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Piedmont shares up on inaugural revenue and profit

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 09:20
Piedmont Lithium plans to start construction of its proposed plant in Tennessee next year. Credit: Piedmont Lithium

Piedmont Lithium (NASDAQ: PLL; ASX: PLL) recorded adjusted net income of $17 million and adjusted net earnings a share of $0.88 during the third quarter of 2023.

During the period, the company made its first customer shipments under an offtake agreement with North American Lithium (NAL), becoming a revenue-generating lithium company, reporting revenue of $47.1 million on sales of 29,011 dry metric tons (dmt) of lithium concentrate.

Piedmont Lithium CEO Keith Phillips said production is ramping up well.

“While we are pleased with Piedmont’s operational and financial performances, our results were materially impacted by the 45% decline in spot lithium prices during the quarter,” Phillips said in a statement.

“Virtually all of our offtake tonnage will eventually be sold under long-term contracts announced earlier this year, but initial shipments are being made on the spot market.”

Benchmark spodumene concentrate price fell from more than $3,500/dmt at the start of the quarter to approximately $1,900/dmt.

Momentum builds for Piedmont Lithium’s ambitious production plans as portfolio expands in Africa

Piedmont expects to have two shipments in the fourth quarter and to confirm its previous full-year outlook of shipping approximately 56,500 dmt of lithium concentrate.

Shares of Piedmont rose 2.33% by 12:16 a.m. EDT on the Nasdaq. The lithium developer has a market capitalization of $543 million.

The Australian company, redomiciled to the US, aims to become one of the world’s lowest cost producers of lithium hydroxide, and says it is the most strategically located to serve the fast-growing North American electric vehicle supply chain, with operations already established in the US and Canada.

Piedmont took centre stage in the junior lithium space in 2020, when its stock surged almost 84% in a day’s trading in Sydney after it confirmed it had signed a sales agreement with Tesla to supply the electric vehicle maker with high-purity lithium ore mineral for up to ten years.

Rio Tinto, Codelco partner to find more copper in Chile

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 06:13

Mining giant Rio Tinto (ASX, LON: RIO) and Chilean state copper miner Codelco created on Wednesday the Nuevo Cobre (New Copper) joint venture to explore and potentially develop assets in the country’s northern Atacama region.

The deal, inked in Tokyo by Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm and Codelco chairman Máximo Pacheco, unites the two companies’ complementary experience and capabilities, they said.

Rio Tinto also announced it had completed the purchase of Pan American Silver’s (TSX, NYSE: PAAS) stake in Agua de la Falda (ADLF) property, which holds the historical Jeronimo project in the Atacama region and several adjoining concessions.

Rio’s acquisition of a a 57.74% stake in ADLF paves the way for the companies to kick off their joint exploration work at the asset, as the Chilean miner has the remaining 42.26%.

Agua de la Falda has previously been explored for precious metals with minimal modern exploration for copper. Rio Tinto’s studies indicate it is prospective for new copper discoveries, which will now be the focus of the joint venture with Codelco.

“Chile is one of the most important sources of the copper and other critical minerals the world needs to deliver the energy transition and achieve net zero,” Stausholm said. “With this partnership, we are bringing together Codelco’s second-to-none expertise and local knowledge and our global track record in exploration.”

The partnership builds on a collaboration agreement between the two companies signed last year, which aimed at encouraging innovations and technology to improve safety, productivity and environmental, social and governance outcomes in underground mining.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm and Codelco chairman Máximo Pacheco formalize JV deal. (Image courtesy of Codelco.)

Scientists propose plan to improve confidence in hydrogen-fueled vehicles

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 05:15

Consumer confidence in driving hydrogen-fueled vehicles could be improved by having station operators adopt a predictive model that helps them anticipate maintenance needs.

A new study by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Colorado State University shows that the use of what is known as a prognostics health monitoring (PHM) model would allow hydrogen stations to reduce the number of times they shut down for unscheduled maintenance.

“Motorists expect to be able to fuel their vehicles without any problems. We want to ensure motorists who drive hydrogen-fueled cars have the same experience,” said Jennifer Kurtz, lead author of the paper, which appeared in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. “This predictive model can let station operators know in advance when a problem might occur and minimize any disruptions that motorists might experience with hydrogen fueling.”

The article posits the PHM model would improve station availability and consumer confidence. At present, hydrogen fuel is not as ubiquitous as gasoline, a fact reflected in the number of stations that dispense the low-emission fuel.

As an example, the authors pointed out that California has more than 10,000 gasoline stations, while the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership counts just 59 retail hydrogen stations across the state.

“With relatively few choices, motorists who rely on hydrogen must be confident their needed fuel is available. Station operators must make any necessary repairs to meet the demands of consumers, but they also must investigate the causes of any failures to avoid future problems,” the researchers said.

Common issues

Data from the National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center reveals the single most common reason hydrogen stations shut down for unscheduled maintenance is problems with the dispenser system, which encompasses such items as the hoses and dispenser valves as well as the user interface. By using a data-based PHM, station operators could reduce the frequency of unscheduled maintenance and increase the frequency of preventive maintenance. The researchers have dubbed this particular PHM “hydrogen station prognostics health monitoring,” or H2S PHM.

