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Monday, May 29, 2023

Today News Headlines

BHP launches open innovation call for disruptive water treatment solutions
Fri, 12 May 2023 19:15:13 +0000
“Global Water Challenge” is for companies, startups, institutes, research centers or other entities that have or are developing disruptive water treatment solutions.

In line with its aim for a water-secure world by 2030, BHP, in alliance with Fundación Chile’s Expande, launched the “Global Water Challenge”, an open innovation call that seeks to identify and de-risk disruptive water treatment solutions to sustainably enhance water recovery in the mining industry. 

The open call is for companies, startups, institutes, research centers or other entities that have or are developing disruptive water treatment solutions with a focus on multiple challenges that are facing BHP assets: minimize brine discharge from the reverse osmosis plant; treatment of acidic pit lake waters; treatment of hypersaline groundwater; treatment of neutral brine effluent from leaching operations; and treatment and reuse of brines recovered from tailing storage facilities. 

 “Water is an integral and vital resource for our company’s production and operations and we have a responsibility to effectively manage our water interactions and avoid or minimize our potential or actual adverse impacts on water resources,” Ingrid Oyarzún, Head of Sustainability Innovation at BHP said in a media statement.

Oyarzún said that facing this challenge and making our vision for a water secure world by 2030 a reality, requires collaboration with those companies that are addressing global challenges through innovation and disruptive technologies.

“We invite you to think big and work together to tackle the challenges facing water,” she said.  

The finalists will have the opportunity to present their solutions at a Demo Day, where the winners will be able to work together on the next steps with BHP such as a proof of concept, controlled Environment test and/or industrial pilot on a potential BHP asset.   

The winners will be able to test their solutions at BHP assets. Applications are open until June 1 and available here.

Copper price rises despite fears of slowing demand and rising inventories
Fri, 12 May 2023 16:21:33 +0000
"The market is on pause, but the bears are still in control," said Al Munro, base metals strategist at Marex.

The copper price rose on Friday despite fears of slowing demand in China and rising inventories.

Copper for delivery in July was up 1% on the Comex market in New York, touching $3.75 per pound ($8,250 per tonne). 

Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices

Despite a drop in prices at the beginning of the day, funds taking profits on short positions after the recent slide helped the metal to recover later in the session.

“The market is on pause, but the bears are still in control,” said Al Munro, base metals strategist at Marex.

Munro added that physical demand was weak and that short-term direction for industrial metals would be determined by macro events and the dollar.

A rising US currency makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for buyers with other currencies.

Copper stocks in LME-registered warehouses have climbed 50% to 76,625 tonnes since April 18, reinforcing the picture of languishing demand.

(With files from Reuters)

Delta Resources shares soar after reporting bonanza gold grades from Ontario property
Fri, 12 May 2023 16:16:37 +0000
One hole intersected exceptionally high gold grades of 1,636 and 697 g/t, both over 1 metre.
The Delta-1 gold property, Thunder Bay, Ontario. Credit: Delta Resources

Delta Resources (TSXV: DLTA) is closing in on a 52-week high on Friday following the release of bonanza-grade results from drilling at its Delta-1 gold project, located 50 km west of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The latest results include the final four holes from the 2023 Phase 1 drilling, plus initial observations on the first step-out holes from the 5,000-metre Phase 2 program.

The highlight from Phase 1 was hole D1-23-38, which intersected exceptionally high gold grades of 1,636 grams per tonne and 697 grams per tonne, both over 1 metre. The mineralization was encountered in narrower intervals east of a northeast-trending cross fault that displaced the mineralized zone towards the south.

Delta said it is unclear at this point how this high-grade mineralization correlates with the wide intervals of lower grade west of the cross structure. Vein widths, density of veining and grade distribution can be highly variable within these large gold systems, and hole D1-23-38 is typical of that variability along the favourable structure and geophysical target, it added.

Another hole (D1-23-37) was collared on the same drill-pad as a 2022 drill hole and intercepted a wide zone of alteration and low-grade gold mineralization in the Alpha and Beta zones with significant grades in the Gamma zone (2.06 g/t over 17.5 metres).

The Phase 2 step-out drilling, which is targeting the “Deep Blue” magnetic low anomaly spanning over 1.5 km southeast from drill hole D1-23-38, is also showing signs of a larger mineralized system. Two holes drilled 100 metres east appear to mark a return to the very wide intervals of gold mineralization, with visible gold observed in both, the company said.

“These bonanza grades at Delta-1 are very impressive, but more important is the fact that we are doing large, 100-metre step-outs and are still consistently hitting strong alteration with higher-grade gold segments hosted within a broader zone of low- to moderate-grade gold,” CEO André Tessier said in a media release. “This speaks to the strength of the mineralizing system and the upside potential as our drilling progresses eastward into the larger ‘Deep Blue’ target area.”

The Delta-1 project covers a 17-km strike extent of the Shebandowan structural zone. The 58.8-sqkm property has been dormant since 2003, until it was optioned by Delta Resources in 2019.

Shares of Delta Resources were up 13.7% by 12:05 p.m. in Toronto, giving the Kingston, Ontario-based gold junior a market capitalization of C$39.2 million ($28.9m).

Iron ore price stable despite demand concerns
Fri, 12 May 2023 16:09:29 +0000
Many Chinese steel mills have reportedly lowered their prices amid disappointment over demand.

Iron ore prices were mixed on Friday despite worries about a dim demand outlook in China.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China rose 0.10%, to $102.58 per tonne.

The most-traded September iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trading 2% lower at 697 yuan ($100.84) a tonne, off a session low of 685.50 yuan, its weakest since May 5.

Dalian iron ore’s benchmark price, however, was on track for a modest weekly gain after clawing back some lost ground.

Data on Thursday showed new Chinese bank loans tumbled far more sharply than expected in April, among a slew of downbeat indicators spurring concerns that the economy’s recovery is losing steam and putting pressure on policymakers to roll out additional supportive measures.

Many Chinese steel mills have reportedly lowered their prices amid disappointment over steel demand during the country’s peak spring construction season.

“With the peak construction season coming to an end and with the expected demand recovery not meeting expectations, there is little upside for steel output and iron ore demand recovery in the short to medium term,” said ING commodities strategist Ewa Manthey.

(With files from Reuters)

Teck secures regulatory approval for Zafranal copper project
Fri, 12 May 2023 15:33:37 +0000
The project in Peru is expected to produce an average of 133,000 tonnes of copper during its first 5 years of production.

Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A and TECK.B, NYSE: TECK) received regulatory approval from SENACE, Peru´s National Service of Environmental Certification for Sustainable Investments, for the Zafranal copper project located in the Arequipa Region.

The deposit is owned by Compañía Minera Zafranal, of which Teck owns 80% and Mitsubishi Materials Corporation owns 20%.

“Regulatory approval of the Zafranal Project is an important step forward in our strategy to grow our copper business and unlock significant value for shareholders,” Teck CEO Jonathan Price said in a statement.

Zafranal has an expected mine life of 19 years and will produce copper-gold concentrates through an open-pit mining and conventional concentration process. The mine and concentrator are expected to produce an average of 133,000 tonnes of copper contained in concentrate during its first 5 years of production.

According to Teck, the Zafranal team will update project capital and operating cost estimates and will develop detailed engineering plans as well as permitting activities through 2023. The project could be positioned for a formal project sanction decision as early as H1 2024.

The miner, the target of an unsolicited takeover bid by Glencore PLC, narrowly missed first-quarter estimates last month, hit by lower prices, weak copper and zinc sales, and higher expenses.

On April 26, Teck said it will not go ahead with a key shareholder vote on its plan to separate its metals and steelmaking coal businesses into two companies and instead will pursue what it called a simpler and more direct approach.

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail reported that a consortium led by mining veteran Pierre Lassonde had proposed to buy the company’s coal operations.

How earth’s early critters transformed the planet’s crust
Fri, 12 May 2023 13:06:00 +0000
The diversification of life on earth, which took place 500 million years ago, led to a drastic change in the chemistry of the planet’s uppermost layer.

A recent study by scientists at the University of Cambridge shows that the diversification of life on earth, which took place around 500 million years ago, led to a drastic change in the chemistry of the planet’s crust—the uppermost layer we walk on and, crucially, the layer which provides many of the nutrients essential to life.

The paper, which appeared in the journal Science Advances, explains that following the so-called Cambrian explosion, quantities of the life-giving nutrient phosphorus tripled in crustal rocks—a change that supported the continued expansion of life on earth.

Using a database of information on ancient rocks, which has been compiled by scientists across the globe, the Cambridge researchers built a map to show how the chemistry of earth’s crust has fluctuated over the last 3000 million years. They found that, following the increase in phosphorus at the time of the Cambrian explosion, the contents of this key nutrient in crustal rocks have continued to grow up until the present day.

“From about 540 million years onwards, we see that life transformed the composition of the upper part of earth’s crust,” Oliver Shorttle, co-author of the study, said in a media statement. “This shows how the development of life can influence the growth of further life, and in turn how much life a planet can go on to support.”

Locked up in minerals

Life in all its varied forms—from the prodigious whale to minute plankton—relies on six key ingredients: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur. The researchers investigated phosphorus because it is not only universally needed by life, but also difficult to tap into because it is locked up in minerals inside the planet’s crust.

“Phosphorus is also thought to be one of the nutrients that limit the amount of life that can exist in the oceans,” Shorttle said.

According to the researcher, by mapping out phosphorus in rocks through time, he and his colleagues could identify how much of this element is available to life, and, by extension, get an idea of how much life has existed on the planet.

Unlike carbon and nitrogen, which are key constituents of our atmosphere, phosphorus must be extracted from rocks before life forms can use it. The process starts with the breakdown of rocks due to interactions with rainwater—releasing phosphate which is then washed by rivers into the oceans. Once in the oceans, phosphorus is metabolized by organisms such as plankton or eukaryotic algae, which are then consumed by larger animals higher up the food chain.

When these organisms die, most of the phosphorus is returned to the oceans. This efficient recycling process is a key control on the amount of total phosphorus in the ocean, which in turn supports life.

O2’s big role

All of this biological reprocessing power relies on oxygen. This is what fuels the bacteria responsible for the breakdown of dead organic material that returns phosphorus into the oceans.

The researchers think that a surge in oxygen at around the time of the Cambrian explosion might explain why phosphorus increased in rocks.

“If oxygen did increase at that time, then more oxygen may have been available to break down deep-sea biomass and recycle phosphorus to shallow coastal regions,” Craig Walton, lead author of the article, said. “Moving this phosphorus back towards the land meant it was better preserved in rocks that make up the continents. That series of changes were ultimately responsible for fueling the activity of complex life as we know it.”

