Saturday 24th October 2020

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Posts tagged ‘south africa’

A critical first for the U.S.

June 26th, 2020

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

by Greg Klein | June 26, 2020

The way James Walker tells it, Utah’s Lost Sheep fluorspar mine was down to a part-time operation for just two men. Having seen better days between 1948 and 2007, operations dwindled to the point that “a couple of old guys were just driving a loader straight into the face of the fluorspar and putting that into bags. The grade was so rich that was all they had to do. So they just did that a couple of days a week and then they’d go off and fish most of the time.”

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

VP of exploration Raul Sanabria at
one of the project’s fluorspar showings.

Sounds idyllic, but the president/CEO of Ares Strategic Mining TSXV:ARS saw far greater potential. Walker was looking for a project “that was close to cash-flow and didn’t need a huge investment like $20 million to boost production,” he relates. “We looked over a couple of hundred projects and this one came up. It had been overlooked because the mineral itself wasn’t very well known. It was the only mine in all of America that was permitted and producing fluorspar.”

A year of effort consummated in February with Ares’ 100% acquisition which, along with additionally staked claims, delivered a 586-hectare potentially near-term producer that would comprise an American mining monopoly.

That’s based on a bold plan to move forward without the usual 43-101 de-risking stages. Walker attributes his confidence partly to the project and partly to the market.

As he said, fluorspar isn’t well known. But it’s highly coveted nonetheless. Also known as fluorite and more technically referred to as calcium fluoride (CaF2), it’s considered a critical mineral by the U.S. and EU.

Acidspar, the higher-priced fluorspar grading over 97% CaF2, is used to create hydrofluoric acid for refrigerants, pharmaceuticals and electronics, among other applications, and is also used in lithium-ion batteries and aluminum production. Lower-priced metspar, grading under 97%, goes into steel and cement production.

China produced over 57% of world fluorspar supply last year, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, followed by Mexico at 17%. With no significant production of its own, the U.S. has been importing about 66% of supply from Mexico, 13% from Vietnam, 8% from South Africa and 6% from China. Several of the world’s mines have been operating at or near full capacity, the USGS added. Roskill considers China likely to become a net fluorspar importer.

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

Assays are pending from last spring’s
delineation and exploration drill campaigns.

Ares’ work so far has Walker enthusiastic.

Although assays are still to come, last spring the company sunk 12 holes totalling 900 metres to delineate the old guys’ target area. Another five-hole, 300-metre exploration program revealed visible fluorspar in three holes. Metallurgical tests, meanwhile, upgraded Lost Sheep material beyond 97% CaF2, into the higher-priced acidspar level. That highlights the potential for bulk mining instead of selective extraction, Walker says.

He foresees possible production by October or even September with an initial 15- to 20-person operation. The mine plan calls for an adit to intersect a fluorspar-bearing pipe which would be drilled and blasted from the bottom. An underground loader or conveyor belt would move material to a truck which would carry it to the company’s own crushing, grinding, flotation and bagging facility.

“We also have a stockpile of discarded low-grade just sitting there. The other guys couldn’t sell it, they didn’t have a refining process.”

An impressive vote of confidence quickly came from the Mujim Group, a multinational fluorspar mining and distribution company. Soon after Ares announced the Lost Sheep acquisition, Mujim engineers visited the property. A strategic partnership resulted, with the group buying a 9% stake in Ares. Mujim managing director Bob Li joined Ares’ board earlier this month, bringing with him experience running fluorspar mines in Thailand and Laos, along with fluorspar trading companies in India, China and the Emirates. He’ll advise Ares on topics ranging from equipment selection and mining methods to processing techniques.

Walker himself is an engineer, not a common background for a junior mining CEO but especially suitable for a near-term producer. He’s worked on design projects for nuclear reactors, submarines, chemical plants, factories, infrastructure and automotive machinery, as well as mine processing facilities.

In charge of the Lost Sheep mine plan is Keith Minty, a mining engineer with 26 years of project development and operation experience over three continents. “He’s helped put nine mines into production that are way bigger than ours,” enthuses Walker.

Ares Strategic Mining has near-term plans for the country’s only fluorspar operation

CEO James Walker foresees operations
by September or October.

VP of exploration Raul Sanabria’s 20-year background includes five years with the Minersa Group, an industrial minerals company that’s Europe’s largest fluorspar producer. Denise Nunes brings over 20 years of experience as a process engineer and metallurgist to manage Ares’ bench testing and design a processing facility.

“We’re quite well-connected in the mining world so we have access to the best personnel for this project,” Walker emphasizes.

