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Panama to shut down First Quantum’s giant copper mine

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 03:41

Panama’s government has ordered First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) to halt operations at its Cobre Panama copper mine after it failed to agree on the terms for a new contract with the Canadian miner.

The move, unusual among Latin American countries, came after First Quantum missed a Wednesday night deadline to ink a new royalty deal that has been in the works since September 2021.

The miner said on Friday it was doing everything possible to support its operations in Panama, “including through all available legal means.” It also expressed disappointment at what it considers “unnecessary actions” by the government.

According to Ebrahim Asvat, lawyer and part of Panama’s negotiating team, the mine closure is not immediate. 

“What the national government decided was to order each ministry to take the necessary steps to maintain the copper mine with adequate care and maintenance,” he told Eco TV.

An agreement was reached in January, with the company committing to up its royalty payments for the mine. It also agreed to give Panama between 12% and 16% of its gross profit, which would replace the previous 2% revenue royalty.

First Quantum agreed as well to start paying 25% corporation tax, from which it was previously exempted, until its investments at the mine were recovered.

Sealing the deal dragged on for months, until President Laurentino Cortizo’s administration set a Wednesday night deadline for First Quantum to ink the new contract.

The miner then sent a new proposal that “fundamentally” changed the deal’s economics, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries said on Thursday morning.

The point of contention seems to be a clause that would make the Vancouver-based miner pay a minimum of $375 million in royalties to the state.

According to Bloomberg, First Quantum had been pushing for an exception in the case of much lower metal prices and profit.

“We expected reciprocity”

During a live television address to the nation on Thursday night, Cortizo said his government had put “all the necessary patience, good faith and the best of wills to get the mining company to ratify what was agreed, and that is why we expected reciprocity from the company, which did not happen.”

“This is not acceptable for me as president, nor for the government, nor for the people of Panama,” Cortizo said in the televised speech.

The President also said his administration will seek the best options to ensure the sustained operation of the mine, noting he had ordered the environment minister to oversee the site and the labour ministry to guarantee the jobs of workers. 

He concluded by noting that the action taken sought to guarantee the principle established in the country’s Constitution, stating that Panama’s mineral resources belong to the Panamanian people.

The nation is reportedly working with a financial advisor to identify new potential partners for Cobre Panama, which raises concerns about the country nationalizing the asset or removing First Quantum’s license to operate, experts at BMO say.

Cobre Panama is the biggest foreign investment in the Central American nation, supporting 40,000 jobs. (Image courtesy of Minera Panama.)

“Our base-case expectation is that the government’s position is part of a broader negotiation; however, the recent escalation does raise uncertainty about First Quantum’s ability to operate in the country long term, and the risk that investors will see in Panama going forward,” BMO Metals and Mining analyst, Jackie Przybylowski, wrote.

From a copper market perspective, any sustained outage at the mine would further tighten global supplies, contributing to an expected annual deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.

“We have significant plans for the future of Cobre Panamá that will benefit all Panamanians, and our goal remains to find a ‘win-win’ resolution with the government,” the miner said on Friday.

First Quatum’s Cobre Panama achieved commercial production in September 2019. The asset is estimated to hold 3.1 billion tonnes in proven and probable reserves and at full capacity can produce more than 300,000 tonnes of copper per year, or about 1.5% of global production of the metal.

The company says it has invested around $10 billion in Cobre Panama, the largest private investment ever in the country, and was contemplating expanding the processing capacity of the mine from 85 million tonnes per year to 100 million tpy in 2023. This would have allowed it to boost production to nearly 360,000 tonnes of copper by the end of this year and to 350,000-380,000 tonnes in 2023.

First Quantum is one of the world’s top copper miners and Canada’s largest producer of the metal. It produced 816,000 tonnes of copper in 2021, its highest ever, thanks mainly to record output at Cobre Panama.

Cobre Panama. (Image courtesy of First Quantum.)

The company is expected to reach its 2022 target of between 790,000 and 855,000 tonnes of copper by year-end.

The Cobre Panama mine complex, located about 120 km west of Panama City and 20 km from the Atlantic coast, contributes 3.5% of the Central American country’s gross domestic product, according to government figures.

The miner first ran into trouble in 2018 when Panama’s Supreme Court, acting on a suit filed by environmental groups, ruled the mining code at the time of allowing the operation was unconstitutional. This forced the parties to begin renegotiating the contract.

Fairly uncommon move

Panama’s decision is a major blow to chief executive Tristan Pascall, who succeeded his father, Phillip, in May.

Latin America is the jurisdiction where risks of asset seizures and taxes hikes have increased the most in the past two years, risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft estimates.

The practice, however, has been rare in Latin America’s recent past. One of the last major expropriations was in 2012, when then-Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government seized a 51% stake in the country’s largest oil and gas producer, YPF SA, from Repsol SA.

Almost ten years later, in April 2022, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declared lithium a “strategic mineral” whose exploration, exploitation, and use are the exclusive right of the country, through a new state-run company called Litio para Mexico, or Lithium for Mexico.

British Columbia First Nations go to court to challenge province’s mineral claim regime

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 15:54

The principal of free, prior and informed consent embedded in UNDRIP must apply to mineral claims in British Columbia, First Nations will argue in court – something that has the mining and exploration industry in the Canadian province worried.

First Nations, environmental groups and mining and exploration industry associations are in court today seeking intervenor status in a case that could have wide-ranging implications for mineral exploration in B.C., as well as the federal government’s critical minerals strategy, should the case succeed.

At the heart of the case is the free entry mineral claim system that allows anyone to file a mineral claim without notifying or engaging with First Nations – something First Nations speaking at a press conference Thursday said breaches the spirit of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) on which it is based.

Last year, the Gitxaala First Nation filed a judicial review over mineral claims in its traditional territory on Banks Island. In June this year, the Ehattesaht First Nation also filed a similar judicial review challenging mineral claims in their traditional territory. The two First Nations have agreed to have both reviews tried at the same time.

The case is scheduled to be heard in April 2023. The B.C. government is contesting the judicial review.

“Unfortunately, the legal representatives from the province of B.C. have instructions to oppose the relief sought by Gitxaatla Nation,” said Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. “This is a clear example that the province of B.C. is trying to have it both ways.”

