Wednesday 21st August 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘Teck Resources Ltd (TECK.A)’

Site visits for sightseers

July 19th, 2019

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

by Greg Klein

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

A fun but informative underground tour brings B.C.’s former
Britannia copper mine to life. (Photo: Britannia Mine Museum)

 

Follow this industry closely enough and you’ll likely want to visit one or more mines yourself. One way to do that would be to get a job as a miner, although that’s an occupation requiring competence, a capacity for hard work and at least rudimentary English or French. People lacking those qualifications, however, need not despair. They might still find employment writing up sponsored site visits for investor newsletters and mining publications. Still a third approach involves touring historic sites.

Of course they emphasize mining’s past, but that puts perspective on the present. These endeavours helped build our country economically and socially, while inspiring lots of romantic lore and providing stuff that we consider essential. But they also brought about dangerous, sometimes disastrous working conditions, bitter labour conflicts and some primitive environmental standards.

That said, family visits can be entertainingly informative without abjuring history’s serious side.

In this first installment, we provide a list of historic Yukon and British Columbia mines and mining museums open this summer. Also included are a few operating mines that offer public tours. Generally not included, however, are museums of mineralogy and museums not entirely dedicated to mining. The latter category, omitted for space reasons, includes some excellent exhibits and should be considered by mining enthusiasts when visiting any current or former mining region.

Use the links to confirm opening times and other info. Also check tour requirements for footwear and other clothing.

See Part 2 about the prairie provinces, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

 

Yukon

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

For some Dawson visitors, gold’s allure overpowers
that of the theme park. (Photo: Parks Canada)

Putting aside the fact that the lack of a gold rush would have meant far fewer tourists, tourism has far outshone the gold rush’s economic importance to Dawson City. The town and its environs abound in Klondike references, real and imagined, from the goldfields themselves to the Dawson City Museum, Dredge #4, a gaudy streetscape (arguably authentic in spirit if not accuracy) and the bard of the Yukon’s log home. (Overheard from an American in Dawson’s visitor info centre: “We’ve heard about your Robert Service. Is he any relation to Robert Frost?”)

A variety of sites and activities can be previewed here, here and even here. And if a can-can dancer hauls you onto the stage at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, just consider it an act of revisionist history.

 

Only a few kilometres outside Whitehorse, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum focuses on a base metal play overshadowed by Klondike mania. Attractions include an interpretive train ride along 2.5 kilometres of narrow-gauge track. Back in town, look for the MacBride Museum’s other location, right by Sam McGee’s cabin.

Mile 919.28 Alaska Highway. Open Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., until August 31. More info.

 

About 290 kilometres east of Dawson City, in a former boom town now down to maybe 20 people, the Keno City Mining Museum displays tools, equipment and memorabilia about local gold-silver mining from the early 1900s.

Located at the end of the Silver Trail, Main Street. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until mid-September and “by chance/appointment” during the off-season. More info.

 

British Columbia

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Britannia’s multi-storey mill strikes an industrial presence
amid spectacular natural beauty. (Photo: Greg Klein)

Amid stunning scenery halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the Britannia Mine Museum comprises B.C.’s top such attraction. In operation from 1904 to 1974, this was for a while the British Commonwealth’s biggest copper producer. Now a National Historic Site, its features include 45-minute tours with a short underground train ride, entertaining and knowledgeable guides, gold panning, interactive exhibits and, in a multi-storey mill along the mountainside, a light, sound and special effects show “unlike anything else in North America.” Just outside the museum, early- and mid-20th century buildings remain from what was once an isolated company town.

Located on the Sea-to-Sky (#99) Highway, 45 minutes north of Vancouver and the same distance south of Whistler. Open seven days 9:00 to 5:30. More info.

 

South of Nanaimo, the four-hectare Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park hosts the only substantial remnants of a coal industry that predominated on Vancouver Island starting in the 1850s. This mine operated between 1913 and 1921, and features a 22.5-metre concrete reinforced headframe and a coal-tipping structure that’s one of just two of its kind left in North America. While in town, stop by the Nanaimo Museum for a small but excellent coal mining exhibit.

Directions: On Highway 1 about nine kilometres south of Nanaimo, turn east on Morden Road and follow it for one or two minutes. Long-overdue restoration work might cause temporary closures. Try BC Parks’ website for more info.

