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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Today News Headlines

Skeena Resources signs Process Charter for Eskay Creek gold project in British Columbia
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 20:42:58 +0000
The Process Charter is a collaboration between Skeena, the Tahltan Central Government and the Government of BC.

Skeena Resources (TSX: SKE, NYSE: SKE) announced Tuesday the signing of the permitting Process Charter and other key milestones in the approval process for the Eskay Creek gold-silver project located in Tahltan Territory in the Golden Triangle of British Columbia.

The property hosts the former Eskay Creek mine that produced 3.3 million oz of gold and 160 million oz. of silver from 1994 to 2008. The Process Charter is a collaboration between Skeena, the Tahltan Central Government (TCG), and the Government of BC.

The signed document establishes a workplan for all parties to collaborate on an efficient Environmental Assessment (EA) and permitting process for Eskay Creek. The target timelines established in the Process Charter outline the EA Certificate being received in H2 2024 and final permits to be issued in H1 2025. These dates align with the development timeline anticipated for the project.

“The TCG recently finalized the Process Charter for Eskay Creek,” Connor Pritty, TCG Lands Director said in a news release. “It is an example of how Skeena is continually working with the Tahltan Nation to redefine how project approval processes are carried out within our Territory.

“We are working together to effectively integrate Tahltan knowledge, process requirements and decision-making specific to Eskay Creek,” Pritty said. “The TCG Lands Department looks forward to continuing to work with the team at Skeena.”

“The Process Charter is a significant step forward in the approval process for Eskay Creek,” Skeena’s President & CEO, Randy Reichert said in the statement.

“The signing of this document demonstrates the commitment from all parties on permitting the Project in an efficient and timely matter. We appreciate the efforts and collaboration shown by both the TCG and the Province in achieving this major milestone.” 

Skeena has worked closely with the TCG, Federal and Provincial regulators, Indigenous Nations, and communities to advance the EA process for Eskay Creek. On November 18, 2022, both the EA Office and TCG provided a positive Readiness Decision for the Project which advanced it to the Process Planning stage. On November 29, 2022, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change approved the substitution of the impact assessment to the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

The substitution decision means that instead of doing two separate assessments on Eskay Creek, the BCEAO conducts a single assessment that meets both Provincial and Federal requirements. 

FPX Nickel commences PFS on Baptiste project in British Columbia
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 18:55:15 +0000
The PFS will mark the culmination of the extensive de-risking and optimization program that has been undertaken since the issuance of the 2020 PEA.

FPX Nickel (TSXV: FPX) has commenced a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) for its Baptiste nickel project located in central British Columbia.

The PFS marks the culmination of the extensive de-risking and optimization program that has been undertaken since the issuance of the 2020 preliminary economic assessment. It is expected to be completed in September 2023.

The PFS will present two strategic options, including the base case and a secondary option.

The base case entails the production of a high-grade awaruite concentrate (50-65% nickel) for direct feed to the stainless steel market, utilizing a simple and robust concentrator flowsheet that is only possible due to Baptiste’s awaruite mineralization.

The secondary option involves further upgrading of the high-grade awaruite concentrate to produce battery-grade nickel sulphate and cobalt-rich products for the electric vehicle battery supply chain, utilizing moderate leaching conditions and standard hydrometallurgical unit operations.

“Since completion of the 2020 PEA, we have consistently applied a major company-style mindset to project development, and believe the PFS will confirm Baptiste as a peer-leading development-stage nickel project, highlighting its potential for large-scale, low-cost and low-carbon nickel production spanning multiple decades,” CEO Martin Turenne said in a news release.

Fission announces economics for Patterson Lake South uranium
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 18:44:04 +0000
Highlights include a longer mine life of 10 years and a greatly increased after-tax net present value of C$1.2 billion.

Fission Uranium (TSX: FCU) has announced the results of a feasibility study conducted by Tetra Tech Canada for the Patterson Lake South property in the Athabasca Basin.

The company says these study results further enhance the economics outlined in the 2019 pre-feasibility study. Highlights include a longer mine life of 10 years, an increased after-tax net present value at 8% discount of C$1.2 billion and a higher after-tax internal rate of return of 27.2%, while still maintaining a very low operating cost of C$13.02 per pound.

Other important parameters from the study suggest a construction timeline of three years with an estimated initial capital cost of C$1.1 billion and life-of-mine production of over 90 million lb. of uranium oxide.

“Showing capex to be lower than in the 2019 prefeasibility report, particularly with the pressures of high global inflation, is a remarkable achievement and speaks volumes regarding the team’s design and planning abilities,” said CEO Ross McElroy in a news release.

“Going forward, thanks to the strength of this feasibility study and the success of our ongoing social engagement, we will continue advancing through the environmental assessment and on towards a construction decision,” McElroy added.

Copper price retreats on weak economic data from China
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 18:13:22 +0000
China's economy grew 3% last year, one of the weakest annual growth figures in nearly half a century.

The copper price fell on Tuesday as weak economic data from China punctured a speculator-driven rally.

Copper for delivery in March fell 0.3% on the Comex market in New York, to $4.20 per pound, or $9,240 per tonne.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

Prices of the metal have surged 9% this month after China’s decision to end the zero-covid policy.

In the short term, however, Chinese consumption is weak and likely to remain so as the country heads into the Lunar New Year holidays next week.

China’s economy grew 3% last year, one of the weakest annual growth figures in nearly half a century, with factory output growing 1.3% year on year in December.

China’s population also fell for the first time in six decades, underlining its long-term economic challenges.

Economists expect China’s economy to pick up in the coming months.

“We are heading for higher (copper) prices this year, but this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen, predicting a temporary pause or reversal of the rally.

(With files from Reuters)

Wealth Minerals delivers first resource estimate for Ollagüe lithium project in Chile
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 17:16:37 +0000
The initial resource contains 741,000 tonnes of LCE grading 175 ml/L in the indicated category and 701,000 tonnes LCE grading 185 ml/L in inferred.
Credit: Wealth Minerals

Lithium developer Wealth Minerals (TSXV: WML) reached a significant milestone on Tuesday with the release of the first resource estimate for its Ollagüe project in Chile.

This NI 43-101 resource estimate — prepared by independent consultants Montgomery & Associates — is based on the company’s geophysical survey and 2022 drill program, consisting of four vertical holes totalling 1,111 metres. It also includes drilling and geophysical data from previous operators on the Ollagüe project.

The initial resource, as estimated by Montgomery, contains 741,000 tonnes of LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent) grading 175 ml/L in the indicated category and 701,000 tonnes LCE grading 185 ml/L in the inferred category.

These estimates will likely change as more information becomes available, according to Wealth Minerals. The 2022 program has substantially increased the company’s understanding of the “evaporitic basins” that define the project area, which has allowed the estimation of this initial lithium resource, it says.

Wealth Minerals anticipates that additional drilling may encounter lithium brine in the deeper parts of the aquifer, potentially adding to the overall resource. Additional characterization in the northmost concessions of the project could also add additional resources in the measured and indicated category.

The company will now begin the next phase of development planning, engaging with its engineering partner FLSmidth to prepare a scoping study. Meanwhile, the geological team is planning how to best expand the resource and raise the category of the resource in the next drilling campaign.

“The Ollagüe project is well suited for lithium production because of its favorable permeability, resource size and expansion potential. Indeed, in terms of LCE resource size, the Ollagüe project now ranks among its peers in terms of a potential future operation,” CEO Henk van Alphen said in a news release.

The Ollagüe property consists of 6,400 hectares located in northern Chile, Region II, near the Chile-Bolivia border and approximately 200 km due north from Atacama. Recent drilling activity by a peer company in the area returned lithium grades up to 480 mg/L, while surface sampling has returned lithium grades as high as 1,140 mg/L.

Shares of Wealth Minerals were down 10% as of noon ET following the initial Ollagüe resource estimate. The company has a market capitalization of C$121.9 million ($91m).

How abandoned mines can become clean energy storage systems
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 15:05:00 +0000
A novel technique called Underground Gravity Energy Storage turns decommissioned mines into long-term energy storage solutions.

An international team of researchers has developed a novel way to store energy by transporting sand into abandoned underground mines. The new technique, called Underground Gravity Energy Storage (UGES), proposes an effective long-term energy storage solution while also making use of now-defunct mining sites.

In a paper published in the journal Energies, the scientists explain that UGES generates electricity when the price is high by lowering sand into an underground mine and converting the potential energy of the sand into electricity via regenerative braking and then lifting the sand from the mine to an upper reservoir using electric motors to store energy when electricity is cheap. 

Regenerative braking is an energy recovery mechanism that slows down a moving vehicle or object, such as an elevator, by converting its kinetic energy into a form that can be either used immediately or stored until needed. In other words, the electric traction motor uses the vehicle’s momentum to recover energy that would otherwise be lost to the brake discs as heat. Regenerative braking system lifts are already applied in newly highly energy-efficient buildings. 

How abandoned mines can become clean energy storage systems
Underground Gravity Energy Storage system: a schematic of different system sections. (Graph by Hunt et al.).

Based on this principle, the main components of UGES are a vertical shaft, a motor/generator, upper and lower storage sites, and mining equipment. Using the shaft and electric motor/generators, large volumes of sand are lifted and dumped. The deeper and broader the mineshaft, the more power can be extracted from the plant, and the larger the mine, the higher the plant’s energy storage capacity. 

“When a mine closes, it lays off thousands of workers. This devastates communities that rely only on the mine for their economic output. UGES would create a few vacancies as the mine would provide energy storage services after it stops operations,” Julian Hunt, lead author of the study and a researcher at the International Institute For Applied Systems Analysis, said in a media statement.

“Mines already have the basic infrastructure and are connected to the power grid, which significantly reduces the cost and facilitates the implementation of UGES plants.”

According to Hunt, other energy storage methods, like batteries, lose energy via self-discharge over long periods. The energy storage medium of UGES is sand, meaning that there is no energy lost to self-discharge, enabling ultra-long time energy storage ranging from weeks to several years.

The researcher noted that the investment costs of UGES are about 1 to 10 USD/kWh and power capacity costs of 2 USD/kW. The technology is estimated to have a global potential of 7 to 70 TWh, with most of this potential concentrated in China, India, Russia and the United States.

“To decarbonize the economy, we need to rethink the energy system based on innovative solutions using existing resources. Turning abandoned mines into energy storage is one example of many solutions that exist around us, and we only need to change the way we deploy them,” study co-author Behnam Zakeri said.

