Tuesday 7th April 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘zinc’

Crisis response

April 3rd, 2020

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

by Greg Klein

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

 

Idled explorers: Can you help?

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

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

  • Insulated structures (both hard and soft wall)

  • Camp gear such as furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances

  • Medical equipment

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

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

  • Other supplies or skills

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

For further information contact Savannah Nadeau.

Preparing for a wider emergency

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia guards against predatory foreign takeovers

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

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

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

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

Critical minerals become ever more critical

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

Sharing the disease, hoarding the treatment

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

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

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

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

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese supply chains also jeopardized by Chinese disease

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

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

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

Miners’ providence unevenly distributed

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

A look at mining, exploration, infrastructure and supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

“China needs to be held responsible”

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

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

Taranis Resources alleges “catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” with B.C. mines ministry

March 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 16, 2020

Stating it’s “in a unique position to experience every aspect of the permitting process in B.C.,” an explorer levelled strong complaints about how a bulk sampling application has been handled. Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO, operator of the Thor polymetallic project in southeastern British Columbia, made the charges in a March 16 news release following a conference call with ministry officials.

Taranis Resources alleges catastrophic deficiencies and concerns with B.C. mines ministry

Taranis received its most recent drill permit last January, after
filing an application in March 2019. (Photo: Taranis Resources)

In October 2018 the company applied for permission to conduct a 10,000-kilogram sample. The program would supply material for metallurgical tests as part of Thor’s PEA studies and also remove environmentally harmful stockpiles resulting from historic mining, Taranis states. Since then, the company maintains, it has dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Responding in 2018, the government applied requirements previously used only for large-scale commercial mining but which were to be adapted to the bulk mining proposal, the company states. Taranis says it agreed, but a technical review that should have taken 60 days has dragged on since September 2019.

Input from 28 technical reviewers led to modifications of site layouts, water treatment and other aspects of the original proposal, Taranis avers, but the process also featured “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” as well as “moving goalposts.”

The latter consisted of a demand that engineering drawings be stamped “final” instead of “draft,” undermining “the spirit of technical review.” The company called for assurance that “‘final’ site-engineering plans aren’t modified multiple times based on whims of improperly managed technical reviewers.”

During a March 12 conference call between the company and ministry officials, Taranis states, deputy chief mines inspector Lowell Constable attributed Mount Polley to the decision to apply large-scale commercial mining standards to the bulk sample application.

In a 2014 tailings dam failure at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold operation, some eight million cubic metres of waste poured into the waterways of B.C.’s Cariboo region.

According to Taranis, Constable said that “there are no minor tailings facilities anymore in the code. So big or small, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of pieces still moving around in the tailings management code.”

The company argues that “it is unreasonable that full-scale commercial mine permitting scope and associated costs be applied carte blanche to any and all test production scenarios.”

While the company believed conditional permitting would be a “cornerstone” of its application, Taranis quoted mines ministry executive regional director Heather Cullen as saying, “We are getting away from issuing conditional permits—conditional permits are not the way we are going.…”

It is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation…—Taranis Resources
board of directors

Taranis maintains that the conference call demonstrated that “there are no clear, concise, reasonable permitting allowances for exploration bulk sampling in B.C.—an essential exploration tool to the mining business. Up until 2018, there was a well-defined permitting process for exploration bulk sampling.”

The company’s board of directors states: “Based on our experience, it is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation, with a complement of inexperienced and unqualified civil servants in positions of authority whose obvious intention is nothing less than making sure nothing gets done.”

A week before the conference call, independent MLA and former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver criticized the New Democratic government for prolonging “regulatory inconsistencies” regarding Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine. After the initial rejection by B.C.’s previous Liberal government in 2012, the provincial Supreme Court found the decision “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.” Ordered to reassess the proposal, the NDP government “once again rejected the project in order to undergo further assessment,” Weaver argued. “However, in its order, the government appeared to issue unclear directions that substantially delay the process.”

Thor’s 2013 maiden resource gave the project open pit and underground resources totalling:

  • indicated: 640,000 tonnes averaging 0.88 g/t gold, 187 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.51% lead and 3.51% zinc

  • inferred: 424,000 tonnes averaging 0.98 g/t gold, 176 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.26% lead and 3.2% zinc

The property includes five zones that began mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Update: Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results, vends project

March 3rd, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 2, 2020, updated March 3, 2020

Update: On March 3 Saville Resources announced the sale of its Bud property to Ximen Mining TSXV:XIM for 388,888 Ximen shares, subject to TSXV approval.