 

In the upper altitudes of southern B.C.’s east Kootenay district, an open-air train escapes downtown Kimberley’s “Bavarian” kitsch to take visitors through a scenic valley and into Sullivan, a 1909-to-2001 operation that once boasted itself the world’s largest lead-zinc mine. Guides from the Kimberley Heritage Museum and Kimberley Underground Mining Railway present demonstrations at the underground interpretive centre and the powerhouse. Other displays include a core shack.

Buy tickets at the train station 200 metres west of Kimberley’s pedestrian mall. Mining tours leave daily at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00. Sightseeing train trips that bypass the mine leave at 10:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays. More info.

 

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Barkerville crowds notwithstanding, there’s history
in them thar theme parks. (Photo: Barkerville Heritage Trust)

More social history than mining history and with a focus on family fun, Barkerville Historic Town and Park offers entertaining interpretations of the gold rush boom town founded in 1862. Costumed actors lead tours along streets lined with reconstructed period buildings and displays of 19th century mining infrastructure. Plays, concerts and variety shows at the Theatre Royal continue the theme park ambience, while the “immersive experience” offers activities ranging from gold panning to heritage cooking lessons and a blacksmithing workshop. Accommodation in and around the park includes a small hotel, B&Bs, cottages and campgrounds.

Located at the end of Highway 26, 204 kilometres northeast of Williams Lake and 86 kilometres east of Quesnel, all towns on B.C.’s Gold Rush Trail driving route. Open 8:00 to 8:00 until September 2. Museum exhibits close during the off season but the town’s main street remains open for parts of the year. Check the schedule for dates and times. More info.

 

Another historic theme park, although not directly related to mining despite being borne of a gold rush, Fort Steele Heritage Town got its name from Sam Steele, a Mountie whose exploits would have made him a frontier legend in the U.S. or Australia. The reconstructed town’s extensive attractions focus on town life and offer insights into a number of skills including gold panning. About six kilometres away and part of the provincial heritage site sit a few remains of Fisherville, where an 1864 discovery sparked the Wildhorse Creek rush. Self-guided brochures are available.

Located off Highway 93 (for some reason aka Highway 95), 16 kilometres northeast of Cranbrook. Open 10:00 to 5:00 until September 1, with some attractions open during the off season. More info.

 

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Teck Resources digs deep while a tour group looks on.
(Photo: Kootenay Rockies Tourism)

Step back into the present with tours of actual working mines in B.C.’s east Kootenays operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B. Three of the company’s open pit metallurgical coal operations welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave the town of Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half-hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from the town of Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

Elkford and Sparwood are about 34 kilometres apart on opposite ends of Highway 43. For further info and reservations, call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29. Sparwood’s CoC also hosts a Mining History Walking Tour that points out mining machinery and other memorabilia around town.

See Part 2 about the prairie provinces, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Rare earths from coal: Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

July 18th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 18, 2019

China’s overwhelming dominance of rare earths mining and processing isn’t the only supply problem facing REEs. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting,” points out Maria Holuszko. “They are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” As lead researcher on a new Geoscience BC project, she and her team plan further study into the viability of sourcing the stuff from coal, specifically southeastern British Columbia’s metallurgical fuel. Plans call for sampling East Kootenay deposits and tailings to quantify and characterize REEs, and to test extraction processes at the laboratory scale.

Rare earths from coal Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

REEs have already been found in coal deposits in B.C., the United States, the Russian Far East and elsewhere. The U.S., which now has REEs at the forefront of its critical minerals strategy, has funded US$10 million to study extraction from coal and/or its byproducts. As assistant professor of mineral processing and co-founder of the Urban Mining Innovation Centre at UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, Holuszko will head a project following up on work by one of her PhD candidates, Vinoth Kumar Kuppusamy. Kumar has already conducted work on a 300-kilo run-of-mine sample taken from two Kootenay operations.

Phase I of the current project calls for analyzing field samples to compile a database of East Kootenay coalfield REE concentration. The next stage involves lab-scale assessment of REE enrichment and an extraction test.

Work should wrap up by March 31, 2021, after which peer-reviewed results will be made public. The not-for-profit’s funding comes from the province, although UBC may contribute facilities and staff time, Geoscience BC director of external relations Richard Truman says.