B.C. enshrined UNDRIP into law through DRIPA. First Nations assume that means it supports the principal of free, prior and informed consent, which they say should include the staking of mineral claims.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, called the Mineral Tenure Act “a relic of colonization.”

“We know it’s a relic of colonization when somebody can huddle over their keyboard in a dark basement and file a claim to tens of thousands of acres of indigenous lands without any consultation whatesoever,” he said. “That’s a complete, egregious violation of DRIPA.”

Several First Nations associations, including the BC Union of Indian Chiefs, B.C. Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Summit, are backing the Gitxaala and seeking intervenor status.

The Association of Mineral Exploration (AME), Mining Association of BC (MABC) and Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) are also seeking intervenor status, and will argue against changing the free entry claim system.

Interestingly, one junior exploration company is also seeking intervenor status – not on the side of the industry, but on the side of the Gitxaala.

Of seven mineral claims filed on Banks Island, two have since been voluntarily withdrawn, according to West Coast Environmental Law. The Gitxaala want the remaining claims suspended, and a moratorium placed on all further claims in Gitxaala traditional territory, pending an overhaul of the Mineral Tenure Act to change the way mineral claims are approved.

Banks Island is where a small gold mining operation was shut down in 2015, following multiple permit violations and a discharge of effluent into local waters. The company operating the mine, Banks Island Gold, went bankrupt and the mine shut down.

More broadly, the Gitxaala want the Mineral Tenure Act reformed, and specifically want to see an end to the “free entry” claim process that allows anyone to stake a mineral claim without telling anyone, including relevant First Nations.

While the AME is not opposed to reforming the Mineral Tenure Act, it opposes changing the free entry system.

“That’s the piece that does not work for us,” said AME president Kendra Johnston.

The very nature of prospecting is that no one, thinking they may have discovered a potential mineral deposit, wants it broadcasted publicly. Prospectors put a lot of work into identifying regions with potential mineral deposits before they file a mineral claim to conduct exploratory work. Johnston said it is a kind of intellectual property. Simply letting others know that a claim has been filed is, in a sense, like making intellectual property public.

“They don’t want to give the idea – the intellectual property – away at that point,” Johnston said.

Staking a mineral claim allows prospectors to do preliminary exploratory work, including gathering soil and rock samples.

“There is no mechanized work allowed,” Johnston said. “So no drill rigs, no rock saws – nothing that requires energy to run.”

To do anything more than “passive” exploration, the claims holders must apply for a permit. This requires an archeological plan and First Nations engagement.

“Then the government is required to consult with the First Nation,” Johnston said.

Once a permit is approved, that allows mechanized work to take place, like building trails, using rock saws and using drilling rigs to take core samples.

“A change to the free entry system to have to consult prior to staking would impact exploration in British Columbia,” Johnston said. “There would be, I think, an incredible decrease in exploration happening pretty quickly.

“Consultation or notification or engagement right after staking is reasonable. It’s just the fact that it can’t happen before you stake your claim because of the competition piece.”

At least one junior exploration company doesn’t have a problem with changing the claim system.

Tony Fogarassy, chairman of First Tellurium Corp. (CSE:FTEL), said his company supports the Gitxaala, and is also seeking intervenor status. The company is a member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), Fogarassy said. Members are big corporations that want assurances that any mined materials they buy are mined responsibly and ethically.

“These companies and their shareholders demand sustainable and responsibly mined minerals in their supply chains, and that means minerals produced with the consent of indigenous peoples,” Fogarassy said. “By definition that consent includes the registration and issuance of mineral claims and mining leases.”

(This article first appeared in Business in Vancouver)

Snow Lake investor battle brings raw energy to Manitoba lithium project 

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 14:30

A shareholder rift over millions of dollars in executive pay at Snow Lake Resources (NASDAQ: LITM) is rattling the explorer’s plans to develop a lithium project in northwest Manitoba.

Management postponed a shareholder’s meeting today until January after an investors’ group that controls 42% of the company said it would try to vote out chief executive officer Philip Gross, chief operating officer Derek Knight and chief financial officer Mario Miranda.

Shorecrest Group, a Toronto-based advisor representing the Concerned Shareholders of Snow Lake, accuses Gross and the board of directors of enriching themselves with more than C$6 million for just seven months of service, according to company documents. The board tried to raise millions more in cash by diluting shares by 55% in a proposed stock sale in September that was blocked by a provincial court injunction.

“The existing collaborating directors have continued to burn through millions of dollars of the company’s money to keep their jobs,” Shorecrest wrote in a proxy circular for the aborted meeting.

“They have hired multiple expensive law firms and proxy advisory firms to purposefully delay this meeting for over four months, to entrench themselves and try to stop shareholders from having a fair and democratic say in imposing proper governance and making management accountable.”

At stake is a project for what may be the world’s hottest commodity. Demand for lithium to make batteries for electric vehicles and other modern technologies is forecast to accelerate for decades. End users like Tesla, GM and other automakers are scrambling for supplies and Snow Lake already has a supply agreement with LG Energy Solution of South Korea. However, the site’s remote location about 700 km north of Winnipeg may be a stumbling block for development.

Snow Lake defended the meeting postponement by calling the shareholders group dissidents engaged in potentially illegal proxy vote gathering, potentially misleading statements and trying to organize their own meeting, which would lack quorum, at a different location from Snow Lake’s offices.

Australian probe

It also said the Australian Securities and Investments Commission served Snow Lake with a request for information concerning an investigation into a potential breach of restrictions by people Snow Lake believes are joint actors with the shareholders’ group. Snow Lake didn’t name them.

Deferral is needed to sort out the claims and inform shareholders, Snow Lake said.

“Any purported meeting of shareholders prior to the meeting on January 17, 2023 will be invalid, as will any business purportedly conducted thereat,” Snow Lake said in a statement today. “The board of directors urges shareholders to disregard the dissidents’ ongoing inappropriate efforts to mislead shareholders and the market.”

The project includes the Thompson Brothers and Grass River spodumene pegmatite deposits. The project hosts an indicated resource of 9 million tonnes grading 1% Li2O for 91,200 tonnes, and an inferred resource of 2 million grading 0.98% Li2O for 19,300 Li2O tonnes. Drilling this year returned multiple drill samples showing more than 2.1% Li2O in intervals from 1.6 metres to 8.8 metres in length.