The H2S PHM calculates the probability a component will continue working without a failure, based on how many fills the station has completed. The model can also be used to estimate the remaining useful life for each component, thereby lowering maintenance costs and making the stations more reliable. Using a hypothetical example, the researchers considered a dispenser valve that the H2S PHM has flagged as needing attention.

The station operator can then be prepared for upcoming maintenance and schedule a technician to come when the demand for hydrogen is low. That cuts down on how long a station would be unable to fuel vehicles. If the valve were to fail without warning, the station operator would have to call a technician, wait for their arrival and diagnosis of the problem, while at the same time being unable to provide fuel.

Kurtz, the director of NREL’s Energy Conversion and Storage Systems Center, noted that limitations exist when applying H2S PHM to the reliability of a hydrogen station. The method would not predict sudden failures, which can be caused by human error. The H2S PHM is also only as good as the available data, and more data is needed.

Lucapa finds Angola mine’s second-largest diamond

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 03:40

Australia’s Lucapa Diamond (ASX: LOM) has unearthed a 235-carat type IIa diamond from its prolific Lulo mine, the second-largest recovered at the Angola operation since it opened in 2015.

The find comes barely a week after the recovery of a 208-carat diamond at the same mine, which is the third-largest ever recovered from Lulo.

The new diamond was dug up from Mining Block 550, immediately south of Mining Block 19, which Lucapa said is the area that has yielded eight precious rocks over 100 carats to date.

Not surprisingly, the mine is considered the world’s highest dollar-per-carat alluvial diamonds operation, in which Lucapa has a 40% interest. The rest is held by Angola’s national diamond company (Endiama) and Rosas & Petalas, a private entity.

The partners have now recovered 40 diamonds weighing more than 100 carats and four over 200 carats at Lulo. In 2016, only a year after beginning commercial production, Lulo produced the largest ever diamond recovered in Angola — a 404-carat white stone later named the “4th February Stone”.

“Lulo continues to demonstrate it is a prolific producer of large diamonds. To unearth three +100 carat diamonds – with two being over 200 carats in such a short space of time from different areas of the concession, makes us more determined to find the primary source, by dedicating even more resources to the exploration program,” Lucapa managing director, Nick Selby, said in the statement.

Angola is the world’s fifth diamond producer by value and sixth by volume. Its industry, which began a century ago under Portuguese colonial rule, is successfully lessening government regulations and restrictions in favour of a greater participation by private entities.

Ukraine’s new Mine Action Centre to train 3,000 deminers with investment from Metinvest

Tue, 11/07/2023 - 16:23

Ukraine’s State Transport Special Service, a specialized military unit of the Ministry of Defence, this week opened a new Mine Action Centre in the Chernihiv region.

The Mine Action Centre is a new response to the challenge of massive mine contamination during the war. Ukraine has become the most heavily mined country in the world because of the hostilities, so there is an immediate need to certify, educate and train sappers and demining specialists.

The area of mine-contaminated de-occupied territory is currently around 45,000 square kilometres, and it will increase by around 190,000 square kilometres after the complete de-occupation of Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine-headquartered mining company Metinvest Group partnered to help fund the centre’s construction through the United 24 state fundraising platform. One of the Mine Action Centre’s main tasks will be vocational training of sappers.

The plan is to train more than 3,000 specialists to perform humanitarian demining of areas left heavily contaminated with explosive ordnance in the aftermath of fighting. Metinvest’s financial support has helped to build the centre’s main administrative building. The Group has invested UAH9.5 million ($260,000) to fund the construction.

“Mine clearance of Ukraine’s territory after the war is one of the biggest challenges that our society will face. Thousands of homes, estates, fields and businesses, like our Azovstal, bear these consequences of war,” Metinvest Group CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov said in a statement.

“This is why investing to open the Mine Action Centre in the Chernihiv region is the next step that Metinvest Group and its shareholder are taking in a major project to assist in the demining of Ukraine, as part of which we are already producing mine trawls for tanks. I strongly believe that systematic approaches to mine action should be implemented throughout Ukraine,” said Ryzhenkov.

The Mine Action Centre will plan, organize and coordinate mine action activities, inform the population about the risks associated with mines and explosive remnants of war, and train and certify mine action operators.

“Two years ago, a capsule was laid in the foundation of the modern office building that stands before us today thanks to the State Transport Service’s partners, United 24 and Metinvest Group,” said Colonel Yevhen Biriukov, head of the Mine Action Centre.

“The centre was created to plan, organize and coordinate mine action activities. Today, the centre certifies mine action operators, inspects the quality of demined areas, manages information and provides scientific support for mine action. We also inform the public about the risks associated with explosive ordnance,” said Biriukov.

The launch of the centre will improve the efficiency of the demining quality management system and the inspection of demined areas. The centre also certifies mine action operators and processes, engages demining teams in areas contaminated by explosive ordnance, and provides scientific and technical support for mine action.

USGS provides $2 million to states to identify critical mineral potential in mine waste

Tue, 11/07/2023 - 15:22

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has invested more than $2 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in cooperative agreements with 14 states to study the potential for critical mineral resources in mine waste and measure the potential for critical minerals that might exist in that mine waste.