Walton noted that, despite these new findings, it is tricky to unravel the sequence of events—whether complex life evolved in part because of increased supplies of oxygen and phosphorus to start with, or if they were in fact fully responsible for increasing availability of both. Thus, he and his team are now looking to investigate the trigger for and timing of this phosphorus enrichment in the crust in more detail.

AngloGold to move primary listing, head office out of South Africa
Fri, 12 May 2023 10:45:00 +0000
The miner is further distancing itself from the home country with plans to list in New York and make London its new headquarters.

AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU) (JSE: ANG) (ASX: AGG) is transferring its primary listing to New York from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), further cutting its ties to South Africa, the country in which it was founded more than a century ago.

The gold producer said the switch included moving its headquarters to London, but noted it was keeping the South African office and adding a secondary listing in Ghana.

As part of the restructuring unveiled Friday, the miner said that it would be renamed AngloGold Ashanti PLC, as the UK office will ultimately hold all of the company’s operations outside of Africa. 

AngloGold sold its last mine in the home country in 2020, and has since shifted its focus to more lucrative mines in Ghana, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Australia and the Americas.

Chief executive Alberto Calderón said that having the primary listing in New York will place the company at the epicentre of the gold industry, making it easier to tap capital and narrow the discount its shares trade at when compared to larger rivals such as Newmont (NYSE: NEM) (TSE: NGT) and Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD).

He added that two-thirds of the miner’s stock volumes were already being traded on Wall Street, where the company has listed depository receipts.

“This is not about South Africa,” Calderón said. “We are proud of our heritage.”

The move will also reduce risks associated with South Africa, where mining is becoming more costly and risky due to geological challenges posed by some the world’s deepest underground mines.

The current and previous CEOs have not been based in Johannesburg, with Calderón settled in Melbourne, Australia, and his predecessor, Kelvin Dushnisky, was based in Toronto, Canada.

AngloGold Ashanti to move primary listing, headquarters out of S. Africa
Sunrise Dam is one of the two mines the company has in Australia. (Image courtesy of AngloGold Ashanti.)

AngloGold noted the shares represented by the CHESS depositary interests held on the Australian register had fallen to about 4.1% and represented less than 0.1% of the year-to-date average daily trading value of the company’s equity securities across all exchanges.

“We believe that the administrative and compliance obligations and costs associated with maintaining the ASX listing are no longer in the best interests of its shareholders as a whole,” the company said in the statement.

The exchange has approved AngloGold’s request to be delisted, which is expected to materialize on June 27, it said.

Market reaction

Analysts reacted cautiously to the announcements, with BMO Capital Markets highlighting the cost of the re-locating headquarters.

“Although we agree with management in terms of the historical valuation discount, in recent years we have seen the valuation gap significantly narrow,” BMO’s Raj Ray wrote in a note to clients.

“In our opinion, the significant upfront costs and lack of visibility around immediate material benefits could weigh on the stock,” Ray said. 

“With regard to indexation, it is yet unclear to us the potential impact due to inflows and outflows on the share price. It is our view that moving the primary listing to the US could result in AngloGold losing the emerging market gold story,” he noted.

RBC Capital Markets said the valuation upside forecast by the AngloGold’s management was “questionable,” while securing the backing of 75% of shareholders — about 40% being South African investors — was a “key hurdle” for the move.

Shares in the company were down 6.2% at $25 each in pre-market in New York, after having fallen more than 7% in Johannesburg near closing, exchanging hands at 47,649 ZAR each.

Ernest Oppenheimer founded Anglo American in 1917 and its subsequent development led the growth of the world’s largest gold industry for many years. 

The sector boosted South Africa’s coffers and made it the leading economy in Africa. 

Anglo began withdrawing from the home country in 1998, when it consolidated its gold subsidiaries into AngloGold Ltd. It expanded its international presence in 2004 with the acquisition of Ashanti Goldfields Ltd. of Ghana.

The South African gold industry, by contrast, has shrunk to less than a fifth of its peak size and its economic relevance has been declining with about 93,000 people currently working in the sector.

Polymetal plans exile to Kazakhstan as Russia ties cause a London stink
Thu, 11 May 2023 23:54:33 +0000
Company proposed a plan to shareholders to delist from the London Stock Exchange and to redomicile to the Astana International Financial Centre.

Top-ten gold producer Polymetal (LSE: POLY) on May 10 proposed a plan to shareholders to delist from the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and to redomicile to the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in Kazakhstan as international sanctions against Russia mount.

The Anglo-Russian miner, headquartered in Jersey, says Russia has listed the tax haven as an “unfriendly country” because of the Russia-led conflict in Ukraine that started in February last year. The US, the UK and the EU, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Japan have each progressively imposed sanctions on certain Russian persons, entities and sectors, prompting Russia to adopt its counter-sanction measures.

Such measures include sanctioning persons and entities within jurisdictions on the “unfriendly countries list” under Russian law.

“The board is of the view that the re-domiciliation is a necessary and critical step to preserve shareholder value,” Polymetal said in a statement. “In determining that the re-domiciliation to the AIFC is the preferred alternative, the principal focus of the board has been on the removal of as many Russian counter-sanction restrictions as possible, in a legal forum that offers shareholders as much similarity to the status quo as possible.”

Polymetal says it considered the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, and Hong Kong as alternatives to the AIFC.

Shareholders will vote on the re-domiciliation proposal on May 30 during the annual general meeting. Should owners approve the move, the company says it can’t guarantee its ongoing ability to meet specific basic requirements for the ordinary shares to continue to be admitted to trading on the LSE mainboard.

According to Polyment, it had also attempted to meet these requirements using depository interests or depositary receipts, but the sanctions proved this was too much of a hurdle to clear.

The company’s strategy to relocate stands in contrast to Kinross Gold’s (TSX: K, NYSE: KGC) June 2022 move to sell its Russia-based assets at all costs in a bid to sidestep the sanctions.

Polymetal also released its operating and financial results for the March quarter, saying output fell 5% year-on-year to 345,000 oz. gold-equivalent, mainly owing to 7% lower head grades at 3.2 grams gold per tonne.

Revenue for the quarter rose by 19% to $733 million as sales channels stabilized, with the company taking full advantage of higher gold prices while reducing its metal stockpiles.

“Q1 saw continued metal inventory release and positive revenue dynamics,” said Polymental CEO Vital Nesis. “Management is optimistic that the unwinding of saleable inventory will be substantially completed by the end of the second quarter of 2023.”

The company’s financials didn’t disclose the quarterly earnings or losses.

Polymetal confirmed full-year guidance of 1.7 million oz. gold-equivalent.

Polymetal operates 10 gold mines in Russia and Kazakhstan, employing 14,700 people.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has decimated Polymetal’s London-listed equity, which at £2.25 ($2.82) apiece on Thursday, was down 86% over the past 24 months. It has a market capitalization of £1.5 billion ($1.88 billion).

Missouri start-up gets $200,000 grant to accelerate US autonomous railcar technology
Thu, 11 May 2023 23:52:20 +0000
Initial applications of its technology include captive routes between mines and processing facilities, as well as intra-plant and ports.

Intramotev, a Missouri based technology startup working on developing autonomous, zero-emission rail solutions, has been awarded a $200,000 grant from Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to support the deployment of three of its TugVolt self-propelled railcars at a mining site in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in late 2023.

The TugVolt self-propelled battery-electric railcar prototype is undergoing testing in Intramotev’s St. Louis headquarters in North City. Its new 20,000-square-foot facility is part of the former campus of Swiss manufacturer ABB, which in 2017 announced plans to stop production at its St. Louis facility

Intramotev has developed platforms for remote dispatched TugVolt control, as well as automated railcar components for safer operations during loading and unloading procedures, the company said in a statement.

The civic investment will catalyze the first deployment anywhere in the world of self-propelled, battery-electric railcars for commercial use in a freight rail operation, Intramotev said, adding that it will also begin to fulfill the company’s goal that initial applications of its technology will include captive routes between mines and processing facilities, as well as intra-plant and ports. 

Every moment, freight trucks navigate long, choked highways across the nation, producing an estimated 433 million tons of carbon emissions annually, while close to a million freight railcars sit idle every day in switching yards, the company noted.

Intramotev said it is developing and deploying a suite of products to address the primary element behind the lack of growth in the rail industry, shipment certainty, while further building upon rail’s strengths in safety and sustainability.

They include TugVolt, a proprietary kit that can retrofit/upfit existing railcars to become battery-electric, move independently like a truck, and decouple to service first- and last-mile legs; ReVolt, capturing waste energy in traditional trains via regenerative braking; and automated safety systems including gates and hatches.

Intramotev aims to help meet the Federal Railroad Administration’s Climate Challenge, a is commited to partner with owners and operators in the US rail network, and manufacturers of rail equipment, to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The U.S.’s rail lines represent one the country’s original foundations of mobility and prosperity, and now we have an opportunity to future-proof these lines, starting in Michigan,” Kathryn Snorrason, Interim Chief Mobility Officer for the State of Michigan said in the statement.

“We look forward to supporting Intramotev’s deployment of its innovative railcars, which will not only serve to further expand Michigan’s growing EV ecosystem, but will help revolutionize our supply chains and create a more sustainable mobility future.”

“Utilizing the most advanced battery-electric technology and other proprietary tools, we look to apply the packetization of the internet model to freight logistics initially on short captive routes and remove the actual distance then rapidly expanding to the full network of 140,000 miles of existing U.S. track without additional infrastructure,” said Intramotev CEO Timothy Luchini, PhD.

“We envision a future where freight can move itself without waiting for a locomotive, making the system more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

Indonesia emerges as a cobalt powerhouse amid surge in demand
Thu, 11 May 2023 18:28:15 +0000
Demand for cobalt is set to more than double by 2030 to 388,000 tonnes.

Demand for cobalt is set to more than double by 2030 to 388,000 tonnes as the electric vehicle (EV) sector shifts into overdrive, says a new Benchmark Mineral Intelligence report.

The outlook entails compound yearly cobalt demand growth of 10% over the weak 2022 figures, according to the Benchmark agency’s May 10 report commissioned by the Istanbul, Turkey-based Cobalt Institute.

“The industry is optimistic the cobalt market will continue to grow in the coming years, driven by the success of cobalt’s use in superalloys and hard metals, and particularly in EVs,” the Cobalt Institute’s interim director general, Caroline Braibant, said in an email to The Northern Miner.

Braibant said cobalt-containing batteries are essential for EV batteries’ safety, performance and stability – a factor that will continue to define consumer preferences in Europe and North America.

According to the May 10 report, the EV sector is forecast to contribute 89% of demand growth by the end of the decade, up from 40% in 2022, followed by energy storage at 3% and super alloys at 2%.