With a mandate to provide information that helps government, industry and communities make informed decisions, Geoscience BC has worked on over 200 projects since 2005. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Visit the East Kootenay coalfields

Three open pit metallurgical coal mines operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

For reservations and further info (including footwear and other clothing requirements), call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29.

Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners as Roundup approaches

December 6th, 2018

by Greg Klein | December 6, 2018

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

The Chidliak discovery brings another potential diamond mine to Canada’s Arctic.
(Photo: De Beers)

 

Mine finders, financiers and builders will be honoured, but so will others including educators and a gold panner, as well as leaders in social and environmental responsibility and in health and safety. It takes a wide range of abilities to supply the world with the stuff we need and the Association for Mineral Exploration recognizes diverse achievements in its Celebration of Excellence awards. Winners were announced on December 6 in advance of AME’s annual Roundup conference scheduled for January 28 to 31 in Vancouver.

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

Yukon Dan Moore shares an award with geologist
and social responsibility practitioner Peter Bradshaw.

Al McOnie, Seymour Iles and Jared Chipman of Alexco Resource TSX:AXR win the 2018 H.H. “Spud” Huestis Award for Excellence in Prospecting and Mineral Exploration. The trio gets credit for the recent discovery and delineation of over 60 million silver ounces in the Flame & Moth and Bermingham deposits in Yukon’s Keno Hill Silver District.

John McCluskey wins the Murray Pezim Award for Perseverance and Success in Financing Mineral Exploration. McCluskey played a crucial role in acquiring, financing and encouraging the discoveries of La India (Grayd Resources, bought out by Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM in 2012), Mulatos (Alamos Gold TSX:AGI) and Kemess East (AuRico Metals, acquired by Centerra Gold TSX:CG in January), as well as his ongoing success as CEO of Alamos.

Eric Friedland, executive chairperson of Peregrine Diamonds (acquired by De Beers in September), Geoff Woad, former head of world diamond exploration for BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP and Brooke Clements, former Peregrine president, win the Hugo Dummett Award for Excellence in Diamond Exploration and Development for their part in discovering the Chidliak Diamond Province in Nunavut.

Tom Henricksen wins the Colin Spence Award for Excellence in Global Mineral Exploration  for “outstanding contributions to mineral discovery, and being involved in some monumental discoveries and/or acquisitions across the world.”

Matt Andrews and Monica Moretto win the Robert R. Hedley Award for Excellence in Social and Environmental Responsibility for their work with Pan American Silver TSX:PAAS.

Paycore Drilling wins the David Barr Award for Excellence in Leadership and Innovation in Mineral Exploration Health and Safety for the Paycore crew’s rescue operation following a helicopter crash.

Yukon Dan Moore and Peter Bradshaw share the Gold Pan Award for separate endeavours demonstrating “exceptional meritorious service to the mineral exploration community.”

As Roundup approaches, the Association for Mineral Exploration names 2018 award winners

Norman Keevil’s award honours his achievements
in B.C. and adjacent parts of the Cordillera.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

J. Greg Dawson and Victoria Yehl win the Frank Woodside Award for Distinguished Service to AME and/or Mineral Exploration for achievements that include Dawson’s research in land use planning and Yehl’s work as an AME organizer.

AME’s 2019 Outreach Education Fund grants $10,000 each to two groups: MineralsEd for the Kids & Rocks Classroom Workshop, and Britannia Mine Museum for its Education Program.

Norman Keevil, chairperson emeritus/special adviser for Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B and author of Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time, wins a Special Tribute for his achievements and contributions to exploration, discovery and development.

Congratulating the winners, AME chairperson ‘Lyn Anglin said, “The theme of AME’s 2019 Roundup conference is Elements for Discovery and these individuals and teams, through their remarkable efforts in elements of exploration, development and outreach, have generated discoveries and advancements which will bring benefits to the many diverse communities throughout British Columbia and Canada.”

Winners will be feted at the January 30 Awards Gala, part of AME Roundup from January 28 to 31 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. Two days of short courses precede the event. Discounted early bird registration remains open until 4:00 p.m. December 14. Click here to register.

Read more about AME’s Celebration of Excellence award winners and their achievements.

