MINING.COM No 1 source of global mining news and opinion Sat, 23 Mar 2024 01:22:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MINING.COM 32 32 Prevention is the solution to the mining industry’s most common injuries and ailments Fri, 22 Mar 2024 22:05:32 +0000 Mining remains one of the most hazardous industries with fatalities per 100,000 workers in the US alone reaching 16.6 in 2022, making it the second-most fatal industry that year, compared to 14.1 per 100,000 in transportation and warehousing, 9.6 in construction and 2.6 in manufacturing.

Each worksite presents its own unique challenges and requirements, but injuries and ailments occur across the 12,563 active mines in the United States. While injuries and ailments can be common, prevention through correct medical provisioning and education has thankfully seen fatalities decreasing year after year. Nevertheless, accidents are incredibly disruptive to the workforce; they halt precious production time, incur significant cost, and can have a life-changing effect on those involved, and so ensuring the right preventative measures are in place is crucial.

With a wealth of experience in providing medical and safety assistance, RMI’s specialist teams support mines and mine operators in the most unique and remote locations in the world, utilising years of expertise to deliver medical provision that keeps workers safe, preventing injury or delay.

Strains, sprains, and physical ailments

Mining is a physically demanding profession, and strains, sprains, and fractures are the most commonly reported work-related injuries. Treatment of these injuries can require extensive provision of care and workers undergoing treatment can be away from site for lengthy periods of time while they recover. Absence from work can prove costly, particularly in a time where production targets are increasing.

Treating injuries and ailments when they have already taken place on mining sites can be incredibly costly, and many operators are already investing in preventative measures to minimise the risks of illness or injury. One way that employers can do this is to facilitate a pre-screening process to save operations from potential disruption: workers with pre-exiting illnesses or other health factors can lead to increased risks for themselves, their teams, and have the potential to cause delays in operations due to sickness or injury.

On-site clinics provide occupational health and deliver preventative safety advice. The benefits of operating on-site clinics far outweigh the costs, with studies showing that on-site clinics reported a 70% reduction in employee downtime and a 64% reduction in medical care costs, indicating that on-site support should be considered an essential aspect of any project.

Standard first aid training only equips workers to render basic stabilizing care for a handful of life and limb threatening emergencies, whereas RMI’s on-site medical providers have a far greater level of training and experience, allowing them to deliver a higher level of care in both emergent and non-emergent situations.

Non-occupational health

Physical injuries are just one risk to workers during mining operations. Many of the ailments that mining companies need to be aware of take place outside of the work environment. Living in confined, close quarters means illness can spread quickly throughout the workforce, which can cause downtime in production and operation.

Research has also bought into focus how mentally challenging people find working in the mining industry, due primarily to the shift working patterns, distance, and isolation from family. While open discussions around mental health have only recently come to the forefront in the industry, many operators have worked hard to remove the stigma around the issue. Addressing and managing the mental health of the mining workforce will be an ongoing process and there are still widely reported incidences of workers self-medicating with excessive alcohol and/or recreational drug consumption, creating a dangerous environment for them and their colleagues.

Being prepared to deal with situations outside of physical injuries is paramount in ensuring worker safety. Through the use of an on-site medical clinic, RMI’s medics are trained to provide a full medical examination of staff before they can begin work; this includes alcohol and drug testing as standard and acts as a deterrent for staff. Having a trained medical expert as part of the onsite team can also improve the effectiveness of illness prevention education, including educating workers on the importance being up to date with their vaccinations and maintaining good hygiene practices to prevent illnesses from spreading among workforces.

RMI’s experienced medical teams also provide telemedicine and case management support which gives staff access to around-the-clock medical consultations and advice. These provisions help to limit the need for workers to be transported to facilities off-site, helping the mine to continue running efficiently while also providing staff with a level of care that goes above and beyond the basic need.

Emergency response

Even with the best preventative measures in place, being prepared for medical emergencies is essential. All mining sites, including those located within reach of a hospital, should have a regularly reviewed Medical Emergency Response Plan (MERP).

This plan outlines the medical referral facilities and their respective capabilities to treat a wide variety of health emergencies. The plan also specifies how to transport patients to these places, which could be either by road or by air. Emergency plans are common across most mining companies but having a robust procedure with integrated medical support can help swiftly deal with a time sensitive emergency situation.

Injuries not only halt production in busy mines but they also significantly affect workers who, if not treated properly or feel their injury could have been prevented, will find work elsewhere. Incorporating sufficient medical care is an essential cost that prevents downtime, ensures the safety of workers, and improves worker retention. With the help of RMI, operators have been able to embed medical expertise into their teams helping to reduce the consequences of illness-related absences and tackle the unique challenge of working in remote locations.

(Chris Murff is vice president of global sales at RMI)

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Video: Wheaton Precious Metals’ Randy Smallwood on ‘most active deal-making year’ Fri, 22 Mar 2024 19:02:00 +0000 Wheaton Precious Metals (TSX: WPM; NYSE: WPM; LSE: WPM) is celebrating one of its most active deal-making years, clinching eight transactions with over $1 billion in commitments over roughly the past 12 months, says president and CEO Randy Smallwood.

He says the current deal-making environment has worsened, lamenting a diminished availability of high-quality projects meeting the team’s investment criteria. He suggests the industry’s chronic underinvestment in exploration and development for new mines is partly to blame.

Smallwood also outlines in an interview during a recent industry event in Toronto with The Northern Miner’s western editor, Henry Lazenby, how Wheaton plans to achieve its long-term objective of reaching and maintaining over 850,000 gold-equivalent oz. of yearly production.

Watch the full video here:

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Lifezone shares rise on $50 million funding, licence for Tanzania refinery Fri, 22 Mar 2024 14:31:55 +0000 A consortium of marquee mining investors are backing Lifezone Metals (NYSE: LZM) and the development of its flagship Kabanga project in northwest Tanzania, which it said is on track to reach the definitive feasibility stage later this year.

On Thursday, an investor group led by Harry Lundin (Bromma Asset Management) and Rick Rule signed a binding agreement with the company for a $50 million debenture financing. The debentures will bear annual interest equal to the secured overnight financing rate (currently 5.3%) plus 4%, and are convertible into Lifezone’s common shares.

The nickel developer went public last July following a business combination between special purpose acquisition company – GoGreen Investments – and Lifezone Holdings Ltd. At the time, the combined entity was valued at $1 billion by the SPAC.

The New York-listed Lifezone pairs one of the world’s largest and highest-grade undeveloped nickel sulphide deposits in Kabanga with a proprietary processing technology, known as Hydromet, to produce cleaner metals in support of growing demand for batteries.

The company acquired the rights to the Kabanga project in early 2021, and in the same year, was awarded a mining licence by the Tanzanian government, a key partner on the project alongside BHP, which has committed financial backings of $100 million.

Kabanga’s previously owners include Barrick Gold and Glencore, which had spent $293 million on exploration prior to having their retention licence revoked in 2018.

Since taking over, Lifezone continued with drilling at Kabanga, leading to high-grade discoveries and a significant mineral resource update in late 2023. The deposit is now estimated to contain 881,000 tonnes of nickel metal within 43.6 million tonnes of measured and indicated resource grading 2.02% nickel. Another 391,000 tonnes (17.5 million tonnes at 2.23% nickel) are in the inferred resource category.

The company also made advancements in the metallurgical refining testwork using its Hydromet technology, which is said to have lower carbon footprint than the conventional pyrometallurgical smelting method. Test results showed nickel recoveries of over 98.5%.

Refinery licence

On the same day of the $50 million financing, Lifezone announced it has received a multi-metals processing licence from the government for its facility at Kahama, located approximately 340 km southwest of Kabanga.

The site, situated within a newly established special economic zone, stands to benefit from the legacy infrastructure of Barrick’s former Buzwagi gold mine nearby.

With the licence, the company will be able to produce finished metals in-country, potentially reducing capital and operating costs, as well as reducing costs associated with transport of concentrate or other intermediate products.

“With the receipt of our Kabanga special mining licence, and now the Kahama refinery licence, we have a clear path to delivering a direct-to-metal solution and enabling the production of nickel, copper and cobalt in Tanzania,” Lifezone CEO Chris Showalter said in a news release.

Shares of Lifezone Metals gained 3.2% to $8.19 by 10:00 a.m. Friday in New York, giving the company a market capitalization of $639.3 million.

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Technology becoming a hot commodity among miners, says law firm Fri, 22 Mar 2024 14:18:00 +0000
Image from Ivanhoe Electric’s Youtube presentation.

The mining sector’s recent shift towards adopting technology to tackle rising costs is turning digital intellectual property into a valuable commodity in its own right, says global law firm White & Case.

“Technology is increasingly becoming a core component of mining and metals sector business strategies,” a partner with the firm, Daniel Turgel, told The Northern Miner in an interview Wednesday.

This trend is driven by rising operational costs and a need for the supply of minerals essential for the energy transition, according to the law firm’s March 5 report entitled Technology – The hottest commodity in the mining & metals sector.

IP is becoming crucial, transforming into a valuable asset exchanged among industry players to boost efficiency and reshape business models, Turgel explained.

A prime example is the partnership between Ivanhoe Electric (TSX: IE; NYSE AM: IE) and Saudi state-owned miner Ma’aden, leveraging Ivanhoe’s Typhoon technology to explore large areas in Saudi Arabia. Ivanhoe’s Typhoon technology, used for large-scale geological surveying, was essentially the ‘payment’ or value offered to Ma’aden for access to explore vast mineral-rich areas in Saudi Arabia.

“Technology actually becomes the currency,” Turgel said, highlighting the evolving nature of transactions in the sector and technology’s rising role in making new strategic cross-industry alliances.

“It’s becoming much more prevalent that for example, you might contribute your technology in return for an equity stake or some kind of debt instrument,” he said.

Rebecca Campbell, group head of global mining & metals, says this type of innovation is new for a generally conservative sector. “One of the fascinating things for us, as we’re starting to see a little bit of a shift.”

This trend underlines the growing importance of securing and managing IP rights amid the potential for new legal challenges. While hardware traditionally dominated the spotlight, the rise of software and AI has the potential to revolutionize mining operations. The report highlights the cost savings and efficiency gains achievable through these technologies.

Machine learning and AI have already provided considerable improvements in efficiency, accuracy, and safety mine planning and processing, White & Case associate Nick Crawford says.

