CanmetMINING will present to the 2020 Conference of Metallurgists in Toronto next August.

Some aspects of CanmetMINING’s upcoming work will involve Corem, which claims Canada’s largest concentration of R&D resources for mineral processing. Partnering with the governments of Quebec and Canada, Corem works with its 15 mining company members and its international clients to provide specialized services and research expertise. Corem’s tests on a 400-kilogram delivery of Ashram material is expected to resume as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Funding comes from NRCan through CanmetMINING’s rare earth element and chromite R&D program to develop new extraction technologies, address Canadian regulations and learn more about Canadian deposits.

Metallurgical studies elsewhere have also advanced Commerce’s Ashram project. In February the company announced that Hazen Research’s Colorado pilot plant had produced a calcium fluoride concentrate grading 97.8%, surpassing the 97% level typical of fluorspar’s more expensive acid-spar grade.

The previous December Commerce released promising results from Université Laval metallurgical studies on Ashram material.

Both fluorspar and rare earths figure in the American list of 35 critical minerals. In January Canada and the U.S. announced their Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, encouraging the use of Canadian resources to reduce American dependency on rival countries.

Commerce’s May 13 announcement coincides with poll results showing widespread support for critical minerals development in Canada. Released by the Mining Association of Canada, the survey found:

  • 88% of respondents want Canada to increase its role in producing critical minerals for world markets

  • 86% want to encourage international investment into Canadian critical minerals and metals companies that are sustainability leaders

  • 83% want to encourage Canadian production of critical minerals to compete with China

  • 81% want to promote interest in Canadian critical minerals by drawing attention to Canada’s high standards of sustainability

Commerce’s Ashram deposit features carbonatite-hosted mineralization and relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy that’s favourable to conventional rare earths processing.

Using a 1.25% cutoff, Ashram’s 2012 resource estimate shows:

  • measured: 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides

  • indicated: 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% TREO

  • inferred: 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO

The near-surface deposit also shows a strong distribution of the high-demand magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.

Earlier this week Commerce offered a private placement up to $1 million. The company closed private placements of $300,000 this month and $2.51 million in November.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Visual Capitalist: The impact of critical minerals on U.S. national security

April 28th, 2020

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | April 28, 2020

See Part 1: The United States and the new energy era’s lithium-ion supply chain

In 1954, the United States was fully reliant on foreign sources for only eight mineral commodities.

Fast forward 60-plus years, and the country now depends on foreign sources for 20 such materials, including ones essential for military and battery technologies.

This puts the U.S. in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the crucial materials such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth metals that can help build and secure a more sustainable future.

America’s energy dependence

This visualization comes from Standard Lithium TSXV:SLL and it outlines China’s dominance of the critical minerals needed for the new energy era.

Which imported minerals create the most risk for U.S. supply chains and national security?

 

The new energy era The impact of critical minerals on U.S. national security

 

Natural resources and development

Gaining access to natural resources can influence a nation’s ability to grow and defend itself. China’s growth strategy took this into account, and the country sourced massive amounts of raw materials to position itself as the number one producer and consumer of commodities.

By the end of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, China’s mining industry was largely in ruins. After the war, vast amounts of raw materials were required to rebuild the country.

In the late 1970s, the industry was boosted by China’s reform and opening policies, and since then China’s mining outputs have increased enormously. China’s mining and material industries fueled the rapid growth of China from the 1980s onwards.

Supply chain dominance

A large number of Chinese mining companies also invest in overseas mining projects. China’s going out strategy encourages companies to move into overseas markets.

They have several reasons to mine beyond Chinese shores: to secure mineral resources that are scarce in China, to gain access to global markets and mineral supply chains, and to minimize domestic overproduction of some mineral commodities.

This has led China to become the leading producer of many of the world’s most important metals while also securing a commanding position in key supply chains.

As an example of this, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rare earth materials. The country produces approximately 94% of the rare earth oxides and around 100% of the rare earth metals consumed globally, with 50% going to domestic consumption.

U.S.-China trade tensions

The U.S. drafted a list of 35 critical minerals in 2018 that are vital to American national security and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the country sources at least 31 of the materials chiefly through imports.

China is the third-largest supplier of natural resources to the U.S., behind Canada and Mexico.

Rank Country U.S. minerals imports by country (US$, 2018)
#1 Canada $1,814,404,440
#2 Mexico $724,542,960
#3 China $678,217,450
#4 Brazil $619,890,570
#5 South Africa $568,183,800

This dependence on China poses a risk. In 2010, a territorial dispute between China and Japan threatened to disrupt the supply of rare earth elements. Today, a similar threat still looms over trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

China’s scale of influence over critical minerals means that it could artificially limit supply and move prices in the global clean energy trade, in the same way that OPEC does with oil. This would leave nations that import their mineral needs in an expensive and potentially limiting spot.

