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Sunday, March 3, 2024

NEWS HEADLINES - MINING AND METALS
Today News Headlines

Consultation starts in Guatemala over future of Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine
Sat, 24 Feb 2024 00:01:53 +0000
Operations were halted in 2017 when a claim brought by a human rights group alleged local Indigenous people’s right of consultation were violated in advance of granting the mining license.

The Xinka Parliament of Guatemala announced this week the start of the court-ordered consultation over the future of Pan American Silver’s (TSE, NYSE: PAAS) Escobal mine, according to a release from US environmental organization Earthworks.

Pan American became the owner of Escobal, which when in operations was the world’s third largest silver mine, when it acquired Tahoe Resources in 2018 for $1 billion.

In 2017, Tahoe Resources was forced to halt operations at Escobal when Guatemala’s Supreme Court suspended the mine license.

The decision supported a claim brought by environment and human rights group CALAS against the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), alleging it violated the local Indigenous people’s right of consultation in advance of granting the Escobal mining license to Tahoe’s Guatemalan subsidiary.

A group of protesters that year near the town of Casillas blocked access to Escobal, delaying shipments and supplies.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling ordered MEM to carry out a consultation with the local Indigenous population, the Xinka communities, and it also upheld the license suspension for Tahoe’s smaller Juan Bosco mine.

The underground operation, located in southeast Guatemala, about 3 km from San Rafael Las Flores, was in operations from 2014-2017. According to Pan American, it has 264moz in proven and probable silver reserves and 4,500 tonnes per day plant throughput capability.

Escobal operations are on care and maintenance pending completion of an ILO 169 consultation. No timeline has been set for a completion of the consultation process or a restart of operations.


Hudbay Minerals shares rise on record revenue for 2023
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 17:38:12 +0000
The miner reported record annual revenue of $1.69 billion.

Hudbay Minerals (TSX, NYSE: HBM) shares rose on Friday following the company’s announcement of record quarterly and annual revenue of $602.2 million and $1.69 billion, respectively.

Cash flow (before changes in non-cash working capital) also rose 35% to $246.5 million on a quarter-over-quarter basis, the Canadian miner said.

Hudbay also unveiled its operational results on Friday, including consolidated copper production of 45,450 tonnes and a record consolidated gold production of 112,776 oz. in the fourth quarter.

The production was attributed to sustained higher grades at the Pampacancha deposit in Peru and the Lalor mine in Manitoba, along with contributions from the newly acquired Copper Mountain mine in British Columbia.

In 2023, the company achieved consolidated production guidance for all metals. Copper production reached 131,691 tonnes, gold production totalled 310,429 oz. and silver production was 36 million oz. These figures represent increases of 26%, 41% and 13%, respectively, compared to 2022.

Hudbay’s Peru operations benefited from sustained higher grades at the Pampacancha satellite pit, resulting in 33,207 tonnes of copper production and 49,418 oz. of gold production in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, its Manitoba operations achieved a quarterly record of 59,863 oz. of gold, as higher-grade gold and copper zones were mined at Lalor, and the New Britannia mill processed significantly more gold ore. The British Columbia operations produced 8,508 tonnes of copper.

BMO mining analyst Jackie Przybylowski said in a note to clients that it was a “terrific” quarter for the company and singled out the performance of its Manitoba operations.

“Hudbay exceeded all expectations with strong production, notably including gold production from Manitoba, which contributed to adjusted EPS $0.20 — well ahead of our $0.07 and the consensus $0.12-0.14 estimates,” she wrote.

Shares of Hudbay Minerals rose 7% by 11:32 p.m. EDT in Toronto. The miner has a market capitalization of C$2.51 billion.


Montage Gold gains on Lundin-backed financing
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 17:04:14 +0000
Montage said it will use the proceeds to advance its Koné gold project in Côte d'Ivoire, expected to begin construction in H2 2024.

Montage Gold (TSXV: MAU) this week hired a new CEO and doubled a Lundin Group-backed stock offering to fund the $712 million Koné gold project in Côte d’Ivoire.

Toronto-based Montage is increasing the fundraising to C$35 million from C$20 million, the company said on Friday. The offering of 50 million shares at C$0.70 each closes the week of Mar. 11. Montage stocks rose 12% to C$0.75 apiece in Friday afternoon trading in Toronto, capitalizing the company at C$139 million.

The Lundin Group, which includes Lundin Mining (TSX: LUN), Lundin Gold (TSX: LUG) and Lucara Diamond (TSX: LUC) among others, was planning to invest C$17.8 million for a 19.9% stake, Montage said. The amounts may change with the revised offering.

Montage appointed former Endeavour Mining (TSX: EDV; LSE: EDV) deputy chief financial officer Martino De Ciccio as CEO to replace co-founder Richard Clark, who will remain as a director.

“I am very excited to join Montage with the goal of creating a leading multi-asset African gold producer,” De Ciccio said in a release. “I am thrilled to begin this new endeavour with the strong support of the Lundin Group.”

The Koné gold project represents the largest and most advanced standalone gold project in West Africa and is advancing towards an expected construction decision this year, the company says. The project has a $1.1 billion after-tax net present value at a 5% discount rate and a 39% internal rate of return at a $2,050 per oz. gold price, according to an updated feasibility study last month.

Approval imminent

Montage submitted an environmental and social impact assessment for Koné, located in the West African country’s northwest, in December followed by a public hearing. Approval and a mining permit may be followed by construction starting in this year’s second half, the company said.

Koné, which holds 174.3 million probable tonnes grading 0.72 gram gold per tonne for 4 million oz. contained gold. It has six exploration areas with permits covering a total of 1,801 sq. km focused around the Koné desposit.

The property sits in the same shear zone hosting Fortuna Silver Mines‘s (TSX: FVI; NYSE: FSM) Seguela gold mine 80 km south, and Barrick Gold‘s (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) Fonondara, Cassere and Caribou advanced-stage targets to the north.

Koné would produce 223,000 oz. annually at all-in sustaining costs of $998 per oz. over 16 years. The project with its higher-grade satellite deposits within trucking distance have the potential to form the nexus of a new gold district with processing at a central mill, Montage said.

The first satellite to be developed may be the Gbongogo Main deposit within the former Mankono-Sissédougou joint venture that Montage acquired from Barrick and Endeavour in 2022.

Exploration is underway to define new satellite deposits. A key area is the Diouma-Gbongogo-Korotou shear zone, which is a 15-km strike length of soil anomalies where nine targets have been drill tested to some degree. The Gbongogo Main pit is located at the south end of this zone.


Mining People: DRF Gold, Goldshore, Newmont, O3 Mining
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 14:50:00 +0000
Key moves in the mining sector.

Management changes announced this week:

Bear Creek Mining named Zoya Shashkova its new CFO.

DFR Gold asked Brian Kiernan to assume the role of CEO and president in addition to his role as chair.

EnCore Energy appointed Shona Wilson as CFO.

First Phosphate said VP business development  Jerome Cliché has stepped down but will continue as an advisor to the company.

Goldshore Resources said its president, CEO and director Brett A. Richards is transitioning to interim CEO and director.

Newmont’s new COO, Natascha Viljoen, is transitioning into her new job as former COO Rob Atkinson will hand over his duties by the end of May.

Rathdowney Resources said CEO and chair David Copeland has resigned.

Tombill Mines named Athanasios Pythagoras its new corporate secretary.

Fernando Ragone is the new CFO of Wesdome Gold.

Board changes:

Altamira Gold appointed Pieter Le Roux to the board.

Deepak Varshney and James E. Rainbird joined the board of Doubleview Gold.

EDM Resources named Eugene Chen to the board.

Murray P. Suey is now a board member of Iamgold.

IberAmerican Lithium has accepted the resignation of director Robert Metcalfe.

Melissa Desrochers has resigned from the board of O3 Mining.

Plata Latina Minerals asked Joseph Longpre to join the board following the resignation of Margaret Brodie.

Russel Girling is the new board chair at Suncor Energy as Michael Wilson and Dennis Houston retired.


AI to help determine best carbon capture material
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 14:06:00 +0000
US researchers using generative artificial intelligence to dream up previously unknown building block candidates.

US-based researchers are working on speeding up the process of identifying metal-organic framework materials (MOFs) that are suitable for carbon capture and storage.

MOFs are porous materials that can selectively absorb carbon dioxide and have three kinds of building blocks in their molecules—inorganic nodes, organic nodes, and organic linkers. These can be arranged in different relative positions and configurations. As a result, there are countless potential MOF configurations for scientists to design and test.

To quickly determine which configurations work, the scientific team comprised of researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago, is using generative artificial intelligence (AI) to dream up previously unknown building block candidates.

They are also testing a form of AI called machine learning and a third pathway that is high-throughput screening of candidate materials. The last is theory-based simulations using a method called molecular dynamics.

By exploring the MOF design space with generative AI, the team was able to quickly assemble, building block by building block, over 120,000 new MOF candidates within 30 minutes. They ran these calculations on the Polaris supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF).

They then turned to the Delta supercomputer at UIUC to carry out time-intensive molecular dynamics simulations using only the most promising candidates. The goal is to screen them for stability, chemical properties, and capacity for carbon capture. Delta is a joint effort of Illinois and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The team’s approach could ultimately allow scientists to synthesize just the very best MOF contenders.

“People have been thinking about MOFs for at least two decades,” Argonne computational scientist Eliu Huerta said in a media statement. “The traditional methods have typically involved experimental synthesis and computational modeling with molecular dynamics simulations. But trying to survey the vast MOF landscape in this way is just impractical.”

A supercomputer may provide the answer

Even more advanced computing will soon be available for the team to employ. With the power of the ALCF’s Aurora exascale supercomputer, scientists could survey billions of MOF candidates at once, including many that have never even been proposed before. What’s more, the team is taking chemical inspiration from past work on molecular design to discover new ways in which the different building blocks of a MOF could fit together.