The Concerned Shareholders coalesce around Mordechai Kimelman — who spun Snow Lake out of his company Nova Minerals (ASX: NVA) in 2018 — and his wife and parents, according to the group’s circular. Kimelman was found guilty last year of insider trading regarding Nova and barred from managing corporations for five years. But he served no time of an 18-month sentence because he was remorseful and didn’t gain personally from the transactions, the group said.

Snow Lake set the meeting for this week after Shorecrest in June requested it. The advisor says the explorer lacks the authority to postpone the meeting and won’t tolerate the board’s “blatant disregard for its statutory and fiduciary responsibilities.”

Company documents show Gross is set to be paid C$4.2 million in salary and stock options this year while the company spent $4.4 million on exploring and analyzing its lithium asset. Board members approved so-called golden parachutes with more than $2.4 million in compensation if they’re voted out, the advisor says.

In September, Snow Lake agreed to supply LG Energy Solution with lithium hydroxide over 10 years after production starts in 2025. The project aims to produce 160,000 tonnes of 6% lithium spodumene a year over a decade, enough to power 5 million electric vehicles.

Shares in Snow Lake fell 6.5% to C$2.15 each on Thursday in Toronto, within a 52-week range of C$1.51 and C$10.50, valuing the company at C$38.5 million.

Police searched Ivanhoe Mines’ Vancouver office as part of Swiss bank transfer investigation

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 12:45

Police searched Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines’ (TSX: IVN) Vancouver office seeking information on $2.7 million in bank transfers from Ivanhoe to a Swiss bank account in connection with contracts for its Congolese mining operations, The Globe and Mail reported Thursday.

Ivanhoe said it cooperated with the search in November 2021 and that no charges have been laid against the company or its directors or employees.

The RCMP obtained the search warrant after saying it had reasonable grounds to believe that Ivanhoe violated Canada’s Criminal Code and Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act between 2014 and 2018, Ivanhoe said in a disclosure in an annual information form.

Some of the documents authorized for seizure were related to three bank transfers from Ivanhoe to the Swiss bank account of a company called Stucky Technologies from 2015 to 2018, A Swiss engineering firm, to work with Congo’s state electricity company on hydropower supplies for Ivanhoe’s Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), The Globe and Mail reported.

The Vancouver-based miner has been working on Kamoa-Kakula for more than ten years. In 2015, China’s Zijin Mining Group became Ivanhoe’s partner in the project, with each company holding a 40% stake and the Congolese government owning 20%.

Ivanhoe Mines posted a profit of $85.4 million for the three months to September 30 2021, the first full quarter commercial production at its Kamoa-Kakula joint venture in Congo, the biggest copper mine to come online in decades. Mining billionaire and Ivanhoe founder Robert Friedland has said he believes the project will become the world’s second-largest copper mine and the one with the highest grades among major operations. 

Also on Thursday, US-based investigative organization the Sentry published a new report: “Gaming the System: How a Canadian Mining Giant Undermined the Law in the DRC, examining the miner’s control of deposits in the DRC’s copper belt.  The report alleges that Ivanhoe received preferential treatment when Congolese authorities extended its exploration licences beyond the legal limit of 15 years and that some extensions gained approval much faster than the average processing time for other applicants.

“Evidence examined by The Sentry reveals that the multibillion-dollar company, which is led by American-born founder Robert Friedland, arranged to share a potentially lucrative cut of local subsidiaries with a politically connected individual, just as the Congolese government took apparently illegal actions allowing Ivanhoe to maintain exploration licenses,” the report reads. “According to The Sentry’s analysis, those licenses by law should have been surrendered by Ivanhoe years ago.”

The Sentry report claims dealmaking may not have ended when former Congolese president Joseph Kabila left office in 2019. Hidden camera videos published this September apparently show Vidiye Tshimanga, then a close advisor to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi, claiming to hold 20% of an unidentified Ivanhoe Mines subsidiary.

Tshimanga also appears to be telling unidentified people he believed to be prospective investors that they could pay him off using concealed business arrangements, including channeling payments to political parties by tendering contracts to well-connected service providers, all with the approval of the president, the Sentry reported.

Tshimanga denied wrongdoing, but resigned and is facing prosecution.

Following the release of Sentry’s report, Kalloghlian Myers LLP issued a statement encouraging Ivanhoe Mines investors to inquire about a class action investigation.

Ivanhoe also issued a statement, saying The Globe and Mail article and the Sentry report “contain numerous inaccuracies, misrepresentations of Democratic Republic of Congo law and Ivanhoe Mines’ business relationships, and demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the legislative framework under the Democratic Republic of Congo mining codes.”

Ivanhoe said the company intends to respond in full to the allegations shortly, but as of 6pm EST had not issued further comment.

Lithium stocks fall as prices ease for the first time in 6 months

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 12:35

Shares of lithium producers and explorers slumped on Thursday after a closely watched auction by Pilbara Minerals showed a rare decline in prices of spodumene concentrate.

Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) announced its average monthly auction in December achieved a price of $7,552 per dry metric tonne (5.5% spodumene concentrate on a Port Hedland FOB basis), down from $7,805 a month earlier.  The price for the 10,000 tonne cargo equates to $8,299 per tonne on a 6% concentrate (CIF, China)  basis with deliveries expected from late January 2023.

Pilbara Minerals, which wholly-owns the Pilgangoora mine in Western Australia, was the biggest loser, shedding 11.4% for a market capitalisation of just over A$12 billion ($8.1bn). 

Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN), the most valuable lithium share in Sydney with a market worth of A$15.6 billion, gave up 4.7%, Allkem (ASX:AKE) declined just under 5% while IGO (ASX:IGO) fell 4.3%. Smaller Australian players Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR, Core Lithium (ASX:CSO) and Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA) dropped 7.9%, 9.4% and 6.3%, respectively.

The weakness spilled over to North American markets with SQM (NYSE:SQM), the world’s number two producer of the battery metal, giving up 5.1% in afternoon trade in New York, affording the Chilean giant a $24.7 billion market cap. SQM investors are still enjoying a 70% run up in the stock in 2022. 