He points to financial backing too. Sprott Capital Partners helped broker a private placement that closed on $1.97 million in February. Haywood Securities acted as financial adviser on an over-subscribed private placement that closed on $1.13 million earlier this month. Walker anticipates a debt financing with Sprott on completing the mine plan.

In northern British Columbia, meanwhile, the company acquired the Liard fluorspar project last April. The highway-accessible 476-hectare property comes with historic, non-43-101 resources for seven areas. A joint venture, possibly with Mujim, might be the vehicle to drive the project, Walker says.

Other acquisitions are possible too, especially in the U.S., he adds. Should all go to plan with Lost Sheep, Ares would hold an American mining monopoly on fluorspar. That’s a distinction Walker would like to maintain.

Watch a January interview with Roskill analyst Adam Coggins on fluorspar demand and prices.

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.

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return: GlobalData

April 28th, 2020

by Greg Klein | April 28, 2020

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return GlobalData

 

As of April 27 some 729 mines worldwide remain suspended, down from more than 1,600 shutdowns on April 3. The numbers, released by GlobalData, reflect government decisions to declare the industry an essential service, as well as implementation of new health standards and procedures. Those efforts, often involving staff reductions, contribute to “a slow return for the industry,” stated the data and analytics firm.

“Silver production is currently being severely damaged by lockdown measures,” pointed out GlobalData mining analyst Vinneth Bajaj. “As of 27 April, the equivalent of 65.8% of annual global silver production was on hold. Silver mining companies such as First Majestic, Hochschild, Hecla Mining and Endeavour Silver have all withdrawn their production guidance for 2020 in the wake of the outbreak.

Mining resumes under COVID-19 but faces slow return GlobalData

“Progress has also been halted on 23 mines under construction, including the US$5.3-billion Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is one of the world’s biggest copper mines currently under development…. In Chile, while a lockdown is not in force, Antofagasta has halted work on its Los Pelambres project and Teck Resources has suspended work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase II mine.”

Jurisdictions that have lifted suspensions include Quebec, India, Argentina, Zimbabwe and South Africa, GlobalData added. Countries with government-ordered lockdowns still in force include Bolivia (until April 30), Namibia (May 4), Peru (May 10) and Mexico (May 30).

At least one Mexico operator, Argonaut Gold TSX:AR, plans to re-open on May 18 under an exception for businesses operating in municipalities with few or no cases of COVID-19.

Quebec’s resumption of mining drew strong criticism from Makivik Corporation, which represents the Inuit of the province’s Nunavik region.

“Makivik will not entertain the opening of any mines at this time in Nunavik. This is very dangerous,” said corporation president Charlie Watt on April 17. “The Inuit-elected officials in the communities and in the different regional organizations need to be heard and need to make the decisions and call the shots.”

One day later production resumed at Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine. The company stated that Nunavik authorities have banned travel between the mine and regional villages to protect the local population. Local workers stay home with compensation, while the mine employs workers from the south, including Inuit who live in the south.

Without question this is taking a toll on all of our mines and service/supply companies.—Ken Armstrong, NWT and
Nunavut Chamber of Mines

Six mines still operating in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories use similar staffing precautions. “The mines are operating with reduced workforces which they must fly in by charter from as far away as eastern Canada,” said NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Ken Armstrong. “To protect vulnerable northern communities from the virus they have sent their local employees home with pay and they are maintaining costly and unplanned virus protection measures.”

Meanwhile Labrador politicians expressed concern about renewed operations at Champion Iron’s (TSX:CIA) Bloom Lake mine on the Quebec side of the Labrador Trough. On April 28 VOCM radio reported that MP Yvonne Jones asked the company to avoid the Wabush airport in her riding and transport employees entirely through Quebec. Member of the House of Assembly Jordan Brown said contractors were making unnecessary trips to the Newfoundland and Labrador side.

Another pandemic-caused Quebec mining suspension will stay on care and maintenance due to market forces. Renard owner Stornoway Diamond stated, “Despite positive signs in the diamond market in early 2020, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the entire marketing chain and diamond price collapse.”

Prior to the suspension, Renard operated only through creditor support.

Another diamond casualty has been the Northwest Territory’s Ekati mine, which suspended operations last month. Majority owner Dominion Diamond Mines received insolvency protection on April 22.

Discovered in 1991 and opened in 1998, Ekati “provided nearly 33,000 person-years of employment, and $9.3 billion in business spending, with over half the benefits (51% of jobs and 69% of spending) going to northern residents and businesses,” the Chamber stated. “Billions of dollars in various taxes and royalties have also been paid to public and indigenous governments by the mine.”

