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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

NEWS HEADLINES - MINING AND METALS
Today News Headlines

USGS, Apple create new waste rock metric
Thu, 05 May 2022 18:20:40 +0000
alled the “rock-to-metal ratio,” the new metric indicates how much ore and waste must be mined, moved and processed to produce a given unit of a mineral commodity.

A new metric to quantify the amount of waste rock generated by mining critical minerals has been created by the US Geological Survey and Apple.

Called the “rock-to-metal ratio,” the new metric indicates how much ore and waste must be mined, moved and processed to produce a given unit of a mineral commodity. This information has not previously been available on a global scales.

The new rock-to-metal ratio is explained in a USGS and Apple study recently published in Environmental Science & Technology. The authors used the most current data available to determine the ratios of 25 of the most commonly used mineral commodities. The ratio they developed considers various mining factors, such as ore grades and recovery yields, to estimate the weight of ore and waste produced at more than 1,900 mining operations worldwide.

“The rock-to-metal ratio and the underlying data have many potential uses,” said Nedal Nassar, chief of the Minerals Intelligence Research Section at the USGS National Minerals Information Center and lead author of the study. “For instance, manufacturing companies could use our data as one of several deciding factors on where to source minerals and or which materials they use in their products.”

Visual representation of the rock-to-metal ratio, showing the cycle from mined rock and ore, to a refined mineral commodity. Image: Creative Commons, courtesy of Environmental Science & Technology.

While the rock-to-metal ratio can provide some clues to the environmental impacts of various mining operations around the world, Nassar is quick to add that “this is only one piece of a larger puzzle, and the rock-to-metal ratio needs to be used in conjunction with other data to make informed decisions about mineral sourcing or material choice.”

The study shows there is a wide range in rock-to-metal ratios among different mineral commodities. For example, iron ore has a rock-to-metal ratio of 9:1. This means for every nine metric tons of waste rock and ore moved and processed, one metric ton of iron is produced. This was one of the lowest ratios found in the study. Gold, on the other hand, was found to have the highest ratio at about 3,000,000:1, which means for every three metric tons of ore and waste rock moved and processed, only one gram of gold is produced.

The above ratios are global averages for iron and gold. There is also wide variability among the ratios for each metal, depending on where it is produced.

This variability in the ratios for a single mineral commodity is one of the key pieces of data Apple was interested in when they initially approached the USGS to collaborate on this study. The rock-to-metal ratio can also provide companies an additional way to quantify the benefits of recycling by showing how much waste removal and ore mining could be avoided by recycling these materials.

A key finding of the study revealed that the worldwide total of ore and waste rock moved in 2018 for the 25 mineral commodities was about 37.6 billion tonnes. This enormous number can be difficult to comprehend, but it’s roughly the equivalent of almost 7,000 Great Pyramids of Giza being moved each year.

The 25 minerals analyzed in the study are used by virtually every manufacturing industry in the global economy and include aluminum, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iridium, iron, lithium, magnesium, molybdenum, nickel, palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, silicon, silver, tantalum, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zinc, and zirconium.

The full study can be read here.


Gold price pulls back after rate hike bounce
Thu, 05 May 2022 16:41:16 +0000
Gold's reversal comes amid another rally in the dollar index.

Gold prices pulled back on Thursday after rising as much as 1% following the half-a-point interest rate hike announced by the US Federal Reserve, the biggest in 22 years.

Spot gold slipped 0.2% to $1,876.52 per ounce by 12:30 p.m. ET, having earlier hit its highest since April 29. US gold futures gained a modest 0.3% to $1,875.00 per ounce in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

“I don’t think a whole lot changed in overall Fed policy from yesterday’s meeting, but it just gave gold and silver traders an excuse to rally the market after the recent strong selling pressure,” Kitco senior analyst Jim Wycoff, told Reuters.

“The whole scenario in Europe with its energy supplies being constrained having banned some energy imports from Russia, that’s leading to instability in the European marketplace, that’s prompting safe haven demand for gold, prompting higher inflation in the eurozone,” Wycoff added.

Gold’s reversal comes amid another rally in the dollar index, which typically hurts appeal for bullion among overseas buyers, as well as the benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields.

“Bond yields will continue rising because of expectations that monetary policy from the Fed and other major central banks will be tightened further … This is going to hold gold back from going too high in the medium term,” added Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at City Index.

(With files from Reuters)


Iron ore price rises on optimism over China central bank support
Thu, 05 May 2022 14:36:05 +0000
China's central bank said it would take monetary policy steps to help businesses hit by the covid-19 outbreak.

The iron ore price rose on Thursday after China’s central bank said it would take monetary policy steps to help businesses hit by the covid-19 outbreak and support a recovery in consumption.

Returning from a five-day Labour Day break, traders were also upbeat about replenishment demand remaining strong for the steelmaking ingredient in the world’ top steel producer.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China rose 0.79%, to $150.75 per tonne.

Fastmarkets MB 62% Fe Northern China

The most-traded September iron ore contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trading 1.9% higher at 871.50 yuan ($131.74) a tonne. It touched 881.50 yuan earlier in the session, the highest since April 25.

The People’s Bank of China on Wednesday vowed to “waste no time planning incremental policy tools to support steady economic growth, stabilise employment and prices … to provide a fair monetary and financial environment.”

The remarks, lacking in details, came after a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party last week pledged to support the economy.

“While it may be left to relevant government bodies to thrash out the finer details, markets will grow impatient waiting for robust policies which will have a material impact on iron ore and steel demand,” said Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities.

Rolling out additional stimulus measures has become more urgent amid China’s tough covid-19 restrictions, analysts have said.

Beijing shut scores of metro stations and bus routes and extended curbs on many public venues on Wednesday, while Shanghai remained under strict lockdown.

(With files from Reuters)


EPA deals fresh blow to PolyMet’s $1 billion copper-nickel mine
Thu, 05 May 2022 14:03:00 +0000
NorthMet is the first large-scale project to be permitted within the Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dealt a fresh blow to PolyMet Mining’s (TSX: POM) plans to build an open pit copper-nickel mine in Minnesota, by recommending the US Army Corps of Engineers not re-issue a key water-related permit.

The agency said this week the $1 billion NorthMet project, the first large-scale project to be permitted within the Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota, risked increasing levels of mercury and other pollutants in the St. Louis River downstream from the proposed mine. 

The Fond du Lac band sued the EPA in 2019 because the agency never notified the band on whether the project “may affect” its waters. This action, which triggered several reviews and this week’s public hearing, represents the first time a sovereign American Indian tribe has used its authority under the Clean Water Act as a “downstream state” to challenge a federal permit to protect its lands and waters.

The Army Corps suspended last year a section of PolyMet’s permit allowing it to discharge dredged and fill material over 900 acres of wetlands and kicked off a permit review.

“As the NorthMet project is currently designed, there are no conditions that EPA can provide to the Corps that would ensure that the discharges from the CWA Section 404 permitted activities would comply with the Fond du Lac Band’s water quality requirements for its waters,” the agency said on a first-of-its-kind public hearing to determine the permit’s fate.

The Army Corps will use the information it gathers in the hearing to decide whether to reinstate the wetlands permit, one of three critical PolyMet permits that have been suspended.

Recommendation, not ruling

The company has said that both the reservation and the state are located well over 100 river miles downstream from the project and that the EPA’s decision does not say that NorthMet will affect downstream water quality, only that such an effect is possible.

EPA’s 47-page evaluation partly backs the company’s position, as it says the project and/or the permit, could be modified to meet current regulations.

Bruce Richardson, a spokesperson for PolyMet, told local media that the EPA’s comments were only a recommendation, adding that the company will present evidence that it believes the federal agency did not consider.

According to PolyMet Mining, the project comprises 290 million tonnes of proven and probable reserves grading 0.288% copper and 0.083% nickel and marketable reserves of palladium, cobalt, platinum and gold.

NorthMet is not the only project to face headwinds as it tries moving forward in Minnesota. Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) had to deal with several concerns from locals about the risks its proposed Twin Metals underground copper-nickel mine and processing facility would carry.

In January, the company lost its battle. The US Department of the Interior cancelled two mineral leases for Antofagasta’s proposed mine in Minnesota, effectively killing the project and handing a major win to environmentalists.


Researchers find out what really drives Li-ion battery decay
Thu, 05 May 2022 13:06:00 +0000
Decay depends on how many times the Li-ion battery has been charged.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Purdue University, Virginia Tech, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility have discovered that the factors behind lithium-ion battery decay change over time.

In a paper published in the journal Science, the group explains that early on, decay seems to be driven by the properties of individual electrode particles, but after several dozen charging cycles, it’s how those particles are put together that matters more.

“The fundamental building blocks are these particles that make up the battery electrode, but when you zoom out, these particles interact with each other,” Yijin Liu, senior author of the paper, said in a media statement. Therefore, “if you want to build a better battery, you need to look at how to put the particles together.”

With that goal in mind, Liu and colleagues decided to not just look at individual particles but also at the ways they work together to prolong – or degrade – battery life. 

“Battery particles are like people – we all start out going our own way,” Keije Zhao, co-senior author of the study said. “But eventually we encounter other people and we end up in groups, going in the same direction. To understand peak efficiency, we need to study both the individual behaviour of particles and how those particles behave in groups.”

Using X-rays to look deeper

To explore this idea further, the scientists used X-ray tomography to reconstruct three-dimensional pictures of the cathodes after they had gone through either 10 or 50 charging cycles. They cut up those 3D pictures into a series of 2D slices and used computer vision methods to identify particles.

They were then able to identify more than 2,000 individual particles, for which they calculated not only individual particle features such as size, shape and surface roughness but also more global traits, such as how often particles came into direct contact with each other and how varied the particles’ shapes were. 

Next, they looked at how each of those properties contributed to particles’ breakdown, and a pattern emerged. After 10 charging cycles, the biggest factors were individual particles’ properties, including how spherical the particles were and the ratio of particle volume to surface area. After 50 cycles, however, pair and group attributes – such as how far apart two particles were, how varied their shapes were and whether more elongated, football-shaped particles were oriented similarly – drove particle breakdown.

“It’s no longer just the particle itself. It’s particle-particle interactions that matter,” Liu said. 

In his view, this is important because it means manufacturers could develop techniques to control such properties. For example, they might be able to use magnetic or electric fields to align elongated particles with each other, which the new results suggest would result in longer battery life.