A company focused on critical minerals in Quebec has also kept busy in an historic southern British Columbia mining camp. On March 2 Saville Resources TSXV:SRE released grab sample assays from a 2019 field program at the Bud property in the Boundary district that includes the Republic, Belcher, Rossland and Greenwood camps of B.C. and Washington. Some highlights included:

  • 3.84 g/t gold, 105 ppm cobalt, 2,200 ppm copper and 824 ppm zinc

  • 1.52 g/t gold, 247 ppm cobalt, 4,070 ppm copper and 50 ppm zinc

  • 0.864 g/t gold, 476 ppm cobalt, 6,540 ppm copper and 127 ppm zinc
Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results

Grab samples from the previous year reached up to 4.57 g/t gold, 27.7 g/t silver and 6.7% copper; as well as 4.44 g/t gold, 17 g/t silver and 6.84% copper.

Saville stated the 381-hectare property potentially hosts copper-gold skarn mineralization similar to the Motherlode and Sunset properties 500 metres away that had historic production of 4.2 million tonnes averaging 0.8% copper and 1.3 g/t gold. The company also sees potential for gold-bearing epithermal veins.

Reporting on its flagship Niobium Claim Group in northern Quebec last month, Saville announced completion of a preliminary mineralogical analysis conducted as part of a University of Windsor research project. Among the results, the study found three encouraging signs for the project:

The dominant niobium minerals are pyrochlore and columbite, a potential processing advantage with the most common minerals for niobium globally.

The niobium may have been mobilized, which might enhance a project’s grade.

The mineralogy supports a model of a continuous niobium-mineralized trend through the complex.

Saville drew parallels between the project’s Mallard prospect and Magris Resources’ Niobec mine in Quebec. Both feature carbonatites, while Niobec’s mineralization is hosted by pyrochlore and columbite similar in grain size to that found in Mallard’s preliminary analysis. Additionally, both Mallard and Niobec show mineralization in moderate to steeply dipping elongate lenses.

Following near-surface, high-grade niobium and tantalum intercepts from last year’s drilling, Saville plans further exploration this year. The company also plans to evaluate the property’s fluorspar potential after reviewing impressive historic grades for calcium fluoride.

Niobium, tantalum and fluorspar appear on the United States list of 35 critical minerals. Amid increasing concern, in January the U.S. and Canada signed a Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals to develop deposits and supply chains.

Saville operates the Niobium Claim Group under a 75% earn-in from Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE, which holds the advanced-stage Ashram rare earths deposit two kilometres away.

Read more about Saville Resources.

Saville Resources reports B.C. Greenwood sample results

March 2nd, 2020

This story has been updated and moved here.

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

January 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | January 16, 2020

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

The SunMine sits atop reclaimed land over a onetime world leader in zinc-lead production.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

 

A former mine that’s been regenerated to generate clean electricity has come back to a former owner. A recent purchase returns the surface site of southeastern British Columbia’s legendary Sullivan mine to Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B, bringing with the property a 1.05 MW solar farm.

Built by the city of Kimberley on land provided by Teck after Sullivan’s 2001 shutdown, SunMine began operation in 2015 as B.C.’s first grid source of solar electricity. But declining revenues in recent years prodded the municipality into negotiations with the company, resulting in a $2-million payment that meets Kimberley’s SunMine-related debt.

Teck gets brownfields green energy project with re-acquisition of legendary mine

Affluent travelers can lap up luxury at
a former open pit near Shanghai airport.
(Photo: InterContinental Hotels and Resorts)

An 1892 discovery that became a major zinc-lead-silver producer, Sullivan was taken over in 1910 by Cominco, which merged with Teck in 2001. During Kimberley’s tourist season, visitors can take an open air train ride into the former underground operation.

Numerous former industrial sites have been refashioned into green energy production, notably the solar farm that opened at Chernobyl in 2018. In other cases reclaimed land hosts recreational facilities, such as the ski resort on the surface area of North Star, another Kimberley silver-lead mine.

Former open pits and underground workings have also been put to new uses. Billed as the world’s first underground hotel when it opened in 2018, the Shanghai Wonderland rises just two storeys above a former andesite quarry that contains the other 16 floors.

Some underground examples reported by the Smithsonian consist of cycling, zip-lining and ATV riding. More fanciful uses, however, include a onetime Polish salt mine that’s now a resort offering a “subterraneotherapy” spa as well as “religious services, adventure tours, art galleries, a museum and two underground hotels.”

A former Romanian salt mine now features “a surreal theme park complete with a Ferris wheel, mini-golf course, a lake with paddle boats, a bowling alley, an amphitheater, sports fields and ping pong tables.”

Apart from supplying grid power, Teck gets 81% of its own electricity consumption from renewable sources, the company stated. “Our involvement with SunMine is part of our commitment to taking action on climate change, advancing renewable energy development and supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy,” said president/CEO Don Lindsay.