Mining produces a lot of waste. In addition to topsoil, waste rock, and other materials that are removed to get to the ore, which is the rock that contains a potentially profitable concentration of a particular mineral commodity, the valuable minerals are generally a very small percentage of the ore that is mined. Concentrating the valuable minerals during initial processing leaves behind what are called tailings, which are frequently discarded and stored at the mine site while the valuable minerals are taken away for further processing.

This funding will allow the USGS and these states to better map the locations of mine waste and measure the potential for critical minerals.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a $510.7 million investment to the USGS to advance scientific innovation and map critical minerals, including through USGS’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (MRI), a partnership between the USGS and state geological surveys to modernize understanding of the nation’s fundamental geologic framework and improve knowledge of domestic critical mineral resources both in the ground and in mine waste.

Earth MRI is investing $74 million per year, of which $64 million comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“These agreements are allowing us and the states to take a second look at places that were once known for their mineral production to see if there might yet be some new critical mineral potential, just waiting to be found,” Darcy McPhee, program manager for Earth MRI, said in a media statement.

In the past, mines in the United States have focused on metals that are reliably profitable, such as gold, silver, iron, copper, lead and zinc. However, many newer technologies such as renewable energy generation, electric vehicle batteries, and consumer electronics rely on small amounts of mineral commodities that are often rarer in the Earth’s crust and are frequently unprofitable to mine by themselves.

In some cases, these rare mineral commodities occur alongside the traditionally profitable metals. Historical mines extracted metals that were profitable at the time, but not the rare mineral commodities like cobalt and indium and other critical minerals. Because those minerals weren’t needed then, they were often left in the tailing piles.

Now, with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the USGS and state geological surveys are taking a second look at this mine waste for critical mineral potential.

The USGS has started by creating a national mine waste inventory that identifies where mine waste exists on the landscape. Using the USMIN database, USGS scientists have plotted the location of historic mine features, including known tailing piles, along with which minerals were produced there.

Funding from these new cooperative agreements is allowing states like Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington to add data from their own mine waste inventories to the national inventory.

Once the locations of mine waste are known, research is needed to determine whether critical minerals can be found in the tailings and, if so, how they might be produced and what effects producing them might have on local ecosystems and communities.

Funding from these new cooperative agreements will allow states like Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina and Washington to collect samples from tailing sites, create geologic maps and analyze the surrounding area to see what the potential for critical minerals in their mine waste might be.

New Found Gold considers toll mill to cut years from Queensway project timeline

Tue, 11/07/2023 - 13:17
New Found Gold is finding high grade deposits on both sides of the Appleton fault. Credit: New Found Gold

New Found Gold (TSXV: NFG; NYSEA: NFGC) is preparing for a decision early next year on whether to truck ore from Newfoundland and Labrador’s leading exploration project to an existing mill, an option that could shave four years from getting to market.

If the Vancouver-based company goes ahead, it will aim to file a preliminary economic assessment by mid-year, CEO Collin Kettell said by phone on Tuesday. The study would evaluate sending truckloads from the Queensway project in central Newfoundland to the idled Maritime Resources (TSXV: MAE) Pine Cove mill 250 km away, he said.

“We’re exploring the internal scoping study right now,” Kettell said. “We’re looking at an initial few years of mining, limited throughput, but potentially something that could have significant impacts for New Found on a cash flow basis and move us in the direction of full-scale mining.”

New Found Gold has been reporting double-digit gold grams per tonne in scores of news releases all year as it wraps up an initial 500,000 metre drilling program. Its Keats West and Iceberg zones at Queensway are the nexus of a gold surge along the Appleton fault in Newfoundland. The region has attracted Sprott Asset Management, Labrador Gold (TSXV: LAB), Exploits Discovery (TSXV: NFLD) and Marathon Gold (TSX: MOZ) among others.

Studies and a permit for using the mill might take two years, Kettell said. That compares with a normal industry timeline taking three years to get a permit to build a project plus two more years to construct it, he said.

“Time is money,” Kettell said. “That’s a big difference between a five-to six-year timeline and potentially a couple year timeline on the phased approach.”

Drill results

In October alone, the company reported Keats West drill hole NFGC-22-931 intersected 17.1 grams gold per tonne over 11.35 metres and 1.82 grams over 40 metres, while Monte Carlo drill hole NFGC-23-1690 cut 91.9 grams over 2 metres.

New Found and Maritime signed a preliminary agreement. The mill handled gold about a year ago. Queensway’s high grades protect the trucking option, the CEO said.

“A lot of toll milling operations don’t work because the grade doesn’t support it and we’re in a unique situation where we tend to have some very high grades,” he said. “Even if it was farther, we don’t think it would probably impact the economics that much.”

Maritime’s mine has a 1,400-tonne-per-day capacity that would be enough to handle Queensway’s initial production in a first phase, Kettell said. The phased approach to the potential concept could see New Found eventually building its own mill on site at some point, but that would be determined by further economic studies, the CEO said.

