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Scientists develop high-density, all-3D printed Li-metal battery

Mon, 11/21/2022 - 06:06

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed all-3D printed lithium metal batteries (LMBs) with robust cycle stability and ultrahigh areal energy density.

In a study published in the journal Energy Storage Materials, the scientists explain that the new LMBs take a porous and conductive Ti3C2Tx MXene skeleton for dendrite-free and a stable Li metal anode and multi-dimensionally conductive LiFePO4 (LFP) lattice as an ultra-thick cathode.

LMBs are considered high-energy-density systems beyond current state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries. Nevertheless, the uncontrollable dendrite growth and huge volume change of Li-metal anodes create poor cycle life.

Yet, in the recent paper, the researchers report better results thanks to their all-3D printing approach.

As the new devices are comprised of a dendrite-free Li-metal anode with porous MXene lattices, they are able to regulate local current distribution, which homogenizes lithium nucleation. Their 3D conductive porous LFP framework cathode, on the other hand, achieves fast ion/electron transfer channels.

Due to the abundance of Li nucleation sites and large pore volume in the MXene lattices, the 3D-printed MXene scaffolds prevent the infinite volume change and dendritic formation of Li anodes.

Furthermore, by pairing ultra-thick LFP cathodes lattices with high-efficiency electron and ion networks, the all-3D printed LFP||MXene@Li batteries deliver unprecedented areal capacity (25.3 mAh/cm2) and energy density (81.6 mWh/cm2) under an ultrahigh mass loading of 171 mg/cm2, exceeding all reported 3D printed batteries so far.

Endeavour Mining finds potential new flagship gold project in West Africa

Mon, 11/21/2022 - 03:52

Endeavour Mining (TSX, LON: EDV) said Monday it had made a major greenfield gold discovery in Côte d’Ivoire, which has the potential to become a new flagship asset for the company.

The miner, which has several gold operations and projects in West Africa, has outlined a major maiden resource at the Assafou target on its 100%-owned Tanda-Iguela property.

Indicated resource for Assafou sits at 14.9 million tonnes at 2.33 grams a ton (g/t) of gold for 1.1 million ounces. A further 32.9 million tonnes at a grade of 1.8g/t was discovered for an inferred resource of 1.9 million ounces of gold, Endeavour Mining said.

“It ranks as one of the most significant discoveries made in West Africa over the last decade and shows potential to be another flagship asset for the company,” chief executive Sébastien de Montessus said.

The site has a low discovery cost of less than $10 for every indicated ounce of gold discovered and preliminary tests show high gold recovery rates exceeding 95%, he noted.

The company said the new discovery and exploration success across its portfolio helps it to say on track to achieve a discovering target of between 15 to 20 million ounces for the five-year period ending in 2025.

The announcement comes only a month after it announced the beginning of construction at its 2.7-million-ounce Lafigué project, also in Côte d’Ivoire.

Endeavour has a large footprint in Burkina Faso where it has been subject to a number of terrorist attacks in the past three years.

This year, the London-based company expects to churn out between 1.32 million and 1.4 million ounces of gold at all-in sustaining costs of $880 to $930 per ounce.

Justin Trudeau asks Gabriel Boric for insights on Canadian miners’ behaviour in Chile

Sun, 11/20/2022 - 15:41

Following a meeting with his Canadian counterpart at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit being held this week in Thailand, Chilean President Gabriel Boric said that Justin Trudeau asked him to provide information on the behaviour of Canadian mining companies when it comes to complying with Chilean environmental legislation. 

According to local media, Trudeau showed interest in the grievances that some communities in northern Chile have expressed regarding the way Canadian miners operate. He asked Boric for insights on firms that may not be “acting in accordance with the standard that he himself, as Prime Minister, has established as the proper behaviour of companies, which is to be in full compliance with the rule of law” Boric said.

The Chilean head of state also pointed out that his country maintains a trusting relationship with Canada and that all he asks from foreign investors is to act as they would in their countries of origin.

Hundreds of power plants in the US violate Coal Ash Rule – report

Sun, 11/20/2022 - 14:59

A recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice found that seven years after US Environmental Protection Agency imposed the first federal rules requiring the cleanup of coal ash waste dumps, only about half of the 265 power plants that are contaminating groundwater agree that cleanup is necessary, and 96% of these power plants are not proposing any groundwater treatment plan. 

The report, which is based on an examination of public records and data from coal plants across the country, also found that out of the 292 power plants assessed in 43 states, only one is planning a comprehensive cleanup, while 10 are proposing incomplete cleanup plans.   

“The failure of the vast majority of power companies to follow the 2015 Coal Ash Rule has serious consequences for water quality and public health. Monitoring data shows that 91% of US coal-fired plants have ash landfills or waste ponds that are leaking arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, and other metals into groundwater at dangerous levels, often threatening streams, rivers, and drinking water aquifers,” the document reads.

(Graph by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice).

The dossier mentions that although coal consumption has declined across the US over the last decade, the power industry continues to generate about 70 million tons of coal ash annually.  It also notes that after 100 years of burning coal, power plants have generated about five billion tons of coal ash.

The Coal Ash Rule requires the cleanup of both the source of pollution (coal ash) and the groundwater. However, the report authors found that of the 142 plants with contaminated groundwater that agree that cleanup is necessary, only 38 plants have committed to at least one cleanup action and, of those, 27 are not treating groundwater. They are instead relying on the pollution naturally dispersing. 

“Because some power plants have multiple waste disposal sites, there are a total of 515 coal ash waste ponds evaluated in this report. Of these, there are 372 unlined ash ponds within five feet of groundwater, and many of these are sitting in groundwater,” the dossier states. “The majority (200) are being closed without removing the ash, despite being in or dangerously close to groundwater. Companies have closed 81 ponds by removing the ash and have scheduled the closure of another 91 by removal.” 

Worst sites

Looking at the top 10 most contaminated coal ash sites in the US, the report ranked the San Miguel Electric Plant in Texas as the worst one as the plant has two coal ash ponds, an ash pile and some of the most contaminated groundwater in the country, including with cobalt at 488 X safe levels.