“This study really sheds light on how we can design and manufacture battery electrodes to obtain long cycle life for batteries,” co-author Feng Lin said. “We are excited to implement the understanding to next-generation, low-cost, fast-charging batteries.”


Gold Fields flags potential inflationary cost overrun at Salares Norte
Thu, 05 May 2022 12:02:22 +0000
Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith says inflation has been a more significant factor on the company’s books than expected.

Gold Fields Limited (NYSE: GFI; JSE: GFI) says higher-than-expected inflation levels have started eroding the contingency built into the $860 million capital expenditure (capex) budget for its 100%-owned Salares Norte development project in Chile.

CEO Chris Griffith said in Gold Fields’s March-quarter production report on May 5 that the cost overrun could hit up to 7% compared with the company’s February inflation estimates.

“Given the elevated level of inflation, the contingency that was built into the capex forecast has started to be eroded,” said Griffith. “Should inflation continue at current levels, we expect the overall project capex to be 5-7% higher than expected,” he said.

Gold Fields has earmarked $860 million for the project, but Griffith warned should the company’s inflation concerns materialize, the capex could swell to a range of $903 to $920 million.

Total project progress at the end of March was 70%, compared with 63% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. Once completed, the Salares Norte operation is expected to produce, on average, 450,000 oz. gold-equivalent per annum over the first seven years.

The project is said to remain on track to produce the first gold at the end of the March quarter in 2023.

Inflation prompts Gold Fields to flag potential Salares Norte cost overrun
Source: Gold Fields Q1 production report.

Gold Fields also flagged inflationary concerns in other regions, including Peru, where inflation in April was forecast to be 10.5% compared to a previous forecast of 6.8%. For Ghana, inflation is now forecast at 12.2% compared to 10.9% in February.

“As we finally seemed to have overcome the worst of covid-19 around the world, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has had a material impact,” said Griffith. “Despite the devastation caused by any form of war, the world is being plagued with heightened inflation, driven by high oil and gas prices and, more broadly, higher commodity prices.”

“While we expected the mining sector to be challenged by high inflation at the start of the year, the impact has been worse than initially expected,” said Griffith. “High commodity prices have driven inflation in energy costs; logistics and consumables.”

The company’s inflationary concerns were borne out in its consolidated first-quarter all-in sustaining cost (AISC) figure at $1,150 per oz., which was about 9% higher sequentially.

Gold Fields reported a 7% year-on-year higher output during the first three months of 2022 at 580,000 oz. gold, but the figure was 9% lower than the prior quarter.

Gold Fields said a higher-than-expected copper by-production credit had partially offset the cost inflation. “Consequently, we leave our cost guidance for the year unchanged,” said Griffith.

Gold Fields has forecast AISC of between $1,140 to $1,180 per oz.

For 2022, attributable gold equivalent production – excluding the Asanko Gold Mines joint venture in Ghana with Galiano Gold (TSX: GAU; NYSE: GAU) – is expected to be between 2.25 to 2.29 million oz., which is broadly in line with the 2022 output of 2.25 million oz. Including Asanko production, attributable gold equivalent production is expected to range between 2.29 and 2.34 million oz.

Gold Fields has attributable gold-equivalent mineral reserves of 52.1 million oz. gold and 116 million oz across all resources.

Despite having come off recent highs, at $13.67 a share, the company’s New York-quoted equity is up more than 42% over the past 12 months, giving it a market capitalization of $12.38 billion.


Oksut mine halt eclipses Centerra Gold’s Q1 results
Thu, 05 May 2022 10:54:00 +0000
The Turkish mine's ADR plant has been out of commission since March 18, with no clear timeline for its reopening.

Centerra Gold (TSX: CG) (NYSE: CGAU) saw first quarter results hit by the suspension of its Öksüt mine in Turkey, where the adsorption-desorption recovery (ADR) plant has been out of commission since March 18, with no clear timeline for its reopening.

The Canadian gold miner posted net earnings of $89.4 million in the first three months of the year, compared to $167.4 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Centerra said the drop was due mainly to higher current income tax expense related to the Öksüt mine and a $72.3 million gain recognized on the sale of the company’s interest in the Greenstone Gold Mines Partnership.

Production for the period stood at 93,784 ounces of gold and 20.6 million pounds of copper. From the figure, Öksüt was responsible for 54,891 ounces, while Mount Milligan, in Canada, delivered 39,093 ounces of gold.

“While the ADR plant at the Öksüt mine remains currently on a shutdown, mining, crushing, stacking, and leaching activities continue according to plan up to the stage of loading gold onto carbon,” chief executive Scott Perry said in a conference call.

He noted the company continues to evaluate options to remediate the issue at the ADR plant and is looking at other ways to monetize gold in carbon material. Such alternative would provide a temporary solution until gold doré bar production at Öksüt can be restarted, or over the life-of-mine with minimal equipment required at the ADR plant, Perry said.

The miner noted full-year 2022 guidance for Öksüt and consolidated Centerra remained under review while production forecast for Mount Milligan was unchanged at between 190,000 and 210,000 gold ounces.

The Öksüt mine became Centerra’s third operating mine in January 2020 when it poured its first gold. About 28.2 million tonnes of ore grading 1.3 g/t gold, containing a total of 1.2 million ounces, are expected to be mined and stacked over an eight-year mine life.

Adiós to Kumtor

The Toronto-based company highlighted the resolution of a long-dragged conflict with the Kyrgyz Republic over ownership and profit-sharing at the massive Kumtor gold mine, which was seized by the government in May 2021.

As part of the out-of-court deal, Centerra transferred ownership of the mine to its wholly owned subsidiary Kumtor Gold and an affiliate to state-owned refiner Kyrgyzaltyn OJSC.

Kumtor was the largest of Centerra’s gold mines, contributing to more than 50% of the company’s total output.


Endeavour hastens Ity optimization project on ‘excess cash generation’
Thu, 05 May 2022 10:16:48 +0000
Endeavour Mining applies ample cash reserves to optimize and expand gold production.

Endeavour Mining (TSX: EDV; LSE: EDV) has pulled the trigger on building a recyanidation circuit at its cornerstone Ity operation in Côte d’Ivoire earlier than expected as it seeks to optimize the operation.

The US$41 million investment has been moved forward given that the operation is producing excess cash flow in the high gold price environment. With strong operational performance and a cautious approach to staggering growth projects, the company said the time was right to implement the project aimed at optimizing costs by reducing leaching and detox reagent consumption, improving discharge water quality, and increasing production through higher recovery rates.

The recyanidation process reduces cyanide consumption by capturing free cyanide from the plant tailings and recycling it back into the leach circuit while increasing recovery rates, according to the company’s May 5 press release.

Endeavour said the capital outlay for the project “screened well” within Endeavour’s capital allocation framework based on both its financial returns and positive ESG [environment, social and governance] impact. It is expected to add 87,000 oz. of additional gold production to the profile and bring US$63 million in cost savings over Ity’s current reserve life.

The addition of the recyanidation circuit has increased Ity’s 2022 nonsustaining capital expenditure (capex) guidance from US$29 million to US$60 million. The group’s total nonsustaining capex would amount to US$204 million in 2022, of which US$41.9 million has been spent in the first quarter.

On a company-wide basis, the total 2022 growth capex is expected to total US$121 million, mainly related to the Sabodala-Massawa expansion project in Senegal.

Endeavour last month launched the Sabodala-Massawa expansion project, which entails adding a 1.2 million tonne aper annum BIOX plant designed to process the high-grade refractory ore from the Massawa deposits. The expansion adds incremental production of 1.35 million oz. at an all-in sustaining cost (AISC) of US$576 per oz. over the life of the expansion project, lifting Sabodala-Massawa to top-tier status, the company said.

Endeavour has started on early-stage works, including access road and drainage construction. The engineering, procurement, construction and management contract will be awarded in the second quarter, and the construction of the plant and associated infrastructure is expected to ramp up significantly through 2022, with about US$115 million of the total US$290 million project budget to be spent this year.

“We are focused on continuing to enhance our business resilience by improving the quality of our portfolio through our attractive organic growth opportunities and optimization initiatives,” said Endeavour CEO Sebastien de Montessus. “As such, we have recently begun the expansion of Sabodala-Massawa, and the definitive feasibility study [DFS] for our Lafigué project is nearing completion.”

“In addition, we are continuously working on improving the efficiency of our operations by identifying and pursuing high-priority optimization initiatives to remain a low-cost producer despite the industry-wide inflationary pressures,” he said.

The DFS for the Lafigué project on the Fetekro property, also in Côte d’Ivoire, is slated for completion by mid-year. The company published a positive pre-feasibility study in February 2021. Given its strong exploration potential, Endeavour believes that Fetekro has the potential to become a cornerstone asset with a target of producing 209,000 oz. gold per annum over ten years at an AISC of US$838 per oz.

Endeavour is also working on a DFS for the Kalana project in Mali. It expects the study to be finalized in the second half of the year. Kalana has the potential to produce 150,000 oz. per year at an AISC of US$901 per oz. over an 11-year mine life.

Q1 production results

In its March-quarter production results report, Endeavour highlighted a 14% year-on-year production increase to 357,000 oz. at a relatively flat AISC of US$848 per oz. The company has guided for full-year output of 1.3 to 1.4 million oz. gold at an AISC of US$880 to US$930 per oz.

The company recorded a 23% year-on-year rise in operating cash flows to US$299 million, which on a per-share basis amounts to US$1.21.

Headline earnings came to US$122 million, or US49c per share, compared with US$101 million, or 48c per share a year earlier.

Endeavour reported its net cash position improved by US$90 million during the quarter to US$167 million, despite US$101 million paid in dividends to shareholders.

Endeavour’s Toronto-quoted equity on May 4 closed at $31.87, which gives it a market capitalization of $8.07 billion (US$6.33 billion). The equity has gained about 23% over the past 12 months.


Glencore to invest $200m in battery recycling firm Li-Cycle
Thu, 05 May 2022 08:20:00 +0000
Long-term supply deal gives the Canadian recycling firm an inside track with one of the world’s biggest commodities producers.

Glencore (LSE: GLEN) has inked a deal with Toronto-based Li-Cycle Holdings (NYSE: LICY) to supply the company with all types of manufacturing scrap and end-of-life lithium-ion batteries.  

