Tuesday 6th December 2016

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘zinc’

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures to create gold-copper spinco

November 23rd, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 23, 2016

With a gold-copper asset in British Columbia and a diamond project with gold prospects in Nunavut, Dunnedin Ventures TSXV:DVI proposes to distribute its portfolio between two companies. On November 23 Dunnedin announced plans to spin out the non-diamond assets into a new listing.

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures to create gold-copper spinco

The company currently holds the 60,000-hectare Kahuna diamond project in Nunavut, where an inferred resource for two kimberlites totals 4.02 million carats, using a +0.85 mm cutoff. Till samples collected last year also showed anomalous gold of 50 ppb or more in 84 of 129 samples.

Meanwhile previous drill results from Dunnedin’s 4,000-hectare Trapper porphyry project in northwestern B.C. showed strong gold intercepts, with silver, lead and zinc showings as well.

“We believe that separate corporate vehicles for diamond and metal assets will yield the best long-term value to shareholders,” said CEO Chris Taylor.

Subject to approvals, Trapper and rights to gold at Kahuna would go to a newly created subsidiary with working capital for exploration. The new company’s shares would be distributed to Dunnedin shareholders on a pro rata basis. The new company would apply for a TSXV listing.

Dunnedin shareholders will vote on the proposed spinout early next year.

Dunnedin also plans to accelerate expiration of over six million warrants to December 23. Should all warrants be exercised, proceeds would come to about $632,708.

Read more about Dunnedin Ventures.

See Chris Berry’s report on long-term diamond demand.

Charles Desjardins outlines his company’s plans on becoming the largest claimholder in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt

November 14th, 2016

…Read more

American election fosters forecasting frenzy

November 11th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 11, 2016

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

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

U.S. election fosters forecasting frenzy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Industrial Minerals called a copper bubble.

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

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

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

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

A transformational discovery

November 10th, 2016

Lac de Gras glitter became the backbone of the NWT economy

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

The greatest staking rush the world’s likely seen, a shakeup of the global diamond industry and a tremendous boost to Northwest Territories finances—all that started with the Ekati discovery announced by Chuck Fipke 25 years ago this week. The effects on the NWT alone were momentous. The exploration sector boomed like never before, reaping four discoveries in six years that became working mines, while communities and individuals realized benefits both tangible and intangible.

Exploration fervour “certainly caused an injection into the economy,” notes Tom Hoefer, NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines executive director. “But where it really made a difference was when we had mines developed.”

Lac de Gras glitter became the backbone of the NWT economy

The Ekati mine began a transformation that
out-performed all other resources and sectors in the NWT.

It actually took two operations, Ekati and Diavik, to offset the territory’s 1990s economic malaise, he says. Yellowknife’s Giant and Con mines were winding down their 50 to 60 years of gold production. Around the same time, Nunavut’s 1999 separation dealt a blow to NWT revenue. “So there was a double hit on the economy. When Ekati went into production, it wasn’t enough to offset that economic downturn. It wasn’t until Diavik that the economy turned around significantly.

“It was almost palpable when Diavik got its approval. You could cut it, you could just feel it, all of a sudden people were saying, ‘Now we’re set.’ Those turned out to be world-class diamond mines, so in hindsight people were right.”

Of more than $60 billion worth of NWT mining output since 1932, gold provided 18%. It’s sometimes forgotten that the territory was a major base metals producer too, with zinc accounting for 30% of that $60-plus billion. But less than two decades of diamond production contributed 38%. The value of annual diamond production has topped $2 billion in the past “and I think we’re around $1.7 billion now,” Hoefer says. “That’s pretty significant when you consider that the NWT government’s entire budget is about the same.”

With last year’s shutdown of the Cantung tungsten operation, the territory has no mining but diamond mining. The three mines now in operation rank Lac de Gras as the world’s third-largest producer by value.

Figures from 2014 credit diamond mining with a 29% direct contribution to territorial GDP, by far the largest private sector portion. Chamber data attributes direct and indirect benefits to about 40% .

