Friday 26th April 2019

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Posts tagged ‘united states’

Alberta fights back

April 16th, 2019

New government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

by Greg Klein

Updated results (seats at dissolution shown in parentheses)

  • United Conservative Party: 63 seats, 55.2% of the popular vote (25 seats)
  • New Democratic Party: 24 seats, 32.2% (52 seats)
  • Alberta Party: 0 seats, 9.2% (3)
  • Liberal Party: 0 seats, 1% (1)
  • Independent candidates: 0 seats, 0.5% (3)
  • Freedom Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0.5% (1)
  • Progressive Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0% (1)
  • (One vacant seat at dissolution)

 

The outcome wasn’t as surprising as last time, when the once-marginal New Democratic Party swept to power in what had long been a moderately conservative one-party province. Yet this was probably Alberta’s most dramatic election since 1935, when a victorious upstart tied to the economic movement known as Social Credit grabbed international attention. Rarely has Western alienation played out so strongly as in this campaign, provoked by Ottawa’s stance on, among other issues, the ongoing war against Canadian resource industries. Foreign interference in the form of U.S. money also came to light, while aspects of the culture wars helped inflame passions.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Back in the ’30s, however, William Aberhart’s Social Credit failed to enact the radical reforms intended to deal with the Great Depression. The results of incoming premier Jason Kenney’s bold talk remain to be seen, despite the overwhelming victory of his United Conservative Party. Kenney’s biggest challenge will be to overcome the opposition to pipelines and tankers that deprives Albertan oil producers of Asian markets and consequently much higher prices.

Certainly Kenney won a decisive mandate. Barely half an hour after polls closed, media projections called a UCP majority. The party comprises a 2017 merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party, which together polled 52% in 2015, compared with only 40.6% for the NDP. But that year the New Democrats took 54 of 87 seats.

Much of Kenney’s success came from his portrayal of “the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” in which he blamed the prime minister and incumbent premier for wrecking Alberta’s economy through a combination of appeasement, indifference and outright animosity. Notley, at best an ineffectual supporter of Alberta oil and at worst an ideological enemy, made an easy target. So did Justin Trudeau, struggling with an image tarnished by SNC-Lavalin, that scandal’s revelation of favouritism towards Quebec jobs, and policies towards Alberta jobs that evoked memories of his father’s National Energy Program, often blamed for wrecking Alberta’s economy during the 1980s.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Kenney found easy targets in the “Trudeau-Notley alliance”
but victory might give him tougher battles to fight.
(Image: United Conservative Party)

Allusions to the NEP surfaced in Kenney’s description of Bill C-69, “the Liberals’ ‘No More Pipelines’ Law” and “a federal sucker punch to an already-reeling Alberta economy.” Kenney promised a constitutional challenge.

He portrayed Notley’s opposition to Ottawa’s Bill C-48, banning oil tankers from northern B.C. ports, as an insincere and tardy effort.

Kenney committed to ditch Notley’s carbon tax and sue Ottawa if it tries to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta, as Trudeau’s government has done to provinces that didn’t enact their own carbon taxes.

Addressing an especially sore point for Albertans, Kenney promised a referendum on equalization. Consistently punishing Alberta through good economic times and bad, the inter-provincial transfers of money consistently benefit Quebec through bad times and good.

Turning his confrontational stance westwards, Kenney vowed to take on Trans Mountain pipeline foe British Columbia “on day one” by proclaiming Alberta’s Turn off the Taps legislation. Also known as Bill 12, it would stop Alberta oil shipments to an Alberta oil-dependent province that opposes exports of Alberta oil to Asia. B.C., on the other hand, stands ready to defend its convenient ethics in court.

Kenney also vowed action on foreign funding in Canadian campaigns. The issue gained prominence just days before the vote, with an April 12 Financial Post article by researcher Vivian Krause. American money, she stated, was helping finance efforts to defeat UCP candidates, part of a much wider, ongoing U.S.-funded campaign to “landlock” Albertan oil and gas, as well as destroy other Canadian resource industries.

From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.—Tar Sands Campaign
director Michael Marx,
as quoted by Vivian Krause

According to documents she’s made public, foreign money moved from activism and court challenges to specifically anti-UCP efforts that benefit the NDP.

A group called Progress Alberta was working against UCP candidates, while another group called Leadnow urged its supporters to join Progress Alberta’s anti-UCP efforts, she stated. Referring to U.S. tax returns, Krause reported that “both Leadnow and Progress Alberta are partially funded—US$62,843 (2016-2017) and US$162,587 (2013-2016) respectively—by the Tar Sands Campaign.” The Tar Sands Campaign gets its money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she added.