Next is the retired Reid Gardner station, northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. According to EIP and Earthjustice, despite having lithium concentrations in the groundwater at 161 X safe levels and arsenic and 121 X safe levels, the owners have failed to admit responsibility or select a remedy and continue to violate the Coal Ash Rule in a number of ways.  

The Naughton Power Plant in Wyoming ranks third on the list as the report authors found that the six ash waste ponds at this plant are leaking selenium into groundwater at 150 X safe levels, lead at 16 X safe levels, and arsenic at 10 X safe levels, while owners are pursuing an incomplete cleanup plan and have only selected a remedy for one of the six ponds.  

Also in Wyoming, the Jim Bridger Power Plant makes the list because it has two coal ash ponds and an ash landfill, and groundwater monitoring nearby shows lithium at 164 X safe levels and sulphate at 125 X safe levels. 

(Graph by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice).

In North Carolina, the Allen Steam Station occupies the fifth spot because it has two ash ponds and a landfill and groundwater monitoring that shows cobalt at 466 X safe levels and lithium at 12 X safe levels. The owner is moving ash to a new landfill on the site but does not plan to treat the groundwater. 

Next is the New Castle Generating Plant in Pennsylvania, which has been closed since 2016 but still has a large, leaking ash disposal area. Groundwater monitoring shows arsenic at 372 X safe levels and lithium at 54 X safe levels. In addition to this, the report notes that the owner is not planning to take any cleanup action.

In Maryland, the Brandywine coal ash landfill, southeast of Washington, DC, also joins the group because it holds waste from three power plants in the area and is contaminating local streams and groundwater, with monitoring wells showing lithium at 222 X safe levels and cobalt at 47 X safe levels. 

Following Brandywine is the R.D. Morrow power plant in Mississippi, which had two ash ponds and a landfill and stopped burning coal in 2018. The owners closed the ponds and removed their ash in 2021, and capped the landfill without removing the ash. But the company has not treated the contaminated groundwater, even though monitoring wells show molybdenum at 176 X safe levels and lithium at 167 X safe levels. 

In the ninth spot is the Hunter Power Plant in Utah, which has an ash landfill and pond, and groundwater beneath them with lithium at 210 X safe levels and cobalt at 28 X safe levels. The owners installed groundwater collection wells to capture the leachate, but monitoring data suggest they are not working. 

The last plant on the list is the Allen Fossil Plant in Tennessee, which is now closed but has contaminated groundwater, including with arsenic at 294 X safe levels and is threatening the drinking water aquifer that serves Memphis. According to the dossier, the owners are removing the ash from two onsite ash ponds, but only treating the groundwater and conducting monitoring at one of the two ash ponds. 

Australia learns there’s no replacement for the Chinese consumer

Sun, 11/20/2022 - 13:04

Australia has spent big to attract swathes of Indian tourists to its shores, signed a free-trade deal with post-Brexit Britain and uncovered new Middle East markets during its 30-month trade rift with China.

Still, outside iron ore and other key commodities, there’s been substantial pain for exporters. For a small and open economy like Australia’s, branching away from the emerging global superpower is easier to imagine than realize.

China’s inability to source its massive iron ore requirements outside Western Australia’s Pilbara region means that it’s still Australia’s biggest trade partner by a long way, despite the diplomatic freeze.

But for other key industries, there’s been no simple substitute for Chinese consumers of quality lobster and wine or its big-spending tourists and students, who’ve also been kept away by Covid-19 restrictions. 

While there are some signs tensions are thawing — new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met President Xi Jinping last week, the first tete-a-tete between the countries’ leaders since 2019 — Australian businesses aren’t banking on restrictions easing anytime soon.

Here is how six key sectors — tourism, seafood, wine, education, barley and coal — at the heart of China’s trade reprisals have fared.  

Wine

Two years after China imposed tariffs ranging to more than 200% on Australia wine, vintners are still processing the messy breakup with what was its most lucrative export market, previously worth about A$1.2 billion ($802 million) a year.

Mitchell Taylor, who runs South Australia’s Taylors Wines, said the size of the adjustment required can’t be underestimated.

“While we’ve found new little opportunities, there was never anything that could replace a market of that size and scale, particularly at the luxury end,” he said. Taylors Wine previously used to get about a fifth of its annual export revenue from China alone.

“With some of the nibbles we’re getting, we’ve probably recovered about half of that.”

Taylor is looking at destinations including Singapore, South Korea and North America. While India might one day emerge as a big market, that’s probably at least a decade away due to access issues and tariffs, he said.

Meanwhile, the UK — o​​​​​nce seen as a prime market for cheaper product — has now surpassed China to become the top destination for higher-end Australian wine.

“We’re now getting our feet back on the ground,” he said. “It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s certainly these opportunities to build.”

Other luxury wine producers have taken a different approach to being frozen out of China. Treasury Wine Estates Ltd., best known for its Penfolds brand, in September started producing in China — a move that’s allowed it circumvent the restrictions on Australian-made tipples.

While Taylor hopes relations improve, banking on China alone is too risky a strategy in the long-term, he said.

“I think we’ve got to be very realistic and cautious about China,” he said. “We’d need a lot of reassurance and we’d want to hear a lot of positives.”

Tourism

The absence of high-spending Chinese visitors is still felt acutely by the tourism industry, with numbers down 92% in September compared with the same month in 2019, before the pandemic. Operators can’t afford just to wait and see when China’s Covid Zero policies will ease, so to try and bridge the gap, Tourism Australia is counting on a revival from other countries, including India. 

As part of its recent “Come and Say G’Day” campaign, it hosted Indian cricketers ahead of the 20:20 World Cup hosted in Australia.

The sports stars took a yacht to Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth, and posted their action-packed day on social media, from celebrating a birthday and a game of lawn ball to mingling with quokkas, a native marsupial the size of a domestic cat. The posts delivered a billion impressions, according to Tourism Australia.