Taking another perspective, Hoefer points to a 2014 Canada-wide survey on aboriginal perceptions of the mining industry. Outside the NWT and Nunavut, favourable ratings ranged from 25% in Quebec to 45% in the Yukon. NWT responses were 55% favourable compared to 33% unfavourable, with 12% undecided. The territory ranked second only to Nunavut, which had 59/32/9 ratings.

“I would say the reason is all the aboriginal participation we’ve had in mining,” Hoefer says.

An NWT-specific survey taken this year shows overwhelming support. About 80% of respondents expressed positive feelings about the territory’s mining and exploration companies, 83% said regulation works well and 82% want more mining projects.

Those responses might partly result from the way benefits are distributed. Territorial legislation requires mining proposals to address not only environmental impacts but also positive socio-economic effects, Hoefer explains. Companies sign agreements with the government that address training, employment and local spending. The miners then file annual reports stating what they’ve accomplished.

“Put the clock back to before diamonds were discovered and the first mine built, there was maybe just a handful of aboriginal companies that could work with mining.” Now the Chamber lists over 60 NWT aboriginal companies created since Ekati began construction in 1996. They’ve shared over $5 billion of the $12 billion that diamond miners have spent in the territory.

The mines have also contributed over $100 million to communities under Impact Benefit Agreements.

And of course there are the jobs. Lac de Gras diamonds have provided over 24,000 person-years of mine employment.

That’s really in essence what I think a government would want to do with its resources—generate wealth for people who don’t have it.—Tom Hoefer,
executive director of the NWT
and Nunavut Chamber of Mines

“That’s really in essence what I think a government would want to do with its resources—generate wealth for people who don’t have it.”

Looking to the future, Lac de Gras explorers continue the quest for more deposits. Among existing miners, the Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO/Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC 60/40 JV expects Diavik to last until 2024. Plans to add a fourth deposit won’t extend the lifespan but will keep production robust until shutdown, Hoefer says.

De Beers’ technically challenged Snap Lake shut down last year, at a cost of about 750 jobs. Some of them were saved by Gahcho Kué, which last summer became the world’s largest diamond mine to open in 13 years. But despite output that’s expected to be about two and a half times greater than Snap, the open pit will employ fewer people, currently 441. The De Beers/Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV 51%/49% JV sees an initial 12-year mine life, but Mountain Province talks optimistically of extensions.

Getting back to the genesis of all this economic activity, Dominion’s majority-held Ekati would have its life expectancy extended to at least 2030 should the Jay pipe addition pass feasibility and final permitting. The mine employs around 1,500 workers and accounts for about $400 million in annual spending.

Commemorating the quarter-century since Ekati’s discovery, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines presents a Diamond Gala on November 17, the final evening of this year’s Geoscience Forum. Hoefer says the event will be a three-part celebration recognizing the discovery, the subsequent construction and operation of four mines, and the support of aboriginal governments. Fipke will be on hand as guest speaker, perhaps marvelling at the transformation brought about by his pursuit of Lac de Gras glitter.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

Ontario backs deep-mining research with $2.5-million grant

November 2nd, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 2, 2016

Sudbury’s status as a global capital of mining R&D gained additional recognition with a $2.5-million provincial grant. Announced at the Mining Innovation Summit on November 1, the money goes to the non-profit Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation and its Ultra Deep Mining Network.

Ontario backs deep-mining research with $2.5-million grant

The UDMN works to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability of operations at depths below 2.5 kilometres. While China has announced support for deep-mining research as part of its Three Deep program, the alarming accident rate at South African mines has been attributed partly to the unprecedented depths of some operations, one breaching the four-kilometre mark.

Ontario hosts two of the world’s 10 deepest mines, according to Mining-Technology.com. Vale’s Creighton nickel-copper mine in Sudbury holds tenth place, at about 2.5 kilometres’ depth. Glencore’s Kidd copper-zinc mine in the Timmins region holds eighth place at slightly more than three kilometres. The other eight mines are all South African gold operations.