More contentiously, the company now has its proposed $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mine awaiting a federal decision. In July a joint federal/provincial environmental review recommended approval but Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has suggested his cabinet might reject the Alberta project.

 

A 1993 episode of Gold Trails and Ghost Towns discusses the Sullivan mine.

Kris Lane examines a great mine’s legacy in Potosí: The Silver City that Changed the World

January 15th, 2020

…Read more

Open and shut cases: East

January 7th, 2020

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

by Greg Klein

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Eldorado workers celebrate another endowment from Lamaque’s legacy.
(Photo: Eldorado Gold)

 

This is the final installment of a series on mine openings and closures across Canada for 2019 and 2020.

Quebec

Val-d’Or flaunted its abundance yet again as Eldorado Gold TSX:ELD reached commercial production at Lamaque in March. Pre-commercial mining and toll milling began the previous year, with the first gold pour from the project’s refurbished Sigma mill in December 2018. Guidance for 2019 was set at 100,000 to 110,000 ounces, with 125,000 to 135,000 initially expected for each of 2020 and 2021.

At least, that was the original plan. In September 2019 the company began a PEA to study an annual increase to 170,000 ounces. By November Eldorado announced an additional 19,000 ounces for Lamaque’s proven and probable reserves, along with 191,000 ounces for measured and indicated resources.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

A drill operator probes the Triangle deposit at Lamaque.
(Photo: Eldorado Gold)

That gives the deposit reserves of 972,000 ounces within a measured and indicated 1.55 million ounces.

But until further feasibility states otherwise, Lamaque’s life expectancy ends in seven years.

Eldorado picked up the property with its 2017 buyout of Integra Gold. The Triangle deposit now under production wasn’t part of the historic Lamaque mines, one of which was Quebec’s biggest gold producer between 1952 and 1985. In 2016 Integra’s Gold Rush Challenge offered geo-boffins a half-million-dollar prize to apply cutting edge technology in search of additional auriferous riches on historic turf adjacent to the current operation.

 

Attributing its setbacks more to cost overruns than an overinflated bubble, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX ended 2019 by suspending mine construction and demo plant operations, laying off 64 staff, getting creditor protection and halting trades. Hanging in the balance is a possible $600-million investment that’s been under negotiation since July.

Just over a year ago Nemaska confidently spoke of steady construction progress, with concentrate production expected in H2 2019 and lithium salts production in H2 2020. But by February 2019 the company warned of a $375-million capex shortfall revealed by “detailed engineering work, revised site geo-technical data and updated equipment and installation costs” not foreseen in the previous year’s feasibility update.

That same month Livent Corp (previously FMC Corp) cancelled an 8,000-tpa lithium carbonate supply agreement that was to start in April 2019.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Until funders come to the rescue, Nemaska’s
Whabouchi camp will resemble an instant ghost town.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

By September a US$75-million second tranche of a US$150-million stream agreement with Orion Mutual Funds fell into jeopardy. Bondholders called for repayment of US$350 million. The company had so far spent only $392 million towards a capex estimated at $1.269 billion.

Plan A calls for sealing a $600-million deal with the London-based Pallinghurst Group, which over the last 12 years has invested about US$2 billion in mining projects. But negotiation delays caused Nemaska to seek creditor protection, which was granted in December. Bracing for a possible fallout with Pallinghurst, Nemaska says it’s also considering other investment, debt or M&A alternatives.

Before suspending the Phase I plant at Shawinigan, however, the company did finish delivering samples to potential customers “ranging from cathode manufacturers to battery makers to industrial grease users, in addition to our existing offtake customers, which include LG Chemicals, Johnson Matthey and Northvolt” using proprietary methodology.

The mine plan calls for 24 years of open pit operation prior to nine years of underground mining, producing an annual 205,000 tonnes of 6.25% Li2O spodumene concentrate. On achieving commercial production, the Shawinigan plant’s annual capacity would reach 37,000 tonnes lithium hydroxide monohydrate.

Should funding allow, Nemaska would target Q3 2021 to begin spodumene concentrate production at Whabouchi and Q2 2022 to start producing lithium salts at Shawinigan.

The provincial government’s investment agency Ressources Québec holds about 12.5% of Nemaska.

 

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Although Nyrstar has moved mining equipment
out of Langlois, the company says exploration
potential remains. (Photo: Nyrstar)

Another James Bay-region operation, the Langlois zinc-copper mine went back on care and maintenance in December. A short-lived operation between July 2007 and November 2008, Langlois was taken over by Zurich-headquartered Nyrstar in 2011. Mining resumed the following year. But by October 2018 the suspension was decided “due to rock conditions having deteriorated,” making the mine uneconomic. Some 240 staff lost their jobs.

But Langlois “has exploration potential for other metals such as gold,” Nyrstar stated. “The company is in active discussions with interested parties in the mine and its assets.”