While India has great potential as a market — the Indian diaspora in Australia has expanded 40% over the past five years opening-up huge opportunities for visits from friends or relatives — it’s nowhere near as lucrative.

Prior to the pandemic, visitors from China spent on average A$215 a night. That compares with just A$84 a night by Indians, according to figures from Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

“In terms of spending, or export revenue, the tourism sector needs almost twice as many visitors from India than from China to make the same revenue,” said ANZ economist Madeline Dunk.

Education

Australia’s international education system is also still struggling with the double whammy of tensions and the aftermath of border closures. 

Enrollments from China, Australia’s biggest source of international students, are still less than 70% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to government data. 

Offering some relief is a more robust return from Indian and Nepalese students, the next two leading countries. At the end of August, 110,000 Indian students were enrolled in Australia, down only about 15,000 on 2019’s numbers.

For the wider economy though, a permanent change in the composition of students would be significant, as Chinese students typically spend more money on consumer goods when they are in Australia than other nationalities.

Barley

The timing of China’s anti-dumping tariffs of over 80% on Australian barley in 2020 couldn’t have been worse. The move came just weeks after many growers put seeds in the ground, leaving farmers unable to tweak planting programs. 

Australia found a new home for the grain by diverting much of its bumper harvest to Saudi Arabia, which jostles with China for the position of the world’s largest barley importer.

But the pivot hurt. Saudi Arabia typically uses most of the grain for animal feed, meaning high-grade Australian malting barley, which previously fetched an attractive premium in China, was sold at a hefty discount.

Fortunately, there was a solution: plant something else. “Farmers already work on a rotation,” said Zach Whale, Policy and Advocacy General Manager at GrainGrowers.  “At the farm level, if there aren’t these malt premiums, you would just plant feed barley.”

Farmers are also now planting things like canola and wheat, both in high demand after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Seafood

Australia’s seafood industry, which exports nearly half of its production, has also been hunting the globe for new markets.  

While China is still the top single biggest destination, Hong Kong has picked up significant market share while demand from the US, Vietnam and Taiwan have surged, according to the Seafood Industry of Australia. 

“China is still our major trading market. It’s a relationship where we’re well known to each other,” said Veronica Papacosta, chief executive of SIA. “We’re finding really good purchase in other markets, but it does take some time.”

The trade body will take about 20 suppliers to a major show in Boston for the first time, said Papacosta, who is also the managing director of Sydney Fresh Seafood. Earlier this month it also collaborated with the wine and dairy industry to showcase a range of premium products in Thailand, she added. More events are planned from South Korea to Indonesia.

Coal 

By contrast with other industries, fossil fuel revenues are now booming. 

Coal exports to China plunged from almost 100 million tons in the 2019-20 financial year to about 20 million tons, a massive blow to the sector in its second-largest market. Yet from July 2020, coal purchases by Japan, South Korea and India rose, as exports intended for China were diverted to other markets.

By the end of 2021, the economic surge brought on by the end of covid-19 restrictions had pushed coal exports to new highs despite the ongoing embargo by China, according to government data.

The boom only grew in 2022, as the demand for fossil fuels sparked by the invasion of Ukraine put Australia’s coal industry on track for one of its most lucrative years ever. At the same time, China has reportedly been considering dropping its restrictions on Australian coal to ensure it has enough supply as demand for fossil fuels grows around the world.

Experts now suggest the biggest threat to Australia’s coal exports isn’t China’s lingering ban but the steady march towards renewable energy in some of the country’s biggest commodity markets. 

(Reporting by Swati Pandey, Sybilla Gross and Ben Westcott).

US-based company plans to use microwaves to tap into deep thermal energy sources

Sun, 11/20/2022 - 08:04

A US-based company is developing technology to blast rock with microwaves to potentially drill the deepest holes on earth. The end goal is to access sources of deep thermal energy.

According to Matt Houde, co-founder and project manager at Quaise Energy, the heat miles beneath our feet could provide more than enough clean, renewable energy to meet the global demand as the world transition away from fossil fuels.

“The total energy content of the heat stored underground exceeds our annual energy demand as a planet by a factor of a billion. So tapping into a fraction of that is more than enough to meet our energy needs for the foreseeable future,” Houde said at the inaugural TEDx Boston Planetary Stewardship Event.

The executive pointed out that at present, it is impossible to drill deep enough to unlock that energy.

“If we can get to ten miles down, we can start to find economic temperatures everywhere. And if we go even deeper, we can get to temperatures where water [pumped to the site] becomes supercritical, a steam-like phase that will allow a step change improvement in the power production per well and so cheapen the cost of energy,” he said.

So far, however, the deepest hole that’s been drilled, the Kola borehole near the Russian border with Norway, went 7.6 miles down. It took 20 years to complete because conventional equipment like mechanical drill bits can’t withstand the conditions at those depths. They break down.

“And the truth is we’ll need hundreds if not thousands of Kola boreholes if we want to scale geothermal to the capacity that’s needed,” Houde said. “Quaise is working to replace conventional drill bits with millimeter wave energy. Those millimeter waves literally melt then vaporize the rock to create ever-deeper holes.”

Not so new

He noted that the general technique was developed at MIT over the last 15 years. Scientists demonstrated that millimeter waves could indeed drill a hole in basalt. Further, the gyrotron machine that produces the millimeter wave energy is not new. It’s been used for some 70 years in research toward nuclear fusion as an energy source.
 
Houde said that the Quaise technique also takes advantage of the conventional drilling technologies developed by the oil and gas industry. The company plans to use these to drill down through surface layers, which is what they were optimized for, to basement rock. Meanwhile, millimeter waves will be used for the hard, hot, crystalline rock deep down that conventional drilling struggles with.

In the lab at MIT, engineers demonstrated the technology by drilling a hole in basalt with a 1:1 aspect ratio – two inches deep by two inches in diameter. Quaise has extended the MIT results by scaling up the power density of the microwave beam as well as the depth of the hole by a factor of ten to achieve a 10:1 aspect ratio. In parallel, the company is building the first field-deployable prototype millimeter-wave drilling rigs.
 