Krause quoted Tar Sands Campaign director Michael Marx as stating: “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”

Krause charged that Notley knew about the foreign-funded activity but refused to act.

Kenney was quick to follow up. “We now know that for months Rachel Notley has been sitting on a legal opinion indicating that the government of Alberta could take action against groups behind the Tar Sands Campaign,” he declared. “Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign, which in the last year has succeeded in delaying the Trans Mountain Expansion, Keystone XL and the Line 3 replacement project.”

Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign.—Jason Kenney

Kenney pledged to challenge the charitable status of foreign-funded groups, cut off their provincial funding, hold a public inquiry into foreign funding that attacks Albertan energy, ban foreign entities from financing political action committees and urge Ottawa to pass Bill S-239, which would ban foreign money from federal politics.

Krause has previously stated that Rockefeller money helped fund Leadnow’s anti-Conservative campaign in the 2015 federal election.

Now that a provincial government intends to act on her findings, something that started as a Quixotic one-woman campaign could have enormous impact. According to her figures, U.S. interests like the Rockefellers have paid Canadian activists well over half a billion dollars so far.

Of course the extent to which Kenney’s tough talk produces results remains to be seen. Still Notley had nothing to show for any claim of supporting Alberta resources. Kenney found it easy to associate her with the prime minister, the UCP’s continual target. The anti-pipeline Bill C-69 “is just one of the terrible consequences of the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” Kenney argued. “Alberta’s NDP gave Justin Trudeau licence to kill Northern Gateway, to surrender to a U.S. veto of Keystone XL, to change regulations that led to the death of Energy East and to fold in the face of the B.C. New Democrats’ obstruction of the Trans Mountain expansion. On top of that we’ve got Trudeau’s tanker ban, Bill C-48 and a cap on our oilsands.”

Krause pointed out that heavy-handed enviro-activism persisted despite Notley’s attempts at appeasement. The NDP increased the carbon tax, capped allowable emissions and created the world’s largest boreal forest preserve. “Surely the campaign against Alberta would finally be over,” Krause wrote. “But, again, no.”

The UCP victory adds considerable weight to moderate conservative provinces, now stretching from Alberta to Ontario and including New Brunswick. Along with the federal Conservatives, they could present troublesome interference to the federal Liberals’ re-election efforts in October. In fact as a six-term MP who served a number of cabinet positions in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Kenney could overshadow federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

On the other hand, a strong conservative bloc might discourage the Liberals from almost any interest in economic issues, thereby freeing them to campaign exclusively on their Trudeauvian zeitgeist.

Author Ned Mamula outlines some Chinese stratagems in Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence

April 9th, 2019

…Read more

‘The Asian century’

April 4th, 2019

East has surpassed West, whether the West knows it or not, says Peter Frankopan

by Greg Klein

East has surpassed West, whether we know it or not, says Peter Frankopan

“Silk roads” can refer to the process of connecting people and cultures
through trade, according to Peter Frankopan’s recently published book.

 

Less than two years ago tensions along an especially sensitive border area sparked fighting between Chinese and Indian troops. Outside Asia, who knew? “As most of the world focused on the Twitter account of the US president and the circus surrounding Brexit, the threat of the two most populous countries on earth going to war was not just a possibility, it looked like becoming a fact,” writes Peter Frankopan. An uneasy truce eventually stalled hostilities but the West’s ignorance of the wider world remains. That’s both symptom and cause of the West’s decline, the author says.

The decisions being made in today’s world that really matter are not being made in Paris, London, Berlin or Rome—as they were a hundred years ago—but in Beijing and Moscow, in Tehran and Riyadh, in Delhi and Islamabad, in Kabul and in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, in Ankara, Damascus and Jerusalem. The world’s past has been shaped by what happens along the Silk Roads; so too will its future.—Peter Frankopan

Relatively few Westerners realize the extent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Actually a complex suite of alliances concerning resources, infrastructure, trade, security and even culture, the BRI forms just part of an Asian awakening that’s shifting the planet’s centre of importance while strengthening Eastern influence beyond Asia and Africa to make inroads into Europe, the Americas, the Arctic, cyberspace and outer space.

That’s the message of historian Frankopan’s latest book, The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World. While present and future aren’t normally the precinct of historians, it was historical perspective that brought Frankopan to the topic. In context, Western global supremacy has been a recent, short-lived development.

Since announcing the BRI in 2013, China has promised nearly $1 trillion, mostly in loans, for about 1,000 projects, Frankopan reports. That money could “multiply several times over, to create an interlinked world of train lines, highways, deep-water ports and airports that will enable trade links to grow ever stronger and faster.”