“We wanted to add new flavors to the MOFs that we were designing,” Huerta said. “We needed new ingredients for the AI recipe.”

The group’s algorithm can make improvements to MOFs for carbon capture by learning chemistry from biophysics, physiology and physical chemistry experimental datasets that have not been considered for MOF design before.

To Huerta, looking beyond traditional approaches holds the promise of a transformative MOF material—one that could be good at carbon capture, cost-effective, and easy to produce.

“We are now connecting generative AI, high-throughput screening, molecular dynamics, and Monte Carlo simulations into a standalone workflow,” Huerta said. “This workflow incorporates online learning using past experimental and computational research to accelerate and improve the precision of AI to create new MOFs.”

The atom-by-atom approach to MOF design enabled by AI will allow scientists to have what Argonne senior scientist Ian Foster called a “wider lens” on these kinds of porous structures.

“Work is being done so that, for the new AI-assembled MOFs that are being predicted, we incorporate insights from autonomous labs to experimentally validate their ability to be synthesized and capacity to capture carbon,” Foster said. “With the model fine-tuned, our predictions are just going to get better and better.”


Sibanye-Stillwater to cut 2,600 jobs in South Africa
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 13:26:00 +0000
The miner kicked off in October a restructuring process at its four loss-making mines that was expected to result in the loss of 4,095 jobs.

Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW)(NYSE: SBSW) said on Friday it had reduced the number of planned job cuts across its South African platinum group metal (PGMs) operations to 2,600 after talks with stakeholders, including labour unions.

The precious metals producer kicked off in October a restructuring process at its four loss-making mines that was expected to result in the loss of 4,095 jobs. 

Sibanye-Stillwater said the reduction in the number of layoffs was possible thanks to strategic decisions taken in consultation with interested parties. These include going ahead with the announced closure of the Simunye shaft, which ceased production in 2023, as well as keeping the 4 Belt (4B) shaft at Marikana open.

The miner said that the Marikana mine shaft, which employs 1,496 permanent workers and 54 contractors, will only stay in production if it does not run up net losses on a monthly basis.

Two other shafts, Rowland and Siphumelele, which were hit by operational and geological issues, “have been repositioned for sustainable levels of production at a lower cost structure”, Sibanye-Stillwater said.

The Johannesburg-based firm noted that almost 1,300 employees had voluntarily left their jobs or accepted early retirement packages, while 467 people left since September due to “natural attrition”.

The company said earlier this week that it expects to report a 91% loss for 2023 due to multiyear-lows for platinum-group metals prices. It also flagged an impairment of 47.5 billion rand ($2.58 billion). 

Palladium and platinum prices decline has driven producers in South Africa, including Sibanye-Stillwater to apply severe cost-cutting measures. 

Impala Platinum Holdings has offered voluntary job cuts, including at its deep-level Rustenburg complex, while Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has announced plans to cut 3,700 jobs after its profit plunged 71% last year.


Zijin to expand Tibet copper mine expected to be world’s largest
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 11:32:00 +0000
Approved project will increase Julong mine's capacity to 350,000 tonnes per day by 2025, making it China's largest single copper mine.

China’s Zijin Mining Group announced on Friday that it is going ahead with the second phase of a major expansion at its Julong copper project in Tibet, after receiving government approval.

The permit will allow Zijin to increase the mine’s capacity to 350,000 tonnes per day by 2025. Once the Julong expansion is completed, the asset will become China’s largest single copper operation, with ore mining and processing volumes of more than 100 million tonnes a year.

Total investment required for the project has been pegged at about 17.5 billion yuan ($2.43 billion), Zijin said. It added it’s already planning to further increase production and capacity at the Tibet mine.

If the third phase of expansion is approved by local authorities, Julong could raise annual output to about 200 million tonnes, making it the largest single copper mine in the world, Zijin said.

The company, China’s largest gold miner and one of the country’s top copper producers, took control of the Julong project in 2020 and had it up and running only 18 months later.

Zijin has several assets in Tibet, including the Zhunuo copper mine, which it acquired in August 2023. It also has a controlling interest in lithium producer Lakkor Resources, and is the second-largest shareholder of Tibet-based companies Yulong Copper and Tianyuan Mining.


Iron ore boom of the 2000s repeating – this time with critical metals
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 00:03:00 +0000
In a case of history rhyming, critical metal developers sit at the edge of enormous opportunity.

A headline published in The Age back in July 2003 reads: “[Andrew] Forrest has a grand $1.2bn plan for tiny Perth mining company.” 

That company was called Allied Mining and Processing and you’ve probably never heard of it. But from small roots this tiny outfit grew into one of Australia’s largest listed companies with a market cap exceeding A$88 billion. 

Twenty years ago, Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest renamed this micro-cap stock to Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG). The rest is history, but it was quite the story behind Twiggy’s road to immense wealth.

Fortescue was perhaps the single biggest success story from the last mining boom. A stock that grew from a measly A2¢ per share back in 2003 to more than $10 a share just five years later. 

It seems absurd, but that’s around a 50,000% return. 

Junior iron ore miners were the poster child from the early 2000s China-led commodity rush. However, it wasn’t a smooth road to success.  

You see, back in 2003, Forrest was looking to break into the monopolized iron ore market, a sector dominated by mining giants Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO; LSE: RIO; ASX: RIO) and BHP (NYSE: BHP; LSE: BHP; ASX: BHP).

At the time, his ambitious venture was mocked by analysts and journalists. 

Accessing cash to build a capital-intensive iron ore operation was near impossible in the early 2000’s. Sure, iron ore mining in Australia is relatively cheap and relatively easy to extract. Simply load rock on a boat and ship it to China’s massive steel refineries.  But few consider the vast infrastructure required to get to that point. Iron ore is a bulky commodity. 

Mine feasibility studies must include costs that extend well beyond the mining operation: railways, ports, loading facilities. It’s this barrier to entry that enabled the majors to retain their grip over iron ore supply in Australia. Yet these challenges didn’t deter Forrest. 

Similar to today’s evolving energy transition story, China was emerging as a powerful source of demand for iron ore. In 2003, the country’s GDP was surging at around 9% per year. But few predicted this growth would continue, and fewer still could have comprehended the incredible trajectory of iron ore prices over the next five years.  

In 2003, the global economy was reeling from a tech bust and terrorist attacks, with iron ore prices sitting below $20 per tonne.

History repeating?

2023 was a terrible year for most commodities — especially those tied to the renewable energy trend. That’s despite investment in renewable energies hitting an all-time high in 2023 at $1.8 trillion.

According to BloombergNEF that was up 17% from 2022. Yet, junior mining stocks have endured back-to-back years of underperformance. 

But while the mainstream narrative turns bearish on critical metal stocks, the world’s most liquid insiders continue to build exposure. That includes mining tycoons Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Robert Friedland. 

These heavyweights are still long on the critical metals mega-theme.  

Have no doubt, the spoils will go to those who are able to stick with these gargantuan commodity trends. Twenty years ago, that was iron ore: a commodity that was slow to respond to China’s rampant growth before a massive takeoff. 

By 2005, iron ore prices had almost tripled reaching $50 per tonne. Three years later and the price was hovering just below $200 per tonne — almost a 10-fold surge in five years.

Liquidity challenges stalling new mines

Ultimately, higher iron ore prices turned Andrew Forrest’ iron ore ambitions into reality, despite steep development costs. 

Which brings us back to today’s market. In a case of history rhyming, critical metal developers sit at the edge of enormous opportunity. It’s why I like to say critical metals stocks are the iron ore developers from 2003. 

Sitting at the precipice of a major upward leg in the commodity cycle — yet hobbled by enormous cost of capital required to get projects underway. 

Just like it did with iron ore in the early 2000s, expect downbeat sentiment to shift rapidly in line with rising prices. 

This is how commodity cycles work. This is how inconceivable capex finds its way into new projects. But don’t take my word for it — watch the world’s biggest insiders and follow their lead. 

James Cooper runs the commodities investment service Diggers and Drillers. You can follow him on X @JCooperGeo.


Hochschild pours first gold at Mara Rosa mine in Brazil
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 22:31:21 +0000
Commercial production expected towards the end of Q2 2024.

Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC) this week achieved first gold pour at its Mara Rosa mine in Brazil. The London-based miner operates three gold mines in Peru and Argentina: Inmaculada, San Jose and Pallancata. Mara Rosa is its first Brazilian operation, located in the state of Goias.

The project remains on schedule with commercial production expected towards the end of the second quarter of 2024, the company said, adding that Mara Rosa is expected to produce between 83,000 to 93,000 ounces of gold in 2024 at an all-in sustaining cost of between $1,090 and $1,120 per ounce.

Hochschild said Mara Rosa will provide near-term production at a significantly lower cost, with strong potential to find additional resources through the brownfield exploration program.

First gold at Mara Rosa. Image from Hochschild Mining.

Based on a pre-feasibility study in 2018, the Posse deposit at Mara Rosa is estimated to contain 513,000 oz. of gold in the proven category from 9.6 million tonnes at 1.65 g/t gold and 574,000 oz. of gold in the probable category from 14.2 million tonnes at 1.26 g/t gold, for total reserves of 1.09 million oz. from 23.8 million tonnes grading 1.42 g/t gold.

“We are all very proud of the team for delivering Brazil’s newest gold mine,” CEO Eduardo Landin said in the statement. “Mara Rosa will be a low-cost operation that will create significant value for all our stakeholders. The first pour is testament to the hard work done by all our employees, contractors and local communities who have enabled us to construct this exciting operation on schedule and on budget.”

“We are now focusing on completing the ramp up of the processing plant to achieve commercial production. In addition, our brownfield team is continuing its program to further grow the resource base at a number of targets in the region,” Landin added.


Artemis says expanded Blackwater gold mine would generate $370m annual cash flow
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 18:41:05 +0000
Development of the first phase is nearing completion, with the project expected to pour its first gold bar in the second half of 2024.