“Generative AI, in particular, has opened new possibilities in exploring and processing vast amounts of geological data, significantly accelerating the project development process,” he said. “Companies like BHP and Vale are leveraging these technologies to improve safety, maintenance, and operational efficiency.”

Meanwhile, White & Case found that despite the urgent need to innovate, the sector’s spending on research and development (R&D) remains relatively low. Miners historically spend less than 3% of their EBITDA on R&D, as opposed to 8% for materials producers, 30% for industrials, and 40% for automakers and relevant original equipment manufacturers.

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Mining People: Andean, Calibre, Montage, StrategX, Diamcor, Flying Nickel Fri, 22 Mar 2024 13:46:00 +0000 Management changes announced this week:

Andean Precious Metals added Marcos Holanda as its new COO.

Industry veteran  George J. Schuller, Jr. joined Arch Resources as SVP and COO.

Atlas Lithium welcomed Brian Talbot as COO and a board member.

Calibre Mining appointed Jason Cyr VP operations and Andre Morneau process manager for the Valentine gold mine.

Canter Resources named Ainesh Mohan its CFO and Jan Urata as corporate secretary.

The new EVP of exploration at Montage Gold is Silvia Bottero.

Premier American Uranium named Colin Healey as CEO.

StrategX Elements named Ryan McEachern interim CFO upon the departure of Andrea Yuan.

Board changes:

Diamcor Mining named D. Wayne Howard, retired Tiffany & Co. executive, to its board.

Flying Nickel Mining said Jim Rondeau has stepped down from the board.

Peter Coates will step down from the board of Glencore,to be replaced by John Wallington on June 1.

Chris Jennings retired from the board of North Arrow Minerals.

Quest Critical Metals (formerly Canadian Palladium Resources) has added Brian Kirwin and Percy Clark to its board.

Silverstock Metals said Colin Little resigned his seat on the board.

StrategX Elements named David Haig to the board.

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Almost $500 million granted by US government to clean energy projects on mine land Fri, 22 Mar 2024 13:31:00 +0000 The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $475 million in funding for five projects in Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to accelerate clean energy deployment on current and former mine land.

In a media statement, the DOE said that this funding—made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will support a variety of locally-driven projects that range from solar, microgrids, and pumped storage hydropower to geothermal and battery energy storage systems and that can be replicated in other mining communities across the country.

“President Biden believes that the communities that have powered our nation for the past 100 years should power our nation for the next 100 years,” Jennifer M. Granholm, the US Secretary of Energy, said in a statement.

“Thanks to the President’s Investing in America agenda, DOE is helping deploy clean energy solutions on current and former mine land across the country—supporting jobs and economic development in the areas hit hardest by our evolving energy landscape.” 

Three projects are on former Appalachian coal mines, thus supporting economic revitalization and workforce development on land that is no longer viable for industrial purposes. In the West, two projects seek to displace fossil-fuel use by ramping up net-zero mining operations and providing the critical materials needed for a domestic clean energy supply chain. These projects are also expected to create more than 3,000 construction and operations jobs.   

From geothermal to PV

In Graham and Greenlee Counties, Arizona, a project led by Freeport seeks to deploy direct-use, geothermal, clean heat combined with a battery energy storage system at two active copper mines, helping decrease the mines’ reliance on onsite thermal backup generators while supporting the annual extraction of 25 million pounds of copper.

In Bell County, Kentucky, Rye Development proposes converting former coal mine land to a closed-loop, pumped-storage hydroelectric facility with the potential to dispatch up to eight hours of power when needed, such as during times of peak demand or extreme weather events. This project will support the increase of local tax revenues that have decreased steadily since the 1970s and create approximately 1,500 construction and 30 operations jobs.

In Elko, Humboldt and Eureka Counties, Nevada, a project led by Nevada Gold Mines aims to develop a solar photovoltaic facility and accompanying battery energy storage system across three active gold mines.

“By shifting to clean energy, this project could demonstrate a replicable way for the mining industry to reach net-zero operations, while meeting growing demands for minerals across multiple sectors—including the clean energy supply chain,” the DOE’s release states.

In Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, Mineral Basin Solar Power, a subsidiary of Swift Current Energy, plans to repurpose nearly 2,700 acres of former coal mining land to support the largest solar project in Pennsylvania. At 402 MW, Mineral Basin will generate enough clean energy to power more than 70,000 homes. This project is expected to increase regional access to clean energy and fill a critical electricity generation gap following the closure of the Homer City coal plant.

The initiative is also expected to provide $1.1 million in annual tax revenue to Goshen and Girard townships, Clearfield County and the Clearfield County School District.

In Nicholas County, West Virginia, a project led by Savion, a company that’s part of Shell, plans to repurpose two former coal mines with a utility-scale, 250 MW solar PV system that would power approximately 39,000 West Virginia homes. These two inactive mine sites provide land and access to existing energy infrastructure that will transmit the clean, solar energy the project generates to the grid.

“The Clean Energy Demonstration Program on Current and Former Mine Land will help provide the mining industry with a range of ways to decarbonize their operations and minimize environmental impacts and air pollutants, abating greenhouse gas emissions and disturbances to fragile, surrounding ecosystems,” the brief reads.

“Simultaneously, replicating clean energy technologies like these on other current and former mines will help maximize local workforce development and community opportunities for generations.”   

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Nickel: contrarian opportunity or portfolio suicide? Fri, 22 Mar 2024 12:43:00 +0000 Today, I’m taking a deep dive into the ill-fated nickel market.

If you’re a close follower of commodity markets, you probably know the problems afflicting this sector. Surging output from Indonesia’s nickel laterite mines has flooded the market with new supply.

And if you’ve been listening to the commentary on nickel’s woes, you’ll probably consider this an un-investible sector. Supply gluts are set to last year’s numbers, according to some analysts.

In response, Australia’s nickel mines are shutting up shop. It’s the same across Europe and Canada. Andrew Forrest’s Wyloo Metals closed the door on its nickel acquisition in Kambalda, Western Australia. A project formerly owned by Mincor Resources.

Meanwhile, BHP’s (NYSE: BHP; LSE: BHP; ASX: BHP) Nickel West operations have been put on notice.

The global response to oversupply has been predictable and unanimous. Operations are shifting into care and maintenance. Over time, that will take supply off the table.

While it will take time, Indonesia’s dominance could create structural problems for the global nickel market. Concentrating supply into a single region will make the sector less responsive to rising demand.

It also exposes the nickel market to sudden production cuts. As mines close abroad, the country has free rein to reduce supply and influence prices. Indonesia is truly becoming the OPEC of nickel!

But there’s more than meets the eye regarding this important industrial metal. So, let’s tap into the nitty gritty before unpacking possible opportunities.

Nickel geology overview

Nickel deposits come in two forms: hard rock sulphide deposits, which consist of nickel-bearing minerals known as pentlandite and nickel laterite deposits.

Sulphide deposits are scattered worldwide, from northern Europe, South Africa, Canada and Western Australia.

We then have the laterites, which typically form in high-rainfall equatorial regions. As rain dissolves and removes minerals and elements from the soil it leaves behind immobile elements like nickel, iron and aluminium. That leads to a natural concentration of nickel in these regions.

There are outliers. Shifts in the global climate over geological history have enabled places like arid inland Australia to form laterite deposits. This region was once bathed in tropical rainfall and lush jungle.

But of the two sources of nickel, sulphides are far easier to process and refine into high-purity products, the ideal choice when it comes to EV battery material. For this reason, sulphide miners have retained a competitive edge.

However, that started to shift in 2018 when the world’s largest nickel producer, China’s Tsingshan Holding Group, announced a $700-million plan to produce battery-grade nickel from nickel laterites. Processing laterite ore into high-purity nickel uses a system known as High-Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL). The innovation unlocked a swathe of new supply and Indonesia’s nickel output exploded after integrating HPAL technology in 2018.

Cloudy data in nickel outlook

In early March, the Macquarie Group’s nickel expert, Jim Lennon, claimed supply gluts could be overblown.

That assessment was based on a recent visit to China where Lennon claimed the demand for stainless steel and other nickel alloys is far higher than the official numbers report. According to Lennon, nickel inventories are also far lower than the stated figures. In other words, he believes the consensus forecast of a nickel oversupply is wrong.

It’s an interesting perspective. Chinese officials are known for under- or over-reporting figures to suit political motives.

But are Lennon’s observations, alone, enough for investors to move into this beleaguered market? Perhaps.

Resource stocks coming off a low base can result in large ‘recovery gains’ as sentiment creeps back into the market. It’s also worth noting that U.S. officials recently excluded Indonesian nickel from lucrative tax credits as part of its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). That’s thanks to a tight interlink between Indonesian operators and Chinese investors.

So, where does that leave investors?

Everything is not what it seems in the nickel market and that’s where contrarian opportunities are born. Given that China plays a major role in supply and demand, this suggests there could be a lot more to this story. The data remains cloudy, meaning there could be more surprises in the months ahead.

A prime value opportunity may emerge with several nickel producers and explorers trading at multi-year lows.

I’ll explore that with my Diggers and Drillers readers over the coming months.

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

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Volta Metals to dig deep into fresh lithium discoveries Fri, 22 Mar 2024 12:12:00 +0000 Canadian explorer Volta Metals (TSX-V: VLTA) has launched a structural targeting study as part of its ongoing exploration activities at the Falcon West lithium property in northwestern Ontario, Canada. 

The detailed structural study seeks to enhance the understanding and exploration of the promising lithium-bearing system identified in a recently completed discovery drill program.

That study had identified numerous high-priority targets for further examination thanks to the combination of geochemical soil data and a high-resolution drone magnetic survey.

Volta said the discovery drill program confirmed the presence of at least six near-surface spodumene-albite pegmatite-hosted lithium, cesium, and tantalum pegmatites within a 300-meter corridor. The area is still open for further expansion, indicating the possibility of more discoveries, the company said.

“Structural geology is one key to understanding the emplacement and evolution of lithium-bearing pegmatites,” Fred Breaks, the company’s technical advisor, said in the statement. “The structural study is crucial at this project stage and will further generate prospective targets for our exploration program.”

Northwestern Ontario has become a hub for lithium exploration, with many junior players engaging in active staking and land acquisition activities. Unlike companies focused on precious and base metal exploration, lithium junior miners face a more complex operating environment. 

There are no lithium refineries in the province for converting lithium oxide into high-quality battery-grade material known as lithium hydroxide, though  companies such as Rock Tech Lithium (TSX-V: RCK) are trying to fill this gap. 