“Our current plan is to drill the first holes in the field in the next few years,” Houde said. “And while we continue to advance the technology to drill deeper, we will also explore our first commercial geothermal projects in shallower settings.”

Challenges

Quaise’s co-founder also mentioned that some challenges remain to make the technology fully operational. These include fundamental science, such as a better understanding of rock properties at great depths.

Also, the company believes that it is important to see progress in the supply chain for gyrotrons and the waveguides that carry their energy downhole. Currently, this equipment is optimized for specialized one-off projects in fusion research.
 
There are also engineering challenges that must be addressed. “Chief among them, how do we ensure full removal of the ash [created by the process and transport that ash up the borehole over long distances?”, Houde said.

How the state of Wyoming could supply the US with rare earth elements 

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 13:51

Already a wind energy powerhouse, the state of Wyoming’s economy is 65% tied to mining — most of that coal mining. Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state since 1986, accounting for about two-fifths of all coal mined in the United States in 2020, but the industry has seen its reputation blackened.

Industry innovators, however, are tapping  coal and its waste streams to extract rare earths, 17 essential elements  to realizing an electrified economy. Mining them can be challenging as materials needed are either not yet mined, or are latent in old coal mines. 

Demand for rare earths is being driven mainly by electric vehicles, wind generators, smart phones, and aerospace and defense applications, but China refines most of the world’s rare earths. There is only one active rare earths mine in the US — Mountain Pass in California, but concentrate is shipped to China for processing. 

Related: Recycling plant aims to turn US coal country into rare earth powerhouse

Northeast Wyoming sits on top of one of the largest REE deposits in North America, and efforts are underway at the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming to reach the day when REE extraction and processing can take place in North America. The school is focused on regulatory policy analysis, identifying where REEs can be found, how they occur, optimal ways for extracting and  processing, and what is required to establish an economically and environmentally viable industry in the US.

The end goal is to establish a full REE supply chain that consists of mining, processing, distribution, and supplying REE to meet advanced manufacturing needs of companies in the US.

Scott Quillinan, senior director of research, School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming tells MINING.com about developments and projects underway. 

MDC: What puts Wyoming at an advantage for a domestic supply chain? 

Quillinan: Wyoming is often called the energy state. If you were to draw a box around Wyoming and treat it as its own country, that would be the largest exporter of energy to the rest of the United States. And we export about 90% of the energy that’s extracted, and that all goes to other states. A lot of times, we are beholden to energy policies and regulations that are out of our control. But rare earth elements aren’t, if we mined them in the state —then we have our own in the state and within the country. A lot of what we’re dealing with is carbon intensity, so if you want to sell natural gas to California, it has to meet a certain carbon intensity level. That standard isn’t developed yet for rare earth elements. So everything within rare earth elements from a policy angle is within our control in the state. 

MDC: How is Wyoming going to become a domestic supplier of rare earths?

Quillinan: Mining is sort of in our DNA. [It’s] the largest coal producing state, the largest uranium producing state, largest bentonite producing state, largest trona producing state. So it makes sense to really transition some of the workforce, the knowledge, the know-how and the friendly mining policies over to other tracts of industries like rare earth elements. 

The way Wyoming is approaching this is we understand that about 90% of our rare earth elements are mined, processed, and manufactured overseas. And that’s a really difficult market to get into. If you want to stand up one mine that has a great resource, you’re going to be competing with global pricing, which is really tough to get into. And not only do you have to mine it, but you also have to ship it overseas for verification and processing. So our approach is really developing that wells to wheels type of program. We feel that that’s really the only way that we can get into the market. 

We’re really working on the exploration and production, the different extraction technologies, on the various infrastructure that needs to be put in place workforce development training. We’re working on commercialization plans – the business approach so we have the full value chain for the industry. And it’s going to take a decade, but that’s what we’re working on. 

MDC: How is the Inflation Reduction Act going to help the extractive industries and energy projects?

Quillinan: Policies are going to play a key role and the IRA is a good start. Having some guaranteed contracts with the Department of Defense would be another good start. Removing impediments that the industry is facing today would be another good start.

MDC: Can you tell us about the different feedstocks in Wyoming?

[We’re] working really closely with rare earth elements that are associated with coal… and the ash layers that are deposited within those. We’re also looking at flash at a coal fired power plant. We’ve got a Bear Lodge deposit, which is a lot of times called the largest unmined, rare earth element deposit and the Bear Lodge deposit just north of Sundance, Wyoming. 

Unconventional sources that we’re looking at are rare earth elements that are dissolved in water that’s produced alongside oil and gas, [and] we’re looking at rare earth elements that may be in phosphate deposits. So with phosphate mines, and uranium mines it’s really an above all approach looking at all these different feedstocks. And each one of them has its own advantage over the other on being able to extract them, we find different elements in each one. But probably the most promising is the ones that are associated with coal.

MDC: How can mining offer Wyoming’s coal industry new life?

Quillinan: They (rees and coal) are co mined, so they’re commingled and that really does add value to Wyoming’s coal. You might be able to sell the coal, but also sell the rare earth elements to help diversify the coal itself. The other thing we’re really working on is working on developing coal products. A mine that today is mining thermal coal, could also be mining coal that’s going to be developed into different different products, but then also provide rare earth elements. It really is about diversifying the economy.

MDC: Rare earth elements are through some chemical process extractable from coal waste?

Quillinan: They are, but what’s interesting is where they’re found within the seam. What we’re finding is they’re located on that top two to three feet of interface between when you switch from non coal, the coal strata, and then again on the bottom. What we see is this kind of ore deposit that’s on the top of the coal seam that’s already being mined. And it’s really kind of just put back into the pit. And that is where the highest concentration elements are. So it could be a really nice value-added product to coal mining. 