Artemis Gold (TSXV: ARTG) has completed the expansion study for its Blackwater gold mine in central British Columbia, concluding that a larger mine would produce 500,000 g/t gold equivalent in each of its first 10 years. Production at that level would generate annual free cash flow of about C$500 million ($370m) at an all-in sustaining cost of $712 per oz.

Development of the first phase is nearing completion, with the project expected to pour its first gold bar in the second half of 2024. The processing plant will be capable of treating 6 million tonnes per year. With completion of phase two, throughput would rise to 15 million t/y in year three and in phase three to 25 million t/y in year seven. The expansion could be funded from operating cash flows.

Artemis based its expansion study on the existing reserves and resources. The project has proven and probable reserves of 334.3 million tonnes grading 0.75 g/t gold (8 million oz.) and 5.8 g/t silver (62.2 million oz.) That equates to a gold equivalent of 0.78 g/t.

Using a 0.20 g/t gold equivalent cut-off, the measured and indicated resources are 596.8 million tonnes grading 0.61 g/t gold (11,7 million oz.) and 6.4 g/t silver (122.4 million oz.) The gold equivalent grade is 0.65 g/t, and it contains 12.4 million oz. gold equivalent. There is also an inferred portion of 16.9 million tonnes grading 0.45 g/t gold and 12.8 g/t silver, or 0.53 g/t gold equivalent.

Early in 2023, Artemis announced it was optimizing several facets of the mineral processing plant that will allow fast-tracking of phase two.

These changes included additional structural steel and increased conveyor belt widths, as well as variable-speed drives for the ball mill. Selected electrical components were upgraded, as were the oxygen plant and down-shaft-sparging for the pre-leach and carbon-in-leach circuits, along with creating a CIL layout that facilitates non-intrusive expansion. A full conversion of the detoxification process removed the need for tanker-supplied liquid sulphur dioxide.

The after-tax net present value with a 5% discount of the expanded Blackwater project is C$3.25 billion over its life, when a gold price of $1,800/oz. is used.

The calculation of the after-tax NPV included a BC mining tax minimum of 2% after the effective rate of 13% calculated on operating profit less applicable capital cost deductions. The provincial mining tax is deductible in computing provincial and federal income tax. The BC provincial income tax rate is 12% after deductions, and a federal income tax of 15% after deductions was considered.

The expansion study did not speculate on several additional opportunities that Artemis continues to evaluate – an increased mine life, exploration of resource extensions, alternative methods of transporting waste material, electrification of the haulage fleet, automation of hauling operations, and process engineering initiatives.


Surge Battery declares highest-grade lithium clay resource in US
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 17:14:09 +0000
The inferred resource totals 4.7 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent grading 2,839 ppm.

Surge Battery Metals (TSXV: NILI) said on Thursday that its flagship lithium project in Nevada is host to the highest-grade US clay resource, containing 4.7 million tonnes (inferred) of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) grading 2,839 parts per million (ppm) lithium.

This resource estimate was the first ever released on the Nevada North lithium project (NNLP). It was calculated using a base-case lithium cut-off grade of 1,250 ppm and metrics derived from available information for deposits similar to that at NNLP.

Greg Reimer, Surge Battery’s chief executive, said in a news release that the resource estimate solidifies NNLP as “a significant lithium deposit and one of the highest-grade lithium clay deposits worldwide.” The project is located 73 km north-northeast of Wells, Elko county, and comprises 725 mineral claims covering 58 sq. km.

“At higher grade cutoffs, there are still very appreciable volumes of lithium that are largely contained in the clay horizons nearest surface,” he added.

At a higher, more stringent cut-off of 2,000 ppm, the inferred LCE resource would still surpass 4 million tonnes, with a lithium grade of 3,167 ppm.

The resource estimate for NNLP is based on 20 drill holes completed between 2022 and 2023 under a notice of intent (NOI) permit for a total of 2,758 metres and 1,973 samples. The two rounds of drilling identified a mineralized zone of lithium-bearing clays occupying a strike length of more than 3,500 metres and a known width of up to 950 metres.

A much larger drill program is planned for 2024 to expand the resource, which Surge Battery said only covers a portion of the known footprint of mineralization at NNLP. A detailed surface mapping program over the property and additional soil sampling will also be carried out.

The company said it will work with the Bureau of Land Management this spring to determine how much disturbance can be reclaimed under the current NOI permit. Drilling will then proceed upon receiving its exploration plan of operations permit.

Meanwhile, its metallurgical testwork is well underway with Kemetco, with results anticipated for the first quarter.

By midday Thursday, Surge Battery Metals soared by 14% to C$0.53 a share on the TSX Venture Exchange, for a market capitalization of C$83.9 million ($62m).


Appian appoints strategic advisor on global affairs; partners with SAFE
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 14:58:00 +0000
Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP is senior strategic advisor on global affairs.

Appian Capital Advisory – which advises on long-term, private capital funds that invest solely in mining and related companies – has appointed the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP as senior strategic advisor on global affairs.

In this new role, Raab will be a key member of the company’s senior advisory team, supporting Appian on geopolitical strategy and risk, building on his significant international experience gained in UK government.

Appian has also formed a partnership with SAFE’s Center for Critical Minerals Strategy, an organization of military and business leaders focused on the intersection of energy policy and national security.

The partnership takes the form of a SAFE-Appian sub-committee on opportunities and risks in the critical mineral sector (SCOR), chaired by Raab and comprised of other commercial experts in the critical minerals sector alongside Appian.

The partnership will advise SAFE on the regulatory, fiscal and financial conditions required for successful critical minerals operations.

It will provide policy makers with an independent view on risk levels and viability of projects for funding, ensuring better capital and resource allocation to maximize the chance of bringing projects into production, Appian said, adding that the partnership will develop a scorecard to help decision-makers evaluate the wide range of potential critical minerals sites and provide a short-list of the most viable targets.

Last year, SAFE’s Minerals Center published A Global Race to the Top: Using Transparency to Secure Critical Mineral Supply Chains,outlining a vision for how the US can work with its partners and allies to create higher standards through radical transparency, from the mine to the final product.

The partnership advances this work, Appian said, by analyzing risks and opportunities for securing and diversifying sources of critical minerals and their wider supply chains to bring energy transition projects into production.


Gold gives scientists clues to develop more resilient materials
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 14:05:00 +0000
Researchers with the US SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory explore the mechanisms that allow gold to become harder instead of falling apart like other materials when zapped with high-energy laser pulses.

When subjected to intense laser excitation, gold becomes tougher and more resilient, new research has found.

In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, researchers with the US SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory explore the mechanisms that allow gold to become harder instead of falling apart like other materials when zapped with high-energy laser pulses.

“Our findings challenge previous understandings by showing that, under certain conditions, metals like gold can become stronger rather than melting when subjected to intense laser pulses,” Adrien Descamps, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast who led the research while he was a graduate student at Stanford and SLAC, said in a media statement. “This contrasts with semiconductors, which become unstable and melt.”

Descamps explained that for decades, simulations hinted at the possibility of this phenomenon, known as phonon hardening. Now, using SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the researchers have finally brought this phonon hardening to light.

In their experiment, the team targeted thin gold films with optical laser pulses at the Matter in Extreme Conditions experimental hutch, then used super-fast X-ray pulses from LCLS to take atomic-level snapshots of how the material responded. This high-resolution glimpse into the atomic world of gold allowed researchers to observe subtle changes and capture the moment when its phonon energies increased, providing concrete evidence of phonon hardening.

“We used X-ray diffraction at LCLS to measure the structural response of gold to laser excitation,” paper co-author Emma McBride said. “This revealed insights into the atomic arrangements and stability under extreme conditions.”

The researchers found that when gold absorbs extremely high-energy optical laser pulses, the forces holding its atoms together become stronger. This change makes the atoms vibrate faster, which can change how the gold responds to heat and might even affect the temperature at which it melts.

“This work resolves a long-standing question about the ultrafast excitation of metals and shows that intense lasers can completely alternate the response of the lattice,” said Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at SLAC.

The scientists believe similar phenomena could exist in other metals such as aluminum, copper, and platinum. Further exploration could lead to a better understanding of how metals behave under extreme conditions, which will aid in the development of more resilient materials.

“Looking ahead, we’re excited about the potential to apply these findings to more practical applications, such as in laser machining and material manufacturing, where understanding these processes at the atomic level could lead to improved techniques and materials,” Descamps said. “We’re also planning more experiments and hoping to explore these phenomena across a wider range of materials.”


Teck hits record copper production on Quebrada Blanca ramp-up
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 13:51:00 +0000
Production of the metal surged 58% to 103,000 tonnes in Q4 2023 as the mine was operating near design throughput capacity by year-end.

Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A, TECK.B; NYSE: TECK), Canada’s largest diversified miner, beat profit estimates for the fourth quarter of 2023 on the back of higher steelmaking coal sales, record copper production and strong prices for the orange metal.

The Vancouver-based miner said its realized copper prices increased by 2%. Production of the metal surged 58% to 103,000 tonnes in the last three months of 2023 from 65,000 tonnes a year earlier, as it ramped up operations at its Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile.

The company also reported higher production at its Highland Valley Copper mines in Canada and at Antamina, in Peru, which is set for a $2 billion expansion.

Total copper output for the fourth quarter of 2023 reached 296,000 tonnes, compared to 270,000 in the same period of 2022. 

Zinc in concentrate production amounted to 182,000 tonnes, up from 143,000 a year earlier, while refined zinc production totalled 70,000 tonnes, up from 46,000.

“We had strong fourth quarter performance across our business, generating adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $1.7 billion in the quarter, returning cash to shareholders and advancing ramp-up of our Quebrada Blanca operations, resulting in Teck’s record quarterly copper production,” chief executive Jonathan Price said in a statement.

He added that Teck is well positioned to deliver on its strategic priorities in 2024, which involve securing growth in its copper portfolio with the addition of its British Columbia HVC mine life extension project and kicking off the permitting process for San Nicolas in Mexico.