Li-ion under the pandemic

April 20th, 2020

COVID-19 cuts energy minerals demand but heightens future shortages: Benchmark

by Greg Klein | April 20, 2020

The pandemic will shrink lithium-ion battery demand by at least 25% this year even prior to further economic setbacks. But electric vehicles hold greater likelihood than many other industries not only for recovery but growth. Current reductions in lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel supply will only mean greater need later this decade, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

COVID-19 cuts energy minerals demand but heightens future supply shortages

In an April 16 webinar presented by managing director Simon Moores and head of price assessments Caspar Rawles, the two warned that pandemic conditions and responses will worsen an already critical supply scenario later this decade.

That “lost quarter” of a 25% reduction in demand will likely be just the beginning, Moores said. “If there’s going to be a longer economic impact, which is most likely going to happen, a severe economic impact globally, then of course we lose more than a quarter.”

Yet exponential growth should continue for Li-ion battery megafactories. Five years ago just three such plants were in production or planned, with capacity totalling 57 gigawatt hours. By 2018 the number of plants climbed to 52, for 1,147 GWh. This year the figures jumped to 130 plants totalling 2,300 GWh now in production or slated for completion by 2030. That’s enough for 43 million EVs averaging 55 kWh each.

That future seems distant, compared with the current production limitations brought on by health-related mine suspensions, along with delayed expansions and development of new mines. Transportation challenges also loom large, such as the South Africa lockdown that restricts cobalt transshipment from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As the pandemic cuts supply, it curtails demand as well. Chinese automakers, the main producers of EVs, have largely shut down.

Lithium faced over-supply well before the pandemic, prompting cutbacks among majors like SQM, Albemarle, Ganfeng and Tianqi. “Also we saw that the majority of Tier 2 or 3 converters in China were already planning on going offline due to the low pricing we’ve seen in the market,” Rawles said.

So what that means down the road is those expansions which really need to be happening now to meet the future demand are not happening.—Caspar Rawles,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

“The key thing is that downturn in conversion capacity in China will mean that the backlog of spodumene feedstock material that’s sitting in China will take longer to work through, so we’re looking at a longer-term potential low-price environment,” he explained. “That threatens the economics of new projects of course and an increased risk of price volatility going forward…. So what that means down the road is those expansions which really need to be happening now to meet the future demand are not happening.”

What does a typical (35 GWh) NCM Li-ion battery plant consume in a year? Benchmark estimates 25,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide or carbonate, 6,000 tonnes of cobalt hydroxide, 19,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 33,000 tonnes of graphite.

“The supply chain won’t be able to build quick enough to meet this electric vehicle demand,” emphasized Moores. Even if estimates of EV growth were cut by 25% to 30%, “you’re still not going to have enough mining capacity, chemical capacity in the supply chain to make these. The lithium-ion supply chain has to grow by eight to 10 times in a seven-year period, and now that might be pushed to a 10-year period.”

You’ve got a big lithium problem on the horizon, [supplying] only 19 million EVs, compared to the 34 million we think we’re going to need.—Simon Moores,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

Production from current mines and those likely to enter operation suggest about 900,000 tonnes of annual lithium supply by 2030, enough to power about 19 million EVs. That constitutes “a big, big problem,” Moores said. “You’ve got a big lithium problem on the horizon, [supplying] only 19 million EVs, compared to the 34 million we think we’re going to need.”

Showing “a similar trajectory,” cobalt supply estimates come to 228,000 tonnes by 2030, enough for only about 17.9 million EVs.

“The mining companies are being super-cautious or even beyond super-cautious, considering we’re going to need 34 million EVs-worth. And even if that goes down to 25 million, you’re still way off,” he added.

Future demand will continue to be dominated by China, Benchmark maintains. Of the 130 battery plants currently expected by 2030, China would host 93. The country’s capacity would equal about 1,683 GWh, enough for 31 million EVs averaging 55 kWh. A dismal second, Europe follows with 16 plants totalling 413 GWh for 7.4 million EVs. The U.S. would have just seven plants for 205 GWh and 3.7 million EVs.

Currently producing about 73% of Li-ion batteries, China’s forecast to maintain that proportion with about 70% of global production in 2029.

For all that, Moores said European megafactories and Tesla’s U.S.-based Gigafactories set an example for supply chains in other industries.