Albemarle (NYSE:ALB), the world’s top lithium miner by output with a market value of $28.2 billion, was left relatively unscathed with a 2.7% decline amid general market weakness on US markets. The biggest loser in New York was Sigma Lithium (NASDAQ:SGML) which fell 6.3%, although punters who picked up the stock at the beginning of the year can point to gains of 185% in 2022.

Chinese chemical prices fall for first time since May

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence said on Wednesday Chinese lithium prices fell for the first time since May as uncertainty grows about demand in the world’s second-largest economy following the easing of covid-19 restrictions and the looming end of electric vehicle subsidies.

Lithium prices have defied predictions of a sharp pullback, however, and ex-works Chinese battery grade lithium hydroxide is still up 170% year-to-date averaging $81,000 a tonne during the first two weeks of December, according to Benchmark. Lithium carbonate prices have followed a similar trajectory, according to the London-headquartered battery supply chain and pricing specialists. 

Benchmark data show spodumene prices up 257% this year averaging some $5,900 a tonne for 6% concentrate FOB Australia in November.  Benchmark commented that spodumene contract pricing mechanisms tied to the lithium chemicals spot market had been successfully renegotiated, allowing for a shorter lag time for pricing movements in the chemicals market to be reflected in spodumene pricing.

De Beers Group awards $33K in scholarships to women in STEM

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 10:59
De Beers Group has selected 10 women as winners for scholarships for STEM programs. Credit: De Beers

De Beers Group has awarded C$45,000 ($33,000) in scholarships to 10 Canadian women, as what the company says is a commitment to support women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies in Canada.

From the more than 475 applications, the winners are eight women from the Northwest Territories, one from northern Ontario and one from Nunavut. Each receives $4,500 as they enter year one of a program.

• Amelie Aubrey-Smith, NWT: Bachelor of Science 

• Brenna Beck, NWT: Bachelor of Science 

• Jada Beck, NWT: Undergraduate in Medical Education 

• Zoe Clark, NWT: Bachelor of Science 

• Rosalyn French, NWT: Bachelor of Science 

• Emma Gelinas, Ontario: Bachelor of Science 

• Shelby Martin, NWT: Bachelor of Science in Nursing 

• Crystal Mitchell, Nunavut: Diploma in Environmental Technology 

• Angela Storr, NWT: Bachelor of Commerce, Business Technology Management

• Stella Wong, NWT: Bachelor of Applied Science 

The 2022 scholarships represent a three-year C$135,000 program launched earlier this year as part of De Beers’ Building Forever program in Canada. It builds on a partnership between De Beers Group and UN Women that provided $408,000 in scholarships to support Canadian women in STEM programs between 2018 and 2021. 

In addition, De Beers  is funding four new C$5,000 entrance scholarships annually over the next four years to support women in STEM at the University of Calgary, two in science and two in engineering. 

Moses Madondo, managing director of De Beers Group, said, “It’s clear from the overwhelming response that there is still a need to accelerate opportunities for women in STEM. As a company committed to building forever, we remain focused on identifying and removing systemic barriers to social and economic inclusion because we recognize that equal opportunity will benefit us all.” 

Individuals interested in applying for these scholarships need to apply directly through their university.

Barrick Gold to go ahead with $7bn Reko Diq project in Pakistan

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 09:58

Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD)(TSX:ABX) is going ahead with construction of its Reko Diq copper and gold project in Pakistan after the country’s top court cleared the path for the Canadian miner.

Receiving the court’s endorsement was a condition outlined in the settlement reached by Barrick and the government of Pakistan in early December to resume work on Reko Diq.

The project, which hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits, has been on hold since 2011 due to a dispute over the legality of its licensing process.

Barrick solved the long-running clash with Pakistan in March this year, reaching a preliminary out-of-court deal that cleared the path for a final agreement on how to run the mine and profit-sharing arrangements.

Chief executive Mark Bristow said the completion of the legal processes was a key step in progressing Reko Diq into a world-class, long-life mine, which will boost Barrick’s copper portfolio.

The Toronto-based gold giant plans to invest $10 billion in the massive project, located in the southwestern province of Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran.

“We are currently updating the project’s 2010 feasibility and 2011 feasibility expansion studies. This should be completed by 2024,” Bristow said.

Two-phased plan

Reko Diq’s conceptual design calls for an open pit with a life of more than 40 years. It would be built in two phases, starting with a plant that will be able to process about 40 million tonnes of ore per annum, which could be doubled in five years.

Barrick plans to deliver production from Phase 1 in 2028 at a cost of around $4 billion, with Phase 2 to follow in five years at a cost of roughly $3 billion. 

The gold miner owns 50% of Reko Diq, with the rest divided 25% by three federal state-owned enterprises, 15% by the Province of Balochistan on a fully funded basis and 10% by the Province of Balochistan on a free carried basis.

“Reko Diq’s ownership structure is a further manifestation of Barrick’s commitment to partnership with its host countries and communities and to sharing the value our operations create fairly with all our stakeholders,” Bristow said.

During peak construction, the project is expected to employ 7,500 people and once in production it will create 4,000 long-term jobs during the expected 40-year life of the mine.

Marimaca Copper stock rises as company drills first significant sulphides in Chile

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 09:34

Marimaca Copper (TSX: MARI) revealed on Thursday the sulphide potential of its Marimaca oxide deposit (MOD) in Chile, with drill hole MAD-22 returning 92 metres at 2.11% total copper from 140 metres, including 22 metres at 5.27% total copper, from 204 metres, in primary sulphides alone.

MAD-22 represents a geological/geotechnical diamond drill hole that was drilled from the eastern MOD through the eastern 2022 mineral resource estimate (MRE) pit wall and intersected high-grade, dominantly chalcopyrite mineralization.

The drill hole intersected the border of the magnetic susceptibility high identified in the 2020 geophysical campaign. This significant magnetic anomaly beneath the current MOD dips to the east with the same geometry as the interpreted extension of the structures that host the copper oxide mineralization at the MOD. True widths are unknown at this stage.

Combined with oxides, MAD-22 returned a full intersection of 240 metres at 1.01% total copper from surface in two separate zones (oxide and primary sulphide).