The company left copper guidance for the year unchanged at 465,000 – 540,000 tonnes of copper and 565,000 – 630,000 tonnes of zinc.

In parallel, Teck said is executing the planned separation of its base metals and steelmaking coal businesses, following the sale of its coal unit to Glencore (LON: GLEN).

The Swiss mining and commodities trader spent much of 2023 in an open battle with Teck after the Canadian miner rejected its unsolicited $23 billion offer. The bid, while unsuccessful, opened the door for Glencore’s acquisition of Teck’s steelmaking coal business, which it plans to merge with its own coal assets and create a new coal-focused company.


Newmont to sell six non-core assets in Canada, Australia
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 12:03:00 +0000
The world's largest gold miner will use proceeds to cut debt, which stood at $8 billion at the end of 2023.

Newmont Corp (NYSE: NEM) said on Thursday it plans to sell six non-core assets, including its Éléonore mine in Quebec, the Musselwhite and Porcupine mines in Ontario, the Coffee project in the Yukon Territory and its 70% stake in the Havieron joint venture with Greatland Gold (LON: GGP) in Western Australia.

The world’s largest gold miner, which completed the acquisition of Newcrest Mining in November, said that proceeds from the transactions will be used to cut debt. The company, which had $8 billion in debt at the end of 2023, has set a near-term debt-reduction target of $1 billion.

The US-based miner has also identified an additional $500 million in cost and productivity improvements, including job cuts.

“A big part of our commitment is to deliver $100 million of free cash flow by bringing Newmont and Newcrest together…there is a reduction in headcount in order to achieve those synergies,” chief executive Tom Palmer said in a statement.

After the divestments, the gold giant will focus on ten tier-1 assets, its “go-forward portfolio”, which it plans to secure long-term growth.

“Our go-forward portfolio is the new standard for gold and copper mining [and] provides our shareholders with exposure to the highest concentration of Tier 1 assets in the sector,” Palmer said.

Tier 1 assets are “company making” mines and projects, which are not only large in size, but also have a long productive life and low costs.

Challenges

The gold giant, which also announced its fourth quarter and full-year 2023 results, said it produced 5.5 million ounces of gold last year, a 6.9% drop from the 5.96 million gold announces it churned out in 2022.

Its overall performance was affected by several challenges, including $1.9 billion in impairment charges, $1.5 billion in reclamation charges, and $464 million in Newcrest transaction and integration costs. 

The Denver, Colorado-based company said it had a loss of $3.21 per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 50 US cents per share, slightly short of the 51 US cents estimated by Wall Street.

Despite the challenges, Newmont handed $1.4 billion in dividends to shareholders and is forecasting 2024 total production of nearly 6.9 million gold ounces, underpinned by 5.6 million gold ounces from its tier 1 portfolio.

The company also reported higher gold reserves of 135.9 million attributable ounces for 2023 compared to the 96.1 million ounces it had at the end of 2022. Newmont noted it has significant upside to other metals, including more than 30 billion pounds of copper reserves and nearly 600 million ounces of silver reserves.


British Columbia halts proposed Land Act amendments
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 23:20:44 +0000
Over 650 stakeholders, representing tens of thousands in the province, discussed the proposed amendments.

British Columbia’s Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship announced on Wednesday that it will not be proceeding with the proposed amendments to the province’s Land Act.

In January, the Ministry posted on its website a Land Act legislative amendment to consult with Indigenous governing bodies to share decision-making about public land use, and said public engagement was open until March 31.

The amendment was in accordance with 2019 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), the provincial framework for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

It was posted without a media advisory, but Vancouver-based law firm McMillan commented on its significance – changes to the way land use decisions are made in the province could have a big impact on the resource sector and potentially the granting of mining licences.

The province has 16 proposed critical mineral mines worth C$36 billion in near-term investment, 300,000 person-years of employment and C$11 billion in tax revenues, an independent economic impact analysis conducted for the Mining Association of British Columbia found last month.

“The subject matter of the consultation is unprecedented and of profound importance to any company that requires authorization to use Crown land in BC,” the firm stated at the time.

The Association of Mineral Exploration (AME) also expressed concerns about the way the BC government was undertaking reforms, intended to bring the Land Act into conformity with DRIPA.

“AME was not included in any previous outreach by the BC government on this process. We were made aware in the same way as many of our membership: through public media,” it said last month.

Groups respond representing “tens of thousands”

Nathan Cullen, BC’s Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, said the Ministry had discussed the proposed amendments with over 650 representatives of stakeholder groups representing tens of thousands of British Columbians, from mining, ranching, forestry, oil and gas, clean energy and tourism.

“From the very beginning of this process, I promised that we would listen and take the time to get any changes right. That our focus was to make it easier to work together with First Nations and provide more opportunities for better jobs and a stronger future,” Cullen said in the statement.

“In conversations with these groups, many were surprised to learn that the claims being made about the proposed legislation by some were not true and that there would be no impacts to tenures, renewals, private properties or access to Crown land.”

While Cullen said during conversations, the vast majority said they want reconciliation to work and partner to create opportunity for First Nations, businesses and all communities, he also said “some figures have gone to extremes to knowingly mislead the public about what the proposed legislation would do.”

“They have sought to divide communities and spread hurt and distrust. They wish to cling to an approach that leads only to the division, court battles and uncertainty that have held us back,” the Minister said.

“I’ve also heard that we need to take the time to further engage with people and demonstrate the real benefits of shared decision-making in action. We want to get this right and move forward together,” Cullen said. “For that reason, our government has decided not to proceed with proposed amendments to the Land Act.”

AME president Keerit Jutla also issued a statement Wednesday in response.

“The AME supports the government’s commitment to the implementation of DRIPA,” Jutla said. “We know that our members also support this goal, but the way the changes were introduced fostered an environment of distrust and uncertainty. This is not an environment that is conducive to building partnerships and economic reconciliation.”

“We look forward to further discussions with Minister Cullen and the BC government to ensure that BC remains a competitive, predictable and stable environment for mineral exploration.”


Lucara Diamond unearths over 530-carats at Karowe mine in Botswana
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 21:28:09 +0000
Recoveries include a 320-carat gem-quality, an 111-carat Type IIa white stone and two +50-carat stones.

Lucara Diamond announced Wednesday the recovery of a 320-carat, a 111-carat and two +50-carat stones from its 100% owned Karowe diamond mine in Botswana.

The diamonds were recovered from the direct milling of kimberlite ore from the South Lobe during a recent production run that saw additional recoveries of numerous, smaller +10.8 carat diamonds of high value, the company said.

The 320-carat is a gem-quality, top light brown diamond, while the 111-carat diamond is described as a Type IIa white stone of high quality. The two +50-carat stones add to these recent recoveries and are also Type IIa white diamonds.

Latest recoveries from Karowe mine. Image from Lucara.

These add to the collection of significant stones uncovered at Karowe, where last summer Lucara recovered a 692.3-carat diamond.

The recoveries, the company said, re-enforce the development of the underground mine which will target >95% EM/PK(S) ore during the first three years of underground production. The company invested $106 million in 2022 in underground development at Karowe.

“These diamond recoveries from the EM/PK(S) domain of the South Lobe further validate the quality and potential of the Karowe diamond mine,” CEO William Lamb said in a statement.

“Our team’s dedication to innovation and operational excellence continues to drive our success, and we look forward to delivering further value to our stakeholders,” Lamb said.


Vizsla Silver announces $22 million bought deal, shares down
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 19:17:57 +0000
Net proceeds of the financing will go towards the exploration, drilling and development of its flagship Panuco silver-gold project.

Vizsla Silver (TSXV: VZLA) (NYSE: VZLA) announced Wednesday an agreement with PI Financial Corp. to act as the sole bookrunner and lead underwriter for a bought deal financing consisting of 20 million shares of the company priced at C$1.50 each for gross proceeds of C$30 million ($22.2m).

The underwriters, led by PI Financial will also be granted a 15% overallotment option, exercisable in whole or in part for 30 days.

Vizsla Silver’s shares fell by 12.5% to C$1.47 apiece as of 2:15 p.m. ET, for a market capitalization of C$307.6 million ($227.9m). The stock traded between C$1.26 and C$2.25 over the past 52 weeks.

Net proceeds of the financing, says Vizsla, will go towards the exploration, drilling and development of its flagship Panuco silver-gold project in southern Sinaloa, Mexico. The project is located within a 72-sq.-km. district hosting past producing mines that has seen limited exploration on a consolidated basis.

To date, the company has completed over 350,000 metres of drilling at Panuco, leading to the discovery of several new high-grade veins.

Earlier this year, it released an updated mineral resource estimate that includes an in-situ indicated mineral resource of 155.8 million oz. of silver equivalent (AgEq) and an in-situ inferred resource of 169.6 million oz. AgEq.

The indicated mineral resource is estimated at 9.5 million tonnes grading 289 g/t silver, 2.41 g/t gold, 0.27% lead and 0.84% zinc (or 511 g/t AgEq), while the inferred resource is calculated at 12.2 million tonnes grading 239 g/t silver, 1.93 g/t gold, 0.29% lead and 1.03% zinc (433 g/t AgEq).

For 2024, Vizsla said it is focused on de-risking the resource base located in the western portion of the district ahead of a development decision. It has budgeted over 65,000 metres of drilling designed to upgrade and expand the mineral resource, as well as test other high-priority targets across the district.


Wesdome drills more high grades at Eagle River gold mine in Ontario
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 18:20:52 +0000
One hole returned 269.6 g/t gold over 2.3 metres, including 1,261 g/t gold over 0.5 metre.

Wesdome Gold Mines (TSX: WDO) continues to drill the recently discovered high-grade Falcon 311 zone at its Eagle River gold mine with bonanza results. Hole 857-E-24 returned 269.6 g/t gold over 2.3 metres, including 1,261 g/t gold over 0.5 metre.