Despite the rising share of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery chemistries, cobalt-containing cathode chemistries such as nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM), nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide (NCA) and lithium-cobalt oxide (LCO) will be the preferred technology for battery applications – accounting for 59% of total cathode demand in 2030, Benchmark suggests.

“NCM chemistries for EV applications will remain the major driver, shifting to higher nickel and lower cobalt intensities over time. LFP’s share will rise further relative to 2022, reaching a 39% share in 2030. However, we do not anticipate a widespread switch away from cobalt-containing chemistries,” the report reads.

Indonesia emerges as a cobalt powerhouse amid metal demand doubling by 2030

All this demand will require a significant supply response. According to Benchmark, global cobalt supply, both primary and secondary, will exceed 200,000 tonnes this year, and only amount to 318,000 tonnes by 2030, meaning the market will be in deficit by then.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to dominate as the world’s primary cobalt source, accounting for 73% of mined cobalt supply in 2022. It Is expected to remain the dominant producer, although this share will fall to 57% by 2030.

Braibant said the August 2022 U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is likely to reshape the global cobalt supply chain, despite for the moment, neither the major suppliers – the DRC nor Indonesia – are IRA-compliant. Compliant jurisdictions are expected to benefit from the IRA’s proposed financial and tax incentives.

Indonesia rising

Notably, Benchmark flags Indonesia as stepping up to the supply challenge. Indonesia is the second-largest market by some margin and will quickly catch up with the DRC as a major growth driver.

From 2022 to 2030, Indonesia has the potential to increase cobalt supply by 10 times, compared to the DRC’s output rising by two-thirds, and could account for 37% of the potential mined supply growth from 2022-30, the agency said.

Indonesia became the second largest cobalt producer in 2022, capturing 5% of the global market share and bypassing Australia. It produced 9,500 tonnes in 2022.

Despite not producing any mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) before 2021, the quick rollout of new high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) nickel production capacity in Indonesia has meant that cobalt in MHP is quickly becoming a crucial part of the global market. Benchmark forecasts 93% of Indonesia’s potential cobalt growth to 2030 will come from MHP, with the remainder from matte – an artificial nickel-iron sulphide containing 25%-45% nickel that has turned the traditional nickel market on its head.

Investment in Indonesian HPAL capacity is mostly Chinese, although more Western companies are getting involved.

Indonesia emerges as a cobalt powerhouse amid metal demand doubling by 2030

For now, Benchmark expects cobalt supplies will continue to outpace demand, at least until the mid-2020s. The average 2022 price for cobalt in Europe was $31 per lb., peaking at $40 per lb. As of late March, cobalt was trading at about $18 per lb., which price level should persist through the remainder of the year.

The price outlook changes to a more optimistic tone from the mid to late 2020s, Benchmark forecasts, underpinned by an emerging structural deficit as supply growth slows and demand grows quicker.

“With additional supply required to fill the widening forecast deficit, cobalt prices will increase to incentivize investment,” Benchmark predicts.

The agency also flags a divergent pricing mechanism for intermediate battery chemicals and the actual metals market. The latter was traditionally used for trading in all stages of the cobalt value chain.

“With chemical and metal market fundamentals diverging over the last year, given the relatively tight metal market and the intermediate oversupply, the metal price has often failed to represent the overall market balance. As such, alternative pricing methods are emerging in the hydroxide market, which avoid referencing the metal price,” the report reads.

Newcrest extends Newmont’s exclusivity period to make binding takeover offer
Thu, 11 May 2023 16:47:54 +0000
A successful bid would see the two companies merge into by far the world’s biggest gold miner.

Newcrest Mining (ASX, TSX: NCM) has extended the exclusivity period for Newmont (NYSE: NEM, TSX: NGT) to complete its due diligence and submit a binding takeover offer under the same terms as previously announced.

On April 11, the companies entered into an exclusivity deed after a revised non-binding proposal submitted by Newmont valued at $19.5 billion. This represents Newmont’s final offer after the original offer of $16.9 billion was turned down in February.

US-based Newmont had until May 11, 2023, to conduct confirmatory due diligence. During that period, Newcrest must abide to certain restrictions such as ‘no shop’ and ‘no talk’ to grant Newmont exclusivity.

This exclusivity period has now been extended to May 18, as Newmont has substantially completed due diligence, and will be given another week to make its offer binding.

Newcrest CEO Sherry Duhe said last week that the board is prepared to recommend a takeover offer from Newmont, subject to successful due diligence during this period. The Australian miner had given Newmont access to its books following its sweetened bid last month.

A successful bid would see the two companies merge into by far the world’s biggest gold miner, with sites in North and South America, Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Shares of Newcrest Mining were down 1.9% by 12:40 p.m. EDT. The company has a market capitalization of A$25.8 billion.

Ivanhoe Electric buys private land by copper project in Arizona
Thu, 11 May 2023 16:35:00 +0000
The company is saying it will buy 6,205 acres of private land by its Santa Cruz copper project near Casa Grande, Arizona.

Robert Friedland’s Ivanhoe Electric (NYSE, TSX: IE) said on Thursday it will buy 6,205 acres of private land for $120.5 million by its Santa Cruz copper project near Casa Grande, Arizona.

The company said the large area of flat land, which includes associated water rights, was ideally suited for renewable solar energy. Ivanhoe Electric has said it plan to utilize to solar power at the project.

“This is a significant step towards realizing our vision of developing a high-grade, low carbon dioxide footprint underground copper mine on private land,” Friedland said in the statement.

Ivanhoe said it also holds the option to acquire all the mineral titles contiguous with the acquired surface lands. 

The Santa Cruz deposit remains by far the largest deposit on the Arizona property, with indicated resources totalling 223.2 million tonnes grading 1.24% total copper and inferred resources totalling 62.7 million tonnes grading 1.23% total copper.

Arizona became Ivanhoe Electric’s home in December last year, when the company opted to trade its Vancouver, Canada head office location for one in the mining-rich state.

Ivanhoe Electric owns or holds stakes in nine electric metals developments across the US, including the Tintic project in Utah, which holds copper, gold and silver. 

The firm is focusing on boosting the US supply of critical minerals, where the government is boosting efforts to secure local supply of critical minerals and metals used in the batteries that power electric vehicles and in infrastructure needed to support the transition to a greener economy.

As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced in April $16 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to bring critical mineral supply chains to America and reduce reliance on competitors like China.

Additionally, the government has said that nations with trade agreements with the US will be able access some of the Inflation Reduction Act’s benefits, which offers some $369 billion in grants and tax credits over the next decade for clean-energy programs in North America.

Mining People: Workplace Safety North, Spanish Mountain, Artemis Gold, Marimaca Copper
Thu, 11 May 2023 16:04:19 +0000
Key moves in the mining sector.

Award announced:

Workplace Safety North director of health and safety, Cindy Schiewek, has been named one of Canada’s top women in safety by Canadian Occupational Safety.

Management changes announced this week:

Benjamin Hill Mining named Lorne Warner president, replacing Greg Bronson who is now senior project geologist.

Dr. Ray Shaw gave up his role as CEO to become COO at Besra Gold.

Samantha Shorter joined GR Silver Mining as CFO following the retirement of Blaine Bailey.

Lion Rock Resources said R. Dale Ginn has been named president, CEO and a director.

Marimaca Copper named Jose Antonio Merino managing director Chile and interim CFO. Former CFO Petra Decher has stepped down.

Gerry Brockelsby is now chief investment officer of Orefinders Resources.

Spanish Mountain Gold named Peter Mah as president and CEO.

Board changes:

Dale Andres joined to board of Artemis Gold to replace retiring Bill Armstrong.

The new executive chair of Besra Gold is Jocelyn M. Bennett.

The new chair of Caledonia Mining is John Kelly.

Capstone Copper appointed Peter Meredith a director following the resignation of former chair George Brack.

Fokus Mining added Jean-David More to its board.

McFarlane Lake Mining said Dario Zulich has accepted a seat on its board.

Director Brent Bergeron named chair of Spanish Mountain Gold.

Sparton Resources welcomed new board member Denise Cummings-Luckie.

Wheaton Precious Metals confirmed the retirements of Eduardo Luna and John Brough from the board.

Copper price at six month low on weak China inflation data
Thu, 11 May 2023 15:47:39 +0000
China’s consumer prices rose at the slowest pace in more than two years in April.

The copper price hit the lowest since November on Thursday after inflation data from China added to concerns over the strength of the country’s economic recovery.

China’s consumer prices rose at the slowest pace in more than two years in April. Producer deflation deepened last month, highlighting the broader economy’s struggles after the lifting of covid restrictions in December.

“China also has seen a sizeable increase in refined copper exports over the last couple of months, suggesting that domestic demand is not as strong as many were expecting,” said ING analyst Ewa Manthey.

Copper for delivery in July on the Comex market in New York touched $3.70 per pound ($8,140 per tonne), down 3.6% compared to Wednesday’s closing.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

“The copper market has broken down through the key support level of $8,450, which it was testing for a couple of days. It is triggered by weak inflation data out of China, where construction and infrastructure sectors are not doing particularly well,” said Dan Smith, head of research at Amalgamated Metal Trading.

Copper inventories in LME-registered warehouses continued to rise on Thursday, reaching 75,950 tonnes, their highest since March 20.

Adding pressure on dollar-priced metals, the dollar index rose, making the metals more expensive to holders of other currencies.

Read More: Column: Copper’s anticipated supply surplus is proving elusive

(With files from Reuters)

Sprott backs Seabridge Gold with $150 million KSM smelter royalty
Thu, 11 May 2023 13:52:29 +0000
The KSM project is the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper project, when measured by resources.

KSM Mining, a subsidiary of Seabridge Gold (TSX: SEA; NYSE: SA), has agreed to principal terms of a royalty agreement under which Sprott Resource Streaming and Royalty will pay KSM C$200 million ($150 million) to secure a 1.2% net smelter royalty (NSR) from the KSM gold-copper project near Stewart, British Columbia.

Seabridge will use the proceeds to complete the physical works at KSM that will allow the provincial government to give it a designation of “substantially started.”

Seabridge CEO Rudi Fronk said this funding will accomplish three objectives: earn the substantially started designation which ensures the continuity of the approved environmental assessment certificate; allow the completion of key tasks that will shorten the construction period; and make the KSM project more interesting to potential joint venture partners.

The funds will be used to complete the switching station and related work required for connecting KSM to BC Hydro’s Northern Transmission Line for construction and operation of the mine. Access to this green energy will substantially enhance KSM’s sustainability and carbon profile.

The proceeds will also allow Seabridge to continue providing significant work at the project for companies owned and managed by its Indigenous partners, it said.