The company will also invest $200 million in Li-Cycle once the agreement is executed, which would give it the right to nominate its head of recycling, Kunal Sinha, on to Li-Cycle’s board. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2022.

“This is a key step in establishing a strong long-term foundation for the vertical integration of the battery materials supply chain,” Sinha said in a press release. “Together, we will be expanding the spectrum of battery material supply solutions to a broader global customer base, particularly in Europe and North America.”

Li-Cycle’s CEO Ajay Kochhar said that the agreements would “further secure and diversify” the company’s lithium-ion battery supply and feedstock sources and help improve its position in North America and Europe.  

The demand for lithium-ion batteries, used in electric vehicles (EV), has been on the rise, as the world looks to meet its goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels by 2050. The recycling of lithium-ion batteries, however, is not expected to take off before 2030 due to obstacles such as the lack of recyclable feedstock and the long life of EVs, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Hub and spoke model 

Li-Cycle follows a hub and spoke recycling strategy.  Spent batteries and scraps are processed to produce a powder-like substance called black mass, that contains metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium in its spokes and hubs are where the black mass is processed to produce critical battery materials like lithium carbonate, nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate.  

Currently, the Canadian company has two operational “spokes” in Kingston, Ontario, and Rochester, New York. It expects to add spokes in Arizona and Alabama later this year.

It is also in the process of constructing a “hub” in Rochester. According to a feasibility study completed in December, the Rochester Hub will have the nameplate input capacity to process 35,000 tonnes of black mass annually, which is equivalent to about 90,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery feed every year. The hub will process enough battery material for about 225,000 electric vehicles per year, it says. 

“The $200 million investment by Glencore… will provide us with total cash greater than our anticipated capital needs for the completion of the Rochester Hub and the five Spokes currently in development,” said Debbie Simpson, Li-Cycle’s chief financial officer. 

Earlier this month Glencore agreed to purchase nickel and cobalt products for a year from a battery recycling plant that’s poised to go online in 2023 – Electra Battery Materials (TSXV: ELBM; US-OTC: ELBMF) Battery Materials Park project situated in Cobalt, Ontario.

The company says it has been working to establish regional platforms across the world to localize battery raw material supply chains within key regions in a scalable and sustainable manner.  

Shares of Li-Cycle were trading last at C$7.62, up 43¢ or 5.9%. The company has 169.1 million common shares outstanding for a market cap of C$1.2 billion ($930m).


Iron ore price falls amid limited trading
Wed, 04 May 2022 19:31:55 +0000
Moody’s foresees elevated commodity prices, constraints persisting throughout the year.

The iron ore price dipped on Wednesday amid limited trading activity due to the absence of Chinese market participants.

“With Chinese participants absent on May 1-4 for the Labor Day holiday, trading activity has been very limited so far this week, further depressing demand,” Fastmarkets said in a note.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China fell 1.76%, to $143.42 per tonne.

Moody’s Investors Service said the persistence of weaker mining production and volume constraints will exacerbate tight markets and elevate the prices of many metals in 2022.

Covid-19 infections among workers have created labour challenges in key mining countries, including Australia and South Africa.

Furthermore, weather-related disruptions, including heavy rainfall in Brazil, are impacting companies’ output.

Anglo American reported a 10% year-on-year decrease in first-quarter production and lowered its full-year platinum group metals, iron ore and metallurgical coal production guidance for the year.

Rio Tinto’s Pilbara iron-ore segment reported a 6% year-on-year decline in production and an 8% decline in shipments in the first quarter.

Vale maintained its iron-ore production guidance for this year at between 320-million and 335-million tonnes, despite the challenges faced in the first quarter when heavy rainfall temporarily halted production at the Southern and South-eastern systems and led to stoppages of railway transportation in the Northern system.


Copper mining, like politics, is now the art of the possible
Wed, 04 May 2022 19:11:21 +0000
Half the projects needed to plug copper’s 6 million tonne long term supply gap will have to come from uncommitted, speculative greenfield projects – and history suggests few ever become mines.

19th century German statesman Otto von Bismarck famously said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” 

Mining is fast becoming a similar endeavour. More than ever, politics is seeping into all aspects of the industry. Mining, already at the mercy of the business cycle and ever more volatile pricing, is also increasingly exposed to the shifting sands of politics.

In a recent note, Goldman Sachs summed up the changing nature of the industry in the context of copper this way:

“…fundamentals were once so connected to global growth, copper has been viewed as having a ‘PhD’ in macroeconomics. 

“Yet today, ‘Dr. Copper’ no longer exists – with ESG, geopolitics and chronic underinvestment all driving copper fundamentals far more than overall global growth.

“In our view, Copper’s PhD is in public policy, not economics, rallying on concerns of Chilean mining royalties, accelerating European renewables demand and Russian sanctions supply risks rather than falling global growth expectations.”

Possible is the new probable 

Resources may be measured or indicated, reserves may still be labelled proven and probable, but developing deposits has only become more uncertain.

In a presentation at copper mining’s biggest annual gathering in Santiago, CRU head of base metal supply, Erik Heimlich, pointed out that while the size of the long-term supply gap of just over 6 million tonnes is in line with historical trends, filling that gap is a much more daunting prospect today.

Source: CRU

Foremost is the fact that now, remarkably, half the project pipeline for needed supply in 2032 consists of greenfield projects in the possible category; another 19% are speculative brownfield projects.

Comparing the 2022 project pipeline with that of 2012 makes for sobering reading. Of the 8 million tonnes per annum capacity identified as greenfield — possible projects 7 million tonnes remain undeveloped.

Heimlich says the preponderance of projects only rated as possible in the pipeline indicates the extent to which “factors beyond project economics are playing an increasingly significant role” in determining whether projects become mines. 

How brown was your valley?

Only about a third of the 2012 uncommitted brownfield projects, which should be quicker, easier and cheaper to build, are in production or under construction now. 

Notable 2012 projects that stayed so include Anglo American and Glencore’s $6.5 billion Collahuasi expansion, which was supposed to lift production at the Chile mine above 1m tonnes and BHP’s Olympic Dam project that started as “the mother of all digs” and ended up as an exercise in debottlenecking.

If new projects are more miss than hit, it’s up to mine life extensions, operational efficiency projects and mine restarts to make up the difference, but Heimlich cautions that while the “capital intensity of debottlenecking project may be attractive, additional tonnage is general low” and lack of scale can make these projects not worthwhile. 

The success of mine restarts is also patchy, with few mines re-entering production and those that do generally small-scale.

Stopping stoping

Given the difficulty in bringing more projects online, mine life extensions “in this cycle appear to be more necessary than ever”, says Heimlich, but even these projects can fall foul of environmental, regulatory, community and political developments.

Anglo American has had to scale down its $3 billion Los Bronces project for environmental reasons, and will employ the sub-level stoping method in order to have no surface impact in an area with many glaciers, but doing so means significantly lower ore extraction than with block caving or open-pit operations.

And that may still not be enough for a green light – just this week Chile’s environment regulator denied the project an extension permit

Tech tonic 

Can technology plug the gap? Heimlich says new leach processes are “attracting significant interest and investment” and the total addressable market for low-grade sulphide leaching equals around 10 years of current output.

“New technologies provide the most significant upside to long-term production but could be beyond the requisite timeframe.” 

Much like all those green, brown, possible, probable, committed and uncommitted projects that go beyond requisite timeframes.  


Champion Iron ships first concentrate from expanded Bloom Lake mine
Wed, 04 May 2022 18:20:13 +0000
The company is now working to gradually increase the mine and plant's capacity towards commercial production.

Champion Iron (TSX: CIA) has completed the first rail shipments containing 24,304 tonnes of high-grade 66.2% iron concentrate from the Phase II expansion project at the Bloom Lake mine in Quebec.

The mine complex is located approximately 13 km north of Fermont, and 10 km north of the Mont Wright iron ore mining complex belonging to ArcelorMittal Mines Canada. The railway runs between the Bloom Lake and the deep-water port in Sept-Îles, Quebec.

The Bloom Lake operations were first commissioned in 2018, starting with the Phase I project that had a nameplate capacity of 7.4 million tonnes of 66.2% iron concentrate per year over a mine life of 21 years. The Phase II expansion doubled the nameplate capacity to 15 million tonnes per annum.

According to a feasibility study released in 2019, the Phase II project required the completion of the concentrator, which was partially built by the mine’s former owner, and an optimized mine plan to supply ore to the expanded facilities while maintaining a mine life of 20 years. The study estimated pre-production capital expenditures of C$633.8 million ($497.4m) As of March 31, a total of C$625.2 million ($490.7m) had been invested in the project.

Commissioning of the Phase II project was recently achieved ahead of schedule, and the company is now working to gradually increase the mine and plant’s capacity towards commercial production, anticipated to occur by the end of this year.

“The Phase II project is expected to be in operation for decades and will provide the Québec Côte-Nord region with over 400 additional permanent high-quality jobs. Completing the project ahead of schedule, while facing the challenges imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, is a testament to the agility and operational excellence of our employees and partners,” Champion’s CEO David Cataford said in a news release.


SRK Consulting unpacks critical opportunities and challenges facing the African mining sector
Wed, 04 May 2022 16:44:30 +0000
SRK Consulting believes Africa can be the ‘missing resources link’ as the world prepares for an accelerating energy transition.

SRK Consulting has built deep experience working in the African mining sector and has developed a firm grasp of where potential opportunities are and some of the critical challenges preventing the industry from contributing to local economies to its fullest potential.

The Northern Miner’s senior reporter, Henry Lazenby, catches up with SRK Consulting director and principal consultant Andrew van Zyl and Pengfei Xiao, managing director of SRK Consulting in China, to learn more.

Q: Henry Lazenby – Let’s start with SRK’s view on how Africa is positioned to help the global Energy Transition. Would SRK say enough is being done at the national government and regional trade block levels on the African continent to step up and produce the critical minerals the world so desperately needs?

A: Andrew van Zyl – While contributing relatively little to the carbon emissions that have hastened climate change, African countries are significantly contributing to supplying the minerals for a global energy transition. This is mainly through the production of copper and cobalt in central Africa and platinum group metals in southern Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, is a leading producer of cobalt and tantalum.