Another type of research goes on at Creighton, which hosts the SNOLAB physics experiments including the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory that won Art McDonald a Nobel Prize in 2015.

Why Creighton? As quantum physicist Damian Pope told the National Post, the lab’s two kilometres of rock shields neutrinos from other sub-atomic particles, allowing them to be studied in relative isolation. That research, conducted where the sun don’t shine, somehow helped eggheads understand how the sun shines.

As for mining research, Sudbury hosts nine institutes dedicated to innovation, the province stated. Ontario now has 42 operating mines supporting 26,000 direct jobs and 50,000 additional jobs associated with mining and processing, according to a statement from mines minister Michael Gravelle. He valued Ontario’s 2015 mineral production at $10.8 billion.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines hosted the two-day Sudbury summit to bring together “government, industry, academia, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, as well as research and innovation organizations” to further encourage mining innovation.

Read about Laurentian University’s Metal Earth project.

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures ponders its B.C. gold-copper porphyry project

October 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 26, 2016

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures ponders its B.C. gold-copper porphyry project

Primarily focused on Nunavut diamond exploration, Dunnedin Ventures TSXV:DVI has launched a technical and strategic review of its Trapper gold project in northwestern British Columbia.

The 40-square-kilometre property lies adjacent to Brixton Metals’ (TSXV:BBB) Thorn project and hosts the Ring zone “with over 10 kilometres of strike surrounding a porphyry centre, with gold-rich polymetallic mineralization drilled across 2.2 kilometres and associated surface copper porphyry showings,” Dunnedin stated.

Over $4 million of exploration included a 42-hole, 8,580-metre program completed in 2011. Some highlights showed:

Hole TG-11-011

  • 1.71 g/t gold, 5.6 g/t silver, 1.01% lead and 0.25% zinc over 34.11 metres, starting at 106.89 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 92.8 g/t gold, 18.8 g/t silver, 0.13% lead and 0.12% zinc over 0.41 metres)
  • (and including 3.9 g/t gold, 27 g/t silver, 9.11% lead and 0.91% zinc over 3.39 metres)

Hole TG-11-038

  • 1.68 g/t gold, 1.8 g/t silver, 0.02% lead and 0.07% zinc over 15 metres, starting at 122.5 metres
  • (including 5.08 g/t gold, 4.4 g/t silver, 0.05% lead and 0.13% zinc over 4.23 metres)
  • (which includes 21.8 g/t gold, 11.9 g/t silver, 0.15% lead and 0.36% zinc over 0.62 metres)

Hole TG-11-039

  • 1.01 g/t gold, 2.3 g/t silver, 0.02% lead and 0.13% zinc over 30 metres, starting at 67.5 metres
  • (including 2.19 g/t gold, 2.7 g/t silver, 0.06% lead and 0.3% zinc over 2.5 metres)
  • (and including 2.98 g/t gold, 4 g/t silver, 0.04% lead and 0.09% zinc over 2.5 metres)
  • (and including 2.64 g/t gold, 2.5 g/t silver and 0.35% zinc over 2.34 metres)

Hole TG-11-040

  • 1.19 g/t gold, 1.8 g/t silver, 0.01% lead and 0.07% zinc over 27.5 metres, starting at 132.5 metres
  • (including 11.15 g/t gold, 5.7 g/t silver, 0.03% lead and 0.17% zinc over 2.5 metres)

True widths weren’t available.

“The property overlies an unusually gold-rich porphyry copper complex including drill-ready copper porphyry and gold-rich semi-massive sulphide stockwork,” commented CEO Chris Taylor. “Dunnedin is conducting a comprehensive review of this 100%-owned project to determine how best to unlock its value for shareholders.”

The company has also been finding gold on its flagship Kahuna diamond project, with evidence from 2015 till sampling—just recently evaluated for gold—and from historic rock samples.