That would enhance China’s access to, and control over, resources ranging from oil and gas to mines and farmland; provide markets for Chinese exports including surplus steel, cement and metals, as well as manufactured goods; create projects for Chinese contractors; secure foreign ports and other strategic commercial and military locations; and build closer foreign alliances for geopolitical as well as economic benefits.

Backed by Chinese money and local sovereign debt, Chinese companies have pushed roads, railways, power plants, grids and pipelines through Africa and Asia at a much faster rate than ever seen through Western aid. Of course that can put the supposed beneficiaries at the mercy of their Chinese creditors.

East has surpassed West, whether we know it or not, says Peter Frankopan

In 2011, for example, China forgave neighbouring Tajikistan’s infrastructure-related debt in exchange for several hundred square kilometres of territory. A $7-billion rail line in Laos represents over 60% of the country’s GDP. A rail-building boom in Angola left citizens with a per capita debt to China of $754 out of a per capita income of $6,200. In 2017 a Chinese company got a 99-year lease in lieu of debt on the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, a strategic site for both commercial and military reasons. Other ports in Maldives, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Djibouti could face a similar fate.

Even so, something like 85% of BRI projects “have proceeded without difficulty,” Frankopan states. China conducts many of its most opportunistic acquisitions openly, like buying a controlling interest in Piraeus, the Athenian port since antiquity. Other seaport purchases have taken place in Spain, Italy and Belgium.

Strategic ports and an alliance with Pakistan help position China in the Indian Ocean, while China continues to expand its South China Sea presence by building artificial islands for military bases. This isn’t just “the crossroads of the global economy” but a ploy to extend military power thousands of miles farther, according to a U.S. Navy admiral. China’s ambitions continue in the disputed East China Sea, location of the 2010 Senkaku conflict, in which China’s rare earths tactics demonstrated yet another weapon in the country’s arsenal.

As an economic powerhouse as well as a “geopolitical alternative to the US,” China can profit from American sanctions on countries like Iran. Russia too challenges U.S. policies towards countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while the latter shows its willingness to trade with Iran and buy arms from Moscow.

Military co-operation can create unlikely allies. Last summer, in Russian’s largest war games since 1981, Beijing contributed 30 fighter jets and helicopters along with more than 3,000 troops. Included in the exercises were simulated nuclear attacks.

While futurologists and networking pioneers often talk about how the exciting world of artificial intelligence, Big Earth Data and machine learning promise to change the way we live, work and think, few ever ask where the materials on which the digital new world come from—or what happens if supply either dries up or is used as a commercial or a political weapon by those who have a near-monopoly on global supply.—Peter Frankopan

Even India, America’s strongest Asian ally and the Asian country most wary of Chinese expansion, stands to undermine U.S. influence with proposed transportation connections and free trade with Iran and Afghanistan.

Yet obvious perils weaken any notion of a united Asia working harmoniously towards a common goal. Russian-Chinese military co-operation doesn’t preclude Moscow stationing its 29th Army 3rd Missile Brigade, with nuclear missile capabilities, near the Chinese border.

Time will tell whether other countries can overcome the Eurasian chaos that inspired this maxim of Canadian miners: “Never invest in a country with a name ending in ‘stan’.”

Then there’s extremist Islam. Uighurs from western China have fought in Syria for the Islamic State in numbers estimated “from several thousand to many times that number.” China risks wider Muslim anger by running a gulag archipelago for Muslims. The country’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region hosts “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

Oddly enough for someone who knocks Western insularity, Frankopan seems to share the current preoccupation with the U.S. president. Among Frankopan’s criticisms of the West is its supposed opposition to immigration, even though that’s a marginal position within liberal countries but official policy in most of the East.

Nor does Frankopan mention the weird ideological zealotry that threatens to destabilize if not destroy the West from within.

Still, history’s greatest value might be perspective on the present. This historian’s view of the present and future can help Westerners understand their not-so-esteemed status in the Asian century.

American machinations

March 23rd, 2019

Vivian Krause exposes U.S. money and tactics behind Canadian environmentalism

by Greg Klein

This isn’t the kind of Yankee imperialism Canadian protesters typically protest. Powerful American interests pay Canadian environmental activists big, big money—well over half a billion dollars so far—that does nothing for the environment but undermines our economy and national unity. That’s Vivian Krause’s message and, as the pipeline controversy gains intensity, her story’s gaining prominence. But, she argues, Ottawa still shows no intention of using its power to stop this foreign interference.

The money trail begins with huge American backers that include the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, she says.

Vivian Krause exposes the U.S. money behind Canadian environmentalism

They fund intermediaries like the Oak Foundation, Tides Canada and its U.S.-based parent organization the Tides Foundation.

The intermediaries, in turn, channel money to Canadian groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, the Pembina Institute, West Coast Environmental Law, the Dogwood Initiative, several first nations and the Council of Canadians, supposedly founded as a nationalist group to protect Canadian sovereignty.