“This new $150 million in financing, coupled with the $225 million we raised from Sprott and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan last year, provide the capital we believe is needed to achieve substantially started status well before July 2026. KSM’s estimated low operating costs mean that the royalty is expected to have a minimal impact on the project’s projected financial returns,” said Fronk.

“This funding does not require share dilution and therefore furthers our long-standing strategy of providing the industry’s best leverage to gold as measured by ounces of gold reserves and resources per share,” Fronk added.

The KSM project is the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper project, when measured by resources. The proven and probable reserves are 2.3 billion tonnes grading 0.64 g/t gold (47.3 million oz. contained gold) and 0.14% copper (7.3 billion lb. contained copper).

The measured and indicated resources (inclusive of reserves) are 5.4 billion tonnes grading 0.51 g/t gold (88.4 million gold oz.) and 0.16% copper (19.4 billion lb.) There is also an inferred resource of 5.7 billion tonnes grading 0.36 g/t gold (65.6 million oz.) and 0.28% copper (55.1 billion lb.)

The preliminary economic assessment prepared last year outlines a 39-year operation that will need a preproduction investment of $1.5 billion followed by sustaining costs of $12.8 million. That will support a 170,000 t/d mining rate and average annual output of 368,000 oz. of gold, 366 million lb. of copper, and 1.8 million oz. of silver.

Scientists find two different types of water in lithium-rich salt flats
Thu, 11 May 2023 13:08:00 +0000
US-based researchers have characterized for the first time two types of surface water in the hyperarid salars that contain much of the world’s lithium deposits.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Alaska Anchorage have characterized for the first time two different types of surface water in the hyperarid salars—or salt flats—that contain much of the world’s lithium deposits.

In a paper published in the journal Water Resources Research, the scientists explain that this new characterization represents a leap forward in understanding how water moves through such basins. It will be key to minimizing the environmental impact on their sensitive, critical habitats.

“You can’t protect the salars if you don’t first understand how they work,” Sarah McKnight, lead author of the paper, said in a media statement.

McKnight said that salars must be considered giant, shallow depressions into which water is constantly flowing, both through surface runoff and the much slower flow of subsurface waters. In these depressions, there’s no outlet for the water, and because the bowl is in an extremely arid region, the rate of evaporation is such that enormous salt flats have developed over millennia.

According to the researcher, there are different kinds of water in these depressions; generally, the nearer the lip of the bowl, the fresher the water. Down near the bottom of the depression, the water is incredibly salty. However, the salt flats are occasionally pocketed with pools of brackish water. Many different kinds of valuable metals can be found there—including lithium—while the pools of brackish water are critical habitats for animals like flamingoes and vicuñas.

Unveiling the invisible

One of the challenges of studying these systems is that many salars are relatively inaccessible.

The one McKnight studies, the Salar de Atacama in Chile, is sandwiched between the Andes and the Atacama Desert. The hydrogeology is also incredibly complex: water comes into the system from Andean runoff, as well as via the subsurface aquifer, but the process governing how exactly snow and groundwater eventually turn into salt flats is difficult to pin down.

She noted that, in addition to these natural conditions, she has had to take into consideration the increased mining pressure in the area and the poorly understood effects it may have on water quality, as well as the mega-storms whose intensity and precipitation have risen markedly due to climate change. In other words, the system’s workings are difficult to understand.

However, by combining observations of surface and groundwater with data from the Sentinel-2 satellite and powerful computer modelling, McKnight and her colleagues were able to see something that has so far remained invisible to other researchers.

It turns out that not all water in the salar is the same. What McKnight and her colleagues call “terminal pools” are brackish ponds of water located in what is called the “transition zone,” or the part of the salar where the water is increasingly briny but has not yet reached full concentration.

Then there are the “transitional pools,” which are located right at the boundary between the briny waters and the salt flats. Water comes into each of these pools from different sources—some of them quite far away from the pools they feed—and exits the pools via different pathways.

“It’s important to define these two different types of surface waters,” McKnight said. “They behave very differently. After a major storm event, the terminal pools flood quickly, and then quickly recede back to their pre-flood levels. But the transitional pools take a very long time—from a few months to almost a year—to recede back to their normal level after a major storm.”

All of this has implications for how these particular ecosystems are managed.

“We need to treat terminal and transitional pools differently,” the researcher said. “This means paying more attention to where the water in the pools comes from and how long it takes to get there.”

Chile’s mining royalty bill heads for final vote
Thu, 11 May 2023 10:44:00 +0000
The long-awaited and several times amended mining royalty bill is back at the lower chamber with a vote expected next week.

Chile’s senate has approved an amended mining royalty bill, in the works for almost two years, passing it back to the lower chamber for a final vote expected to come as early as next week.

The proposed law, first introduced in 2018, originally called for a flat-rate ad valorem tax of 3% on large-scale copper miners that extract more than 50,000 tonnes per year. 

Following the collapse in support for the right-wing President Sebastian Piñera and the social unrest in late 2019, the bill was modified.

The amended proposal imposes a flat-rate ad valorem tax of 1% on copper companies that produce more than 50,000 tonnes per year.

Additional royalties would be assessed at rates fluctuating from 8% to 26% based on miners’ operating margins, rather than being adjusted according to the price of copper as was originally proposed.

Depreciation, as well as supply and work costs, would be taken into consideration in calculating operating margins.

“This has been a tremendously important step” for raising funds on a regional level, Minister of Finance Mario Marcel told reporters after the vote late Wednesday. Pending approval in the lower house, it will also provide the industry with “a clear panorama to make decisions.”

Miners in Chile, the world’s top copper producer, currently have a tax burden of 41% to 44%. The tax ceiling for units of giant mining companies, including BHP (ASX: BHP), Anglo American (LON: AAL) and Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A | TECK.B) (NYSE: TECK), has been the focus of debate for months as President Gabriel Boric’s administration attempts to increase its take of copper earnings, without undermining Chile’s competitiveness.

Earlier this week, the government said it had reached an agreement with senators to cut the top tax rate to 46.5% from 47% for companies that produce over 80,000 tonnes of fine copper a year, and 45.5% for production in the 50,000-80,000 range.

According to official figures, the new mining royalty would inject about $1.5 billion a year into the state’s coffers, from which $450 million will be distributed to regional governments for social spending.

Minister of Mining Marcela Hernando told MINING.COM on Thursday she was satisfied with what the bill looks like.

“As a ‘regionalist’ at heart, I am very happy to see the bill will direct an important injection of resources not only to those areas where mining happens, but also to the poorest communities,” Hernando said.

Chile’s main competitors in the copper sector, such as Peru, have a tax of 41% to 44% over large producers’ operating profit.

Canada must increase mining investment to regain top production spot — MAC report
Wed, 10 May 2023 17:56:22 +0000
"The Canadian Mining Story: Economic Impacts and Drivers for the Global Energy Transition," details how the sector contributed C$125 billion to the country's GDP in 2021.

Canada’s mining sector has recovered from the challenges of the pandemic, but more investment is urgently needed for Canada to fulfill its promise as a key player in the global green economy, says a new report from the Mining Association of Canada (MAC).

The Canadian Mining Story: Economic Impacts and Drivers for the Global Energy Transition,” released on Wednesday, details how the sector contributed C$125 billion (or 5%) to the country’s GDP in 2021.

But while the report notes encouraging actions from the federal government to help build an efficient investment and regulatory environment, such as its unveiling of the nearly C$3.8-billion Critical Minerals Strategy last December, the 2022 Fall Economic Statement and the 2022 and 2023 budgets, it says more needs to be done.

Canada is no longer the top producer of minerals needed for a low-carbon economy, like zinc and nickel, MAC says, and many other minerals aren’t being produced at the level they were a decade ago. The report points to a decrease in mineral investment as the cause of the production decline.

“The stakes have never been higher and this year’s report demonstrates that, with the right supports, our industry will be better able to provide the sustainably produced products essential to businesses and the public, both domestically and for our allies across the globe,” said MAC President and CEO Pierre Gratton.

To keep the sector competitive, MAC recommends further investments in domestic mineral processing; expanding government exploration programs like the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (METC) and undertaking wider mineral resource assessments to include their mineral potential in land management decisions; more investment in infrastructure, particularly in the Far North; and further investment in developing a skilled workforce, especially among Indigenous people.

Despite the sector’s unfulfilled potential, MAC lauds government support for mining over the past 12 months.

In last year’s budget, the government doubled the METC for specific critical minerals; while this year’s budget pledges to improve the efficiency of timelines and permitting processes for new projects by the end of the year.

“[Those measures] will improve our industry’s ability to provide the minerals and metals integral to low-carbon technologies and the energy transition – this is good news as time is of the essence if we are to establish Canada as the global mining supplier of choice,” Gratton said.

Compared with other mining jurisdictions, Canada also better fills the need for minerals and metals and with higher social and environmental standards, the report says.

“Building green economy value chains provides a once-in-a-generation chance for Canada. We can be a key player in the economy of the future if we seize the opportunity before us,” he said. Mining was a significant part of the economy in 2021, and formed a larger portion of its C$7-trillion GDP value than finance, construction, transportation or retail trade. It also employed 665,000 people in 2021, with 403,000 people directly employed in mining and 263,000 indirectly employed. Mineral exports reached record levels that year, forming 22% of Canada’s total merchandise exports.

Kinross Gold stock rises on Q1 earnings surprise
Wed, 10 May 2023 17:32:29 +0000
Across the portfolio, all projects are on plan and met quarterly production targets, says Kinross.

Shares of Kinross Gold (TSX: K, NYSE: KGC) rose to a near 52-week high on Wednesday after outperforming analysts’ estimates in the first quarter of 2023. The stock was up 2.4% to C$7.30 per share by 1 p.m. in Toronto, for a market value of C$9.1 billion.

Earlier, the company released its Q1 2023 results, highlighted by net earnings of $90.2 million or $0.07 per share. This was above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.05 per share, and better than the earnings of $0.06 per share recorded a year ago.

The Canadian gold miner has now surpassed consensus EPS estimates twice over the last four quarters. In Q4 2022, the company produced earnings of $0.09 per share, which was also $0.02 higher than expected.

The latest quarter was marked by stronger production that helped generate revenues of $929.3 million, compared to $700.9 million during the same period in 2022.

Total quarterly production from continuing operations was 466,022 gold-equivalent ounces, representing a 23% year-over-year increase. All-in sustaining cost per ounce sold was $1,321 in Q1 2023, up from $1,231 in the 2022 comparable period.

The higher Q1 output was attributed to the production ramp-up at La Coipa in Chile, which achieved record grades and recoveries since restarting operations last year.