The Eagle River underground mine is located 50 km west of Wawa, Ontario. It has been producing gold for over 25 years. Exploration on the property recently discovered the Falcon zones, which may allow production to grow to 850 t/d from 650 t/d, the company said.

At Falcon 311, hole 857-E-16A returned 53.0 g/t gold over 2.9 metres, and hole 857-E-04 returned 24.7 g/t gold over 2 metres core length. (All assays were capped at 125 g/t gold.)

The Falcon 311 zone remains open in all directions, including up-plunge towards the surface.

“By leveraging our experience and understanding of the Falcon 7 zone, the team was able to quickly identify and define this new discovery at a higher hit rate per hole,” Wesdome CEO Anthea Bath said in a news release.

Falcon 7 was initially discovered in 2019 and in production by 2021.

“Falcon 311 is now the second zone identified in the volcanic rocks west of the mine diorite, confirming the prospectivity in an area that has seen limited drilling historically. The exploration along this horizon as well as the definition and expansion of this new discovery will remain a priority for drilling in the coming months,” she added.

Based on drilling to date, the Falcon 311 zone has been traced at least 200 metres along plunge and nearly 100 metres along strike. There is further potential to expand to surface almost 900 metres along plunge, similar to the Falcon 7 zone.

The Eagle River mine produced 87,799 oz. of gold in 2023, up from 82,002 oz. in 2022.


Zinnwald lithium project in Germany now 2nd largest in EU
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 18:01:00 +0000
The project's mineral resources estimate has increased 445% since the previous report, released in late 2018.

Shares in Germany-focused Zinnwald Lithium (LON: ZNWD) soared on Wednesday after it increased by 445% the mineral resource estimate (MRE) for its the namesake project in the eastern state of Saxony.

The update makes of Zinnwald the second largest hard rock lithium project in the European Union (EU) by both resource size and contained lithium, chief executive Anton du Plessis said in a statement.

Europe’s largest hard rock lithium deposit and the world’s fourth-largest non-brine asset is the Cinovec lithium project in the Czech Republic, owned by European Metals (ASX, LON: EMH) and state-controlled utility CEZ.

Zinnwald Lithium’s stock climbed more than 41%, closing at 7.55p on Wednesday. This leaves the company with a market capitalization of £35.84 million ($45.2m).

The project’s latest resources estimate incorporates 26,911 metres of new diamond core drilling across 84 drill holes and a reinterpreted and updated geological model since the previous estimate, released in September 2018, the company said.

Located in the heart of Europe’s chemical and car industries, the project, about 35km from Dresden, is expected to produce battery grade lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and lithium fluoride (Li2CO3, LiOH, LiF) or a combination of them.

Prices for lithium, once called “white oil” are down more than 80% from their 2022 peak due to slowing growth in electric vehicle sales, including in the top EV consumer China, and a market oversupply. 


Rio Tinto board gives go-ahead on Simandou iron ore project
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 17:47:25 +0000
"The board yesterday approved the largest mining project in the world," CEO Stausholm told the Financial Times.

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the company’s board has given the green light to the Simandou mining project in West Africa.

Stausholm said the company aims to commence iron ore production from the $20 billion development as early as 2025. “The board yesterday approved the largest mining project in the world,” Stausholm told the Financial Times.

Rio said in January it expects to begin infrastructure work on the massive Simandou iron ore project this year following almost three decades of setbacks and scandals.

Set to be the world’s largest and highest grade new iron ore mine, the project will add around 5% to global seaborne supply when it comes on line. It is a partnership between Rio Tinto, the Guinean government and at least seven other companies, including five from China.

The project has been the subject of prolonged negotiations due to its complex ownership structure, delays caused by legal disputes, Guinea’s political changes and construction challenges.

Rio Tinto plans to invest $6.2 billion in the mine, rail, and port project in the Republic of Guinea, in collaboration with other companies, including five from China.

However, final investment approval from Rio’s state-owned Chinese partners, including Chinalco and Baowu, is still pending.

Nonetheless, Stausholm expressed confidence that this approval would be granted soon.

In January, Baowu raised $1.4 billion from a bond issue in China intended to support the project, which entails the construction of a 552-kilometre rail line to transport high-grade iron ore from two new mines in the Simandou mountains — one to be constructed and operated by Rio Tinto — to a new deepwater port on Guinea’s Atlantic coast.

Rio Tinto holds two of four Simandou mining blocks as part of its Simfer joint venture with China’s Chalco Iron Ore Holdings (CIOH) and the government of Guinea. Rio Tinto holds a 53% stake, while CIOH holds the remainder.


SQM makes $9.4m follow-on investment in UK battery recycling firm
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 16:51:30 +0000
Since SQM's initial investment of $2.57 million last year, Altilium has hit a number of key development milestones.

Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM), through its corporate venture arm SQM Lithium Ventures, announced Wednesday a follow-on investment of $9.43 million in Altilium, a UK-based technology company that focuses on decarbonization of automotive supply chains.

Launched in late 2022, the objective of SQM Lithium Ventures is to identify and promote new lithium-related technologies. For this purpose, it will provide initial funding of $25,000 for early-stage startups and up to $3 million for venture investments (Series A).

Altilium’s technological focus is to produce high-volume, low-carbon domestic sources of cathode and anode materials from recycling waste streams already in circulation, such as lithium scrap.

In 2022, it opened its battery recycling technology centre in Devon, England, to deepen and strengthen its competitive edge in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. The scale-up processing line will provide the company with data to make informed decisions on materials handling, scalability, and product quality at the UK’s largest planned EV battery recycling facility, to be located in Teesside.

The plant will have the capacity to process scrap from over 150,000 EVs per year, producing 30,000 metric tons of cathode active material, 20% of the expected demand in the UK and one of the largest projects in the UK and Europe.

Since SQM’s initial investment of $2.57 million last year, Altilium has hit a number of key development milestones, including the expansion of its UK recycling facilities, enhancement of its proprietary EcoCathode hydrometallurgical process and strengthening of its senior management team.

The additional funding follows a year of progress in the scaling up of Altilium’s proprietary battery recycling technology and underscores both companies’ commitment to developing a circular economy for sustainable low and carbon battery materials, the Chilean group said.

The latest investment in Altilium completes the Series A funding round and marks the largest investment to date for SQM Lithium Ventures, now totalling $12 million.

The additional funding of $9.43 million is expected to accelerate the scale-up Altilium’s UK and European activities, paving the way for the roll-out of the company’s full battery circularity customer offering, which includes zero-carbon EV battery collection, black mass recycling and chemical refining direct to cathode active material (CAM).

Key developments in 2024 include the construction of a 18,000-square-foot facility in Plymouth, Devon; building the first battery recycling station to efficiently transform discarded EV batteries into high-quality black mass; and the retrofit of an existing plant in Eastern Europe, with plans to process 8,000 metric tons of black mass to EV batteries later in the year. Today, most EV batteries are shredded into black mass and shipped to China for processing.

“This round of funding with SQM Lithium Venture has been a pivotal achievement for Altilium and reflects the significant strides the business has made over the past 12 months,” Altilium CEO Kamran Mahdavi said in a statement.

Carlos Díaz, CEO of SQM’s lithium-potassium division, said that the investment gives the company the chance to participate in the creation of a new industry: the recovery of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt from recycled batteries.

“This will allow us to add value to the new battery supply chain, while at the same time maintaining sustainable consumption levels of resource consumption, water use, and carbon footprint,” Díaz said.


CRU appoints Angela Durrant as principal base metals analyst, Australia
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 14:25:00 +0000
Durrant will be leading the Nickel Asset Service.

Global commodities research firm CRU announced Wednesday it has appointed industry veteran Angela Durrant as principal base metals analyst in their Sydney, Australia office.

Durrant is a CRU alumna with over 20 years of experience in the field and will be leading the nickel asset service. With a global remit extending across the entire nickel value chain, Durrant will also be a key contributor to CRU’s newly released battery value chain service.

Angela Durrant. Image from CRU.

Amidst the current oversupply of nickel and resultant price crash, producers are battling to manage the twin pressures of plummeting prices and spiralling costs to remain commercially viable.

In her new role, Durrant will be an adviser to CRU clients as they navigate this immediate challenge as well as those that will arise from mid- to long-term structural market oversupply.

Durrant previously worked for CRU in London until 2007, before relocating back to Sydney and taking up a role at Wood Mackenzie, where she held the position of senior research manager, nickel industry costs.

“I am delighted to welcome Angela back to CRU. Having spent over two decades working in the nickel industry, and over ten years in Australia, she brings with her a deep knowledge of the region’s nickel market and emerging global demand drivers, such as the battery industry,” CRU’s head of base and battery metals Simon Morris said in a news release.


Diamond, niobium play key role in development of quantum detection devices
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 14:06:00 +0000
Researchers have found a way to improve diamond adhesion —the bond between diamond and transition metal—using niobium.
Niobium. Element 41 of the periodic table of chemical elements. Stock image.

Researchers at Skoltech, the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and other scientific organizations have found a way to improve diamond adhesion —the bond between diamond and transition metal—using niobium.

In a paper published in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds, the scientists explain that although diamonds are beautiful gemstones, rough diamonds are much more interesting from a scientific point of view.

One of the promising areas of research towards diamond technological applications is diamond surface metallization, which is used to give the diamond surface new characteristics such as superior thermal conductivity, good thermal stability, improved wettability, and its original physical and chemical properties.

Diamond, however, has two limitations related to the synthesis of large-sized diamond substrate and poor adhesion of metal contacts to the diamond surface,” Stanislav Evlashin, co-author of the study, said in a media statement.

“For example, when we worked on detectors for ionizing radiation and applied contacts made of gold and other materials, the adhesion of such contacts to diamond was very poor. At that point, we wondered how we could overcome such poor adhesion.”

One of the most effective ways to metalize diamonds is by sintering them with such metals as titanium, chromium, tantalum, zirconium, and others. When they interact with carbon, a layer of metal carbide is formed. The authors of the study chose niobium because of its ability to form chemically stable films of niobium carbides on the diamond surface.