Some examples? The Moore Foundation alone, she says, has pumped $259 million into Canada through more than 500 payments averaging about half a million each. Tides got $83 million. “West Coast Environmental Law, for example, receives on a monthly basis between $25,000 and $100,000 just from this one foundation.” Some first nations got $58 million in 99 payments averaging $580,000 each.

Backed by U.S. bucks, the beneficiaries go after Canadian resource industries, especially Alberta oil production, focusing on proposed Canadian pipeline projects and oil tanker traffic. Oddly excluded from the concerns of American funders and Canadian protesters are American oil production and American tanker traffic—even the American tankers that navigate British Columbia’s coast.

Ready to reveal sources, her website links to tax returns, policy papers and other documents to substantiate her message. Not only does she expose so much of their funding, but she also disputes the truthfulness of some of their key statements. Working “from my dining room table, using Google on my own nickel,” Krause single-handedly challenges an extremely well-funded and vocal movement.

She’s been accused of shilling for the federal Conservatives and the oil industry. But that brings a spirited retort: “I did what I did in spite of the Conservative party and in spite of the oil industry,” Krause tells ResourceClips.com. “I actually did what they should have done. But none of them were doing proper issue management research. They weren’t even following this.”

Vivian Krause exposes the U.S. money behind Canadian environmentalism

Vivian Krause delivers the keynote speech at
Resource Works’ fifth anniversary celebration.

Having spent the 1990s working for UNICEF in Guatemala and Indonesia, she then took a job with one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon, an industry opposed by B.C. environmentalists. She happened to find documentation tracing their money and strategies to American sources. Then the money trail branched out.

“The same funders blocking farmed salmon from markets were starting to do the same to Alberta oil,” she recalls. “The tactics were the same, the funders were the same, some of the same individuals were involved.

“I worked with charities so I understand charities and charitable foundations. I worked in Indonesia, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, so I was trained to spot things that are fishy, and I also knew a resource-based industry—I witnessed the frontlines of activism against the salmon farming industry.”

As her research continued, she “couldn’t find anyone else who would do this. I kept wondering which think tank, which organization will take this over so I don’t have to do this anymore. I couldn’t find anybody.”

She acknowledges some honorariums in the past and the occasional speaker’s fee, but she remains a self-supporting individual fighting a one-person counter-campaign.

That’s against a movement that “doesn’t help the environment,” she argues. “All it does is bench Canada from the world market. And I would argue that we are one of the best oil producers. Look at what Alberta has done—they put on a carbon tax, they capped production and they created a protected boreal forest. No other oil-producing jurisdiction has done anything near that. Despite all that the Alberta government has done, they’re still being bullied out of the market. So I would argue that this anti-pipeline activism, if it intended to help mitigate the climate and environmental impacts of oil, has had the opposite impact.”

Despite all that the Alberta government has done, they’re still being bullied out of the market. So I would argue that this anti-pipeline activism, if it intended to help mitigate the climate and environmental impacts of oil, has had the opposite impact.

The American-funded campaign also intensifies the conflict between Alberta and some other Canadian jurisdictions, thereby weakening national unity, Krause says. Additionally she’s found American money intruding into Canadian election campaigns.

In one example following Canada’s 2015 federal election, she discovered the Oakland-based Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN) boasting that its Canadian campaign contributed “greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.” Krause describes OPEN as a Rockefeller intermediary and the parent organization of Leadnow. Leadnow claimed to have defeated 26 Conservative incumbents, an obviously dubious statement, but Krause maintains the group may well have made a difference in some ridings.

So what’s Ottawa doing about this foreign interference? Nothing, Krause says. Her submissions to the Canada Revenue Agency have gone unanswered. As for Elections Canada, “I feel that they ignored crucial evidence and had they not ignored it they would have come to a different conclusion.”

Canada’s Elections Act has loopholes so big “you could drive a heavy hauler through them,” she adds. “And the amendments that the current government has proposed will not solve the problem.”

But any solution would depend on the CRA, she emphasizes. “As I was told during the Elections Canada investigation, if the Charities Directorate allows Canadian-registered charities to bring in money for those purposes, they then ‘Canadianize’ the money. And then, when those charities report the money to Elections Canada, for the purposes of Elections Canada it’s Canadian. So the CRA needs to enforce the Income Tax Act so that charities are not conducting activities that are not exclusively charitable.”

Nevertheless, she remains optimistic. For that, she credits several prominent natives for “lifting the taboo. There was a taboo on talking about this American funding. The BC Liberals, for 10 years, said we can’t fight it. They used to say, ‘They’ve got billions, we’ve only got millions. We have to go along with this Great Bear Rainforest’ [a 6.4-million-hectare West Coast environmental reserve] even though they knew that there’s no great bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“The taboo has been lifted. Now we can start asking for some accountability, starting with the CRA.”