“What the coronavirus has shown is that truly global supply chains in the 21st century don’t work. They’re too fragile, there’s too many question marks out there. Even pre-coronavirus that was the case…. The battery industry was well ahead of the curve on localizing the supply chain as much as possible…. That will continue, I think it’s a blueprint for other industries to follow. The battery supply chain is ahead of the curve on that.”

But, he cautioned, “the U.S. has to take on the same scale as China.”

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.”

Visual Capitalist looks at palladium—the secret weapon in fighting pollution

August 20th, 2019

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | August 20, 2019

Despite the growing hype around electric vehicles, conventional gas-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road well into the future.

As a result, exhaust systems will continue to be a critical tool in reducing harmful air pollution.

The power of palladium

This infographic comes to us from North American Palladium TSX:PDL, and it shows the unique properties of the precious metal and how it’s used in catalytic converters around the world.

In fact, palladium enables car manufacturers to meet stricter emission standards, making it a secret weapon for fighting pollution going forward.

 

Visual Capitalist looks at palladium the secret weapon in fighting pollution

 

The world is in critical need of palladium today. It’s the crucial metal in reducing harmful emissions from gas-powered vehicles—as environmental standards tighten, cars are using more and more palladium, straining global supplies.

What is palladium?

Palladium is one of six platinum group metals which share similar chemical, physical and structural features. Palladium has many uses, but the majority of global consumption comes from the autocatalyst industry.

In 2018, total gross demand for the metal was 10,121 million ounces (Moz), of which 8,655 Moz went to autocatalysts. These were the leading regions by demand:

  • North America: 2,041 Moz

  • Europe: 1,883 Moz

  • China: 2,117 Moz

  • Japan: 859 Moz

  • Rest of the world: 1,755 Moz

Catalytic converters: palladium versus platinum

The combustion of gasoline creates three primary pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Catalytic converters work to transform these poisonous and often dangerous chemicals into safer compounds.

In order to control emissions, countries around the world have come up with strict emissions standards that auto manufacturers must meet, but these are far from the reality of how much pollution is emitted by drivers every day.

Since no one drives in a straight line or in perfect conditions, stricter emissions testing is coming into effect. Known as Real Driving Emissions, these tests reveal that palladium performs much better than platinum for typical driving uses.

In addition, the revelation of the Volkswagen emission scandal (known as Dieselgate) further undermines platinum use in vehicles. As a result, diesel engines are being phased out in favour of gas-powered vehicles that use palladium.

Where does palladium come from?

If the world is using all this palladium, where is it coming from?

Approximately 90% of the world’s palladium production comes as a byproduct of mining other metals, with the remaining 10% coming from primary production.

In 2018, there was a total of 6.88 million ounces of mine supply primarily coming from Russia and South Africa. Conflicts with or within these jurisdictions present significant risks to the global supply chain. There are a few North American jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Montana, which present an opportunity for more stable primary production of palladium.

Long road to extinction

The current price of palladium is driven by fundamental supply and demand issues, not investor speculation. Between 2012 and 2018, an accumulated deficit of five million ounces placed pressure on readily available supplies of above-ground palladium.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to dominate the roads well into the future. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it will not be until 2040 that ICE vehicles will dip below 50% of new car sales, in favour of plug-in and hybrid vehicles. Stricter emissions standards will further bolster palladium demand.

The world needs stable and steady supplies of palladium today, and well into the future.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Visual Capitalist considers the hydrogen city: How hydrogen can help achieve zero emissions

May 14th, 2019

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 14, 2019

In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities can improve the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the paradox

This infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The hydrogen city How hydrogen can help achieve zero emissions

 

The urban economic engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and, according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050—or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization, which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Furthermore, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and CO2 emissions.

The hydrogen-fueled city

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossil fuels are used today for heat, power and transportation.

When used, hydrogen and fuel cell technology creates water vapour and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050 hydrogen could generate annually:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity

  • 10% of the heat and power required by households

  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

See Part 1 of this series: Evolution of hydrogen, from the Big Bang to fuel cells.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

This diamond’s huge, but is it worth much?

April 25th, 2019

by Greg Klein | April 25, 2019

Thanks partly to new processing gear that’s less likely to break up the stones, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC keeps pulling record-setting rocks out of its Karowe mine in Botswana. Now the company might have beat its previous record with a 1,758-carat diamond that would be the second-largest of gem quality ever found—if it’s of gem quality.

This diamond’s huge, but is it gem quality?

“Domains of high-quality white gem” may lurk within
Karowe’s largest recovered rock. (Photo: Lucara Diamond)

It’s “been characterized as near gem of variable quality, including domains of high-quality white gem,” Lucara explains. “Further detailed analysis is ongoing.”