When you look at the different types of coal around the country, Powder River Basin coal has a high calcium content. And that allows for the rare earth elements to be extracted from the coal easier than other coals. So from Wyoming’s perspective, that’s fantastic, because we’re finding rare earth element concentrations that are pretty high, but then the chemistry is such that they can be extracted and you get a high yield recovery from the coal itself.

Then we’re also looking at the fly ash, and that same calcium concentration found in the coal that ends up in the flash also makes the flash easily digestible through acids, so that you can get the rare elements out. So that’s kind of the feedstock perspective, but it doesn’t really matter if we find the best feedstocks, we’ve got to be able to extract them economically. And then we’ve got to be able to do some of the processing and beneficiation here in the US. 

MDC: What are the next steps?

Quillinan: The next step is we’re looking at setting up research and development, once a demonstration in a pilot study looking at extracting these rare earth elements. The demonstration facility is being run by Rare Earth Resources, and that’s on the Sundance deposit. That’ll be located in Upton, Wyoming. And then the second is a Department of Energy sponsored project on a rare earth element. coal ash pilot, which will be stood up at the Wyoming Innovation Center just north of Gillette.

It’s being studied. It’s in the permitting phase, and they’re setting up the demonstration facility. They have a large pile of mine tailings that have been sitting there for a few years, and the demonstration facility will be working on what’s already been mined. And if [it’s] successful, then moving to full scale production.

MDC: What is UW doing to prepare the next generation workforce for rare earths?

Quillinan:  One thing that I think we all need to acknowledge is the expertise around rare earth elements has been developed overseas. It exists here, [but] it’s rare. You’ve got your normal disciplines like geochemistry, geomechanics, mining, but there seems to be a large knowledge gap around things like just general rare earth element geochemistry, the kinetics, the thermodynamics. At the University of Wyoming, we’re really focusing on where some of those research gaps are, so that we can develop the coursework to make sure that the students are prepared to go out and have professional careers around rare earth elements and critical minerals. 

The other thing we’re doing is working on a workforce development program with our community colleges,  being able to just kind of tap into the technical training that they do for their miners in the area, and beginning to supplement that with understandings of earth elements, element chemistry, and we are even are working on a batch program, where you go in and get trained on a piece of equipment, we’re doing the same thing with our community colleges where you can get in and get trained on a certain aspect of earth elements and earn a badge for example, or a certificate. 

MDC: What work is being done at the Wyoming Innovation Center? 

Quillinan: It was developed to take stuff out of the lab so products are worth element extraction. The project that’s in there is our rare earth element, coal ash pilot. They’re using feedstocks from two of the Wyoming coal fired power plants that are located next to that facility, and looking to extract rare earth elements from the coal ash. That project is going really well. It’s in its second year, so we hope to demonstrate that project at the facility in the first quarter of next year. And then that project will be looking to go to a much larger demonstration if it’s successful.

The resources have to be identified, the mining practices have to be identified,  the technologies need to be developed in order to extract them from the specific feedstock that we’re finding them in. And then it has to be a full value chain development. If it’s based on just mining and shipping the elements back overseas I don’t think any of the mines that are started will last very long at all. 

MDC: Why? 

There’s too many externalities. At that point, you’re really at the mercy of price control from areas that have 90% of the market.

The coal mines and rare earth element extraction, [are] working hand in hand. It’s another product that can come out of there. I often get asked [what] if we closed the coal mine just to mine rare earth elements out of it? The coal is such a tremendous resource. And if you can mine the coal and the rare earth elements at the same time and get them both out, then that makes a lot more sense.

MDC: What policies are needed at the federal and state levels to ensure that mining of rare earth elements in Wyoming are going to be economic and environmentally viable propositions?

Quillinan: The best thing we could do is develop standards, international standards around environmental sustainable practices and earth elements and environment and sustainable labor standards. That’s more of an incentive program, but perhaps the large companies that are buying rare earth elements would love to buy a rare earth element stamped with a certain standard that says it comes from an environmentally sustainable mining practice. I think from the federal level, developing department of defense contracts to guarantee domestic markets for earth elements would be incredibly helpful.

Rare earth elements are really the key to developing green energy technologies. And as we move through the energy transition, I think finding enough rare earth elements is key.

Auteco signs exploration agreement with Ontario First Nation for Pickle Crow gold project

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 13:08

Auteco Minerals (ASX: AUT) has signed an exploration agreement with the Mishkeegogamang Ojibway First Nation (MOFN) for its Pickle Crow gold project located 400 km north of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

This agreement replaces a previous memorandum of understanding signed in 2009 and now covers all Auteco claims in the traditional territories of the MOFN. In a sign of partnership, Auteco has also welcomed the MOFN as shareholders via the issuance of five million ordinary shares to the community fund.

The new agreement ensures support of exploration and advanced exploration activities at the Pickle Crow project and outlines a path forward for an impact benefit agreement should the company decide to pursue commercial development of the mine.

Originally discovered in the early 1930s, Pickle Crow was considered one of Canada’s highest-grade gold mines – historically producing 1.5 million ounces at 16 g/t gold – until its closure in 1966. Various operators have since held the property until the regional ground position was consolidated by then TSX-listed PC Gold in 2014. PC Gold was acquired by First Mining a year later.

Since September 2020, Auteco – having partnered with First Mining earlier that year – has added 1.2 million ounces of inferred resource at a discovery cost of A$17.58 per ounce. The speed and low cost at which the resource has grown highlights the quality and huge remaining growth potential of the Pickle Crow mineralized system, Auteco says.

The Pickle Crow project currently hosts a JORC 2012 mineral resource of 2.23 million ounces at 7.8 g/t gold, with a 50,000-metre drilling program underway to expedite resource growth.

Teck Resources named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:44

Canada’s largest diversified miner, Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A and TECK.B, NYSE: TECK), has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the sixth consecutive year by Mediacorp Canada’s Top Employers program, which recognizes companies for exceptional human resources programs and innovative workplace policies.

“Our employees are the driving force behind Teck’s purpose of providing essential resources the world is counting on to make life better, while caring for people and the environment,” Teck CEO Jonathan Price said in the statement.