Tasiast in Mauritania also delivered strong production, including two record-production months in January and March. Paracatu in Brazil remains a solid contributor with higher year-over-year production at lower costs.

Across the portfolio, all projects are on plan and met quarterly production targets, the miner said.

“Tasiast, La Coipa and Paracatu delivered strong production, margins and cash flow, including two record production months and record grades at Tasiast,” Kinross CEO Paul Rollinson said in a news release. “Our US operations delivered on plan as we continue to reinvest in our future with a focus on higher-margin opportunities.”

“We continue to make excellent progress advancing our pipeline of development and exploration projects. The Tasiast 24k project is on schedule to reach nameplate capacity mid-year and the Tasiast solar power plant is expected to come online by the end of the year,” Rollinson said. “At Great Bear, drilling results continue to confirm mineralization with good widths and high grades including at depths of more than one kilometre.”

“Our portfolio of operations is well positioned and on track to deliver our annual production and cost guidance.”

Iron ore price rises on renewed hopes of China demand recovery
Wed, 10 May 2023 16:38:47 +0000
Mysteel reported that six steel mills in North China's Shanxi province will resume production in the coming two weeks amid improved margins.

The iron ore price rose on Wednesday, supported by renewed optimism around demand prospects in China.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China rose 1.36%, to $106.94 per tonne.

On China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange, iron ore’s most-traded September contract ended daytime trade 0.3% higher at 724 yuan ($104.74) a tonne. It earlier touched 733 yuan, its strongest since April 24.

Mysteel reported that six steel mills in North China’s Shanxi province will gradually resume production in the coming two weeks amid improved margins, thanks to lower production costs.

That will likely increase the daily blast furnace capacity utilization rate to 89% from 74.8% as of May 9, Mysteel analysts said.

Expectations of expanded stimulus for China’s economy amid an uneven recovery also kept iron ore prices supported.

“Certainly there is a feeling that Chinese authorities are likely to announce further supportive measures over the coming weeks,” said Al Munro of broker Marex.

(With files from Reuters)

Gold price treads down as US CPI data bolsters case for ending rate hikes
Wed, 10 May 2023 16:05:25 +0000
The marketplace realized that the CPI data is not all that bullish for gold, analyst says.

Gold prices treaded down on Wednesday in a relatively choppy trading session after US inflation readings came in mostly as expected, reinforcing bets for a pause in the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes.

Spot gold was down 0.5% to $2,023.28 per ounce by 11:45 a.m. EDT, having risen to $2,047.89 earlier in the day. US gold futures also declined 0.5% to $2,031.40 per ounce.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

Meanwhile, both the US dollar and Treasury yields fell after the Labor Department reported that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.4% last month, in line with estimates.

However, underlying inflation remained strong. In the 12 months through April, the core CPI gained 5.5% year-on-year after advancing by 5.6% in March.

The data disrupted the modest momentum that had been building for an 11th straight interest rate hike in June, with the bulk of futures tied to the Fed’s rate betting on a pause.

“Shorter-term futures traders took some profits on the surge and that backed the price off, but the marketplace realized that the CPI data is not all that bullish for gold,” Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco Metals, told Reuters.

Gold may struggle in the short term with core inflation well above the Fed’s target, “but for now the positive correlation to short-end rate futures will dictate the direction,” added Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Some analysts have said gold could attempt another run to record highs, given persistent economic worries, including a potential US debt ceiling default.

(With files from Reuters)

Serabi, Vale to jointly explore for copper in Brazil
Wed, 10 May 2023 13:43:00 +0000
The JV will explore Serabi's Matilda prospect and other targets in the Tapajos region of Brazil, within its Palito Complex.

Brazil-focused Serabi Gold (LON: SRB)(TSX: SBI) has partnered with miner Vale (NYSE: VALE) to scout for copper discoveries within its exploration tenements around its Palito Complex area, including the Matilda prospect and other regional targets in the country’s Para state.

The gold producer said the strategic exploration deal with Vale’s subsidiary Salobo Metais was structured over four phases.

Vale will fund up to $5 million for the exploration program in the first phase.

In the second, the Rio de Janeiro-based iron ore and nickel giant can choose to continue exploration activities and fund one or more selected copper projects to the pre-feasibility study stage.

In a third phase, Vale would have the option to acquire a 75% share of a joint venture company incorporated by Serabi.

The gold miner would then transfer the copper project to a joint venture (JV) entity, and Vale would purchase 75% of it for $5 million, continuing to solely fund the joint venture through to completion of a definitive feasibility study.

The fourth and last phase gives Vale the option to buy an additional 15% interest in the JV, or pay $5 million, or 1.5% of the net present value of the project, increasing its interest to 90%.

Serabi would then have the option to sell its remaining 10% interest in the JV for a further $10 million and a 1.5% net smelter royalty.

“Bringing in a partner with the expertise and resources of Vale will enable us to properly evaluate Matilda and the other significant targets within our tenement area, and move them forward more quickly,” Serabi’s chief executive officer Michael Hodgson said in the statement.

The gold company owns 61,000 hectares of tenements in the Palito Complex tenement area, where the Matilda discovery was made last year.

The complex and Serabi’s Coringa gold project lie in the Tapajos region of northern Brazil, which has been known as a major producer of gold since the 1970s.

Rio Tinto to co-fund Finnish solution to recover critical minerals, metals from mine wastewater
Wed, 10 May 2023 12:05:00 +0000
Weeefiner and Sensmet are developing a solution that will be able to provide water treatment to end-of-life mining sites and selectively recover critical minerals and rare earth metals.

Finnish companies Weeefiner and Sensmet are developing a solution that will be able to provide water treatment to end-of-life mining sites and, at the same time, selectively recover critical minerals and rare earth metals from mining-impacted waters.

The firms’ Intelligent Recovery Unit (IRU) project received funding from Rio Tinto Group’s sustainable water treatment challenge program, which may give them up to $2 million of co-funding over three years. Weeefiner will be in charge of the metal recovery and water treatment solution while Sensmet will deal with the online measurement technology to enable continuous process control.

“To date, water treatment methods at mining sites have focused on decontamination by precipitation, which requires large amounts of chemicals such as lime, and represents a heavy carbon footprint,” Mikko Hänninen, Weeefiner CEO, said in a media statement.

“This process also produces sludge that contains contaminants and represents a further disposal challenge. At Weeefiner, our highly selective 4D Scavenger technology is designed to target and extract dissolved metals for reuse, which significantly reduces the downstream water treatment burden. Mining sites will be able to use the IRU to produce sustainable raw materials while simultaneously meeting regulatory requirements.”

Sensmet, on the other hand, will put to work its µDOES analyzer, which provides real-time, simultaneous quantification of dissolved metal concentrations, such as Ni, Co, Li, Mn and Cu in hydrometallurgical processes and mining waters. 

4D Scavenger reactors from Weeefiner
4D Scavenger reactors. (Image by Weeefiner).

The system has been designed to streamline the measurement process with comparable analytical performance to laboratory inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy, but with the robustness required for continuous and fully automated industrial process monitoring.

“The µDOES enhances the IRU by measuring metal concentrations both before and after 4D Scavenger treatment, enabling automated process optimization,” the release reads.

Sensmet CEO Toni Laurila pointed out that the µDOES analyzer has previously demonstrated the advantages of real-time analysis of metal concentrations in battery recycling and production processes, resulting in increased efficiency, lower costs, higher output, and improved product quality. 

Weeefiner and Sensmet are now working with Rio Tinto to develop a solution that can be deployed in the field. Initially, synthetic water will be treated at research facilities in Finland to demonstrate the effective monitoring and removal of key metals such as copper, cobalt and nickel. Once the removal of these elements has been proven effective, Rio Tinto will supply samples from closed mining sites that will undergo a similar assessment.

After the mineral extraction from mine water concept has been proven in the laboratory, pilot units will be developed for initial evaluation at two closed mine sites. 

“This is one of our most exciting innovation projects, and we are hopeful that it will enable us to recover strategic metals that would have otherwise been lost,” Nick Gurieff, principal adviser for closure research and development at Rio Tinto, said.

“We will track measures such as the recovery cost of one kilo of copper, for example, and this will allow us to determine whether this new technology could be self-funding. However, that is not the primary objective; if we can effectively remove metals, the environmental challenge will be lowered and subsequent treatment downstream will be that much easier.”

In Gurieff’s view, by recovering strategic metals such as copper from waste, the IRU project will likely contribute to a more circular economy and improve the availability of battery metals as the world decarbonizes its energy and transport infrastructure. 

Allkem, Livent merge to create world’s third largest lithium miner
Wed, 10 May 2023 10:47:00 +0000
The all-share business combination creates a giant lithium firm with forecasted production capacity of 248,000 tonnes of LCE a year.

Lithium firms Allkem Ltd (ASX: AKE) and Livent Corp (NYSE: LTHM) are shaking up the sector by merging to form the world’s third largest miner of the key metal used in the batteries that power electric vehicles and high tech devices, in terms of annual production capacity.

The all-share merger creates a company with a valuation of $10.6 billion and a forecasted production capacity of 248,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) a year, representing about 7% of global mine production in 2023, said battery raw materials analyst at Fastmarkets NewGen, Jordan Roberts.

The deal places the new company among the top five lithium producers in terms of market capitalization, behind Albemarle (NYSE: ALB), Chile’s SQM (NYSE: SQM), Ganfeng Lithium (SHE: 002460) and Tianqi Lithium (SHE: 002466).

“Allkem and Livent will combine their highly complementary range of assets, growth projects, and operating skills across extraction and processing under a vertically integrated business model,”  the companies said on Wednesday.

Australia’s Allkem produces lithium carbonate from its Sal de Vida mine in Argentina. The operation is near Livent’s Hombre Muerto brines project and the Olaroz lithium facility, which is a joint venture project with Japanese trading giant Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC).

Allkem, formed as a result of a scrip merger between Galaxy Resources and Orocobre in 2021, also produces hard rock lithium in Australia and has a chemical conversion facility in Japan.

US-based Livent has brine production in Argentina, a hard-rock based lithium project in Canada, and lithium refineries in the US and China. The company also has a supply agreements with various US-based automakers, including General Motors, Tesla, and BMW.

Livent, Allkem create world's No. 5 lithium miner in $10.6bn merger
Source: Livent and Allkem’s Investor Presentation.

Livent chief executive officer, Paul Graves, will take the top job at the new entity while Allkem’s director Peter Coleman will become the chairman. No role was announced for Allkem’s CEO Martín Pérez de Solay.

The company, to be based in North America, will be primarily listed on the New York Stock Exchange and seek inclusion on Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index.

Canada and Argentina to benefit

As part of the “merger of equals”, set to close by the end of 2023, Allkem shareholders will take 56% of the company and Livent shareholders will own 44%. 