Community spirit

September 21st, 2018

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

by Greg Klein

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Two years after taking over a bankrupt company’s Peace River region assets,
Conuma employs over 750 people, a number that’s expected to reach 900 by year-end.
(Photos: Conuma Coal Resources)

 

Expertise, acumen and timing had a lot to do with it, but September 21 marks the second anniversary of a success story that strongly demonstrates mining’s intangible benefits. Two years ago Conuma Coal Resources re-opened its newly acquired Brule mine in northeastern British Columbia, then re-started two more open pits in the same region. While the advantages of resource industries often extend well beyond jobs and the economy, this is a company that actively pursues a mission in addition to profits.

But profitable Conuma is. It’s also the Peace River coal field’s only miner, following a 2014 downturn that closed the last of the district’s metallurgical fuel operations run by Walter Energy, Anglo American and Teck Resources.

How mining—coal mining at that—revived a B.C. region

The new company has re-opened three mines
in a region deserted by majors.

After Walter entered bankruptcy proceedings the following year, something like 80 firms looked over the company’s Peace assets, with a proposal coming from a liquidator that would have dismantled the projects, says Conuma president Mark Bartkoski. He and a highly experienced group put together their privately-held company in summer 2016.

“Our team saw an opportunity to run Brule differently, to work with the community and First Nations a little more progressively and, from a technical standpoint, we felt there were a number of mining changes that would add value.

“One thing we tied to our offer was a commitment to hire 200 people in the first few months. That probably swung the deal, but we ended up hiring 400 in that first four-month period. We purchased the company on September 9 and had the first coal come out on the 21st.”

That was Brule, which Walter suspended in 2014. Less than three months after resuscitating that mine, Conuma re-started Wolverine, idled by Walter in 2014. Last June Conuma re-opened Willow Creek, shuttered by Walter in 2013. Conuma now employs over 750 people, a number that’s expected to reach 900 by year-end.

“We mined 3.5 million tonnes last year, we’ll mine approximately five million tonnes this year, next year we’re projected to do six million tonnes and, by the time we get to 2021, we should be at about 7.5 million tonnes.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Conuma expects production to reach five
million tonnes this year and six million in 2019.

Processing takes place at Willow Creek. From there, rail transports the steelmaking stuff about 965 kilometres to Ridley Terminals near Prince Rupert, North America’s closest deep water port to Asia.

Conuma got early backing from the AMCI Group, a large American coal brokerage that brought experience and connections, gaining a majority share of Conuma.

But workers’ input also plays a vital role, Bartkoski emphasizes. The region’s coal “had the problem of being high-cost, so every time the market got tough, this was the first coal field to get cut.” There was a problem with consistency too.

“The quality of the coal, as far as low-sulphur, low-phosphorous metallurgical coal, is very good,” he explains. “But there was always a very high variation in the ash, which is how much rock was in the coal. Steel producers have a real problem when that ash varies a lot. So we worked with the employees, we came up with a couple of pro-active systems to be creative. We used to have an ash variation of about 1.5% ash, and currently we’re running 0.18%, which is fantastic. We’ve had three of the world’s largest steel companies come to look at our quality control program and the question is, ‘How in the world did you guys go from one of the worst ash variations internationally to one of the best?’

“It’s not enough to do well only when the market’s good,” he points out. “You have to get costs down, keep debt low and maintain a high-quality reputation so when the market gets tough and tight—and it’s probably not going to stay like this forever—we’ll remain the preferred supplier.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Employee feedback should help the company
weather another downturn, Conuma believes.

Employee engagement doesn’t stop there. “We hold monthly meetings to talk to every crew about costs, about pro-active things we can do, whether it’s environmental ideas or whether it’s delays or accidents. When you involve people and truly listen to them, you get good results. We’ve been able to reduce our operating costs by 40% compared to the previous company—that’s awesome. Our injury rate right now is one-seventh of the North American average, which is phenomenal. We were the safest mining company in B.C. last year, and right now we’re on track to repeat that this year.”

Stressing both cost reduction and safety, employee feedback has contributed to an efficiency incentive program that currently averages workers over $1,000 a month each.

Longevity strengthens commitment to both the company and the community, he adds. Previously, Brule and Willow provided camp housing, where employee turnover averaged six and a half months, Bartkoski says. “We wanted to build a company that would support a healthy home life. Our goal was to train the local workforce to fulfill the needs. We have a training budget that’s about three times the size of most companies because we want to train people to be here for the long term. Right now over 80% of our people are local. They live in either Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd or Mackenzie, and we’re really proud of that. That was a commitment I made to the mayors and the First Nations.