Visit Vivian Krause’s website.

Watch Resource Works’ site for an upcoming video of a March 14 speech by Vivian Krause.

Got the minerals?

March 4th, 2019

A new book says self-imposed obstacles block U.S. self-sufficiency

by Greg Klein

“The Middle East has oil, China has rare earths.”

Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 implied threat became all too real eight years later in the Senkaku aftermath, when RE dependency put Japan and the West at China’s mercy. But just as the United States overcame the 1973 OPEC embargo to become the world’s leading oil producer, that country can overcome its growing reliance on dodgy sources of mineral production and processing. So say authors Ned Mamula and Ann Bridges in Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.

Their country’s problem isn’t geology but policies, the book argues. Repeatedly pointing to Canada and Australia as role models, the authors say their own country’s mining potential can restore mining self-sufficiency, or at least minimize a crippling dependency.

A new book says self-imposed obstacles block U.S. self-sufficiency

Indeed, the mighty nation has a mighty problem with minerals: Imports supply many critical minerals and metals in their entirety, with heavy reliance on Russia and especially China, “countries we consider at best our competitors, and at worst our adversaries.”

Rare earths stand out as the “poster child for U.S. critical mineral vulnerability.” As the authors note, REs remain “essential for military and civilian use, for the production of high-performance permanent magnets, GPS guidance systems, satellite imaging and night vision equipment, cellphones, iPads, flat screens, MRIs and electric toothbrushes, sunglasses, and a myriad of other technology products. Since they offer that extra boost to so many new technologies, these rare earth metals rival energy in importance to our 21st century lifestyle.”

Industrial countries not only surrendered rare earths mining and processing to China, but gave up technological secrets too. That happened when China forced RE-dependent manufacturers to move their operations to China. After Apple transplanted some of its manufacturing to that country, China copied and reproduced the company’s products, at times outselling the iPhone with knock-offs.

A new book says self-imposed obstacles block U.S. self-sufficiency

Other intellectual property faces threats. “U.S. companies—Intematix, GE (Healthcare/MRI Division), Ford (Starter Motor Division), and Battery 1,2,3—have all added manufacturing capacity in China, and so has Japan’s Showa Denko, Santoku, and scores of other global electronics companies.”

RE dominance has also allowed China to lead the world in technology for electric vehicles, renewable energy and next-generation nuclear power. And America relies on its rival for defence: “Most of the U.S.’ advanced weapon systems procurement is 100% dependent on China for advanced metallurgical materials.”

Foreign dependency includes tantalum, “critical to the economy and national defense,” gallium, cobalt, uranium and the list goes on.

According to a just-published report from the U.S. Geological Survey, “in 2018, imports made up more than half of U.S apparent consumption for 48 non-fuel mineral commodities, and the U.S. was 100% net import-reliant for 18 of those.

“For 2018, critical minerals comprised 14 of the 18 mineral commodities with 100% net import reliance and 15 additional critical mineral commodities had a net import reliance greater than 50% of apparent consumption. The largest number of non-fuel mineral commodities were supplied to the U.S. from China, followed by Canada.”

The takeover of former TSX listing Uranium One by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom brings threats worse than most observers realized, the authors say. The acquisition granted the Russian government membership in trade organizations and therefore valuable intel formerly available only through espionage. Uranium One also gives Russia the ability to curtail future American uranium production and use its influence on Kazakhstan, the world’s top producer, to flood the U.S. with cheaper, subsidized supply. That could put both U.S. production and processing out of business in a tactic reminiscent of China’s RE machinations.

China’s communist government uses a ‘debt trap’ model of economic development and finance which proffers substantial financing to developing countries in exchange for an encumbrance on their minerals resources and access to markets. This predatory model has been particularly effective in countries characterized by weak rule of law and authoritarian regimes.—Ned Mamula
and Ann Bridges

The Chinese “are now masters at securing and controlling core natural resources globally, especially minerals.” The country uses long-term contracts, equity investments and joint ventures, as well as the “debt trap” that provides “substantial financing to developing countries in exchange for an encumbrance on their minerals resources and access to markets. This predatory model has been particularly effective in countries characterized by weak rule of law and authoritarian regimes.”

The U.S., meanwhile, suffers not only from naivete and short-term thinking, but from self-induced challenges. The authors devote an entire chapter to Alaska’s Pebble project, maybe the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold-molybdenum deposit. After more than two decades and over $150 million in spending, “Pebble is still more about politics than geology, much less mining the minerals known to exist there.”