Q&A: SRK Consulting unpacks critical opportunities and challenges facing the African mining sector
SRK Consulting director and principal consultant Andrew van Zyl. (Photography by Jeremy Glyn for SRK in February 2021).

That said, only a minority of African countries have extensive mining sectors, and many of these do not include battery minerals as such. Where these minerals exist in economic quantities, governments have generally provided the necessary frameworks for the private sector to explore and develop them. Increasingly, laws and policies are also evolving to ensure that investments in mining projects have the best possible impacts on host countries and local communities.


Kuya Silver confirms low-cost profile of Bethania project with positive PEA
Wed, 04 May 2022 15:47:32 +0000
Payable silver (and equivalent metals) production is estimated at 8.68 million oz. over the life of mine, including 1.37 million oz. in first year.

Kuya Silver (CSE: KUYA) has released results of a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on its Bethania project in central Peru. Bethania is the site of a former mine that produced silver-lead and zinc concentrates from run-of-mine material until 2016.

The PEA envisages a 350-tonne-per-day conventional cut and fill underground mine at Bethania, feeding a concentration plant that would process mineralized material at the same rate (126,000 tonnes per year) over a mine life of 6.5 years. The study recognizes the potential to toll-mill mineralized material during the final six months of the plant construction and modelled this as the base case in the PEA.

Payable silver (and equivalent metals) production is estimated at 8.68 million oz. over the life of mine, including 1.37 million oz. in first year. As shown in the PEA, the Bethania project boasts 404,000 tonnes of indicated resources (grading 10.7 g/t silver, 2.63% lead, 1.95% zinc, 0.26 g/t gold and 0.16% copper), plus 700,000 tonnes inferred (grading 8.0 g/t silver, 2.51% lead, 1.58% zinc, 0.24 g/t gold and 0.12% copper).

According to the report, the Bethania project has an after-tax net present value of $54.7 million and internal rate of return of 188%, under a base case scenario ($25.40/oz. silver price, $1,850/oz. gold price, $1.21/lb. zinc price, $0.90/lb. lead price and $3.62/lb. copper price).

Over the 6.5-year mine life, Bethania would generate after-tax free cash flow of $65.3 million, including $18.04 million in the first full year of production. Its initial capital cost is estimated at $14.2 million, plus a 25% contingency of $3.6 million.

A pre-production toll milling option could generate gross margin of $9.5 million during construction at base case and accelerate after-tax payback period to just half a year, though the company still needs to investigate this strategy further.

Commenting on the PEA results, Kuya’s president and CEO David Stein said: “We are extremely pleased with the results of the independent PEA, confirming our vision that the Bethania silver project can and should be a low-cost silver producer in the future. We are pleasantly surprised by the low production cost profile, manageable capex and quick payback of the project.”

“Although the PEA gives us an excellent roadmap to pursue development of the project, Kuya already sees opportunities to further optimize the project and will pursue these ideas as we continue to develop the project,” he added.

The company currently approval from the regional government of Huancavelica for the semi-detailed environment impact study (EIA) of the Bethania processing plant. Kuya plans to implement an expansion and construct a concentrate plant at site before restarting operations.


ESG standards’ Indigenous blind spot could threaten critical metals push
Wed, 04 May 2022 15:06:00 +0000
ESG reporting standards were developed by and for finance and investment professionals without any input from Indigenous peoples and are failing to capture their rights and interests in companies’ ESG assessments, says First Nations Major Projects Coalition.

The Global Reporting Initiative is an ESG standard used by the vast majority of the world’s largest public companies to disclose their environmental, social and governance risks. But it only directly highlights Indigenous rights as material to a public company’s sustainability reporting when a community has sued or registered a complaint against the company. 

It’s something a coalition of 86 First Nations in Canada believes is emblematic of a problem with ESG standards across the board.  

ESG reporting standards were developed by and for finance and investment professionals without any input from Indigenous peoples and are failing to capture their rights and interests in companies’ ESG assessments, according to First Nations Major Projects Coalition, a collection of First Nations that want to have greater say over major development projects and their environmental impacts. 

Last year the coalition released a report that found the four leading ESG standards — the GRI, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, Task-force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures and Climate Disclosure Standards Board — fail to adequately reflect Indigenous perspectives. 

That absence means reporting standards are missing an important risk factor that could delay or even sink mining or energy projects, lead to protracted litigation and repetitional risk, and eat into investors’ returns, said Mark Podlasly, the FNMPC’s director for economic policy and initiatives, in an interview with The Northern Miner. Companies may not be properly capturing opposition to their projects, or title rights that could complicate exploration and development work, he explained. 

“The fact that they don’t do this becomes a real issue for risk mitigation,” said Podlasly. “What it comes down to is, have you addressed the risks of this project?” 

Podlasly noted Indigenous concerns can fall under social factors like community or local engagement, or environmental factors such as land conservation, but said specific Indigenous concerns that could impact public companies around aboriginal title, or First Nations’ legal relationship to the Crown in Canada, are still not being taken into consideration. 

False sense of security  

The current state of play has led to companies that engage less with Indigenous peoples because their strong ESG rating gives them a false sense of security, he said. 

“Companies cannot go into communities with an ESG approval or standard and say, ‘we’ve taken care of your interests, you don’t have to worry about it.’ That was happening, and is still happening,” he said. “What we’ve called for now is for Indigenous people to be included in those standards and ESG metrics going forward.” 

The FNMPC and other Indigenous nations and organizations in Canada and the U.S., including First Peoples Worldwide, First Nation Financial Management Board, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and others, have started investigating how to make that happen.  


B2Gold pushes out Gramalote feasibility study to mid-2022
Wed, 04 May 2022 14:06:00 +0000
B2Gold and partner AngloGold now expect decision on whether to build the open-pit gold mine by the end of the third quarter.

Canada’s B2Gold (TSX, NYSE: BTO) has delayed completion of a feasibility study for its Gramalote gold project, which is developing with AngloGold Ashanti (JSE: ANG)(NYSE: AU)(ASX: AGG), in Antioquia, Colombia.

The company cited a “strong” potential to improve the economics of the project as main reason the schedule adjustment. It added it now expects to publish the study by the end of the second quarter, with the full feasibility study completed by the end of the third quarter of 2022.

B2Gold’s approach builds on previous work by AngloGold Ashanti, but seeks a different angle in terms of capital model, infrastructure optimization and building the resource, the miner said while delivering first quarter results.

The miner noted it had revised up the budget for the study to $69 million from the $52 million estimated last year, adding that a decision on whether to go ahead with the open-pit project is expected by the end of the third quarter.

Gramalote was B2Gold’s first project when it was an exploration company starting out. In 2015, it received the first environmental license awarded in Colombia in 35 years. The permit gave the partners three years to work through social aspects related to the project, including relocating artisanal miners and some residents in the area.

Gramalote, located 230 km. northwest of Colombia’s capital Bogotá, is forecast to produce 2.97 million ounces of gold and average annual production of 347,000 ounces per year for the first five full years of operations.

AngloGold is simultaneously trying to move ahead with its Quebradona copper and gold project, which suffered a fresh blow this week after the country’s environmental regulator, ANLA, refused to reopen the miner’s application to the environmental licence for the asset due to lack of information on the project’s area of influence.


Canadian AI solution helps locate new gold-bearing areas at Kazakhstani mine
Wed, 04 May 2022 13:06:00 +0000
Stratum AI was able to identify new gold-bearing areas at the Aksu complex in Kazakhstan by using its SATS AI system.

Toronto-based Stratum AI announced that it was able to identify new gold-bearing areas at the Aksu complex in Kazakhstan by using its proprietary SATS artificial intelligence system.

Aksu is owned by JSC AK Altynalmas, a subsidiary of Gouden Reserves B.V., a company with headquarters in the Netherlands and Singapore. The open-pit mine has a throughput capacity of 5 million tonnes per year at 1.28 g/t.

Pairing Altynalmas own models with Stratum’s AI, a ~2,500-meter drilling program was conducted outside the main pit. Once concluded, the miner verified a potential 43,000 ounces of gold that otherwise would have been missed.

“The hit rate of the SATS drilling program was 83%, which is extremely rare in the mining industry, and the samples indicated a 30% increase in average grade,” the Canadian firm said in a media statement. “What’s more, the program almost doubled the hits of high-grade ore over 10g per ton—sometimes called nugget grade—compared with previous programs at the mine, with some hits as high as 80g per tonne.”

According to Stratum, the SATS system also reduced the cost of drilling by verifying 40% more material with the same number of meters.

“Altynalmas is one of seven miners across the globe that Stratum is working with. Because of the confidentiality of its agreements with clients, Stratum has only been able to make public limited results so far,” the press brief states.

“In November, Stratum announced its work at a McEwen Mining Inc. operation in Canada showed its SATS system was about 75% more accurate in projecting the true value of gold excavated from the ground than the miner’s previous modelling. Stratum expects to announce more results later this year.”

How it works

As Stratum’s neural network is deployed, it accesses drill-hole data for predicting a region. During this learning process, historical production data can be integrated to better understand how geology is deposited.

The basic premise is that given input drill-hole data, it is possible to predict the gold grade to best fit the individual prediction and the dataset distribution. The dataset distribution loosely looks like a decaying exponential.

The input into the model is the surrounding drill-hole samples of a certain x,y, and z point the model is trying to predict. These points are bucketed together into a 3D grid to broadly look like a 3D picture composed of distinct pixels with 0.2-5% density. This has shown to be advantageous to flat encoding as it allows the model to aggregate local patterns before making the final prediction.

In this process, augmentation techniques are extremely crucial and a constant point of innovation. Some techniques include exploiting symmetry, sampling, negative sampling, varying encoding techniques (to distinguish no data with 0% grade if relevant), input data noise etc.

The actual neural network structure is somewhat dependent on hyperparameters relevant to mine geology and data availability.

“Stratum’s SATS system shifts mining economics away from open pits to more environmentally friendly underground mining,” the release states. “It also reduces uneconomical ore sent to mills by 40%, allowing companies to use 20% less water and energy.”

The company also pointed out that its solution is capable of cutting contamination by 45% by identifying deleterious metals like selenium, mercury and arsenic to ensure they stay in the ground and/or are identified and isolated so they don’t seep into water or air.


Iamgold unveils 90% cost increase at Côté project
Wed, 04 May 2022 10:56:00 +0000
Completing the asset's development would require between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion, compared to a previous $710 million - $760 million estimate.