Moon shot: Building domestic supply and production

Every supply chain starts with raw materials. The U.S. had the world’s largest lithium industry until the 1990s—but this is no longer the case, even though the resources are still there.

The U.S. holds 12% of the world’s identified lithium resources, but only produces 2% of global production from a single mine in Nevada.

In the clean energy economy of the future, critical minerals will be just as essential—and geopolitical—as oil is today.—Scientific American

There are a handful of companies looking to develop the U.S. lithium reserves, but there is potential for so much more. Less than 18% of the U.S. land mass is geologically mapped at a scale suited to identifying new mineral deposits.

The U.S. has the resources, it is just a question of motivation. Developing domestic resources can reduce its foreign dependence, and enable it to secure the new energy era.

See Part 1: The United States and the new energy era’s lithium-ion supply chain

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Troubled and uncharted

April 10th, 2020

Navigating the new normal to an uncertain destination

by Greg Klein | April 10, 2020

The new normal transitions into an uncertain future

 

What’s Chinese for “cui bono”?

Through grimly ironic coincidence, the country that unwittingly inflicted this on the world stands to benefit. “The Chinese Communist Party is seizing what its senior officials are calling the ‘opportunity’ of the pandemic to realize the party’s long-game objective of fully eclipsing North America and Europe in the global order,” writes Terry Glavin.

“While the Chinese government’s internal statistics are routinely questioned by outside analysts, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology credibly reports that roughly 75% of small and medium-sized businesses across the country have already resumed production.”

On April 7 Bloomberg reported its own estimates “that most of China was 90% to 95% back to work at the end of last week, noting pick-ups in the steel market, construction activity and crude processing. Those oil refineries, as well as coal-fired power plants, are nearing last year’s operating rates, while metals stockpiles have shrunk from record or near-record levels. It’s a three-month cycle of collapse and recovery marked by perhaps the most heartening milestone for those nations still fending off the worst of the virus: China has now reported zero new COVID-19 deaths for the first time since January.”

But not so heartening, former U.K. foreign secretary William Hague noted in the Telegraph that “in Europe, North America and lower-income countries too, it seems likely that the virus will kill far more people, wreak much worse economic damage and bring more unwelcome changes to life than in China itself.”

The new normal transitions into an uncertain future

Glavin quotes from an analysis by Horizon Advisory, a consultancy that investigates Chinese policy: “Beijing intends to use the global dislocation and downturn to attract foreign investment, to seize strategic market share and resources—especially those that force dependence—and to proliferate global information systems.”

Hague warned that “China will gain from the new age of the surveillance state that will be summoned into existence around much of the world in the coming months…. Guess who will be well-placed to supply the systems, software and data, and to do so quickly and on a large scale?”

Glavin also stressed China’s designs on global information technology architecture, “mostly through Huawei Technologies, China’s ‘national champion’ telecom giant.”

He remains stark in his conclusion: “We may be stumbling headlong into an uncharted realm of social breakdown and mass graves. We could be destined for something else, somewhere dark and foreboding, where Xi Jinping calls all the shots. Or we might be traversing an excruciating social and economic terra incognita towards some eventual semblance of normalcy.”

Keep the news stream flowing

Seemingly steadfast, though, are miners and explorers. Many of their announcements concern responses to the crisis, especially whether companies are allowed to continue working, or whether they find it practical to do so.

The new normal transitions into an uncertain future

Photo: Talon Metals

But with many seasonal exploration programs completed before the industry entered pandemic mode, assays are starting to pour in. Some random and radically abbreviated examples from April 8 alone include 2.31 g/t gold over 101 metres from QMX Gold’s (TSXV:QMX) Bonnefond deposit in Val d’Or; 7.14 metres of mixed massive sulphides from Talon Metals’ (TSX:TLO) Tamarack nickel-copper-cobalt project in Minnesota; 25,466 ppm zirconium, 89.1 ppm dysprosium, 1281 ppm neodymium and 348 ppm praseodymium over 8.83 metres in a channel sample from Search Minerals’ (TSXV:SMY) Silver Fox zone in Labrador; 0.69% Nb2O5 over 185 metres at NioBay Metals’ (TSXV:NBY) James Bay niobium project in Ontario; 11.6 g/t gold and 2,960 g/t silver in surface chip samples taken by Cornerstone Capital Resources’ (TSXV:CGP) ASX-listed JV partner Sunstone Metals at their Bramaderos gold-copper project in Ecuador.

Other project updates included promises of assays to come from recent programs or new developments from analytical work. Determined, maybe even irrepressible, junior exploration soldiers on.