The story stands out as “the classic cautionary tale in U.S. history of how a powerful federal regulatory agency can go rogue and impose its will on an unsuspecting permit applicant.”

Suggestions to alleviate these ills include streamlining the permitting process, among other recommendations to open up domestic production and re-build supply chains. One of the authors’ more interesting ideas concerns teaming up with environmental activists to promote ethical green supply chains that would shut out conflict minerals.

The book’s marred by repetition, sloppy English and some bold-faced typographical shouting. It’s also cluttered with a few questionable information sources and excerpts from a novel that would have been better left unwritten. The portrayal of Canada as a role model, moreover, might induce bitter laughter from this side of the border. But Groundbreaking offers a vital message to general readers. In doing so, it could reinforce a growing awareness in the U.S. about the need to minimize foreign dependency.

Read more about U.S. efforts to secure critical minerals here and here.

World Gold Council hedges its forecasts for 2019

January 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 11, 2019

Both financial market instability and structural economic improvements bode well for its favourite metal, the World Gold Council reports. The WGC’s Outlook 2019 attributes an optimistic price outlook to an interplay of those two factors along with U.S. interest rates and the dollar.

Bullion and gold-backed ETFs would benefit as savings, investments, jewelry and technology drive up demand. The prognosis also sees central bank demand continuing to rise. Last year’s sovereign purchases reached the highest level since 2015 “as a wider set of countries added gold to their foreign reserves for diversification and safety.”

Accentuating gold’s safe haven status would be the financial market uncertainty apparent in higher volatility, European instability, protectionist policies and “an increased likelihood of a global recession,” the report states.

“Stubbornly low” bond yields offer poor protection against uncertainty, the WGC notes. Meanwhile Europe’s economy lags behind the U.S. as the continent faces Brexit, social unrest in France and separatism in Spain, among other challenges. Increasing protectionism and trade war rhetoric threaten economies with inflation and restrictions to “the flow of capital, goods and labour.”

Comprising 70% of consumer gold demand, emerging markets remain “very relevant” to gold’s long-term performance. China’s Belt and Road projects boost regional economic and infrastructure development. India’s economic modernization should continue last year’s 7.5% growth into 2019, “outpacing most global economies and showing resilience to geopolitical uncertainty.

“Given its unequivocal link to wealth and economic expansion, we believe gold is well poised to benefit from these initiatives. We also believe that gold jewellery demand will strengthen in 2019 if sentiment is positive, while increase marginally should uncertainty remain.”

To the allure of gold, the WGC attributes its returns on investment and its liquidity. Additionally, the metal provides an almost unique hedge that often correlates with the market in good times but detaches itself during negative periods, the council states.

While a stronger U.S. economy and dollar could stall gold, the last two months have shown a correction in equities along with weaknesses in other assets, said Joseph Cavatoni, WGC managing director for the U.S. and ETFs. With political uncertainty also troubling investors “we’re going to see gold start to have a much more relevant role to play in people’s investment portfolios.”

Not without skin in the game itself, the WGC represents some of the world’s top gold miners.

Download Outlook 2019: Global economic trends and their impact on gold.

Mixed messages

December 14th, 2018

Perspectives differ on 2018 small cap performance

by Greg Klein

Perspectives differ on 2018 small cap performance

Not everyone agrees, but some sources represent 2018 as a comeback year for mining and exploration.
(Photo: PwC Junior Mine 2018)

 

It was the best of times, the worst of times or some middling but still promising times—you’d have the dickens of a time trying to reconcile these conflicting viewpoints. Such was the state of junior miners this past year, when varying fortunes eluded generalization. Just how the sector performed depended on who did the talking.

Outright despair came from Peter Clausi last October, as the CEO of GTA Resources and Mining TSXV:GTA discussed the company’s proposal to sell its assets amid a change of business:

A look at some different perspectives on 2018 small cap performance

In this difficult Canadian mining environment, it was almost impossible for the board not to come to this decision. The lackluster commodity markets, the depressed public market for junior explorers and the severe challenge of raising further capital all contributed to this decision. We believe GTA’s shareholders will be better served in a growth industry other than junior exploration.

Not every CEO would turn a press release into such a cri de coeur, but stats show GTA’s hardly alone. Evaluating 378 mining and other companies with market caps ranging from $4 million to $588 million, the S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index shows a nearly 35% drop in valuations since the relatively heady days of last January.

Yet an entirely different perspective came from PricewaterhouseCoopers in December, with the 2018 edition of its annual Junior Mine report. Unlike the S&P/TSXV Composite, this data focuses only on miners and comes from 12 months ending June 30. Furthermore it examines the Venture’s top 100 miners by market cap, a selection that could tilt results in favour of success.