Canada’s Iamgold (NYSE: IAG) (TSX: IMG) has revealed a cost blowout at its massive Côté gold project in Ontario, with preliminary estimates from an ongoing risk analysis indicating that development of the asset would require between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion to complete.

That compares to the company’s previous assessment of between $710 million and $760 million needed and represents an eye popping 90% cost increase after adjusting the figure for the $78.5 million spent in the first three months of the year.

The Toronto-based miner also said its chair Maryse Belanger has been appointed interim president and chief executive to try to tackle the situation. She has taken over from CFO and executive VP of strategy and corporate development, Daniella Dimitrov, who acted as the top boss after Gordon Stothart walked away in January this year. Belanger will focus now on finding ways to address the project’s funding gap.

Iamgold said it had suspended its 2022 and 2023 costs guidance for the project, adding it would provide a detailed updated costs and schedule estimate before the end of the second quarter.

Related: Women in Mining – Breaking barriers to boardrooms

“This isn’t entirely a surprise,” BMO analyst Jackie Przybylowsk wrote on Wednesday. “We were highly skeptical of the previous budget, but the magnitude of the increase is above our previous estimates, and this is ahead of the release of a detailed project review later in Q2/22,” she noted.

The timing of commercial production at Côté, considered a tier-one, generational asset, has also been delayed by four to five months from the previous guidance of the second half of 2023.

“The project is being developed with the background of covid-19, inflation and global events and their impact including on the global supply chain, labour availability, productivity and rates, costs of materials, commodities and consumables,” the company noted.

Ongoing review

Since the beginning of the year, Iamgold has been conducting a portfolio of assets review as part of a strategy that prioritises return on investment and cash flow generation. The main goal of the exercise has been to ensure the delivery of Côté – a 70:30 joint venture with Sumitomo Metal Mining.

Iamgold, which broke ground on the project in September 2020, estimated costs at the time in the $875 million-$925 million range.

Côté is expected to produce an average of 489,000 ounces of gold a year in its first five years and an annual average of 367,000 ounces over 18 years of its planned mine-life. It would be the company’s fourth mine.

In terms of results, Iamgold reported first-quarter earnings of $23.8 million and $356.6 million in revenue, better than the consensus $310 million.

Experts believe the main reason for the outperformance was the timing of sales of gold inventory at its Essakane mine, in northeastern Burkina Faso.

The stock was last trading at C$3.62 ($2.82), giving the company a market capitalization of C$1.73 billion.


Iamgold appoints Maryse Bélanger as Interim President and CEO
Tue, 03 May 2022 23:03:53 +0000
Bélanger takes over the role from CFO Daniella Dimitrov, who had been serving as interim CEO since January.
Maryse Belanger. Image from Iamgold.

Iamgold Corporation (NYSE: IAG) (TSX: IMG) announced on Tuesday the appointment of current Chair of the Board, Maryse Bélanger, as Interim President and CEO.

Bélanger takes over the role from Daniella Dimitrov, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, who had been serving as interim CEO since January.  

“Given the complexity of the business from both an operational and project development standpoint, in addition to the need to actively investigate financing measures, further management capacity is needed to bridge the gap until a search for a permanent CEO is concluded,” Bélanger said in a media statement.

“As a result, I have agreed to step in as Interim President and CEO. On behalf of the entire Board, I thank Daniella for effectively leading the company through a difficult period,” she said.

“I am looking forward to working closely with Daniella and the rest of the management team to complete the Côté risk analysis and advance project development, to continue operational and efficiency improvements at our mines, and to address the company’s liquidity. I am confident we will address these near-term challenges and we remain fully focused on our goal of becoming a leading high-margin gold producer.”


Deconstructing Ross Beaty: Exclusive interview at the Mining Legends Speaker Series
Tue, 03 May 2022 18:00:00 +0000
Beaty is a recipient of the Canadian Institute of Mining past president Memorial Medal and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2017.

The Mining Legends Speaker Series kicked off with an inaugural in-person event in Vancouver featuring mining entrepreneur and Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inductee Ross Beaty and rising talent Maggie Layman, vice-president of Osisko Development (TSXV: ODV). 

Organized by The Northern Miner, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame and Young Mining Professionals, the series pairs CMHF inductees with accomplished young talent to bridge the knowledge gap in the mining industry and give the audience a chance to ask questions, share knowledge and discuss the future of mining. 

In the first of two parts covering the inaugural event, we’ll focus on what Beaty, one of Canada’s most successful mining entrepreneurs and current chairman of Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX; NYSE-AM: EQX), had to say. What follows are excerpts from the sold-out event, which attracted 100 delegates. 

Tickets to the next Speaker Series event in Toronto on June 8 with mining legend Pierre Lassonde and Orix Geoscience president, CEO and cofounder Ashley Kirwan are now available.  

Do what you love 

Ross Beaty has enjoyed remarkable success as a mine and company builder over his career spanning more than 40 years. In addition to joining the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2018, Beaty is a recipient of the Canadian Institute of Mining past president Memorial Medal and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2017. 


Ivanhoe eyes Phase 3 expansion at Kamoa-Kakula in the DRC
Tue, 03 May 2022 16:41:58 +0000
The Phase 3 expansion in the DRC will increase its annual copper production to about 600,000 tonnes by the fourth quarter of 2024 and make it the world's third-largest copper mining complex.

Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) has said that the Phase 3 expansion at its Kamoa-Kakula copper mining complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will increase its annual copper production to about 600,000 tonnes by the fourth quarter of 2024 and make it the world’s third-largest copper mining complex.

Commercial production at the operation began on July 1, 2021, with Phase 2 production beginning in March this year. The company aims to release a prefeasibility study for the Phase 3 expansion in the second half of 2022. 

Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 will consist of two new underground mines known as Kamoa 1 and Kamoa 2 and the initial decline development at Kakula West, the company said. A new, 5-million-tonne-per-year concentrator plant will be established adjacent to the two new mines. 

“We are at an inflection point for the copper industry … one where we must determine how to meet growing demand, even as discovering and building new mines becomes ever more challenging,” said the company’s co-chairman Robert Friedland in a statement.

“Humanity will likely require as much copper in the next 22 years alone as it did through this point in its history – approximately 700 million metric tonnes – just to maintain 3% GDP growth. This does not even account for rising demand related to global investment to combat climate change through aggressive electrification,” he added.  

Located about 25 km west of the town of Kolwezi and about 270 km away from the provincial capital of Lubumbashi, the Kamoa-Kakula copper project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).

The company predicts copper production from the first two phases of Kamoa-Kakula to exceed 450,000 tonnes per year by the second quarter of 2023 and gradually reach a peak annual production of more than 800,000 tonnes. 

Phase 3 also includes a direct-to-blister flash smelter with a nameplate capacity of 500,000 tonnes per year of approximately 99%-pure blister copper. The company projects it will be one of the largest, single-line copper flash smelters in the world, and the largest in Africa. 

Once in operation, the smelter is expected to enable the project to recover and sell sulphuric acid as a by product revenue. There is a strong demand in Congo for sulphuric acid to recover copper from oxide ores, the company said. Currently copper mines in the region import “significant volumes of sulphur.”

The project’s partnership with Inga II, a hydropower plant located in the DRC’s southwest is expected to provide the Kamoa-Kakula complex with sustainable electricity for Phase 3 and future expansions, Ivanhoe said.

Scotiabank analyst Orest Wowkodaw described the update as modestly positive in a research note to clients.  

“The company now envisions a meaningfully larger Phase 3 expansion (incremental 5.0 million tonnes per annum throughput vs. 3.8 mtpa previously), increasing the total throughput level at the operation to 14.2Mtpa by the end of 2024,” wrote Wowkodaw.  

“Overall, although we await further details, we view the update as a modest positive for IVN shares given the larger planned Phase 3 expansion.”


Kazatomprom raises revenue guidance as uranium price surges
Tue, 03 May 2022 16:07:43 +0000
Natural uranium product coming from Kazakhstan accounts for more than 45% of the global primary supply.

Kazakhstan-focused uranium miner Kazatomprom raised its 2022 revenue guidance, as geopolitical tensions and discussion of new nuclear projects spur higher prices.

The world’s largest uranium miner lifted its revenue forecast to KZT790-810 billion tenge ($1.78-1.83 billion), up from KZT610-630 billion previously.

Production and sales volume guidance for 2022 are unchanged.

Kazakhstan’s national uranium company reported that its production rose 1% on year in Q1, although attributable output declined 4%.

Total sales volumes doubled in the period, reflecting the timing of customer-scheduled deliveries. Realized uranium prices were 33% higher.

Natural uranium product coming from Kazakhstan accounts for more than 45% of the global primary supply.

Geopolitical tensions

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has deepened the ongoing nuclear fuel access concerns that began following the covid-related disruptions to uranium supply in 2020.

Although there have been no restrictions imposed on nuclear fuel to date, negative sentiment has increased and legislative initiatives have been proposed by EU and US lawmakers to ban nuclear fuel imports from Russia.

Related: World looks to Canada to fill potash, uranium void left by Ukraine

“The uncertain future availability of Russian fuel and processing services has brought concerns related to security of supply for western utilities, driving an increase in both spot and term market activity, putting significant upward pressure on natural uranium, conversion and enrichment prices,” said Kazatomprom.

“As a result of the geopolitical developments stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war, spot price rose to $58.30/lb U3O8, a level not seen since April 2011.”


Unions set to intensify Sibanye-Stillwater strike on exec ‘wage wallop’
Tue, 03 May 2022 15:26:04 +0000
South African trade unions resolve to tighten the labour noose on Sibanye-Stillwater as gold sector labourers demand higher pay.

South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has resolved to push ahead with intensifying strike action at precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater’s (JSE: SSW; NYSE: SBSW) local gold mines.

Amcu general secretary, Jeff Mphahlele, tells The Northern Miner the union and the rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) met with Sibanye-Stillwater on May 2 for another round of wage negotiations, characterizing the company’s attitude as “arrogant” and “coming to the negotiation table empty-handed.”

“We are meeting again on Thursday [May 5] to look for a resolution. But on the other hand, the trade unions are intensifying the strike. We are calling for another secondary strike from all other mines, including the platinum workers,” Mphahlele said in an interview.

