Thursday 19th January 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘u.s.’

Cobalt: A precarious supply chain

January 14th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

Cobalt: A precarious supply chain

 

How does your mobile phone last for 12 hours on just one charge? It’s the power of cobalt, along with several other energy metals, that keeps your lithium-ion battery running.

The only problem? Getting the metal from the source to your electronics is not an easy feat, and this makes for an extremely precarious supply chain for manufacturers.

This infographic comes to us from LiCo Energy Metals TSXV:LIC and it focuses on where this important ingredient of green technology originates from, and the supply risks associated with its main sources.

What is cobalt?

Cobalt is a transition metal found between iron and nickel on the periodic table. It has a high melting point (1493° C) and retains its strength to a high temperature.

Similar to iron or nickel, cobalt is ferromagnetic. It can retain its magnetic properties to 1100° C, a higher temperature than any other material. Ferromagnetism is the strongest type of magnetism: it’s the only one that typically creates forces strong enough to be felt and is responsible for the magnets encountered in everyday life.

These unique properties make the metal perfect for two specialized high-tech purposes: superalloys and battery cathodes.

Superalloys

High-performance alloys drive 18% of cobalt demand. The metal’s ability to withstand intense temperatures and conditions makes it perfect for use in:

  • Turbine blades

  • Jet engines

  • Gas turbines

  • Prosthetics

  • Permanent magnets

Lithium-ion batteries

Batteries drive 49% of demand—and most of this comes from cobalt’s use in lithium-ion battery cathodes:

Type of lithium-ion cathode Cobalt in cathode Spec. energy (Wh/kg)
LFP 0% 120
LMO 0% 140
NMC 15% 200
LCO 55% 200
NCA 10% 245

The three most powerful cathode formulations for li-ion batteries all need cobalt. As a result, the metal is indispensable in many of today’s battery-powered devices:

  • Mobile phones (LCO)

  • Tesla Model S (NCA)

  • Tesla Powerwall (NMC)

  • Chevy Volt (NMC/LMO)

The Tesla Powerwall 2 uses approximately seven kilograms and a Tesla Model S (90 kWh) uses approximately 22.5 kilos of the energy metal.

The cobalt supply chain

Cobalt production has gone almost straight up to meet demand, more than doubling since the early 2000s.

But while the metal is desired, getting it is the hard part.

1. No native cobalt has ever been found.

There are four widely distributed ores that exist but almost no cobalt is mined from them as a primary source.

2. Most cobalt production is mined as a byproduct.

Mine source % cobalt production
Nickel (byproduct) 60%
Copper (byproduct) 38%
Cobalt (primary) 2%

This means it is hard to expand production when more is needed.

3. Most production occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with elevated supply risks.

Country Tonnes %
Total 122,701 100.0%
United States 524 0.4%
China 1,417 1.2%
DRC 67,975 55.4%
Rest of World 52,785 43.0%

(Source: CRU, estimated production for 2017, tonnes)

The future of cobalt supply

Companies like Tesla and Panasonic need reliable sources of the metal and right now there aren’t many failsafes.

The United States hasn’t mined cobalt in significant volumes since 1971 and the USGS reports that the U.S. only has 301 tonnes of the metal stored in stockpiles.

The reality is that the DRC produces about half of all cobalt and it also holds approximately 47% of all global reserves.

Why is this a concern for end-users?

1. The DRC is one of the poorest, most corrupt and most coercive countries on the planet.

It ranks:

  • 151st out of 159 countries in the Human Freedom Index

  • 176th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index

  • 178th out of 184 countries in terms of GDP per capita ($455)

  • 148th out of 169 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index

2. The DRC has had more deaths from war since WWII than any other country on the planet.
Recent wars in the DRC:

  • First Congo War (1996-1997)—An invasion by Rwanda that overthrew the Mobutu regime.

  • Second Congo War (1998-2003)—The bloodiest conflict in world history since WWII, with 5.4 million deaths.

3. Human rights in mining

The DRC government estimates that 20% of all cobalt production in the country comes from artisanal miners—independent workers who dig holes and mine ore without sophisticated mines or machinery.