And a degree of success PwC found, with the aggregate valuation growing to $12.9 billion, a 6% increase over the previous year, the third consecutive annual increase and the best performance “since the heydays of 2011.”

Not just the top 100, but Venture miners and explorers overall increased their total market caps by 5% to $21.1 billion, PwC reported.

Even so they were outperformed by cannabis, fintech and cryptocurrencies. “As a result, mining companies’ share of the TSXV’s total value declined to 43.8%, down from 47.4% a year earlier. Nevertheless, mining remains by far the dominant sector on the exchange, with life sciences (13%), finance (11%) and technology (9%) representing the next-largest industries by valuation.”

Investors favoured top 100 companies moving from development into production, while royalty streaming and the energy metals lithium, cobalt and nickel took on greater prominence at gold’s expense.

Financing for Venture miners overall rose 6.5% to $2.7 billion, almost $2.2 billion of that from equities that mostly went to explorers and development-stage companies, PwC stated. Companies in the production stage increasingly turned to debt financing, which rose 65.9% over the previous 12-month period.

Fifty-one of the top 100 raised more than $10 million apiece, while 10 companies each raked in over $50 million.

Apart from market caps and financings, spending provides another guide to the sector’s health. Some upbeat numbers came in October from Natural Resources Canada, following a survey of companies’ 2018 commitments for Canadian projects. If all went to plan, exploration expenditures for the year came to $2.36 billion, an 8% increase over 2017 and the highest amount since 2012. Juniors, struggling or not, accounted for over 45% of the total commitments.

With coffers at their fullest in seven years, equity and debt financings on the rise and commodity prices relatively stable, the industry has entered a long-awaited period of opportunity.—The PwC Junior Mine 2018 report

The exploration category included engineering, economic, feasibility and environmental studies, as well as general expenses. All that’s part of the much larger category of total Canadian mineral resource development investments, which totalled $11.86 billion this year, compared with $10.61 billion in 2017, NRCan found.

In fact Canada leads an encouraging global trend among juniors, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Using different methodology, the group found budgets for nonferrous exploration leaping by 19% worldwide this year to hit $10.1 billion. Juniors showed the highest budget jump at 35%, their first increase since 2012.

Canadian companies lead the world in nonferrous exploration, boasting a 31% budget increase this year, leaving Australia and the U.S. in second and third place, S&P added.

Of course all that can sound like smiley-faced consolation to companies struggling with jurisdictional difficulties, commodity performance, investor negativity or other challenges. But in an industry not always shy about basking in reflected glory, the continuing success of some companies must offer reassurance to the sector as a whole.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

November 26th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 26, 2018

Researchers hail it as the material most similar to vibranium, the wondrous substance associated with the land of Wakanda and Captain America’s shield—except that this stuff actually exists outside of comic books, movies and games.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

A real-life Captain America would find himself
depending on geopolitical rivals. (Image: U.S. Army)

Described as a “super-strong alloy of copper and tantalum that can withstand extreme impact and temperature,” it was concocted by boffins from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Arizona State University.

Its features could prove useful in space exploration, weaponry, and protection for soldiers and military vehicles, said Kristopher Darling, a materials scientist with ARL.

The alloy’s strength and conductivity offer possibilities for other metals too. “Materials based on iron or aluminum for instance could be used for protection and lethality applications,” he added.

The copper-tantalum alloy “can withstand high rates of impact and temperatures in excess of 80% of their melting point, which is higher than 1,073 kelvin or greater than 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit, with very little change in its microstructure,” ARL explained.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

The new alloy’s fictional competition.
(Image: Natural Resources Canada)

The multidisciplinary team developed the new alloy originally to replace copper-beryllium. Although that alloy’s also known for its strength, conductivity, hardness and resistance to corrosion, exposure to beryllium can cause a serious lung condition.

Should the new alloy prove a practical substitute, it would also substitute one critical metal for another. Both beryllium and tantalum can be found in a list of 35 critical minerals drafted by the U.S. last February and confirmed in May.

Although the U.S. holds about 60% of the world’s known beryllium resources, the country relies entirely on imports for tantalum, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

American president Donald Trump has called for a national strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on critical minerals from potentially hostile or unstable jurisdictions.

Read more about U.S. efforts to secure critical minerals here and here.

U.S. military’s new super-alloy would increase American dependence on a critical metal

November 23rd, 2018

This story has been moved here.

Drill-ready money

November 19th, 2018

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

by Greg Klein

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Osisko Mining’s (TSX:OSK) Windfall project offers one reason why
Quebec leads Canada and gold leads metals for exploration spending.
(Photo: Osisko Mining)

 

Blockchain might offer intrigue and cannabis promises a buzz, but mineral exploration still attracts growing interest. A healthy upswing this year will bring Canadian projects a nearly 8% spending increase to $2.36 billion, the industry’s highest amount since 2012. According to recently released data, that’s part of an international trend that puts Canada at the top of a worldwide resurgence.