Usable equipment was slated for transfer to other Nyrstar properties in Tennessee and on Vancouver Island, where the company’s Myra Falls zinc-copper-polymetallic mine suspended operations briefly in early 2019.

As part of a debt restructuring, in July Nyrstar came under majority ownership of the Trafigura Group, one of the world’s largest physical commodities traders.

 

Fear of closure came to another Quebec mine in September after Stornoway Diamond followed its application for creditor protection with this ominous declaration: “There is and will be no recoverable or residual value in either Stornoway’s common shares or convertible debentures.”

Such an admission made the company’s October delisting something of a formality. But if investors got wiped out, the Renard mine continues operations due to creditors led by Osisko Gold Royalties TSX:OR and including Ressources Québec. As of November 1, Osisko became the largest shareholder, with a 35.1% stake. The royalty company also holds a 9.6% stream.

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Despite Stornoway’s failure, creditors keep Quebec’s only
diamond mine in operation. (Photo: Stornoway Diamond)

Under a September LOI, the lenders agreed to take over all of Stornoway’s assets and liabilities. An initial $20-million financing should ensure Renard operations continue “in an uninterrupted manner.”

Open pit mining began in 2015, with an official opening following in 2016 and commercial production in 2017. But Renard encountered technical problems while shifting to underground operations and also faced a disappointing initial underground grade as well as the global slump in diamond markets.

Nevertheless, Osisko suggested the mine remained on target to meet the 2019 guidance set by Stornoway of 1.8 million to 2.1 million carats, with sales expectations of $80 to $105 per carat. A 2016 resource update expected prices ranging from $106 per carat for the Renard 4 pipe to $197 for Renard 2. The technical study assumed a 2.5% annual increase in diamond prices to the end of 2026.

New Brunswick

A casualty of an earlier mine closure, Glencore’s Brunswick lead-silver smelter shut down permanently by the end of 2019. “Despite years of efforts by committed employees and a strong management team, the smelter has been uneconomic since the closure of the Brunswick mine in 2013,” said company spokesperson Chris Eskdale. “We have thoroughly assessed all our options and come to the unavoidable conclusion that the smelter is simply not sustainable, regardless of the recent labour dispute.”

Termed a lockout by the United Steelworkers and a strike by management, the dispute had left 280 union members of the 420-person workforce off the job since April. The company’s November announcement of the impending shutdown also coincided with a strike at the CEZinc refinery near Montreal, which ended December 3 after 10 months. That facility is owned by Noranda Income Fund TSX:NIF.UN but operated by Glencore, which holds 25% of NIF.

Glencore’s Alexis Segal emphasized that Brunswick plant losses averaged $30 million annually for the last three years, CBC reported. Premier Blaine Higgs and labour minister Trevor Holder expressed concern but couldn’t offer reassurances, the network added.

The facility opened in 1966 to process concentrate from the Brunswick zinc-lead-silver mine, at one point the world’s largest underground zinc operation. Following the mine’s 2013 closure, the company was transforming the smelter into a custom plant.

Labrador

Some 2019-2020 ups and downs for mining in Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Blasting began last June as Tacora brought new life
to the Scully iron ore operation. (Photo: Tacora Resources)

Western Labrador’s iron industry revived in May as production resumed at the Scully mine after nearly five years. Minnesota-based Tacora Resources bought the former Wabush Iron operation through a Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act process in 2017, conducted a new feasibility study and recruited strategic investors that include the metals branch of Cargill, which also agreed to 100% offtake for 15 years.

The restart benefits Quebec too. The Iron Ore Company of Canada’s railway, the Quebec North Shore & Labrador line, carries Scully production to a pellet plant at Pointe Noire on the St. Lawrence. Nearby Sept-Isles provides deep sea docks from where the resuscitated mine’s first shipment left for Europe in late August.

With life expectancy currently set at 15 years, the company expects the open pit to produce 6.25 million tpa. Tacora hopes to upgrade the 65.9% Fe concentrate and also pull profits from the deposit’s manganese, considered problematic by the previous operator.

“The manganese content was a hurdle and an impediment before,” Tacora CEO/chairperson Larry Lehtinen told CBC. “We’re turning that into an advantage.”

The mine previously opened in 1965. The operation shut down completely in 2015 but most staff had already lost their jobs the previous year.

This is Part 4 of a series.

Open and shut cases: North

December 18th, 2019

How do the territories’ mine openings compare with closures for 2019 and 2020?

by Greg Klein

This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

  • See Part 2, covering the western provinces.
  • See Part 3, covering Ontario.
  • See Part 4, covering Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
  •  

    One indication of the state of mining involves the vital statistics of births and deaths—the new mines that arrived and the old mines that left. To that end we survey each Canadian region for some of the major gains and losses that occurred over the past year or are expected for the next. The first of this multi-part series looks at the country’s three northern territories, with each distinct jurisdiction contributing to a study in contrasts.