This year’s program collected 10 times as many till samples as 2015, gathering 1,111 samples to be analyzed for diamond indicator minerals and gold. The company also staked another 25,000 hectares, increasing Kahuna to about 60,000 hectares.

Read more about Dunnedin Ventures.

See Chris Berry’s report on long-term diamond demand.

Pistol Bay Mining plans November drilling on Dixie zinc projects in Ontario

October 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 26, 2016

It’s neither the land of cotton nor of traditional jazz, but of zinc with additional metals. And that’s why Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST has a November drill program planned for three of its western Ontario Dixie properties. Totalling about 1,900 hectares, Dixies 17, 18 and 19 host lenses of volcanogenic massive sulphides with zinc, copper, silver and minor gold in the Confederation Lake greenstone belt southeast of Red Lake.

Pistol Bay Mining plans November drilling on Dixie zinc projects in Ontario

All three have historic zinc-copper assays.

A review of previous geophysics will help determine drill targets for the three zones. Additionally, Pistol Bay proposes confirmation holes for Dixie 17 and 18.

Also on October 25, the company announced a private placement of up to $820,000. Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 placement in August.

Earlier this month the company announced a letter of intent to acquire regional properties from AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO, which would make Pistol Bay the greenstone belt’s largest claimholder. The 5,136-hectare package includes a zinc-copper-silver resource and an historic, non-43-101 estimate.

In Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, the company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property. Having earned 75% of its option so far, Rio intends to acquire the full 100%.

See an infographic: Eleven things every metal investor should know about zinc.

Infographic: Eleven things every metal investor should know about zinc

October 20th, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 20, 2016

Certain commodities tend to fly under the radar for periods of time.

For example, it was only in the last couple of years that markets have been able to digest the potential impact of the electric vehicle boom and what it may mean for raw materials. The lithium, graphite and cobalt prices reacted accordingly, and suddenly these essential ingredients for lithium-ion batteries were hot commodities.

Another of those metals that comes and goes is zinc—and after shooting up in price over 35% this year, it definitely has the attention of many investors and speculators again.

Re-thinking zinc

Today’s infographic comes to us from Pistol Bay Mining, a company that also focuses on zinc, and it highlights 11 things that investors need to know about a metal that is gaining substantial momentum.

Eleven things every metal investor should know about zinc

 

Here’s why the metal is back in fashion:

1. Zinc is a $34-billion-per-year market.
It’s bigger than the silver ($18 billion), platinum ($8 billion) and molybdenum ($5 billion) markets combined. In fact, it is the fourth-most used metal worldwide.

2. Smelting and production technology came much later for zinc than for other metals.
The ancients were able to smelt copper, lead and iron, but it wasn’t until much later that people were able to work with zinc in any isolated state.

3. Even despite this, it was a crucial metal for ancient peoples.
They would smelt zinc-rich copper ores to make brass, which was used for many different purposes including weaponry, ornaments, coins and armour.

4. Zinc is also crucial to produce many alloys today.
For example, brass is used for musical instruments and hardware applications that must resist corrosion. Solder and nickel-silver are other important alloys.

5. The world’s first-ever battery used zinc as an anode.
The voltaic pile, made in 1799 by Alessandro Volta, used zinc and copper for electrodes with brine-soaked paper as an electrolyte.

6. The metal remains crucial for batteries today.
Zinc-air, silver-zinc, zinc-bromine and alkaline batteries all use zinc, and they enable everything from hearing aids to military applications to be possible.

7. Galvanizing is still the most important use.
About 50% of the metal is used in galvanizing, which is essentially a way to coat steel or iron so it doesn’t rust.

8. China is both a major producer and end-user.
China mined 37% of the world’s 13.4 million tonnes of zinc production in 2015. The country consumed 47% of the world’s supply that same year.

9. Major mines have been shutting down.
In 2016, China ordered the shutdown of 26 lead and zinc mines in parts of Hunan province for environmental reasons. Meanwhile, Ireland’s Lisheen mine and Australia’s Century mine both shut down last year after being depleted of resources. That takes 630,000 tonnes of annual production off the table.

