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Friday, May 14, 2021

Today News Headlines

Gold price back above $1,800 as inflation fears linger
Thu, 06 May 2021 16:07:10 +0000
Gold reached as high as $1,817/oz on Thursday, the highest in nearly three months.

Gold prices jumped to their highest in nearly three months on Thursday, with a weaker dollar and easing Treasury yields propelling it over the key $1,800/oz psychological level once again.

Spot gold advanced 1.5% to $1,812.04/oz by noon ET, having reached an intraday high of $1,817.39/oz earlier in the session. US gold futures gained 1.7% to $1,815.10/oz on the Comex in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

US 10-year Treasury yields continued to slip on Thursday, bolstering the appeal of non-yielding bullion. The dollar index also fell 0.4%, making bullion more attractive for those holding other currencies.

“We really have yet to see a strong rebound in Treasury yields,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, told Reuters.

“Despite the economic optimism, Federal Reserve policymakers seem unlikely to budge on their accommodative stance yet and investor inflation fears should boost gold,” Moya added.

The Fed plans to keep borrowing costs near 0% and maintain monthly asset purchases worth $120 billion until it sees “substantial further progress” towards full employment and its 2% flexible inflation target.

“Above $1,800 it gives the bulls fresh technical power, gives them momentum and I think the path of least resistance for prices is now going to be sideways to higher for the near term,” Kitco Metals senior analyst Jim Wyckoff said.

Gold’s uptick also came despite data showing weekly jobless claims dropped to a 13-month low, which signaled that the US economy is on the right recovery path.

(With files from Reuters)

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame invites 2022 nominations
Thu, 06 May 2021 16:00:00 +0000
Nominations open for individuals who have demonstrated leadership and outstanding achievement in the mining industry.

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for individuals who have demonstrated leadership and outstanding achievement in the mining industry. 

“Canada’s mining industry is essential and plays a key role in driving our economy forward while also being recognized as a global leader in sustainable practices,” said Pierre Gratton, Chair of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame and president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC).

“Our sector delivers the critical minerals and metals needed for technology that will enable the global transition toward a lower carbon future and it is important that we recognize the leaders that have contributed so much to its success.”

Nominations must be submitted through Canadian Mining Hall of Fame member organizations or associate member organizations

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame looks to this future poised to celebrate individual excellence, capture stories of resilience and inspire pride in Canada’s mining industry and its important contributions to real progress and change.  Through their leadership and achievements, individual nominees must have shaped Canada’s global leadership in mining, embody the important role mining plays in Canadian society, and inspire future generations into mining.  

Nominations must be submitted through Canadian Mining Hall of Fame member organizations or associate member organizations. Member organizations include: the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum; the Mining Association of Canada; The Northern Miner and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

Associate member organizations include: the British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan Mining Associations and the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia. Any member of the public or organization is welcome to nominate a candidate, provided their nomination is channeled through one of the above organizations.

Nominees who are selected for induction will enter the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2022 at a date to be determined in due course.

The 2022 inductees will join the 195 remarkable individuals who have been inducted since the inception of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, 34 years ago. In October 2020, five new members were announced: Patricia Dillon, David Elliott, William Gladstone Jewitt, Steven D. Scott and Mary Edith Tyrrell.

Given the circumstances of the pandemic, these incredible leaders will be inducted at a private dinner and ceremony in July 2021 in full compliance with covid-19 protocols. The event will be by invitation only with no public sale of tickets.

To nominate a 2022 candidate:

June 1, 2021 is the deadline to contact a member or associate member organization about nominating a candidate for induction.

June 30, 2021 is the deadline for nomination materials to be delivered to member or associate member organization for review.

July 20, 2021 is the deadline for member or associate member organizations to submit nominations to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame. Nominations must include the specific information outlined in the nomination guidelines. The guidelines, criteria for selection, and nomination form are available here.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)

Ganfeng Lithium grabs Bacanora in $246.5m deal
Thu, 06 May 2021 13:59:00 +0000
Ganfeng, which in February rose its stake in Bacanora to 28.88% from 17.41%, will acquire the remaining shares at 67.5 pence each.

Shares in lithium explorer and developer Bacanora Lithium (LON:BCN) jumped as much as 38% to 61.9p on Thursday after China’s Ganfeng Lithium, one of the world’s top producers of the battery metal, offered to buy the company shares it does not already own for up to 190 million pounds ($264.5 million).

The deal, which values Bacanora at up to £267 million, comes as soaring lithium prices have triggered a wave of deals in the sector, including the recent mega-merger of Australia’s Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE).

Ganfeng, which in February announced it was rising its stake in Bacanora to 28.88% from 17.41%, will acquire the remaining shares at 67.5 pence each. The unofficial offer represents a nearly 50% premium on Bacanora’s Wednesday’s close.

The increase in Ganfeng’s stake to 28.88% is expected to complete shortly, the companies said in the statement.

China’s Ganfeng already owns half of the Sonora lithium project in Mexico and 17% of Bacanora

Bacanora’s independent directors said the offer was attractive, adding they plan to recommend it once it becomes a formal proposal, which requires approval from the Chinese authorities.

Prices for lithium in China have jumped more than 100% so far this year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence on the back of an expected demand increase from the electric vehicles (EVs) sector.

Ganfeng, which already has a 50% stake in Bacanora’s Sonora project in Mexico, holds interests in mines in Australia, Argentina and Canada and around 70,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent of annual conversion capacity in China.

The Sonora mine, expected to begin production in 2023, will produce 35,000 tonnes of lithium per year once at full tilt.

An International Energy Agency (IEA) report published Wednesday recommended governments start stockpiling battery metals, noting that lithium demand could increase 40-fold in the next 20 years. IEA executive director Fatih Birol said this would become an “energy security” issue. China dominates lithium processing, while mine supply largely comes from Chile and Australia.

Lucara secures $220 million for Karowe expansion
Thu, 06 May 2021 13:40:00 +0000
The backing of five lenders will be used to fund the company’s underground expansion plan for its Karowe mine in Botswana.

Canada’s Lucara Diamond (TSX:LUC) has secured up to $220 million in credit-approved commitments for senior debt facilities, which will help it fund a five-year, $514 million underground expansion of its Karowe mine in Botswana.

The package consists of a project finance facility of $170 million for the expansion and a working capital facility of $50 million to bankroll the ongoing operation of the open pit mine.

Chief executive Eira Thomas said the backing of five major banks, including ING Bank, Natixis, Société Générale London Branch, Africa Finance Corporation and Afreximbank, represented a strong endorsement to the company’s growth plans.

Lucara will fund the remainder of the $514 million mine expansion by cash flow.

Moving Karowe underground is expected to take five years and extend its productive life by 20 years — until 2040 — with first production expected in 2026.

The move will allow Lucara to exploit the highest value part of the orebody first and generate over $5.25 billion in gross revenue.

The Vancouver-based miner said it intended to fund the remainder of the expansion costs by cash flow.

Karowe is one of the world’s most prolific sources of large, high value type IIA diamonds, producing an average of 300,000 high-value carats each year

It began commercial operations in 2012 and has already become the only mine in recorded history to have yielded two 1,000+ carat diamonds — the 1,758 carat Sewelô in 2019 and the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona in 2015, which sold for $53 million.

Australia approves A$100m in tax incentives for junior miners
Thu, 06 May 2021 13:06:00 +0000
The Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive converts tax losses into exploration credits for investors and provides a tax offset for junior mining companies.

The Australian government announced that it will contribute A$100 million to extend the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive four more years. This program allows eligible companies to access tax incentives to attract new investors.

“The Coalition Government will continue to support our junior mining companies and encourage exploration and development of new resource deposits,” Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, said in a media statement. “We need to ensure that we have a continuous investment pipeline for development across regional Australia.”

The Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive allows eligible companies to access tax incentives to attract new investors

Pitt pointed out that the Australian resource sector directly employs 260,000 people and that it can provide the world with secure supply chains and manufacturing opportunities for rare earths and critical minerals that are vital in the production process of tech, clean energy and medical applications.

The Minister also said that, to date, the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive has supported 85 junior exploration companies, with over half of these companies headquartered in Western Australia.

The figures that Pitt mentioned were complemented by Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, who issued a statement welcoming the new funding and pointing out that mining generates A$270 billion in export revenue, directly and indirectly supports 1.1 million jobs and contributes A$39 billion in royalties and taxes to both federal and state governments.

“Ongoing government support to attract greater investment in early-stage greenfield exploration programs is vital to the industry’s future success,” Constable said. “The Junior Mineral Exploration Incentive along with the government’s recent commitment to continue funding Geoscience Australia’s highly successful Exploring for the Future Program are key steps to ensuring Australia not only improves its exploration performance but remains competitive as an investment destination.”

EVs driving printed electronics to billion-dollar industry – report
Thu, 06 May 2021 13:00:00 +0000
According to IDTechEx, the printed electronics automotive market may reach $12.7 billion by 2031.

Market researcher IDTechEx released a new report looking at how the shift to electric vehicles and autonomy may push the printed electronics automotive market to reach $12.7 billion by 2031.

Printed electronics are generated through a process that utilizes a solution-based material that can be organic semiconductors, inorganic semiconductors, metallic conductors, nanoparticles, and nanotubes.

According to the UK-based firm, since EV battery capacity is strongly dependent on temperature, there is an opportunity for printed arrays of temperature sensors to provide local monitoring and for printed heaters to be integrated within the same functional film. More efficient batteries would allow for increased vehicle range for a given weight.

EV autonomy is also expected to benefit from printed electronics, as multiple sensor technologies and associated features such as transparent heaters, integrated antennas, and even low-resolution flexible displays for the exterior to interact with pedestrians could become a possibility.

“Vehicles across the price range now contain sophisticated ‘advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)’. Over time the level of autonomy will increase, with full Level 5 autonomy expected in some vehicles within a decade,” the report reads. 

When it comes to looks, IDTechEx believes interior applications provide the greatest automotive opportunity for printed/flexible electronics.