“As a matter of fact, a large amount of our truck drivers are single moms. That workforce hadn’t been encouraged in the past and in a lot of cases they’re people who want to remain part of the community. I hate to break the bubble of us macho guys but a lot of our best truck drivers are women.”

Although Bartkoski doesn’t make the comparison, Conuma’s training policy contrasts starkly with that of HD Mining International. The Chinese company planned to staff underground operations at Murray River, another proposed coal mine in the Peace, exclusively with Mandarin-speaking workers imported from China. An HD spokesperson later claimed the policy had been misunderstood, although the company made Mandarin a requirement for underground jobs.

I remember walking out of their office thinking ‘I’m not even going to say this to anyone’ because I didn’t think any of it would happen. But everything they told me did come to pass and in most cases sooner than they said they were going to do it. So it’s really been a shot in the arm for Tumbler Ridge.—Don McPherson, mayor of
the District of Tumbler Ridge

Looking ahead, Conuma projects 15-year lifespans for each of its three mines. A fourth, Willow South, should begin operations in about two years, Bartkoski says. Meanwhile the company and its staff participate in a number of extra-curricular projects, including their support for a children’s home in Vancouver and an orphanage in Bolivia.

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson recalls his first meeting with Conuma management in summer 2016. “I remember walking out of their office thinking ‘I’m not even going to say this to anyone’ because I didn’t think any of it would happen. But everything they told me did come to pass and in most cases sooner than they said they were going to do it. So it’s really been a shot in the arm for Tumbler Ridge.”

McPherson arrived in the region before the town even existed, working as a mechanic on construction vehicles used to build the district’s first coal mine, Quintette, which Denison Mines opened in 1982. Since then he’s experienced a number of mining cycles.

“Two years ago, before Conuma, you could walk downtown and probably never see children,” he recalls. “Now you’ve got all these young people who’ve come to work at the mine. They brought their families. Our schools are full right now.” He estimates the town’s population at about 2,200, up from about 1,800 at one point.

Although the oilpatch, a windfarm, forestry and tourism have diversified the economy, mining’s still vital to the town built for mining.

Meanwhile Bartkoski’s enthusiasm seems irrepressible. “We’re very excited not only that we have a very good future in front of us here, but we’ve also proven that northeast B.C. coal, mined in a very aggressive, creative and engaging way, with not only the employees but also the community, can be a win-win for everybody—and a long-term win.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

The company enhances staff commitment to both the job
and the community through a policy of training local residents.

Canada’s six biggest miners boost exploration spending by 31%: PwC

July 5th, 2018

by Greg Klein | July 5, 2018

Canada’s six biggest miners boost exploration spending by 31%: PwC

(Photos: PricewaterhouseCoopers)

 

The half-dozen Canadian companies among the world’s top 40 miners increased exploration expenditures last year at twice the rate of the others. That info comes from the upbeat results found in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Mine 2018, a study of the planet’s 40 biggest companies by market cap. The six Canadians spent C$620 million looking for new resources last year, compared with C$473 million in 2016. The report forecasts continued improvement throughout the current year.

Globally, exploration rose 15% in 2017 to US$8.4 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence figures cited by PwC.

Not so impressive, though, was the equity raised on three key mining markets, which fell $1.7 billion last year for the industry as a whole. Especially hard-hit was Toronto, which plunged 36%. Australia slipped 9%, while London actually jumped 47%. However this year’s Q1 investing “reveals that activity in Toronto and Australia is starting to pick up and signals a renewed interest in exploration and early development projects.”

Overall, higher commodity prices propelled the top 40 companies’ revenues 23% to about US$600 billion, with cost-saving efficiencies contributing to a “sharp increase in profits.” The report sees several years of continued growth as global annual GDP increases about 4% for the next five years.

Meanwhile market caps for the top 40 soared 30% last year to US$926 billion.

The top 40 companies’ capex outlay, however, floundered at its lowest level in 10 years. But the authors “expect next year’s level to increase as companies press ahead with long-term strategies, be it growth through greenfield or brownfield investments, or new acquisitions.”