“As a combined company, we will have the enhanced scale, product range, geographic coverage, and execution capabilities to meet our customers’ rapidly growing demand for lithium chemicals,” Graves said in the statement.

Livent has previously talked about plans to expand offshore to meet surging demand from electric vehicle makers, saying that it was assessing lithium assets in Canada and other countries to boost its capacity.

“We see Canada as a core part of our expansion capacity. We have to get bigger. We can’t just sit still,” Graves said in a November interview.

Allkem gets the lion’s share of its profit from its Mt Cattlin mine in Western Australia, but it has flagged growth plans in Argentina and at the James Bay spodumene project in Canada.

“Longer term there is a clear strategic rationale — consolidating Argentine brine and upstart Quebec spodumene assets,” BMO’s Joel Jackson wrote in a note to investors. “[This] helps Livent be long carbonate sooner, becoming a larger producer to entice cathode/battery/EV producers to partner and perhaps entice larger suitors down the road,” he said.

One of largest, most resilient 

“With a combined portfolio spanning from extraction to chemicals over multiple jurisdictions and resource types, and a healthy pipeline of expansions and greenfield projects, it will be one of the largest and most resilient lithium producers globally by the end of the decade,” Fastmarkets NewGen’s Robert said.

The consolidation also enables the sharing of know-how, the analyst noted. Livent has been a leader in Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) production, which it has used for 15 to 20 years.

“Allkem’s brine operations will now be able to benefit from this and Livent’s interest in Nemaska Lithium will be able to benefit from Allkem’s hard rock expertise”, Robert said.

Australian lithium miners have been fending off takeover approaches this year. In March, Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR) rebuffed a $3.7 billion (A$5.5bn) buyout bid from Albemarle, and has turned down two previous offers by the US producer since.

The wave of deals in lithium sector comes as prices of the battery metal fell by more than 50% from almost $90,000 per tonne at the end of 2022 to about $24,000 per tonne in April, on weak demand from the Chinese EV sector, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Prices have recovered over the past few weeks and are now above $26,000 a tonne. While the drop has been dramatic, Benchmark analysts note lithium prices were only about $10,000 a tonne before the covid-19 pandemic hit worldwide markets.

Britannia Mine Museum marks 100 years at British Columbia’s Mill No. 3
Wed, 10 May 2023 00:04:05 +0000
Designated as a National Historic Site, the 20-storey Mill No. 3 building was an architectural feat of engineering at its time.

May is BC Mining Month, and the Britannia Mine Museum is commemorating “100 Years of Mill No. 3”, with a feature exhibit that will run till the end of the year.

Designated as a National Historic Site, the 20-storey Mill No. 3 building was an architectural feat of engineering at its time, built on the side of Mount Sheer at Britannia Beach over a period of 18 months, and completed in 1923. The Museum’s feature exhibit “100 Years of Mill No. 3” delves into how Mill No. 3 served as the heartbeat of the Britannia community, its history, technological innovations, and impact as an icon of the Sea to Sky Corridor.

“Mill No. 3 played a significant role in providing for the Britannia Beach and Mount Sheer mining communities, contributing to BC’s economic well-being until the Mine’s closure in 1974, and has served as an iconic landmark and feature along the Sea-to-Sky region for the last 100 years,” Laura Minta Holland, Curator of Collections and Engagement at the Britannia Mine Museum said in a media release.

“We wanted to pay homage to the Mill’s 100-year history and importance with our ‘Dig Day’ celebratory event and feature exhibit, as well as highlight its technology and engineering marvel as Canada’s last remaining gravity-fed concentrator Mill,” Holland said.

Mill No. 3 is also the feature story of the Museum’s BOOM! Show, a live-action, sensory-thrilling, special effects show that takes viewers behind the scenes and transports visitors back in time to the 1920s and 1930s when the mine was booming as the largest copper producer in the British Commonwealth.

 Built from concrete and steel in 1923, Mill No. 3 is the third mill that was built at Britannia Beach. Its role as a processing plant was to move ore from the mining tunnels, using gravity to move ore from one level to the next, crushing and grinding the ore into valuable copper concentrate.

Mill No. 3 fast facts:

  • It is 20-storeys high built of concrete and steel in 1923.
  • Despite being so tall, Mill No. 3 has no elevator so Mill workers had to climb more than 240 steps one way.
  • It is Canada’s last remaining gravity-fed concentrator mill.
  • At its peak in the early 1930s, Mill No. 3 was processing up to 7,000 U.S. tons of ore per operating day.
  • In the 1930s, the Britannia Mine produced 17 per cent of the world’s copper, becoming the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth.
  • Mill No. 3 is historically significant in being the first in BC to successfully employ froth flotation process to extract upwards of 95 per cent of minerals from ore.
  • The Mill also processed for zinc, lead, gold, silver, and cadmium.
  • Dozens of TV shows and movies have been filmed in Mill No. 3 such as G.I. Joe: Snake EyesOkjaThe Decedents 2, and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
  • On November 20, 1987, Mill No. 3 was designated a National Historic Site.

 The Museum will be hosting a “Dig Day” public celebratory event on Saturday, May 20 from 10 am to 3 p.m. with family friendly hands-on geoscience themed activities, including demonstrations from geologists and minerals experts.

More information is here.

Marimaca makes changes to executive management team
Tue, 09 May 2023 22:26:45 +0000
Petra Decher stepping down as CFO, José Antonio Merino appointed Managing Director, Chile and Interim CFO.

Marimaca Copper Corp.(TSX: MARI) announced changes to its executive management team, with Petra Decher stepping down from her role as the Company’s Chief Financial Officer, and the appointment of José Antonio Merino as Managing Director, Chile and Interim CFO.

Decher has served as CFO since April 26, 2021, and prior to that as a member of the Board of Directors of Marimaca. Decher provided integral leadership during the Company’s progress toward the development of the Marimaca Copper project.

Merino, who will be based in Chile, brings over 15 years of international and in-country experience to the Marimaca team. Prior to joining Marimaca, he served as General Manager of Business Development and M&A at SQM.

As Managing Director, Chile, Merino will oversee all in-country commercial, finance, administrative and site-based workstreams during the company’s path to development of the Marimaca project. Merino will serve as Interim CFO during the Company’s search for a full-time appointee. Merino is a Civil Engineer by training and has served in various senior roles in the natural resource industry across Project Development, M&A, Corporate Finance and Advisory.

“We would like to thank Petra for her valuable contributions as a member of Marimaca’s executive team over the last 2 years and, prior to that, as a member of the Board. She has been a core member of the team as the Company has commenced its transition from explorer to developer, and leaves behind an excellent foundation for Marimaca’s next phase of development,” chairman Michael Haworth said in the statement.

“We are very pleased to welcome José Antonio to the Team,” Haworth said. “His experience and commercial acumen will be exceptionally valuable during this next, critical phase of Marimaca’s journey to becoming a high-quality copper producer.”

“The company is rapidly de-risking the Marimaca Project and José Antonio’s leadership will be instrumental in the delivery of our next key milestones including permitting submissions, the planned Definitive Feasibility Study and strategic financing discussions.”

Probe Gold eyes resource growth ahead of Novador update
Tue, 09 May 2023 21:34:36 +0000
The Toronto-based explorer is working towards publishing a resource update on Courvan and the Pascalis deposits in Quebec by June.

Assay results from more than six dozen drill holes on Probe Gold’s (TSXV: PRB) Courvan trend show more potential for resource growth at the Novador project in Quebec.

The Toronto-based explorer is working towards publishing a resource update on Courvan and the Pascalis deposits by June.

The latest assay results underline the project’s potential for growth and increased production, Probe’s president and CEO, David Palmer, said in a release Tuesday. “These results are a continuation of the exceptional results we are receiving across the project, including both Pascalis and Monique, that demonstrate improving grade and thickness,” he said.

Among the highlights of the 74 holes released, the infill drilling program produced significant intercepts, including the longest hit yet – 1.1 grams gold over 113 metres from 179.5 metres depth. Other notable intercepts include 0.8 grams gold over 154.3 metres from 48.5 metres depth and 1.5 grams gold over 61.5 metres from 158.5 metres.

The infill results added mineralization within the planned Southwest pit shell, which could positively impact the strip ratio.

Probe also reports that expansion drilling yielded 2.7 grams gold per tonne over 32.5 metres from 23.5 metres depth and 4.5 grams gold over 16.9 metres from 197.5 metres down, adding near-surface mineralization at the Southwest deposit. Probe noted that the deposit remains open sideways and at depth.

Probe said expansion drilling also discovered new parallel gold zones towards the bottom of the conceptual pit.

The Courvan results follow Probe’s April 19 assays from its Pascalis deposit, bulking up the expected resource increase this year at the Val d’Or-area project.

The new resource estimates will add to the mid-January release of an indicated resource on Monique. The deposit now holds three times the initial volume at 41.8 million indicated tonnes grading 1.52 grams gold per tonne for 2 million oz. contained metal.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Andrew Mikitchook says the results bode well for the Novador resource outlook.

“We would expect today’s results to contribute positively to the resource update expected this quarter at Courvan and Pascalis,” Mikitchook said in a note to clients.

Probe has so far this year drilled 41,000 metres at Novador, with 12,000 metres remaining in the program. Three drills remain active at the project, with two stationed at the Monique deposit and one conducting regional exploration.

Probe expects to release further assays from 2022 drilling at Courvan in the coming weeks.

Probe shares gained as much as 7% on Tuesday to C$1.82, before giving back gains to last trade at C$1.73. It achieved a 12-month high at C$1.97 and a low of C$1.09, and Probe has a market capitalization of C$276 million.

Top 10 new copper projects by mine life
Tue, 09 May 2023 19:17:00 +0000
Miners are scrambling to develop projects.

Demand for copper, an economic indicator in itself because of its widespread use in wiring and plumbing, is expected to vastly expand as the world transitions to greener energy to fight climate change. Miners are scrambling to develop projects.  

Annual global supply of the red metal may surge 26% to 38.5 million tonnes by 2035 while still falling 1.7% short of demand, according to data released in April by the International Copper Association, an industry trade group. 

The world’s leading copper projects by mine life, according to data compiled by Mining Intelligence, part of The Northern Miner Group, are led by two in the Far East. The third is in Chile. There are none in North America, Africa has four and unlikely Greece makes an appearance.  

The Zabaikalye region of Russia, which holds the Udokan copper project, borders on Mongolia where Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO; LSE: RIO; ASX: RIO) leads the Oyu Tolgoi project.  