Last week, New Found raised C$56 million in a share offering. It has C$71 million in cash on hand, it said. Shares in New Found Gold fell C$0.03 on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto to C$5.09 apiece, valuing the company at C$914.2 million.

The company says it plans to continue drilling next year with a focus on targets of prospective mineralization identified by this year’s 3-D seismic surveys.

“The hope is that that is going to outline several targets, deeper down and potentially periphery to the faults,” Kettell said. “We most certainly will not stop drilling.”

NGen launches program to support Canada’s development of lunar mining solutions

Tue, 11/07/2023 - 12:07

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) has launched its Moonshot 4 Mining, Minerals and Manufacturing (M4M3) initiative, a C$5.5 million program designed to support the development of novel in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) solutions for mining, minerals and manufacturing for both lunar and terrestrial environments.

NGen is the industry-led not-for-profit organization that leads Canada’s Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing. Its mandate is to help build world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities for the benefit of Canadians.

The organization seeks projects with dual-use applications that will strengthen Canada’s technological leadership in space and help revitalize the long-term competitiveness of the nation’s most important industrial sectors.

The M4M3 program is expected lead to next-generation innovations that help tackle the challenges of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon, leveraging Canada’s strengths in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum sensing, and additive manufacturing that can then be re-applied back on earth.

These innovations will have direct and positive impacts on environmental sustainability, productivity, talent and job creation in Canada’s mining, energy, and advanced manufacturing sectors, NGen said.

This initiative is undertaken with the financial support of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) following an announcement of opportunity. NGen’s call for projects will support ISRU solutions and commercialization in the following areas: mining, critical minerals and manufacturing.

“NGen wants to draw on Canada’s expertise in space and advanced manufacturing technologies to build world-leading solutions for lunar resource development while contributing to the competitiveness of Canada’s critical manufacturing and mining sectors,” NGen NGen Jayson Myers said a statement.

“New solutions are needed for these dual-purpose applications that promise to put Canada at the forefront of industrial innovation in space and on earth.”

Antofagasta’s Twin Metals appeals dismissed lawsuit over Minnesota copper-nickel project

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 12:30

Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Antofagasta plc, filed a notice of appeal on Friday in the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit following dismissal of its lawsuit by a US District Court Judge in September.

This is the latest in series of court actions that dealt Twin Metals’ namesake copper nickel project significant blows.

In 2019, Chilean miner Antofagasta, through Twin Metals, carried out a feasibility study for the project, an underground copper-nickel mine and processing facility along the shores of Birch Lake and the South Kawishiwi River, which lie in the Rainy River watershed. Twin Metals said it has spent more than 13 years in northeast Minnesota conducting extensive environmental, engineering, exploration, hydrogeological and community engagement work.

In 2021, the US Forest Service proposed a 20-year ban on mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters region, a step that would block effectively block the project. The company called the moves by US President Joe Biden’s administration, which also rejected the Chile-based company’s lease applications, politically motivated.

Twin Metals sued the US government in 2022 in a bid to revive the proposed mine, which, if built, would be a major US source of copper and nickel, two metals crucial for the green energy transition. The only existing nickel mine in the US, the Eagle mine in Michigan, is set to close by 2025.

Early this year, the US Interior Department officially blocked mining in part of northeast Minnesota for 20 years in a step officials said is needed to protect the state’s vast network of interconnected waterways.

The Interior Secretary signed an order withdrawing 225,504 acres in the Superior National Forest from leasing to mining or geothermal companies through 2043 after a coalition of businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups in the state went to court challenging a Trump administration’s decision that opened the door to a copper, nickel and platinum project.

In its latest appeal, Twin Metals said it is defending its long-held mineral leases in northeast Minnesota from what it called “unlawful federal agency action”.

This week, Twin Metals had announced the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources authorized its exploration plan.

“Twin Metals is committed to securing its federal mineral rights, which are essential to our transition to a clean energy future,” chief project officer Francisco Awad said in a statement. “We can both safely mine for critical minerals and protect our environment. Let’s allow for the environmental review process to demonstrate that.”

“Twin Metals is steadfastly dedicated to the communities of northeast Minnesota, which is why we are filing an appeal to challenge the dismissal of our federal mineral lease lawsuit,” Awad said. “We look forward to continuing to pursue the tremendous opportunities our region holds through our vast untapped mineral resources.”

CMS: Streaming could jump-start critical mineral finance, Smallwood says

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 12:19

The metals streaming finance model pioneered by Wheaton Precious Metals (TSX: WPM; NYSE: WPM) could be ideal for early-stage critical mineral developers to shore up their treasuries in difficult markets, president and CEO Randy Smallwood told a recent industry event.

The executive, who just concluded a three-year stint serving as the chair of the World Gold Council (WGC), argues that traditional financing models have often been restrictive, especially for projects in their early stages, making it difficult for them to advance to production.

“The nice part about the streaming model is we can adapt it and make it fit so that it makes the most sense in terms of getting that mine built,” Smallwood said during The Northern Miner’s recent Canadian Mining Symposium in London. “That’s the advantage of the streaming model: we can actually adjust our terms to ensure that the project gets built and we can bring in partners.”