Mining’s top ten ‘S’ trends in ESG for 2023
Tue, 17 Jan 2023 14:35:00 +0000
A recent Harvard study indicates 81% of institutional investors in the US and 83.6% in Europe plan to increase their ESG allocations over the next two years.

To say 2022 was tumultuous is an understatement. War, inflation, climate disasters, market volatility: the past year was anything but business as usual for most. ESG, which had seemed firmly embedded in business, began to experience a backlash, facing criticism as a “woke capitalist” distraction. Yet, a recent Harvard study indicates 81% of institutional investors in the US and 83.6% in Europe plan to increase their ESG allocations over the next two years.

And while climate change continued to dominate, biodiversity and other topics entered global sustainability discourse, revealing widespread recognition that the challenges we face today are deeply interconnected economic, political, social, and environmental issues requiring holistic, collective action.

With so much upheaval, it can be difficult to spot the trends and anticipate what lies ahead for mining companies and their ESG journeys. With standards and regulations ensuring social topics become more firmly embedded in expected ESG practice this year, expect “S” to feature more prominently. What might that look like? Here are our top 10 “S” trends mining companies should take note of and take action on in 2023.

1: Global crises driving local risk

Last year saw a confluence of global challenges that had decidedly local impacts. Global energy prices, political unrest, extreme weather and climate disasters, food shortages, inflation, supply chain disruptions, diminished ecosystem services, and lingering pandemic impacts affected the resilience of countries, regions, and communities.

The UN reported that, by August 2022, cost of living increases had already pushed 71 million into poverty this past year, while the IMF forecasts that 2023 will feel like a recession for many. Socio-economic stress often leads to social unrest and can also drive resource nationalism. In 2023, contributions to local poverty relief, liveability, and economic development can build resilience in your company’s operating context, contributing to stronger relationships and helping manage asset-level social risk.

2: Investors expecting more robust community practices

Codification of social management practices is maturing, including ICMM’s 2022 Performance Expectations and a growing list of industry and commodity -specific standards, principles, and protocols. In 2023, tailings management will be a key area of action, as  ICMM members, responsible operators, and miners with particularly ESG-oriented investors implement the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM), which contains a robust set of expectations around community engagement, participation, and collaboration, as well as socio-economic assessment, that don’t reflect most companies’ current practices.

With strong investor endorsement, GISTM is raising the bar for operational community involvement across the industry in 2023, and companies will do well to review and/or upgrade their social management practices to avoid being caught flat-footed.

3: Mainstream operationalization of UNGPs

The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) have rapidly become the global standard for corporate human rights, and particularly for asset-level community feedback (or grievance) mechanisms. Its Reporting Framework is backed by a coalition of 88 investors with US$5.3 trillion in assets under management. Multiple industry frameworks including the RGMPs, GISTM, IRMA, the Equator Principles, and ICMM’s Performance Expectations explicitly reference alignment with the UNGPs.

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the IFC Performance Standards help to operationalize the principles, as does MAC TSM’s operational grievance mechanism design guide.  Even the new GRI Reporting Standards, effective January 1, 2023, include UNGP disclosure. The UNGPs are here to stay. As human rights legislation proliferates globally in 2023, and investors recognize the significance of human rights risk, companies can expect the UNGP “Effectiveness Criteria” to increasingly feature in mining ESG audits and due diligence.

4: Drive to improve DEI performance

Expectations of mining company action on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have grown rapidly in recent years. Several reports have now revealed widespread discrimination, harassment, racism, and sexual violence; findings that are symptomatic of industry-wide inadequate efforts to create safe and inclusive workplaces that attract and retain a variety of talent. And a range of stakeholders are taking note and taking action. While major proxy advisory firms update their proxy voting policies on DEI, asset managers seek disclosure on a broader range of DEI themes – mining CEOs have indicated to EY that DEI performance is the social topic on which they expect most investor scrutiny in 2023. Meanwhile, employees are voting with their feet. Workers leave mining more than other sectors, forecasted mining worker shortages are in the hundreds of thousands globally, and mining engineering degree enrolment is in decline in Canada, the US, and Australia. Mining companies will urgently need to understand and improve their DEI performance and worker experience to secure continued access to relevant talent in 2023.

5: Shifting materiality and ESG prioritization

As ESG matures, companies will need to shift away from outdated approaches to materiality and disclosure. Processes that focus excessively on opinions of select company and external stakeholders and communications that parlay one ESG success story into purported sustainability leadership fall short of what’s expected of companies today. No more cherry-picking only those areas of competitive advantage, strong performance, or trendy topics. Instead, meaningful materiality requires a robust understanding and analysis of your impacts (actual/potential and positive/negative) to prioritize ESG action and disclosure, even when it’s uncomfortable. While some continue to focus exclusively on financial materiality, this year will see “double materiality” (capturing both socio-environmental impacts and financial risk) emerge as a foundation for more effective enterprise risk management.

Social topics on which mining companies are likely to have impacts — such as human and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, DEI, cultural heritage, and community impacts — are likely to demand and receive more strategic ESG attention. And with ESG litigation on the rise as more stakeholders rely on sustainability information, any inaccurate analysis, action, and disclosure means risking great financial, relationship, and reputational costs.

6: ESG standardization and harmonization advances

Broad criticism of the vast inconsistencies among ESG disclosure standards, requirements, and related rating and ranking frameworks are prompting continued efforts to standardize and harmonize. This year will see the much-anticipated completion of the ISSB’s institutional and technical efforts to set the global standard for (investor-focused) sustainability-related disclosure. Meanwhile, recent and imminent ESG rating regulation, especially in the EU, suggests a trend of pushing from pure “enterprise value” ESG towards double materiality. Additionally, a systems lens is emerging across all ESG disclosure and assessment, which acknowledges the interconnected nature and deep complexity of sustainability issues such as climate change, persistent inequality, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. As a result, companies can expect calls to pay closer attention to social impacts and community collaboration requirements in scenario and emergency response planning — whether for tailings management, climate change, nature loss, or operational emergencies – so that stakeholders can assess and compare the level of embeddedness and success of ESG practices. 

7: Radical transparency

To help build credibility within an often-distrusted sector, both voluntary and mandatory disclosures are promoting radical transparency on impacts, risks, and performance. The GISTM, GRI, EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and other initiatives will set a new tone in 2023 for disclosure on a broader range of topics to a broader range of stakeholders. Transparency, including for co-design and collaborative risk management, will result in better-informed stakeholders. While companies may initially feel vulnerable about disclosure of, perhaps, imperfect practices or not-yet-good-enough performance, especially at a local community level, operators should prepare for these standards to usher in an era of enhanced transparency and new levels of community co-development in operational decision-making and risk management.

8: Lens on value chains

Value chains and their often hidden social and environmental risks and impacts are shifting into focus. Mandatory due diligence and disclosure requirements are emerging in jurisdictions and standards globally. Climate disclosure rules are expected in 35 jurisdictions and several, such as the US SEC’s regulations, cover Scope 3 (value chain) emissions. The ISSB plans to adopt the same scope. Meanwhile, human rights legislation, including the EU’s Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, has been enacted or tabled in at least 15 countries (hosting over half of all ESG raters), many with a growing focus on modern slavery.

Mining companies, with their products being early in the value chain, can expect an increase in information requests and demands to demonstrate or improve their human rights performance. Downstream value chain partners and investors who, themselves, are under regulatory pressure to conduct human rights due diligence across supply chains and investment portfolios, may be compelled to divest from miners who cannot, in a timely manner, demonstrate good human rights practices and performance.

9: Growth of “green-hushing”

Last year, we anticipated a significant rejection of greenwashing by companies without the sustainability credentials to back up their commitments. Well, that happened, and then some… Companies rushing to put out vague and lofty commitments for the sake of having, say, a climate goal to point to, faced a backlash from critical stakeholders questioning the substance behind their objectives. We now see a growing new trend of “green-hushing.”

A recent South Pole report found that 25% of companies now don’t plan to talk about their science-aligned climate targets at all, usually to avoid scrutiny. This is detrimental to companies and the broader industry, hampering crucial industry knowledge-sharing on decarbonization, while possibly eroding stakeholder trust and social acceptability. In 2023, companies are advised to take a thoughtful, credible approach rather than opting for silence, such as by setting public objectives to deepen their understanding of issues like climate change before setting science-based emissions reduction targets.

10: Taking a stance on social issues

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than anything before, demonstrated that not only consumer brands but mining companies, too, are expected to “care.” Several mining investors and operators opted to divest from or sell Russia-based assets and many more were compelled to issue position statements on the topic to clarify their rejection of Russia’s actions. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer suggested that “societal leadership” is now seen as a “core function of business” and forecasted that calls for business to take a stand on and engage even more in societal issues are growing.

But while stakeholders increasingly expect corporate action and positions on economic inequality, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and other issues with social implications, PWC’s 2022 Corporate Director Survey suggests that most Boards are not substantially discussing social issues as part of their governance responsibilities and may be missing a key blind spot.

Overall, we have seen ESG become more deeply entrenched in global business and investment practice in 2022, a trend which shows no signs of abating in the year ahead, to the chagrin of some. Polarization and politicization of ESG are on the rise in the US and beyond. And, as a global recession looms, companies will need to balance the need to manage longer-term ESG risk while continuing to meet immediate financial performance objectives, even as development and operating costs continue to rise for many.

However, the underpinning principles of managing business risk and reducing adverse impacts through responsible governance and sustainable operations remain valid as ever, as interconnected challenges continue to pose familiar and unprecedented risks to companies globally. The number of consumers and investors who care about environmental and social issues only continues to grow, with a lens to the future and undeterred by the politics of the day. So, mining companies will do well to ensure their leadership and boards are equipped to manage and govern their businesses responsibly in a world of volatility and increasingly interconnected impacts; they may find 2023 is the year to cultivate that crucial social performance skillset.

Elizabeth Freele and Rachel Dekker are the co-founders and managing partners of mining sustainability think tank and ESG consultancy Sympact. Sympact supports companies in ensuring their social performance meets growing expectations through advisory services, training, and thought leadership products.

Pan American Silver offers to acquire Yamana Gold shares for $1 billion
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 21:01:51 +0000
Yamana Gold shareholders will vote on the offer at a special meeting January 31.

Two proxy firms are recommending that Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI; NYSE:AUY) accept a $1 billion takeover offer from Vancouver’s Pan American Silver (TSX,NYSE:PAAS).