Udokan Copper, part of the diversified USM Group owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, has the country’s largest non-producing copper deposit. But that should change within months if not weeks as the project tests machinery ahead of first production. According to Udokan’s website, the development dwarfs others on the list with its potential mine life of 70 years and a resource value of $178.6 billion, more than the other nine combined. (No economic studies have been released.) 

The $2.8-billion project holds 26.7 million tonnes of copper in ore grading 1.1% copper, according to a resource estimate following Australia’s JORC mining code. From 12 million tonnes of ore a year it plans to produce 135,000 tonnes of 99.9% copper cathodes and 45% copper concentrate. It doesn’t say how much of each.  

The deposit was discovered by geologist Elizaveta Burova in 1949 when Joseph Stalin still led the Soviet Union. Mines have been proposed for the site since the 1970s but only technological advances in recent years have propelled plans.  

In second place, Rio Tinto’s $7-billion Oyu Tolgoi project in the Gobi Desert started underground output in March. Annual production is expected to be around 500,000 tonnes of copper from 2028 to 2036. The open pit has been in production since 2011.  

Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A/TECK.B; NYSE: TECK) started producing in March from its Quebrada Blanca 2 open-pit mine in northern Chile. Output is slated at 316,000 tonnes a year of copper in the mine’s first five years. Japan’s Sumitomo owns 30% of the project.   

QB2 as it’s known, will double the company’s copper output. It incorporates many autonomous systems, which will include its entire fleet of haul trucks within five years. The mine will be controlled by a remote operations centre 1,700 km away in Santiago.  

The project, estimated to cost as much as $7.8 billion, includes the mine at 4,400 metres above sea level, a concentrator, a desalination plant for water used in the concentrator, a pipeline for the concentrate and a new port on the Atlantic.  

QB2 holds 1.4 billion proven and probable tonnes grading 0.5% copper and 0.2% molybdenum. There are also 3.6 billion measured and indicated tonnes, and 3.1 billion inferred tonnes. Over a 27-year life, the mine would use only 18% of the proven and probable reserves, the company said. 

Eldorado Gold (TSX: ELD, NYSE: EGO) marks the midway point on our top 10 list with its Skouries gold-copper project in northern Greece. 

Local opposition and delays obtaining permits for the proposed open-pit and underground mine halted development from 2017 to 2021. But in April, Eldorado secured €680 million ($1.1 billion) to help complete the project. It has reserves of 3.7 million oz. of gold and 1.7 billion lb. of copper and aims to produce 140,000 oz. of gold and 67 million lb. of copper a year for two decades.  

Asmara, being developed by China’s Sichuan Road and Bridge Group in Eritrea leads the four projects in Africa on the list followed by Ivanhoe Mines’ (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) Kipushi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Al Hadeetha by Alara Resources (ASX: AUG) in Oman and Motheo by Sandfire Resources (ASX: SFR) in Botswana.  

Information is scarce about the Asmara project in Eritrea, a country run for the last 30 years by President Isaias Afwerki. The project forecasts total revenue of $5.5 billion, China-run website Equal Ocean reported two years ago. The income estimate was based on a copper price of about $9,400 per tonne, gold at $1,780 per oz. and silver at $25.78 per ounce.  

The open-pit project about 20 km from the capital sharing the same name would produce 65 million lb. copper, 184 million lb. zinc, 42,000 oz. gold and 1 million oz. silver during its first eight years, according to a 2013 feasibility study

Monarch grows McKenzie Break with 1.77 g/t Au over 31 metres
Tue, 09 May 2023 17:50:27 +0000
Monarch says the results from last year’s drill program confirm that the pit shell and underground resources can be expanded.

Monarch Mining (TSX: GBAR) continues to expand its wholly owned McKenzie Break gold project 25 km north of its Beacon processing plant and 35 km northeast of Val d’Or, Quebec.

One impressive hole is MK-22-348 which returned 1.77 g/t gold over 31.0 metres, including a higher-grade section of 2.83 g/t over 15.6 metres. The hole is located along the southeast limit of the current proposed pit shell.

Broad zones of mineralization were also encountered in MK-22-342 with 1.33 g/t over 9.4 metres and in MK-22-363 with 1.54 g/t over 14.9 metres. Hole 342 has the potential to extend the pit to the south, and hole 363 was sited at the northeast limit of the drilling area.

Higher grades were drilled in MK-22-363 which returned 9.09 g/t gold over 1.5 metres and in MK-22-367 which returned 8.54 g/t over 1.4 metres.

Monarch says the results from last year’s drill program confirm that the pit shell and underground resources can be expanded beyond the limits defined in the 2021 resource estimate. At that time the indicated resource was 1.9 million tonnes grading 1.80 g/t (pit) and 5.03 g/t (underground), containing 145,9982 oz. of gold. The inferred resource was 3.3 million tonnes at 1.44 g/t (pit) and 4.21 g/t (underground) for 250,593 contained oz. of gold.

Since the resource estimate was made, the company has drilled an additional 41,465 metres in 121 holes, extending the mineralized envelop to 1,100 metres by 600 metres and to a vertical depth of 400 metres.

Canadian group led by Pierre Lassonde plans to buy Teck’s coal mines
Tue, 09 May 2023 17:11:48 +0000
Canadian entrepreneur told the Globe and Mail he would try taking a sizable equity in Teck's coal business.

Shares in Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A, TECK.B) (NYSE: TECK), Canada’s largest diversified miner, jumped on Tuesday on news that a consortium led by mining veteran Pierre Lassonde had proposed to buy the company’s coal operations.

The move, reported by the Globe and Mail, could prevent Glencore from acquiring the Vancouver-based mining giant, which in April rejected an unsolicited takeover offer of $23 billion from the Swiss miner and commodities trader.

Glencore has made it clear it would not back down and said it remained interested after Teck’s restructuring proposal was taken off the table.

“Teck wants to move forward, we’ve been told very definitively,” Lassonde told the Globe and Mail. “For them, it’s a question of consulting their bankers and consulting other groups. We’re told that they want to get something done between eight to 12 weeks.”

New York-traded shares of Teck were up 4.2% midday at $46.65 each. Class B shares climbed 5.5% to C$62.5, while Class A were changing hands at C$103.67 each or 5.4% higher.

The Canadian businessman and philanthropist, co-founder of Canada’s Franco-Nevada gold royalty company, will need the backing of Teck’s existing coal joint venture steelmaking partners, Japan’s Nippon Steel and South Korea’s Posco, for his proposal to succeed.

In the interview with the Globe, Lassonde said he was optimistic that both companies would back his proposal.

Federal Gov’t speaks

The possibility of Teck being swallowed by Glencore has become a broader political issue.

The Federal government has expressed that any takeover offer for Teck will have to go through a “rigorous process” to win government approval. 

Other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and British Columbia Premier David Eby have all weighed in on the issue.

Large-scale mining takeovers are a sensitive topic in Canada since a wave of acquisitions more than 15 years ago eliminated many of the sector’s biggest players, including nickel miner Inco and aluminum producer Alcan.

When BHP attempted to buy Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in 2010, the government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked the deal on the grounds that it would not be of “net benefit” to the country.

(With files from Bloomberg and Reuters)

SSR Mining adds ‘world-class’ Hod Maden project in Türkiye to portfolio
Tue, 09 May 2023 17:05:55 +0000
The project is expected to provide SSR Mining with approximately 80,000 attributable gold-equivalent ounces.

SSR Mining (NASDAQ, TSX: SSRM; ASX: SSR) saw a slight bump in its stock price Tuesday after adding another world-class project in Türkiye to its development pipeline, and potentially its fifth producing asset. Its shares were up 0.3% by 1 p.m. EDT, for a market capitalization of C$4.7 billion ($3.5bn).

On Monday, the Canadian miner announced it has reached an agreement to acquire up to a 40% interest along with operational control of the Hod Maden gold-copper development project from Lidya Mines, its joint venture partner on the Çöpler gold mine. The Hod Maden project is 70% owned by Lidya Mines, with the other 30% held by Horizon Copper.

As consideration, SSR will make cash payments totalling $270 million, of which $120 million has been paid upfront for a 10% interest in the project as well as its sole operatorship. The remaining $150 million will be structured milestone payments for an additional 30% interest, payable at the start of construction.

Commenting on the latest addition to its growth pipeline, the company said Hod Maden represents one of the “highest margin and lowest capital intensity development projects” globally, and is expected to deliver an estimated after-tax internal rate of return (IRR) in excess of 15% after acquisition costs.

According to a 2021 feasibility study published by Horizon Copper, Hod Maden features a 13-year mine life averaging (on a 100% basis) approximately 195,000 ounces of gold-equivalent production annually at first quartile co-product AISC of $588/oz., generating $164 million of annual free cash flow and a 36% after-tax IRR.

Based on these figures, the project is expected to provide SSR Mining with approximately an expected attributable 80,000 gold-equivalent ounces and $66 million in free cash flow annually once in production, expected in 2027.

The 3,500-hectare Hod Maden property is located in northeastern Türkiye, approximately 330 km from the company’s Çöpler mine and 260 km from the Copper Hill development prospect. As such, SSR Mining believes this transaction allows for potential synergies and builds on a long-standing partnership with Lidya Mines.

“We have been closely monitoring Hod Maden for well over seven years as it has progressed through critical development and permitting milestones, largely de-risking the project as it approaches a construction decision in 2024,” Rod Antal, president and CEO of SSR Mining, commented in Monday’s news release.

Following review and after discussions with joint venture partners, the company believes there are several positive operational value levers as well as exploration potential beyond the existing life of mine plan that was presented in the 2021 feasibility study.

“We will now spend the next twelve months updating the existing technical report for these value enhancing opportunities, as well as to account for changes in market conditions,” Antal said, adding that the project development team will work to advance Hod Maden to a full construction decision in 2024 with a goal of delivering first production in 2027.

“The same principles and discipline that enabled our team to deliver the Çöpler sulfide plant project in Türkiye on time and under budget will be applied to Hod Maden to help us maximize the value of the project,” he noted.

Following completion of the earn-in milestone payments, SSR Mining will own 40% of the project, Lidya Mines will retain a 30% ownership and Horizon will own the remaining 30%.

Horizon previously acquired its 30% ownership interest from Sandstorm Gold in August 2022 in exchange for a gold stream on the project. SSR Mining said its attributable production and free cash flow are not encumbered by the gold streaming agreement between Horizon and Sandstorm.

As an upside sharing mechanism with Lidya Mines, if an additional 500,000 ounces of gold equivalent mineral reserves beyond those currently identified in feasibility study are delineated, SSR Mining said it will make an $84 million payment to Lidya.

Iron ore price up on China stimulus bets
Tue, 09 May 2023 16:24:39 +0000
China's imports of iron ore rose 5.1% in April from the same period the previous year.