The metals streaming financing model, which began in 2004, provides upfront capital to mining companies, enabling them to initiate and sustain operations. In return, the financiers secure the right to buy a portion of the future production at a predetermined price.

This arrangement ensures that mining projects have the necessary funds to navigate through exploration, feasibility studies and eventually reach production. That can be particularly helpful for rare minerals critical to technological advancement that investors may overlook.

Wheaton Precious’ forerunner, Wheaton River Minerals, developed the model to first focus on exchanging upfront capital for silver by-products from mainly gold projects. Later it expanded the scope to include by-product gold streams, mainly from copper developments. In recent years, however, it has expanded the portfolio further by taking critical mineral streams such as a portion of cobalt by-product from Vale’s (NYSE: VALE) Voisey’s Bay nickel redevelopment in northeastern Canada. The portfolio has also expanded to capture platinum-group metals streams.

Critical minerals include rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and others, considered indispensable to modern technology, clean energy solutions, and national security. The minerals are central to manufacturing high-tech devices, renewable energy technologies, electric vehicles, and various defence applications.

Wheaton Precious’ proactive approach can mitigate supply risks, foster innovation and propel sustainable development initiatives into the future, Smallwood suggested.

The company, with a market capitalization at Thursday’s market close of $26.9 billion, primarily targets projects with bankable feasibility studies and permits. However, they’ve also introduced a funding model tailored for firms in the ‘orphan period’ of the Lassonde Curve. This phase, bridging the initial market enthusiasm post-discovery and the onset of building, sees proven discoveries needing substantial investments for economic and environmental evaluations and construction.

“On the development side, we’ve developed the early deposit model, which really works for a lot of these earlier stage projects,” Smallwood said. “We will supply some capital in advance of permits, in advance of feasibility.”.

While the corporate development team continues to scour the globe for suitable deals, Wheaton Precious comes off an intense 30 months which saw it deploy around US$2 billion into new investments. Smallwood expects these investments to drive a production increase over the next five years, from 600,000-660,000 oz. gold-equivalent to 810,000 oz., and average about 850,000 oz. gold-equivalent over the next decade. Its share price increased by more than 40% over the last 12 months to close at $59.43 on Thursday.

Digital gold

The conversation ranged from the role of blockchain in gold trading to the prospects of a gold-backed digital currency. He shared insights on how blockchain technology can ensure transparency and traceability in gold trading, instilling confidence among investors and stakeholders.

“Tell me there’s not a market for gold that you can trust,” said Smallwood.

Smallwood also noted that initiatives like the Gold Bar Integrity program led by the WGC are making strides. At the the council’ss September annual general meeting, members representing over 60% of global gold production committed to integrating these advancements into their systems.

ESG concerns

The session also highlighted the myriad geopolitical challenges and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations involved in mining investments. Smallwood discussed Wheaton Precious’ strategic approach towards identifying global opportunities.

He stressed that the company actively seeks projects worldwide while exercising caution and due diligence in evaluating the political climate and ethical considerations in different jurisdictions. Wheaton Precious takes a particularly conservative stance, ensuring their investments align with stringent ESG criteria.

For instance, the company deems certain regions, such as Russia and China, non-investable due to associated risks while exploring others, like Australia and Africa, with a discerning eye.

Monarch Mining stock plunges as Quebec fund may seize Beaufor mine

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 11:51

Monarch Mining (TSX: GBAR) shares plummeted on Friday after a giant Quebec government fund recalled C$10 million in loans.

Investissement Québec, which finances some 1,600 economic projects of all kinds in the province with more than C$2.3 billion, may seize Monarch’s primary asset, the past-producing Beaufor mine, Monarch said in a release on Friday. The company said it is assessing its options.

The stock traded at half a cent apiece on Friday afternoon, after opening the session at C$0.015. Its market value fell to C$1.2 million. For the year, Monarch’s shares were down by 93%.

Beaufor, about 20 km northeast of Val-d’Or in the Abitibi gold belt, is currently on care and maintenance. Monarch’s other assets include the McKenzie Break and Swanson properties, all located near Monarch’s Beacon mill with a design capacity of 750 tonnes per day. The mill is also under care and maintenance.

In total, Monarch owns approximately 143 sq. km of assets across the Abitibi region, hosting a combined measured and indicated gold resource of 478,982 oz. and inferred resource of 383,393 oz.

The company sold its Croinor gold property this year to Probe Gold (TSX: PRB) for C$4.5 million in cash and shares. That project had a measured and indicated resource of 187,900 oz. at 6.47 grams gold per tonne and inferred mineral resource of 39,800 oz. at 6.19 grams gold.

South Dakota Mines joins Universities Research Association

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 11:14

South Dakota Mines (SDM) announced this week it has been elected to the Universities Research Association (URA), whose mission is to “establish and operate – in the national interest – unique laboratories and facilities for research, development and education in the physical and biological sciences to expand the frontiers of knowledge, foster innovation and promote the education of future generations of scientists.”

The URA has been involved in several complex scientific endeavors, including the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which is being constructed at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, SD. 

Together with the University of Chicago, the URA operates the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, the institution responsible for the DUNE project.