    Yukon

    Yukon without mining? That might surprise people better acquainted with the territory’s past than its present. But such was the case for nearly a year, following the suspension of Minto, Yukon’s sole remaining hardrock mine up to 2018. Nevertheless operations returned to this fabled mining region in September as Victoria Gold TSXV:VIT celebrated Eagle’s debut. By late November the company reported 10,400 ounces of gold and 1,600 ounces of silver from the heap leach operation.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    Victoria Gold finished construction a month early on
    Yukon’s largest-ever gold mine. (Photo: Victoria Gold)

    Less than two weeks later the company unveiled an updated feasibility study raising the annual production target for the territory’s largest-ever gold mine from 200,000 to 220,000 gold ounces, based on a 20% increase in proven and probable reserves for the Eagle and Olive deposits. Victoria expects to reach commercial production in Q2 2020.

    By mid-October Minto came back to life under LSE-listed Pembridge Resources. Capstone Mining TSX:CS had placed the underground mine on care and maintenance in 2018, after about 11 years of continuous operation, as acquisition negotiations with Pembridge stalled. But the companies sealed the deal last June. Within weeks of restart Pembridge reported 1,734 dry metric tonnes of copper-gold-silver concentrate. Proven and probable reserves totalling 40,000 tonnes copper, 420,000 ounces silver and 45,000 ounces gold give Minto an estimated four more years of production.

    Among the most advanced Yukon projects is BMC Minerals’ Kudz Ze Kayah, a zinc deposit with copper, lead, gold and silver. The privately owned UK-based company reached feasibility in June and hopes to begin at least nine years of mining in 2021.

    Environmental/socio-economic reviews continue into Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) Coffee gold project and Western Copper and Gold’s (TSX:WRN) Casino polymetallic project. Should Casino make it into operation, the copper-gold-silver-molybdenum operation would be by far the territory’s largest mine.

    Read more about Yukon mining.

    Northwest Territories

    Confidence in the territorial economy fell last October when Moody’s downgraded a $550-million bond issued by Dominion Diamond. “There’s no plan in place to extend the mine life at a time when the debt is coming closer and closer to coming due,” the credit ratings agency’s Jamie Koutsoukis told CBC. “We continue to see a contraction in the time they have to develop this mine plan.”

    Part of the Washington Group, Dominion holds a majority stake in Ekati and 40% of Diavik, where Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO holds the remaining 60%. Along with De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué, the three diamond operations comprise the territory’s largest private sector employer.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    Agnico Eagle once again laid claim to Arctic riches with the
    Amaruq satellite deposit, over 300 kilometres west of Hudson Bay.
    (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

    In an October presentation before the territory’s newly elected legislative assembly, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines urged the government to safeguard the economy by improving investor confidence in the mining industry.

    An election year in the NWT and Canada-wide, 2019 brought optimistic talk and initial funding for the NWT’s Slave Geological Province Corridor and Nunavut’s Grays Bay Road and Port, two transportation proposals that would offer enormous potential for mineral-rich regions in both territories.

    Nunavut

    “Whispers could be heard throughout the room as intervenors turned to their colleagues. Members of the audience turned their heads, looking for Baffinland’s reaction to what was unfolding. Baffinland officials sat stone-faced, sometimes crossing their arms and looking down at the table as [Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki] Kotierk spelled out the motion.”

    That was the scene described by the Nunatsiaq News as the Nunavut Impact Review Board abruptly suspended hearings into Baffinland Iron Mines’ $900-million Phase II expansion plans for Mary River. The proposals, already accepted by Ottawa, include building a railway to replace a 100-kilometre road north to the company’s Milne Inlet port and doubling annual production to 12 million tonnes iron ore. The new railway proposal comes in addition to a previously approved but un-built 150-kilometre southern rail link to a harbour that had been planned for Steensby Inlet.

    The company maintains that expanded production and a northern rail line will be crucial to the existing operation’s viability. Responses at public hearings ranged from support to skepticism and outright opposition. Within weeks of the hearings’ suspension and a month ahead of a scheduled layoff, Baffinland let go 586 contractors who had been working on expansion preparations.

    How do Canada’s mine openings compare with closures in 2019 and 2020?

    About 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank, Agnico
    Eagle celebrated Meliadine’s first gold pour in February.
    (Photo: Agnico Eagle)

    Despite all that, operations continue at Mary River and Nunavut remains a bright spot in Canadian mining.

    That’s largely due to Agnico Eagle TSX:AEM, which brought two new operations to the territory. Meliadine began commercial production months ahead of schedule in mid-May, followed by Amaruq in late September.