“While previous drilling into the down-dip geophysical targets identified in 2020 and 2021 intersected additional mixed and secondary sulphides at depth, MAD-22 represents the first significant primary sulphide intersection to date and could represent a primary high-grade feeder structure as interpreted in our geological model for the deposit,” VP exploration Sergio Rivera said in a news release.

“With the 2022 drill program now completed, results from MAD-22 will be considered in our exploration planning going forward,” he added.

Marimaca’s 2022 drilling campaign consisted of over 41,500 metres of reverse circulation and diamond drilling between the MOD infill and the MAMIX zone, the depth extension of the MOD. The 2022 MRE announced in October incorporates 19,580 metres of the approximate 28,374 metres of drilling completed in 2022, for a total of over 110,000 metres of drilling completed since 2016 at the MOD.

The balance of the 2022 infill drilling program will be included in a subsequent MRE planned for early 2023, with the objective of upgrading the remaining inferred resources to underpin a definitive feasibility study.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the Marimaca deposit represents one of the only major copper discoveries made globally in the last decade. The project is located in northern Chile near Antofagasta.

Since its original discovery in 2016, the company has nearly doubled the oxide resource totals, now estimated at nearly 140 million tonnes at 0.48% total copper for 665,500 tonnes of contained copper in the measured and indicated category, plus 83 million tonnes at 0.39% for 322,900 tonnes of contained copper.

Shares of Marimaca Copper jumped 2.0% by 12:30 p.m. ET following the encouraging drill results. The company has a market capitalization of C$263.8 million ($193.3m).

Iron ore price hits six-month high as China plans more stimulus

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 08:47

The iron ore price hit a fresh six-month high on Thursday, propelled by brightening demand prospects in China.

As the Chinese economy faces risks from rapidly spreading covid-19 infections and a bleak outlook for global growth, policymakers are aiming to boost the scale of consumption and investment, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

Boosting domestic demand will help China to pursue higher-quality economic growth and cope with external risks, Xinhua said, citing the 2022-2035 plans issued by the cabinet.

According to Fastmarkets MB, benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China were changing hands for $112.71 a tonne Thursday morning, up 2.5%.

The most-traded May iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trade 3.2% higher at 830 yuan ($119.05) a tonne. It earlier touched 832 yuan, the highest since June 15.

“The accelerated implementation of plans to stabilize the economy (and) the optimization of epidemic prevention policies… have boosted market sentiment,” Zhongzhou Futures analysts said in a note.

China’s November steel output, meanwhile, fell 6.5% from the previous month, as some steelmakers cut production to curb losses amid persistently weak demand.

(With files from Reuters)

Eldorado Gold board okays Skouries gold-copper project restart

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 06:47

Canada’s Eldorado Gold (TSX: ELD)(NYSE: EGO) said the board has approved an investment decision and full restart of construction activities at its Skouries gold-copper project in northern Greece.

The proposed mine, which has reserves of 3.7 million ounces of gold and 1.7 billion pounds of copper, was halted from 2017 to 2021 due to government delays in issuing permits and community opposition

After inking a new investment contract with Greece in early 2021, Eldorado has been focused on resuming construction at Skouries, but said the project restart was conditional upon the initial drawdown of a €680-million ($728m) finance facility from Greek banks.

The funds will provide 80% of the expected future investment required to complete the half-built Skouries project. The remaining 20% of project funding will be fully covered by Eldorado’s existing cash and future cash flow from operations, the company said.

“Skouries represents the next phase of growth at Eldorado, generating significant value for all of our stakeholders with robust project economics and providing many benefits to the local communities and economy in Greece,” chairperson Steve Reid said in the statement.

President and CEO George Burns said that having the involvement of Greek banks in the project supplied backing beyond financials.

“The participation of Greek lenders in the project provides aligned strategic partners as we advance Skouries towards commercial production,” Burns said. Eldorado’s focus now shifts to project execution, with first production expected in the second half of 2025, followed by a ramp-up as the company optimizes facilities.

Once that it’s up and running Skouries is expected to have a significant impact on Eldorado’s total gold production and cash cost profile, as it will diversify the company’s business through revenue from copper. 

Eyeing growth

In 2021, Eldorado completed key growth projects at two of its assets — the Lamaque mine in Val d’Or, Quebec, and Kışladağ gold mine in Turkey.

“Our mergers and acquisitions strategy is focused on jurisdictions where we currently operate,” the company said at the time. “This includes developing our Skouries and Perama Hill projects in Greece, which will contribute to the longer-term growth of Eldorado, as well as identifying early-stage opportunities that provide long-term growth potential in our core jurisdictions.”

Lamaque is the company’s first gold mine in Canada. (Image courtesy of Eldorado Gold.)

In February, Eldorado published a new technical study for its Lamaque mine, its first gold mine in Canada, which highlights a significant upside potential from the Lower Triangle zones and Ormaque deposit.

The company has determined that there is potential to extend the mine life for about 5.5 years from the Upper Triangle reserves and additional 8.5 years from Lower Triangle deposit and Ormaque inferred resources.

Part of the Kassandra Mines Complex, Skouries has an anticipated operational life of 20 years, producing an aggregate of 140,000 ounces of gold and 67 million pounds of copper annually.

The deposit is planned to be mined using a combination of conventional open pit and underground mining techniques, Eldorado said.

Teck ranked #1 in metals and mining category on S&P Corporate Sustainability Assessment

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 06:32

Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A and TECK.B, NYSE: TECK) has been named to the S&P Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI) for the 13th consecutive year and is ranked #1 in the Metals and Mining industry category on the underlying 2022 S&P Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

Inclusion on the DJSI indicates that Teck’s sustainability practices are in the top 10% of the 4,500 largest companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index. Teck was named a leader in the metals and mining industry, based on the CSA’s in-depth analysis of economic, social and environmental performance.

In addition to being top-ranked overall for the Metals and Mining industry, Teck achieved the top score in the Environmental category, which measures performance in topics such as biodiversity, climate strategy and water risk management. Teck also achieved the top score in the Social category, which measures performance in topics such as diversity, health and safety, human rights and community investment.