A humanitarian call for mineral exploration supplies and skills

As of April 9 the Association for Mineral Exploration received 29 responses to its call for assistance in providing testing, triage, housing and isolation areas for vulnerable people. “As mineral explorers, we have access to the supplies needed and are in a unique position to help,” AME pointed out. If you can, please consider the following donations:

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

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

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

  • Other supplies or skills

To make a contribution, fill out this form and AME will be in touch. 

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

AME’s program comprises part of a spontaneous international effort in which miners and explorers across Canada and around the world contribute supplies, facilities, skills and expertise to the cause.

We will get through this—won’t we?

From one perspective, nuclear energy poses dangers unimagined by its more conventional critics. Although statistically one of our safest sources of electricity, its complexity requires a sophisticated and orderly society to guarantee safety.

Would that be possible if the West succumbed to a future dominated by rampant terrorism, rioting and crime—and in Canada, incessant blockades as well as unrestrained flakery? These are nightmarish scenarios, of course, but the pandemic makes them seem almost quaint.

An outbreak during a nuclear refuelling program at Pennsylvania’s Limerick facility just hints at the vulnerability of key infrastructure if illness strikes enough people, or even just a few specialists with rare expertise. Populations would suffer not only compounding problems from the loss of essential services but also dangers ranging from an ailing reactor to a crumbling hydro dam.

Preparations to lock down essential staff show foresight, but might also presage a highly regimented society. Such an outcome might result anyway, as has often been the historic case following a period of chaos.

Weakening links in the supply chains

Anyone who’s seen the derelict state of greater Vancouver’s once bountiful agricultural districts might question the wisdom of importing so much food from so far away. Times like these afflict complicated trade, communications and transportation networks and, as the case of milk distribution shows, shorter supply lines too.

Unable to get their product to market, some Canadian dairy farmers have been dumping large amounts of raw milk. In British Columbia, the practice started on April 3, “a measure of last resort, and only considered in emergency situations,” according to the B.C. Dairy Association.

Among problems listed by Postmedia are “transportation shortages caused by an overwhelmed trucking industry, processing and packaging challenges, a sharp decline in bulk customers due to the mass closures of restaurants and bakeries, and inconsistent distribution to stores.”

Another hint of the possibilities to come was the suspension of Maple Leaf Foods’ (TSX:MFI) Brampton poultry plant after three workers became infected.

“This is a very fluid situation and our teams are working very closely within our network, as well as with our supply chain and logistics partners so that we can continue to deliver safe food at this critical time,” the company stated.

Meanwhile selling groceries can prove deadly, as shown by COVID-19 fatalities among U.S. retail workers. The virus recently struck down at least four American supermarket employees, the Washington Post reported on April 6. “Industry experts say the rise of worker infections and deaths will likely have a ripple effect on grocers’ ability to retain and add new workers at a time when they’re looking to rapidly hire thousands of temporary employees,” the paper stated.

In southwestern British Columbia, some newly hired staff appear to come from a vulnerable age group. Some of the security guards policing the socially distant queues outside retail outlets wouldn’t look out of place in a long-term care home.

Myriad other supply chain challenges include COVID-19-specific medical equipment.

The new normal transitions into an uncertain future

Can your immune system withstand The Stand?

Virus novel precaution: Take this immunity self-test

Tragically these are also times of rampant misinformation, whether it’s conspiracy theories of how the virus originated or phoney promises of miraculous cures. One especially preposterous claim has been perpetrated by the National Post: that Stephen King’s The Stand “is either the perfect distraction from COVID-19 or too eerily accurate to consider.”

Yes it’s a story, of sorts, about a virus killing off most of our species. But before any attempt to read it, potential victims should answer these questions:

  • I like fictional characters who resemble TV stereotypes

  • I don’t care how long an author takes to tell a story, as long as it’s long

  • My favourite pastimes include watching water boil, paint dry and grass grow

  • I like boring books because they make our suddenly shortened lives seem to pass so slowly

If you answered every question with a resounding yes, you have sufficient boredom immunity to survive this virus novel.

Calendar of the plague year

These days commemorate the plague that passed over and the Resurrection. We can hope…

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove remarks on his company’s critical minerals project in Quebec

April 8th, 2020

…Read more

Crisis response

April 3rd, 2020

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

by Greg Klein | April 3, 2020

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

 

Idled explorers: Can you help?

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

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

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

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

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

  • Other supplies or skills

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

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

Preparing for a wider emergency

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia guards against predatory foreign takeovers

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

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

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

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

Critical minerals become ever more critical

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

Sharing the disease, hoarding the treatment

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

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

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

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

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese supply chains also jeopardized by Chinese disease

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

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

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

Miners’ providence unevenly distributed

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

“China needs to be held responsible”

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

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