“That is certainly a large part of why the Universities Research Association was so interested in us joining,” Richard Schnee, physics professor at South Dakota Mines said in a statement. “DUNE is going to be, by many different measures, the largest science experiment in the United States. We have three excellent young faculty in our physics department working on DUNE.”

The URA was interested in adding expertise to the DUNE project not only in physics, but also engineering, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. These are areas that have been expanded at SDM.

“There are opportunities for faculty to collaborate with experts at Fermilab and take advantage of a lot of the infrastructure and facilities that the national labs have that are not possible here on campus,” Schnee said, adding that the URA is an excellent opportunity for SDM faculty researchers to get involved with other experts across the nation.

The URA and Fermilab have grants to pay salary and travel expenses for faculty, research scientists, students and postdoctoral fellows to work at Fermilab. The URA runs a similar program with Sandia National Laboratory.

There are over 90 research organizations within the URA, including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and the University of Michigan. South Dakota Mines is the only South Dakota university that is a member.

Argonaut Gold’s Magino is Canada’s newest producer despite soaring costs, delay

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 10:44

Argonaut Gold (TSX: AR) has achieved commercial production at its Magino mine in northern Ontario after construction costs almost doubled to nearly C$1 billion and a mill problem postponed output by over a month.

The Reno, Nev.-based company estimated the mine, northeast of Lake Superior, would cost C$510 million to build in 2020 but inflation and other challenges increased the final tally to C$980 million.

After it poured first gold at Magino on June 15, production was delayed by a month while a mill was repaired, causing Argonaut to miss this year’s guidance. It also forced it to sell another output stream to Franco-Nevada (TSX: FNV; NYSE: FNV), which now holds a 3% net smelter return royalty.

BMO Capital Markets said Argonaut stock has near-term positivity as production ramps up although Argonaut will miss BMO’s estimate of producing 57,000 gold-equivalent oz. this year.

The mine, which started commercial production on Wednesday, achieves Argonaut’s vision of “becoming a low-cost, mid-tier North American gold producer that delivers value to all stakeholders,” president and CEO Richard Young said in a news release on Thursday. He told The Northern Miner in September that production was targeted for the end of the third quarter.

Long road to production

The project has overcome a series of setbacks related to inflation and supply issues since it acquired Magino in 2012. It began building the mine in 2020, when development costs were pegged around $510 million. Capex rose three more times until 2023, including in December 2021, prompting the ouster of Argonaut’s founder, president and CEO Peter Dougherty.

In June 2022, Argonaut closed an offering of 434 million common shares at C$0.45 apiece, giving it gross cash of C$195.3 million for financing construction at Magino. It also inked a $250 million debt financing agreement with a syndicate of lenders to help it refinance its existing debt and pay for Magino’s development and expansion.

The final estimate for Magino currently sits at C$980 million, according to Argonaut’s first quarter financial results, in May. But Young said he doesn’t expect costs to go up again and that the capital inflation risk is “now behind us.”

Despite its delays, Argonaut aims to take Magino through an expansion plan that it hopes will make it the lowest-cost producer in Canada within three years, as it targets $576 per oz. in all-in sustaining costs, doubling milling capacity to 2,400 tonnes per day and more than doubling annual production to 287,000 ounces. It has a mine life of 19 years.

Argonaut’s looking at Alamos Gold‘s (TSX: AGI; NYSE: AGI) neighbouring Island Gold mine to see what it can learn for its expansion, Young said. Located just east of Magino, and inside the prospective Archean Greenstone Belt, Island hosts 4.2 million proven and probable tonnes grading 10.8 grams gold per tonne for 1.5 million oz. contained metal, with a mine life of 17 years.

Sale to boost balance sheet

As a result of the delay, Argonaut plans to sell to Franco-Nevada its non-core royalty holdings in Canada and Mexico for an aggregate price of $29.5 million, as well as an additional 1% net smelter return royalty (NSR) on Magino. After that transaction closes, Franco-Nevada will hold an aggregate 3% NSR on Magino.

Argonaut has been considering selling its Mexican assets, due to their high costs and short mine lives, Young said. Those projects, which have been the company’s production mainstay since 2009 include three producing gold-silver mines and one exploration project. Young declined to give a price estimate for the assets.

Third quarter consolidated production at Magino came to 53,911 gold-equivalent oz., including pre-commercial production of 10,693 gold-equivalent ounces. Full year production for Magino won’t meet the guidance laid out at the beginning of the year due to the delayed ramp-up to commercial production.

20-day delay

Plant commissioning and ramp-up had risen from 50% to 80% of nameplate capacity during the summer, putting the schedule on track for commercial production by September.

However, the ramp-up was delayed by 20 days due to unplanned downtime related to issues with the ball and SAG mills, which contractors and suppliers helped resolve, said chief operating officer Marc Leduc. “We are systematically centralizing all control functionality,” he said. “The plant has been largely operating at nameplate capacity since the beginning of the quarter.”

Argonaut said it’s on track to meet its full year consolidated production of 200,000 to 230,000 gold-equivalent oz. and all in sustaining cost guidance of $1,625-1,725 per oz. set at the start of the year.

