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Best Maple Gold assays yet widen target at old Agnico Eagle mine in Quebec

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 12:43

Maple Gold Mines (TSXV: MGM) says new assays from the past-producing Eagle mine at its Joutel project in Quebec are the strongest yet and show a wider mineralized corridor than previously thought.

Drill hole EM-22-015 intersected 10.3 grams gold per tonne over 7.8 metres from 228 metres downhole, including 41.1 grams over 1 metre, Maple said in a news release on Monday. Only 20% of the drilling at Eagle last year remains to be reported. Joutel lies 700 km northwest of Montreal in the Abitibi gold belt.

The same hole, which is 60 metres down-plunge from historical high-grade, near-surface drill results, intersected 4.3 grams gold over 3.9 metres from 217.1 metres depth including 6.6 grams gold over 2 metres, the company said.

The Eagle assays reveal gold near surface in concentrations greater than 10 grams per tonne in an area along the north mine horizon that’s had limited drilling and remains open further down-plunge, Maple chief executive officer Matthew Hornor said in the release. The results have widened a mineralized corridor to more than 100 metres and bode well for plans to restart the namesake underground mine that Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) ran as its first operation from 1974 to 1986.

“Drill results continue to support the company’s view that multiple sub-parallel gold horizons exist beyond what was historically mined at Eagle,” Hornor said. “This represents just one of several compelling follow-up targets that we are excited to pursue in 2023.”

Historical results from E-19, the geologically similar hole near EM-22-015, returned 19.6 grams gold per tonne over 7.9 metres and 17.5 grams gold over 5.6 metres, Maple said.

Eagle’s main mine horizon, hosted in mixed epiclastic and pyroclastic rocks of the northern part of the Joutel-Raymond volcanic complex, extends into a sill-like microgabbro occurring close to the Harricana fault, Maple said.

The south mine horizon is in a mix of fine-grained crystal tuffs and laminated sediments hosting most of the gold-bearing semi-massive sulfide mineralization cut by irregular quartz veinlets, according to the company. The north mine horizon is associated with coarser lapilli-tuffs that allowed deposits of abundant matrix sulfide to form, it said.

Last year, Maple bought the Eagle mine from Globex Mining Enterprises (TSX: GMX) for C$2.4 million. Maple holds the adjacent Douay project in a 50:50 joint venture with Agnico Eagle. The JV includes the former Telbel mine in the Joutel project, but not Eagle. Agnico mined Telbel from 1983 to 1993. Telbel and Eagle together produced 1.1 million oz.

The plan to revive Eagle, which lies near the Harricana River, would require draining water that’s seeped into shafts and tunnels over the past 30 years and likely the construction of a water treatment plant. The company needs to conduct a prefeasibility study on the project, Hornor said in an interview with The Northern Miner in November.

Maple’s total indicated resources at Douay and Joutel are 10 million tonnes grading 1.59 grams gold per tonne for 511,000 oz. contained metal, according to an update in March. Another update might come next year, Hornor said in the interview.

He also said Maple was in “advanced and detailed” talks with three potential acquisitions to help it boost its contained gold resources to 5 million oz. from 3 million ounces.

Last month, Maple reported assays showing continuity of the south mine horizon at relatively shallow vertical depths and the broadening of the area’s mineralized zone.

Drill hole EM-22-13 cut 2.3 grams gold per tonne over 10.4 metres, including 5 grams gold over 3.2 metres from 257 metres downhole. Drill hole EM-22-16 returned 3.1 grams gold over 7.3 metres, including 4 grams gold over 3.6 metres from 193 metres depth.

Maple Gold shares rose by more than 4% in early Monday afternoon trading in Toronto, valuing the company at C$81 million ($60.5m).

Top 50 mining companies in 2022: coal, lithium win big, China investors lose out

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 11:16

World’s top 50 mining companies end 2022 rock solid but Chinese stocks slide down the rankings despite surging coal and lithium prices, and Russian miners trading in Moscow finally succumb.

Commodity prices are always volatile, but in 2022 metal and mining markets reached new levels of turbulence, as the pandemic played out in China, inflation plagued the developed world and the Ukraine war upended global energy. 

Copper ended the year more than 20% below the all-time record hit in March, the gold market’s highs and lows during the year were more than $400 apart, lithium prices  continued their exponential run, tin prices collapsed, against all odds coal prices surged to never-seen levels, potash advanced to 14-year peaks, uranium enjoyed the best market since Fukushima and nickel made good on its reputation as the devil’s metal.  

The MINING.COM TOP 50* ranking of the world’s most valuable miners added $165 billion over the course of the fourth quarter erasing steep losses suffered since their March highs.

Collectively, the world’s biggest mining companies are now worth $1.39 trillion, just a shade below the combined market cap at the end of 2021. That compares to a 9% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a nearly 20% decline in the S&P500. 

The year started with a big bang and measured from individual stocks’ 52-week highs – almost all hit in March/April – the top 50 has shrunk by more than $1 trillion. It’s a precipitous decline but compared to other sectors, notably big tech, much of those losses were recouped by the end of the year.