“Our commitment to strong sustainability performance is driven by our employees who make operating responsibly a core priority in all areas of our company,” Teck CEO Jonathan Price said in a media statement. “Teck is proud to be named a metals and mining industry leader on the DJSI as we work to provide the essential resources required for the modern world and the low-carbon future.”

5E Advanced Materials, Estes Energetics to produce boron-based materials for rockets

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 05:05

California-based 5E Advanced Materials (ASX: 5EA), the company that owns Fort Cady – the largest conventional boron deposit in the world – has entered into a non-binding letter of intent with aerospace engineering firm Estes Energetics to collaborate in producing boron advanced materials for solid rocket motors.

In a press release, the companies said that the ultimate goal of their collaboration is supporting the US space and military industries and the specific focus will be on solid rocket motor ignitors.

According to the firms, they will also consider broader cooperation that will entail the creation of production facilities, the development of business activities and the sharing of technical know-how in the boron space.

Related: Forget rare earths, boron is the critical mineral to track

“Estes is an industry leader in the solid-propellant and aerospace markets. An important consideration of the collaboration is our combined mission to onshore critical materials and technologies that serve critical US government needs. We intend to have a long-term partnership with Estes as we focus on continuous innovation in the boron advanced materials space,” Dino Gnanamgari, 5E chief commercial officer, said in the media brief.

Gnanamgari and Karl Kulling, Estes chief executive officer, pointed out that there is a growing concern in the US related to the import of raw materials. Thus, their joint initiative is considered a positive step towards the building of a supply chain that starts from a domestic mine and continues all the way through products broadly used in solid rocket motors, pyrotechnics, and other applications.

“Boron advanced materials complement our existing manufacturing and research efforts in critical chemicals and solid rocket motors. Boron is used in mature products and has great promise in high-performance fuels,” Kulling noted.

Fortescue ups stake in Candente Copper with $2.9m investment

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 03:50

Australian miner Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) is investing a further C$4 million ($2.9m) in Candente Copper (TSX: DNT), which will increase its stake in the Canadian junior from 19.4% to 25.4%.

The world’s fourth-largest iron ore producer will buy 22.2 million shares of Candente at C$0.18 per share, a 26% premium to the five-day volume-weighted average price of the junior’s shares.

Fortescue had previously acquired a strategic interest in the copper firm in May 2020 through the purchase of 27.5 million shares. 

The company already has two seats on Candente’s board, filled by FMG general manager of metals Latin America, Christine Nicolau, and the head of corporate development, Jeremy Meynert.

Candente executive chairperson Giulio Bonifacio about C$3 million from the placement proceeds will be used for further development of the company’s advanced Cañariaco copper project in Peru.

The remainder will be used to repay a C$1 million loan (about $736,000) advanced by FMG in September.

The Cañariaco asset includes the Cañariaco Norte copper deposit, the Cañariaco Sur copper-gold deposit and Quebrada Verde prospect, in northern Peru.

A preliminary economic assessment for the property, released earlier this year, outlined a $1.04 billion project to produce an average 173 million pounds of copper, 31,395 ounces of gold and 703,588 ounces of silver a year at net direct cash costs of $1.28 per pound for 28 years.

Frontier Lithium’s drilling at Spark pegmatite returns robust grades

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 09:06

Frontier Lithium (TSXV: FL) has released results for seven more drill holes completed during Phase XII drill program on the Spark pegmatite, part of its PAK lithium project located in the Lake mining district of Ontario.

The highlighted drill hole (DDH PL-077-22) intersected 126.8 metres of pegmatite from 56.9 metres to 183.7 metres averaging 1.31% Li2O. Within the intercept were two narrow lithium and tantalum enriched zones at depth, including 11.1 metres from 260.2 to 271.3 metres averaging 1.79% Li2O and 459 ppm Ta2O5, and 13.5 metres from 414.5 to 428.0 metres averaging 1.01% Li2O and 194 ppm Ta2O5.

Another hole (DDH PL-078-22) intersected 104.9 metres of pegmatite from 120.4 to 225.3 metres averaging 1.58% Li2O, and a second 33.5-metre pegmatite zone from 246.7 to 280.2 metres averaging 1.63% Li2O.

“We are pleased with the drilling results from the 2022 drill program to date, with the Spark deposit remaining open in all directions,” VP exploration Garth Drever said in a news release. “The focus continues to be at depth and to the west where the grade and thicknesses of the deposit remain robust.”

The initial objective of Phase XII drill program, which began in May and finished in October with 14,641 metres in 45 holes, was to convert inferred material to the indicated category for the planned open pit, in preparation for a pre-feasibility study on the PAK lithium project.

The latter half of the program, however, also included geotechnical drilling for ground control and pit design purposes, as well as step-out drilling to define the eastern and western extents of the Spark pegmatite orebody.

When combining Phase XI and Phase XII delineation and infill drilling, Frontier has completed 15,984 metres of drilling in 50 holes at the Spark pegmatite this year.

Spark represents one of two premium spodumene-bearing deposits delineated by Frontier on the PAK property, which is said to contain one of North America’s highest-grade lithium resources.

Winner of the “2019 discovery of the year” award, the Spark pegmatite has a current mineral resource estimate of 14.4 million tonnes averaging 1.40% Li2O in the indicated category and 18.1 million tonnes averaging 1.37% Li2O in inferred.

The smaller PAK deposit – located 2.3 km away – adds another 9.3 million tonnes of mineral resource averaging 2.06% Li2O in the measured indicated and inferred categories.

Exploration is continuing on the PAK project through two other spodumene-bearing discoveries: the Bolt pegmatite (located between the PAK and Spark deposits), as well as the Pennock pegmatite (25 km northwest of PAK deposit within the project claims).

Shares of Frontier Lithium rose 2.0% by 11:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, trading at C$2.06 each. The company has a market capitalization of C$458.8 million ($338m).

Trafigura to pilot sustainable supply chain finance program for Mexican miners

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 08:47

Trafigura Group on Wednesday said it is piloting a sustainable supply chain finance program with eFactor Network for mining companies in Mexico.

“Trafigura’s suppliers of metal concentrates will receive accelerated payments for products using eFactor’s digital factoring platform,” the trader said.

eFactor Network is a Fintech company, leader in working capital financing in Mexico.