Yamana Gold announced Friday that Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co. LLC are recommending the company accept Pan American’s offer to acquire all of Yamana’s issued and outstanding shares.

As part of the deal, Yamana Gold would sell its Canadian assets to Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (TSX:NYSE:AEM), including its 50% share of Canadian Malartic mine, which Yamana co-owns with Agnico.

Canadian Malartic, near Val-d’Or, Quebec, is Canada’s largest operating gold mine. It was developed by Osisko Mining, and acquired by Yamana and Agnico in 2014.

Yamana Gold has five operating mines – including Canadian Malartic – that produced 1 million ounces of gold in 2021. Through the acquisition, Pan American will acquire four operating gold mines and a number of development projects in Latin America.

Yamana Gold shareholders will receive $1 billion in cash, and 153.5 million common shares of Pan American and 36.1 million common shares of Agnico. Shareholders would receive receive $1.0406 — 0.0376 of an Agnico Share and 0.1598 of a Pan American Share — for each common share held, according to a press release in November.

“Yamana investors are poised to receive, among other things, significant exposure to what we consider to be two highly credible operators with more tailored regional bona fides, compatible assets and a more credible ability to fully realize the potential of Yamana’s blended portfolio,” Glass Lewis said in a Yamana Gold news release.

“We further consider the associated terms appear to reflect a reasonable value for Yamana investors, and would further note post announcement trading trends and fixed exchange ratios have further increased that value roughly 16.4% on a per share basis.”

Yamana Gold shareholders will vote on the offer at a special meeting January 31.

(This article first appeared in Business in Vancouver)

Barrick targets 2028 for first production from Reko Diq
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 20:21:04 +0000
Should all go to plan, Reko Diq will be the first copper-gold mine in the country’s Balochistan province.

Having recently received the go-ahead for its Reko Diq project in Pakistan, Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) is now targeting 2028 for first production from the giant copper-gold mine.

On Monday, Barrick CEO Mark Bristow informed respective Pakistani authorities that following the completion of the legal processes and definitive transaction agreements last month, the company now plans to finish the Reko Diq feasibility study update by the end of 2024 and aims for first production by 2028.

Should all go to plan, Reko Diq will be the first copper-gold mine in the country’s Balochistan province.

Bristow, accompanied by senior Barrick executives, had met with Balochistan chief minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and other provincial leaders to brief them on the extensive social and economic development opportunities that would be generated by the mine, which is projected to have a life of at least 40 years. 

The meeting, according to Barrick, was attended by a wide spectrum of provincial stakeholders and leaders, including opposition leader Malik Sikandar Khan and leaders of the Balochistan Awami Party, Jamiat Ullema Islam, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Awami National Party.

After the meeting, Bristow and Khan signed a memorandum of agreement which specifies the timetable for the disbursement of committed funds to the province. The agreement provides for an initial payment of $3 million this month and includes advance royalties and social development funds, ensuring that the people of Balochistan start earning benefits from the project well before the mine goes into production.

In December 2022, Barrick announced plans to invest $10 billion as part of its intent to go ahead with the construction of Reko Diq following approval from Pakistan’s top court. The project has been over a decade in the making and is said to boast world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.

The gold miner owns 50% of Reko Diq, with the rest divided as follows: 25% by three federal state-owned enterprises, 15% by the Province of Balochistan on a fully funded basis, and 10% by the Province of Balochistan on a free-carried basis.

Reko Diq is expected to have a life of at least 40 years as a truck-and-shovel open pit operation with processing facilities capable of producing high-quality copper-gold concentrates in the amount of 80 million tonnes annually.

Northwest Copper drills one of longest and highest-grade holes at Kwanika
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 18:37:13 +0000
Hole K-22-255 returned 399.8 metres of 0.62% copper, 0.74 g/t gold and 2 g/t silver from 152.2 metres downhole.

Northwest Copper (TSXV: NWST) shares surged 17% Monday afternoon on assay results from its Kwanika copper-gold deposit near the town of Fort St. James in central British Columbia.

The company reported hole K-22-255 cut one of the longest and highest-grade copper-gold intervals ever drilled at Kwanika, returning 399.8 metres of 0.62% copper, 0.74 gram gold per tonne and 2 grams silver per tonne (1.01% copper-equivalent) from 152.2 metres downhole.

The drillhole included higher grade assay intervals including 23.4 metres grading 2.12% copper, 0.7 gram gold and 6.2 grams silver (2.51% copper-equivalent); 64 metres of 1% copper, 2.17 grams gold and 2.9 grams silver (2.12% copper-equivalent); and 22.5 metres of 1.15% copper, 2.95 grams gold and 3.6 grams silver (2.67% copper-equivalent).

“The hole shows a typical Kwanika pattern of copper dominant material higher in the hole then becoming much richer in gold at depth,” CEO Peter Bell said in a news release.

Northwest Copper noted that the bottom of the hole ended in copper and gold mineralization.

The hole was not included in a preliminary economic assessment the company announced on Jan. 5. The PEA analyzed combining the Kwanika and nearby Stardust deposits. Stardust is a small but higher grade deposit.

The early-stage study envisioned an open pit and underground mining operation with a life of 11.9 years. The 22,000-tonne per day operation would produce copper and gold in a copper concentrate. The project would deliver 90.5 million lb. of copper-equivalent output per year at a cash cost of $1.58 per lb. copper-equivalent and an all-in sustaining cost of $2.01 per lb. copper-equivalent.

Initial capex was pegged at C$567.9 million with an after-tax payback of 6.4 years. Total operations capex came in at C$1.3 billion, which includes underground development and sustaining capital.

The study outlined an after-tax net present value at a 7% discount rate of C$215 million and an internal rate of return of 12.7%.

In the mine plan, 95.6 million tonnes of mineralized material and 86.9 million tonnes of waste would be mined over the mine life. Life-of-mine average grades are pegged at 0.39% copper, 0.39 gram gold per tonne, and 2.21 grams silver per tonne for a copper-equivalent grade of 0.62%.

A tailings storage facility would accommodate over 96.3 million tonnes of tailings produced over the mine life. The facility would be built in a valley east of the Stardust deposit and upstream of the processing plant.

Material would be mined from four areas: the Kwanika Central open pit in years one to four; Stardust underground (years four to nine); the Kwanika Central underground block cave (years four to 12); and Kwanika South open pit (years nine to 12).

This year the company will be studying whether to combine Kwanika-Stardust with its Lorraine project, about 40 km away.

Excelsior to collaborate with Rio Tinto copper tech venture at Johnson Camp project in Arizona
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 17:28:04 +0000
The first stage of the collaboration involves Nuton completing certain test work on materials collected from the Johnson Camp mine project.

Excelsior Mining (TSX: MIN) has entered into a collaboration with Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto venture, to evaluate the use of its Nuton copper heap leaching technologies at Excelsior’s Johnson Camp mine in Cochise county, Arizona.

Rio Tinto has developed the Nuton technologies, a portfolio of advanced copper heap leaching technologies targeted at primary sulphide minerals (including lower grade minerals), which could not otherwise be processed using traditional leaching or sulphide processing technologies. The Nuton technologies represent a product of almost 30 years of research and development.

Excelsior said it believes Nuton’s proprietary technologies offer the potential to produce additional copper in a cost-effective manner and have significant environmental benefits by reducing waste from new and ongoing operations.

The first stage of the collaboration involves Nuton completing test work on materials collected from the company’s Johnson Camp mine project to confirm that suitable conditions exist to deploy the heap leaching technologies.

Assuming this test work is successful, the parties would then work toward negotiating commercial terms for a full-scale deployment of the Nuton technologies at the Johnson Camp mine.

The test work is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2023, with a view toward potentially negotiating commercial terms dependent on the test results and other factors during the third quarter of 2023, Excelsior said.

The Johnson Camp mine has historically been a heap leach operation since the 1970s. It includes two open pits, a two-stage crushing-agglomerating circuit, and a fully functioning solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX-EW) plant capable of producing 25 million lb. of copper cathode per year.

Excelsior is currently exploring re-opening the Burro and Copper Chief pits — previously mined in 2010 by Nord Resources — to produce run-of-mine material that can be placed on a new leach pad as a means of extracting copper from the remaining mineral resources within the two pits.

The company also owns and operates the Gunnison copper project in Arizona, a low-cost, environmentally friendly in-situ recovery copper extraction project that is permitted to produce 125 million lb. of copper cathode per year.

Canada approves James Bay lithium project in Quebec
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 17:05:34 +0000
The spodumene operation is expected to produce an average of 5,480 tonnes of ore per day.

The Canadian government said on Monday it approved Galaxy Resources’ James Bay lithium project in Quebec.

As proposed, the spodumene operation would include an open-pit mine and concentrator facility, tailings, waste rock, ore, and overburden storage areas, as well as related infrastructure. It is expected to produce an average of 5,480 tonnes of ore per day over a mine life of 15 to 20 years.

“This is an important decision for Canada,” Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement. “The James Bay Lithium Mine Project will produce a key ingredient of clean technology like electric vehicle batteries and solar panels.”

Galaxy also owns its flagship Mt Cattlin mine in Western Australia and the Sal de Vida project, located in Catamarca Province on the Salar del Hombre Muerto, approximately 1,400km northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

The Government of Canada recently announced its Critical Minerals Strategy in which lithium is listed as one of six top critical minerals due to its importance in the clean technology sector, in particular the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.

(With files from Reuters)

President of Colombia vows to block mining projects that threaten water sources
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 16:17:03 +0000
The government indicated it would not allow AngloGold Ashanti’s copper-gold project to advance.

Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro said on Saturday his government will block mining projects that threaten water sources.

On a visit to Jerico, the president said that mining projects are located above aquifers that supply a population of 10,000 inhabitants.

He said his government will block those mining projects, indicating it will not allow AngloGold Ashanti’s Quebradona copper-gold project to advance.

“We will stop mining projects that put water at risk. Jerico will be an agricultural and ecological district,” said president Petro.

AngloGold Ashanti currently has three greenfields projects in Colombia. Quebradona and Gramalote, in the department of Antioquia, are at various stages of permitting and feasibility study, and La Colosa, in the department of Tolima, is presently under force majeure.

Quebradona is expected to treat 6.2Mt annually to produce 3 billion pounds of copper, 1.5Moz of gold and 21Moz of silver over a potential 23-year life.

Colombia’s environmental agency (ANLA) decided to archive the company’s environmental licence application relating to Quebradona. AngloGold Ashanti has filed an appeal seeking to secure further details.