BMO Capital Markets gold analyst Brian Quast said in a note on Friday that the third quarter total production at Magino fell short of BMO’s estimate of 57,000 gold-equivalent oz. and consensus of 59,000 gold-equivalent ounces. Argonaut’s pre-commercial production was also below BMO’s estimate of 24,000 gold-equivalent ounces.

With Argonaut’s guidance at Magino, Quast said his updated estimate forecasts annual gold-equivalent production of 202,000 ounces. Quast said he sees positive stock upside in the near term as production ramps up and he maintains an outperform rating and a C$1.00 target price. The shares were down 3.7% to C$0.52 apiece on Friday at mid-day in Toronto, valuing the company at C$449.6 million. Its shares traded in a 52-week range of C$0.32 and C$0.77.

Magino hosts proven and probable reserves of 63.3 million tonnes grading 1.16 grams gold per tonne for 2.4 million oz. gold, according to a resource update in March. Measured and indicated resources total 150.8 million tonnes grading 0.94 gram gold per tonne for 4.5 million ounces, inclusive of reserves.

It had been mined periodically since the mid-1920s, producing 114,319 oz. metal from 803,135 tonnes of ore that graded 4.43 grams gold per tonne.

Ascot drills highest-grade gold intercept since 2015; shares rise

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 09:26

BC-focused explorer Ascot Resources (TSX: AOT) on Friday reported the third batch of assay results from its 2023 drill program at the Premier gold project, focusing on the Big Missouri deposit located approximately 6 kilometres north of the Premier mill.

The company’s focus is to restart the processing plant at Premier, at one point was named North America’s largest gold mine. The project houses three deposits – Silver Coin, Big Missouri and Premier – situated near the processing facility of the historic mine.

Underground mine development commenced at Big Missouri in 2022, and crews are currently mining and stockpiling mineralized material as development advances.

In addition to mining these deposits, Ascot is also conducting drilling on a number of precious metals discoveries on its 25,000 hectares of mineral concessions, all located within the Golden Triangle of northwestern British Columbia.

Drilling for the 2023 exploration season at the Big Missouri deposit was conducted from early August until this past week, during which time 72 holes were drilled from surface for a total of 6,539 metres.

Headlining the new assays is the highest-grade intercept from drilling the entire property since 2015: 691.5 g/t gold over 0.9 metre, contained within an interval of 98.84 g/t gold over 6.48 metres from a depth of 51.5 metres. It also represents the all-time second highest-grade drill intercept at Big Missouri.

Also included in the results are: 22.3 g/t gold over 9.72 metres from a depth of 58.3 metres, including 98.1 g/t gold over 1.91 metres; and 17.72 g/t gold over 5.65 metres from a depth of 21.4 metres, including 31.9 g/t gold over 1.6 metres.

“With underground mine development at Big Missouri having started last year, this is an opportune time to have intercepted some of the highest-grade gold mineralization in Ascot’s history,” said Derek White, president and CEO of Ascot, in a press release.

“In particular, the 692 gram-per-tonne intercept from hole P23-2490 is located in an area currently scheduled to be mined next year, and as such we are eager to exploit this material early in the mine life,” White noted.

Shares of Ascot surged 9.2% by 12:30 p.m. EDT on the new assay results. The Vancouver-based company has a market capitalization of C$228.7 million.

First Quantum shares up as Panama Congress leaves contract intact

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 09:20

First Quantum Minerals’ (TSX: FM) shares recovered some of the loses from the week on Friday after Panama’s congress eliminated an article in a mining Bill which would have voided the company’s multi-billion dollar copper mining contract.

Lawmakers on Thursday passed a revised Bill that blocks all future mining concessions, including exploration, extraction and transportation of minerals as well as contract renewals in the Central American country. 

The provision to revoke First Quantum’s contract was eliminated and the National Assembly referred the agreement, enshrined in Law 406, to the country’s Supreme Court for a ruling.

Shares jumped more than 12% to C$17.64 in early morning trading in Toronto and were changing hands at C$17.13 in the afternoon. It means the stock has recovered half the value it had a week ago and the loss for the week is down to 27% versus 50% on Wednesday.

Panama Supreme Court to decide First Quantum’s contract fate

Amid the turmoil, characterized by violent protests that brought Panama’s capital city almost to a halt, First Quantum’s Cobre Panama copper mine has not stopped production, the company said on Friday.

“However, like many businesses across Panama, protests, including blockades of key roads, have caused disruptions on site as well as shortages in certain supplies,” First Quantum noted.

BMO Capital Markets said the country would be unlikely to pass a new mining code before a national election next May if the court ruled Law 406 is unconstitutional.

“We do not expect that either First Quantum or the government intends to disrupt mining operations (as it likely didn’t intend to cause temporary mine closure in February), especially into an election when Panama is already facing drought-related disruptions to canal operations,” BMO mining analyst Jackie Przybylowski wrote late Thursday. 

“We expect the mine will continue to operate through this period of uncertainty; revisions to the mining code in 2024 will not be so severe as to justify or force closure. We do see risk to temporary disruptions from protest activities at the port,” Przybylowski said.