“We attempted to create a superconductor on the diamond surface and realized that if we deposit niobium on it and then anneal it, the following phase transformations occur during annealing: the niobium film after heating turns into the Nb₂C compound, and after further heating over 1200 degrees—into NbC,” Evlashin said.

According to Evlashing and his colleague Alexander Kvashnin, theoretical calculations of the constant lattice of niobium carbide depending on the concentration of carbon defects—often in the experiment there is a carbon deficiency—have shown that the used method of synthesis of niobium carbide on diamond allows to obtain high-quality niobium carbide with a lattice parameter close to defect-free material.

“Calculations of the superconducting characteristics of niobium carbide showed a superconducting transition at a temperature of 19.4 K, which turned out to be close to the experimentally measured value,” Kvashnin said. “The results also indicate the high quality of the experimentally obtained film.”

Quantum detection devices

Notably, the low concentration of defects in the obtained niobium carbide film leads to sufficiently high values of electron diffusion, compared to other niobium-based alloys. This, together with the observed superconducting characteristics, is of practical interest for quantum detection devices.

The researchers proved that the obtained niobium carbide layer has superconductive characteristics. If this film is applied to the surface of the diamond, it will be possible to create super-sensitive detectors due to its high thermal conductivity. The high thermal conductivity of diamond will help detect signals and it would happen much faster than with other materials.


Sibanye-Stillwater flags $2.5bn write-down on metals prices collapse
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 13:52:00 +0000
Miner expects to report a 91% drop in annual profit for 2023 due to a sharp decline in metals prices and operational problems.

Precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW)(NYSE: SBSW) flagged on Wednesday a 47.5 billion rand ($2.58 billion) impairment on its upcoming 2023 results due to falling prices for the main metals it mines, including palladium, platinum and nickel.

The company said it expects to report in March a loss per share for 2023 of 12.68 rand to 14.01 rand, compared with a profit of 6.51 rand a share the previous year. This is equivalent to an eye-popping 91% drop in annual profit.

The announcement comes only two months after the South African miner announced it would lay off 1,500 workers from its gold mines. It also said at the time it had begun talks that could affect 4,000 more employees at its platinum group metals (PGMs) operations, including those in the United States.

“We have already taken proactive steps to address loss-making production at unprofitable operations and the group remains focused on ensuring the sustainability of our business and delivering on our strategical essentials through this period of low commodity prices,” the company said in a statement.

Sibanye shares fell more than 5% in afternoon trading in Johannesburg, closing at ZAC 1,994. The stock has lost almost 48% of its value in the past year, mainly due to the prices decline of palladium and rhodium.

The sharp drop of PGMs prices decline has driven producers to apply severe cost-cutting measures. Anglo American Platinum said on Monday it would cut 3,700 jobs at its South African operations, or 17% of the Anglo American unit’s workforce. 

Impala Platinum Holdings has offered voluntary job cuts, including at its deep-level Rustenburg complex.

Despite the challenges, Sibanye noted that all its South African and Australian operations were profitable before the end of the fourth quarter of 2023. 


RELATED: In election year, South African mines bleed cash, jobs


First Quantum inks $500 million copper deal with Jiangxi amid Panama mine struggles
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 11:47:00 +0000
Jiangxi Copper, the Canadian miner’s top shareholder, will receive 50,000 tonnes of copper anode per year from mines in Zambia.

First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) said on Wednesday it would get a $500 million injection from Jiangxi Copper, the Canadian miner’s largest shareholder, that will help it to shore up finances.

The three year prepay arrangement with Jiangxi will see First Quantum deliver 50,000 tonnes of copper anode per year to the Chinese miner. The material will be extracted at the Kansanshi mine in Zambia and is payable at market prices, the company said.

“This arrangement is a reminder of the strategic nature of copper as supply challenges abound across the sector, First Quantum said in a statement. “Constructive discussions with our lenders for an amendment and extension of our loan facilities, which are an important component to our fulsome solution, are well-advanced and there is a high degree of alignment among all parties.”

The company, which was forced to shut down in December its flagship copper mine in Panama, has quickly seen its financial situation deteriorate. Since the order to close the operation, First Quantum has lost over half its market value and its exposure to nickel, of which prices have dropped to two-year lows, has added extra pressure.

Together with reporting a net loss for the fourth quarter, First Quantum recorded an impairment charge of $900 million, which includes $854 million at its Ravensthorpe nickel mine, due to significant margin pressure triggered by the battery metal’s weak prices and high operating costs.

First Quantum has billions of dollars of debt maturing in the coming years and concerns about the future of Cobre Panama, its main source of income, has put it at risk of a covenant breach in the coming year. This has resulted in “material uncertainty” that may cast doubt on the company’s “ability to continue,” the miner said.

The Vancouver-based company is in talks with lenders to amend and extend its loan facilities, and expects a conclusion “in the near term.” This include extending its $2.2 billion corporate bank loan and extending its maturity to April 2027.

The miner also announced a $1 billion common share offering to underwriters led by RBC Capital Markets, BMO Capital Markets and Goldman Sachs, and launched a private offering of senior notes worth $1.6 billion due in 2029.

First Quantum holds out hope the upcoming Presidential elections in Panama will bring a change in fortune for its copper mine. (Image provided by First Quantum.)

BMO analyst Jackie Przybylowski considered First Quantum’s update as positive. “It included material improvement to balance sheet liquidity and ongoing work to continue to manage debt and other obligations in the event of a prolonged Cobre Panama closure,” she wrote.

The expert said the bank will be watching closely how the Cobre Panama issue unfolds. “On the positive side, blockades around the mine have dissipated, allowing deliveries by road and at port to receive supplies necessary for the preservation and safe maintenance. Sale of the concentrate in inventory will help to fund this program”, Przybylowski said in a note to investors.

First Quantum holds out hope the May Presidential elections in Panama may bring a change in fortune for its halted operation, one of the world’s largest new copper mines to open in the past decade.

First Quantum is also considering a minority investment from strategic investors in its Zambian business, and is running a sales process for its small Las Cruces mine in Spain, chief executive Tristan Pascall said in a Wednesday call conference to discuss fourth quarter results.

The company is the sole owner of the Sentinel copper mine and has a 80% stake in the Kansanshi mine. Its presence in Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, includes the Fishtie copper project, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also comprises two licence options through a deal with African Pioneer (LON: AFP).


Video: Cobre Panama mine closure investigated by Canada’s CTV News
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 22:52:44 +0000
“How a Canadian copper mine triggered an uprising in Panama” was the tagline of a W5 Investigation.

“How a Canadian copper mine triggered an uprising in Panama” was the tagline of a W5 investigation by CTV News aired on national television over the February long weekend.

W5 investigated how the Panamanian government’s 20-year mining concession with Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals triggered mass protests and civil unrest amid allegations of corruption and fears of environmental degradation — prompting the country’s Supreme Court to intervene.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History awards University of Arizona geosciences professor
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 22:33:21 +0000
Robert T. Downs is the winner of the 2023 Carnegie Mineralogical Award.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) has announced Robert T. Downs as winner of the 2023 Carnegie Mineralogical Award. Downs is professor emeritus in the department of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

The award honors outstanding contributions in mineralogical preservation, conservation and education.

Over the course of his career, Downs has taught thousands of students, published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and co-authored three books.

“In his long career, Bob has influenced countless students and people from all walks of life through his lectures and publications, and as one of his supporters best put it, his influence on the mineralogy community is unique, lasting and profound,“ said Travis Olds, assistant curator of minerals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Olds presented the award to Downs on February 10 at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Downs developed and continues to curate the RRUFF mineralogical database, one of the most widely used open-access mineral databases in the world, which has fundamentally changed how mineralogical data is kept and shared.

The Raman spectra, X-ray diffraction and chemistry data within RRUFF help mineral researchers identify specimens on Earth and beyond.

Downs was a principal investigator on the Mars rover Curiosity, part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. In 2023, he was second author on a paper in JGR Planets that summarizes a survey of 161 probable or confirmed Martian minerals and suggests that mineral diversity on Mars is an order of magnitude less than on Earth.

Downs also prioritized making mineral education accessible to the public. He led the development of the popular, new University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum in Tucson. 

Carnegie Museum of Natural History established the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, funded by the Hillman Foundation, in 1987.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2024 Carnegie Mineralogical Award, and the deadline is November 15, 2024. Eligible candidates include educators, private mineral enthusiasts and collectors, curators, museums, mineral clubs and societies, mineral symposiums, universities and publications.

For more information, contact Travis Olds at oldst@carnegiemnh.org.


Sayona delivers Moblan lithium feasibility with $1.6 billion NPV
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 19:21:44 +0000
Annual production will be 300,000 t/y of concentrate over a 21-year life for the mine.

Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) has completed the definitive feasibility study for its Moblan lithium project, giving it a post-tax net present value of C$2.2 billion ($1.6bn) and a post-tax internal rate of return of 34.4%.

Moblan is a joint venture with Investissement Québec’s SOQUEM (40%) and is located 130 km north of Chibougamau, in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region of northern Quebec.

An open pit mine and 4,800 t/d processing plant is planned to produce a spodumene concentrate containing 6% lithium oxide (Li2O). Annual production will be 300,000 t/y of concentrate over a 21-year life for the mine. The project is expected to generate an estimates total net revenue of C$14.4 billion, with an EBITDA of C$11.2 billion.

“These positive financial returns have been driven by an estimated head grade of 1.36% Li2O, a LOM (life of mine) recovery rate of 74.7% and LOM average annual concentrate production of 300,000 t/y at a grade of 6% Li2O,” Sayona said in a release.

The company says it will cost C$926 million to build the project and a further C$96.1 million in sustaining costs. The all-in sustaining cost to produce a tonne of concentrate will be C$748.04, compared to a projected market price of C$2,653/tonne ($1,990/tonne).