On Twitter, AngloGold said that Quebradona does not put the territory’s water at risk and can coexist in harmony with the development of an agricultural and ecological district.

“We will seek to have conversations with the environmental authorities to jointly review the existing information on the water resource and continue advancing with the studies that are required by law,” the company said in a statement.

‘Era of trust’ is over, says VRIC’s Jay Martin, as mining juniors head for Vancouver shores
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 14:24:00 +0000
The trust that allowed for global trade over the last 30 years has shifted irreversibly, and countries are now scrambling to secure supplies of natural resources as a matter of national security.

There’s no denying the world is an entirely different place compared with a year ago, says Cambridge House International’s president and CEO, Jay Martin, as more than 300 mining juniors prepare to attend the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC) on Jan. 29-30.

“The era of trust is over,” he declares. “We are entering a new era of de-globalization. The trust that allowed for global trade over the last 30 years has shifted irreversibly, and countries are now scrambling to secure supplies of natural resources as a matter of national security,” he said in an interview with The Northern Miner.

As a result, he believes that demand for critical resources will skyrocket, which will be central to the discussions and companies that will be part of this year’s event.

“We have gathered over 300 companies that are exploring for and producing these natural resources so investors can position themselves accordingly,” says Martin.

This year’s conference will delve into global macro topics such as the European energy crisis; the new generation of currency wars unfolding; a discussion of gold’s role in this new environment — starting with central banks stockpiling at a faster rate than they have in half a century; and to showcase exploration and production of the most critical commodities the world needs to move forward.

Martin, who is also the event’s host, says politics will also be a key topic, as he believes that the federal government is not supportive enough of the junior resource industry.

“Canada came through the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 among the strongest of the G8 nations because the government at the time could leverage the resource economy that the world needed. Today, we’ve essentially turned our backs on that primary industry,” he says.

Martin explains the breadbasket of Canada entails Alberta and Saskatchewan largely. “They’ve abundant oil, gas, uranium and agriculture. But they’re landlocked provinces and can’t get their products to market without the cooperation of neighbours such as British Columbia, which is the gateway to Asian markets.”

“For that reason, we’ve invited the former premiers. I’m looking forward to digging into those conversations,” Martin says.

Over 100 speakers will take the stage during the two-day conference to discuss commodity forecasts and investment opportunities in the exploration, development and mining industries.

The VRIC is Canada’s largest mining investment-specific conference, providing the retail investor with a means to translate macro trends into actionable investment decisions, Martin says.

The overarching goal is to educate investors like himself on how to profit from the commodities markets. “We invite our presenters from all perspectives to give us their take on current issues. While I do not necessarily agree with everybody, I use the opportunity to distill my views by assessing all perspectives,” says Martin.

Other keynote speakers will include globally respected economists, money managers, newsletter writers and investors.

The VRIC has encouraged junior mining investment in Canada for 25 years and attracts over 5,000 investors annually. Among these count personalities like Rick Rule, Frank Giustra, Ross Beaty, Simon Moores, Kai Hoffmann, to name but a handful.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former president of Mexico Felipe Calderon have attended previous years.

More information is here.

Scientists make perovskite solar cells more efficient, stable
Mon, 16 Jan 2023 14:06:00 +0000
Researchers at the US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed a new approach for manufacturing perovskite solar cells.

Researchers at the US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed a new approach for manufacturing perovskite solar cells that addresses previous problems and yields devices with high efficiency and excellent stability.

In a paper published in the journal Science, the scientists explain that manufacturing highly stable and efficient perovskites based on a rich mixture of bromine and iodine is considered critical for the creation of tandem solar cells. The two elements, however, tend to separate when exposed to light and heat and thus limit the voltage and stability of a solar cell.

“This new growth approach can significantly suppress the phase segregation,” said Kai Zhu, principal investigator on the project and lead author of the new paper.

The new technique addressed that problem and produced a wide-bandgap solar cell with an efficiency of greater than 20% and 1.33-volt photovoltage and little change in the efficiency over 1,100 hours of continuous operation at a high temperature.

The method also allowed for an all-perovskite tandem cell to obtain an efficiency of 27.1% with a high photovoltage of 2.2 volts and good operational stability.

In the tandem cell, the narrow-bandgap layer is deposited on top of the wide-bandgap layer. The difference in bandgaps allows for more of the solar spectrum to be captured and converted into electricity.

Perovskite refers to a crystalline structure formed by the deposition of chemicals onto a substrate. A high concentration of bromine causes more rapid crystallization of the perovskite film and often leads to defects that reduce the performance of a solar cell. Various strategies have been tried to mitigate those issues, but the stability of wide-bandgap perovskite solar cells is still considered inadequate.

Turning things around

The newly developed approach builds upon previous work that flipped the typical perovskite cell. Using this inverted architectural structure allowed the researchers to increase both efficiency and stability and to easily integrate tandem solar cells.

The NREL-led group employed that same architecture and moved further away from the conventional method of making a perovskite.

The traditional method uses an antisolvent applied to the crystallizing chemicals to create a uniform perovskite film. The new approach relied on what is known as gas quenching, in which a flow of nitrogen was blown onto the chemicals. The result addressed the problem of the bromine and iodine separating, resulting in a perovskite film with improved structural and optoelectronic properties.

The antisolvent approach also allows the crystals to grow rapidly and uniformly within the perovskite film, crowding each other and leading to defects where the grain boundaries meet.

The gas-quenching process, when applied to high-bromine-content perovskite chemicals, forces the crystals to grow together, tightly packed from top to bottom, so they become like a single grain. The process also significantly reduces the number of defects. The top-down growth method forms a gradient structure, with more bromine near the top and less in the bulk of the cell. The gas-quench method was also statistically more reproducible than the antisolvent approach.

The researchers also tried argon and air as the drying gas with similar results, indicating that the gas-quench method is a general way for improving the performance of wide-bandgap perovskite solar cells.

The new growth approach demonstrated the potential of high-performance all-perovskite tandem devices and advanced the development of other perovskite-based tandem architectures such as those that incorporate silicon.

Micro EV market expected to reach $180 billion within a decade — report
Sun, 15 Jan 2023 16:23:00 +0000
The market for electric two-, three-wheelers and microcars will reach around $180 billion by 2043, IDTechEx forecasts.

The market for electric two, three-wheelers and microcars will reach around $180 billion by 2043, according to IDTechEx’s forecasts.

In a recent report, the market analyst notes that two-wheelers in particular are likely to continue growing in popularity due to their low price, ease of use, and small form factor.

Three-wheelers, on the other hand, will keep gaining people’s favour, given that they are an essential means of cargo and passenger transportation, especially in densely populated countries

“[They] are the ‘low hanging fruits’, as these are used by the masses in India, China, and Southeast Asia for last-mile connectivity due to their low cost of operations,” the dossier points out. “Urbanization in these countries has been, and is, increasing rapidly – a trend correlated to a rise in the demand for personal mobility and the emergence of local e-commerce businesses. This leads to sales of electric two-wheelers for the individual and the use of three-wheelers as ride sharing or cargo delivery.”

Micro EV types by IDTechEx

The electric microcar market is also expected to pick up traction as compact cars become popular due to their low price but will remain small in volume compared to two- and three-wheelers. 

“Offering more space, power and protection than two- and three-wheelers, these tiny vehicles come at an affordable price and are designed for an urban environment,” the report notes. “Most car trips are short trips carrying just one person. Most of the energy is wasted on carrying the vehicle’s own weight. Oversized vehicles are the root cause of urban congestion, pollution, and wasted energy, material, and public space. As cities everywhere move toward a high-density, low-speed, low-impact model, it calls for a new type of personal vehicle to be created for people to conveniently get around.”

When it comes to the type of battery used in these vehicles, IDTechEx foresees lithium-ion devices experiencing a gradual uptake given that policies in major markets like India and China are now disincentivizing the use of the currently dominant lead-acid battery.

Former gold mine to host largest underground caverns in history
Sun, 15 Jan 2023 14:45:00 +0000
The site, located under the Black Hills of South Dakota, will host the largest neutrino experiment in history.

The former Homestake mine, the biggest and deepest gold mine in North America until its closure in 2002, is set to become one of the largest underground caverns in history and house the largest physics experiment in the study of neutrinos.

The site, located under the Black Hills of South Dakota, is expected to host the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) project being developed within the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) by the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
“The DUNE caverns are mind-bogglingly big. There is no question about it,” Joshua Willhite, one of the engineers leading the DUNE excavation and a graduate of the university South Dakota Mines, said in a media statement.

According to Willhite, two of the main caverns are seven stories tall, one football field and a half long and 64 feet wide. A third utility cavern is three stories high, two football fields long and 64 feet wide.

Even though there are other caverns of similar or larger size on the planet, they are closer to the surface. This means that nothing the size of DUNE has ever been done at depths of 4,850 feet below ground.

Engineering challenges

Willhite noted that the engineering challenges of construction this far below the surface are formidable.
“Every bit of air that is underground has to come down through one shaft and go back out another shaft, and this requires management of air movement,” he said.

At the 4,850-foot level of SURF, the natural temperature of the surrounding rock walls is 95 degrees, so ventilation for air conditioning is key.

Water, on the other hand, cannot be taken for granted in the DUNE construction. Installing a bathroom, for example, requires pumping water between the surface and the construction site which, in turn, would require almost 2,200 psi of pressure. Thus, engineers have broken down the plumbing that supplies water into a series of stepped segments to reduce the pressure needed by individual pumps.

Heavy equipment like excavators and front-end loaders and construction materials like long steel beams that are normally a part of any construction operation are also hard to come by at DUNE.

“These massive caverns take huge equipment. But we are supplied by mine shafts that are not that much bigger than a normal elevator, and there is no piece of excavation equipment that will fit in an elevator, so we have to disassemble the equipment at the surface and reassemble it at depth,” Willhite said.

On top of this, the rock being excavated from these large caverns must be placed back on conveyances and moved to the surface.

Neutrino experiment

Inside DUNE, the US Department of Energy is building a facility that will hold massive tanks of liquid argon that will detect the neutrinos coming in from a beam generated at Fermilab in Illinois. At least two of the tanks are the size of five-story buildings and each will hold 17,000 tonnes of -300ºF liquid argon.

“To maintain that temperature, we use a large nitrogen generator and refrigeration system to create liquid nitrogen at -320°F,” Willhite said. The liquid nitrogen will be used to help cool the argon.