The clean technology firm inked earlier this month a binding cooperation agreement with BMI Group to build Ontario’s first refinery at the former Norampac paper mill site. 

Volta Metals is in the final stages of preparing its exploration program for 2024, which will involve comprehensive geochemical sampling, mechanized trenching, and, depending on outcomes, diamond drilling.

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Gemfields warns of $2.8 million loss on write-down Fri, 22 Mar 2024 11:01:00 +0000 Precious gemstones miner Gemfields (LON: GEM) warned on Friday that it expects to swing to a loss of $2.8 million in 2023 from a $74.3 million profit the previous year due to a write-down in its platinum group metals investments, lower output and the cancellation of an emerald auction. 

The London-based company, which has a 6.54% stake in South African platinum group miner Sedibelo Resources, said that plummeting prices for platinum group metals (PGMs) has affected its bottom line.

Since the beginning of 2023, prices for palladium and rhodium, used mainly in the catalytic converters that clean exhaust fumes in vehicles, have dropped by 44% and 63% respectively. This collapse is attributed to inventory reductions and a sluggish global economy. 

While the decrease in platinum has been less significant, the overall decline in PGMs has had a severe impact on producers’ profits.

Gemfields said it had reduced the value of its Sedibelo investment, which will result in a write-down ranging between $4 million and $28 million. This would translate in a loss of $0.8 US cents per share for 2023, a significant change from 4.8 US cents in earnings per share of achieved in 2022. 

Headline loss per share, which includes Sedibelo Resources’ fair value loss, is likely to be 0.9 cents compared with the prior year’s headline earnings per share of 4.8 US cents.

When it comes to its core business, Gemfields saw revenue from its 75%-owned Kagem emerald mine in Zambia drop 40% to $89.9 million in 2023, from $148.6 million the previous year. Top-line revenue at its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique decreased by 9.2% to $151.4 million from $166.7 million in 2022.

“Production of premium rough gemstones has been weaker at both Kagem and Montepuez Rompared to 2022, and resulted in November 2023’s planned higher quality emerald auction being withdrawn from our schedule,” chief executive Sean Gilbertson said.

“We look forward to completing our first auction of the year later on today, with a commercial-quality emerald auction taking place in Jaipur, and our next higher-quality emerald and mixed-quality ruby auctions to take place in Q2,” Gilbertson added.

Gemfields’ luxury brand Fabergé also disappointed, recording revenue of $15.7 million, which is 11% lower than the $17.6 million it had in 2022, mainly due to softer demand for precious stones.

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Push for ESG price premiums may reshape global critical minerals markets Thu, 21 Mar 2024 22:06:05 +0000 As low nickel prices force Australian miners to scale back output, some have called for an ESG premium on low-carbon production that would help Western producers compete with cheaper, but more polluting Indonesian metal.

But are customers willing to pay more for low-carbon nickel? Some analysts say yes — under certain conditions.

“If the market sees a benefit in paying a premium for certain supplies then it will,” Jim Lennon, managing director of commodities at Macquarie Group, told The Northern Miner in an interview. “A buyer would be willing to pay a premium if they can see an economic benefit in using that product, such as receiving a government subsidy or securing a sale of a ‘greener’ electric vehicle.”

The price of nickel has been on a downtrend since late 2022 when it was $33,575 per tonne ($15.23 per pound). The price on Tuesday was $17,678 per tonne ($8.02 per lb.) and in February dipped as low as $15,850 per tonne ($7.19 per pound).

The price doldrums have prompted Wyloo Metals and BHP (ASX: BHP) to suspend operations in Australia, with BHP announcing it would take a $2.5 billion impairment on its assets.

Given the devastation to its nickel sector, Australia has been the most vocal in creating new variable price brackets for low-carbon emissions nickel.

The idea for premium ESG pricing isn’t new. In fact, some experts argue that there’s already a premium.

Canada Nickel (TSX: CNC) CEO Mark Selby says people might be surprised to learn that price premia have already been paid for various North American products perceived as cleaner on Asian markets.

Selby notes that domestic premiums for certain materials have been sustained over several years, which might not be directly attributable to lower carbon footprints or ESG factors alone but could be influenced by a combination of factors, including local supply.

But this type of premium isn’t helping Australian nickel miners. And deliberately imposing an ESG premium would be a different story.

“The main challenge is defining what ‘ESG-compliant’ actually means,” Macquarie’s Lennon said.

It’s an obstacle that the London Metal Exchange (LME) is facing as it investigates and prepares for the potential emergence of premium pricing for low-carbon products on separate trading contracts.

Georgina Hallett, LME’s chief sustainability officer, says that there’s increasing interest from producers, consumers, and investors in establishing a price premium for metals produced with lower carbon footprints. However, defining what constitutes ‘low carbon’ or ‘green’ metals isn’t easy due to the lack of a standardized, universally accepted framework for measuring and verifying the environmental impact of metal production processes.

“The aim is to build a robust framework that supports the gradual introduction of sustainability-linked pricing mechanisms while ensuring broad market participation and avoiding undue disruption,” Hallett told The Northern Miner. “By taking a step-by-step approach, the LME hopes to align the interests of various stakeholders and drive meaningful progress toward the integration of sustainability into the global metals market.”

Free market forces

Lennon suggests that establishing a special low-carbon contract for metals on the LME is unnecessary. This is because the prices for different products are already determined by normal market activities, such as supply and demand. Just like prices for different metal shapes and origins adjust based on market conditions, the prices for products with various ESG qualities would naturally adjust in the same way.

“Exchanges don’t need necessarily to get involved since they can focus on ‘objective criteria for delivery (shapes, metal purity, etcetera) and leave the market to decide on ‘subjective’ factors such as value-in-use of different products/shapes and ESG,” Lennon said.

From an exchange perspective, like the LME, there is also a risk of damaging liquidity if they were to introduce multiple contracts. Compared with large commodity derivative markets, nickel is not particularly liquid and dividing this liquidity could reduce the usability of the market for some participants.

Lennon says markets will ultimately determine the outcome. Currently, nickel prices vary significantly between products depending on supply and demand.

Today’s primary nickel products that are LME deliverable include metal rounds, pellets, cut cathode, and full plate cathode. When delivered to LME warehouses, each product is assigned a associated warrant. When buyers want to take delivery from the LME, they are often willing to pay LME brokers a premium for warrants of a particular material shape or origin.

Similarly, other non-LME deliverable products, including intermediates (concentrates, mattes, MHP, MSP, etc.) or finished products (ferronickel, nickel pig iron, nickel sulphates, nickel chlorides, etc.) also sell at varying discounts or premiums to LME base prices. Lennon said these premiums/discounts can shift dramatically due to changes in supply and demand.

For example, nickel pig iron was selling at a premium to the LME price at the start of 2022 and then had fallen to a discount of 40% to the LME by the first half of last year.

“Product type, ESG, and country of origin are all important properties and presumably were factors that led major automakers to agree to term supply contracts with BHP and Vale in recent years. ESG was no doubt a factor in these negotiations,” Lennon said.

Canada Nickel’s Selby emphasized the importance of provenance tracing rather than setting up a formal two-tiered pricing system.

He points out that imposing a pricing mechanism before the market is ready can lead to inefficiencies, such as a benchmark that does not accurately reflect market conditions. He suggests letting the market sort it out.

“We will continue to observe the distinction between Western-supplied, clean, green nickel and the high-carbon, less ESG-compliant nickel from China and Indonesia,” he said. “As for the necessity of a formal pricing mechanism, it’s typically better if such mechanisms emerge naturally in the marketplace before establishing a formal platform for trading them.”

Aussie nickel rout

An increase in supply from Indonesia has cratered nickel prices, as the southeast Asian nation boosted production of refined and semi-refined nickel, mainly on the back of an export ban on raw ore, which led to massive investment from China in new processing plants, according to Lennon.

Indonesia has become the dominant nickel producer, accounting for 55% of global supply, up from 7% in 2015, according to Bank of America data. But it relies on coal-fired power.

Higher-cost Australian supply can’t compete. Australia’s federal resources minister Madeline King responded to the raft of nickel suspensions by adding nickel to the country’s critical minerals list, enabling industry access to part of the A$4 billion ($2.6 billion) federal funding earmarked for critical energy transition minerals exploration and development.

“Prices paid for Australian minerals need to recognize the high ESG standards the Australian industry adheres to and the fact that Australian workers enjoy good working conditions and the highest safety standards.”

At PDAC, she noted that Canada and Australia have agreed to jointly advocate for robust ESG credentials to be built into global, transparent and traceable critical minerals supply chains.

Laying foundations

The LME has been considering introducing a premium for green or sustainable metals since it released a 2020 white paper on the topic, Hallett noted.

In 2021, the LME collaborated with Metalshub, a digital metals procurement platform which facilitates buyers’ access to the physical metal that meets specific attributes including carbon intensity and other ESG criteria. The LME said that low-carbon nickel, classified as producing 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide or less per tonne of nickel, could already be traded on Metalshub’s system.

The platform aims to allow market participants to specify and search for metals that meet specific sustainability standards, thereby fostering the emergence of a market-driven definition of ‘green’ metals.

Hallett says the critical missing component to formalizing a new price bracket is doing the less sexy but foundational work around how one measures emissions the same way across the industry. The point is to create an equal playing field for products in the value chain included in that new contract.

The LME has initiated several measures to promote sustainability within the metals market. One of the key initiatives is the development of metal-specific measurement methodologies, in collaboration with metal industry associations, to standardize measuring carbon emissions across different metals.

However, the LME’s taking a deliberate approach to implementing a low-carbon pricing mechanism for nickel and other metals, given the still-evolving market for low-carbon metals.

“Our approach remains one of cautious optimism and pragmatic progression,” Hallett says. “We are committed to leading the industry towards a more sustainable future, understanding that real change is achieved not by rushing but by thoughtful, collective action.”

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Metso’s sustainable lithium hydroxide process joins list of Planet Positive technologies Thu, 21 Mar 2024 18:38:14 +0000 To cater for the rapidly increasing demand for battery-grade lithium required for the energy transition, Metso has reviewed its lithium hydroxide technology and service offering. As part of this comprehensive review, Metso’s proprietary, sulphate-free alkaline pressure leach process has been validated as a Planet Positive technology for the production of battery-grade lithium.