“Human machine interface technologies, more simply described as pressure or touch sensors, are especially promising,” the document states. “Already widely used in seat occupancy sensors, printed pressure sensors are likely to find their way into control panels to provide a wider range of inputs than purely capacitive touch sensors without the expense of mechanical switches.”

The analyst goes on to explain that many of these touch sensors are likely to be produced via in-mold electronics (IME). This means that the combination of electronics with thermoformed plastic will enable integrated systems such as center consoles and overhead control panels to be much lighter, simpler, and easier to manufacture. 

“IDTechEx forecasts IME to be an approximately $1.3-billion market by 2031,” the report reads.

Rio Tinto shareholders reject former CEO’s exit package
Thu, 06 May 2021 10:49:00 +0000
More than 60% of the votes cast at Rio's annual meetings in London and Sydney were against Jean-Sébastien Jacques' exit package.

A majority of Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) shareholders opposed on Thursday the exit package handed to former chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, ousted after the destruction of sacred rock shelters in Western Australia last year.

More than 60% of the votes cast at the company’s annual meetings in London and Sydney were against its remuneration report, which showed Jacques received £7.2 million ($10m) in 2020, 20% more than a year earlier.

The sum was the highest earnings of his tenure, even without a bonus worth about £2.7 million ($3.8m) Jacques was denied as a punishment. In addition, the former CEO was allowed to keep shares awarded under a long-term incentive programme worth an estimated £27 million ($38m).

The revolt on pay, though significant, is more of a statement than a verdict, as resolutions put before shareholders are advisory and not binding. In Australia, however, if a remuneration report draws more than 25% opposition for two years, the board in question has to put itself up for re-election.

Proxy advisers CGI Glass Lewis, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) were among the investors that voted against the pay report.

Time to “reflect” on “new input”

Rio shareholders also opposed the re-election of Megan Clark, chair of its sustainability committee, who the miner said would remain on the board to “provide stability” at a crucial time for the company.

In response to the failed resolutions, Rio said it would engage with shareholders and “reflect” on any “new input” while implementing the remuneration policy.

“The Board acknowledges that the executive pay outcomes in relation to the tragic events at Juukan Gorge are sensitive and contentious issues,” the company said in a statement with the vote results.

Chairman Simon Thompson, who is stepping down in 2022 over the caves blast scandal, told shareholders the company had withheld as much as the board considered “legally defensible” under the terms in place in 2016 when the incentives were set and also took into account that Jacques was losing his job.

Australia is currently considering new legislation to protect Aboriginal heritage sites.

The Australian Aboriginal group whose sacred rock shelters Rio Tinto destroyed last year recently rejected a plan by Andrew Forrest, the founder Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) to build dams along a river in the same region, citing the cultural damage it would cause.

MAC launches Towards Sustainable Mining Climate Change Protocol
Wed, 05 May 2021 19:29:57 +0000
First launched in 2004, TSM is a sustainability program that supports mining companies in managing key environmental and social risks.

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) announced Wednesday it is releasing a new Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Climate Change Protocol designed to minimize the mining sector’s carbon footprint, enhance climate change disclosure and strengthen the sector’s ability to adapt to climate change.

“We are committed to being a constructive partner in the fight against climate change,” Pierre Gratton, MAC’s President and CEO said in a media statement. “This new protocol ensures that we will continue to adopt leading practices related to climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

Mined materials are required inputs for green technology, like electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines and solar panels, and it is critical that these minerals and metals be responsibly sourced with the smallest GHG footprint possible, Gratton emphasized.

TSM was the first mining sustainability standard in the world to require site-level assessments and is mandatory for all MAC member companies’ Canadian operations

“As an energy intensive industry, we know we have an important role to play in lessening our carbon footprint, and this new TSM protocol is intended to help our members do just that.”

TSM was the first mining sustainability standard in the world to require site-level assessments and is mandatory for all MAC member companies’ Canadian operations. First launched in 2004, TSM is a sustainability program that supports mining companies in managing key environmental and social risks. Through TSM, eight critical aspects of social and environmental performance are evaluated, independently validated, and publicly reported against 30 distinct performance indicators.

Canada’s mining sector operates some of the lowest carbon-intensive mines in the world thanks to Canada’s abundance of clean energy, the adoption of world-class sustainability standards like TSM and company adoption of low emission technologies at their sites.

The TSM Climate Change Protocol is a major update to the TSM Energy Use and GHG Emissions Management Protocol, first introduced in 2013.

The Climate Change Protocol is supported by the publication of the new Guide to Climate Change Adaptation for the Mining Sector, a comprehensive guidance for the mining sector focused on assessing and identifying potential physical climate impacts, considering these risks in decision-making, and implementing corresponding adaptation measures.

The TSM Climate Change Protocol improves upon the TSM Energy Use and GHG Emissions Protocol through stronger requirements for energy use and GHG emissions management, performance, and reporting at the facility level, setting a new bar for best practice.

A new indicator on climate change management at the corporate level to support companies in responding to the Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and in setting ambitious targets and actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, including commitments related to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Iron ore price surges as steel rally fires up demand
Wed, 05 May 2021 17:43:24 +0000
Expectations are building that benchmark prices can get to $200 a tonne.

Iron ore prices have risen to record highs in recent weeks, largely because supply has not been able to keep pace with demand in China, where crude steel production has grown by 30% over the past five years.

Expectations are building that benchmark prices can get to $200 a tonne — topping the record $194 hit more than a decade ago — as Chinese steelmakers ramp up production in defiance of government attempts to rein in output to control the industry’s carbon emissions.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China (CFR Qingdao) were changing hands for $192.54 a tonne on Wednesday, up 1.95% from the previous day, according to Fastmarkets MB.

“Iron ore prices could go higher in the short-term and exceeding $200 a tonne is definitely possible,” Kim Christie, a senior analyst at consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie told Bloomberg.

“It would only take extra supply concerns, or additional strength in Chinese steel production, for prices to get there.”

At the heart of spot iron ore’s 14% climb last month, helping drive the supercharged commodities rally has been rising steel prices, from Asia to North America. Particular focus has been on China, where the economy has boomed and a swath of measures aimed at cleaning up the world’s biggest steel industry pushed mill profitability to the highest in more than a decade.

“What these high margins do is incentivize mills to build up stocks and to charge more high-grade ore to lift productivity,” Erik Hedborg​, principal analyst at CRU Group told Bloomberg.

“We have seen a bit of an ‘additional iron ore demand’ for the purpose of increasing inventories.”

Morgan Stanley has called China’s supply reforms a possible “game changer” for demand for premium ore, with grade differentials unlikely to normalize any time soon.

Citigroup expects benchmark prices to hit $200 within weeks. There will be a deficit of 18 million tonnes during the first three quarters of 2021 amid improved global steel demand and a slight miss in top miners’ shipments. The bank had previously predicted a 1 million tonne surplus.

China is on track to make more than 1 billion tonnes of steel for the second year in a row.

The government’s recent changes to rebates on export taxes are also unlikely to be sufficient to deter output, according to Wood Mackenzie’s Christie:

“If China wants to slow steel production, it needs to temper domestic demand. We expect to see additional measures from the government aimed at cooling steel demand, especially in the property sector, and that will likely be the catalyst for a correction in iron ore prices.”

The China Iron and Steel Association said last week that fast-rising iron ore prices are “unreasonable”, that the industry should enhance the exploitation of resources both at home and abroad, and also improve rules for the futures market.

Analysts expect iron ore prices to ease over the course of the year, citing factors including China’s steel-output measures taking effect and iron ore supply growth accelerating. Still, some market watchers have estimates for the second half of the year that are above $100 a tonne. Citigroup has forecast a drop to that level only under its most bearish scenario, while WoodMac says prices won’t get below that threshold for another 12 months.

“Steel prices could be slightly softer in the second half of 2021 on the back of some downstream resistance to higher prices and tighter credit conditions. This could see iron ore prices climb down from elevated levels of late April,” S&P Global said in a note to investors.

“We do also see fundamentals potentially easing with Brazilian supply lifting as we continue into the year,” said Dim Ariyasinghe, a research analyst at UBS Group AG.

“Ultimately, while there is underlying steel demand and margins are positive, we expect to see continued strength in the iron ore price,” Ariyasinghe said.

(With files from Bloomberg)

Gold price inches higher as US yields retreat
Wed, 05 May 2021 17:18:22 +0000
The gold market is discounting Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's prior remarks about needing rate increases.

Gold prices inched higher on Wednesday as US Treasury yield retreated from a session high while the dollar hovers near a two-week peak.

Spot gold saw a slight gain of 0.2% to $1,783.87 per ounce by 1 p.m. ET. US gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,783.90 per ounce in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

“Treasuries are coming in line a little bit so you’re getting a bounce in gold,” Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, told Reuters.

Higher yields threaten gold’s appeal as an inflation hedge as they increase the opportunity cost of holding bullion, which pays no interest.

On Wednesday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen initially said rate increases may be needed to stop the economy overheating as President Joe Biden’s spending plans boost growth, but later downplayed the remarks and said she saw no inflation problem brewing, the Financial Post reported.

”Gold market is kind of discounting what Janet Yellen said yesterday, and seeing the fact that the Fed probably isn’t in a position to raise rates at this point,” Haberkorn said, adding however the Treasury Secretary’s statement on rates “threw some shade on the market.”

Elsewhere, palladium fell 0.4% to $2,975.45 per ounce after hitting an all-time high of $3,017.18 in the previous session, driven by concerns of a shortage of the metal.

(With files from Reuters)

Ivanhoe Mines promises zero emissions at Kamoa-Kakula
Wed, 05 May 2021 16:29:00 +0000
The Canadian company is committed to net-zero operational Scope 1 and 2 emissions at its copper mine in DRC.

Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) vowed on Wednesday to achieve net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2) at its Kamoa-Kakula joint-venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the project nears first copper production.

The miner said it has committed to work with Kamoa-Kakula’s partners to ensure it becomes the first net-zero operational carbon emitter among the world’s top-tier copper producers.