Both Amcu and Sibanye-Stillwater confirmed strike action had been ongoing at the company’s South African gold mines, including Beatrix in the Free State, and Driefontein and Kloof in Gauteng province’s fabled Witwatersrand Gold Basin. The three mines in 2021 contributed 855,000 oz. gold to the company’s production profile. The three mines employed about 30,000 people in 2021.

While rounds of wage negotiations are a regular feature of doing business in South Africa, the two mining unions and Sibanye-Stillwater have been locking horns for months now.


Maple Gold Mines files NI 43-101 report for Quebec projects
Tue, 03 May 2022 15:02:05 +0000
The pit-constrained indicated resources at Douay have increased by 21% over its previous estimate.

Maple Gold Mines (TSXV: MGM) has filed an NI 43-101 technical report for the Douay and Joutel gold projects in Quebec, both of which are held in a 50/50 joint venture with Agnico Eagle Mines. The report contains an updated Douay mineral resource estimate that Maple announced on March 17 and documents the exploration status of Joutel.

As disclosed in the March 17 release, the pit-constrained indicated resources at Douay has increased by 21% over its previous estimate (2019), totalling 511,000 oz. at at an average grade of 1.59 g/t gold. The inferred resources increased slightly compared to the 2019 estimate to 2,065,000 oz. at an average grade of 0.94 g/t.

For the underground portion, the inferred resources increased 50% to 460,000 oz. at an average grade of 1.68 g/t gold.

The update incorporated initial indicated resources for the Nika zone (30,000 oz. averaging 1.13 g/t) and the 531 zone (58,000 oz. averaging 2.85 g/t), based on results of the JV’s first drill campaign in 2021.

Highlights of the 2021 drilling included a bonanza intercept of 334 g/t gold over 1 metre at the Porphyry zone, which was one of the highest grade intervals ever reported at the project.

As anticipated, the 10,000-metre drill program last year “successfully converted inferred to indicated ounces and ultimately increased the overall gold endowment at Douay,” Maple Gold CEO Matthew Hornor said in a March 17 press release.

“Targeted infill drilling demonstrates the potential for future resource conversion within the currently defined mineralized zones and continues to de-risk the deposit; however, the updated model that underpins the 2022 MRE indicates significant room for growth,” Hornor added.

Mineralized zones at Douay remain open for expansion and are largely untested below an average vertical drill depth of approximately 350 metres.


Hochschild Mining gets construction green light for gold project in Brazil
Tue, 03 May 2022 14:36:00 +0000
Commercial production at Posse gold project, in the central-west Goiás state, is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2024.

Precious metals producer Hochschild Mining (LON: HOC) has been granted permission to begin construction at its Posse gold project in Brazil, which was added to its portfolio last year after acquiring Canada’s Amarillo Gold.

Commercial production at the project, located in the central-west Goiás state, is slated begin in the first quarter of 2024.

During its first four years of operations, Posse is expected to produce 102,000 ounces of gold per year, dropping to 84,000 ounces in the six remaining years of mine-life.

Located in Mara Rosa municipality, the project is expected to generate 1,350 jobs during the construction phase, which is estimated to cost $180 to $200 million, and another 810 jobs once in operation.

“The company’s commitment is to use 75% of local labor force, both in the implementation of the project and later in its operation,” the government of Goiás said in the statement.

Hochschild Mining gets construction green light for gold project in Brazil
Project location. (Courtesy of Amarillo Gold.)

According to Posse’s feasibility study published in 2020, all-in sustaining costs over the mine life are expected to average $750 to $850 per gold ounce.

Average recoveries are expected to be 89.9%, and the average strip ratio over the mine life is 4.3.

Posse hosts proven and probable reserves of 23.8 million tonnes grading 1.18 grams per tonne for 902,000 ounces. The combined measured and indicated resource stands at 32 million tonnes grading 1.1 gram per tonne for 1.2 million ounces of contained gold.

Hochschild has identified near-mine and regional exploration opportunities, including multiple potential satellite deposits.


Organic lithium-ion batteries one step closer to becoming reality
Tue, 03 May 2022 12:05:00 +0000
A small molecule may be the key to the successful development of organic, metal-free, high-energy lithium-ion batteries.

A recent discovery by researchers at Japan’s Tohoku University and the University of California, Los Angeles has moved the needle one step closer to realizing metal-free, high-energy, and inexpensive batteries by using a small organic molecule, croconic acid.

In a paper published in Advanced Science, the researchers explain that unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries, which are highly dependent on materials such as cobalt and lithium, organic batteries exploit naturally abundant elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Organic lithium-ion batteries one step closer to becoming reality
An illustration of croconic acid and an image of a high-voltage environmentally friendly organic lithium-ion batteries. (Courtesy of Yuto Katsuyama et al.).

In addition, organic batteries have greater theoretical capacities than conventional lithium-ion batteries because their use of organic materials renders them lightweight.

Most reported organic batteries to date, however, possess a relatively low (1-3V) working voltage. This means that increasing organic batteries’ voltage will lead to higher energy density batteries.

Knowing this, the Tohoku University and UCLA groups set up to study croconic acid and found that when used as a lithium-ion battery cathode material, it maintains a strong working voltage of around 4 V.

According to the scientists, croconic acid has five carbon atoms bonded to each other in a pentagonal form, and each of the carbons is bonded to oxygen. It also has a high theoretical capacity of 638.6 mAh/g, which is much higher than the conventional lithium-ion battery cathode materials (LiCoO2 ~ 140 mAh/g).

“We investigated the electrochemical behaviour of croconic acid in the high-voltage range above 3 V using theoretical calculations and electrochemical experiments,” Hiroaki Kobayashi, co-author of the study, said in a media statement.

“We discovered that croconic acid stores lithium ions at roughly 4 V, giving a very high theoretical energy density of 1949 Wh/kg, which is larger than most inorganic and organic lithium-ion batteries.”

Although the theoretical capacity was not achieved in this study, the researchers are optimistic this can be enhanced by the development of stable electrolytes at high voltage and chemical modifications to croconic acid. Since most electrolytes cannot stand for such a strong working voltage of croconic acid, developing new electrolytes is vital.


Chile rejects Anglo American’s $3 billion Los Bronces expansion
Tue, 03 May 2022 11:05:00 +0000
Project would allow the company to tap higher grade ores from a new underground section of the mine, extending its life through 2036.

Anglo American (LON: AAL) said on Tuesday a Chilean environmental regulator had formally rejected the company’s application for a $3 billion expansion of its flagship Los Bronces copper mine.

The 377-page decision follows last week’s recommendation by the same office, the Environmental Assessment Service of Chile (SEA), to deny the permit due to lack of information on the potential risk to public health.

“Anglo American is examining the details of the [decision] and expects to continue following the regulated permitting process in Chile, which includes the potential to request a review by a minister’s committee to evaluate the full breadth of merits of the project,” it said in a statement.

The asset, one of Anglo American’s two largest copper operations, has been mined for over 150 years and is running out of high-grade ore. The Los Bronces Integrated Project (LBIP) would allow the company to tap higher grade ores from a new underground section of the mine, extending its life through 2036. 

The project uses the mine’s existing processing facilities, optimizes water efficiency, and requires no additional fresh water or tailings storage facilities, Anglo has said.

Critics worry about potential impacts on a local glacier as well as on water availability for the region. 

Los Bronces has the capacity to produce over 300,000 tonnes of the red metal each year. The underground deposit is estimated to have a 1.7% copper grade, three times the mine’s open pit grade. In that sense, it would be a rare example of an expansion project that will process lower tonnage without requiring further milling and processing capacity.

Anglo American also estimates it will reduce production costs from $1.50 per pound of copper to about $1.3 a pound.

The miner noted LBIP has been designed after 10 years of scientific studies and a comprehensive and transparent consultation process with local communities as well as the relevant authorities.

It further stated that mitigation steps will compensate for 120% of the emissions produced by the project and the mine’s current operations, during construction as well as in operations to improve local air quality.

Appeal

The company and the co-owners of the mine — Chile’s copper miner Codelco, Mitsui and Mitsubishi — now have 30 days to appeal the resolution.

It noted it would continue to work with SEA and other appropriate regulatory authorities to make available any additional information and provide clarity on the project.

The area around Los Bronces hosts 30% of Chile’s copper resources and 10% of world resources. 

Copper deposits are among the hottest assets in mining right now, mainly due to the metal’s use in electric vehicles and the global green energy revolution.

Experts estimate the copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030

Shares in the company fell slightly over 2% on the news after the announcement to $3,512 pence in early morning.


Teck’s technology transformation initiatives enhance performance, safety and sustainability
Mon, 02 May 2022 21:05:21 +0000
Teck said RACE, which stands for Renew, Automate, Connect and Empower, between 2019-2021 enhanced operational performance in five core areas.

Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A and TECK.B, NYSE: TECK) announced that initiatives deployed through its technology transformation programs, such as RACE21, are expected to generate approximately C$1.1 billion ($850m) in recurring, annualized benefits through enhanced operational performance, safety and sustainability.

“From advanced analytics to machine learning to automation, our RACE21program has built on our long-standing focus on technology and innovation to generate significant new benefit through improved operational performance, safety and sustainability,” said CEO Don Lindsay in a media statement. “As we look to the future, we will continue to leverage digital innovation to more efficiently and sustainably produce the metals and materials needed for a low-carbon world.”

Teck said RACE, which stands for Renew, Automate, Connect and Empower, between 2019-2021 enhanced operational performance in these core areas:

Mine Optimization  Leveraging data, machine learning and digital applications across Teck’s mining equipment has increased truck productivity by up to 10% at certain operations, reduced drilling and fuel costs, and optimized the quality of material going to processing plants. At British Columbia’s Fording River Operations, machine learning models use real-time information such as truck speed and location to quickly identify road maintenance tasks and the optimal allocation of trucks to maximize production.

At Red Dog Operations in Alaska, visualization and 3D modelling applications are used to accurately predict the movement of material during a blast, improving the zinc grade delivered to the plant by about 5%. Similar approaches at Elkview Operations in BC reduced ash variability of material in the plant, increasing plant yield by approximately 0.5% starting in December 2021.

Processing Improvements – Automation and machine learning models within Teck’s processing plants increased throughput capacity by up to 9%, and recovery by up to 3% at certain sites. At Red Dog Operations, automation has been used to improve stability of grinding mill processes, increasing production rates by 9%, Teck said.