Metso’s hydrometallurgical alkaline leach process is a simple and safe way to refine spodumene concentrate to battery-grade end products like lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate. The innovative refining process produces high-purity lithium salts and hydrates, which are needed for the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

In the process, lithium is extracted with high yield. Inert and neutral mineral residue is minimized and ready to be reused or disposed of, thus minimizing pollution to air, water, and soil. No additional impurity removal or precipitation stages are needed.

In recent studies, the alkaline leach process has also shown reduced environmental impact compared to other technologies. Based on the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), the process can provide up to 40% to 60%reduction in water consumption, as well reduction in the acidification and eutrophication impact. The compact process also minimizes plant footprint and embedded carbon.

Metso has been developing sustainable alkaline leaching technologies for hard rock lithium sources for 20 years. Today the offering includes comprehensive proprietary technologies for refining lithium from spodumene mineral concentrates. Intensive R&D and piloting is also ongoing in the processing of other lithium-bearing pegmatite hard rocks such as petalite, zinnwaldite, and lepidolite. Metso has proven processes also for the extraction of lithium from brines.

Metso has been developing lithium processing technologies for over 20 years. The processes address all aspects of production from mine to battery materials, and recycling of black mass plus world-class service support.

“As a strong and reliable partner for the development of lithium hydroxide and other battery minerals projects, Metso can deliver the whole production process – from mine to battery materials, and recycling of black mass – complemented with world-class service support,” says Marika Tiihonen, technology manager for lithium at Metso.

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US Critical Materials makes gallium discovery at Sheep Creek in Montana Thu, 21 Mar 2024 18:37:24 +0000 US Critical Materials said on Thursday it has discovered a “strategically significant” deposit of high-grade gallium on its 6,700 acres of claims at its flagship Sheep Creek property in southwest Montana.

The US is 100% dependent on imported gallium, which is critical for national defense, primarily from China. Gallium is used for semiconductors, 5G technology, smartphones, satellite systems, critical photonics technologies and military radar systems. The 2022 list of critical minerals identifies gallium as a US supply risk.

The Pentagon has already announced plans to issue a first-time contract to US or Canadian companies to recover gallium after China curbed exports last year.

In December 2023, US Critical Materials signed an agreement with Idaho National Laboratories to develop new rare earth processing methods, including gallium separation.

Last year, the Sheep Creek property reported grades that exceeded any other domestic rare earth resource. As part of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Mapping Resource Initiative, the USGS, in cooperation with the Montana Bureau of Mines, announced last April it is conducting an aeromagnetic and aero-radiometric survey at Sheep Creek.

The company said it believes the technologies developed under this cooperative research and development agreement could potentially provide environmentally responsible mining and processing  to mitigate environmental concerns.

US Critical Materials president James Hedrick is a 29-year former USGS and Bureau of Mines rare earth commodity specialist.

“Not only is our gallium high grade, but we are also confident that we will be able to create a separation process that will be environmentally respectful. US Critical Materials’ prime gallium claims average over 300 ppm and go as high as 1,370 ppm,” Hendrick said in a statement, adding that gallium can be separated profitably at 50 ppm.

“US Critical Materials looks forward to being the primary gallium producer in the United States,” he said.

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Signal Gold evaluates strategic alternatives for Goldboro project Thu, 21 Mar 2024 14:40:46 +0000 Signal Gold (TSX: SGNL) said on Thursday it has begun evaluating potential strategic alternatives to advance its flagship Goldboro project in Nova Scotia. BMO Capital Markets will act as the company’s financial advisor in the process.

Goldboro is an advanced-stage gold project located in Guysborough county. To date, Signal has progressed the project through several permitting milestones, with the most recent being the environmental assessment approval in August 2022.

Applications for the key remaining permits have all been submitted, and the company said it remains committed to working to obtain these permits within the next 12 months.

At the same time, Signal’s exploration team continued to grow the mineral resource at Goldboro. It now has measured and indicated resources of 1.42 million oz. (15.7 million tonnes at 2.82 g/t gold) for the open pit, and 1.16 million oz. (5.9 million tonnes at 6.09 g/t gold) underground.

A 2021 feasibility study on the project demonstrated an approximate 11-year life of mine with average gold production of 100,000 oz. per annum and an average diluted gold grade of 2.26 g/t.

Its after-tax net present value, discounted at 5%, is pegged at C$328 million, with an internal rate of return of 25.5% and projected payback of 2.9 years. The initial capital cost is estimated C$271 million, and the life-of-mine sustaining capital is C$63.1 million.

Still, this “robust, high-grade project with significant leverage in an increasing gold price environment” is being substantially discounted, Signal said in its media release, adding the company is “focused on being capital efficient, with an emphasis on minimizing shareholder dilution and maximizing value.”

“Signal Gold recognizes that a larger, better capitalized, or cash flow generating company could be better positioned to advance or assist in the advancement of Goldboro over the development timeline,” it said.

Shares of Signal Gold shot up 11.7% to C$0.095 by 10:40 a.m. in Toronto. Over the past 52 weeks it traded within a range of C$0.08-C$0.35 The gold junior has a market capitalization of C$23.9 million ($17.7m).

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Gold price tops $2,200, setting new record Thu, 21 Mar 2024 13:47:31 +0000 Gold finally surpassed $2,200 an ounce for the first time on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve indicated that it would press ahead with three rate cuts in 2024 despite elevated inflation.

Spot gold set a new record of $2,222.39 during the early hours of trading, before retreating to $2,206.10 by 9:05 a.m. EDT for a 1.0% gain. US gold futures soared 2.4% to $2,208.20.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

Gold’s latest rally, which started mid-February, is underpinned by longstanding tailwinds including heightened geopolitical risks and increased central bank buying. This month alone, the safe-haven metal hit new highs on five occasions.

Its rapid ascent, according to Bloomberg columnists, has surprised many seasoned market observers, as there hasn’t been a clear catalyst. What has been partially driving bullion are expectations for looser monetary policy in the US, and that has now been reaffirmed by the Fed.

On Wednesday, Fed chair Jerome Powell continued to highlight officials would like to see more evidence that prices are coming down, but “it’s still likely in most people’s view that we will achieve that confidence and there will be rate cuts,” he said.

“What we saw last night was the green light really for gold traders to come back in,” said Chris Weston, head of research for Pepperstone Group.

“The Fed have said that right now they’re tolerant of the inflation that we’ve seen, they’re tolerant that the labor market strength is not going to be the impediment,” Weston told Bloomberg.

Speculation around the timing of the Fed’s long-anticipated pivot may have provided the trigger for recent gains, with data showing that traders boosted their net long positions on gold in the week through March 5 by the most since 2019.

The metal stands to benefit even more when US interest rates actually do come down, as bullion-backed exchange traded funds look likely to increase their holdings, according to UBS Group.

On the geopolitical front, there are a number of risks boosting gold’s allure as a haven asset: Russia appears to be gaining the upper hand in its war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict continues unabated and has led to a re-routing of global shipping, while the US presidential election at later this year could prove massively consequential for markets.

Chinese buying has also underpinned prices. As well as the central bank, people have been stocking up on coins, gold bars and jewelry to safeguard their wealth from a years long property downturn and losses in the country’s stock market.

(With files from Bloomberg)

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Brewer’s yeast helps recover metals from e-waste Thu, 21 Mar 2024 13:06:00 +0000 Austrian researchers have found a way to selectively capture metals from a waste stream using spent brewer’s yeast, the same beer byproduct that goes into the food spread Marmite.

In a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, the scientists explain that electronic waste is notoriously difficult to recycle because it’s hard to separate the different metals in the waste from each other.

“Getting the metals in solution is a first step, but the selective recovery of the metals remains a challenge. Compared to processes such as chemical precipitation, biosorption using spent brewer’s yeast presents a cheap and environmentally friendly approach,” Klemens Kremser of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, and corresponding author of the article, said in a media statement.

Several options already exist for separating the different component metals of electronic waste, including other biosorbents—biological materials that can be used to soak up pollution. However, they all have significant downsides. For instance, chemical precipitation produces contaminated slag, while biochar—a biosorbent that is similar to charcoal—is difficult to separate from wastewater.

So the scientists turned to brewer’s yeast.

They acquired 20 litres of spent brewer’s yeast, separated the biomass from leftover brewing residues, and dried out the biomass. Electrostatic interactions on the surface of the yeast allow metal ions to stick to that surface—a process called adsorption. Changing the pH of this solution alters the interactions, which can allow the yeast to adsorb more or different metal ions, depending on the contents of the solution and the specific pH.

The researchers then chose to test the yeast biomass against zinc, aluminum, copper, and nickel, economically important metals. They tested each metal solution at different pHs and temperatures, to gauge whether it was possible to increase the strength of the interactions and recover more metal. They also tested the yeast against a real polymetallic waste stream.

“Using waste biomass for metal recovery is not a completely new process, but the selectivity of biosorption processes is a key factor for efficient metal recovery from polymetallic waste streams,” Anna Sieber, Ph.D. fellow of K1-MET, an Austrian metallurgical research center, and first author of the article, said.

“We demonstrated high metal recovery rates from a complex metal solution using an environmentally friendly and cheap biomass. Yeast biomass is considered a safe organism, and the demonstrated reusability of the biomass makes it an economically feasible approach.”

High recovery rates

The group was able to recover more than 50% of aluminum, more than 40% of copper, and more than 70% of zinc from the test metal solutions. Over 50% of copper and over 90% of zinc were retrieved from the polymetallic waste stream they tested the yeast on.

Changing the temperature had little impact on efficiency, except for zinc, where it raised the recovery rate by 7.6%. Similarly, adjusting the pH had a limited effect on most of the metal solutions, except for aluminum, where it improved the recovery efficiency by 16%.

“The metals can be removed from the yeast surface by acid treatment and thus could be recycled,” Sieber said. “It would be interesting to investigate potential applications for these reclaimed metals.”

The yeast itself could also be recycled without heavily impacting its ability to recover metal: the scientists were able to use it five times to recover different metals.

The team, however, cautions that the new process needs testing with much larger studies in real-life conditions before it can be implemented on an industrial scale.

“The metal removal process in this study was optimized for the four metals in question,” Kremser said. “The concentration of potentially interfering metal ions was very low in our starting solutions, but this would be important to consider when applying this approach to different mixed metal solutions.”