10. Stockpiles are dwindling.
Warehouse levels are less than half of where they were in 2013.

11. Zinc has been one of the best performing metals in 2016 in terms of price.
It started the year around $0.70 a pound, but now trades for $1.04 a pound.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

October 19th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 19, 2016

Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

Pistol Bay’s holdings will cover a 31-kilometre length of the VMS-rich Confederation Lake greenstone belt.

 

A new acquisition would make Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST the biggest claimholder in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt. The 5,136-hectare package comprises all the regional claims held by AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO and includes a zinc-copper-silver resource as well as an historic, non-43-101 estimate. Along with Pistol Bay’s optioned Dixie and Dixie 3 properties, the letter of intent announced October 19 would increase the company’s holdings to 7,050 hectares on the volcanogenic massive sulphide-rich belt.

With three cutoff grades, the package’s Arrow zone has resources showing:

3% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 2.07 million tonnes averaging 5.92% zinc, 0.75% copper, 21.1 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold

  • inferred: 120,550 tonnes averaging 2.6% zinc, 0.56% copper, 18.6 g/t silver and 0.4 g/t gold

5% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 1.76 million tonnes averaging 6.75% zinc, 0.79% copper, 22.3 g/t silver and 0.61 g/t gold

  • inferred: 51,630 tonnes averaging 3.86% zinc, 0.79% copper, 23.9 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold

10% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 633,000 tonnes averaging 14.3% zinc, 1.11% copper, 31.7 g/t silver and 0.85 g/t gold
Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

Pistol Bay’s Dixie properties have been
undergoing field work and a review of historic data.

Additionally, the Copperlode A or Fredart zone has an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 425,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper. Exploration in the 1970s produced samples up to 1.46% molybdenum.

The 100% option would cost $25,000 and one million shares on closing and $25,000 90 days later, as well as $50,000 and one million shares on each of the four anniversaries following closing. In addition to regulatory approvals, the transaction needs the consent of Glencore plc, whose rights to the Confederation Lake property include a 2% NSR.

The companies expect to close within a week.

“Pistol Bay proposes an ambitious exploration program that will not only pursue existing targets and known VMS deposits, but will use the latest airborne geophysical survey technologies to explore the whole area to a greater depth than was possible in the past,” said president Charles Desjardins.

Earlier this month the company announced MPH Consulting will review historic geophysical data on Pistol Bay’s Confederation Lake-region Dixie properties, where field work began in September. Historic drilling has found zinc, copper and silver, while the recently optioned Dixie 3 project comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 82,500 tonnes averaging 1% copper and 10% zinc.

The company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Having already earned 75% of its option, Rio has stated its intention to acquire the full 100%.

Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 private placement last August.

Pushing the boundaries

October 12th, 2016

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes challenging human endurance

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

“Deep underground, deep sky and deep sea” comprise the lofty goals of Three Deep, a five-year program announced last month by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Part 1 of this feature looked at the country’s ambitions to take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land, at sea and into the heavens, and also outlined other countries’ space programs related to mineral exploration. Part 2 delves into undersea mining as well as some of the world’s deepest mines.

Looking to the ocean depths, undersea mining has had tangible success. De Beers has been scooping up alluvial diamonds off southwestern Africa for decades, although at shallow depths. Through NamDeb, a 50/50 JV with Namibia, a fleet of six boats mines the world’s largest-known placer diamond deposit, about 20 kilometres offshore and 150 metres deep.

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

Workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng operation
must withstand the heat of deep underground mining.

Diamond Fields International TSXV:DFI hopes to return to its offshore Namibian claims, where the company extracted alluvial stones between 2005 and 2008. The company also holds a 50.1% interest in Atlantis II, a zinc-copper-silver deposit contained in Red Sea sediments. That project’s now on hold pending a dispute with the Saudi Arabian JV partner.