“We are committed to fostering a safe, healthy, diverse and inclusive workplace, while supporting our people to build rewarding and engaging careers.”

Editors at Mediacorp, Canada’s largest publisher of employment periodicals, grade employers on eight criteria, including health, financial & family benefits, community involvement, employee communications, and training and skills development.

Teck has also been named to the Forbes list of Canada’s Best Employers for the past two years and is one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People.

Learn more about a career with Teck here.

Wallbridge completes nickel asset sale to Archer; stock rises

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 09:02

Wallbridge Mining Company (TSX: WM) has completed the sale of all its nickel assets – namely the Grasset and RUM projects in Quebec and Sudbury and NW projects in Ontario – to Vancouver’s Archer Exploration (CSE: RCHR).

As consideration, Wallbridge has received 66.2 million common shares of Archer with a total deemed value of approximately C$53.6 million. It will also retain a 2% net smelter royalty on production from the Grasset project.

Archer is a nickel-copper-PGE focused explorer with the aim of becoming a responsible nickel sulphide developer in Eastern Canada. The newly acquired Grasset project, located within the Abitibi greenstone belt approximately 55 km of Matagami, Quebec, would serve as its flagship and core asset. It also holds 37 properties covering 309 km2 within the Sudbury mining district.

“The transaction is in line with Wallbridge’s strategy of moving forward as a pure-play gold company focused on its core Detour-Fenelon gold trend properties,” Wallbridge CEO Marz Kord said in a news release. “Archer is a focused exploration and development company which we believe has the management group and funding in place to deliver long-term value for our shareholders.”

The company is expected to distribute approximately 48.2 million of the acquired Archer shares shareholders on a pro rata basis, and will retain the remaining 18 million shares representing approximately 19.9% of Archer’s outstanding share capital.

In July 2022, Wallbridge announced that it would be selling its portfolio of nickel projects to Archer to focus on its core gold mining assets, which consist of the 100%-owned Fenelon and Martiniere properties located Quebec’s Northern Abitibi region.

Together, these two properties have a combined gold resource of 2.67 million ounces indicated and 1.72 million ounces inferred. Both properties are located within a 910 km2 land package along the Detour-Fenelon gold trend.

Shares of Wallbridge Mining jumped 5.4% by noon ET following the completion of its nickel asset sale. The company has a market capitalization of C$167.5 million ($125m).

Copper price set for weekly drop on demand concerns, stronger dollar

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 08:45

Copper prices fell on Friday amid concerns over the outlook for global demand and as hawkish remarks from US Federal Reserve officials sent the dollar higher.

Copper for delivery in December fell 0.8% on the Comex market in New York, touching $3.65 per pound ($8,030 per tonne).

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

The most-traded December copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slid 0.7% to 65,880 yuan ($9,245.02) a tonne.

Asian stock markets were cautious and the dollar was set for a weekly gain, after comments from Fed officials, in the wake of employment data still showing a tight US labor market, dashed investors’ hopes for less aggressive monetary policy.

Meanwhile, China struggled with rising covid-19 cases this week in big cities like Beijing and Guangzhou, fanning concerns about its economic performance.

“Orders from buyers have remained moderate since September. The current sentiment is weak as it’s hard to find any bright spot of demand next year,” a Chinese copper tube producer said.

(With files from Reuters)

Nativ Carbon completes largest reforestation project ever in Australia

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 06:50

Nativ Carbon, a Perth-based company that delivers vegetation farming for carbon offsets to the mining and oil and gas sectors, announced the recent completion of the largest reforestation project ever in Australia.

Located near Moora in Western Australia, the project consisted of the reforestation of unviable farmland owned by oil company Woodside.

The Moora project included the use of more than 40 biodiverse species and over 1.2 million seedlings.

“The goal of the project was to achieve Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) objectives as well as create a diverse habitat for native fauna,” Nativ Carbon director David Lullfitz said in a media statement. “We are working with industry to reforest vast tracts of degraded, cleared land and that will not only put back the trees, and shrubs, it will stimulate regional and Indigenous employment. Furthermore, it will result in fauna returning to land that was cleared historically.”

In Lullfitz’s view, Woodside’s initiative in the Western Australian Wheatbelt is a good example of what other industries in the region can do to offset their carbon emissions.

The executive noted that laws governing ACCUs are fostering a range of new restoration and environmental industries which is creating significant regional employment opportunities.

The Moora development, for example, employed a substantial number of Aboriginal people who assisted with seed collecting, fence removal, weed control and plant installation. Overall, about 30 people worked on plant installation and surface preparation.

“Our statistics for our first project were 51% Indigenous employment for the planting crew. Twenty-one people were employed in the planting crew in total. A further 24% of those 21 employees, were recruited from the local Moora area,” the release reads.

“Nativ Carbon aims to consistently provide regional and Indigenous employment opportunities, where possible, and we are pleased to have achieved that goal in this project.”

Mining People: Inventus, Liberty Gold, Star Diamond

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 06:35
Management appointments announced this week:

Appia Rare Earths & Uranium appointed Irvine R. Annesley VP exploration.

Dundee Precious Metals appointed Navin Dyal as CFO.

Goldgroup Mining announced the retirement of its CEO John McClintock. CFO Anthony Balic will act as interim.

Liberty Gold has appointed Darin Smith as senior VP corporate development.

SSR Mining announced William MacNevin as executive VP operations and sustainability, effective Jan. 1.

St Barbara named Dan Lougher as managing director and CEO after Craig Jetson’s resignation.

Signature Resources appointed Dan Denbow as interim CEO.

Star Diamond’s president and CEO, Ken MacNeill, will retire effective Dec. 31.

Board moves include:

Antler Gold named Nicole Maske as a director effective immediately. Maske replaces Jim Megann on the board.

Atco Mining has appointed Dawson Brisco to its board.

Auxico Resources announced Byron King as independent, non-executive director.

Dakota Gold named Patrick Malone as the new chief sustainability officer.