The Vancouver-based company noted the mine and concentrator plant at the site are already powered by clean, renewable hydropower, so the focus of its net-zero commitment will be on electrifying the project’s mining fleet.

“Industrial-scale electric and fuel-cell mechanized underground mining equipment is being tested around the world and it is only a matter of time until they become available for commercial use in the size that we require for our large-scale, bulk mining operations,” Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe Mines co-chair, said in the media release.

“We plan to be among the first of the early adopters of the technology,” he added.

Friedland did not specify a target date for realizing the goal of becoming the first net-zero operational carbon emitter among the world’s top-tier copper producers.

Scope 3 next

Ivanhoe also said that once the mine reaches net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions, it will turn its focus to achieving a net-zero total emissions, which will include all indirect emissions, whether upstream or downstream or “Scope 3.”

Commodity extraction and its use are responsible for 4% to 7% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, and up to 32% to 35% when considering Scope 3 emissions, analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a new report published on Tuesday.

“The transition will define boards’ capital allocation priorities, links between climate performance and executive remuneration, capex/opex intensity, and ultimately returns and their appeal to ESG-focused [environmental, social and corporate governance] investors,” Morgan Stanley said.

“Adequate strategies will minimize business risks over time, lower costs of capital and boosting equity values,” according to the report.

First production at Kakula, the first mine planned at the Kamoa-Kakula concession, is expected by early June.

The operation is initially forecast to generate 3.8 million tonnes of ore a year at an average feed grade “well in excess of 6% copper” over the first five years of operation.

Kamoa-Kakula is a strategic partnership between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).

Lucapa sells $1.5 million worth of Mothae diamonds
Wed, 05 May 2021 14:01:00 +0000
The 3,617 carat parcel of rough diamonds was sold for $420 per carat.

Australia’s Lucapa Diamond (ASX: LOM) said on Tuesday it had sold a 3,617-carat parcel of rough diamonds dug up at its Mothae mine in Lesotho for a total of $1.5 million (around A$2 million).

Price per carat, the company said, reached $420 (roughly A$543), which brings the total sales achieved year to date from both Mothae and the Lulo mine in Angola to $22.5 million (about A$29.1m).

In line with a diamond sales and purchase agreement with Safdico International, a subsidiary of Graff Diamonds and diamond manufacturing and trading company, Lucapa said Mothae will receive a minimum average cash flow value of $630 (A$816) per carat for the first twelve months of the agreement.

The difference between the minimum average cash flow value and the selling price will then be recouped by Safdico from sales delivered in the future with an average price higher than $630 per carat.

Mothae, which Lucapa owns in partnership with the government of Lesotho, finishing ramping up operations in late March, as the company completed a plan to boost production by 45% to 1.6Mtpa.

Tesla consumes more lithium than four closest rivals combined
Wed, 05 May 2021 13:11:00 +0000
The company led by Elon Musk deployed 18,700 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent in the batteries of its newly sold passenger EVs in 2020.

In the battery metals race, Tesla and Volkswagen have each found a way to overtake their competitors.

A recent report by Adamas Intelligence shows that the company led by Elon Musk deployed 18,700 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent onto roads globally in the batteries of its newly sold passenger EVs. This is more than its four closest rivals — BYD, Volkswagen, Renault, and Audi — combined.

According to Adamas, through the first three quarters of 2020, 100% of Tesla’s lithium consumption was in the form of lithium hydroxide. However, with the release of the made-in-China Model 3 Standard Range powered by LFP cells from CATL in the fourth quarter of 2020, this share dropped to 84%.

Overall, the market analyst’s data show that 67% of Tesla’s lithium consumption last year was driven by the Model 3, 17% by the Model Y, and the remaining 16% by the Model S and Model X, combined.

When looking at groups as opposed to just makers, Tesla consumed more lithium than the next two groups combined, namely Volkswagen and BYD.

By region, Adamas says that 47% of Tesla’s lithium consumption in 2020 rolled onto roads in the Americas, 34% in the Asia Pacific region, 19% in Europe, and less than 1% elsewhere.

A previous report by the Toronto-based firm showed that, in the cobalt space, it was Volkswagen Group leading the pack with nearly 3,000 tonnes of the blue metal deployed in the batteries of new VW, Audi, Porsche, and SEAT electric vehicles, as well as those manufactured with joint venture partners in China.

“In total, VW-brand EVs were responsible for 42% of the group’s cobalt deployment in 2020, followed by Audi with 35%, Porsche with 15%, and all others combined with 8%,” the report reads.

The German carmaker was followed by Tesla with more than 2,000 tonnes of cobalt deployed onto roads in the batteries of the new Model 3, Model Y, Model X, and Model S.

Cyprus-focused miner Caerus to recover metals from mine waste
Wed, 05 May 2021 13:07:00 +0000
Caerus Mineral Resources signed a deal with Jubilee Metals to work together on a waste-to-revenue strategy for its assets in Cyprus.

London-based Caerus Mineral Resources announced the signing of an agreement with Jubilee Metals to work together on a waste-to-revenue strategy for its assets in Cyprus.

Jubilee is in the business of processing waste materials for the recovery of metals so the agreement entails that it is to identify one or more of Caerus’ 16 former mines to be converted into a project or projects under a joint venture arrangement.

The project is to treat multiple large tonnage stockpiles of high-grade remnant ore as well as associated copper-and gold-bearing marginal ore, waste rock, and tailings.

The project is to treat multiple large tonnage stockpiles of high-grade remnant ore as well as associated copper-and gold-bearing marginal ore, waste rock, and tailings

Uncertified estimates run by Caerus show that it owns close to 15 million tonnes in all categories of material within its portfolio.

“The targeted wastes were discarded in an era when metal market dynamics were very different from today, and there was no incentive to optimise recoveries from ore feeds, nor any commercial or environmental benefits from doing so,” the miner said in a media statement.

“The dramatically changed commodity price environment for copper in today’s world is driven mainly by the global decarbonisation of the transport and energy sectors. This creates an opportunity for Caerus to form a working relationship with Jubilee and utilise their skills and experience in materials reprocessing.”

The European firm said that the metal recovery deal and associated work programs are parallel to its advanced exploration objectives of defining NI 43-101-compliant ore reserves from its core flagship properties of Kalavasos, Mathiatis, and Mala, and the advanced assets of its recently acquired Ploutonic Resources, all located in Cyprus.

Metals price rally could hamper switch to green energy — IEA
Wed, 05 May 2021 10:36:00 +0000
Prices for commodities — from lithium to cobalt — have hit record highs as demand for clean energy technologies increases.

Soaring metals prices may be good for miners, but they put at risk the ongoing transition to clean energy as batteries, solar panels and wind turbines need considerable amounts of copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium and other minerals to be manufactured, a new report warns.

According to The International Energy Agency (IEA), reaching the goals of the Paris climate agreement would result in a quadrupling mineral demand by 2040. Yet a lack of investment in new mines could substantially raise the costs of clean energy technologies, the IEA said on Wednesday.

“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realising those ambitions,” IEA chief Fatih Birol said in the report.

“Left unaddressed, these potential vulnerabilities could make global progress towards a clean energy future slower and more costly – and therefore hamper international efforts to tackle climate change,” Birol said.

Metals price rally could hamper switch to green energy — IEA
Source: IEA: The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions.

Low-carbon technologies typically require more critical minerals than their fossil fuel counterparts. An electric vehicle (EV), for instance, requires six times the amount of critical minerals as an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, according to the IEA.

Prices for many of the metals tied to emerging green technologies have already seen major price jumps over the past year. Strong demand from China has met supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Other metals, such as copper, have seen strong speculative action as investors have bet big on the energy transition by investing in the metals that will power it.

Metals price rally could hamper switch to green energy — IEA
Source: IEA: The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions.

Copper prices traded on the London Metal Exchange rose above $10,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 last week. Prices for lithium in China have jumped more than 100% so far this year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. And they are likely to keep climbing, the IEA said, as demand needs to grow by more than 40 times if countries want to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

With governments rolling out green stimulus packages, EVs sales climbed by 41% last year, with about three million sold globally.

Energy security

Supply of some critical metals is also heavily concentrated in a few countries, raising security concerns, the IEA said.

The agency, created in the 1970s to ensure global oil supplies in the wake of the first Arab oil embargo, said critical minerals have taken the centre stage.

“Concerns about price volatility and security of supply do not disappear in an electrified, renewables-rich energy system,” it said.

“Concerns about price volatility and security of supply do not disappear in an electrified, renewables-rich energy system”

IEA: “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions”

The Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, produces about 70% of the world’s cobalt. China, in turn, is responsible for 60% of the production of rare-earth elements.

The processing of critical metals is even more concentrated, the IEA warns, with China accounting for over 80% of rare-earth processing, around 60% of lithium and cobalt processing, and 40% of copper processing.

More supplies are needed, but the slow pace of new mining projects and caution from investors poses problems, the agency warned.

New mining projects take on average 16 years to go from discovery to production and that timeline is unlikely to shorten unless governments show investors they support the development of new mines by making clear that they are serious about the energy transition, the IEA concluded.

Mining industry risk aversion could slow the pace of energy transition — report
Tue, 04 May 2021 22:21:19 +0000
Wood Mackenzie argues that it appears the mining industry is erring on the side of indecision.

As medieval philosopher Maimonides said, “the risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision”.

Energy research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, in its latest report, argues that it appears the mining industry disagrees and is erring on the side of indecision. At an industry level, WoodMac author Julian Kettle writes, there seems to be a reticence around investing sufficient capital to develop future supply at the pace and scale demanded by the energy transition.

Such inaction in itself carries risks: failing to invest now will endanger the future supply of a number of commodities critical to achieving the ambitious net-zero goals set by government and investors alike, Kettle points out, and asks why is the industry so wracked by apparent doubt – and can a better balance between risk and reward be found?

Past sins and open promises driving industry behaviour

An aversion to risk in general – and to repeating the sins of the past in terms of capital destruction in particular – appears to be holding back the mining industry, WoodMac asserts. This is compounded by investors who, having been promised consistent dividend distribution through the cycle, are now hooked.