The all-time record for gem-quality rough remains the 3,106-carat Cullinan, a 1905 discovery in South Africa that was cut and polished into the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre and produced eight other gems for Britain’s Crown Jewels. Tentatively holding second place is Lucara’s 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, which earlier this month hit the market as a 302.37-carat jewel with 66 smaller stones.

The company expects further fantastic finds, thanks to an x-ray transmission (XRT) recovery circuit commissioned in 2015 that strives to keep large stones intact. Since then Lucara produced 12 diamonds surpassing 300 carats, with the new find and the Lesedi La Rona exceeding 1,000 carats, out of total production approximating 1.4 million carats. Half of the 12 300-plus-carat rocks were gem quality, Lucara stated.

XRT notwithstanding, recovery might have separated Lesedi La Rona from a stone originally weighing in at 2,774 carats. That possibility was reported by the Gemological Institute of America last year after analysis of the 1,109-carat piece, a 373.72-carat fragment that Lucara sold separately, the 812-carat Constellation and three others weighing 374, 296 and 183 carats. The GIA’s analysis found “compelling evidence” that all five “likely originated from the same rough, with a combined weight of at least 2,774 carats.” Geological as well as recovery processes could be blamed for the break-up, Lucara responded at the time.

But the source of those recoveries should improve too “as we mine deeper in the ore body and gain access to the geologically favourable EM/PK(S) unit, the source of both of our record-breaking, plus-1,000-carat diamonds,” said CEO Eira Thomas.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Read about Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.

Read Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Graff Diamonds polishes its image with polished Lesedi La Rona

April 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | April 11, 2019

The company loves to proclaim its pre-eminent technology and expertise, but for this achievement the big boss overruled all that. Despite an initial analysis that said it couldn’t be done, Laurence Graff insisted on a 300-plus-carat polished jewel out of a 1,109-carat rough. Along with 66 smaller stones, that’s what he got. At 302.37 carats the Graff Lesedi La Rona “is the largest, highest-colour, highest-clarity diamond ever certified by the GIA, and the world’s largest square emerald cut diamond,” the company announced.

On paying $53 million in 2017 for the product of Lucara Diamond’s (TSX:LUC) Karowe mine in Botswana, Graff attributed unusual powers to the piece. “The stone will tell us its story,” he said. “It will dictate how it wants to be cut and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties.”

Graff Diamonds polishes its image with polished Lesedi La Rona

The Graff Lesedi La Rona:
As for the price, pikers need not inquire.
(Photo: Graff Diamonds)

In the end, it was Graff himself who did the dictating, at least where finished weight was concerned. By doing so, he overruled conclusions determined through a custom-built scanner with new imaging software specifically acquired to assess the stone, the largest gem-quality diamond found in a century. But Graff’s new technology enabled staff to chart the stone’s imperfections and plan the largest, highest-clarity jewels possible.

A master craftsman, also a classically trained musician, “used his highly attuned musician’s ear to listen for the smooth progression of the laser” as he cut the first incisions. A team of gemologists and master polishers toiled for over 18 months to produce this “masterpiece of technical audacity and diamond artistry.”

Having lost over two-thirds of the rough’s weight, cutting and polishing produced 66 additional diamonds, ranging from less than one carat to more than 26 carats.

Among gem-quality rough diamonds, Lesedi La Rona ranked second only to the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond, a 1905 discovery from South Africa. That stone produced nine polished gems, eight of them set into Britain’s Crown jewels. The ninth, considered the world’s largest top-quality polished diamond, is the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre.

The Cullinan mine currently operates under Petra Diamonds, which two weeks ago uncovered a 425.1-carat gem-quality diamond at the site.

Graff Diamonds credits itself with having “cut and polished the majority of the 20 largest diamonds discovered this century.” One that Graff missed, however, was the Lesotho Legend, a 910-carat 2018 discovery from Gem Diamonds’ Letseng mine in Lesotho and the fifth-largest gem-quality rough on record. Two months later Antwerp-based Samir Gems bought the stone for $40 million.

In 2017 Graff paid Lucara $17.5 million for a 373.72-carat fragment that broke off of Lesedi La Rona during mine recovery.

But if Graff’s publicist neglected to add “mystery” to Lesedi La Rona’s ineffable polished qualities, that word would apply to the price. The amount wasn’t disclosed.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Read about Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.

Read Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Frank Holmes comments on how mining mergers can affect the Canadian industry

March 5th, 2019

…Read more