The program – the first of its type and providing a model that can be scaled across the region – is structured to improve mining companies’ working capital while driving responsible sourcing practices along the metals value chain.

“Trafigura is committed to working with the mining community across Latin America to source commodities responsibly. This pilot programme offers a powerful illustration of how different value chain actors can, and must increasingly collaborate to promote good practice in a complex operating environment,” Inigo Flores Piran, Trafigura’s CFO for Latin America said in a statement.

Trafigura Group earned a record $7 billion in its last financial year, more than the previous four years combined, as the commodities trader cashed in on wild price swings and arbitrage opportunities driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earnings more than doubled in the 12 months through September, Trafigura said last week, while revenue surged to $318.5 billion.

(With files from Bloomberg)

Gates, Bezos-backed KoBold Metals to build copper-cobalt mine in Zambia

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 06:16

KoBold Metals, a start-up backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, has committed $150 million to developing the Mingomba copper-cobalt mine in Zambia, said to be the world’s highest-grade undeveloped large deposit of the orange metal.

The start-up, which has Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the world’s top miner BHP (ASX:BHP) as shareholders, will use its artificial intelligence tools to process drilling data and optimize exploration for copper and cobalt at Mingomba.

KoBold is buying into what will be a joint venture with the existing owners of the project – Australian private equity firm EMR Capital and Zambia’s state-owned mining investment vehicle ZCCM-IH (LON: ZCC).

Mingomba contains 247 million tonnes of ore with an average grade of 3.64% copper. This figure represents about six times higher grades than those found in Chile, the world’s top copper producing nation, according to KoBold. 

The mine development would be a major win for Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, who has set an ambitious copper production target of 3 million tonnes a year by 2032, from around 850,000 tonnes the country produces currently.

“Our message to the world is that Zambia is here, and is open for business,” Hichilema said on Wednesday at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C.

“This investment today is not about KoBold, it’s not about ZCCM, it’s not about Zambia, it’s about all of these, and the rest of the world, as we grapple with climate change,” he noted.

The investment deal, which will grant KoBold a majority stake in Mingomba, is set to close in the first quarter of 2023.

Copper is in high-demand due to its use in renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs), but big, new deposits are rare. 

It is estimated that the global copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.

Not a miner  

KoBold, as its chief executive officer Kurt House has stated, does not intend to be a mine operator “ever.”  

The company’s quest for battery metals began two years ago in Canada, after it acquired rights to an area of about 1,000 square km (386 sq. miles) in northern Quebec, just south of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine.

It now has about a dozen exploration properties in places including Zambia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Western Australia, which have resulted from joint ventures like with BHP and with BlueJay Mining (LON: JAY) to explore for minerals in Greenland. 

The common denominator of those assets is that they contain or are expected to be sources of battery metals.  

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

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

The technology can locate resources that may have eluded more traditionally-minded geologists and can help miners decide where to acquire land and drill, the company said.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

Gold extracted from SIM cards can be used to make painkillers

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 06:06

Researchers at the University of Cagliari in Italy and Imperial College London developed a method for extracting gold from printed circuit boards, SIM cards and other electronic waste, as well as a process for using the recovered gold in drug manufacturing.

In a paper published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the scientists explain that the extraction method involves selective steps for the sustainable leaching and recovery of base metals like nickel, then copper, silver and, finally, gold, using green and safe reagents.

The gold produced from this process, however, is part of a molecular compound and cannot be reused for electronics without investing a lot more energy to obtain the yellow metal.

Seeking a use for this compound of recovered gold, the research team investigated whether it could be applied as a catalyst in the manufacture of other materials or substances, including pharmaceuticals such as anti-inflammatory and pain-relief drugs.

They found that the gold compound performed as well, or better, than the currently used catalysts, and is also reusable, further improving its sustainability.

The scientists, thus, suggest that making it economically viable to recover gold from electronic waste could create spin-off uses for other components recovered in the process. For example, when applying the new technique, copper and nickel are also separated, as is the plastic itself, with all these components potentially being used in new products.

“By weight, a computer contains far more precious metals than mined ore, providing a concentrated source of these metals in an ‘urban mine’,” Sean McCarthy, the Ph.D. student leading the research in the lab at Imperial, said in a media statement.

Given the encouraging results, McCarthy and his colleagues are now working to extend this approach to the recovery and re-use of the palladium content of end-of-life automotive catalytic converters. This is particularly pressing as palladium is widely used in catalysis and is more expensive than gold.

Albemarle to build $180m US lithium research centre

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 03:53

The world’s top lithium supplier Albemarle (NYSE: ALB) will invest at least $180 million to build a new technology park in the US state of North Carolina, where it expects to advance its research in lithium and other products.

The miner expects that innovations from the new site, to be located in Charlotte’s University City area, will improve lithium recovery and production methods, as well as introduce new forms of lithium to enable breakthrough levels of battery performance.

“Albemarle Technology Park is part of our mine-to-market innovation strategy to invest in the US EV battery supply chain and to be a leader in advanced lithium materials for next-generation energy storage,” CEO Kent Masters said in the statement.

The company noted it had received a nearly $13 million incentive package from the State of North Carolina to build the research centre by transforming a former IBM and Flextronics facility. 

The lithium giant anticipates creating at least 200 jobs at the site, with an average salary of $94,000 per year. It also intends to triple the number of Ph.D. professionals in the Albemarle Technology Park (ATP).

The facility is part of Albemarle’s emerging strategy to lead the booming US lithium sector, from mine development to processing to manufacturing types of the metal used to make the batteries that power electric vehicles.

The company expects initial occupancy of the new facility by early 2025 and completion of the ATP campus by late 2026.

Albemarle will convert a former IBM and Flextronics facility in Charlotte, North Carolina’s University City (pictured) into a lithium research centre.(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Albemarle has been working this year on opening new facilities to process mined lithium into the chemicals needed for batteries and it’s on track to more than double conversion capacity from last year.

While Australia and Chile account for the majority of mined lithium supply, China has more than half of all refining capacity. 

Governments including the US and Canada are trying to boost local capacity to stop China’s processing and manufacturing dominance. Still, it costs twice as much to build refining capacity in Australia and North America than it does in China.