“Aside from the ridiculously cold temperature, when these liquids boil, they expand over 700 times their volume. There is nothing inherently hazardous about argon gas except it displaces any oxygen. We have to ensure that this expansion is minimized, controlled and ventilated properly for worker safety,” he pointed out.
For Willhite, the engineering challenges at DUNE are part of what makes it a fulfilling project.

Glencore evacuates personnel after protesters vandalize Antapaccay mine camp
Sat, 14 Jan 2023 20:54:51 +0000
The campsite at Glencore’s Antapaccay copper mine in Peru was vandalized by a group of people protesting against the country’s new president.

The campsite at Glencore’s Antapaccay copper mine in southern Peru was vandalized by a group of people protesting against the country’s new president and demanding a general election.

According to local media, the incident took place on Friday morning when the protesters broke into the site’s water plant and set the facility on fire. The plant provides drinking water to over 6,000 people in nearby communities.

The Peruvian press pointed out that the company reported the incident to the police and asked for increased security measures around Antapaccay but their claims went unheard. Most national police officers have been deployed in the cities of Puno, Juliaca and Cusco as the government attempts to contain protests sprouting in different areas.

Given this response, Glencore issued a communiqué stating that management decided to evacuate most of the 2,400 people that were at the mining camp, among them staff and contract workers. Only essential personnel needed to maintain basic operations going will remain at the site.

Friday’s attack was not the first of its kind.

Glencore reported that on Thursday at noon, criminals forced their entry into Antapaccay, burned two vehicles and trashed the accommodations used by overnight workers.

The president of the 11 Indigenous communities in Anttapacay’s area of influence, Flavio Huanqque, told La República newspaper that none of his communities participated in any of the attacks.

These and other demonstrations taking place across the Andean country pose a challenge to new President Dina Boluarte, as she tries to restore calm after the ousting of former President Pedro Castillo late last year.

World to face potash price crunch as Brazil Potash propels Autazes project toward production
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 23:09:13 +0000
High potash prices will likely persist as the world scrambles to bring more production online amidst concerns over food security, CEO says.

High potash prices will likely persist as the world scrambles to bring more production online amidst concerns over food security, privately held developer Brazil Potash says.

Protectionism from some countries has been a wakeup call to the global community, spurring it to work towards ensuring food security needs are met amid a tightening of fertilizer supplies, says CEO Matt Simpson in an interview with The Northern Miner.

Compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, market trends have seen about 42% of the global potash market has been impacted.

“While potash from Russia is quietly making its way out to markets, only about 30% of prior volumes are making its way out of landlocked Belarus. When the war started, potash prices for delivery in Brazil – one of the world’s most important agricultural export markets – quadrupled to the US$1,200 per tonne level,” Simpson says.

While prices have come down to about $500 per tonne today, Simpson says 2023 will not likely bring relief to a growing global food shortage, as many expect food inflation and rising prices to continue to put our food security at risk. He also notes that given the ongoing turmoil in Russia impacting neighbouring Belarus, more than 15 million tonnes of expected new production would probably not come online since those projects won’t likely secure funding because of the heightened risk.

“This sets up the market to remain tighter for longer,” the CEO says.

The future of global food security is uncertain, but potash producers will play an essential role in helping to ensure that everyone has access to nutritious food. With the Autazes potash project, Brazil Potash is paving the way to a more secure and sustainable agricultural future for Brazil, Simpson says.

Brazil Potash’s Autazes project is near Manaus, in the northern Amazonas State. The project is expected to produce potash using an environmentally friendly method of extracting the crop nutrient potassium chloride from the ground while doubling twice the current Brazilian production and changing the domestic potash market in Brazil.

Exploration doyen Simon Ridgway comes full circle in the Yukon with Rackla Metals
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 22:53:50 +0000
Ridgway and the exploration teams under his guidance have discovered gold deposits in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua and a silver-gold deposit in Mexico.

With renewed interest in the discovery potential of the eastern Yukon and the western Northwest Territories, accomplished mineral explorer and mining financier Simon Ridgway Rackla Metals (TSXV: RAK) CEO is returning to his roots with a focus on the region’s Tombstone Gold Belt.

Throughout his colourful career, broadly entailing playing poker by night and researching or ‘kicking rocks’ by day, Ridgway and the exploration teams under his guidance have discovered gold deposits in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua and a silver-gold deposit in Mexico.

On the financial side, companies operating under his Gold Group Management umbrella have raised over C$450 million for exploration and development projects since 2003.

Ridway was also a founder and former chairman of Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX: FVI) and is credited for the discovery of Cerro Blanco, currently under development by Bluestone Resources (TSX: BSR); a co-founder of Radius Gold (TSXV: RDU), and CEO of Volcanic Gold Mines (TSXV: VG).

But Ridgway started his career as a prospector in the Yukon in the 1970s. And Snowline Gold’s (CSE: SGD) recent (unexpected?) discovery at the Rogue project in the territory led him back to the region.

“I live to be out in the field looking at rocks,” Ridgeway tells The Northern Miner in an interview. “However, I discovered early in my career that I have a knack for deducing prospective discovery targets from undertaking desktop research. Canada has an amazing advantage: all prior work data becomes public when a company relinquishes claims, providing a basis for new interpretation by fresh eyes and minds.”

Following Snowline’s significant intrusive related gold discovery last year in the Yukon’s Tombstone Gold Belt, Ridgway and the Rackla team drew on their experience in the district to trace the geology and geophysics 90 km southeast across the Yukon-Northwest Territories border. As a result of this work, the company has recently acquired interests in six gold properties located in the belt, which lies within the Selwyn Basin. It plans to conduct exploration campaigns at several of these this year.

Ridgway started his career exploring the Tombstone Gold Belt for intrusives. This time, he is working some ways further east in an area he didn’t look at before because, for the most part, it was thought the eastern Yukon was not prospective for significant gold deposits.

The view from England: Space rocks and rockets, the final frontier
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 22:27:00 +0000
Space never ceases to fascinate, whether it is our reaching the extra-terrestrial or the extra-terrestrial reaching us.

Space never ceases to fascinate, whether it is our reaching the extra-terrestrial or the extra-terrestrial reaching us.

We experienced a taste of the former on Jan. 9, when the U.K. Space Agency initiated a new era of domestic spaceflights with the first orbital mission from a British spaceport. The ‘Start me up’ program (named after the 1981 Rolling Stones hit) plans to make Britain the first nation in Europe to offer end-to-end launch services to small satellite manufacturers.

In partnership with Virgin Orbit, Cosmic Girl (a modified Boeing 747) took off from the Newquay spaceport in Cornwall with the LauncherOne rocket (carrying seven satellites) under its wing. Unfortunately, the rocket suffered what was described as “an anomaly” and failed to reach the required altitude of 500 km.

The U.K. Space Agency will no doubt reach for the extra-terrestrial again (mindful of the ‘Start me up’ lyrics, which include “Give it all you got; You got to never, never, never stop”). Meanwhile, news in November confirmed that fascinating extra-terrestrial material continues to reach us, and two new minerals have been identified in a 15-tonne meteorite found in Somalia.

Minerals and the elements that form them are well categorized here on Earth. To date, only 118 elements have been identified, and 24 of these are not naturally occurring. These elements complete seven periods (rows) in the periodic table, and elements to form an eighth period remain purely hypothetical.

Distinct minerals are formed by a combination of one or more of these elements. A mineral must, according to the International Mineralogical Association (IMA), be naturally occurring and formed by geological processes (on Earth or an extra-terrestrial body), solid in its natural occurrence (an exception to this rule is mercury, which was included before the current rules were established), and be well defined in terms of its crystallographic structure and chemical composition. Based on these requirements, the IMA recognizes over 5,800 minerals found on Earth.

Professor Chris Herd of the University of Alberta’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is amongst those excited by the Somalia meteorite minerals, which could yield new uses and innovative applications. As he explained, “Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before.”

Although new to natural science, rapid identification of these minerals was possible because they had already been synthetically created. The minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite; the first being named from the meteorite itself (which was found near the town of El Ali) and the second after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who is a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

These two extra-terrestrial minerals come almost exactly one year after a new mineral that came directly, for the first time, from Earth’s lower mantle (the region between the planet’s core and crust).

The new mineral was found as specks of calcium silicate compound inside a Botswana diamond that formed at a depth of over 700 km (most diamonds form at only 120-250 km). The mineral was named davemaoite in honour of pioneering Chinese-American geophysicist Ho-Kwang ‘Dave’ Mao.

Inclusions normally detract from the value of a diamond but these are an exception, and have been a gift to Oliver Tschauner from the University of Nevada, who is examining super-deep diamonds to see what they can tell us about the interior of Earth. He describes the discovery as a step forward in scientists’ quest to model the evolution of the Earth’s mantle in greater detail.

Like elaliite and elkinstantonite, davemaoite has been artificially synthesized in the laboratory but was thought to be too volatile to exist naturally. Also like the other two new minerals, experts believe that davemaoite could reach us within meteorites.

Both space and the Earth’s lower mantle represent new frontiers for material scientists. If you’ll excuse the split infinitive, these mineral researchers have a mission to boldly go where no man has gone before.

— Dr. Chris Hinde is a mining engineer and the director of Pick and Pen Ltd., a U.K.-based consulting firm. He previously worked for S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Metals and Mining division.

Torex Gold stock scales 52-week high after posting record production
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 21:50:15 +0000
Gold production totalled 474,035 oz. during 2022., exceeding its guidance range of 430,000 to 470,000 oz.

Torex Gold (TSX: TXG) saw its stock value jump to a new 52-week high on Friday after posting a record gold production of 474,035 oz. during 2022., exceeding its guidance range of 430,000 to 470,000 oz. This marks the fourth year in a row for which the company’s original production guidance has been achieved.

Torex currently operates the 100% owned Morelos property, covering an area of 29,000 hectares in the Guerrero gold belt of Mexico. The property hosts the El Limón Guajes (ELG) mine complex, which started commercial production in 2016, as well as the Media Luna deposit, an advanced-stage development project located 7 km from ELG.

“We delivered an outstanding year operationally in 2022, surpassing production guidance and achieving record gold production of 474,000 oz.,” CEO Jody Kuzenko said in a news release. During the year, the company sold 473,122 oz. of gold, including 121,913 oz. in the fourth quarter.