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Lucapa finds Lulo mine’s fifth-largest diamond Thu, 21 Mar 2024 12:35:00 +0000 Lucapa finds Lulo mine’s fifth-largest diamond
The 203-carat diamond recovered at Lulo mine. (Image courtesy of Lucapa Diamond.)

Australia’s Lucapa Diamond (ASX: LOM) has recovered a 203-carat diamond at its prolific Lulo mine in Angola, the fifth-largest ever found at the operation.

The diamond is also the third 100-carat-plus stone found at Lulo this year.

Lucapa said the high-quality, type IIa diamond was recovered during the processing of run-of-mine stockpiled ore and its recovery follows those of a 162 and a 116 carat diamonds on successive days last month.

The mine, which hosts the world’s highest dollar-per-carat alluvial diamonds, began commercial production in January 2015. Only a year later, it delivered the largest ever diamond recovered in Angola — a 404-carat white stone later named the “4th February Stone”.

Lucapa has a 40% stake in the Lulo mine. The rest is held by Angola’s national diamond company (Endiama) and Rosas & Petalas, a private entity.

Angola is the world’s fifth diamond producer by value and sixth by volume. Its industry, which began a century ago under Portuguese colonial rule, is successfully being liberalized.

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Centamin annual profit boosted by soaring gold prices Thu, 21 Mar 2024 10:51:00 +0000 Egypt-focused Centamin (LON: CEY) (TSX: CEE) reported on Thursday a 25% increase in profit in 2023 thanks to higher gold sales at soaring prices for the precious metal.

The miner’s profit last year rose 14% to $195.1 million from $171 million in 2022, with revenue climbing 13% to $891.3 million from $788.4 million. 

Gold sales from Sukari in Egypt, the company’s only producing mine, totalled 456,625 ounces, up 4% from 438,638 in 2022. This as Centamin saw realized prices for the precious metal increase 8.6% to $1,948 per ounce from a previous $1,794 per ounce.

Bullion prices climbed 15% in 2023, ending at $2,078.4 an ounce, a record high year-end figure, according to data from the World Gold Council. The average 2023 price of $1,940.54 an ounce was 8% higher than the 2022 average, marking the metals’ best year since 2020.

“2023 was the third consecutive year that we have safely delivered on our production guidance, reflecting the operational improvements and flexibility from our three-year reinvestment plan,” chief executive Martin Horgan said.

The company cut its payout to shareholders to 2 US cents, down from 2.5 US cents it handed in 2022. This made a total payout of 4 cents, down 20% from 5 cents the previous year.

Improvements at Sukari

The executive said Centamin had “re-positioned” Sukari to achieve a consistent annual production of 500,000 ounces. He also anticipated a reduction in operational expenses following the establishment of solar power generation capabilities.

The company invested less than expected last year, with a $204 million total capital expenditure bill, below guidance of $272 million. It attributed the drop to cost savings, lower costs capitalization and changes to equipment rebuild schedules.

Centamin highlighted a grid connection project that it kicked off last year, thanks to recent upgrades to Egypt’s power distribution infrastructure. The completion of this project, which would be supplemented with the existing onsite solar power generation, is expected to cut $41 million a year just in diesel costs.

The plan would also help Centamin achieve its near-term decarbonization goals. It is targeting a reduction of 30% of its Scope 1 and 2 emissions, those hose incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively, by 2030.

The miner left its 2024 gold production guidance range of 470,000 to 500,000 ounces per annum unchanged.

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British Columbia funds new extraction technology Wed, 20 Mar 2024 23:44:28 +0000 The British Columbia government has invested C$850,000 ($630,000) from the province’s Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund in cleantech startup pH7 Technologies.

The funds will be used to support a pilot project to process 5,000 kg per day of raw materials into approximately 2,500 kg of extracted platinum group metals per year.

Founded in 2020, pH7 is headquartered in Vancouver and was recently listed on the Cleantech Group’s 2024 Global Cleantech 100. The new process enables efficient metal extraction from low-grade resources or difficult substrates in a cost-effective way, it said.

The company has created a proprietary closed-loop process using advanced chemistry to extract and refine critical metals that will help the mining sector transition to renewable energy in an environmentally and economically sustainable way, the ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation said in a news release.

Metal alloys including platinum group metals, copper and tin produced by pH7 are then refined by industrial customers. This method results in significantly less greenhouse gas emissions, electricity and water usage compared to mining or other recycling methods.

“BC is home to a growing clean-energy sector, accounting for 20% of Canada’s world-leading cleantech firms that are having positive impacts globally,” Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, said.

“With near net-zero environmental impact in the extraction of critical metals and minerals, pH7 is demonstrating the kind of innovative thinking that can transform mining around the world.”

Since 2008, the ICE Fund has committed approximately C$112 million ($83m) to support pre-commercial clean-energy technology projects, clean-energy vehicles, research and development, and energy-efficiency programs.

“The clean, green future we envision requires more critical metals than we have access to currently,” said Mohammad Doostmohammadi, founder and CEO of pH7 Technologies.

“Through innovation and collaboration, we look forward to bringing our cleantech solution to help scale the extraction of metals and make existing processes much more sustainable and cost-effective.”

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Sibanye-Stillwater appoints head of uranium Wed, 20 Mar 2024 20:33:06 +0000 Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW NYSE: SBSW) announced Wednesday that it has appointed Greg Cochran as executive vice president head of uranium, effective June 1 2024.

Cochran will be responsible for developing and driving strategies to realise and optimise the value of the Group’s substantial uranium resources, as well as for leveraging his track record of value creation in the uranium industry to capitalise on other opportunities that may arise, the company said.

Cochran is a respected international mining executive with over 30 years of experience in a diverse range of commodities and in various leadership positions globally and in uranium.

His uranium industry experience spans over 15 years, beginning in 2006 when he joined Uranium One’s South Australian team. He guided the Honeymoon mine through its environmental approvals and oversaw the establishment of the Mitsui, Uranium One Australia JV.

Cochran also led the due diligence team on Uranium One’s C$3.8 billion acquisition of UrAsia Ltd. in 2007, which was the largest uranium transaction in history, and was responsible for the integration and management of the Kazakh joint venture interests.

Cochran has also led other uranium companies including Namibia-focused uranium developer Deep Yellow Ltd. and most recently, as the managing director and CEO of Aurora Energy Metals, which has an advanced uranium project in the US.

Prior to Aurora, he was the CEO Reward Minerals, an aspiring sulphate of potash development company.

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Calibre raising $74m to advance projects in Canada, US and Nicaragua Wed, 20 Mar 2024 18:00:11 +0000 Calibre Mining (TSX: CXB) has embarked on raising C$100 million ($74m) for projects in Canada, the United States, and Nicaragua. A syndicate of underwriters led by BMO Capital Markets has agreed on a bought deal basis to purchase 59.6 million shares of Calibre at a price of C$1.68 per share.

The underwriters have the option to buy up to an additional 15% in overallotments.

Calibre says the proceeds will be used towards continued development of the Valentine gold project in Newfoundland; the El Limon and La Libertad gold mines in Nicaragua, and the Pan gold mine in Nevada. Provision has also been made for more exploration and for general corporate and working capital purposes.

Chief among Calibre’s projects is the wholly owned Valentine open pit gold development in central Newfoundland. This will be the largest gold mine, producing 195,000 oz. per year for the first 12 years, in Atlantic Canada. Production is planned for the first quarter of 2025.

The Valentine project has estimated proven and probable reserves of 2.7 million oz. of gold in 512.6 million tonnes grading 1.62 g/t gold. Total measured and indicated resources (inclusive of reserves) contain 3.4 million oz. in 64.6 million tonnes grading 1.90 g/t gold. Additional Inferred resources are 1.1 million oz. in 20.8 million tonnes grading 1.65 g/t gold.

In Nicaragua, the El Limon mine has produced more than 3.5 million oz. of gold and the La Libertad and the La Libertad mine has produced about 1.9 million oz. The two mines have a probable reserve containing 6.8 million oz. of gold. Both are 100%-owned by Calibre.

The Pan gold mine in Nevada, also 100%-owned, is an open pit and heap leach operation. The smallest of Calibre’s mines, producing about 45,400 oz. of gold in 2022, Pan has tremendous exploration potential with targets both to the north and south of the operation.

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Barrick looks to explore new gold, copper deposits in the DRC Wed, 20 Mar 2024 16:30:48 +0000 Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) announced on Wednesday that it is prepared to explore new gold and copper deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo in partnership with the government.

The world’s No. 2 gold miner wants to continue exploring the region, it said, after its success at the Kibali gold mine in northeastern DRC. The mine yielded 343,000 ounces of gold in 2023, representing nearly 8.5% of the company’s output for the year.

“Kibali has transformed what was previously the disadvantaged northeast region of the country into a new economic frontier and a flourishing commercial hub,” Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said in a news release.

“Of our $5 billion investment in the DRC, more than half has been spent with local contractors and suppliers,” Bristow said.

Last year, Barrick announced it intended to search for additional copper deposits in Zambia and the DRC as part of its efforts to expand its presence in the African copper belt.

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CleanTech Lithium’s pilot plant in Chile starts operations Wed, 20 Mar 2024 14:53:46 +0000 CleanTech Lithium (AIM: CTL) announced on Wednesday that its direct lithium extraction (DLE) pilot plant in Copiapó, northern Chile, has commenced operations. The plant has a design capacity of one tonne per month of lithium carbonate equivalent as concentrated eluate.

The first production of eluate was completed in the past week, and it will begin to be shipped in batches to North America, the UK-based lithium developer said. Brine from the company’s Laguna Verde project, located approximately 250 km from the pilot plant, was processed through DLE columns.

“This pilot plant aims to produce significant quantities of battery-grade product for evaluation by potential strategic partners, making CTL one of the few companies in the sector to produce pilot-scale volumes of battery-grade product,” CleanTech CEO Aldo Boitano said in a news release.

“The pilot plant positions CTL as a leader in the sector and in Chile, with the first eluate production representing a significant milestone for the company,” he said.

Read More: CleanTech kicks off exploration at two new Chilean assets

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Perseus gets key OreCorp shareholders on side with sweetened offer Wed, 20 Mar 2024 14:09:28 +0000 Perseus Mining (ASX: PRU, TSX: PRU) announced on Wednesday that it has raised its off-market takeover offer for OreCorp (ASX: ORR) as it seeks to beat out Canadian rival Silvercorp Metals (TSX: SVM; NYSE: SVM) in acquiring the Africa-focused gold explorer.