The iron ore price extended gains on Tuesday on hopes of additional policy support for China’s economy.

The most-traded September iron ore contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trade 1.3% higher at 714 yuan ($103.30) a tonne. It earlier touched 727.50 yuan, its highest since April 27.

Iron ore gains come after prices reached a six month low last week amid speculation about new rules governing state-owned enterprises’ bond issuances, and as China’s housing regulator ordered real estate brokers to reduce transaction and leasing service fees to support the property sector.

“We expect commodity markets to remain reactive to any signs of policy support. That should keep iron ore prices volatile in the short term,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

China’s iron ore imports dropped 9.8% in April from the month before but rose 5.1% from April last year as buyers anticipated strong demand during the peak spring construction season, though it turned out otherwise.

Overall, Chinese overseas shipments expanded 8.5% from a year earlier to $295 billion — slowing from the double-digit gain in March. Imports, though, dropped 7.9% to $205 billion, much worse than the median projection of a 0.2% decline. That left a trade surplus of $90 billion for the month. 

“Neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea are disappointed as they had expected positive effects from China’s reopening of their economy,” said Ding Shuang, chief economist for Greater China and North Asia at Standard Chartered Plc.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

Thacker Pass lithium project faces court in June
Tue, 09 May 2023 15:14:43 +0000
Lithium Americas is aiming to mine and process enough lithium carbonate on the Nevada site for batteries to power a million vehicles a year.

The top lawyer for Lithium Americas’ (TSX: LAC; NYSE: LAC) Thacker Pass project, which is developing the largest lithium deposit in the United States in northwest Nevada, says it could be free of legal challenges by late summer or early fall.

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is to hear arguments against the project on Jun. 26 and a ruling could be handed down within a few months, according to Laura Granier, a lawyer with Holland & Hart, which represents Lithium Americas.

“We should probably have a decision sometime this summer,” Granier told the Current Trends in Mining Finance conference in New York on Monday. “Last Friday was the deadline for what we call our friendly court briefs or amicus briefs and there was quite an outpouring of support which is fantastic because this project is so important to our country.”

Vancouver-based Lithium Americas is aiming to mine and process enough lithium carbonate on the Nevada site for batteries to power a million vehicles a year. GM said in January it would invest $650 million in the project and take all the lithium from its first phase of 40,000 tonnes of lithium per year expected to begin in the second half of 2026. Phase two is to ramp up production to 80,000 tonnes a year.

The project is being challenged by environmental groups such as the Western Watersheds Project and Great Basin Resource Watch as well as the Burns Paiute Tribe from Oregon on issues such as community consultations, wildlife, water pollution and air quality.

Opposition arguments

“The amount of water granted for use in water rights is greater than the basin’s estimated ability to recharge,” Great Basin Resource Watch says on its website. “Potential pollution in both water and air from the processing facility were not thoroughly addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

“There are serious concerns about the project affecting wildlife, particularly sage grouse, big horn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles, Lahontan cutthroat trout and an endemic spring snail species,” the group says. “The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe were not adequately consulted during the EIS process.”

Granier said most members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Tribe support the project.

Also being appealed is how US Federal Court judge Miranda Du in February allowed the project to proceed with construction even after she pointed out issues about where the project should put its waste rock.

The concerns are based on a separate case argued last year about the Rosemont copper project in Arizona. The court in that case ruled that miners don’t have the right to use government land in their project if it doesn’t contain valuable minerals.

Judge Du ruled in February the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must determine if Thacker Pass complies with this Rosemont ruling. Granier said it does.

“The BLM is to consider the evidence in the record, which shows there’s actually widespread mineralization throughout the entire project,” she said. “There’s very likely enough mineralization underneath the waste storage facilities to fix the Rosemont issue as described.”

Quick – but not rushed – approval

The project has measured and indicated resources of 385 million tonnes averaging 2,917 parts per million (ppm) lithium for 6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Inferred resources are 147 million tonnes averaging 2,932 ppm for 2.3 million tonnes of LCE.

Granier said the project should be an example for others as the mining industry heats up to supply critical minerals for the green energy transformation because the approval process was fast, transparent and inclusive. The Thacker Pass plan of operations was submitted to the BLM in 2019, an EIS was done the next year and the project was approved in 2021.

“Let me assure you there was nothing rushed about this process,” Granier said. “It was frankly years in the making of environmental baseline information, coordination with federal, state and local agencies engaged in the community, including the tribal community.”

Thacker Pass began its $1.7 billion construction in March on the 24-sq.-km site. Building the mine will create 1,300 jobs and employ 300 during its proposed 46-year life. “This company really has partnered with the communities around it in every way and has really created a blueprint,” Granier said. “Thacker Pass lithium will be a cornerstone of our supply here in the US and globally as well.”

Glencore to build Europe’s largest battery recycling plant
Tue, 09 May 2023 13:43:00 +0000
It has partnered up with Canada’s Li-Cycle to convert an old lead refinery in Italy into a facility to recover key metals from batteries.

Mining and commodities giant Glencore (LON: GLEN) has joined forces with Canada’s Li-Cycle Holdings (NYSE: LICY) to build a battery recycling plant in Italy, set to become Europe’s largest facility of this kind.

The Swiss company, which has a 10% stake in Li-Cycle, wants to convert an old lead refinery it has in Sardinia into a plant that will help it reuse expensive key raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.

The new facility, which could be commissioned by late 2026 or early 2027, would have a processing capacity of between 50,000 and 70,000 tonnes a year of pre-treated scrap product, known as black mass.

The plant would increase Glencore’s control over the supply of critical raw materials needed by automakers.

“Establishing a Hub through the re-purposing of our Portovesme site, which could become the first Glencore asset to produce battery-grade lithium, will enable us to truly close the loop for our European OEM and gigafactory customers across all aspects of the supply chain,” the company’s global head of recycling, Kunal Sinha, said in the statement.

The move is one of the many steps the miner has taken this year towards tapping into the recycling sector.

In late January, the firm partnered up with Moroccan mining company Managem to produce cobalt from recycled battery materials at a plant near Marrakech.

A month later, Glencore announced it would expand its Britannia Refined Metals plant in southern England, which has historically been a leading re-user of lead-acid batteries found in combustion-powered cars.

It also became strategic partner of EV battery start-up Britishvolt to build a recycling plant of lithium-ion batteries in the UK.

Glencore later inked an agreement with Spanish and Portuguese companies to offer lithium-ion battery recycling services in both countries.

Li-Cycle has a large black mass processing hub in Rochester near New York, which is about half the size of the planned facility in Sardinia.

The company received in February support from the US Department of Energy via a $375 million loan, which will be used to finish building the Rochester plant, which has an estimated cost of $485 million. 

The total investment needed for the facility in Italy has yet to be determined.

Recycling unit to grow “exponentially”

Chief executive officer Gary Nagle has said that recycling contributes $200 million to $250 million to the company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, which reached $34.1 billion last year.

He added that the unit’s growth was expected to be “exponential” as global vehicle makers are preparing to launch hundreds of new EV models over the next few years, responding to pressure from regulators who continue to tighten restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

The European auto industry, in particular, is rushing to meet tighter carbon-dioxide emissions targets that take effect next year or face billions of dollars in fines if they exceed them.

Recycling batteries will also reduce the amount of cobalt or lithium European countries need to import to make EVs.

It is estimated that only 5% of the world’s lithium batteries are currently being recycled, with market analysts at Wood Mackenzie anticipating the sector will not take off before 2030.

Black lung disease more common among modern coal miners than in their predecessors
Tue, 09 May 2023 12:43:00 +0000
Scarring from silica dust exposure was more common in contemporary miners than in those born before 1930.

A study by researchers at National Jewish Health, a Denver-based academic hospital/clinic, found that coal miners that were born after 1930, employed modern mining technologies and developed progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) or black lung disease, worked significantly fewer years than their counterparts born before 1930.

The paper also found that scarring from silica dust exposure was more common in contemporary miners, even those whose job duties were not prioritized for dust sampling in current federal regulations such as electricians and foremen.

Silica or silicon dioxide is a particular concern. Even though it is safe in rock formations, breathing in silica dust is highly toxic and prolonged exposure to it can lead to severe lung disease

According to the researchers, for the past two decades, there has been a major resurgence in progressive massive fibrosis among coal miners. This, despite the fact that, by law, routine monitoring of dust levels in specific “high-risk” jobs in underground coal mines is required, particularly those near the coal seam where the fossil fuel is mined from surrounding rock.

To reach their conclusions, the scientists examined lung tissue from deceased coal miners and compared findings across specific mining job duties to see which miners were at risk for severe black lung disease.

“Our findings show the importance of monitoring silica exposure in coal miners whose job duties weren’t previously considered high risk,” Lauren Zell-Baran, lead author of the study, said in a media statement.

Fortuna Silver to buy West Africa-focused Chesser Resources for $60m
Tue, 09 May 2023 10:55:00 +0000
Deal expands Fortuna's footprint in West Africa, where it has the Yaramoko gold mining complex in Burkina Faso and the Séguéla project in Côte d’Ivoire.

Canadian miner Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX: FVI)(NYSE: FSM) is expanding its footprint in West Africa with the acquisition of Australian gold junior Chesser Resources (ASX: CHZ) for just over $60 million (A$89m).

The Vancouver-based precious metals producer said the deal would boost its presence in West Africa, where it already has the Yaramoko gold mining complex in Burkina Faso and the Séguéla project in Côte d’Ivoire.

The acquisition would add to Fourtuna’s portfolio the preliminary economic assessment stage Diamba Sud gold project in Senegal, which is one of the newest gold discoveries in the region, the company said.

Chesser holds tenements in close proximity to tier one gold mines owned by Barrick Gold and B2Gold located in Mali. 

The deal will see Fortuna purchasing 100% of Chesser’s fully paid ordinary shares at 14.2 Australian cents apiece, making it a 95% premium to Chesser’s stock close on Monday, May 8.

It also represents an 83% premium to Chesser’s volume-weighted average price (VWAP) for the past 30 days.

Chesser shareholders will get 0.0248 (Australian cents) of a Fortuna share for every share held.

A scoping study conducted on Diamba Sud last year has revealed its prospect for a 43% internal rate of return over a 7.5-year mine life.

Fortuna is looking to undertake a detailed optimization study of the existing technical data and economic parameters. It also plans to prepare an updated exploration and development plan, post-deal completion.

Chesser’s board has unanimously backed the deal and is recommending its shareholders do the same.

Other than its assets in West Africa, which Fortuna added in 2021 through the acquisition of fellow Canadian miner Roxgold, the company has a presence three operating mines Latin America — San Jose in Mexico, Caylloma in Peru and Lindero in Argentina.


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