Kuzenko attributed the “excellent operational performance” in 2022 to the record annual throughput in the mill of 12,600 tonnes per day and record annual contribution from the ELG underground complex.

Gold production in the fourth quarter totalled 116,196 oz., supported by strong gold grades to the mill. This was in part owing to the ELG team delivering a new quarterly record mining rate of 1,685 t/d, which exceeded the previous record of 1,582 t/d set during Q2 2022.

Torex also made steady progress at the Media Luna project during the quarter, with key engineering and procurement activities advancing. Record development rates were achieved in the Guajes tunnel during December with an average advance rate of 7.2 metres per day.

“With total development at 3,250 metres in the Guajes tunnel at year-end, the tunnelling team has now successfully crossed under the Balsas River and continues to be on pace for breakthrough in early 2024, if not before,” Kuzenko said.

“We are well positioned to deliver another solid year operationally in 2023 as we look to maintain the steady performance in the mill, increase underground mining rates to 1,800 tonnes per day by year-end,” he added.

Shares of Torex Gold ended Friday’s session 3.3% higher, valuing the intermediate gold producer at approximately C$1.6 billion ($1.2bn).

CHARTS: Mining stocks gain on tech but remain an afterthought for investors
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 20:20:31 +0000
Apple is worth more than the 100 biggest mining companies, three years of global copper production and all the world's seaborne iron ore.

MINING.COM tracks the world’s top 50 biggest mining companies by market value, and at the end of 2022 the ranking had a combined value of $1.39 trillion. 

It’s just a shade below the companies’ combined market cap at the end of 2021. That compares to a 9% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a nearly 20% decline in the S&P500 over the course of the year. 

The year started with a big bang and measured from individual stocks’ 52-week highs – almost all hit in March/April – the top 50 has shrunk by more than $1 trillion. It’s a precipitous decline, but compared to other sectors, notably big tech, much of those losses were recouped by the end of the year. 

The top 5 most valuable tech firms were worth a collective $4.55 trillion at the start of 2023, down an astonishing $2.9 trillion over the past year. That compares to the combined value of $454 billion for mining’s top tier.  

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that at Apple’s market capitalisation alone – even after shedding nearly $750 billion in 2022  — you can buy the world’s 50 most valuable mining companies, the next 50, and have enough left over to snap up three years of global copper mine production and buy 2022’s seaborne iron ore — all of it. 

While critical minerals and metals (aren’t they all?) are now a geopolitical talking point and developed economies have finally woken up to the fact that they’ve largely been cut out of global hard commodity supply chains, it is clear from the relative valuations of virtual vs real assets that a massive disconnect still exists.  

All the way back in 2019, Bernstein’s Paul Gait wrote a paper following the New York money managers’ conference on decarbonisation and the vast volumes of metals and minerals and massive investment in new projects needed to achieve the world’s climate goals. 

Gait had this to say about the affordability of meeting those targets and the relative valuation of the big tech stocks and the mining industry: 

“It is, however, important to remember that when we highlight the impact of decarbonisation on copper prices there is absolutely no sense in which this can be taken to imply that we ‘cannot afford’ to deliver a “green economy” (and the resulting transformation of industrial and economic processes). 

“The market capitalisation of such entities as Facebook or Netflix imply that there is more than enough money, more than enough capital to deliver whatever economic transformation is required. The fact that our revealed preference (amusing cat videos) is at variance with our stated preference (a sustainable economic future for our children) should not be erroneously taken to infer that there is some financial constraint on the ends we choose to pursue.”

Gold price above $1,900 on prospects of slower Fed rate hikes
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:35:34 +0000
Data on Thursday showed that US consumer prices fell for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years in December.

Gold prices scaled over an eight-month peak on Friday, surpassing the key $1,900 level, as cooling US inflation raised hopes for slower interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

Spot gold rose 0.9% to $1,914.42 per ounce by 12:20 p.m. ET, its highest since April 2022. US gold futures also gained 0.9% to trade at $1,916.20 per ounce.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

The US dollar, meanwhile, lost ground after the inflation report and was heading for its worst week in more than a month, making gold less expensive for other currency holders.

Data on Thursday showed that US consumer prices fell for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years in December.

“Tactically, (gold) and many of the markets have a hangover from yesterday’s exuberant rally on the CPI,” Phillip Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago, explained to Reuters.

Following the data release, Fed policymakers expressed relief that inflation continued to ease in December, paving the way for a possible step down to a quarter point interest rate increase at its next policy meeting in February.

“We believe that the (gold) market will initially take a breather until it becomes clearer whose prediction of the future course of US monetary policy is more accurate – the market’s or the Fed’s,” Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

(With files from Reuters)

Copper price down after rapid rally
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:28:08 +0000
Copper prices paused their rally on Friday but were set to end the week with a 6.6% gain.

Copper prices paused their rally on Friday but were set to end the week with a 6.6% gain on hopes that a weaker dollar and China’s dismantling of covid-19 restrictions will lift demand.

China’s zero-covid policy stifled metals demand from the world’s biggest metals consumer. The abandonment of the policy, however, has caused a wave of covid-19 infections likely to last for two to three months.

Copper for delivery in March fell 0.1% on the Comex market in New York, to $4.19 per pound, or $9,218 per tonne.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

“(But) most investors are looking through that turbulence at the potential for Chinese copper demand to move markedly upwards,” said WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah.

“Above $10,000 (a tonne) should be easily in reach,” he said, adding that copper supply is likely to remain tight this year.

A central bank official on Friday pledged further support for manufacturers and small companies.

China’s 2023 copper consumption is projected to rise 4.4% to 14.8 million tonnes, Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research said.

Read More: Copper exporters to benefit from China reopening, AllianceBernstein says

(With files from Reuters)

Taseko gets $25 million loan to build processing plant at Florence Copper
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:06:52 +0000
The funding will be available for drawdown upon Florence Copper receiving the final underground injection control permit from the EPA.

Taseko Mines (TSX, LSE: TKO) has received an additional commitment of $25 million from Bank of America Leasing & Capital LLC to fund the costs associated with the solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX/EW) plant for its Florence Copper commercial production facility in Arizona.

The latest funding follows an initial investment of $50 million made recently by Japan’s Mitsui for the construction of the copper project. As part of the financing arrangement with Mitsui, the parties entered into an offtake contract for 81% of the copper cathode produced at Florence during its early years.

“Following the recently announced strategic partnership with Mitsui & Co. (USA) Inc. for our Florence Copper project, this additional source of funds will further strengthen our balance sheet and provide financing flexibility as we prepare for construction of the project in 2023,” Taseko CEO Stuart McDonald said in a news release.

The $25 million funding will be available for drawdown upon Florence Copper receiving the final underground injection control permit from the EPA. In August 2022, the project was granted a draft permit despite concerns over its potential environmental impact.

The Bank of America loan will be secured by specific treatment and processing equipment in the SX/EW plant with an initial term of five years.

“In addition to Florence Copper’s strong economics, the project has many environmental attributes, including low carbon emissions and a low footprint operation, which are attractive to financial partners,” McDonald said.

“The financing commitment from Bank of America is a customized solution developed for Taseko, leveraging the equipment security of our SX/EW plant, since conventional mining equipment like shovels and haul trucks will not be used at Florence Copper,” he explained.

According to Taseko, Florence has one of the least capital-intensive copper production facilities in the world, and when fully ramped up, will produce 40,000 tonnes of high-quality cathode copper annually for the US domestic market.

The company said it expects the project to have the lowest energy and greenhouse gas intensity of any copper producer in North America.

Toughest material on earth now a reality
Fri, 13 Jan 2023 14:06:00 +0000
Scientists measured the highest toughness ever recorded of any material, in a chromium, cobalt, and nickel alloy.

A group of scientists has measured the highest toughness ever recorded, of any material, while investigating a metallic alloy made of chromium, cobalt, and nickel (CrCoNi).

In a paper published in the journal Science, the researchers explain that not only is the metal extremely ductile and impressively strong, but its strength and ductility also improve as it gets colder. This runs counter to most other materials in existence.

CrCoNi is a subset of a class of metals called high entropy alloys (HEAs). All the alloys in use today contain a high proportion of one element with lower amounts of additional elements added, but HEAs are made of an equal mix of each constituent element. These balanced atomic recipes appear to bestow some of these materials with an extraordinarily high combination of strength and ductility when stressed, which together make up what is termed “toughness.”

HEAs have been a hot area of research since they were first developed about 20 years ago, but the technology required to push the materials to their limits in extreme tests was not available until recently.

“The toughness of this material near liquid helium temperatures (20 kelvin, -424 Fahrenheit) is as high as 500 megapascals square root meters. In the same units, the toughness of a piece of silicon is one, the aluminum airframe in passenger airplanes is about 35, and the toughness of some of the best steels is around 100. So, 500, it’s a staggering number,” research co-lead Robert Ritchie, a senior faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab, said in a media statement.

Toughest material on earth now a reality
Microscopy-generated images showing the path of a fracture and accompanying crystal structure deformation in the CrCoNi alloy at nanometer scale during stress testing at -424 F. (Image by Robert Ritchie/Berkeley Lab).

Ritchie and his co-lead Easo George from ORNL began experimenting with CrCoNi and another alloy that also contains manganese and iron (CrMnFeCoNi) nearly a decade ago. They created samples of the alloys then lowered the materials to liquid nitrogen temperatures (around 77 kelvin, or -321 F) and discovered impressive strength and toughness.

Given those results, they immediately wanted to follow up their work with tests at liquid helium temperature ranges, but finding facilities that would enable stress testing samples in such a cold environment, and recruiting team members with the analytical tools and experience needed to analyze what happens in the material at an atomic level took the next 10 years.

The pair explained that many solid substances, including metals, exist in a crystalline form characterized by a repeating 3D atomic pattern, called a unit cell, that makes up a larger structure called a lattice. The material’s strength and toughness, or lack thereof, come from the physical properties of the lattice. No crystal is perfect, so the unit cells in a material will inevitably contain “defects,” a prominent example being dislocations – boundaries where undeformed lattice meets up with deformed lattice.

When force is applied to the material – think, for example, of bending a metal spoon – the shape change is accomplished by the movement of dislocations through the lattice. The easier it is for the dislocations to move, the softer the material is. But if the movement of the dislocations is blocked by obstacles in the form of lattice irregularities, then more force is required to move the atoms within the dislocation, and the material becomes stronger. On the flip side, obstacles usually make the material more brittle – prone to cracking.