    As a satellite deposit, Amaruq brings new life to the Meadowbank mine and mill complex 50 kilometres southeast. With the latter mine wrapping up its ninth and last year of operation, Amaruq’s open pit offers an estimated 2.5 million ounces up to 2025. Should hoped-for permitting come through in late 2020, a Phase II expansion could broaden the lifespan. Meanwhile drilling seeks to upgrade the project’s underground resource.

    Meliadine began with underground production but has an open pit scheduled to come online by 2023. Combined open pit and underground reserves of 3.75 million gold ounces give the operation a 14-year life.

    TMAC Resources’ (TSX:TMR) expansion plans moved forward in October as construction began on an underground portal to Madrid North, a fully permitted deposit that could enter production by late 2020. The new operation’s probable reserves of 2.17 million gold ounces far overshadow the company’s other three Hope Bay deposits, which total 3.59 million ounces proven and probable.

    By comparison, the current Doris operation hosts 479,000 ounces proven and probable. Hope Bay has updated resource/reserve and prefeas studies scheduled for Q1 2020.

    This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

  • See Part 2, covering the western provinces.
  • See Part 3, covering Ontario.
  • See Part 4, covering Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
  • Potosí’s legacy

    December 5th, 2019

    A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

    by Greg Klein

    Far overshadowed by the political violence plaguing Bolivia over the last several weeks was a slightly earlier series of protests in the country’s Potosí department. Arguing that a proposed lithium project offered insufficient local benefits, residents convinced then-president Evo Morales to cancel a partnership between the state-owned mining firm and a German company that intended to open up the country’s vast but unmined lithium resources.

    A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

    In the heart of the Andes, 4,000 metres above sea level,
    the city of Potosí sits beneath the infamous Cerro Rico.
    (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

    Other events overtook the dispute, sending Morales into exile and the country towards an uncertain future that could bring elections, military coup or civil war. Yet Potosí serves as a stark example of Bolivia’s plight: a mineral-rich land that’s one of South America’s poorest countries. That’s one of the contradictions related in Kris Lane’s recent book Potosí: The Silver City that Changed the World.

    Unlike so many other New World mineral rushes, the 1545 discovery held enduring global importance. More typically, and probably more dramatically, it was “rife with paradox from the start, a site of human depravity and ingenuity, oppression and opportunity, piety and profligacy, race mixture and ethnic retrenchment,” Lane recounts. “The list could go on.”

    Looming over a boom town both squalid and magnificent was the great mountain of silver, Cerro Rico. For their first century of operation its mines and mills churned out nearly half the world’s silver, and then about 20% up to 1825.

    The red mountain of Potosí is still producing silver, tin, zinc, lead, and other metals, and it never seems to have stopped doing so despite many cycles since its discovery in 1545. Current estimates range from 30,000 to 60,000 tons of silver produced to date, and geologists estimate that the Cerro Rico, easily the world’s richest silver deposit, contains an equivalent amount dispersed in low-grade, refractory ores that would require sophisticated processing.

    A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

    This huge supply came online just as Europe was suffering a “bullion famine,” Lane writes. More than gold, silver served as the world’s exchange medium. Globalization can be dated to 1571, when Spain launched trans-Pacific trade and Chinese demand for silver “reset the clock of the world’s commercial economy just as Potosí was hitting its stride.”

    Yet Spain served as little more than a transfer point for its share. With longstanding armed conflicts on a number of fronts, “the king’s fifth went to fund wars, which is to say it went to pay interest on debts to Charles V’s and Philip II’s foreign creditors in southern Germany, northern Italy, and Flanders.”

    As for the rest, “once taxed, most private silver went to rich merchants who had advanced funds to Potosí’s mine owners. They then settled their accounts with distant factors, moving massive mule-loads and shiploads of silver across mountains, plains, and oceans. Global commerce was the wholesale merchants’ forte, and most such merchants were junior factors linked to larger wholesalers in Lima, Seville, Lisbon, and elsewhere. Some had ties to Mexico City and later to Manila, Macao, and Goa; still others were tied to major European trading hubs such as Antwerp, Genoa, and Lyons.”

    But wealth wasn’t unknown near the source. Known for its “opulence and decadence, its piety and violence,” the boom town “was one of the most populous urban conglomerations on the planet, possibly the first great factory town of the modern world…. By the time its population topped 120,000 in the early seventeenth century, the Imperial Villa of Potosí had become a global phenomenon.”

    It was also a “violent, vice-ridden, and otherwise criminally prolific” contender for the world’s most notorious Sin City.