Expansion capex is in very short supply, Kettle says with miners starving themselves of the capital they need to develop future supply.

Kettle asserts the gap between current capex commitments and what’s needed to deliver a two-degree pathway (where the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times is limited to 2 °C) amounts to almost $2 trillion over the next 15 years.

Is risk passé, or here to stay?

The assessment of risk is both relative and absolute and comes with a large dose of perception, Kettle writes.

“Given the challenge of project development, particularly around the issue of ESG risk, there is a narrative in some circles that risk is somehow passé, that what counts most is whether you can actually mine in a given jurisdiction.”

“I’ve reflected on this a great deal. I don’t think risk itself is passé – in fact it’s very much front of mind for investors, most of whom recognise the interplay between risk and reward but err on the side of caution. I do agree that the ability to actually mine is hugely important. However, I would argue that risk comes first: the fact you are comfortable proceeding with a project, particularly in a higher risk jurisdiction, means you have already overcome risk hurdles and are comfortable with the risk-reward matrix presented. Only in that sense is risk passé.”

ESG risks: a minefield for mining industry stakeholders

Wood Mackenzie’s sister company Verisk Maplecroft undertakes a quantitative assessment of risk that takes into consideration all three ESG components (environmental, social and governance). The results are represented as a heat map, which demonstrates there are few places on the planet where mining companies can develop and operate mines with low ESG risk.

Source: Verisk Maplecroft

Risk: an intersect between subjectivity, objectivity and perspective

Appetite for risk varies, Kettle points out, as do opinions about the degree of risk inherent in any given project. For example, a small band of players have license to and appetite for operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – as well as domestic firms, Chinese, Russian and one or two Western players operate mines in the country.

Operating in the DRC and adhering to higher ESG standards than would otherwise be put in place could arguably have a de-risking effect. However, ultimately the DRC is viewed as a high-risk jurisdiction that most governments, investors, lenders and miners avoid – despite its extensive high-grade copper and cobalt resources.

While the players operating there would, Kettle maintains, argue that the DRC attaches manageable risk, the problem is that it does not matter whether they are comfortable with the DRC risk profile, what really matters is the fact that the broadly held view is that it is high risk.

Stakeholders must work together to de-risk supply

Kettle argues that, given the need to meet tough decarbonisation and ESG targets, Western governments, lenders, investors and consumers will need to get comfortable operating in jurisdictions where ESG issues are more complex.

Government support to de-risk investments in certain countries is a necessary catalyst to enable mining in as ESG-compliant a way as possible, Kettle says. Intergovernmental agreements, low-cost loans, export credit arrangements and other measures will enable stakeholders to obtain the guarantees they need to mitigate risk.

What naturally follows is that consumers and society become more comfortable that mining in these jurisdictions is being done ‘the right way’, Kettle says, and then, and only then, will the West be able to secure sufficient volumes of the raw materials needed to pursue the energy transition in the timescales envisaged.

“Essentially, the West could take a leaf out of China’s book in securing the necessary supply chain, albeit ensuring far higher ESG standards are applied.”

“This would involve governments curbing their natural reticence about stepping directly into business, and perhaps looking at risk through a different lens. “Fortes fortuna adiuvat”, as the Roman proverb says – fortune favours the brave – and bravery always comes with some risk. But with China already setting the pace in the energy transition race for raw materials, doing nothing is not an option for the West.”

Benchmark signs deal with three First Nations for Lawyers project in BC
Tue, 04 May 2021 19:15:28 +0000
Company signed a definitive agreement with the Tsay Key Dene Nation, Kwadcha Nation and Takla Nation to advance its flagship project in British Columbia.

Benchmark Metals (TSXV: BNCH) has signed a definitive agreement with the Tsay Key Dene Nation, Kwadcha Nation and Takla Nation to advance its flagship Lawyers gold-silver project in the Golden Horseshoe of northern British Columbia.

What the company calls its “trilateral agreement” is a key part of earning a social licence for mine permitting and a strong partnership with Indigenous peoples.

Benchmark said it will continue to engage First Nations for employment and consultation. Near-term work at Lawyers includes the current drill program of up to 100,00 metres for expansion, definition and regional discovery.

Also planned is a bulk tonnage resources estimate this spring and a preliminary economic assessment this summer.

The former Lawyers mine was operated from 1989-92, during which time it produced 171,200 oz. of gold and 3.6 million oz. of silver.

Benchmark says an estimated C$50 million in infrastructure remains on the property, including year-round road access.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

Spotlight: ESG and sustainable mining
Tue, 04 May 2021 18:37:00 +0000
New Edumine course led by Sarah Gordon takes ESG from concept to concrete.

Growing up on a farm in northeastern Scotland, Sarah Gordon saw how sustainability was the key to peak agricultural production, and was always aware of the importance of the environment.  

Choosing a path as an exploration geologist and recognizing the need for a better way of doing things than were being done in the coal mines of the U.K. in the 1980s and 1990s, Gordon saw the mining industry confronted with the uncomfortable question: What is more important, production, or the environment?

She set out to help find a balance. During one of her first case studies as a PhD student on location doing risk assessment at a mine in Brazil, Gordon’s team recognized that sustainability issues had to factor into calculations, and be part of the decision making table at the board level. The Imperial College PhD candidates were able to improve production, safety and sustainability so much that the company they were consulting for reversed course, deciding, after all, not to sell its mine. 

Recognizing the market’s unfamiliarity with the ESG concept, Gordon and her co-founders at risk management consultancy firm Satarla use enterprise level risk management to put ESG on the corporate agenda, and it’s working.

Image from Sarah Gordon

In the six years since Satarla was founded, Gordon has seen the paradigm flip from “subtlety” adding ESG to a risk management portfolio, to, over the past year, moving to the forefront of the agenda as investors demand transparency from mining companies and social license to operate becomes akin to a mining license itself.

Today, Gordon is demonstrating her commitment to sustainability by living in an off the grid pod on the family farm in Scotland between Aberdeen and Inverness, relying for energy on a wood fire, gas stove, solar panels and a wind turbine.

“It’s easier said than done but its cool because its what I spend my time talking about — how do we make ESG real? I think it’s got to be done by testing it, and seeing if it’s possible,” Gordon says.

Gordon’s Edumine course called ESG and Mining kicks off online May 20. Here’s a sneak preview of the syllabus:

Q: Define ESG?

Gordon: It stands for environment, social and governance, but it means sustainability — it’s just the latest terminology. It means looking after things so we leave the earth in a positive state for the next generations.

Q: How and why does ESG impact mining industry professionals?

Gordon: Mining has a terrible reputation. There was a lot of “we made a lot of money, but don’t care what we’ve done to the planet” [mentality], but I think mining is turning a corner because, if mining companies don’t take ESG seriously — they will not get funding.

It will begin by not being able to get insurance for doing what you’re doing. You’ve got your investment —you’ve got insurers, you’ve got regulators beginning to ask the right questions. You won’t get your permit; you won’t get your license to operate unless you are able to show that you will be able to positively manage the environment and the social aspects of a mining operation.

This means that mining has to step up to the plate and deliver what people in the sector have been trying to do for years. All the raw materials we need come from the mining sector…but they need a responsible big return on capital.

President Biden saying everyone needs to be carbon neutral by yesterday — who stands to get the most benefit? It’s the mining sector, because the mining sector is the new energy sector. We need the materials such as lithium and cobalt, and we don’t have enough in play, we need more, we need to dig them out of the ground and there, the shift to taking sustainability seriously could actually revolutionize the mining sector and grow [it] hugely.

Q: How is ESG a strategy for mining companies?

Gordon: If you cannot deliver your strategy, taking into account society’s expectations, and in the reality of ESG, then you’re going to fail.

You can’t just set production targets and forget everything else, you will lose your license to operate, and you will lose your funding. You will miss out on a whole lot of opportunities. If you haven’t tried to figure out the environment, social and governance risks, projects fail.

Q: What can industry professionals expect from the ESG and Mining course?

Gordon: This is new for everybody. Everybody is starting from the same position — that you know more about your context than anybody else.
You are bringing unique experiences to the table, which will be hugely valuable for an understanding of how we can manage and leverage ESG.

You’ve got a case of everybody is on the same path, but you’re an expert in your area, so bring your stories, your case studies, and your problems, and we’ll work through them in the course. ESG is all about listening to, and having empathy for one another’s perspectives.

Read Sarah Gordon’s full bio, and Edumine course details here.

Denison moves to lock down 100% of Wheeler River project
Tue, 04 May 2021 18:19:21 +0000
Company delivered an offer to acquire a 100% interest in JCU Exploration Company for $32.5 million in cash.

Denison Mines (TSE: DML) announced on Tuesday that it has delivered an offer to Overseas Uranium Resources Development to acquire a 100% interest in its subsidiary JCU Exploration Company for C$40.5 million ($32.5m) in cash, more than tripling the C$12.5 million accepted offer in place with UEX Corporation announced two weeks ago.

JCU’s assets include 10% ownership in Denison’s flagship Wheeler River project (which DML owns the remaining 90%) in the southeast part of Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin.

The project has probable resources of 109.4 million lb. of uranium dioxide.

“At first glance, Denison’s bid to acquire the remaining 10% of its Wheeler River project would be modestly accretive (+2%), although this does depend on the final scale of future liabilities,” BMO Capital Markets said in a note.

“Further, if successful, the transaction simplifies the ownership of its flagship project as the company continues to make headway derisking the use of ISL mining in the Athabasca.”

“Denison continues to be rated a top-pick in the uranium space largely underpinned by our thesis that recent de-risking work at Wheeler River regarding the ISR mining approach to the ultra-high-grade Phoenix deposit is going under-appreciated by the market,” Haywood Capital Markets said in a note.

“We expect ongoing and future work to further demonstrate the viability of this low-cost mining approach and believe that will translate into more positive movement in DML’s share price.”

Midday Tuesday, Denison’s stock was down 4% on the TSE. The company has a C$1.078 billion market capitalization.