With deeper, more technologically advanced ambitions, Nautilus Minerals TSX:NUS holds a mining licence for its 85%-held Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea waters. A seafloor massive sulphide deposit at an average depth of 1,550 metres, its grades explain the company’s motivation. The project has a 2012 resource using a 2.6% copper-equivalent cutoff, with the Solwara 1 and 1 North areas showing:

  • indicated: 1.03 million tonnes averaging 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc

  • inferred: 1.54 million tonnes averaging 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc

Using the same cutoff, the Solwara 12 zone shows:

  • inferred: 2.3 million tonnes averaging 7.3% copper, 3.6 g/t gold, 56 g/t silver and 3.6% zinc
Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

This Nautilus diagram illustrates
the proposed Solwara operation.

A company video shows how Nautilus had hoped to operate “the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine” beginning in 2018 using existing technology from land-based mining and offshore oil and gas. Now, should financial restructuring succeed, Nautilus says it could begin deployment and testing by the end of Q1 2019.

Last May Nautilus released a resource update for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific waters of Tonga.

Another deep-sea hopeful, Ocean Minerals last month received approval from the Cook Islands to explore a 12,000-square-kilometre seabed expanse for rare earths in sediments.

A pioneer in undersea exploration, Japan’s getting ready for the next step, according to Bloomberg. A consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal will begin pilot mining in Chinese-contested waters off Okinawa next April, the news agency stated. “Japan has confirmed the deposit has about 7.4 million tons of ore,” Bloomberg added, without specifying what kind of ore.

Scientists are analyzing data from the central Indian Ocean where nodules show signs of copper, nickel and manganese, the Times of India reported in January. The country has a remotely operated vehicle capable of an unusually deep 6,000 metres and is working on undersea mining technology.

In August the World Nuclear News stated Russia is considering a nuclear-powered submarine to explore northern seas for mineral deposits. A government report said the sub’s R&D could put the project on par with the country’s space industry, the WNN added.

If one project alone could justify China’s undersea ambitions, it might be a 470.47-ton gold deposit announced last November. Lying at 2,000 metres’ depth off northern China, the bounty was delineated by 1,000 workers and 120 kilometres of drilling from 67 sea platforms over three years, the People’s Daily reported. Laizhou Rehi Mining hopes to extract the stuff, according to China Daily.

China’s deep underground ambitions might bring innovation to exploration but have been long preceded by actual mining in South Africa—although not without problems, as the country’s deplorable safety record shows. Greater depths bring greater threats from rockfalls and mini-earthquakes.

At 3.9 kilometres’ depth AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) Mponeng holds status as the world’s deepest mine. Five other mines within 50 kilometres of Johannesburg work from at least three kilometres’ depth, where “rock temperatures can reach 60 degrees Celsius, enough to fry an egg,” according to a Bloomberg article posted by Mineweb.com.

In his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, Matthew Hart recounts a visit to Mponeng, where he’s told a “seismic event” shakes the mine 600 times a month.

Sometimes the quakes cause rockbursts, when rock explodes into a mining cavity and mows men down with a deadly spray of jagged rock. Sometimes a tremor causes a “fall of ground”—the term for a collapse. Some of the rockbursts had been so powerful that other countries, detecting the seismic signature, had suspected South Africa of testing a nuclear bomb.

AngloGold subjects job-seekers to a heat-endurance test, Hart explains.

In a special chamber, applicants perform step exercises while technicians monitor them. The test chamber is kept at a “wet” temperature of eighty-two degrees. The high humidity makes it feel like ninety-six. “We are trying to force the body’s thermoregulatory system to kick in,” said Zahan Eloff, an occupational health physician. “If your body cools itself efficiently, you are safe to go underground for a fourteen-day trial, and if that goes well, cleared to work.”

Clearly there’s more than technological challenges to mining the deeps.

By the way, credit for the world’s deepest drilling goes to Russia, which spent 24 years sinking the Kola Superdeep Bore Hole to 12,261 metres, halfway to the mantle. Work was halted by temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.