There are at least 100,000 artisanal cobalt miners in the DRC and UNICEF estimates that up to 40,000 children could be in the trade. Children can be as young as seven years old and they can work up to 12 hours with physically demanding work earning $2 per day.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International alleges that Apple, Samsung and Sony fail to do basic checks in making sure the metal in their supply chains did not come from child labour.

Most major companies have vowed that any such practices will not be tolerated in their supply chains.

Other sources

Where will tomorrow’s supply come from and will the role of the DRC eventually diminish? Will Tesla achieve its goal of a North American supply chain for its key metal inputs?

Mining exploration companies are already looking at regions like Ontario, Idaho, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to find tomorrow’s deposits.

Ontario: Ontario is one of the only places in the world where cobalt-primary mines have existed. This camp is near the aptly named town of Cobalt, which is located halfway between Sudbury, the world’s nickel capital, and Val-d’Or, one of the most famous gold camps in the world.

Idaho: Idaho is known as the Gem State while also being known for its silver camps in Coeur d’Alene—but it has also been a cobalt producer in the past.

B.C.: The mountains of B.C. are known for their rich gold, silver, copper, zinc and met coal deposits. But cobalt often occurs with copper and some mines in B.C. have produced cobalt in the past.

Northwest Territories: Cobalt can also be found up north, as the NWT becomes a more interesting mineral destination for companies. One hundred and sixty kilometres from Yellowknife, a gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper deposit is being developed.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Infographic: Countries of origin for raw materials

November 16th, 2016

Graphic by BullionVault | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 16, 2016

Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well or forest somewhere in the world.

This infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee and iron.

Infographic Countries of origin for raw materials

 

The many and the few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials are interesting to examine because the production of certain commodities is much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil-producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia—but that only makes up 38% of the total market.

Contrast this with the market for some base metals such as iron or lead and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, so it tries to get them domestically. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: It is the second-largest producer for each of those commodities and ships much of its output to Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison with the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

Graphic by BullionVault | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

American election fosters forecasting frenzy

November 11th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 11, 2016

An anti-establishment crusader, a dangerous extremist or a sensible person given to outrageous bombast, that new U.S. president-elect has some mining and metals observers in as much of a tizzy as the official commentariat.

Soon after the election result was announced, the World Gold Council cheered as their object of affection passed $1,300, “compared with $1,275 an ounce before the vote counting began.

U.S. election fosters forecasting frenzy

“We are seeing increasingly fractious politics across the advanced economies and this trend, combined with uncertainty over the aftermath of years of unconventional monetary policies measures, will firmly underpin investment demand for gold in the coming years,” the WGC maintained.

Two days later gold plunged to a five-month low, “hit by a broad selloff in commodities as well as surging bond yields on speculation a splurge of U.S. infrastructure spending could stoke inflation.” At least that was Reuters’ explanation.

GoldSeek presented a range of comments, with Brien Lundin predicting a short rally for gold. GATA’s Chris Powell suggested the metal’s status quo would prevail. “Trump won’t be giving instructions to the Fed and Treasury until January, if he even has any idea by then of the market rigging the government does.”

About a day after that comment, Reuters noted that Trump’s team had been courting big banking bigshot Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co for Treasury secretary.

Powell added that a post-election “great grab for physical gold” might overpower “the paper market antics of the central bank. But geopolitical turmoil hasn’t done much for gold in recent decades and I’d be surprised if that changed any time soon.”

A pre-existing rally pushed copper past $6,000 a tonne on November 11, which Bloomberg (posted in the Globe and Mail) attributed to “Chinese speculators and bets that Donald Trump will pour money into U.S. infrastructure.”

Initial effects of Trump’s 10-year, $10-trillion campaign promise are “unlikely to kick in until the third quarter of 2017 and would in our view have the largest effect on steel, zinc and nickel demand,” Goldman analyst Max Layton told the Financial Times.

The FT also quoted Commerzbank cautioning that “metal prices still appear to be supported by the euphoria exhibited by market participants in the wake of Trump’s election victory, a reaction we find somewhat inexplicable.”

Industrial Minerals called a copper bubble.

Some sources consulted by the journal wondered whether the “pragmatic businessman” would carry out his threatened restrictions to free trade. As for Trump’s climate scepticism and opposition to green energy subsidies, Chris Berry told IM the economic case alone will sustain vehicle electrification and the resulting demand for lithium, cobalt and graphite.