Peeking inside CrCoNi

Using neutron diffraction, electron backscatter diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy, Ritchie, George, and their colleagues at Berkeley Lab, the University of Bristol, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and the University of New South Wales examined the lattice structures of CrCoNi samples that had been fractured at room temperature and 20 K.

The images and atomic maps generated from these techniques revealed that the alloy’s toughness is due to a trio of dislocation obstacles that come into effect in a particular order when force is applied to the material.

First, moving dislocations cause areas of the crystal to slide away from other areas that are on parallel planes. This movement displaces layers of unit cells so that their pattern no longer matches up in the direction perpendicular to the slipping movement, creating a type of obstacle.

Further force on the metal creates a phenomenon called nanotwinning, wherein areas of the lattice form a mirrored symmetry with a boundary in between. Finally, if forces continue to act on the metal, the energy being put into the system changes the arrangement of the unit cells themselves, with the CrCoNi atoms switching from a face-centred cubic crystal to another arrangement known as hexagonal close packing.

This sequence of atomic interactions ensures that the metal keeps flowing, but also keeps meeting new resistance from obstacles far past the point that most materials snap from the strain.

“So as you are pulling it, the first mechanism starts and then the second one starts, and then the third one starts, and then the fourth,” explained Ritchie. “Now, a lot of people will say, well, we’ve seen nanotwinning in regular materials, we’ve seen slip in regular materials. That’s true. There’s nothing new about that, but it’s the fact they all occur in this magical sequence that gives us these really tremendous properties.”

The team’s new findings, taken with other recent work on HEAs, may force the materials science community to reconsider long-held notions about how physical characteristics give rise to performance.

“It’s amusing because metallurgists say that the structure of a material defines its properties, but the structure of the NiCoCr is the simplest you can imagine – it’s just grains,” said Ritchie. “However, when you deform it, the structure becomes very complicated, and this shift helps explain its exceptional resistance to fracture,” co-author Andrew Minor said.

New products…but not just yet

George foresees the new material being used in situations where environmental extremes could destroy standard metallic alloys, such as in the frigid temperatures of deep space.

He and his team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are also investigating how alloys made of more abundant and less expensive elements could be coaxed into having similar properties.

Though the progress is exciting, Ritchie warns that real-world use could still be a ways off, for good reason.

“When you are flying on an airplane, would you like to know that what saves you from falling 40,000 feet is an airframe alloy that was only developed a few months ago? Or would you want the materials to be mature and well-understood? That’s why structural materials can take many years, even decades, to get into real use.”

Teck fined $1.6 million for acid spill into Columbia River at Trail smelter operations
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 22:21:54 +0000
A judge made the order after the company pleaded guilty to two charges laid under the federal Fisheries Act and one charge laid under the provincial Environmental Management Act.

Vancouver-based Teck Resources was ordered January 10 to pay C$2.2 million ($1.65m) for an acid spill into the Columbia River at the company’s Trail smelter operations.

A Rossland provincial court judge made the order after the company pleaded guilty to two charges laid under the federal Fisheries Act and one charge laid under the provincial Environmental Management Act. The charges resulted from an effluent release in February 2019.

Teck employees reported a spill of low pH effluent to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECC) and Emergency Management BC.

ECCC enforcement officers investigated and determined the discharge of approximately 2.5 million litres of effluent into the river just north of the US border resulted from numerous operational errors.

The river contains mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, walleye, brook trout, bull trout, cutthroat trout, white sturgeon, sculpin, redside shiner, and other fish species.

An ECCC news release said the company’s failure to exert due diligence contributed to the duration and extent of the spill.

The investigation found the effluent was caused by a leak of an acidic solution from the company’s fertilizer operations in Warfield, BC, just above the Trail metals smelter.

Much of the discharged effluent was below pH 4, which is deleterious, or harmful to fish.

The C$2 million federal fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

The remaining C$200,000 is a provincial fine for Teck under the Environmental Management Act for failing to comply with their permit, which specifies acceptable pH levels for discharges and prohibits acutely lethal effluent discharges.

The company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry, which lists information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

In 2021, the company’s Teck Coal Ltd. subsidiary was fined a record C$60 million for discharges from its East Kootenay coal operations into the Fording River and a pond.

(This article first appeared in Business in Vancouver)

And the winner for most volatile commodity this decade goes to…lithium
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 22:17:18 +0000
Investors in the small, fast growing market for lithium can be forgiven for feeling whiplash – the battery metal was also the worst performer – by a long shot – for two years since 2013.

Commodity prices are always volatile, but in 2022 metal and mining markets reached new levels of turbulence, as the pandemic played out in China, inflation plagued the developed world and the Ukraine war upended global energy. 

US Global Investors, every year publishes what the San Antonio, Texas investment firm calls The Periodic Table of Commodities Returns.

2022 was the second year in a row lithium was the best performing among the 15 commodities tracked by US Global Investors. The battery metal gained another 72.5% in 2022 following a stunning 442.8% jump the prior year. 

Investors in the sector over the last decade can be forgiven for feeling whiplashed. Surging demand from the electric vehicle and energy storage market accounts for lithium’s spectacular rise, but much of the volatility is also due to the size of the market. 

Despite breakneck growth lithium mine production is expected to reach just 915,000 tonnes, according to data from top producer Australia. That compares to iron ore, where the seaborne trade alone is more than 1.3 billion tonnes.

The table shows gold has been the least volatile commodity since 2012, a testament to the depth and liquidity in the market for the precious metal. But even gold is not an easy investment to call – last year the gap between the high and low for the year was over $400 an ounce.  

US Global Investors CEO and chief investment officer Frank Holmes points to a December report by Goldman Sachs where the investment bank’s analysts write that the setup for most commodities this year “is more bullish than at any point since [they] first highlighted the supercycle in October 2020.”

“Goldman forecasts that commodities, as measured by the S&P GSCI, will return 43% in 2023. That would mark the third straight year of gains, something the asset class hasn’t achieved since the period from 2002 to 2005.”

Click here for the interactive version and PDF of the table and here for Holmes’ Frank Talk blog posts.

The Metals Company calls video of mining waste dumped into the sea misinformation as stock sinks
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 20:15:29 +0000
The Vancouver-based company is looking to be the first one in the world to commercially mine the deep sea.

The Metals Company (NASDAQ: TMC), formerly Deep Green Metals, an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, responded Thursday to videos of what appears to be mining waste dumped into the sea shared by environmental groups on Tuesday, saying they were taken out of context.

The videos, released by MiningWatch Canada, Greenpeace International, and the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, were captured in October by scientists aboard ships owned by the company as it trialed its deep-sea mining technology in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Mexico. The zone has been ranked by Mining Intelligence as the biggest nickel project in world in both 2021 and 2022.

Mining international waters is in the spotlight as companies and countries are looking at minerals concentrated on the ocean floor that can be used in batteries for smart phones and electric vehicles. The resource is now estimated at four megatons (Mt) measured, 341Mt indicated and 11Mt inferred mineral resources.

The two videos released Monday show deep-sea sediment overflowing into the ocean from the deck of the company’s 228-meter-long former drill ship, Hidden Gem.

In a technology description on its website, the company said sediment is expected to be discharged back onto the seafloor within a few hundred meters.

The company described the incident as “a minor overflow,” and said some sediment and fragments of nodules poured out of the separator and over the deck of the ship intermittently during a seven-to eight-hour test run.

“Due to the dynamic behavior of the airlift riser when first switched on, there was a surge in the volume of water flow which briefly exceeded the buffer capacity of the cyclone separator at the top of the riser,” the Metals Company said in a statement. “As a result, the cyclone experienced a minor overflow of water containing a small amount of sediment and nodule fragments.”

This footage from the ship was provided by The Metals Company:

“When safe to do so the test run was stopped in a controlled manner,” the company said. It added that an assessment was carried out to see if the incident could harm the marine environment but found it “did not have the potential to cause harm and was, therefore, not a reportable incident.”

“Testing was conducted and the implemented modifications to the cyclone separator proved effective. There were no further overflows during subsequent test runs,” the company said.

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada’s Asia-Pacific Program Coordinator, disagreed.

“That’s not supposed to be happening,” Coumans said in a statement. “Clearly, something went wrong here.”

Coumans said the scientists who filmed the video aboard the ship and later leaked it to the three advocacy groups were paid by The Metals Company to monitor the company’s deep sea metal-harvesting technology’s environmental footprint.

On Twitter, Greenpeace Global Project Leader Louisa Casson called the incident the latest in a “long list of reasons why we need to stop deep sea mining before it starts in 2023.”

“Unfortunately, we are used to these attacks by activists who take things out of context and try to create a sense of armageddon,” The Metals Company’s head of communications and brand Dan Porras told MINING.COM.

Mining in the deep sea is still under study but metals are abundant on the seafloor. Reserves are estimated to be worth anywhere from $8 trillion to more than $16 trillion.

Most of the metals are found in potato-sized rock-like polymetallic nodules. Millions of years old, the nodules grow by absorbing metals from the seawater, expanding slowly around the core of a shell, bone, or rock.

It is estimated that 21 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules are resting on the ocean floor in the CCZ. Almost 20 international mining companies have contracts to explore the region which spans over 5,000 kilometers and is considered the most prolific area for ocean mining.

The Metals Company’s stock sunk nearly 12% by 3pm EST Thursday on the Nasdaq, capitalizing it at $207 million.

Mining People: FPX Nickel, Patriot Battery Metals, Defense Metals
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 19:40:00 +0000
Key moves in the mining sector.

Management appointments announced:

FPX Nickel appointed Dan Apai as engineering manager.

K92 Mining promoted David Medilek to president and Warren Uyen to CEO. 

Patriot Battery Metals named Alix Drapack as VP ESG. Skeena Resources announced Randy Reichert (president and CEO), will temporarily assume the duties of COO and named Adrian Newton as VP.

Board moves include:

Defense Metals named Len Clough to the board.

Ero Copper announces the retirement of executive chair Noel Dunn.

GoldMining announced David Garofalo as a director and co-chair.

Rock Tech granted permission for early construction of lithium hydroxide plant in Germany
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 17:38:56 +0000
Once completed, the Guben converter will be the first of its kind in Europe, with expected annual production capacity of 24,000 tonnes.

Rock Tech Lithium (TSXV: RCK) has received permission for an early start to the construction of its Guben lithium converter in Germany. First significant on-site work for this strategic critical mineral project is expected within the upcoming next weeks.