First Quantum is Canada’s largest copper producer and its Cobre Panama mine, in production since 2019, contributes almost 5% of the country’s GDP. It also makes up 75% of Panama’s export of goods and has created at least 40,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

Northern Graphite reopens North America’s only producing mine

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 07:31

Canada’s Northern Graphite (TSX-V: NGC) said on Friday it had resumed processing ore at its Lac des Iles (LDI) mine in Quebec, which is North America’s only producing mine of the commodity.

The company said the decision follows rising market demand after China’s curbs on graphite exports. China, the world’s top graphite producer and exporter, said in October that exports of some types of natural and man-made forms of graphite would require permits from December 1. 

Graphite is used in electric vehicles’ (EVs) battery anodes, which is the negatively charged portion of a battery.

The LDI mine and plant were placed on care and maintenance during the second and third quarters of this year, due to challenging market conditions and prices for its products. Northern Graphite continued to supply customers from stockpiled inventories during that time.

Sales at the mines increased more than 25% in the September quarter to 2,587 tonnes from 2,016 tonnes in the previous quarter.

“What we saw starting in the third quarter was that customers were really coming off the sidelines to secure supply for the year after a hiatus in the first half,” chief executive officer Hugues Jacquemin said in the statement.

Jacquemin noted the company has immediate capacity available to supply the market. Northern Graphite also has the ability to scale quickly thanks to its Okanjande mine in Namibia.

Mining People: Golden Independence, Mandalay, Sigma Lithium, Teck, Nickelex, Strathmore

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 06:27
Management changes announced this week:

Warren Robb is now VP exploration at Golden Independence Mining.

Highrock Resources named Carmelo Marrelli its new CFO.

Mandalay Resources appointed Scott Trebilcock as EVP and chief development officer.

Monumental Minerals announced the resignation of CEO Jamil Sader. Michelle DeCecco will serve as interim CEO.

Neo Performance Minerals named Mohamad El-Mahmoud as EVP rate metals.

Sigma Lithium hired Matthew DeYoe as VP corporate affairs and strategic developmentand Alexandre Mattos as Environmental Director.

Teck Resources announced the resignation of Harry “Red” Conger from the post of president and COO. Johnathan Price is the new president.

Director Robert Johnston was named interim CEO of Total Helium.

Board changes:

Aurora Royalties said Tim Earle has resigned his seat on the board.

Jim Kirke joined the board of Caprock Mining.

Nickelex Resource asked Alf Stewart to join the board.

Jelena Burgarin joined the board of Showcase Minerals.

Strathmore Plus Uranium welcomed Jeremy Wiebe to the board.

Lab at underground mine in Australia receives first cosmic radiation signals

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 05:05

The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, located at Arete Capital’s Stawell Gold Mine in Western Victoria, Australia, has received the first transmissions from a muon detector placed 1 kilometre underground.

The muon detector records the amount of cosmic radiation that reaches the lab. Muons are heavier versions of electrons made from the collision of cosmic rays with atoms in earth’s atmosphere.

At this point, low levels of radiation must be recorded to ensure that the environment surrounding the SABRE South experiment, which will be transported to the laboratory in 2024, is as pristine as possible in order to detect dark matter particles.

In its first few days, the muon detector recorded about five signals per day, far lower than the more than 1.8 million interactions that would be expected above ground.

The SABRE South experiment mirrors an experiment in the Northern Hemisphere and will determine whether readings taken by Italian researchers are a result of seasonal fluctuations, or dark matter.

“Our first data collections showed that by building the laboratory 1 kilometre underground in the Stawell Gold Mine, we have managed to reduce the cosmic radiation that will reach our dark matter detector,” Elisabetta Barberio, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics, said in a media statement.

“Our scientists in Melbourne and around Australia will be able to continue to monitor muon levels to ensure cosmic radiation remains low. It is a very significant step in the project that scientists around the world are watching very closely.”

Mineral Resources ups stake in lithium miner Azure Minerals

Fri, 11/03/2023 - 04:05

Australia’s Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) has acquired additional shares in Azure Minerals (ASX: AZS) raising its stake in the battery metals miner to 12.3%.

This comes a week after Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, built up an 18.3% stake in the junior, which is developing the Andover lithium and nickel-copper-cobalt project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. 

The strategic move by Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting aimed at derailing Chilean lithium giant SQM’s (NYSE: SQM) A$1.63 billion ($1bn) bid for Azure, which is still on the table.

Perth-headquartered MinRes began accumulating its stake in Azure in mid-October and has so far invested more than A$210 million in the takeover target. 

MinRes has also boosted its interest in other lithium miners, including Wildcat Resources (ASX: WC8), in which it now holds a 19.85% stake.

MinRes’ other investments in Western Australia’s explorers include deals with Delta Lithium (ASX: DLI), Global Lithium Resources (ASX: GL1) and Essential Metals (ASX: ESS).

A decline in valuations for some lithium producers is making them prime targets for investors trying to find entry points into the clean energy transition and the electric vehicles supply chain trade. 

Shares in Azure have surged 45% to a high of $4.01 since SQM logged its A$3.52 per share takeover bid. The stock closed 4.1% higher on Friday at A$3.85.


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