    By comparison the much-later Anglo-Saxon boom towns seem small time, only partly for their ephemeral nature. But the men (and later women) who moiled for Potosí silver weren’t the adventurous free spirits of gold rush legend. Slaves and, to a greater extent, conscripted Andean natives endured the inhumane conditions “perhaps exceeded only by work in the mercury mines of Huancavelica, located at a similarly punishing altitude in Peru.”

    Native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.

    At the same time some natives, like some foreigners, achieved affluence as merchants, contractors or traders in bootleg ore boosted by the conscripts. Andean innovation helped keep the mines going, for example by smelting with indigenous wind furnaces after European technology failed, and using a native method of cupellation.

    “Put another way, native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.”

    A “noisy, crushing, twenty-four-hour polluting killer, a monster that ate men and poisoned women and children” needed some rationale for its existence. Spain’s excuse was the money-burning responsibility of defending the faith. Still “the steady beat of Potosí’s mills and the clink of its newly minted coins hammered away at the Spanish conscience. Priests, headmen, and villagers, even some local elites denounced the mita [forced native labour] as immoral. As one priest put it, even if the king’s demand for treasure was righteous, [the] Potosí and Huancavelica mitas were effectively killing New World converts in the name of financing the struggle against Old World heresy. God’s imagination could not possibly be so limited.”

    More practical matters stained the empire’s reputation too, as the 1649 Potosí mint debasement scandal unfolded. World markets recoiled and Spain’s war efforts suffered as money lenders and suppliers refused the once-prized Spanish coins. “Indeed, the great mint fraud showed that when Potosí sneezed, the world caught a cold.”

    A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

    Potosí miners, seen here in 2017, work at
    surface with Cerro Rico in the background.
    (Photo: SL-Photography/Shutterstock.com)

    With the 1825 arrival of Simón Bolívar, “the Liberator symbolically proclaimed South American freedom from atop the Cerro Rico. Yet British investors were close on his heels.”

    Foreign owners brought new investment and infrastructure. But “the turn from silver to tin starting in the 1890s revolutionized Bolivian mining and also made revolutionaries of many miners. The fiercely militant political sensibility of the Potosí miner so evident today was largely forged in the struggles of the first half of the twentieth century.”

    Those clashes bring to mind events of recent weeks, in which dozens have been killed by police and military.

    Lane’s narrative continues to Morales’ “seeming ambivalence” toward miners and Potosí’s transformation into a “thriving metropolis” that hopes tourism will offset mineral depletion. Meanwhile underpaid, often under-age, miners continue to toil in woefully unhealthy conditions.

    The breadth of Lane’s work is tremendous. He covers Potosí’s history from global, colonial, economic and social perspectives, outlines different practices of mining and metallurgy, recites contemporary accounts and provides quick character studies of the people involved. All that gives the book wide-ranging Christmas gift potential. It also offers considerable context as the geologically bountiful country once again experiences troubled times.

    Northern challenge

    November 8th, 2019

    NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

    by Greg Klein

    NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

     

    What happens when a mining-based economy runs out of mines? The Northwest Territories risks finding out the hard way but the reason won’t be a lack of mineral resources. For too long, investors have been discouraged from backing territorial exploration. That’s the message the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines delivered to the legislative assembly in Yellowknife last month. Now the industry group awaits a response, one backed with action, as the newly elected government prepares for its four-year term.

    The territory’s three mines, all diamond operations, have passed peak production, facing closures over the coming decade. The NWT hosts only a few advanced projects, none comparing in potential economic clout with the big three. The problem contrasts with the NWT’s two northern neighbours, where the industry continues to thrive.

    Projections released in July by the Conference Board of Canada call for Nunavut to lead the country in annual economic expansion, with an average 4.6% up to 2025. “Mining will be the main driver of growth, as Agnico Eagle prepares to bring its Meliadine mine and Amaruq satellite deposit into operation, and Sabina works on its Back River project.”

    More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.—Conference Board of Canada

    Yukon “will also experience a boom, with growth of 4.6% this year and 6.2% in 2019,” again thanks to mining. But the NWT faces decline:

    “Two new metal mines should help offset some of the losses for the mining sector, but not until after 2020,” the Board stated. “More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.”

    A lack of exploration spending explains the lack of projects in the pipeline, according to the Chamber of Mines. “The NWT has basically been flat-lining for the last 12 years,” says executive director Tom Hoefer. “That’s a problem because that’s the very investment you need to come up with new mines.”

    But it’s a problem industry can’t solve without government help, he emphasizes.

    “The government goes to Roundup and other conferences with really good marketing tools and they’re putting out all the right messages, such as: ‘Come unlock our potential.’ But if it’s that easy, why hasn’t the industry picked up?” Hoefer asks.

    “Well, it’s because these other things happen.”

    His group outlined a number of causes in its presentation to the assembly: high cost of living, relative lack of infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty, unsettled land claims and additional expanses of land (over 30% of the territory) deemed off limits for exploration and development.

    NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

    Benefiting from previously built infrastructure,
    NorZinc hopes to begin zinc-lead-silver mining
    at Prairie Creek by 2022. (Photo: NorZinc)

    Hoefer also mentions “contortions” imposed on companies. As examples he cites some early-stage exploration projects that were sent to environmental assessment, “something that would never happen in southern Canada,” and two companies being required to collect data about lakes from which they might or might not draw water in small amounts for diamond drilling, “a totally new requirement, totally out of step with what happens in the rest of the country.

    “What that says to investors is, ‘You’d better be careful when you come up to the NWT because there are these surprises coming out of the woodwork.’”

    Convincing the territorial government calls for a different approach than in most of Canada. With no political parties, the Chamber deals with 19 individual MLAs tasked with working on consensus. They put together collective priorities, Hoefer explains, then create a mandate for their four-year term. His group looks forward to seeing the current mandate, expected to be released soon.

    “Candidates don’t run on a platform but on a community-by-community basis, saying ‘this is what I would do for our community.’ So the challenge is pulling them all together to serve the entire NWT and try to keep them on that path over the next four years.”

    Should problems remain unresolved, however, the territory risks an unfortunate repeat of late 1990s history.

    NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

    Considerable infrastructure remains at the former
    Pine Point operation, where Osisko Metals upgrades
    Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”
    (Photo: Osisko Metals)

    “We were in a similar situation before the first diamond mine opened because the gold mines were winding down. At the same time Nunavut was created, and the new territory pulled a lot of funding away to create a parallel government. The Yellowknife economy really took a dive and housing prices went way down. At the time the government was actually offering $10,000 grants to encourage people to buy homes. We went through a lot of pain then, but I think a lot of people have forgotten that.”

    Even Ekati seemed insufficient to buoy the economy. “But when Diavik got its approval the change was palpable. There was this big sigh of relief, money started to flow and the economy turned around.”

    Now the challenge is to overturn 12 years of neglect that have made investors “gun shy about the NWT,” he says. “We have to rebuild that trust by showing that things are different now. It’s going to take all of us working together to help make it better.”

    With no other industries ready to take mining’s place, “we have to encourage companies to come up here and bring their expertise to do what government can’t do, and that’s turn rock into opportunity.”

     

    Current and potential mines: Comparing job numbers and durations

     

    NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

    While updating indicated and inferred resources,
    Vital Metals sees near-term potential for a short-lived
    operation at its Nechalacho rare earths deposits.
    (Photo: Avalon Advanced Materials)

    Employment numbers reported by the Chamber for the NWT’s existing diamond mines in 2018 show 1,625 workers at Dominion Diamond Mines’ majority-held Ekati, 1,113 at Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO)/Dominion’s Diavik and 527 at De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué.

    Projections for the territory’s four likeliest potential mines show estimated average annual employment of 363 workers at Prairie Creek (for 15 years), 300 at Pine Point (13 years), 225 at NICO (21 years) and 30 at Nechalacho (four years).

    The NWT’s next mine will be Prairie Creek, according to NorZinc TSX:NZC. Built to near-completion by 1982 but never operated, the zinc-lead-silver project reached feasibility in 2017. The company hopes to receive its final permit, for an all-season road, this month. Should financing fall in place, NorZinc plans to begin production in 2022.

    Having operated from 1964 to 1987, the Pine Point zinc-lead camp retains infrastructure including an electrical substation and an all-season 96-kilometre link to Hay River, the head of Canada’s only industrial railway north of 60. A previous operator reached PEA in 2017 but current owner Osisko Metals TSX:OM has been drilling the property to upgrade a 2018 inferred resource of 38.4 million tonnes averaging 4.58% zinc and 1.85% lead, for 6.58% zinc-equivalent, Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”

    Fortune Minerals’ (TSX:FT) NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project reached feasibility in 2014 based on a mill production rate of 4,650 tpd for a combined open pit and underground operation. A further study considered but rejected a rate of 6,000 tpd. Fortune now has several other proposals under consideration to improve the project’s economics and “align the development schedule with the expected deficit in cobalt supply in 2022-23.”

    The project sits about 50 kilometres north of Whati, which will have an all-season connection to Yellowknife via the Tlicho road now under construction.

    Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL brought its Nechalacho rare earths project to feasibility in 2013 but this year divided the property with another company, privately owned Cheetah Resources which was taken over by ASX-listed Vital Metals in October. Under a $5-million property acquisition that closed soon after the takeover, Vital gets two near-surface deposits while Avalon retains the ground below that. Now working on an update to the indicated and inferred resources, Vital says its deposits show near-term “potential for a start-up operation.”

    See the Chamber’s PowerPoint presentation to the NWT government.

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