Enduro Metals‘ board of directors named William Slack as president.

Intrepid Metals named Colleen Roche to the board.

Inventus Mining announced Glen Milne appointed independent director.

Queensland Gold Hills appointed Simon Cohn to its board.

StraightUp Resources announced Barry Wattenberg to the company’s board of directors.

Mali forms new state-owned miner

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 06:28

Mali’s transitional government has officially created a new state-owned mining company as part of the West African country’s efforts to increase revenues from the sector.

The company, Société de Recherche et d’Exploitation Minière du Mali (Sorem SA), was created by a decree in August, but obtained its legal status this week, with the order signed into law Thursday evening.

The new mining firm will be fully funded by the state and has the mandate of exploring for minerals and developing mines, creating hundreds of local jobs in the process, officials said.

While it is unknown how much funding Sorem will receive from the government, the company will focus on projects beyond gold, said Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara, economist and professor at the Université des sciences sociales et de gestion de Bamako (University of Social Sciences and Management of Bamako). 

The academic believes that the new company would boost training of the specialized local workforce and the acquisition of technologies in the field of the exploitation of mineral resources. 

Room for everyone

He also noted that Mali’s minister of mines, energy and water, Lamine Seydou Traore, vowed that the creation of Sorem does not seek to return to a state-monopoly of the mining sector. 

“Gold will shine for all Malians. There is space for everyone,” he wrote.

“For the mines that will be developed by Sorem, the state will get 100% of the benefits,” Souleymane Gueye, president of the legal commission of Mali’s transitional government, said on state radio on Friday.

Global miners including Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD), B2GOLD (TSX: BTO) (NYSE: BTG), Resolute Mining (ASX, LON: RSG), AngloGold Ashanti (JSE: ANG) (NYSE: AU) (ASX: AGG), Endeavour Mining (TSX, LON: EDV) and Hummingbird Resources (LON: HUM) have operations in Mali

The country, Africa’s third gold producer, currently holds between 10% and 20% in those mines and subsidiaries.

Production of the precious metal from 13 major mines, stood at 45.8 tonnes by the end of September, exceeding 44.5 tonnes initially forecasted for the period. Yet, output was below the 47.1 tonnes produced in the first nine months of 2021.

(With files from Reuters)

Massive emerald cluster sets new record at Gemfields auction

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 05:11

Africa-focused Gemfields (LON: GEM) (JSE: GML) racked up $30.8 million in revenue from its latest emerald action, which included a massive cluster of emeralds weighing 187,775 carats (37,555 grams).

The Kafubu Cluster, discovered at its Kagem mine in Zambia in March 2020, set a new record as the most expensive single emerald item ever sold by Gemfields, the miner said without providing specifics.

“Our end-of-year emerald auction has delivered a pleasing and solid result despite a clear softening of both prices and sentiment when compared with the remarkable highs we enjoyed in May 2022,” Adrian Banks, managing director of product and sales, said. “This has been a record-shattering year for Kagem with an amazing $149 million in auction sales.”

The coloured gems producer said proceeds will be reinvested in Zambia, including royalties due to the country’s government, which has a 25% stake in Kagem.

Zambian emeralds tend to have a higher iron content than emeralds from other origins, which means they are less fragile. High iron content also means fewer surface-reaching fractures and less need for treatments and enhancements.

The 37.5 kg cluster set a record as the most expensive single emerald item ever sold by Gemfields. (Image courtesy of Gemfields.)

Minister denies Baffinland Iron Mines expansion in Nunavut

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 16:49

Baffinland Iron Mines corporation announced Thursday that the Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal denied the company’s Phase 2 expansion application.

In May, Baffinland Iron Mines’ proposed expansion of its Mary River iron ore operation on the northern tip of Baffin Island, in Canada’s Nunavut territory, suffered a major blow after a review board advised against the project on environmental grounds.

After four years of consultations and deliberations, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) rejected the miner’s request to more than double output to 12 million tonnes a year, to eventually reach 30 million tonnes annually.

Mary River, considered one of the world’s richest iron deposits, opened in 2015 and ships about six million tonnes of ore a year.

“We are disappointed by the Minister’s decision,” Baffinland CEO Brian Penney said in Thursday’s news release. “Our Phase 2 proposal was based on on years of in-depth study and detailed scientific analysis, we executed a new Inuit Certainty Agreement with the QIA, and we have had extensive consultations with, and made additional commitments to stakeholders post release of the NIRB recommendation in May.”

“The Minister’s decision has immediate and significant implications for the current MAry River operations and our workforce of 2,500 people,” Penney said. “We look forward to immediately meeting with the QIA and the Minister to discuss a practical path forward.”

If the expansion is approved, Baffinland would send about 12 million tonnes of the 30 million tonnes via the North Railway to Milne Port. It also plans to build a second railway to Steensby Port, from which it intends to ship an additional 18 million tonnes of ore a year.

Current shipping volumes have already had a “devastating” impact on the area’s narwhal population, Inuit hunters have said.

Last year, a group of hunters from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet blocked access to the mine in protest of the company’s ice breaking practices due to their negative impacts on narwhals.

Charts: How much will coal’s transition cost?

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 10:31

The world needs to invest $380 billion per year in clean energy until 2030 to transition away from coal, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The amount is around 20% of all clean energy spending in the IEA Announced Pledges Scenario (APS), which assumes that all climate commitments made by governments around the world will be met in full and on time.

“$380 billion to transition away from coal isn’t much. It’s less than the GDP of Austria. It’s 0.4% of global GDP,” Peter Zeniewski, an Energy analyst for the IEA World Energy Outlook, wrote in a tweet.

Until 2030, around $250 billion, about 70% of global investment in the coal transition, will need to be spent in the power sector to replace the use of unabated coal with low emissions sources, primarily wind and solar PV.

Source: IEA

While coal is still the largest source of electricity generation, accounting for 36% of the world total, it is also the largest emitter of energy-related global carbon dioxide (CO2) – 15 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2021.