The Moblan project has a probable reserves of 34.5 million tonnes grading 1.36% Li2O, included in measured and indicated resources of 49.9 million tonnes at 1.20% Li2O. The inferred resource is 21.1 million tonnes at 1.0% Li2O.

Sayona has a producing lithium project, the North American Lithium (NAL) operations between Val d’Or and Amos, in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue hub of northern Quebec. Last year, it began producing spodumene to meet growing battery demand.

The NAL operation is a joint venture of Sayona (75%) and Piedmont Lithium (25%). It is currently the subject of review as the spot price for lithium is expected to dip to roughly $2,200/tonne in 2025 from an average of $42,840/tonne last year.

“We are confident that the current lithium market will recover over the medium term,” said Sayona interim CEO James Brown, adding that Sayona will now look to review the timelines given the current market conditions and secure the necessary financing and partners capable of advancing the Moblan project through to successful production.


Anglo Asian releases initial resource estimate for Xarxar copper deposit
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 19:00:54 +0000
A majority of the MRE is in the measured and indicated category, totalling 22 million tonnes at 0.48% copper for 106,000 tonnes.

Anglo Asian Mining (LON: AAZ) released on Tuesday a JORC-compliant mineral resource update (MRE) for the Xarxar copper deposit in Azerbaijan following its discovery last year. The initial MRE shows 24.9 million tonnes of mineralization with average grades of 0.48% copper, for 119,100 tonnes of contained metal.

A majority of the MRE is in the measured and indicated category, totalling 22 million tonnes at 0.48% copper for 106,000 tonnes. The remaining resource (2.9 million tonnes at 0.44% copper for 12,800 tonnes) are in the inferred category.

In July 2022, an extensive geological exploration program began at the Xarxar deposit, targeting the central copper mineralization zone. Surface drill holes intercepted significant high-grade and continuous grades of copper mineralization, with intercepts of continuous copper for up to 380 metres.

Last month, the company confirmed the significant quantity of copper mineralization at Xarxar following analysis of recent surface drilling on the project.

Data for 66 holes with a total length of 21,707 metres (including historical drilling) were eventually used to complete the first resource estimate for Xarxar.

This resource estimate, Anglo Asian’s VP Stephen Westhead said, demonstrates that the deposit is “a substantial resource” containing over 100,000 tonnes of copper. According to the company, the Xarxar deposit still has significant additional exploration potential.

“To further expand the current mineral resources estimate, work will include surface infill drilling to the east of the deposit, deposit geotechnical and hydrogeological drilling, and drilling to supply samples for further metallurgical testwork,” Westhead added.

The resource estimate was prepared using a copper price of $9,000 per tonne to determine the amount of metal under the reasonable prospects for eventual economic extraction under JORC criteria.

The parameters of an open pit were also determined at a copper selling price of $20,000 to calculate a “maximum” pit floor depth, which was used to define two zones (one upper and one lower). The upper zone is calculated to have resources ranging from 5.0 to 10.2 million tonnes at 0.2% to 0.3% copper.

The Xarxar deposit is one of several exploration-stage assets held by Anglo Asian in Azerbaijan. The group currently produces gold, silver and copper from its flagship Gedabek mine, with four more mines planned to come online over the next four years.


CHART: China’s Belt and Road mining investment hits record
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 17:57:54 +0000
China’s overseas investment in metals and mining as part of its Belt and Road Initiative surged by 158% last year, hitting $19.4 billion with energy transition metals the main focus.

A new report from Griffith Asia Institute, a unit of Australia’s Griffith University, shows 10 years after the launch of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) cumulative engagement tops $1 trillion with about $634 billion in construction contracts and $419 billion in non-financial investments.

The authors point out that 2023 was the first time that more than 50% of BRI engagement was through investments where Chinese investors take equity stakes as opposed to construction contracts, which are typically financed through loans provided by Chinese financial institutions or contractors, often accompanied by guarantees from the host country.

Last year Africa overtook the Middle East as the no. 1 target of BRI projects after a 114% jump in investments and a 47% jump in construction projects on the continent. Investments in Latin America and the Caribbean also doubled last year.

China’s Belt and Road mining investment hits record
Source: Griffith Asia Institute

China’s BRI-related investment in metals and mining reached $19.4 billion in 2023 according to the study, a 158% jump compared to 2022 and the highest on record.  

Minerals and metals investment focused on the green energy transition with copper making up the lion’s share of new project announcements last year, followed by sizable lithium, nickel and uranium spending under the BRI. 

Apart from a giant new copper processing facility in Saudi Arabia, mining investments were focused in Indonesia and various countries in Africa and South America.

Examples include vertical integration investments by the world’s largest battery manufacturer CATL, which bought shares for a nickel mining concession in Indonesia from PT Aneka Tambang (Antam).

Lithium projects in Mali attracted investment from Chinese firms Jiangxi, Ganfeng and Hainan Mining (through the acquisition of Kodal Minerals) while Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt commissioned a lithium processing plant in Zimbabwe.

Downstream investment in battery and electric vehicle manufacturing also soared, reaching nearly $10 billion, according to the report. The largest investors under the BRI last year were CATL, accounting for more than 15% of overall spending, followed by Zijin Mining at 11%.

Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt contributed nearly 9% of the total while CMOC (formerly China Molybdenum) and Minmetals each had a 5%-plus share of the $92.4 billion total investments in 2023. 

For 2024, the Griffith Asia Institute sees further growth of Chinese BRI engagement with a strong focus on country partnerships in renewable energy, resource-backed mining and related technologies including EV batteries.  


Tudor Gold ups ounces, grades at Goldstorm deposit in British Columbia
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 17:31:47 +0000
An updated resource estimate published showed 27.87 million oz. of AuEq within 730.2 million tonnes at a grade of 1.19 g/t AuEq.

The indicated resource count at Tudor Gold’s (TSXV: TUD) flagship Treaty Creek project in British Columbia has grown by 19% in terms of gold-equivalent (AuEq) ounces following last year’s drill program targeting the norther portion of the Goldstorm deposit.

Located in the Golden Triangle region of BC, the 179 sq. km Treaty Creek property is said to host one of the largest gold discoveries in decades in Goldstorm. The deposit consists of six mineral domains with unique geological characteristics, five of which are gold dominant with lesser proportions of silver and copper. Domain CS-600 is dominantly gold and copper rich, with lesser silver.

An updated resource estimate published Tuesday showed 27.87 million oz. of AuEq within 730.2 million tonnes at a grade of 1.19 g/t AuEq. The contained metal breaks down into 21.7 million oz. of gold, 128.7 million oz. of silver and 2.9 billion lb. of copper at grades of 0.92 g/t, 5.48 g/t and 0.18% respectively. This equates to a 16% increase in gold, 14% increase in silver and 32% increase in copper content from the previous resource estimate almost a year ago.

The CS-600 domain, which forms a large part of the deposit and consists of a well-defined intrusive porphyry system, has an indicated mineral resource of 15.7 million oz. of AuEq within 400.3 million tonnes at 1.22 g/t AuEq. Included within the domain is a gold resource of nearly 10 million oz. at 0.78 g/t and copper of 2.7 billion lb. at 0.31%. The CS-600 resource has risen by 58% since last year’s update.

There is also an inferred resource of 6.0 million oz. AuEq within 149.6 million tonnes at 1.25 g/t AuEq, comprising 4.9 million oz. of gold at 1.01 g/t, 29.0 million oz. of silver at 6.02 g/t and 503.2 million lb. of copper at 0.15%.

“We not only pushed out the edges of the deposit, but we also successfully increased the grade of the inferred mineral resource,” Tudor CEO Ken Konkin said in a news release.

The 2023 inferred mineral resource was initially at 7.35 million oz. of AuEq grading 0.98 g/t AuEq, but the Tudor team was able to convert some of those ounces to the indicated category and increase the grade of the current inferred mineral resource.

“The higher gold-equivalent grades in the inferred category strongly suggests that we have not yet passed through the strongest portion of the Goldstorm mineralized system. We hope that the 2024 drill program can give us clear information about the configuration and boundaries of the deposit, as it remains open in all directions and at depth,” Konkin said.

The company will continue its work to expand the gold-silver-copper porphyry mineralizing system at Goldstorm with the view of outlining its economic viability. Tudor currently owns 60% of the project.

Shares of Tudor Gold rose by 6.2% to C$0.85 as of 12:30 p.m. ET, giving the Canadian junior explorer a market capitalization of C$194.7 million.


Offshore wind farms more vulnerable to cyberattacks – study
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 14:06:00 +0000
The complex architecture that connects offshore wind farms to the main power grid makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

The complex architecture that connects offshore wind farms to the main power grid using high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) technologies makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to new research.

In a recent paper and presentation, researchers from Concordia University and the Hydro-Quebec Research Institute explained that offshore wind farms, particularly those that use voltage-source-converter high-voltage direct-current (VSC-HVDC) connections, require more cyber infrastructure than onshore wind farms, given that offshore farms are often dozens of kilometres from land and operated remotely.

Offshore wind farms need to communicate with onshore systems via a wide area network. Meanwhile, the turbines also communicate with maintenance vessels and inspection drones, as well as with each other.

This hybrid communication design presents multiple access points for cyberattacks. If malicious actors were able to penetrate the local area network of the converter station on the wind farm side, these actors could tamper with the system’s sensors. This tampering could lead to the replacement of actual data with false information. As a result, electrical disturbances would affect the offshore wind farm at the points of common coupling.

According to the researchers, these disturbances could trigger poorly dampened power oscillations from the offshore wind farms when all the offshore wind farms are generating their maximum output. If these cyber-induced electrical disturbances are repetitive and match the frequency of the poorly dampened power oscillations, the oscillations could be amplified.

These amplified oscillations might then be transmitted through the HVDC system, potentially reaching and affecting the stability of the main power grid. While existing systems usually have redundancies built in to protect them against physical contingencies, such protection is rare against cyber security breaches.