The $2.36 billion allotted for Canadian exploration and deposit appraisal forms just a small part of the year’s total mineral resource development investments, which see $11.86 billion committed to this country, up from $10.61 billion in 2017.

Those numbers come from Natural Resources Canada, which surveyed companies between April and September on their spending intentions within the country for 2018. The $2.36-billion figure includes engineering, economic and feasibility studies, along with environmental work and general expenses.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Trial extraction for Pure Gold Mining’s (TSXV:PGM)
Madsen feasibility studies encourages interest in
Ontario’s Red Lake region. (Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

Of that number, Quebec edges out Ontario for first place with $623.1 million in spending this year, 26.4% of Canada’s total. Ontario’s share comes to $567.5 million or 24%. Last year’s totals came to $573.9 million for Quebec and $539.7 million for its western neighbour. Prior to that, however, Ontario held a comfortable lead year after year.

Third-place British Columbia gets $335.5 million or 14.2% of Canada’s total this year, an increase from $302.6 million in 2017.

On a per-capita basis, Yukon’s enjoying an exceptional year with an expected $249.4 million or 10.6% of Canada’s total. That’s the territory’s second substantial increase in a row, following $168.7 million the previous year.

Saskatchewan dips this year to $187.2 million (7.9%) from $191.2 million in 2017. But the Fraser Institute’s last survey of mining jurisdictions placed the province first in Canada and second worldwide.

Nunavut drops too, for the third consecutive time, to $143.9 million (6.1%), compared with $177 million in 2017. The Northwest Territories’ forecast declines to $86.2 million (3.7%) this year after $91.2 million last year.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Among companies leading Yukon’s exceptional performance
is White Gold TSXV:WGO, with substantial backing from
Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM and Kinross Gold TSX:K.
(Photo: White Gold)

Especially troubling when contrasted with Yukon’s performance, data for the other territories prompted NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Gary Vivian to call on federal, territorial and native governments and boards to help the industry “by creating certainty around land access, by reducing unnecessary complexity and by addressing the higher costs they face working in the North. Sustaining and growing future mining benefits depend on it.”

The pursuit of precious metals accounts for $1.5 billion in spending, nearly 64% of Canadian exploration. Ontario gets almost 31% of the precious metals attention, with 27% going to Quebec.

Base metals, mostly in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, get 15.5% of the year’s total. Uranium gets 5%, almost entirely in Saskatchewan. Diamonds get nearly 4%, most of it going to the NWT and Saskatchewan. But nearly 11% of this year’s total goes to a category vaguely attributed to other metals, along with coal and additional non-metals.

Getting back to this year’s exploration total ($2.36 billion, remember?), senior companies commit themselves to nearly 55%, compared with nearly 51% last year. But the juniors’ share remains proportionately much larger than the pre-2017 years.

Additional encouragement—and on an international level—comes from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Using different methodology to produce different results, the Metals and Mining Research team found worldwide budgets for nonferrous exploration jumping 19% this year to $10.1 billion.

Juniors have been reaping the biggest budget gains at 35%. Over 1,651 functional exploration companies represent an 8% improvement over last year and the first such increase since 2012. But that’s “still about 900 companies less than in 2012, representing a one-third culling of active explorers over the past five years.”

The most dramatic spending increase hit cobalt and lithium, this year undergoing an 82% leap in exploration spending. That’s part of a 500% climb since 2015, SPGMI says.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Nemaska Lithium’s Whabouchi project in Quebec
contributes to the enthusiasm for energy metals.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

Even so, precious and base metals retained their prominence as gold continues “to benefit the most from the industry recovery.” The global strive for yellow metal will claim $4.86 billion this year, up from $4.05 billion in 2017. Base metals spending will grow by $600 million to $3.04 billion. “Copper remained by far the most attractive of the base metals, although zinc allocations have increased the most, rising 37% in 2018, the report states. “Budgets are up for all targets except uranium.”

SPGMI finds Canada keeping its global top spot for nonferrous exploration with a 31% year-on-year budget increase. Second-place Australia achieved a 23% rise. The U.S. total places third, although with a 34% increase over the country’s 2017 performance.

In each of the top three countries, over 55% of the budgets focused on gold.

“Improved metals prices and margins since 2016 have encouraged producers to expand their organic efforts the past two years,” commented SPGMI’s Mark Ferguson. “Over the same period, equity market support for the junior explorers has improved, leading to an uptick in the number and size of completed financings. This allowed the group to increase exploration budgets by 35% in 2018.”