Artemis drilling raises confidence in high-grade starter pit at Blackwater gold project
Tue, 04 May 2021 16:15:34 +0000
A feasibility study for Blackwater is slated to be released mid-2021.

Grade control drilling at Artemis Gold’s (TSXV: ARTG) Blackwater project in central BC has confirmed that the starter pit outlined in a 2020 prefeasibility study contains wide, near-surface intervals of elevated gold grades.

Highlights of the reverse-circulation drill program include: 27 metres of 12.5 g/t gold starting at 24 metres depth; 33 metres of 10.4 g/t gold starting at 33 metres; and 21 metres of 12.4 g/t gold starting at 18 metres.

The 561-hole, 33,216-metre program brought drill density down to 12.5 by 12.5 metres spacing (from 50-metre centres previously) and was focused on early stage mine planning.

“These initial results from the grade control drilling program indicate the potential for more tonnage and more contained ounces within the high-grade starter zone, which could also potentially reduce the strip ratio at the beginning of the mine life,” said Artemis chairman and CEO Steven Dean in a release.

The company is aiming to complete the permitting process for Blackwater in the first quarter of 2022 to start construction in the second quarter

“The grade control drilling program at Blackwater is similar to the practice successfully applied at Atlantic Gold, providing substantially more data to optimize mine planning. This program is also designed to further demonstrate the strong continuity of high-grade mineralization at the start of the mine life and provide a higher confidence level in the Phase 1 mining schedule outlined in the company’s 2020 prefeasibility study, further derisking the start up of operations.”

A feasibility study for Blackwater is slated to be released mid-2021. Results from the grade control program will be incorporated.

The program targeted a zone within 60 metres from surface containing more than 5 million tonnes of high-grade ore to improve short-term mine planning at the start of production.

The company reports that 75% of the assays from the drill program, which began in the final quarter of 2020 and concluded in March, are in hand. The LeachWELL assay method was used to increase the sample size to 1 kg (from the standard 50 g) in order to reduce variability and increase repeatability of assay results and understanding of the leachability of the ore. LeachWELL assay results suggest a gold recovery of 96.7% and silver recovery of 72.2%.

As it prepares the feasibility study for Blackwater, located about 160 km southwest of Prince George, Artemis has been busy on the development and financing fronts.

In March, the company awarded a C$236 million EPC contract to Ausenco for the project.

And last month, Artemis received a credit-approved mandate letter and term sheet from Macquarie Bank and National Bank of Canada to arrange a C$360 million loan facility for project construction. Artemis expects to finalize a definitive credit agreement by the end of the third quarter.

The company is aiming to complete the permitting process for Blackwater in the first quarter of 2022 to start construction in the second quarter.

Artemis released a prefeasibility study for the project last August, shortly after acquiring it from New Gold (TSX: NGD). The study outlined a staged development starting with a C$592 million, 5 million t/y open pit operation producing 248,000 oz. gold per year for the first five years of a 23-year mine life. Phase 2 and 3 expansions to 12 million t/y (C$426 million) then 20 million t/y (C$398 million) would follow, with production rising to 420,000 oz. per year for five years, then falling to 316,000 oz. annually.

Artemis was spun out of Atlantic Gold before it was acquired by Australian miner St. Barbara in 2019.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

New Found Gold stock hits new high on latest assays from Keats drilling
Tue, 04 May 2021 16:13:41 +0000
The Newfoundland-focused gold explorer has become a billion-dollar company following "outstanding intervals."

New Found Gold (TSXV: NFG) announced on Tuesday assay results from an additional four holes drilled at the Keats zone, part of the company’s ongoing 200,000-metre diamond drill program at its Queensway project in Newfoundland.

The latest results are highlighted by intervals of 131.1 g/t Au over 4.65m and 124.4 g/t Au over 17.7m in hole NFGC-20-59, starting at a vertical depth of approximately 27m and continuing to approximately 63m vertical depth.

Greg Matheson, New Found Gold’s chief operating officer, said the “outstanding intervals” of hole NFGC-20-59 were the highest width x grade of any hole to date at Keats.

“These intervals provide further drill confirmation of the substantial zone of near-surface, high-grade gold mineralization at the north end of Keats,” Matheson said.

Another interval of 41.8 g/t over 2m in hole NFGC-21-105B provides further drill confirmation of the continuity of high-grade gold mineralization from sub-crop at bedrock surface at the north of Keats to the furthest interval 350m down plunge at approximately 170m vertical depth.

Step-out drilling at Keats continues down plunge. Holes NFGC-21-165 and NFGC-21-182 are the deepest holes completed to date testing to approximately 425m in the down plunge direction. Infill drilling is also progressing, particularly targeting between the plunging dilation zone and surface.

Two weeks earlier, the company reported an interval of 261.3 g/t Au over 7.2m in hole NFGC-21-137, which at the time set a new record from the Keats drilling in terms of the grade x width metric, eclipsing the 92.7 g/t Au over 19m intersected in late 2019.

Shares of New Found Gold surged over 12% to an all-time high of C$8.26 on Tuesday. The Newfoundland-focused gold explorer has become a billion-dollar company with a market capitalization of C$1.2 billion.

Gem Diamonds finds 254-carat diamond at Letseng
Tue, 04 May 2021 16:05:00 +0000
The company has found more than 60 white gem quality diamonds over 100 carats each, with 16 of them recovered last year.

Africa-focused Gem Diamonds (LON:GEMD) has found a high quality 254 carat Type II white gem at its Letšeng mine in Lesotho, the highest dollar per carat diamond mine in the world.

Since acquiring Letšeng in 2006, the company has found more than 60 white gem quality diamonds over 100 carats each, with 16 of them recovered last year.

At an average elevation of 3,100 metres (10,000 feet) above sea level, Letšeng is also one of the world’s highest diamond mines.

Gem Diamonds’ performance improved significantly in 2020, despite pandemic-related restrictions.

The miner saw sales rise 4% to $189.2 million for the year, with the average price jumping 17% to $1,908 per carat, up from $1,637 per carat achieved in 2019. That outweighed an 11% decline in sales volume to 99,172 carats.

The company sold 34 diamonds for over $1 million each last year.

Mongolia threatens to cancel Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement
Tue, 04 May 2021 15:53:39 +0000
The dispute relates to taxes paid by Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Rio Tinto’s unit, between 2013 and 2015.

The Mongolian government has threatened to declare the 2009 Oyu Tolgoi mine investment agreement void if an international tax arbitration is not dismissed.

The dispute relates to taxes paid by Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Rio Tinto’s unit, between 2013 and 2015.

The miner says Oyu Tolgoi received a tax assessment for about $155 million on January 16, 2018, from the local tax authority, relating to an audit on taxes already imposed and paid by the unit between 2013 and 2015.

Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s largest copper-gold-silver mine, was already at the center of a protracted dispute between Turquoise and its top shareholder, Rio Tinto, over funding for the underground expansion of the mine.

Rio claims Oyu Tolgoi paid $4.8 million in January 2018 to settle the unpaid taxes, fines and penalties for items it accepted.

The government has now filed its statement of defence together with a counterclaim.

Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s largest copper-gold-silver mine, was already at the center of a protracted dispute between Turquoise and its top shareholder, Rio Tinto, over funding for the underground expansion of the mine

“The company understands that the principal thrust of the Mongolian government claim is to seek the rejection of Oyu Tolgoi’s tax claims in their entirety,” said Turquoise Hill, the Rio-controlled company that operates the mine. 

Although it is not a party to that arbitration, Turquoise Hill said on Monday that it understood that the defence and counterclaim included a request that the arbitral tribunal add both the company and a member of the Rio Tinto Group as parties to the arbitration.

Turquoise Hill said it would oppose the request that it be added to the tax arbitration and that it would defend itself against the counterclaim.

The capital Ulaanbaatar also threatened in early January to halt the expansion of the mine, arguing that delays and higher-than-expected costs had eroded the economic benefits the country had hoped for.

Turquoise Hill resumed shipments to China last month after the Canadian miner declared force majeure on some Chinese contracts last month due to covid-19-led curbs.

Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 480,000 tonnes of copper per year on average from 2028 to 2036 from the open pit and underground, compared with 146,300 tonnes of copper per year in 2019 from the open pit. 

Midday Tuesday, Turquoise Hill’s stock was down nearly 3% on the NYSE. The company has a $3.51 billion market capitalization.

(With files from Reuters)

Copper price could spike to $13,000 on low stocks – BofA
Tue, 04 May 2021 14:18:54 +0000
Prompt delivery copper prices spike as inventories in LME warehouses fall 20% from mid-April.

Copper prices climbed back towards $10,000 per tonne on Tuesday, supported by prospects for higher demand while inventories dwindle.

Last Thursday, the copper price topped $10,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011, nearing the all-time high set that year.

Copper for delivery in July was down 0.3% by 12:57 pm (EDT) on Tuesday, with futures at $4.5230 per pound ($9,950 a tonne) on the Comex market in New York.

Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices

“It’s a tremendously positive story for copper at the moment and in the long term,” WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah told Reuters.

“Over the next few years we are likely to see copper demand increase and that will support prices.”

Analyst at CRU Group Robert Edwards believes copper has further to go:

”The copper price has gone stratospheric and probably has further to go, which is a boon for miners who are currently making at least two dollars for every one they spend getting metal out of the ground,”

Copper stocks in LME-approved warehouses shed 6,325 tonnes to a five-week low of 137,000 tonnes, having lost 20% from the middle of April.

In warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange, weekly data on Friday showed stocks fell 1.3% compared to the previous week.

Copper could spike to $13,000 a tonne in coming months, partially over low inventories, analysts at Bank of America said in a note.

The premium for cash copper over the three-month price was at only $4 a tonne, indicating concerns over metal for immediate delivery.

The global copper market should see a surplus of 79,000 tonnes this year and of 109,000 tonnes in 2022, the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) said on Monday.

“After three years of remaining essentially unchanged, world copper mine production, adjusted for historical disruption factors, is expected to increase by about 3.5% in 2021 and 3.7% in 2022,” ICSG said in a press release.