Should that investment fail to materialize, the report asks, “will there be a temptation to spend without sufficient capital discipline when demand outstrips supply?”

At a number of points PwC admonishes miners not to “give in to the impulses” engendered by the previous boom: “Perhaps the most significant risk currently facing the world’s top miners is the temptation to acquire mineral-producing assets in order to meet rising demand. In the previous cycle, many miners eschewed capital discipline in the pursuit of higher production levels, which set them up to suffer when the downturn came.”

Canadians among the 2017 top 40 consisted of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (since merged with Agrium to create Nutrien TSX:NTR) in 13th place, Barrick Gold TSX:ABX (14th), Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B (16th), Goldcorp TSX:G (25th), Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM (26th) and First Quantum Minerals TSX:FM (30th).

The top five companies, holding a top-heavy 47% of the top-40 combined market cap, were BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP, Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO, Glencore, China Shenhua Energy and Vale NYSE:VALE.

In addition to exploration spending, the half-dozen Canadian companies also got special mention for workplace safety, as “world leaders in digital transformation” and for boardroom diversity in which “women make up 25% of directors among Canadian miners, compared to 19% among their global peers.”

Download PwC’s Mine 2018 report.

Norman B. Keevil relates a three-sentence feasibility study in his history of Teck Resources, Never Rest on Your Ores

November 20th, 2017

…Read more

Paved with mineralization

October 27th, 2017

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

by Greg Klein

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Profitable right from the beginning, Teck’s Elkview mine “would become
the key chip in the consolidation of the Canadian steelmaking coal industry.”
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

“We were all young and relatively inexperienced in such matters in those days.”

He was referring to copper futures, a peril then unfamiliar to him. But the remark’s a bit rich for someone who was, at the time he’s writing about, 43 years old and president/CEO of a company that opened four mines in the previous six years. Still, the comment helps relate how Norman B. Keevil enjoyed the opportune experience of maturing professionally along with a company that grew into Canada’s largest diversified miner. Now chairperson of Teck Resources, he’s penned a memoir/corporate history/fly-on-the-wall account that’s a valuable contribution to Canadian business history, not to mention the country’s rich mining lore.

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—road to success

Norman B. Keevil
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time follows the progress of a group of people determined to avoid getting mined out or taken out. In addition to geoscientific, engineering and financial expertise, luck accompanies them (much of the time, anyway), as does acumen (again, much of the time anyway).

Teck gains its first foothold as a predecessor company headed by Keevil’s father, Norman Bell Keevil, drills Temagami, a project that came up barren for Anaconda. The new guys hit 28% copper over 17.7 metres. Further drilling leads to the three-sentence feasibility study:

Dr. Keevil: What shall we do about Temagami?

Joe Frantz: Let’s put it into production.

Bill Bergey: Sounds good to me.

They schedule production for two and a half months later.

A few other stories relate a crucial 10 seconds in the Teck-Hughes acquisition, the accidental foray into Saskatchewan oil, the Toronto establishment snubbing Afton because of its VSE listing, an underhanded ultimatum from the British Columbia government, getting out of the oyster business and winning an unheard-of 130% financing for Hemlo.

Readers learn how Murray Pezim out-hustled Robert Friedland. But when it came to Voisey’s, Friedland would play Inco and Falconbridge “as though he were using a Stradivarius.” Keevil describes one guy welching on a deal with the (apparently for him) unarguable excuse that it was only a “gentleman’s agreement.”

Norman B. Keevil’s memoir retraces Teck’s—and his own—rocky road to success

Through it all, Teck gets projects by discovery or acquisition and puts them into production. Crucial to this success was the Teck team, with several people getting honourable mention. The author’s closest accomplice was the late Robert Hallbauer, the former Craigmont pit supervisor whose team “would go on to build more new mines in a shorter time than anyone else had in Canadian history.” Deal-making virtuoso David Thompson also gets frequent mention, with one performance attributed to his “arsenal of patience, knowledge of the opponents, more knowledge of the business than some of them had, and a tad of divide and conquer…”

Partnerships span the spectrum between blessing and curse. International Telephone and Telegraph backs Teck’s first foray into Chile but frustrates its ability to do traditional mining deals. The Elk Valley Coal Partnership puts Teck, a company that reinvests revenue into growth, at odds with the dividend-hungry Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Working with a Cominco subsidiary, Keevil finds the small-cap explorer compromised by the “ephemeral response of the junior stock market.” And smelters rip off miners. But that doesn’t mean a smelter can’t become a valued partner.