According to the report, the buck of the investment needs to go into emerging markets and developing economies, where coal emissions are highly concentrated.

Source: IEA

This week, US President Joe Biden and Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a $20 billion package to help the coal-dependent country shift to renewable energy and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The deal put forward by the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which includes the US, Japan, Canada, the UK, and several European countries in the EU and Norway, follows an agreement reached last year in which the United States and Europe pledged to give South Africa $8.5 billion in grants and loans in return for it retiring coal plants, switching to renewable energy, and re-training its workforce.

Similar arrangements are also being discussed with Vietnam, Senegal, and India.

Phasing out coal is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement, which limits global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

“The coal transition is affordable, and the challenges aren’t insurmountable. And if we operate the world’s coal assets as they have been in the past, we’ll sail past the 1.5° budget. That will cost the world much more… not just in dollars,” Zeniewski said.

UEC expands licensed capacity at Hobson plant; nears initial production in Texas

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 08:44

Uranium Energy (NYSE American: UEC) announced Thursday that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has approved its submission for a renewed and expanded radioactive material licence (RML) for the Hobson central processing plant.

The Hobson plant serves as the anchor of UEC’s hub-and-spoke in-situ recovery (ISR) production platform in South Texas, and will be used to process uranium loaded resin recovered from multiple satellite projects including Palangana and Burke Hollow.

The amended RML from the TCEQ would increase Hobson’s licensed production capacity by four-fold to 4 million pounds of U3O8 annually, distinguishing the plant as having the largest licensed capacity in Texas and the second largest in the US.

“We continue to execute on our strategy of growing UEC’s leadership as a pure-play, un-hedged uranium supplier in politically stable jurisdictions. Today’s achievement increases and advances our production capabilities in South Texas as we work towards the company’s return to production,” UEC CEO Amir Adnani said in a media statement.

South Texas is one of two production-ready ISR hub and spoke platforms held by UEC, the other being Wyoming. Together, the two platforms contain 12 satellite projects, seven of which are fully licensed, with over 71 million lb. of measured and indicated resources and 17 million lb. of inferred resources in place.

According to the August 2022 S-K 1300 technical report, the South Texas projects are estimated to contain a combined measured and indicated resource of 9.12 million lb. (4.74 million tonnes grading 0.10% U3O8) and 9.92 million lb. inferred (5.47 million tonnes grading 0.12% U3O8).

Of the three South Texas properties explored by UEC, the most recent drilling was done at Burke Hollow from 2019-2021, where the company has completed baseline sampling at the first production area and successfully conducted the production area pump test. This brings UEC one step closer to initiating production at Burke Hollow, which it describes as the newest and largest ISR wellfield being developed in the US.

In a separate announcement, UEC has also completed its acquisition of the Roughrider project in Saskatchewan from a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. In the press release, Adnani said that the Roughrider project “will anchor our Canadian high-grade conventional business and allow us to unlock value from the portfolio recently acquired from UEX.”

The development-stage Roughrider project has a non-current, historic resource of 58 million lb. at an average grade of 4.73% U3O8 in the eastern Athabasca Basin region, where 10% of global uranium production was sourced in 2021.

As previously announced in October, total consideration paid for the uranium development asset is C$150 million ($112.5m).

Lucara extends sales deal with HB by 10 years

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 07:08

Canada’s Lucara Diamond (TSX: LUC) has extended its sales agreement with HB Trading covering high-value diamonds from the Karowe mine, in Botswana, for another ten years.

The contract will see Lucara’s +10.8 carat production sold at prices based on the estimated polished outcome of each diamond. This is determined through state-of-the-art scanning and planning technology, with a true up paid on actual achieved polished sales thereafter, less a fee and the cost of manufacturing.

The company first partnered with HB in 2020 to sell Karowe’s large, high value diamonds. These kinds of gems have historically accounted for about 60% to 70% of Lucara’s annual revenues.  

The fresh agreement extends this arrangement for ten years, Lucara said.

“For the first time in our ten-year history, we have insight on what becomes of each and every +10.8 ct rough diamond produced from our mine, participating in each step of the planning and manufacturing process right through to the final polished sale,” Lucara CEO Eira Thomas said in the statement.

The Vancouver-based miner is in the midst of expanding Karowe underground, with first production expected in mid-2026. The project will extend the mine’s life until 2040.

Karowe remains one of the highest-margin diamond mines in the world, producing an average of 300,000 carats each year.  

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

BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue launch pilot program to create safer workplaces

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 06:12

Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue announced they are launching a pilot program aimed at helping to eliminate disrespectful behaviour in the resources industry including sexual harassment, bullying and racism.

The launch comes after the three companies formed a partnership in October last year as part of their combined response to reports of unacceptable sexual harassment in the mining industry.

The companies said they have worked together with leading experts to design and develop the industry-first program aimed at educating new entrants to the sector.

The evidence-based program will educate participants about the impact of sexual harassment, bullying and racism, including how to recognise and report these behaviours. 

The Building Safe and Respectful Workplaces pilot program, project managed by the Australian Minerals and Energy Skills Alliance (AUSMESA), were delivered on November 15 and 16 by experienced facilitators from Griffith University.

The pilot program will be completed by 30 volunteers who are currently undertaking apprenticeships or traineeships with the three companies. The results of the pilot will be fully evaluated and feedback from the participants will be used to finalise the learning program.

It is intended the program will be delivered from early next year with a particular focus on new entrants to the mining industry.  As part of an ongoing commitment to educate about respectful behaviour, the companies will engage across industry and education providers on how to broaden the reach of the program.

“Programs such as this help educate the next generation of workers to ensure our workplaces are safe, respectful and inclusive,”  BHP Western Australia iron ore asset president Brandon Craig said in the statement.

“While we know there is more to do, this pilot is part of our redoubled efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, and is in addition to a range of other measures including improved security at accommodation villages, additional public disclosures, specialised resources and company-wide training,” Craig said. “We’re proud to be working with leading industry partners to deliver this important program as we work together to eliminate disrespectful behaviours from our industry.”


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