Credit: ICSG

“This assessment of the ICSG contrasts sharply with those of many other market participants, who envisage another seriously undersupplied copper market this year,” analysts at Commerzbank said.

(With files from Reuters)

Idle oil wells may be the source of massive methane emissions — study
Tue, 04 May 2021 13:11:00 +0000
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati studied, for the first time ever, methane emissions from inactive oil wells in the largest oil-producing region on Earth.

A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters states that uncapped, idle oil wells could be leaking millions of kilograms of methane each year into the atmosphere and surface water.

The authors of the paper studied 37 wells located on private property in the Permian Basin of Texas, the largest oil-producing region on Earth. Of these wells, seven had methane emissions of as much as 132 grams per hour, while the average rate was 6.2 grams per hour.

The study is the first of its kind on methane emissions from inactive oil wells in Texas. Previous research by the same authors of this recent paper tested idle wells in Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio and Utah and found that spread across the estimated 3.1 million abandoned wells in public registries, the leaking methane is equivalent to burning more than 16 million barrels of oil.

Seven wells in Texas’s Permian Basin had methane emissions of as much as 132 grams per hour, while the average rate was 6.2 grams per hour

According to Amy Townsend-Small, the professor of geology and geography at the University of Cincinnati who led the study, most of the wells had been inactive for three to five years, possibly because of fluctuations in market demand. 

Based on estimates by Grist and nonprofit news organization Texas Observer, the researcher said that if the rate of methane leaks she observed were consistent across all 102,000 idled wells in Texas, the 5.5 million kilograms of methane released would be equivalent to burning 150 million pounds of coal each year. 

“Inactive wells could be a substantial source of methane emissions if they are not subject to leak detection and repair regulations,” Townsend-Small said in a media statement.

In the professor’s view, regular inspections of inactive wells using infrared cameras to identify leaks could be a first step to addressing the problem.

Rio Tinto’s ISAL smelter certified for responsible aluminium production
Tue, 04 May 2021 13:07:00 +0000
The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative granted Rio Tinto a provisional responsible aluminium production certification for ISAL.

Rio Tinto (ASX, NYSE, LON: RIO) announced that its 52-year-old ISAL smelter in Iceland received a responsible aluminium production certification from the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI).

The Initiative is a 160-member global, multi-stakeholder, non-profit standards setting and certification organization that works towards the responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminium following an entire value chain approach.

Rio’s recent certification indicates that the ISAL smelter’s product meets environmental, social and governance standards. The designation has a provisional status and follows an independent, third-party desktop audit by ERM CVS. 

ISAL is located in Hafnarfjörður and produces 184,000 tonnes of aluminium per year

According to Rio, an onsite audit will be completed when possible after the easing of covid-19 travel restrictions.

ISAL is located in Hafnarfjörður and produces 184,000 tonnes of aluminium per year. The alumina that feeds the smelter is processed in the United States and Ireland and is transported by sea to Iceland.

“Expanding our global offering of independently certified, responsibly produced aluminium to include ISAL aligns with our aim to have consistently high ESG credentials across Rio Tinto,” the company’s chief commercial officer, Alf Barrios, said in a media statement.

“This certification can enhance the value ISAL’s high-quality billet delivers for customers in European markets, where there is a growing demand for sustainable products across sectors like construction and automotive.”

Barrios pointed out that Rio was the first company to get certified for ASI Aluminium in 2018. Now, eight smelters across its global supply chain have the Stewardship’s stamp of approval, including its alumina refinery, aluminium smelters and casthouses in Canada, and the Gove, Amrun and Weipa bauxite mines, Yarwun alumina refinery, and the Bell Bay and NZAS aluminium smelters in Australia and New Zealand.

Centamin to start building solar plant at Sukari
Tue, 04 May 2021 12:00:00 +0000
The $37 million project also includes 7.5 MW battery–energy storage system and is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022.

West Africa-focused gold miner Centamin (LON:CEY) (TSX:CEE) has taken a step towards setting up its Sukari mine in Egypt for a solar power-fuelled future, by awarding contracts to build a plant.

The miner said juwi AG and Giza Systems will be in charge of  the engineering, procurement and construction 36 MW solar farm and 7.5 MW battery–energy storage system at Egypt’s sole gold-exporting mine.

Renewable energy specialist juwi AG will design, supply and integrate the Sukari solar and battery plant into the current diesel power plant. Giza Systems, in turn, will install the necessary systems in the plant.

The $37 million project also includes a 7.5 MW battery–energy storage system and is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022

With solar considered a rapidly growing source of power within Egypt, Centamin said that finding local suppliers wasn’t a difficult task and it helps the company remain committed to promoting and prioritizing local socioeconomic partnerships.

Sukari is optimally located within Egypt’s Eastern Desert which has some of the highest levels of solar irradiance globally, averaging over ten hours of sunshine a day throughout the year.

To maximize the total energy generation, the project will use bifacial solar PV modules and a single axis tracking. juwi Hybrid IQ micro–grid technology will enable the integration of the solar and battery system into the existing off–grid network and support the operation of the existing power station.

Largest hybrid solar project

“Centamin’s decision to integrate sustainable solar power at Sukari is fully aligned with our commitment to responsible mining, chief executive Martin Horgan said in the statement. “It has enabled us to marry up our environmental stewardship philosophy with our strategic objective of maximizing returns for all stakeholders.” 

The project’s total cost is estimated at $37 million and is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022. It will be the largest hybrid solar project at an off–grid mining operation. It is also expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption at Sukari by an estimated 22 million litres per annum and lower carbon emissions an estimated 60,000 tonnes of CO2–e a year.

Other benefits of integrating solar as a sustainable power solution are the reduction in operating costs, including an estimated $9 million to $13 million in savings in yearly fuel costs and reduced exposure to fuel price volatility; increased reliability of the power system; and reduced traffic and fuel transport to and from site, the company said.

World’s top jewellery maker Pandora to use only lab-made diamonds
Tue, 04 May 2021 10:48:00 +0000
The Danish jewellery maker will stop selling mined diamonds and focus on more affordable, sustainable, lab-grown gems.

Pandora, the world’s biggest jeweler, dealt a blow to diamond miners on Tuesday by announcing it would no longer sell mined gems, but exclusively man-made ones.

The Danish company, best known for its charm bracelets, already doesn’t include mined diamonds in most of its pieces. From the 85 million pieces it sells a year, only about 50,000 of them include precious stones.

Pandora said Tuesday it will release its first collection using lab-made diamonds in the UK, expanding Pandora Brilliance to other markets in 2022.

The Pandora Brilliance collection, which is going on sale in the UK first, is advertised as carbon neutral because the diamonds are made with 60% renewable energy and the remaining emissions are offset

Those pieces of jewellery, chief executive Alexander Lacik said, will “not just be forever, but for everyone.”

“[The new collection] is as much a symbol of innovation and progress as it is of enduring beauty and stand as a testament to our ongoing and ambitious sustainability agenda,” Lacik said.

Since 2011, when prices peaked thanks to China’s younger shoppers, diamonds have faltered. Lab-grown stones, initially priced confusingly close to the real thing, posed a challenge.

Top diamond makers reacted to the new kind of diamonds, widely embraced by young consumers as they look identical to the mined ones, by launching a joint marketing campaign.

Under the motto “Real is Rare”, the Diamond Producers Association, which groups the world’s leading diamond companies, launched a series of film-like spots targeting millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996.

Failing that, they begun selling man-made diamonds themselves. Anglo American’s De Beers, for one, created the Lightbox brand to sell alternative diamonds for a fraction of the price of the mined ones.

Ethical concerns

Despite the establishment of the Kimberley Process in 2003, aimed at removing conflict diamonds from the supply chain, experts say trafficking of precious rocks is still ongoing.

Miners and world famous jewellers including Tiffany & Co, have come up with innovative ways of certifying their stones as ethically mined, mostly based in blockchain technology. The New York-based company last year began providing customers with details of newly sourced, individually registered diamonds that trace a stone’s path all the way back to the mine. 

World’s top jewellery maker Pandora to use only lab-made diamonds
Only about 50,000 out of the 85 million pieces of jewellery Pandora sells currently include mined diamonds. (Image courtesy of Pandora.)

While Pandora won’t need certificates of origin for its diamond jewellery, it is making a point to note its lab-made gems are grown from carbon with more than 60% renewable energy on average, a ratio that’s set to rise to 100% next year.

As part of its plan to make operations carbon neutral within four years, the Copenhagen-based firm vowed last year to stop relying on newly mined gold and silver and use instead only recycled precious metals by 2025.

Anglo American CEO: “45% of the world’s economic activity is driven by the mining sector”
Mon, 03 May 2021 19:33:25 +0000
There remains a gulf between the public perception of mining and the reality of mining.

Tasked with talking about the role of mining in society as part of the opening plenary at this year’s virtual CIM convention, Anglo American (LSE: AAL) chief executive Mark Cutifani didn’t mince words.

With a world population of 7.6 billion that’s growing toward 9 billion, “the simple fact is that the world cannot survive without mining and our contribution to literally every aspect of modern life,” Cutifani said.

Cutifani noted that other critical sectors, including energy, food production, construction, transportation, renewables infrastructure and communications all rely on mining. “In fact, 45% of the world’s economic activity is driven by the mining sector,” he said, counting both direct commodities sales and mining’s support of other industries (including the productivity improvements that come with mechanized farming, for example).

Not only that, but compared to agriculture’s footprint – which takes up 50% of the world’s habitable land – mining only takes up 0.04%.

“When we talk about life-of-mine plans, we’re also now starting to focus on life-of-community plans and how we can create 100 years future for those communities based on the infrastructure”

Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani

That is “literally the smallest footprint relative to our economic contribution than any other industry.”

However, there remains a gulf between the public perception of mining and the reality of mining.

“Even with all the contributions we make, people tend to see us an industry that takes more than it gives,” he said noting that the mining industry bears some responsibility for that. “One of the things we don’t do well as industry is talk about what we do.”

Life-of-community plans

The role of mining and mining companies’ relationships with local communities is also changing, in step with advances in technology and the increasing focus on sustainability.