Keevil argues the case for an almost cartel-like level of co-operation among miners. Co-ordinated decisions could avoid surplus production, he maintains. Teck’s consolidation of Canada’s major coal mines helped the industry stand up to Japanese steelmakers, who had united to take advantage of disorganized Canadian suppliers. “Anti-trust laws may be antediluvian,” he states.

Keevil admits some regrets, like missing Golden Giant and a Kazakhstan gold project now valued at $2 billion. The 2008 crash forced Teck to give up Cobre Panama, now “expected to be a US$6 billion copper mine.” Teck settled a coal partnership impasse by buying out the Ontario Teachers’ share for $12 billion. Two months later the 2008 crisis struck. Over two years Teck plunged from $3.6 billion in net cash to $12 billion in net debt.

But he wonders if his own biggest mistake was paying far too much for the remaining 50% of Cominco when an outright purchase might not have been necessary. Keevil attributes the initial 50%, on the other hand, to a miracle of deal-making.

For the most part Keevil ends his account in 2005, when he relinquishes the top job to Don Lindsay. By that time the company had 11 operating mines and a smelting/refining facility at Trail. A short chapter on the following 10 years, among the most volatile since the early ’70s, credits Teck with “a classic recovery story which deserves a full chapter in the next edition of Never Rest on Your Ores.” Such a sequel might come in another 10 years, he suggests.

Let’s hope he writes it, although it’ll be a different kind of book. As chairperson he won’t be as closely involved in the person-to-person, deal-to-deal, mine-to-mine developments that comprise the greatest strength of this book—that and the fact that the author grew with the company as it became Canada’s largest diversified miner.

Meanwhile, maybe Lindsay’s been keeping a diary.

The author’s proceeds go to two organizations that promote mining awareness, MineralsEd and Mining Matters.

Teck Resources’ Norman B. Keevil recalls the negotiation style of a 1970s British Columbia cabinet minister

October 25th, 2017

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Norman B. Keevil book reveals tactics of 1970s B.C. flirtation with resource nationalism

September 29th, 2017

by Greg Klein | September 29, 2017

The year was 1973. No sooner had Teck Resources transplanted its HQ to Vancouver than British Columbia premier W.A.C. Bennett’s 20-year reign fell to defeat at NDP hands. Resource nationalism proved to be one of new premier Dave Barrett’s earliest enthusiasms. But the guy who bragged about his commitment to doing “what was needed and right” showed a peculiar modus operandi.

That’s just one of the stories related by Norman B. Keevil in a history of Teck to be released next week, Never Rest on Your Ores: Building a Mining Company, One Stone at a Time.

Norman B Keevil book reveals tactics of 1970s B.C. flirtation with resource nationalism

Norman B. Keevil
(Photo: Teck)

Keevil relates that on summoning him and Bob Hallbauer into the premier’s Victoria office, Barrett’s first words were, “I want your coal.”

Interest had been growing in northeastern B.C.’s deposits, among them Teck’s Sukunka. “Well, at least he did call it our coal,” Keevil notes. “That would become questionable as the situation evolved.”

The duo declined but Barrett wouldn’t give up. He kept calling them back to Victoria on an almost weekly basis.

At about the seventh such meeting, a very strange thing happened. Barrett had a curtain angled across a corner in his office. We’d never paid much attention to it, but in that seventh meeting the curtain rustled a bit, and a thin, sepulchral, white-haired professorial type jumped out from behind it. It was almost as though he was wearing a superhero cape, or super-villain. I think Dave must have gotten him out of Marvel Comics. Was there a door to another room behind the curtain, or had this strange figure just been hiding behind it, taking it all in? I never did find out.

It turned out this was the patrician Alex Macdonald, Barrett’s attorney general and the upholder of law and order—the NDP way. The honourable gentleman said to us: ‘I want you to understand just one thing. I guarantee that you will never be able to put that coal property into production. All you have is an exploration licence and, if you don’t sell to us right now, I’ll cancel it tomorrow.’

Calling it an “unseemly ultimatum from the upholder of justice,” Keevil states the company reluctantly agreed on a $20-million sale that would close in June, a few months away.