Rock Tech first announced plans to build the lithium converter in Guben, Brandenburg, in October 2021. The facility, designed to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide, will be situated about 60 km away from Tesla’s plant in Grünheide.

The decision follows an Europe-wide search by Rock Tech for a location to refine the raw material sourced from its Georgia Lake lithium project in Ontario.

“Our goal is to be the first company in the world to create a closed loop for lithium. Guben seems to us to be the ideal location for this, with subsidies also playing an important role,” Rock Tech’s CEO Dirk Harbecke stated at the time of the announcement.

In February 2022, Rock Tech applied with the Brandenburg environmental agency for the first partial permit and an early start of the project. In the course of the application procedure, which involved public participation, no objections were received, and the authorities subsequently granted approval for the first tranche of permits.

The approval for an early start is also an encouraging indicator that permission for construction of the Guben converter will be granted in due course, the company said on Thursday. In November, Rock Tech submitted the second and final tranche of permit applications for this to the authority.

Approval for construction of the Guben converter is expected from summer 2023 onwards, according to the company.

“The production of our battery-grade lithium hydroxide will be an essential part of the battery mineral supply chains in Europe – this is another reason why the approval by the authority is an important step towards implementation and sends a clear signal to the market,” added Klaus Schmitz, Rock Tech’s chief operating officer.

Once completed, the Guben converter will be the first of its kind in Europe, with expected annual production capacity of 24,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide from 2025. Total cost of the project is estimated at 650 million euros.

To date, more than 250,000 working hours and over 45 million euros have been invested by Rock Tech in the planning the design and construction of the Guben converter. With the early start permission, necessary groundwork, as well as the construction of roads, office and storage buildings, can now begin.

Shares of Rock Tech Lithium surged 16.5% as of 12:30 p.m. ET, giving the Vancouver-based company a market capitalization of C$249.3 million ($186.6m).

Iamgold, Vanstar hike gold resource at Nelligan in Quebec
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 17:30:26 +0000
Nelligan now has an indicated resource of 72.2 million tonnes grading 0.85 g/t for 2 million oz. of contained gold.

Joint venture partners Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) and Vanstar Mining Resources (TSXV: VSR) have boosted the total metal content by 63% at their Nelligan gold project in central Quebec.

Iamgold and Vanstar currently own 75% and 25% of Nelligan, respectively, after signing an option agreement in 2014. The latest resource estimate updates the first resource that was completed in 2019 on the project, which is about 60 km southwest of Chibougamau in the northeastern part of Quebec’s Abitibi Greenstone Belt.

Nelligan now has an indicated resource on a 100% basis of 72.2 million tonnes grading 0.85 g/t gold for 2 million oz. of contained gold. Inferred resources measure 114.1 million tonnes averaging 0.88 g/t gold for 3.2 million ounces. The resource used a cut-off grade of 0.35 g/t gold, compared to the 2019 resource, which was based on a 0.5 g/t gold grade.

While the new resource has boosted Nelligan’s tonnage by 92% compared to the 2019 estimate, gold grades declined by 15%. Iamgold drilled 53 holes (22,045 metres) between 2020 and 2022, which refined the deposit and structural models, the companies noted in a press release, and resulted in the conversion of 62% of the inferred resource to the indicated category.

The new resource also incorporated an additional 24 historic drill holes that were “previously located outside mineralized domains,” according to the press release.

The partners plan to drill 10,000 metres this year at Nelligan and “test newly defined exploration targets outside of the resource area,” Vanstar president and CEO J.C. St-Amour, said in the news release.

Iamgold’s executive vice-president for growth, Craig MacDougall, also noted Nelligan’s “favourable” potential for more resource expansion.

“The deposit has areas within the resource pit shell, along strike and at depth that remain open for further drilling,” he said, adding that “our exploration efforts continue to highlight the significance of this pure grass-roots discovery.”

Under the 2014 agreement, Iamgold has the option to earn an additional 5% stake for a total of 80% in the project by completing a feasibility study. Vanstar would retain 20%.

In 2019, the Quebec Mineral Association named Nelligan the “Discovery of the Year.”

Europe’s largest rare earths deposit found in Sweden
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 14:03:00 +0000
The discovery by Swedish state-owned miner LKAB could help the continent break away from China’s dominance in the sector.

Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB said it had found Europe’s largest known deposit of rare earths close to Kiruna, the country’s northernmost town.

The discovery could help the continent break away from China’s dominance in the sector. The nation produces about 98% of the group of 17 minerals used in electric vehicles (EVs), portable electronics, wind turbines and military equipment.

The Per Geijer deposit, just north of the company’s largest iron ore mine in the Swedish Arctic, is estimated to contain more than 1 million tonnes of rare earths, LKAB said. 

Work is still in an exploratory phase, the miner noted, and the full extent of the deposit is not known.

“It will be at least 10 to 15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market,” chief executive officer Jan Mostrom said in the statement, citing a timeline derived from other permitting processes in the industry. 

LKAB plans an application for an exploration concession this year, before seeking permits.   

Mostrom called on the European Commission to speed up and streamline those processes as part of its Critical Raw Materials Act, which is expected to be announced in March this year.

Sweden plays a key role in the European Union’s renewable energy ambitions, already supplying about 90% of the continent’s iron ore. Most of the steelmaking commodity is mined at LKAB’s operations. 

The EU considers rare earths to be among the most critical resources for the region. 

“Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine,” Sweden’s minister in charge of energy and business said in the statement.

Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has invited bloc’s representatives for a two-day summit in Kiruna. The town grabbed headlines in the late 2010’s as it was moved in its entirety to accommodate the growth of the namesake operation, which is the largest underground iron ore mine.

Europe’s largest rare earths deposit found in Sweden
LKAB owns and run the Kiruna ore mine, which is Europe’s largest underground iron ore operation. (Image courtesy of LKAB.)

Superdeep diamond reveals new info on earth’s geological processes
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 13:06:00 +0000
A superdeep diamond recovered in Guinea has become the messenger of new information on plate tectonics.

A recent paper published in the journal Nature points to a “superdeep” diamond recovered in Kankan, Guinea, as the messenger of new information on plate tectonics, the geological processes that give rise to mountains, oceans and continents.

One of the inclusions found in the diamond was a very pure example of the mineral olivine, a variety of which is more commonly known as the gemstone peridot. Most olivine found on our planet has some iron in it, so the purity of this olivine speaks to the unique conditions under which it was formed.

The olivine’s purity, as well as some of the other minerals that were inclusions in the precious rock, indicate a far deeper origin than usual for a diamond, between what is called the transition zone and the lower mantle zone—420 kilometres to 660 kilometres beneath earth’s surface. It also shows that the environment between these zones has an extremely variable oxygen content.

“To make this extreme composition [of olivine] and the overall mineral assemblage that we’ve got, the only way of doing that is to have a very deeply subducted oceanic plate or slab that goes down into the mantle, so you’re essentially pushing material from the surface of the earth into the depths of the earth,” Graham Pearson, study co-author and director of the Diamond Exploration and Research Training School at the University of Alberta, said in a media statement.

“You get huge gradients in oxygen activity when you do that, and these big gradients are very conducive to driving extreme variations in the composition of minerals,” he noted.

An understanding of these oxygen gradients helps explain how plate tectonics bring volatile elements back up into the mantle, and can also offer clues to how superdeep diamonds are formed—knowledge that can’t be gained any other way.

“You can see oceanic slabs descending into the earth in seismic images, but you don’t have any idea of the detailed structures they develop, or the mechanisms and chemistry going on in those slabs,” Pearson said. “These diamonds provide a unique trace of that detailed chemical evolution as the slab’s going down.”

As researchers gain more insight into the movement of those slabs into the mantle, called subduction, they can better understand plate tectonics.

“Subduction drives the whole of plate tectonics. If you don’t understand the details of subduction, that limits your understanding of how plate tectonics work,” the scientist said

Superdeep diamonds, which originate from depths of more than 300 kilometres below earth’s surface, are a treasure trove of scientific information because diamonds are uniquely able to preserve information about where they’re formed, including many of the physical and chemical processes that occurred during their formation.

Most other minerals lose much of that information by the time they make their way to the surface but, as Pearson explained, diamonds act almost as time capsules.

“There are many things at the surface of the earth that can only be explained by processes happening at deep depths,” he pointed out. “If you want to explain things you see at the surface—whether it’s economic mineralization, surface uplift or subsidence phenomena related to oil-bearing basins—you need an understanding of the structure, mechanics and properties of the deep earth. Diamond is uniquely able to bolster that understanding.”

Arkle Resources finds lithium in Ireland
Thu, 12 Jan 2023 12:06:00 +0000
The explorer, which has so far focused on gold in Ireland, said drilling results show evidence of lithium bearing pegmatites.

Diversified explorer Arkle Resources (AIM: ARK) said on Thursday it had found lithium bearing pegmatites at its Mine River Block gold project in Ireland.

The company, until 2019 known as Connemara Mining, said that of 34 rock chip samples taken from the site late last year, six returned lithium grades of more than 0.02%, with one returning 0.09%.

The six samples that showed elevated lithium were all boulders of pegmatite rock collected around mapped granite bodies.

Geochemical results also showed clear pathfinder elements for lithium – caesium, rubidium and tantalum – which can be used to target a coarse type of igneous rock in future soil surveys, Arkle Resources said.

The company, which has so far focused on gold in Ireland, said its directors believe these results are “compelling” as they suggest the Mine River Block is fertile for lithium caesium tantalum (LCT) pegmatite deposits

“These are exciting results,” chairman John Teeling said in the statement. “We have discovered lithium on our licences. We found the rock type needed, pegmatites, and in the pegmatites found lithium and other indicator minerals. This opens compelling new opportunities for our Mine River Block. Prospecting will resume in the near future.”

Shares in the company jumped as much as 21% to 69p after the announcement, but fell sharply in afternoon trading, changing hands at 56p by 2pm local time — 2.6% lower than at Wednesday’s close. This leaves it with a market capitalization of £2.21 million (about $2.6m).

Arkle Resources has been exploring for gold and zinc in the Wicklow granite for more than two decades, but searching for lithium in hard rocks has only been viable since 2018, the company said.

Lithium prices have softened after an outstanding two-year rally labelled “insane” by Elon Musk and “unreasonable” by China’s electric vehicles maker BYD. 

Producers believe the cool-off is momentary and that prices will pick up in the coming months, despite market fears over a possible cooling-off of China’s two-year lithium buying spree.

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