Looking at a more sumptuous form of carbon, Martin Rapaport declared, “The diamond and jewelry trade will benefit as the new policies create a more prosperous middle class and greater numbers of wealthy consumers. Global uncertainty will also increase demand for investment diamonds as a store of wealth.”

But the outsider’s victory might have shocked Rapaport into ambiguity. While saying the election “sets the stage for growth and development,” a preamble to his November 9 press release called the result “positively dangerous.”

Not to be left out of the forecasting frenzy, ResourceClips.com predicts the Yukon tourist industry will add Frederick Trump, the Donald’s bordello-owning granddad, to its romanticized cast of colourful Klondike characters.

Ever deeper, ever higher

October 11th, 2016

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

by Greg Klein

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

Nearly a century before laggard Europeans got around to their Age of Exploration, Chinese merchant vessels had been travelling at least as far as eastern Africa, returning with vast shiploads of treasure. The voyages ended abruptly in 1433, for reasons debated by historians, and rulers ordered a massive merchant fleet destroyed. That largely left the New World to Westerners, evidently not a policy China intends to repeat. Now the country plans the conquest of three new frontiers: “deep underground, deep sky and deep sea.”

Such are the goals of Three Deep, a five-year plan announced last month by the country’s Ministry of Land and Resources. China’s funding R&D that would take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land and at sea, while exploring from outer space as well. But formidable as they are, the three frontiers aren’t completely uncharted. The expansionist, resource-hungry regime will have competition.

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

By 2020 the country wants the ability to mine land-based deposits that begin two kilometres in depth, find minerals at three kilometres, and identify oil and gas at 6.5 to 10 kilometres, the South China Morning Post reported October 5. China intends to develop underground communities too, although those details were even more scarce.

China also plans technology for undersea mineral exploration and mining, working towards the ability to send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to 11 kilometres’ depth by 2020, the paper added. That’s slightly beyond the deepest known point of any seabed. The country has already sent an ROV seven kilometres deep in the Pacific. In the Indian Ocean, Chinese have been studying seabed mining technology on a 10,000-square-kilometre area south of Madagascar, the SCMP stated.

Going from the depths to the heavens, China wants 27 satellites in orbit by 2020 to conduct surveys and research, partly on terrestrial mineral potential. The country also has expressed ambitions for moon and Mars landings, and for sending its citizens into space. A Chinese competitor to SpaceX, One Space Technology, plans its first commercial rocket launch in 2018.

SpaceX, of course, retains its Elon Musk confidence even after the Falcon 9 rocket blew up prior to take-off last month, destroying a $300-million communications satellite. Having received NASA contracts to ferry people and cargo to the International Space Station, Musk continues to talk about sending colonists to Mars. He’s already sent some lithium stocks to the moon.

Probably among the more credible companies talking about mining the heavens are Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. Both develop technology for NAFTA and both have signed MOUs with Luxembourg that would help finance mineral exploration and mining of near-Earth asteroids. The Grand Duchy, a global leader in satellite communications, has announced its willingness to invest in extra-terrestrial mining to become a world leader in other worlds. The country also plans to create a legal framework for its outer space endeavours, after the U.S. passed legislation giving Americans the right to keep any extra-terrestrial commodities they extract.

Deep Space says it will launch its Prospector X experimental asteroid explorer “in the near future.” By the first half of the next decade, Planetary expects to begin small-scale extraction of asteroid water for its oxygen and hydrogen.

Already a nine-year veteran of the main asteroid belt, NASA’s Dawn craft now orbits the dwarf planet Ceres after having studied the proto-planet Vesta. Last month the space agency’s NASA OSIRIS-REx set off for the asteroid Bennu, with arrival expected in 2018 and return in 2023.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has been to that neighbourhood and back after its Hayabusa craft delivered asteroid samples in 2010.

Last month the European Space Agency ended the 12-year, eight-billion-kilometre odyssey of its Rosetta craft, which spent the last two years studying a comet. In a joint project with Russia’s Roscosmos, the ESA expects to land a capsule on Mars on October 19 to search for signs of previous life.