But when June arrived, the government announced it had “dropped its option,” writes Keevil—who insists that it wasn’t an option but a firm deal.

Musing over the new government’s equivocation, Keevil wonders if it just came down to money: “Certainly they had been spending like drunken sailors on redecorating some of the higher-profile, cabinet ministers’ offices.

“As to Alex Macdonald, a quote of his survives all of this: ‘In politics, your opponents are on the other side of the legislature, but your enemies are all around you.’ With him, I’m not too surprised.”

Viewing that vignette in a wider context, Keevil sees much of the mining world as chaotic for much of the 1970s and early ’80s, whether it was in B.C., Panama, Chile, El Salvador or Saskatchewan. Compounding the mess were peripheral problems ranging from the OPEC oil embargo to Trudeauvian taxes.

But as for Sukunka, it never did go into production. Teck lost interest and, with intercession from pre-prime ministerial Jean Chretien, unloaded it on BP, which eventually abandoned the project.

Yet the BP deal let Teck retain 100% of the adjacent Bullmoose project. Partly thanks to new infrastructure from a new B.C. government, Bullmoose became Teck’s first coal mine. Now Canada’s largest diversified resource company is also the world’s second-largest supplier of seaborne steelmaking coal.

Read more about Never Rest on Your Ores.

PwC numbers support B.C. mining’s resurgent mood

May 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 17, 2017

Not just shareholders but governments, employees and communities all benefit from the upturn in mining, according to British Columbia data. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual report on B.C. mining credits the industry’s “cautiously optimistic” mood on stabilized or improving commodity prices, continuing progress on development projects and new mines to come. The survey gleaned its findings from 28 companies whose main assets comprise 14 operating mines, one on care and maintenance, three exploration projects, nine projects undergoing permitting or environmental assessment and a smelter.

Year-over-year numbers help explain the optimism.

The participating companies drew gross mining revenue of $8.7 billion last year, compared with $7.7 billion in 2015, “driven by higher revenue at Teck’s [TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B] B.C. coal mines as well as Imperial Metals’ [TSX:III] Red Chris and Mount Polley operations.”

Net mining revenue for the participants totalled $7.3 billion, compared with $6.3 billion in 2015, “driven by an increase in gross mining revenue and a decrease in smelting and refining charges and freight costs.” Cash flow from operations rose to $2.6 billion in 2016 from $1.7 billion the previous year.

Participants’ exploration and development spending, however, fell from $320 million in 2015 to $102 million last year. But PwC attributed the decrease largely to Pretium Resources’ (TSX:PVG) Brucejack graduating from exploration and evaluation into construction, helping push 2016 capex for the 28 companies up to $1.37 billion, compared with $1.24 billion in 2015.

And those companies’ shareholders reaped rising returns—13.5% last year, compared with 6.3% in 2015 and 2.4% in 2014. With the 2016 figure slightly above 2013 results, “the hope is that it will continue to climb towards 2012 levels as we move into 2017.”

Governments did alright too, getting total payments of $650 million from the participants last year, up from $476 million in 2015. Last year saw the participants’ highest such payments since 2011.

Direct employment rose slightly to 9,329 jobs, compared with 9,221 in 2015.

Of all those numbers, of course, job figures have the most obvious impact on people and their communities. Even PwC’s beancounters appear moved by the intangible effects of the Tumbler Ridge coal mining revival. The inspirational story began last autumn when Conuma Coal Resources rescued some B.C. assets of bankrupt Walter Energy and reopened the Brule mine.

An “extreme and effective collaboration” of industry, government and First Nations helped Conuma put Brule back in operation quickly, Karina Briño told PwC. Briño, who stepped down as B.C. Mining Association president/CEO on April 30 to take on a mining role in her native Chile, added, “Mining really is a community-based activity that is not only valued but appreciated by the community.”

Conuma CEO Mark Bartkoski echoed those comments. “We felt really good about the properties and the spirit of the people in the community. It has truly been a testament to positive collaboration.”

Looking at the B.C. industry overall, PwC concluded, “While it may be too soon to call it a recovery, the outlook is brighter today than it has been in recent years…. While several challenges remain—including the volatility of commodity prices, keeping costs down, and attracting more investment in the short and long term—the future looks promising.”

Download Building for the Future: The Mining Industry in British Columbia 2016.