For example, as part of its sustainability goals – which revolve around supporting a healthy environment and thriving communities and being a trusted corporate leader – Anglo has committed to support the creation of five jobs offsite for every one onsite.

“When we talk about life-of-mine plans, we’re also now starting to focus on life-of-community plans and how we can create 100 years future for those communities based on the infrastructure that we can bring as part of our mine development,” Cutifani said.

The company’s microfinancing programs in South Africa and South America have supported the creation of 137,000 jobs, he noted. And the development of a reverse osmosis water purification facility in South Africa has opened up new opportunities for agriculture and for locals to enter new industries that rely on clean water.

“We understand the impact of technology and future of work will have. . . so we understand that we have to be a catalyst in those local communities for new jobs.”

As the focus on sustainability and climate change increase, those pressures are already starting to reshape mining.

“Ten years ago, we used to define ourselves as a mining company, and for most, that created an image of a company digging holes,” Cutifani said. “In 2018, we redefined our own conversation about ourselves and took the way our customers were describing us – and that is as a metals and minerals company.”

Looking another 10 to 20 years into the future, Anglo (which currently mines everything from iron ore to precious and base metals to diamonds and more) sees itself becoming a “materials solutions company.” That vision incorporates an understanding of how the company will support the circular economy (including more recycling) and efforts against climate change, and the need to adjust its portfolio to the needs of society.

The goal, Cutifani said, is to understand where the world is going and become a catalyst to get there quicker.

“We need to help people understand what we do and how critical we are – we need to be a partner in society in creating a new future,” he said. “We are the key to decarbonization and creating a long-term sustainable planet.”

Cutifani also urged miners “to take the time to understand our role in society and make sure we’re creating the future, we’re not becoming a victim of the future.”

His remarks came during a panel, which was moderated by Jerrod Downey, president of Crownsmen Partners, and included Jody Kuzenko, president and CEO of Torex Gold Resources (TSX: TXG), David Cataford, president and CEO of Champion Iron (TSX: CIA; ASX; CIA), and Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar.

The wider theme of the plenary session was “resilient and thriving,” with the discussion touching on diversity and inclusion in mining, sustainability and ESG, and the impact of covid-19 on the industry.

The CIM virtual convention continues through Thursday, May 6.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

Proposed new royalty unsettles miners in Chile
Mon, 03 May 2021 17:48:54 +0000
Deputies in Chile’s lower house gave their general backing to a constitutional reform that would impose a flat 3% royalty on the production of copper and lithium to finance environmental and social programs.

The return of high copper prices has come in the nick of time for Chile, but as the price for the red metal rallies, politicians believe the mining industry could be contributing significantly more to help the country through the covid-19 pandemic.

Long-viewed as the most stable destination for foreign investment in South America, Chile’s increasingly fraught political scene is increasing risks for the country’s powerful mining industry.

The Finance Ministry estimates that the rise in copper prices since the start of the year could bolster public revenues by around $4 billion or 5.6% compared to its previous estimate, giving the government more wriggle room as it strives to protect families and businesses from a deadly wave of infections.

Around half will come from state copper miner Codelco, which reported profits of $1.6 billion for the first three months of the year, its best quarterly result in a decade, and an increase of 3,000% from the same period of last year. Taxes paid by privately-owned mines, which account for around 70% of the 5.8 million tonnes of copper that Chile produced last year, will provide the rest.

On March 24, deputies in Chile’s lower house gave their general backing to a constitutional reform that would impose a flat 3% royalty on the production of copper and lithium to finance environmental and social programs in communities near mining operations.

But under an amendment approved at the committee stage on April 26, the royalty would rise to a marginal rate of 15% when the copper price rises above $2.00 per lb.; 35% above $2.50 per lb., and 75% above $4.00 per lb.

If approved (it requires two-thirds majorities in both the lower and upper houses), mining companies would lose more than a fifth of their gross revenue to the royalty alone when prices are at current levels.

Aging infrastructure, falling ore grades and rising labour costs mean Chile’s copper mines are not as competitive as they were at the start of the last super-cycle

It is not just profits that are at stake. Aging infrastructure, falling ore grades and rising labour costs mean Chile’s copper mines are not as competitive as they were at the start of the last super-cycle, warns Gustavo Lagos, a professor of mine engineering, at Santiago’s Catholic University.

Around fourteen of the country’s large copper mines have production costs above US$2.50 per lb. With a royalty, many could be forced to close when prices slip again.

“Many low-grade operations will be put out of businesses, destroying jobs,” Manuel Viera, president of the Chilean Mining Chamber, said in a statement.

The full impact of the new tax would not be felt immediately. According to the Mining Council of Chile, most privately owned mines are covered by tax invariability agreements signed with the Chilean state.

Most of these are due to expire in the coming years, but some newer mines, such as Teck Resources’ (TSX: TECK.A/TECK.B; NYSE: TCK) Quebrada Blanca 2 which is still under construction, are protected until early next decade.

But the tax would not only threaten existing operations but also the pipeline of new mines Chile needs to develop to prevent production declining over the coming decades.

Many of these offer relatively low grades and must overcome significant environment challenges before they can be brought into operation. The need for desalination plants and pumping systems to supply water will add to capital and operating costs.

Add a punitive tax, like the one lawmakers are proposing, and many mining companies will prefer projects further up the Andes, in Asia or Africa, some people say.

But in Chile’s increasingly fraught political scene, few lawmakers are looking to the long-term, and are instead focusing on November’s presidential and legislative elections, says Lagos.

Following the collapse in support for President Piñera following the social unrest in late 2019, the legislative agenda has increasingly been dominated by the opposition-led Congress, which has wrong-footed the government with a series of headline-grabbing initiatives designed to help Chileans survive the pandemic.

Since last July, they have approved three constitutional reforms allowing Chilean workers to withdraw 10% of their pension savings (up to a maximum of $6,225 each time). So far savers have withdrawn a total of $36 billion (which could reach $50 billion in the coming weeks), bolstering household consumption and wealth but leaving millions without any savings for their old age.

Another constitutional reform at the committee stage would impose a one-time 2.5% levy on millionaires to finance basic income for vulnerable households. Not content with that, the deputies also added a temporary hike in corporate taxation for large companies and a cut in sales tax for basic household items.

After initially ceding ground, President Piñera promised this year to take a firmer stance against populist measures by challenging them on constitutional grounds (under the Constitution, only the executive can propose tax-raising measures).

But this legal ace-in-the-hole has failed. With unions promising a general strike if the third pension withdrawal was blocked, the Constitutional Court (led by one of Piñera’s former top advisers) refused on April 28 to even hear the president’s challenge, forcing him to sign the bill into law.

The political instability comes just as Chile embarks on a key political process — the debate over new constitution. On May 15th-16th, Chileans will head to the polls to choose members of the 150-member constitutional convention who will debate the contents of the new charter of the new.

Although companies were initially calm about the constitutional convention, thanks to a clause requiring a two-thirds majority to approve each clause of the constitution, lawmakers’ increasingly radicalism is giving cause for alarm.

Adding to the concerns is the next presidential elections, which remain wide open. A poll on April 29 by the respected Centro de Estudios Públicos found Pamela Jiles, a populist proponent of the pension withdrawals, as by far the country’s most popular politician.

Following the events of recent days and weeks, the government has now opened talks with more moderate members of the opposition, led by Senate Chairwoman Yasna Provoste, with the aim of agreeing to a more centrist agenda for its remaining ten months in office.

The deal is likely to include a universal basic income as well as new taxes to fund it. While hopeful that the royalty as currently envisioned will not come to pass, mining companies are realistic that taxes are going to go up.

“We expect that there would be new taxes at some point and that they will be reasonable and not as huge to the industry,” Lundin Mining (TSX: LUN) CEO Maria Inkster told analysts and investors on the company’s latest results call.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)

Gold Mountain to begin Elk Gold project construction in BC
Mon, 03 May 2021 17:08:01 +0000
The company anticipates construction to begin this month.

Gold Mountain Mining (TSX.V:GMTN) has received its Notice of Departure to begin mine construction at its 100% owned Elk Gold project near Merritt, British Columbia.

The company anticipates construction to begin this month.

“Receiving this Notice of Departure allows us to take the critical steps of upgrading our existing water management system, installing a weigh scale, as well as leveraging a gravel borrow to start stripping waste from our initial pit and repurpose it into aggregate needed to resurface roads throughout the property,” Kevin Smith, CEO of Gold Mountain said in a media statement.

Previous drilling confirms that the Elk Gold Project hosts multiple gold mineralized zones within the 16,716 hectare property boundary, the company said. The project is a mesothermal, intrusive-related, gold vein system. The Siwash North Mineral Resource zone includes pit constrained Measured & Indicated 454,000 oz AuEq and Inferred 95,000 oz AuEq.

Midday Monday, Gold Mountain’s stock was down nearly 3% on the TSXV. The company has a C$152 million market capitalization.

Fission offers $24m bought deal for Triple R development
Mon, 03 May 2021 16:45:00 +0000
The Triple R deposit is on the Patterson Lake South property in the Athabasca Basin.

Fission Uranium (TSX: FCU) has announced a C$30 million ($24.4m) bought deal public offering, the proceeds of which will be used to advance development of the Triple R deposit in Saskatchewan.

The company is issuing 50 million units, each of which is priced at C$0.60. Each unit will be comprised of one common share and one-half of a share purchase warrant. Each full warrant will entitle the holder to buy an additional share at a price of C$0.85 within 36 months of the offering closure.

The syndicate is underwritten by Eight Capital and Sprott Capital Partners. The underwriters have been granted over-allotment up to an additional 15% of the units for 30 days after closing.

The Triple R deposit is located on the Patterson Lake South property in the Athabasca Basin. The pre-feasibility study envisions a project with a pre-production capital outlay of C$1.18 billion and a total capital cost of C$1.46 billion. It would have a post-tax net present value with an 8% discount of C$702 million, and a post-tax internal rate of return of 25%. The post-tax payback period would be 2.5 years.