Brixton pivots to cobalt at Langis with strong drill results 

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 13:59

Brixton Metals (TSXV: BBB) says the first batch of drill results from its Langis cobalt project in northeast Ontario confirms high-grade ore.

Hole LM-22-254 cut 30.5 metres of 0.35% cobalt, 5.97 grams silver per tonne and 0.08% nickel from 121 metres down hole, Brixton said in a news release on Dec. 13. The core included 10.02 metres of 0.92% cobalt, 3.5 metres of 1.89% cobalt and 0.5 metre of 9.01% cobalt, 72.5 grams silver and 2.58% nickel, data showed.

Vancouver-based Brixton is pivoting from silver to cobalt at its Langis project about 500 km north of Toronto as it attempts to take advantage of the soaring demand for electric vehicle battery metals and proximity to a nearby processing plant under construction. A 7,000-metre drilling program focusing on cobalt is to be completed by Dec. 20, the company said.

“This program is set out to target cobalt-nickel mineralization specifically as the demand for battery metals increases,” Brixton vice president of exploration Christina Anstey said in the news release. “We are very excited that our first hole in 2022 has confirmed a high-grade of cobalt mineralization at the Langis project.”

Still, Langis is secondary to Brixton’s Thorn copper-gold porphyry project in British Columbia after giant BHP (NYSE: BHP; LSE: BHP; ASX: BHP) bought about a fifth of the company last month for C$13.6 million.

The explorer’s four previous drill campaigns at Langis in the Cobalt Camp of Ontario near the Quebec border totaled 35,100 metres. They focused on deposits linked to an underground silver mine that started in 1905 and closed in 1990 due to low metal prices. The mine produced 10.4 million oz. of silver and 358,340 lb. cobalt from shallow depths.

Langis, on the north shore of Lake Timiskaming, is about 20 km from Electra Battery Materials’ (TSXV: ELBM; NASDAQ: ELBM) refinery for cobalt, which is to start next spring. Electra plans to expand the site into North America’s first battery park for refining nickel, copper, lithium, manganese and graphite.

Brixton chairman and chief executive officer Gary Thompson said Langis is a cornerstone asset that deserves further drilling and more investors.

“The Langis project offers great potential for silver, cobalt and nickel,” Thompson said. “We welcome potential joint venture partners to reach out regarding this unique opportunity.”

Brixton says the cobalt and silver mineralization at Langis appear to be derived from separate mineralizing systems, although the host veins commonly share structures and can occur together frequently. Cobalt occurs as cobaltite and other nickel carbonyl arsenides and sulpharsenides in quartz-calcite veins, the company says.

The mineralization is hosted in three main rock types: Archean Keewatin volcanic and metasedimentary rocks, Proterozoic Coleman Member sedimentary rocks of the Huronian Supergroup and Proterozoic Nipissing diabase, Brixton said.

In May 2020, the company announced bonanza-grade silver assays at Langis. Drill hole 20-83 in the Shaft 3 area of the old mine intersected 5 metres grading 1,293.34 grams silver per tonne from 11 metres downhole.

Shares in Brixton gained 1.8% on Tuesday in Toronto, valuing the company at C$104.7 million.

Barrick responds to rights abuse allegations in Tanzania

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 12:35

Barrick Gold (NYSE: GOLD) (TSX: ABX) on Tuesday issued a statement in response to claims of alleged rights abuses in Tanzania.

Twenty-one Tanzanian nationals filed a lawsuit in Ontario Supreme Court on November 21 against Barrick for alleged human rights violations at the company’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania.

It is the first time the Canadian gold giant has faced legal action in its home country for alleged abuses abroad, but it has faced prior allegations in the UK in 2020. The claimants were assisted by two non-profit organizations, RAID and Miningwatch Canada, and were represented by British law firm Hugh James.

In the statement, Barrick said it understood that the Leigh Day law firm, in conjunction with corporate watchdog RAID, has brought or intends to bring a claim in the UK against the London Bullion Market Association in connection with the alleged killings of two individuals in the vicinity of the North Mara gold mine in Tanzania by police acting on its behalf. Barrick said it is not a party to these proceedings.

Barrick chief executive Mark Bristow said the group was proud of its human rights record around the world and of North Mara’s strong working relationship with the communities around the mine.

Many of the mine’s employees have been drawn from the surrounding villages and in line with Barrick’s other operations, Barrick said, adding that North Mara prioritizes local employment and procurement.

“While the vast majority of local residents are law-abiding, there are rogue bands, armed and well-organised, who from time to time invade North Mara to steal gold-bearing rock, presenting a serious risk to the safety of mine personnel and community members in the process,” Bristow said.

“As recently as last month, North Mara was attacked by an armed force of almost 100 men. Despite the police’s attempts to repel them, 71 managed to scale the site’s 9-metre-high perimeter wall and engaged with the mine’s unarmed security personnel,” Bristow said.

“The police eventually removed them but one of the invaders suffered fatal injuries. Two of the policemen were also injured. This was far from being a once-off occurrence. North Mara lives with the constant threat of such invasions.”

Bristow said Barrick had made it clear that North Mara’s security personnel are unarmed and that the mine does not supervise, direct, control or instruct any mission, assignment or function of the Tanzanian police force, which is a state institution.

RAID’s involvement called into question

Bristow said Barrick was troubled by RAID’s involvement in the litigation and claimed the organisation had a long history of making unfounded allegations about purported human rights abuses at North Mara.

Barrick was also concerned that vulnerable members of the local communities could be persuaded to make legally meritless claims outside their country in the hope of obtaining compensation.

“RAID does not have a presence in Tanzania and has shown no inclination to visit the mine, despite the personal invitations I have extended to them, most recently in July this year,” Bristow said.

Last month a planned visit was cancelled 48 hours before RAID was expected on site, Barrick noted, adding that it remains willing to host such a visit so that RAID can raise their concerns with the mine’s management, the police, local administrators and community leaders.

“It is worth noting that in a recent meeting we had with the leaders of the eleven villages around North Mara, they said they had no knowledge of RAID or the work it purports to do in their communities, and rejected the organization[‘s] allegations as baseless,” Bristow said.

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