Russia’s moon exploration program sees potential for minerals delivered by asteroid impact. “In the next few years, all scheduled moon flights will focus on its southern polar region, where low-temperature reservoirs of rare earths, as well as unknown volatile substances, have been detected,” Industrial Minerals quoted Vladislav Shevchenko of Moscow State University. Given higher commodity prices, mining could be viable, he added.

Boeing NYSE:BA recently matched Musk’s big talk as CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke about sending holidayers to orbiting tourist traps prior to linking up with the Red Planet. “I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Bloomberg quoted him last week. As a NASA contractor Boeing competes with SpaceX on its own and through the United Launch Alliance, a JV with Lockheed Martin NYSE:LMT.

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

SEC acting chief Jane Norberg comments on a US$22-million reward to an informant

September 21st, 2016

…Read more

SEC pays whistleblower $22 million for securities fraud tip

August 30th, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 30, 2016

Detailed information and extensive assistance brought an informer more than $22 million, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced August 30. It’s the SEC’s second-highest award, following a $30-million payout in 2014.

The anonymous tipster worked for the offending firm, which wasn’t named by the SEC.

SEC pays whistleblower $22 million for securities fraud tip

“Company employees are in unique positions behind the scenes to unravel complex or deeply buried wrongdoing,” said Jane Norberg, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. “Without this whistleblower’s courage, information and assistance, it would have been extremely difficult for law enforcement to discover this securities fraud on its own.”

In June 2015, Norberg told an Ontario Securities Commission roundtable that the SEC had paid 17 people a total of more than $50 million over four years of operation. The largest reward at that time was over $30 million. The total now surpasses $107 million, divvied up between 33 recipients.

Rewards can range between 10% and 30% of money collected when sanctions exceed $1 million, the SEC stated. “No money has been taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards.” The SEC protects tipsters’ confidentiality.

Last month the OSC became Canada’s first regulator to offer such rewards. Payouts can range from 5% to 15% of sanctions and/or voluntary payments by companies of at least $1 million. The maximum reward comes to $1.5 million, but can increase to $5 million should the penalty exceed $10 million.

An e-mail from OSC rep Kate Ballotta confirms that the program has already received tips but doesn’t state whether payouts have been made yet. “Another securities enforcement tool unique to the OSC,” she writes, is the no-contest settlement program in which five cases have resulted in about $200 million being returned to investors.

In Quebec, l’Autorité des marchés financiers launched a reward-less whistleblower program in June, after AMF research found “confidentiality is what primarily motivates whistleblowers to report incidents.”

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada opposed the OSC rewards, arguing they could encourage “bounty-hunting behaviour and framing companies for financial gains.” PDAC also warned that “overly cautious issuers” might face extra costs for additional legal advice.

July 11th, 2016

SWOT analysis: Silver outshines gold GoldSeek
Fix Crowdfunding Act passes U.S. house, likely to pass senate Equities.com
China resumes monthly gold buying to diversify reserves NAI 500
Gold heading toward $1,400? Streetwise Reports
Gold junior climbs on assays
SmallCapPower
Food for thought: Global salt supply Industrial Minerals
June rainfall eases processing problems in China graphite hub Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
A classic case of failed socialism: What’s next after Brexit? Stockhouse
Limestone: Commodity overview Geology for Investors
Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal

July 8th, 2016

Fix Crowdfunding Act passes U.S. house, likely to pass senate Equities.com
China resumes monthly gold buying to diversify reserves NAI 500
EU banking system leveraged 26 to 1. Lehman was 30 to 1 GoldSeek
Gold heading toward $1,400? Streetwise Reports
Gold junior climbs on assays SmallCapPower
Food for thought: Global salt supply Industrial Minerals
June rainfall eases processing problems in China graphite hub Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
A classic case of failed socialism: What’s next after Brexit? Stockhouse
Limestone: Commodity overview Geology for Investors
Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal

How a Brexit could affect the gold price

July 7th, 2016

The precious metal’s recent run could just be getting started

by SmallCapPower.com | July 7, 2016

Gold was already one of the best-performing asset classes in 2016 before British citizens unexpectedly voted to leave the European Union on June 23. We believe this will turn out to be the most important catalyst for the precious metal since it began its most recent bull run.