The new per-share offer price of A$0.575 represents a 4.5% increase over its previous bid of A$0.55, which was turned down by OreCorp earlier in the year. However, the Perth, Australia-based gold miner has maintained its confidence in completing a deal, and earlier this month, it extended its previous offer to April 19.

Perseus currently holds 22.01% of OreCorp’s share capital, having increased its stake by another 2.11% immediately prior to the new offer. It is now the largest shareholder of OreCorp, just ahead of Silvercorp (21.11%).

In a news release confirming Perseus’ latest offer, OreCorp said it has notified Silvercorp of what is determined to be a “superior proposal” in accordance with the matching rights process set out in the bid implementation deed signed between the companies in December 2023.

Silvercorp, which initiated its takeover proposal in August 2023, now has a five business days to make a better offer.

Should Silvercorp fail to provide such an offer within the five-day period, the OreCorp board intends on recommending that shareholders accept the amended proposal in the absence of a superior proposal, the Australian gold developer said.

OreCorp also said it had received statements of intent from major shareholders, who in aggregate hold approximately 15.6% of its shares, indicating that they intended to accept the new proposal from Perseus.

At the heart of this takeover battle is the Nyanzaga project in Tanzania, located near Barrick Gold’s (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) Bulyanhulu mine and AngloGold Ashanti’s (JSE: ANG) (NYSE:AU) Geita mine.

A 2022 definitive feasibility study gave the project an after-tax net present value of $618 million at a 5% discount rate and an internal rate of return of 25%.

Geographically, Perseus is the closer suitor with three operating mines in West Africa producing gold at a rate of more than 535,000 ounces per year.

Silvercorp has two producing mines in China but has been looking to diversify its portfolio.

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Gold nanoclusters help remove toxic chemicals from wastewater Wed, 20 Mar 2024 13:06:00 +0000 A scientific team at Flinders University has discovered a novel way to degrade and potentially remove toxic organic chemicals, including azo dyes, from wastewater, using a chemical photocatalysis process powered by ultraviolet light.

In a paper published in the journal Solar RRL, the researchers explain that the process involves creating metallic ‘clusters’ of just nine gold atoms chemically ‘anchored’ to titanium dioxide which, in turn, drives the reaction by converting the energy of absorbed UV light.

The gold nanocluster cocatalysts enhance the photocatalytic work of the titanium dioxide and reduce the time required to complete the reaction by a factor of six.

“These types of heterogeneous semiconductor-mediated photocatalysis systems provide a significant advantage over other advanced chemical processes,” Gunther Andersson, senior author of the study, said in a media statement. “It can facilitate the mineralization of a large range of organic pollutants, like azo dyes, into water and carbon dioxide molecules with a high degradation efficiency.”

Methyl orange

Andersson explained that a variety of physical, chemical and biological processes are currently used to remove carcinogenic and recalcitrant organic compounds from water. This is because chemical industries, including dye manufacture, and textile and cosmetics production, release toxic and non-biodegradable dyes into the environment.

Nearly half of the dyes used in the textile and dye industry are azo dyes. Methyl orange – one of the most common indicators used in analytical chemistry to determine pH – is among the widely used water-soluble azo dyes.

With this in mind, the researchers have also demonstrated the usefulness of the gold cluster cocatalyst and modified semiconductors for the synthesis of novel photocatalysis systems for the degradation of methyl orange.

In a second study, published in Applied Surface Science, they tested photocatalysis in a vortex fluidic device developed at Flinders University.

They wanted to address the issue of traditional treatment methods often not effectively removing dangerous contaminants from wastewater.

“The reason for this is that some chemicals, especially those with aromatic rings, are resistant to chemical, photochemical and biological degradation,” Anahita Motamedisade, lead author of the paper, said.

“In addition, they generate dangerous byproducts – by oxidizing, hydrolyzing, or undergoing other chemical reactions – of synthetic dyes containing wastewater, which are detectable wherever they are disposed of. We hope to build onto these more sustainable and thorough photocatalytic degradation processes to help completely remove the toxins and tackle this global problem.”

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Hummingbird faces fresh headwinds at Guinea gold mine Wed, 20 Mar 2024 12:19:00 +0000 Africa-focused Hummingbird Resources (AIM: HUM) is facing more challenges at its Kouroussa gold mine in Guinea after one of its main contractors, Corica Mining Services, halted activities as a result of various contractual disputes.

The gold producer, with operations in Mali, Guinea and Liberia, called Corica’s move “a clear breach of the mining contract” as it alleges the contractor “failed to meet mining contract volumes due to delays in mining equipment mobilization, commissioning, and overall operating performance”.

Hummingbird issued a notice to Corica on Monday, demanding the resumption of mining by the end of Tuesday. The company warned that if the contractor failed to do so, it might step in to resume mining operations, or work with alternative suppliers.

According to Corica, Hummingbird Resources owes it $27 million for work already completed. It noted the measure remains conditional and reversible provided the miner pays the pending invoices and provides a Deed of Company Guarantee by April 7.

“Corica has over two decades of history in contracting with major clients and is proud to have had zero litigation to this date,” it said in the statement.

Hummingbird issued late on Wednesday a response to Corica, disputing the accuracy of the amount owed and the need for payment.

“Since the inception of the contract in September 2022, Corica has consistently underperformed against established contractual performance targets, failing to meet the mining contract volumes principally due to delays in mobilizing mining equipment, commissioning the equipment, as well as recruitment and training,” Hummingbird said.

The miner argues it has been cooperating with Corica in good faith since July 2023, when it informed the contractor of a contract breach due to the operation’s underperformance.

Kouroussa, Hummingbird’s second operating mine, achieved first gold pour in June 2023 and it is expected to churn out an average of 120,000 to 140,000 ounces of gold for the first three years of commercial production. After that, Kouroussa would average 100,000 ounces of gold a year over an initial seven-year life. 

Hummingbird took on a $55 million loan with Coris Bank in September, pledging to cut $122.8 million in debt over three years starting with a $77 million debt repayment by the end of this year. 

The miner also raised $30 million mainly through a share placement at an average price of 11.26 pence per share with shareholders, including 45% shareholder CIG, an investment bank.

Hummingbird agreed at the time to hedge 30,000 ounces of gold, which represents about 15% of its total production. This decision was made amid soaring bullion prices, which hit a new all-time high of $2,195.15 per ounce on March 8.

The miner has faced challenges in bringing the Kouroussa mine up to full production. Aside the ongoing issues with Corica, activities at the mine were disrupted last year by rain and delays associated with skill development.

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Glencore’s carbon emissions jumped 8.8% in 2023, reveals new climate plan Wed, 20 Mar 2024 10:48:00 +0000 Mining and commodities trader Glencore (LON: GLEN) reported on Wednesday an 8.8% in its carbon emissions for 2023 as a consequence of expanding coal production and restarting an oil refinery in South Africa that was closed by an explosion.

The Swiss company totalled 432.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, compared with in 2022, reversing the downward trend of recent years.

In its 2024-2026 Climate Action Transition Plan (CATP), Glencore noted it was still “on track” to meet its 15% reduction of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for its industrial assets from 2019 levels by the end of 2026, and of 50% by the end of 2035.

The rest of Glencore’s revised climate plan is much like a previous plan it released — but this time includes the interim 2030 target.

“[The new plan] reflects a wide range of inputs, including analysis of the evolving market landscape, new regulatory requirements, mining and energy peer approaches, the IEA’s latest modelling, stakeholder inputs, and emerging insights from the most recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dialogue,” chief executive officer Gary Nagle said in a statement.

“We have also undertaken extensive engagement with our shareholders and appreciate their time and support as we have developed this CATP,” Nagle noted.

Glencore, like most of the world’s biggest listed companies, published its first climate action plans in 2020 in a bid to help with reaching the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of capping temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Baar, Switzerland-based firm, one of the top global thermal coal exporters, has faced backlash for being one of the few top miners still involved in the extraction of the fossil fuel used to generate electricity.

After facing pressure from major investors and shareholders, Glencore committed to run down its coal mines by the mid-2040s, closing at least 12 by 2035.

“We recognize the different roles of thermal coal and steelmaking coal – and the different transition pathways for both,” Nagle said while presenting the new strategy.

Glencore sets 25% emissions cut goal by 2030 in new climate plan
Source: Glencore’s 2024-2026 Climate Action Transition Plan. (Click to see full size)

The executive noted the company “remains committed” to the responsible phase-down of its coal portfolio and is not progressing any greenfield thermal coal investments. 

The company continues to produce and recycle commodities considered key for today’s cleaner transition technologies. Nagle said the speed and direction of Glencore’s decarbonization efforts are significantly shaped by geopolitics, policy decisions, and technological advancements.

Tackling Scope 3 emissions

Glencore plans to cut “Scope 3” emissions — those produced when customers burn or process a company’s raw materials — by 30% by 2035 and achieving net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2050.

The company did not include its marketing activities in the these goals. It justified the decision by saying that, by trading in the third party volumes, its activities do not generate additional Scope 3 emissions, “which in the ordinary course are associated with the transformation or use of the product by third parties”.

Glencore recently acquired a 77% interest in Teck’s (TSX: TECK.A, TECK.B)(NYSE: TECK) steelmaking coal business, Elk Valley Resources (EVR). The transaction remains subject to mandatory regulatory approvals and is expected to close by no later than Q3 2024.  

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BC court dismisses former CEO’s appeal over environmental violations at Yellow Giant mine Tue, 19 Mar 2024 23:56:11 +0000 A British Columbia judge has rejected the appeal of the CEO of a defunct British Columbia miner, Banks Island Gold, who was found guilty in July 2023 of several environmental violations in relation to waste discharges from the Yellow Giant mine in 2014.

Yellow Giant is an underground gold and silver project on British Columbia’s north coast on Banks Island on the eastern shore of the Hecate Strait, 110 km south of Prince Rupert. 

Benjamin Mossman appealed the decision that found him guilty of 13 environmental violations, including discharging mine waste, failing to report environmental spills and dumping, and discharging substances in concentrations exceeding permitted amounts.

The court ruling had found that former CEO Benjamin Mossman was “actively or passively involved” in the Yellow Giant mine exceeding permitted amounts of zinc on multiple occasions, polluting fresh water lakes and creeks in and around the exploration sites.