At Highland Valley Copper Operations in British Columbia, automation and machine learning models that use real-time information from flotation processes – such as chemical addition and equipment settings – resulted in a 3% increase in copper recovery. Combined with simulation models that track ore characteristics through our grinding mills, process control enhancements and data analytics that support more informed blasting decisions, the site has realized a 15% increase in mill throughput capacity.

Integrated Operations and Maintenance – Digital planning applications that better connect operations with logistics teams have reduced costs and maximized throughput between Teck’s steelmaking coal operations and the recently upgraded Neptune Bulk Terminals. Automated train loading at Fording River Operations has increased loading per car by 2% and loading speed by 40%. Predictive maintenance enabled by equipment sensors has reduced equipment downtime and operational interruptions across all sites.

Reducing Health & Safety Risk: Safety initiatives at various Teck operations, including light vehicle monitoring systems, collision and proximity detection and autonomous haulage systems, have reduced the overall risk associated with vehicle interactions and contributed to a 38% reduction in Teck’s high-potential incident frequency in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Enhancing Sustainability: The company said digital technology is being implemented across Teck operations to improve decision making in the areas of water use, air quality and energy consumption.

At Trail Operations in BC various automation initiatives increased throughput of the KIVCET dryer and at the same time reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 19% in 2021 compared to the previous year. At Fording River Operations, Teck is developing machine learning using weather and water quality data to provide enhanced operational recommendations for water storage and movement within the mine.

These RACE21 initiatives follow Teck’s other technology programs, including adoption of saturated rock fill technology for Elk Valley Water Quality Program, which has accelerated the implementation of water treatment in the Elk Valley in British Columbia and offers a sustainable long term alternative to conventional tank-based treatment plants.


Star Diamond confirms Type IIa high value diamonds at Orion North, Taurus kimberlites
Mon, 02 May 2022 17:34:02 +0000
These diamond parcels were recovered between 2006 and 2008 from 120-cm diameter drilling programs.

Star Diamond (TSX: DIAM) has completed a study into the abundance of Type IIa diamonds in parcels recovered from the Early Joli Fou (EJF) geological units at the Orion North (K120, K147 and K148) and Taurus kimberlites (K118, K122 and K150).

The pipes are located within the Fort a la Corne diamond district of central Saskatchewan, including the Star–Orion South diamond project, on properties held in a joint venture with Rio Tinto Exploration Canada.

These diamond parcels were recovered by Star Diamond between 2006 and 2008 from 120-cm diameter drilling programs. The latest study confirms that unusually high proportions of Type IIa diamonds are present in both the Orion North and Taurus kimberlites.

Of particular note is the high proportion of Type IIa diamonds in the Orion North 147-148 EJF (52%), of which 66% of the 24 stones, 0.66 carats and above are Type IIa. The largest Type IIa diamond identified was a 6.88-carat stone from Orion North (K147-K148 EJF).

Senior technical advisor George Read said that the Type IIa diamonds at Orion North and Taurus are top white in colour, Type IIa diamonds are rare and account for less than 2% of all natural rough diamonds mined from kimberlites. Many high-value, top colour, large specials (greater than 10.8 carats) are Type IIa diamonds, which include all 10 of the largest known rough diamonds recovered worldwide.

The study also confirms and augments an earlier study of Type IIa diamonds being present in the Fort a la Corne kimberlites with Star (26.5%) and Orion South (12.5%).

A target for further exploration completed by Star Diamond in 2014 estimated that between 881 million and 1.04 billion tonnes of the major EJF units, containing between 46 and 79 million carats, occur within the Orion North and Taurus kimberlite clusters.

Orion North (K147, K148 and K220) alone is estimated to contain between 340 million and 410 million tonnes of EJF kimberlite with an estimated range of grade of 2.75 to 8.37 carats per hundred tonnes.


Gold price near 3-month low as Fed meeting approaches
Mon, 02 May 2022 16:29:47 +0000
Meanwhile, the dollar hovered close to a 20-year high.

Gold prices fell to a near three-month low on Monday as increased prospects of faster rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve lifted both Treasury yields and the dollar, swaying investors away from the precious metal.

Spot gold declined 1.6% to $1,869.52 per ounce by 12:20 p.m. ET, its lowest since mid-February. US gold futures took a 2.3% hit, trading at $1,867.50 per ounce in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

Meanwhile, the dollar hovered close to a 20-year high amid global growth concerns and expectations of more hawkish tone from the Fed. Benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields also rose to multi-year peaks.

“There is pressure on gold market with the stronger dollar and yields amidst fears that the Fed might be more hawkish,” Phillip Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago, told Reuters.

“China’s economic activity in their factory data hit lows which is also pulling down the metals’ market,” he added. China’s factory activity contracted in April as widespread covid-19 lockdowns halted industrial production and disrupted supply chains.

Investors are now keeping a close eye on the US central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee’s two-day meeting that is scheduled to begin Tuesday, following which policymakers are expected to deliver a series of aggressive rate hikes at least until the summer to fight surging inflation and high labour costs.

“Gold is having a pullback ahead of Fed but inflation is not transitory, and if inflation moves higher then gold and silver will move higher with it in the long-term,” Daniel Pavilonis, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, predicted.

(With files from Reuters)


Colombia rejects AngloGold’s appeal over Quebradona license shelving
Mon, 02 May 2022 16:02:00 +0000
The regulator's decision means the company will have to file a new EIA for the copper-gold project if it wants to proceed with permitting.

Colombian authorities have dealt a fresh blow to AngloGold Ashanti’s (JSE: ANG)(NYSE: AU)(ASX: AGG) $1.4 billion Quebradona copper-gold project after refusing to reopen the miner’s application to the environmental licence for the asset.

The country’s environmental regulator, ANLA, had shelved the miner’s permit request in October because of lack of information on the project’s area of influence to either confirm or deny an application.

The verdict effectively halted the Antioquia-based project’s development but left the door open for AngloGold to appeal the decision or refile the application.

The South African miner appealed in November after what it said it was “a thorough technical and legal review of the reasons given by the ANLA,” adding information to fill the gaps in its environmental impact study.

These were concerning the definition of the area of influence of the project, the characterization of the hydrogeological, hydrological, geotechnical and biotic components, the tailings deposit and subsidence resulting from the sub-level caving mining method.

“This authority has established that it is not appropriate to unshelve the environmental licensing process, nor is it possible to continue with the administrative procedure, because the company did not provide all the required information, which prevents the adoption of a substantive decision,” ANLA said in a statement published by local media.

ANLA’s decision means the company will have to file a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) if it wants to proceed with permitting the project.

It is understood AngloGold plans to submit a fresh EIA in 2023 for the proposed mine, which will produce gold and silver as by-products.

Quebradona is expected to be the largest copper development in Colombia, with production estimated at 137 million pounds copper concentrate annually over a 22-year phase one mine life. AngloGold has been shifting focus from the home country to more profitable mines in Ghana, Australia and Latin America as the industry in South Africa dwindles amid power cuts, soaring costs and the geological challenges of exploiting the world’s deepest deposits. 


Copper price falls to 5-month low on China lockdown worries
Mon, 02 May 2022 15:25:56 +0000
Covid-19 lockdowns in China and prospects of aggressive US rate hikes fuelled recession fears.

The copper price slipped on Monday as covid-19 lockdowns in China and prospects of aggressive US rate hikes fuelled recession fears.

Copper for delivery in July fell 4% from Friday’s settlement price, touching $4.23 per pound ($9,307 per tonne) midday Monday on the Comex market in New York, the lowest since December 1.

Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 47.4 points in April, down from 49.5 in March and the weakest outcome since February 2020, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on April 30.

It was the second straight month for the index below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction, and the soft outcome came amid a series of coronavirus lockdowns in major cities, including Shanghai.

There are worries that China’s strict zero-covid policy means more cities will be locked down, including the capital Beijing, with restrictions lasting for longer than the market had initially expected.

Beijing closed some schools and public spaces on Thursday, as most of the Chinese capital’s 22 million residents turned up for more mass covid-19 testing aimed at averting a Shanghai-like lockdown.

“The ongoing lockdowns will make it more challenging for China to meet its 5.5% economic growth target for 2022, especially since the current quarter appears likely to be weak, with some economists saying a negative gross domestic product number is a possibility,” wrote Reuters columnist Clyde Russell.

US Federal Reserve officials have aligned around plans to accelerate the pace of interest rate hikes this year but remain split over what could be the make-or-break decision of where to stop to avoid dragging the economy into recession.

Data showed the US economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter amid a resurgence in covid-19 cases and a drop in pandemic relief money from the government.

Fund managers have been increasing bearish bets on the CME copper contract over the last couple of weeks.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)


Talisker’s initial Bralorne resource to include 11 veins, average 9.6 g/t gold
Mon, 02 May 2022 14:43:31 +0000
Talisker has chosen 11 veins that will be included in the new estimate – six from the Bralorne area, two from King, and three from Pioneer.

Talisker Resources (TSX: TSK) is preparing the initial resource estimate for its flagship Bralorne gold project about 230 km northwest of Vancouver. The project includes the former Bralorne, Pioneer and King mines that produced a total of 4.2 million oz. of gold from ore averaging 17.7 g/t.

The company says its property hosts 63 known veins, only 30 of which were mined. Only the 77T vein was mined below 900 metres, to a depth of 1,900 metres. All the veins remain open at depth and many, including 77T, are open along strike.

Talisker has chosen 11 veins that will be included in the new estimate – six from the Bralorne area, two from King, and three from Pioneer. The veins have weighted average grades from 6.2 to 16.6 g/t gold, with an overall average of 9.6 g/t gold. The veins have widths from 1.1 to 2.1 metres, and all are defined from surface to a depth of 700 metres. The defined veins are mostly located within the gaps between the historic mines.

Multiple other veins have been intersected during recent drilling; however, the company has not yet confirmed if these veins are sufficiently defined to be included in the upcoming resource estimate.

“We are particularly encouraged by the increased average width of our drilled veins when compared to the historically known averages,” said CEO Terry Harbort in a news release. “The strike and plunge dimensions of the veins defined by our drilling strongly confirm the historically demonstrated structural continuity of the host structures.”

Talisker also believes that there is district-scale potential near Bralorne. Over 40 mineral occurrences have been identified on the company’s property and there are additional brownfields drill targets outside the camp area.