How a Brexit could affect the gold price

Despite beginning the New Year below $1,100, gold had failed a few times to hold above the $1,300 level since its upward move began back in January. We feel confident that the Brexit uncertainty will hang over the markets for at least the remainder of 2016, providing a firm support above $1,300.

The most immediate catalyst likely coming gold’s way is U.S. employment data for the month of June, which is expected to be released on July 8. The Labor Department expects 170,000 new jobs to be created during the month.

Given May’s dismal 38,000 employment gain, only a figure well above 200,000 will create any potential headwinds for the precious metal.

This all leads to the next U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that is happening during the final week of July. Minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting (released on July 6) suggested that the impact of a Brexit would need to be more certain before the Fed would decide to raise interest rates again, all of which is good news for gold bulls.

Also helping gold is negative interest rates on long-term debt in Germany, France, Japan and, most recently, Switzerland, which has seen its 50-year interest rates go negative for the first time.

Could the United States be next? In fact, that country’s 10- and 30-year interest rates on July 6 reached all-time lows of 1.32% and 2.1% respectively. According to data released by Fitch Ratings, a record US$11.7 trillion of global sovereign debt has dipped to sub-zero yield territory.

Continue reading this article on SmallCapPower.com.

Visual Capitalist: Is driving a Tesla better for the environment? It depends…

June 13th, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | June 13, 2016

Are Teslas and other electric vehicles perfect for the environment?

The answer is no, since nothing can be perfect. Electric vehicles are still a source of GHG emissions as a result of the manufacturing and raw material extraction processes. Further, and more importantly, lifetime emissions for electric vehicles also depend on the sources of fuel used to power the local grid.

So is driving a Tesla better for the environment?

This infographic, which looks at the well-to-wheels impact of electric and gas vehicles, was created in association with Delbrook Capital, a financial services company that has launched the CO2 Master Solutions Fund.

Using info from south of the border, we explore the latest data on the lifetime emissions of gasoline and electric vehicles, and how they compare in different parts of the U.S.

Is driving a Tesla better for the environment? It depends…

Is driving a Tesla better for the environment than using a comparably sized gas-powered vehicle? In the majority of examples considered here, the answer is yes.

However, the true environmental impact depends greatly on the specific power sources that the local grid uses to generate electricity.

The power mix

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average new gasoline vehicle generates the equivalent of 29 miles per gallon of emissions over its lifetime. The study found that the average electric vehicle has emission equivalents in a range between 35 MPG to 135 MPG depending on the power grid of the region in which it’s driven.

Electric cars in the American northwest, for example, have the emissions of an equivalent 94 MPG gas-powered car. This is miles better than a new Honda Fit (36 MPG) or even hybrids such as the Prius (50 MPG) or Honda Accord hybrid (47 MPG). This is because 52% of all power in the region comes from hydro.

In Colorado, about 70% of all electricity is coal-fired. This means the electric car has the equivalent emissions of a gas-powered Honda Fit with 35 MPG. In Florida, natural gas has replaced coal usage, and now accounts for two-thirds of all electricity generated. Powering an EV on Florida’s grid for an estimated 51 MPG equivalent is better than driving a hybrid such as a Prius (50 MPG) or a Honda Accord hybrid (47 MPG).

The future of emissions

Today, the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that 66% of Americans would generate fewer emissions by driving electric vehicles based on the compositions of their local power grids.

In the very near future, plugging in will be better in 100% of places in America. Here’s why:

  • Battery technology will continue to get better. More efficiency means lighter and better cars.

  • Coal use is falling. It’s gone from 44% of all U.S. power generation in 2009 to 33% in 2015. It’s forecast to fall to 22% by 2020.

  • Many states also have committed to specific targets for green energy as a portion of their energy mix. More renewables for the grid means fewer emissions.

These changes could create many opportunities for investors.

As the electric car era is ushered in, some experts are predicting that entire power grids will need to be re-wired. Automobile dealer networks will be profoundly affected.

Car part manufacturers will also have to adapt. How many pieces are in a typical gas-powered vehicle? According to energy expert Gianni Kovacevic, there are about 100.

Is driving a Tesla better for the environment? It depends…

For an electric vehicle, which only needs about 20 components,
many of these parts will become antiquated.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.