Banks Island Gold filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

In the March 15 ruling, the judge also said previously dropped charges of failing to report the pollution to authorities would have to be heard at a new trial because of errors in an earlier ruling, CBC News reported.

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Nutrien donates $11m to Saskatchewan School of Mining Tue, 19 Mar 2024 23:17:44 +0000 Saskatchewan Polytechnic has received C$15 million ($11m) from Nutrien toward its Time to Rise campaign supporting the construction of the new Saskatoon campus. This represents the largest gift from a corporate donor in the school’s history.

In recognition, the School of Mining, Manufacturing and Engineering Technologies has been renamed the Nutrien School of Mining, Manufacturing and Engineering Technologies.

“With this significant contribution, we are not just constructing a new campus, we are building a launchpad for tomorrow’s leaders,” Dr. Larry Rosia, Sask Polytech CEO said in a news release.

“For more than 40 years, the connection between Nutrien and Sask Polytech has been mutually beneficial and has evolved to become an indispensable partnership that plays a critical role in Saskatchewan’s economy. Nutrien’s generous gift will leave a lasting impact on Sask Polytech and future generations of students.”

The C$15 million gift to Sask Polytech’s Time to Rise campaign will directly support the construction of the new Saskatoon campus.

This investment will also enable Sask Polytech to continue working closely with Nutrien to train the workforce of tomorrow and provide skilled graduates for Nutrien’s potash operations. Nearly 300 of Nutrien’s current employees are Sask Polytech graduates, working at various Nutrien locations across Saskatchewan.

The new Saskatoon campus will transform an existing network of multiple decentralized, outdated buildings into a revitalized complex that offers modern, technology-rich learning for students and greater opportunities for applied research and investment.

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Aurion shares bounce on B2Gold JV discovery in Lapland Tue, 19 Mar 2024 23:03:56 +0000 Aurion Resources (TSXV: AU) shares rose almost 11% Tuesday after reporting a greenfields discovery with 70% joint-venture partner B2Gold (TSX: BTO) in northern Finland’s Central Lapland greenstone belt.

The discovery in the emerging Sore area returned significant intercepts such as 26.45 grams gold per tonne over 2.5 metres, including a higher-grade segment of 108.5 grams gold per tonne over 0.5 metre, including 1.05 grams gold over 40.7 metres and 1.33 grams over 17.9 metres. This area has not seen any previous diamond drilling within 1 km, the company said in a release.

“A new discovery, greenfield and on a blind target, further highlights the prospectivity of the Aurion-B2Gold 290 sq. km JV property and the quality of B2Gold’s exploration team,” Aurion CEO Matti Talikka said.

Company shares reached an intra-day high of C$0.62 apiece before settling at C$0.59. Aurion has a market capitalization of C$79.5 million.

Results are pending for about 4,000 metres of diamond drilling completed this year.

However, the drilling program was halted after Rupert Resources (TSX: RUP) entered discussions on March 11 to buy B2Gold‘s 70% interest in the JV. Aurion says it is considering its options regarding its right of first refusal. It will have until May 9 to decide whether to exercise the right, granted under a 2019 shareholders agreement between the partners.

The discovery is located 1.7 km northwest of the Kettukuusikko prospect and 38 km northwest of the Helmi discovery.

Rupert is also focused on the Central Lapland belt. Its Rupert Lapland project contains the multi-million-ounce Ikkari discovery, located 50 km southeast of Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) Kittila gold mine and the Pahtavaara mine and mill.

The JV between and B2Gold covers about 290 sq. km along the Sirkka Shear Zone, which is a significant structural feature in the region known for hosting various gold occurrences. The area has yielded numerous discoveries, showcasing the high prospectivity and potential for further discoveries within the belt.

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Global Atomic stock plunges as Niger’s junta expels US troops Tue, 19 Mar 2024 18:58:55 +0000 Shares in Global Atomic (TSX: GLO) have dropped nearly a third since the military rulers of Niger, where the company is developing its Dasa uranium project, vowed on the weekend to kick out United States troops that have been there more than a decade.

By Tuesday afternoon, stock in the Toronto-based company had fallen 29% since Friday to C$2.21 apiece, valuing Global Atomic at C$462.7 million. It was as low as C$2.03 on Tuesday and has traded in a 52-week range of C$1.28 to C$3.91.

Global Atomic plans to start Dasa’s $424.6 million construction after June and commission the mine by the end of next year, according an updated feasibility study this month. The military coup in July led the US to suspend government funding for Dasa, but the company raised C$15 million in January by selling stock and says it will pursue more financing in a 60% borrowing, 40% equity-raising model.

“With the situation in Niger being fluid, in addition to current advanced discussions with project lenders, the company is also pursuing other financing strategies to meet its project funding requirements,” president and CEO Stephen G. Roman said in a release on Monday. “Given strong third-party interest in Global Atomic’s high-grade uranium project and our plans for near-term production, there are many groups interested in funding the Dasa project.”

The spot price of uranium oxide, also called yellowcake, was $91 per lb. on Tuesday, down from $107 per lb. last month, but still at its highest level since 2007. The metal is at nearly double its year-ago price on rising demand for electricity production without the air pollution of fossil fuels, and a forecast supply deficit. China alone plans to build about 150 reactors over the next decade.

Shares in other uranium producers, such as Canada’s Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) and Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom (LSE: KAP), the world’s largest, gained 2% on the Niger developments, but declined on Tuesday to near Friday’s close.

US bases

American troops have been in Niger to fight regional Islamic insurgents since a 2012 agreement. The West African country supplies about 5% of global uranium demand making it the seventh-largest producer, including about 20% of the European Union’s needs. Numerous junior and large companies are exploring in Niger. French-state owned Orano said last month it was restarting production that was suspended after the coup.

David Talbot, a uranium market expert and managing director of Toronto-based Red Cloud Securities, said that despite the uncertainty in Niger, the country has been a steady uranium producer for more than 50 years and the government has respected operations by foreign companies.

“Even with the recent removal of French troops from the country, Niger has respected Orano’s business and we would expect it to do the same with Global Atomic and others,” Talbot said in a note on Tuesday. “For now, the key catalyst for Global Atomic remains the closing of its project debt financing.”

The main shareholders in Global Atomic are Toronto-based Sprott Asset Management with nearly 8% through exchange-traded funds, and New York’s Global X ETFs and investment firm VanEck. The January stock fundraising included $5 million from Bermuda-based Regent Mercantile Holdings led by Stephen Dattels, who also has an interest in Pasofino Gold (TSXV: VEIN) and its Dugbe gold project in Liberia.

Global Atomic raised Dasa’s probable reserve by 50% to 73 million lb. uranium oxide in 8 million tonnes grading 4,113 parts per million uranium oxide, according to the new feasibility study. The company has signed offtake agreements for 1.3 million lb. of uranium a year from a plant expected to produce about 3 million lb. annually over a proposed 23-year mine life.

Sahel region

Western nations such as France, which has long stationed troops in its former colonies, have been trying to help countries in West Africa’s Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert stem the growth of Islamic insurgents over the past few decades. The US began its Africa Command in 2007. But recent coups, including in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, have hardened the resolve of some countries to lessen ties with the West and turn to Russia and its mercenary outfit Wagner Group for support.

In an alarming development for the US, Niger is considering a yellowcake supply deal with Iran, The Wall St. Journal reported on Sunday. The West has been trying to block Iran’s access for decades to nuclear material that could help it build an A-bomb.

The pivot prompted a US delegation including Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Molly Phee to visit Niger last week and press the regime under General Abdourahamane Tiani to organize elections, address security concerns and kill the Iran deal. But the Americans didn’t meet with Tiani. He issued a statement criticizing the condescending attitude of the visitors for not following protocol, denied there was a deal with Iran and cancelled the security arrangement with the US.

The US operates two bases there including one for drones built in 2021 for an estimated $100 million, according to Reuters. It remains unclear if all the 1,300 US soldiers in the country will have to leave.

Nuclear fuel

Besides countering Islamic insurgents, the West also wants to increase its uranium fuel processing. The US, Canada, Britain, France and Japan committed a total of $4.2 billion in December to build new plants since Russia’s Rosatom controls more than half the world’s capacity. Some Western nations are considering whether to sanction Rosatom and yellowcake exports to Russia.

For uranium investors, the price crash in battery metals nickel, lithium and cobalt may be a cautionary tale about the energy transition’s demand at this stage. Nuclear power has held out promise for decades but safety concerns, accidents and construction cost overruns have limited its appeal. The cure for high metal prices is high metal prices, The Economist noted last month.

But the Toronto-based Sprott Physical Uranium Trust (TSX: U.U for USD; U.UN for CAD), the largest investment fund in the physical metal, with $5.5 billion under management, remains boosterish while noting constraints in Niger.

“The situation in Niger is still developing, and Orano continues to face logistical challenges with both accessing the required reagents and exporting uranium,” Sprott exchange-traded fund project manager Jacob White said in blog-post on Monday. “Uranium’s recent pullback from the triple digits may be an attractive entry point in the overall uranium bull market.”

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Freeport Resources seeks partners for Yandera copper project feasibility study Tue, 19 Mar 2024 17:37:17 +0000 Freeport Resources (TSXV: FRI) has begun the hunt for strategic partners to take its Yandera copper project in Papua New Guinea through feasibility. With the copper price reaching $4 per lb., this may be an opportunity to create a new copper producer.

The company calls this project one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper projects.

An NI 43-101 report prepared by SRK Consulting late in 2016 for Era Resources (a private company) put the total measured and indicated resources at 728.6 million tonnes grading 0.33% copper, 0.01% molybdenum and 0.10 ppm gold. In terms of contained metal, that represents 6.2 million lb. of copper equivalent.

There is also an inferred resource of 230.6 million tonnes grading 0.29% copper, 0.01% molybdenum and 0.04 ppm gold.

The deposit is divided into oxide and non-oxide resources with roughly 90% falling in the non-oxide category.

The Yandera project was subjected to intensive drilling in the late 1960s and 1970s by a number of companies. Later, Era Resources spent over $100 million drilling 144,000 metres so that a resource estimate could be made. Freeport acquired the Yandera project in 2021, when it bought out Carpo, which controlled Era Resources.

The Yandera resource has a known 5-km strike length within a 17-km trend. The depth has been little investigated. Freeport has a plan for expanding the resources and developing an open pit mine. A mine life of at least 20 years is planned during which time a total of 540 million tonnes of ore will be mined.