The resources are estimated to be 2.2 million indicated tonnes at an average grade of 2.10% uranium oxide, and 1.2 million inferred tonnes at 1.22% U3O8. Over the seven-year life of the mine, Fission will recover approximately 78.7 million lb. U3O8.

The Patterson Lake South property also has tremendous exploration potential, the company says, as only 25% of the area has been tested.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

Golden Predator-Viva Gold merger falls through
Mon, 03 May 2021 16:31:36 +0000
The juniors have mutually agreed to terminate their definitive agreement for the proposed acquisition of Viva Gold by Golden Predator.

Golden Predator Mining (TSXV: GPY) and Viva Gold (TSXV: VAU) have mutually agreed to terminate their definitive arrangement agreement for the proposed acquisition of Viva Gold by Golden Predator.

In early March, Golden Predator announced it would acquire all issued and outstanding shares of Viva Gold at a 35% premium, creating what would be a “premier junior gold producer.”

In Monday’s press release, Golden Predator advised that, regardless of the terminated agreement with Viva Gold, it will proceed with its plans to distribute 8.62 million common shares of C2C Gold Corp. to the company’s shareholders.

Golden Predator is advancing the past-producing Brewery Creek mine in the Yukon towards a timely resumption of mining activities. The project has established resources grading over 1.0 g/t Au and both a technical report and bankable feasibility study underway to define the economics of a restart of heap leach operations.

The company is currently working with the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the Yukon Water Board to renew its mining and water use licenses, with the ongoing support of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation.

Meanwhile, Viva Gold will continue to develop its Tonopah project, located on the Walker Lane gold trend in Nevada. The project contains 12.8 million measured and indicated tonnes at 0.79 g/t Au and 8.4 million inferred tonnes grading 0.67 g/t Au.

Shares of Golden Predator (C$36.3 million market capitalization) and Viva Gold (C$10.8 million market capitalization) were down 4.4% and 5.1% respectively on the TSX Venture Exchange by 12:30 ET.

Ivanhoe’s Kamoa-Kakula to begin copper production within a month
Mon, 03 May 2021 16:00:39 +0000
Overall construction of the Kamoa-Kakula project's first phase 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant is 98% complete.

Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) announced on Monday it is accelerating the construction and commissioning progress at the Phase 1 Kamoa-Kakula concentrator plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The target date for C4 commissioning (milling of ore and first copper concentrate production) has been advanced to the end of May or early June — several months ahead of schedule.

Overall construction of the Kamoa-Kakula project’s first phase 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant is essentially complete (98%), the company says, with the majority of the C1 (construction complete) certificates signed off.

The plant is energized with permanent power and C2 commissioning, which involves electrical, control and instrumentation checks, all well advanced. Water is being circulated in certain areas of the plant, marking the beginning of C3 commissioning, Ivanhoe said.

C3 commissioning involves checking for leaks, certain instrument calibration, control loop checks, and is the precursor to C4 commissioning (hot commissioning), which involves processing ore through the plant to produce a copper concentrate.

“The start of production at Kakula marks the beginning of a multi-generational copper mining district, consisting of numerous high-grade mines”

Ivanhoe co-chair Robert Friedland

Overall plant commissioning is running well ahead of schedule, with the first ore expected to be added to the mill by the end of May. Lower-grade ore will be fed into the plant during the C4 commissioning phase, to ensure plant performance and copper recovery are satisfactory before increasing the head grade.

The 409,000 tonnes mined in April comprised 357,000 tonnes grading 5.70% copper from the Kakula mine, including 121,000 tonnes grading 8.40% copper from the mine’s high-grade centre, and 51,000 tonnes grading 5.85% copper from the Kansoko mine.

The project’s pre-production surface stockpiles now contain approximately 3 million tonnes of high-grade and medium-grade ore at an estimated blended average of 4.74% copper. Kamoa-Kakula now has reached the 3-million-tonne target of mined high-grade and medium-grade ore, several months ahead of the timeline estimated in the 2020 pre-feasibility study.

Contained copper in the stockpiles increased by approximately 23,000 tonnes in April to a cumulative total of more than 140,000 tonnes.

Kamoa-Kakula also set another monthly mine development record in April, with advancement of more than 3,625 metres, bringing total underground development to approximately 42.2 kilometres — more than 15 kilometres ahead of schedule.

Drift-and-fill stoping operations are progressing well at the Kakula mine, with the majority of the ore production coming from stoping operations and the remainder coming from mine development activities.

The backfill plant, which will mix tailings from the processing plant with cement to produce paste backfill, will begin pumping backfill to the underground operations in July.

“The start of production at Kakula marks the beginning of a multi-generational copper mining district, consisting of numerous high-grade mines. We now turn our focus to scaling up this expansive copper region in a manner that is ethically and socially responsible, and setting a new global benchmark for the elimination of greenhouse gases in the production of copper that the world urgently needs,” Ivanhoe co-chair Robert Friedland said in Monday’s press release.

Kakula is projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine, with an initial mining rate of 3.8 million tonnes per annum at an estimated average feed grade of more than 6.0% copper over the first five years of operations. Kakula is the first of multiple high-grade mining areas planned on the 400-square-kilometre Kamoa-Kakula mining licence.

The copper project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).

World’s top miner warns against Chile’s mining tax
Mon, 03 May 2021 14:08:00 +0000
BHP says charging higher rates at times of high prices for copper and lithium could scare global investors away.

The world’s top miner BHP (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) said a proposed royalty on copper and lithium sales being discussed by lawmakers in Chile risks making international miners wary of investing in new projects or expanding existing mines to meet growing demand for both metals.

A congressional mining committee in the biggest copper-producing nation approved last week a version of a bill that would charge higher rates at times of high prices for copper and lithium.

The proposed law, first introduced in 2018 by opposition lawmakers, originally called for a 3% mining royalty for companies mining and exploring for the two metals. The new version would charge a marginal rate of 15% on sales derived from copper prices of between $2 and $2.50 a pound and as much as 75% on cash generated from prices above $4. At current prices, the effective rate would be 21.5%, although miners could discount refining costs from copper sold as refined cathode.

“The sort of reforms that are being put forward at the moment will be really quite damaging to the industry”

Ragnar Udd, president of BHP Minerals Americas

The proposed tax, to be applied on the nominal value of extracted metals, would affect copper miners that produce more than 12,000 tonnes of the metal annually and those extracting 50,000 tonnes a year of lithium.

Half the funds obtained from the royalty would go into a regional convergence fund to finance regional and communal development projects. The other half would directly finance projects to mitigate, compensate or repair environmental impacts from mining activity in communities near mining projects.

“You can absolutely try and take more from the golden goose but you just need to be very clear on what the implications are on that longer term”, Ragnar Udd, president of BHP Minerals Americas, told the Financial Times. “And the sort of reforms that are being put forward at the moment will be really quite damaging to the industry.”

Likely to get blocked

Even before the modification to the bill, the industry had indicated it would likely stifle investments and make Chile less competitive.

Diego Hernández, president of Chile’s National Mining Society (Sonami) and former CEO of copper giant Codelco, has defended the existing system.

In his first term in office a decade ago, centre-right President Sebastian Piñera introduced a complicated system of payments that now charges large producers a variable rate on operating profit of as much as 14%.

The proposed tax would affect copper miners that produce more than 12,000 tonnes of the metal annually and those extracting 50,000 tonnes a year of lithium

“It brings in the same or more (than a tax on sales) and does not fundamentally affect the less competitive mines,” Hernández told Reuters in March.

Opposition leaders, who are responsible for the bill, believe royalties on copper and lithium produced by companies such as BHP and Albemarle would fund regional development projects, responding to the growing social and environmental push from investors and supply chains. 

If the royalty bill gets through senate, Piñera’s administration is likely to block its passage via the constitutional court given it was introduced by the opposition. Ruling coalition lawmakers laid the groundwork for taking the bill to court by presenting a so-called constitutional reservation.

Chile holds about 52% of the world’s known lithium reserves. The nation aims at making the white metal its second-largest mining asset. Lithium is currently the country’s fourth-biggest export.

(With files from Bloomberg)

EnergyX’s direct lithium extraction technology gets $20m boost
Mon, 03 May 2021 13:11:00 +0000
According to EnergyX, the funding makes it the highest-valued direct lithium extraction technology company on the market.

Energy Exploration Technologies has secured $20 million in financing to continue developing its direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology.

Most of the funding was provided by a range of institutional investors and a smaller portion came from the company’s equity crowd-investment. According to EnergyX, this funding makes it the highest-valued direct lithium extraction technology company on the market.

The US-based firm owns an exclusive, worldwide license to commercialize a process that uses an advanced nanomaterial filtering membrane called a metal-organic framework (MOF), which is precisely tuned, in both size and chemistry, to filter lithium molecules in an ultra-fast, one-directional and highly selective manner.

The direct lithium extraction technology uses a metal-organic framework that is precisely tuned, in both size and chemistry, to filter lithium molecules

Studies have reported that besides speeding up the process of extracting lithium from salt brines, the MOF provides recovery rates of ~90%, which puts it above the 30% recovery rate obtained when brine from underground deposits is pumped to the surface and moved through a series of massive evaporation ponds with chemical treatments added.

EnergyX CEO Teague Egan told MINING.COM that these technical targets have been confirmed in the lab over the past 12 months and that the company has built three pilot plants that are being tested with real-world lithium brine from five customers around the world. 

One of those clients is Orocobre (ASX: ORE), with whom EnergyX signed a pilot partnership in 2020 to improve processes at its Olaroz operation, located in northern Argentina, on the Salar de Olaroz brine resource. 

In April, Orocobre announced a $3 billion merger with Galaxy Resources to create a lithium giant, the third-largest producer in the world. In line with this merger, EnergyX will deploy its pilot plants on Orocobre’s projects over the summer for longer duration testing.

 “There is a major oncoming shift across the entire battery material supply chain including mining and materials, anode/cathode, and cell assembly, and EnergyX plans to be at the epicentre for decades to come,” Egan said. 

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