Besides the Bralorne gold project, Talisker is active on the Golden Hornet gold discovery, the Ladner project, and the Spences Bridge gold project.


Australian court greenlights MMG’s Tasmania tailings dam study
Mon, 02 May 2022 14:21:22 +0000
Chinese-owned MMG may proceed with tailings dam assessment near Tasmania rainforest habitat.

In what has been labelled a ‘pro-mining judgement against the environment’ by a non-governmental organization, Chinese-owned base metals producer MMG Inc. (HK: 1208) has won the right to continue preliminary works for a controversial mine tailings dam inside the takayna/Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania’s west.

In a statement released on May 2, the Hong Kong-listed and Melbourne-headquartered miner welcomed the Federal Court of Australia’s decision to allow its Rosebery subsidiary to push forward with an assessment of the tailings storage facility (TSF) at South Marionoak. The facility is required to keep the mine operating past the tailing facility’s safe design limits, expected to be reached by 2024.

MMG has been reviewing several possible sites since 2008 and has done extensive work on maximizing current facilities and other options available.

After seeking expert advice, conducting risk assessments and progressing the options deemed to offer the most balanced solution in terms of social and environmental impact, MMG decided on the South Marionoak site.

However, the site stoked the ire of NGO The Bob Brown Foundation (BBF), which argued MMG’s work would cause “irreversible damage” to the habitat of the rare Tasmanian masked owl.

But the move was dismissed by Justice Mark Moshinsky, who said an injunction restricting the company from undertaking the proposed action altogether “appears to go too far.”

In January, the federal Environment Department found design and assessment work from MMG did not require approval under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

The company had to include measures to protect various species, including wedge-tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils, but not the masked owl.

In his decision, Justice Moshinsky said it was unnecessary to impose an injunction because MMG had now given an undertaking to protect the masked owl.

“Had MMG not offered to give the undertaking, I would have considered it appropriate to make an order restraining MMG,” he said.

MMG has agreed to apply a 15-metre exclusion zone to trees suitable for masked owl nesting, with the trees to be marked with tape and their GPS coordinates recorded.

In its May 2 statement, MMG accused the foundation of attempting to halt activity required for the Commonwealth Government to assess the project under the EPBC Act. “It is disappointing that the BBF continues to try to stop this project from even being assessed,” said MMG Rosebery GM Steve Scott.

“It is important to remember there is still a rigorous process to be followed before any facility can be built, including many opportunities for the public to have its say,” he said in a statement.

Preliminary works for the tailings facility include flora and fauna surveys and geotechnical investigations to determine the feasibility of constructing a TSF at the site.

Habitat in trouble

However, the BBF remains defiant. “This finding reminds us that the EPBC Act is a farce. If a Masked Owl is not safe from this proposal in takayna/Tarkine, and it is not, then it is not safe anywhere,” campaign manager Jenny Weber said in a statement.

“We are now left with the protest option to continue to hold MMG out of takayna’s forests and Tasmanian Masked Owl habitat at an inconvenience to hundreds of citizens who will take a stand for this ancient pocket of takayna.”

While an appeal against the Commonwealth approvals will not be heard until July 19, the May 2 judgement dealt with an application from the BBF for an injunction to prevent the Chinese state-owned miner from pushing ahead with roading, clearing and drilling for its proposed toxic, acid-producing heavy metals tailings dam.

The BBF believes that if it fails to stop MMG, the miner will level 285 hectares of rainforest and melaleuca forest to flood it with 25 million cubic metres of toxic, acid-producing heavy metals tailings.

According to MMG, the Rosebery operation is about 300 kilometres north-west of Hobart and 125 kilometres south of Burnie. Rosebery is 100% owned by MMG and has been operating continually for over 85 years, starting in 1936.

In 2021, the Rosebury operation produced 1,613 tonnes of payable copper, 59,562 tonnes of zinc, 24,820 tonnes of lead, 37,537 oz. gold and 2.96 million oz. silver. Rosebery is expected to produce between 55,000 and 65,000 tonnes of zinc in zinc concentrate in 2022.

The mine uses mechanized underground mining methods, followed by crushing, grinding and a flotation processes.

Peru woes

MMG is embroiled in controversy in Peru, with locals blocking the Las Bambas mine to protest alleged non-compliance with land-purchase obligations. The mine produces about 2% of the world’s mined copper supply.

MMG said on April 29, a 30-day state of emergency in the Challhuahuacho and Coyllurqi districts had been implemented to reinstate public order.

“Regrettably, we are aware that a number of injuries were sustained by police, security personnel and community members. All injured persons are receiving medical treatment, and the company expresses its sympathy for those injured,” it said in a statement.

Bloomberg reports MMG is facing the possibility of a prolonged disruption at the mine after failing to clear the site of all protesters by April 29.

Before production at Las Bambas was suspended, the mine was forecast to produce 300,000 to 320,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2022.


Copper may help reduce the use of antibiotics in crops
Mon, 02 May 2022 13:06:00 +0000
Copper oxide nanoparticles work as an immunostimulator in plants.

Researchers at Russia’s National University of Science and Technology MISIS, Voronezh State University of Forestry and Technologies and Tambov State University discovered that copper oxide nanoparticles in the composition of a preparation to protect in-vitro-derived seedlings work as an immunostimulator in plants.

These findings have led the researchers to work on a new preparation that will increase the amount of harvested planting material.

In a paper published in the journal Nanomaterials, the scientists explain that modern methods of mass phytoproduction include obtaining planting material of woody plants by clonal micropropagation in vitro. This method of vegetative propagation makes it possible to obtain new plants, genetically identical to the original specimen, in a laboratory vessel or other controlled experimental environment rather than within a living organism or natural setting.

The technology, however, poses some challenges. As nutrient media for phyto-clones provide ideal conditions for microbial growth, new plants need to be created and maintained in complete sterility. Antibiotics are increasingly being used to reduce the risk of contamination in plants propagated in vitro.

But along with their bactericidal effect, antibiotics can also have a toxic effect on plant tissues and inhibit their growth and development. In addition, microorganisms can adapt to biocidal drugs by mutations, which lead to the resistance of phytopathogens.

Enter copper oxide nanoparticles 

In the view of the Russian experts, thus, using copper nanoparticles as sterilizing agents may be a safe alternative to antibiotics.

Looking specifically at the effects of copper oxide nanoparticles on the growth of colonies of spore-forming mold fungi, as well as on the production of stress-resistant genes in birch clones in vitro when infected with phytopathogens, the group found that copper oxide nanoparticles had a pronounced antifungal effect on phytopathogens in plant culture.

“As possible mechanisms of this phenomenon, we assume both the diffusion of copper ions, which is an antimicrobial agent, and specific nanotoxic effects, such as the induction of oxidative stress or damage to the cell membrane,” Olga Zakharova, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a media statement.

Boosting immunity

According to Zakharova and her colleagues, the maximum sterility of plants was observed at the lowest concentration of nanoparticles studied. Thus, it is possible that the effect is achieved not through the direct destruction of phytopathogenic microorganisms by nanoparticles, but indirectly through the stimulation of immunity of seedlings.

“Nanoparticles in low concentrations can cause moderate stress in plants, one of the reactions to which is a change in their biochemical status,” Zakharova said.

“Compounds such as peroxidases and polyphenols, which are part of the system of non-specific protection of plants against phytopathogenic microorganisms, are beginning to be produced. At the same time, an increase in the concentration of nanoparticles increases the ‘nano’ induced stress, and the overall efficiency of plant adaptation to stress begins to decrease, which is ultimately manifested by a reduced number of viable micro-clones at the maximum concentration of nanoparticles.”

The researcher pointed out that the data they obtained confirm the prospect of using copper oxide nanoparticles to optimize the technology of plant cultivation in vitro.


South32 boosts Brazil green aluminum supply with bauxite mine buy
Mon, 02 May 2022 12:38:34 +0000
South32 now owns 33% of the Mineração Rio do Norto bauxite mine.

Australia’s South32 (LSE: S32; ASX: S32) is on track to double its green aluminum production in Brazil by early 2023 with the acquisition of an 18.2% stake in the Mineração Rio do Norto (MRN) bauxite mine from Alcoa Corp. (NYSE: AA).

The transaction represents a crucial step for the company in consolidating its vertically integrated aluminum supply chain in Brazil, bringing South32’s holdings in the MRN mine to 33%.

The attributable production from the Pará state operation is expected to satisfy the company’s internal bauxite requirements. In addition to South32’s 33% stake in the MRN mine, it holds a 36% share of the Alumar alumina refinery and a 40% stake in the aluminum smelter.

MRN’s open-cut strip mine produces 18 million tonnes of bauxite a year, supplying the Alumar refinery (capacity of 3.5 million tonnes per annum) and smelter (440,000 tonnes per year).

South32 CEO Graham Kerr said in a news release that the increased stake in the mine was an essential step as the company worked with its joint venture partners to complete a pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the MRN life extension project. The redevelopment project could potentially extend the life of the 40-year-old mine by more than 20 years.

The PFS is slated for completion by the first half of 2023.

“As a result of our investment in Brazil, including participation in the restart of the Alumar smelter using 100% renewable power, our planned increased shareholding in Mozal aluminum, which benefits from access to hydroelectric power, we expect to double our production of green aluminum by 2023,” said Kerr.

In January South32 announced plans to participate in the restart of the Aluminar smelter along with joint venture partner Alcoa. The smelter is expected to reach full capacity from its three potlines of 447,000 tonnes per annum in the first quarter of 2023. The first production from this facility is expected by June.

South32’s 40% stake in Brazil Aluminium will be powered by renewable energy. According to the CRU aluminum cost model for 2021, the smelter placed in the second quartile of the global aluminum site cost curve.

Aluminum is a critical future-facing metal made via a two-step process. It entails mining bauxite – an aluminum ore – and crushing and refining the ore into a white alumina powder before the white powder is smelted into aluminum metal.

In addition to operating the Mozal Aluminium plant in Brazil, South32 also operates the Hillside Aluminium smelter in South Africa – the largest aluminum smelter in the southern hemisphere.

Despite coming off recent highs, South32 shares quoted in Sydney at A$4.77 at close on Monday have advanced nearly 66% over the past 12 months, giving it a market capitalization of A$22.16 billion ($15.64 billion).



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