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SQM venture arm invests in UK-based water tech company Tue, 19 Mar 2024 16:53:46 +0000 Salinity Solutions, a UK-based engineering tech startup, has become the latest to receive the financial backing of SQM Lithium Ventures, the venture capital arm established by SQM to invest in burgeoning technology companies in the lithium space.

On Tuesday, Salinity announced it has secured an initial investment of $1.27 million to fund the next stage of its growth. It now joins industry-leading companies like Altilium Clean Technology and Electric Era under the SQM Lithium Ventures portfolio.

Salinity is the developer of a groundbreaking “batch reverse osmosis” water treatment technology – the first in the world to be manufactured commercially – to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of water treatment.

This technology uses less energy, purifies a higher amount of wastewater, generates less waste, and is more compact and portable than traditional reverse osmosis systems. The first of Salinity’s five registered patents has been approved in the European Union, China and the United States.

Since launching in 2021, Salinity has completed trials in multiple industries, including lithium mining, industrial and municipal wastewater, and food production. The company has built a strong sales pipeline across multiple sectors and geographies.

“SQM’s investment will help us accelerate Salinity’s growth and achieve our 2024 goals of increasing unit sales and securing our first licensing agreement. Their strategic interests in lithium and water, combined with their geographical reach from Chile to China, offer a perfect fit to support our ambitious growth plans,” Salinity Solutions CEO Richard Bruges said in a news release.

The investment, according to SQM, goes hand-in-hand with the Chilean group’s ongoing drive to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact as part of its sustainability goals. These include reducing the use of groundwater by 40% by 2030, decreasing brine extraction in the Salar de Atacama by 20% in 2023 and 50% by 2030, and becoming carbon neutral in lithium production by 2030.

As part of their collaboration with SQM, the Salinity Solutions team will run a pilot project in the Salar de Atacama, with its team members based in Antofagasta and other locations in the north of Chile.

 “SQM Lithium Ventures is investing in Salinity Solutions in hopes that the company, through its revolutionary technology, will be capable of scaling and making an impact across different industries and geographies,” said Angeles Romo, director of SQM Lithium Ventures.

“This marks our first investment in water, one of our core focus areas for investment along with lithium and electromobility.”

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Teck refutes claims by enviro group on cost of Elk Valley cleanup Tue, 19 Mar 2024 15:27:41 +0000 Canada’s largest diversified miner, Teck Resources’ (TSX: TECK.A, TECK.B; NYSE: TECK), is refuting claims by non-profit group Wildsight, which pegs the cost of cleaning up British Columbia’s Elk Valley River, polluted by toxic materials from the miner’s coal operations, at more than C$6.4 billion ($4.7 billion).

The report, commissioned by the Kootenay-based environmental organization, underscores a substantial disparity between the C$1.9 billion required by the province for Teck to reserve for emergency shutdowns and mine reclamation, and the projected expenses of the company’s initiatives to combat selenium pollution resulting from coal mining in BC’s Elk Valley.

Selenium, a naturally occurring element toxic to fish in high concentrations, has been seeping for decades from waste rock piles surrounding Teck’s coal mines.

Teck, in response to Reuters, said Wildsight’s estimates were inaccurate and inconsistent with calculations made under BC government policy.

“Their provisions with respect to capital spend do not align with BC government policy and their use of simplified assumptions overstate ongoing water treatment operating costs alone by 50-60%,” Dale Steeves, Teck’s director of stakeholder relations said.

The report, conducted by consulting firm Burgess Environmental, calculated the C$6.5 billion by assessing the costs of implementing Teck’s current plan, which involves constructing water treatment plants until 2027 and operating them for 60 years.

Since 2014, Teck has allocated over C$1.4 billion towards mitigating selenium concentrations, with plans to invest an additional $150 million to $250 million by the end of 2024.

The miner sold its coal assets to Glencore and two Asian steelmakers for $8.9 billion last year as it shifts its focus to critical metals like copper. The deal is pending approval from the Canadian government.

Glencore declined to comment on the report.

“We hope that both Glencore and the Canadian government will give careful consideration to this report as they assess the sale, ensuring accountability for the selenium crisis is upheld throughout the ownership transfer,” said Simon Wiebe, mining policy and impacts researcher at Wildsight.

(With files from Reuters)

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MineHub expands partnership with Sumitomo by adding refined copper trading Tue, 19 Mar 2024 14:59:21 +0000 MineHub Technologies (TSXV: MHUB) is expanding its partnership with Sumitomo Corporation by integrating the Japanese firm’s refined copper business into the MineHub metals trading platform.

The existing partnership was established in August 2022, when Sumitomo adopted the MineHub’s blockchain-based platform for its copper concentrates business. Before that, the companies had been working to bring more efficiency, transparency and responsibility to industrial supply chains.

“By joining forces to drive commercial traction and integrating Sumitomo’s refined copper business onto our platform, we are poised to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation in the metals industry,” MineHub CEO said in a news release.

“We believe that integrating our refined copper business onto the MineHub platform will not only streamline our operations, but also enhance our ability to serve our customers effectively,” Takeshi Ishimaru, general manager of Sumitomo’s non-ferrous metals and raw material unit, added.

The Japanese trading house expects to integrate its refined copper business onto the MineHub platform starting with key customers in the Asian market.

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K92 ordered to temporarily suspend mining following worker death Tue, 19 Mar 2024 13:45:18 +0000 K92 Mining (TSX: KNT) announced on Tuesday that underground operations at its Kainantu gold mine in Papua New Guinea have been temporarily suspended following the death of an employee earlier this month.

The incident occurred on March 10. Processing operations at Kainantu were subsequently halted for three days, and have since resumed on the existing stockpiles.

Preliminary investigations by both the company and the Papua New Guinea police have led to the conclusion that the incident is a “non-industrial” in nature.

On March 13, the PNG authorities ordered a temporarily suspension of underground operations, pending the completion of action orders in relation to an independent safety audit and the installation of a collision avoidance system.

Work on these action orders is underway and were in process prior to the issuance of the action orders, the Canadian gold miner said in a news release.

Given the non-industrial nature of the incident, procedural, determination and jurisdictional breaches of the Mining (Safety) Act in issuing the action orders, the company said it filed an appeal on March 14 and expects this to be addressed shortly.

The incident marks another fatality reported at the Kainantu mine over the past year. In both May and June of 2023, two separate vehicular accidents occurred in or around the mining area, leading to the deaths of two workers in each instance.

The Kainantu project in PNG’s Eastern Highlands province was originally acquired from Barrick Gold in 2014, and it has now become K92’s flagship operation. The mine is now entering its next phase of expansion to ultimately become a Tier 1 operation with a per-annum run rate of up to 470,000 oz. gold equivalent.

Shares of K92 Mining were down 2.3% to C$6.20 when the market opened in Toronto. The company has a market capitalization of C$1.45 billion ($1.1bn).

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Coal, oil, gas resources should remain in the ground to reach Paris Agreement goals – study Tue, 19 Mar 2024 13:06:00 +0000 Most of the existing coal, conventional gas and oil energy resources in regions around the world should remain in the ground to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C, new research led by the University of Barcelona shows.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the UB scientists present a global atlas of unburnable oil. This map was designed with environmental and social criteria that warn which oil resources should not be exploited to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement signed in 2015 to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The atlas reveals that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, it is essential to avoid the exploitation of oil resources in the most socio-environmentally sensitive areas of the planet, such as natural protected areas, priority areas for biodiversity conservation, areas of high endemic species richness, urban areas and the territories of Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.

It also warns that not extracting oil/coal resources in these vulnerable places would not be enough to keep global warming below 1.5°C as indicated in the Paris Agreement.

New roadmap

In this context, the unburnable oil atlas provides a new roadmap to complement the demands of international climate policy—based primarily on demand for fossil fuels—and to enhance socio-environmental safeguards in the exploitation of energy resources.

“Our study reveals which oil resources should be kept underground and not commercially exploited, with special attention to those deposits that overlap with areas of high endemic richness or coincide with outstanding socio-environmental values in different regions of the planet,” lead researcher Martí Orta-Martínez said in a media statement. “The results show that the exploitation of the selected resources and reserves is totally incompatible with the achievement of the Paris Agreement commitments.”

Global distribution of top-priority unburnable conventional oil resources according to their coincidence with areas of outstanding socio-environmental characteristics
Global distribution of top-priority unburnable conventional oil resources according to their coincidence with areas of outstanding socio-environmental characteristics. (Image from Nature Communications.)

Orta-Martínez pointed out that there is now a broad consensus among the scientific community to limit global warming to 1.5°C to avoid reaching the tipping points of the earth’s climate system, such as melting permafrost, loss of Arctic sea ice and the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and forest fires in boreal forests.

“If these thresholds are exceeded, this could lead to an abrupt release of carbon into the atmosphere – climate feedback – and amplify the effects of climate change and trigger a cascade of effects that commit the world to large-scale, irreversible changes,” he said.

Carbon budget nearly exhausted

To limit average global warming to 1.5°C, the total amount of CO2 emissions that must not be exceeded is known as the remaining carbon budget. In January 2023, the remaining carbon budget for the 50% chance of keeping warming to 1.5°C was about 250 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2).

“This budget is steadily decreasing at current rates of human-induced emissions—about 42 GtCO2 per year—and will be completely used up by 2028,” Lorenzo Pellegrini, first author of the article, said.

Pellegrini noted that the combustion of the world’s known fossil fuel resources would result in the emission of about 10,000 GtCO2, 40 times more than the carbon budget of 1.5°C.

“In addition, the combustion of developed fossil fuel reserves – that is, those reserves of oil and gas fields and coal mines currently in production or under construction – will emit 936 GtCO2, four times more than the remaining carbon budget for a global warming of 1.5°C,” co-author Gorka Muñoa said. “The goal of no more than 1.5°C global warming requires a complete halt to exploration for new fossil fuel deposits, a halt to the licensing of new fossil fuel extraction, and the premature closure of a very significant share (75%) of oil, gas and coal extraction projects currently in production or already developed.”

With this prospect, the authors call for urgent action by governments, corporations, citizens and large investors such as pension funds to immediately halt any investment in the fossil fuel industry and infrastructure if socio-environmental criteria are not applied.

”Massive investment in clean energy sources is needed to secure global energy demand, enact and support suspensions and bans on fossil fuel exploration and extraction, and adhere to the fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty,” the team concluded.

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