“The system networks can handle events like router failures or signal decays. If there is an attacker in the middle who is trying to hijack the signals, then that becomes more concerning,” Jun Yan, co-author of the study, said in a media statement.

Yan added that considerable gaps exist in the industry, both among manufacturers and utilities. While many organizations are focusing on corporate issues such as data security and access controls, much is to be done to strengthen the security of operational technologies.

He noted that even though Concordia is leading the push for international standardization efforts, the work is just beginning.

“There are regulatory standards for the US and Canada, but they often only state what is required without specifying how it should be done,” Yan said. “Researchers and operators are aware of the need to protect our energy security, but there remain many directions to pursue and open questions to answer.”


KoBold Metals expands Zambia footprint with Midnight Sun deal
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 13:43:00 +0000
KoBold aims to earn a 75% interest in the Dumbwa portion of Solwezi, after forming a JV with the Canadian miner.

KoBold Metals, backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is expanding its footprint in Zambia after inking a deal with Midnight Sun Mining (TSX-V: MMA) to jointly explore the Dumbwa target on the Canadian miner’s Solwezi copper project.

The US-based startup aims to earn a 75% interest in the Dumbwa portion of Solwezi by spending $15 million in exploration and making cash payments totalling $500,000 over four and a half years.

“We look forward to KoBold applying their groundbreaking exploration approach to the Dumbwa Target and moving this important Zambian copper asset toward development together, which we view as perfectly timed to coincide with an upcoming phase of unprecedented global copper demand,” Midnight Sun chief executive Al Fabbro said in the statement.

KoBold Metals Africa CEO Mfikeyi Makayi said the Dumbwa target hosted “intriguing” copper-in-soil anomalies and a structural setting comparable to other major deposits in the region.

“The KoBold sediment-hosted copper team has decades of experience working in the African Copperbelt, which we will combine with our library of analytical tools and proprietary technology to aggressively explore at Dumbwa,” Makati said.

KoBold has an established presence in Zambia, including its flagship Mingomba project for which it is currently completing resource definition drilling and a pre-feasibility study.

Earlier this month the California-based firm said recent drilling at Mingomba had confirmed the “huge” size of the deposit.

It noted the asset was shaping up to be “extraordinary”, according to KoBold president Josh Goldman, who said the potential of the discovery compared to that of the Kamoa-Kakula mine, owned by Ivanhoe Mines and China’s Zijin Mining. This operation, located just across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced almost 400,000 tonnes of copper last year.

Beyond copper

KoBold is not just focused on copper, but rather all minerals and metals considered critical for the energy transition.

It began its quest for battery metals began almost four years ago in Canada, after it acquired rights to the area in northern Quebec, just south of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine, where it detected lithium.

The startup is now advancing 60 active projects spanning four continents, Africa, North America, Australia and Asia.

Using artificial intelligence, Kobold aims to create a “Google Maps” of the Earth’s crust, with a special focus on finding copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium deposits. It collects and analyzes multiple streams of data — from old drilling results to satellite imagery — to better understand where new deposits might be found.

Algorithms applied to the data collected determine the geological patterns that indicate a potential deposit of cobalt, which occurs naturally alongside nickel and copper. 

The technology, KoBold said, can locate resources that may have eluded more traditional geologists and can help miners decide where to acquire land and drill.


Osino-Dundee deal falls through after third-party superior bid
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 11:25:00 +0000
The new bid values Osino at $213 million and includes a $10m loan to fast-track the development of the Twin Hills gold project in Namibia.

Canada’s Dundee Precious Metals (TSX: DPM) is walking away from its proposed takeover of Osino Resources (TSX-V: OSI) after the target company said on Monday it had received a superior offer from a foreign-based mining company.

The Toronto-based gold producer, with operations and projects located in Bulgaria, Namibia, Serbia and Ecuador, said on Tuesday it would not amend its offer.

The half-stock, half-money deal inked in December, would have given Dundee all of Osino’s shares for C$0.775 each plus 0.0801 of a Dundee share, with an implied value of C$1.55 per Osino share. The offer represented a total equity value of C$287 million ($213m).

The new takeover bid, from an unnamed company, gives Osino’s shareholders C$1.90 cash for each common share they hold, valuing Osino Resources at approximately C$368 million ($273m). In addition, the suitor will pick up the termination fee bill that Osino will have to pay Dundee Precious Metals.

Osino Resources’ allure stems from its advanced-stage Twin Hills gold project in Namibia. The proposed open-pit will have a 13-year mine life and average annual production of 175,000 ounces of gold over the first five years. First production is expected in the second half of 2026, according to feasibility study released in June. Namibia has granted the project a 20 year licence leaving only site-level permits still required.

The suitor has also offered Osino Resources a $10 million loan to continuing the fast development of Twin Hills and to fund the company”s other liquidity needs.


Agnico Eagle taps Mexico workforce for Macassa gold mine in Ontario
Mon, 19 Feb 2024 18:30:00 +0000
As miners struggle to find skilled labour, few companies are open about hiring workers outside Canada to meet their needs.

As miners struggle to find skilled labour, few companies are open about hiring workers outside Canada to meet their needs.

Few that is, except for Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM), which has hired a dozen heavy duty mechanics from Mexico to work at its Macassa mine in Kirkland Lake, northern Ontario.

“Being able to attract 12 skilled mechanics is a great win for us,” Nathan Cloet, human resources director for Agnico’s Ontario region told The Northern Miner. “In this market environment it’s hard to find skilled mechanics. The mining industry across Canada and Ontario does not necessarily leverage immigration as much as they could or should. So for us, we want to try this out.”

The workers are part of a new program Agnico is piloting that seeks to fill positions with employees from sister operations, in this case its La India mine in Mexico’s northern state of Sonora, which closed last year after it reached its end of life. The program is putting the workers and their families on a permanent residency-track and Cloet expects they’ll start working at Macassa by March or April.

Agnico’s program comes as Canada’s mining labour force is expected to face even more shortages in the next decade, mainly due to workers retiring, but also from waning interest in mining among young people, according to the Ottawa-based Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR).

The council’s 2023 Canadian Mining Outlook report forecasts the industry’s total workforce will — in a baseline scenario — decrease by 5% to 170,796 in 2033. That’s due to decreasing commodity prices in line with World Bank projections and higher interest rates. Even to meet that reduced level, 158,220 jobs will have to be filled over the 2023-2033 period across the mining and milling, support services and primary metal manufacturing sub-sectors.

Meanwhile, only 137,934 people are projected to enter the industry, leaving an employment gap of 20,287 across all sub-sectors.

Labouring to meet needs

In Cloet’s view, competition for skilled mining labour is tight in northeastern Ontario, could worsen as older workers retire.

“We have continuous needs for hiring,” he said. “Even the 12 workers we hired don’t meet our needs for Macassa. It’s an ongoing concern we’re trying to address.”

He’s quick to note that Agnico first tried to find Canadian workers for the roles. When it couldn’t, it had to go through the labour market impact assessment (LMIA) process, which requires employers to show that no Canadian or permanent residents are available to fill the job.

Cloet acknowledged that employing foreign labourers might raise issues about skills transfer and tensions about hiring non-Canadian workers, but he also said that the 12 mechanics will be paid the same as a Canadian would be.

“There are risks,” he said. “But for us, it helps that these people already have worked for us. We believe this can be successful. In the framework of Canada immigration, I would advocate that it’s something to try.”

The MiHR has also noted in its 2023 Canadian Mining Workplace Profile that immigrants are a relatively untapped potential talent pool. In 2022, immigrants represented about 30% of the country’s overall workforce, but only 10% of mining and quarrying, the report stated.

“From this perspective, the mining industry has been losing ground to other industries over the last decade and a half,” it said.

Leave no stone unturned

Mining and mineral engineering masters student Raisul Islam Atik has yet to formally enter the workforce, but he has discovered many opportunities through education in his 13 months in Canada.

While downsizing at Laurentian University in 2021 saw many of its courses cut, including environmental geoscience, its still-intact mineral engineering program drew Atik from his native Bangladesh, where he was studying the life cycle of electric vehicle batteries.

At Laurentian, he didn’t want to “seclude” himself from Canadian society as he said some other international students have done, and discovered there are many open roads into the industry.

“I wanted to take a different route, and I wanted to actually learn and immerse myself in whatever learning opportunities that I could get about this mining industry,” he said.

He began volunteering with the Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury organization that promotes awareness about mining. That eventually led him to being selected for the Mineral Industry Leadership Certificate at Laurentian, a program of training modules and site visits that also came with a $3,000 scholarship.

For the mentorship part of the program, he was paired with Morne Beukes, head of Canadian operations with mining engineering firm BBE Group.

“He’s an amazing man from South Africa,” Atik said. “I’m constantly in touch with him when I want to know something. As an international student, it was impossible for me to get access to such an experienced professional on my own.”

Reviewing barriers to entry

Even though Atik has made his way to the doorstep of Canada’s mining industry, many others like him might lose out on that opportunity after the federal government in January cut back on the number of international student permits.

Peggy Bell, founder and principal consultant with Resource Becoming, a non-profit consultancy that aims to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in mining, says the industry’s labour woes should be viewed in that larger context.

“EDI is a philosophy, and we need to develop diversity within mining, but it’s also a function to develop talent pools,” she said. “If we don’t have that access or if we don’t have the same number of new Canadians coming to the country to study, we potentially are losing that talent pool.”

Bell explained that attracting foreign – or Canadian – talent to the industry can also be sped up if mining companies re-examine their barriers to entry, such as the distinctions between qualifications, skills and experience.

She cited the Professional Engineers Ontario, which was the first association to act on legislation passed last May by the Ontario government that banned regulated professions from requiring Canadian work experience.

“How are we creating barriers for new Canadians and new talent?” she asked. “Can (miners or operators) accept a foreign degree with a certain amount of job experience? Or are they willing to accept the foreign degree and train the new employee on the job?”



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