Greenback clapback  

Market cap declines on the LSE, ASX, TSX and elsewhere were compounded by a soaring dollar against all major currencies. 

For instance BHP, which flirted with a $200 billion market cap in April and briefly displaced oil giant Shell as the most valuable stock on the FTSE in a symbolic changing of the guard, is now worth nearly $50 billion less in US dollar terms. 

That compares to a 23% share price gain over 2022 in Sydney for the world’s number one mining company, as Australian investors sought out currency hedges. 

Coal, oil on fire

After spending time outside the top 10 in 2021 Glencore’s position at no. 3 at a valuation of $86 billion now seems secure after a stunning 68% gain on the LSE and a 28% jump in USD terms. 

The Swiss giant is benefitting from a strategy not to ditch coal like its peers – despite growing pressure – and a trading arm making the most of sky high prices for energy.   

Vancouver’s Teck Resources, thanks to its exposure to Canadian oil sands and coal, made it onto the best performer list, joining Chinese heavyweights Shaanxi Coal up over 40% and Yanzhou Coal up a third in value this year in dollar terms despite the weak renminbi. 

Coal India, the world’s number one producer of steam coal, is also enjoying a bull market, up over 38% in 2022. 

Lithium leap

A 150% jump in global average lithium prices in 2022 and record prices for spodumene saw the combined worth of the five lithium companies in the top 50 jump to just shy of $100 billion, despite Pilbara Minerals being pushed out of the ranking.

Lithium producers’ representation in the ranking is likely to grow, with Pilbara Minerals now sitting just outside the top 50 and peers IGO and Allkem also within reach. With such a wide field in Australia and elsewhere, the lithium industry is also ripe for consolidation, particularly with today’s lithium prices moderate and demand continues to expand rapidly over the coming years as expected.    

SQM, the world’s number two producer of the battery raw material gained 10 spots and 60% in value last year. Santiago-based SQM is the second best performer after Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden, a rapidly growing precious and base metal miner and a beneficiary of the kingdom’s push to diversify its economy.   

Chinese chill

A superstrong lithium market was not enough to save China’s Ganfeng and Tianqi from steep losses in 2022 as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen markets remain in turmoil amid a rapidly changing covid environment and warnings about the economic prospects world’s top consumer of commodities. 

Despite coal keeping Shaanxi and Yanzhou deep in the black, underperforming base metal producers Zijin, China Moly and Jiangxi Copper and weakness in electric vehicle raw material producers China Northern Rare Earth and Huayou Cobalt meant that the combined value of Chinese companies in the ranking shrunk by $47 billion over the course of the year.

At $184 billion, the value of the 10 Chinese companies in the top 50 dipped below that of US and Canadian entrants for the first time in years. 

With few listed candidates that could join the top tier at the moment (JDC Moly sits at position 61 and Zhaojin at 71), some M&A and IPOs may be needed to see the country regain its dominance.  

Russian retreat  

While trading on Western markets in Russian stocks have been halted, the country’s miners, much like the rouble and the Moscow Stock Exchange, have defied gravity. But neither have they been able to capitalise on strong nickel, PGM and gold prices.   

Norilsk Nickel, thanks to captive investors on the MCX, is still worth north of $30 billion but its relative weakness to its peers saw it drop out of the top 10 for the first time. The PGM, nickel and copper producer had been the fifth most valuable company at end-June.

Diamond giant Alrosa drops out of the top 50 after falling 16 places during the final quarter while Polymetal appears unlikely to make a return to the top 50 after a dismal year which saw units of the gold miner trading in London sink  77% over the past year.   

A $8 billion decline in market cap over the year places Polyus at number 29 with a valuation of $14.8 billion. The Moscow-headquartered company, which is approaching 3 million ounces of annual output and enjoys the world’s largest gold reserves was knocking at the door of the top 10 as recently as 2020.

Click on table for full-size view:

*NOTES:

Source: MINING.COM, Mining Intelligence, Morningstar, GoogleFinance, company reports. Trading data from primary-listed exchange at December 30, 2022 where applicable, currency cross-rates Jan 3, 2023. 

Percentage change based on US$ market cap difference, not share price change in local currency.

Market capitalization calculated at primary exchange from total shares outstanding, not only free-floating shares. Agnico Eagle market cap change based on combined value of Agnico and Kirkland Lake before merger.

As with any ranking, criteria for inclusion are contentious issues. We decided to exclude unlisted and state-owned enterprises at the outset due to a lack of information. That, of course, excludes giants like Chile’s Codelco, Uzbekistan’s Navoi Mining, which owns the world’s largest gold mine, Eurochem, a major potash firm, Singapore-based trader Trafigura, and a number of entities in China and developing countries around the world.

Another central criterion was the depth of involvement in the industry before an enterprise can rightfully be called a mining company.

For instance, should smelter companies or commodity traders that own minority stakes in mining assets be included, especially if these investments have no operational component or warrant a seat on the board?

This is a common structure in Asia and excluding these types of companies removed well-known names like Japan’s Marubeni and Mitsui, Korea Zinc and Chile’s Copec. 

Levels of operational or strategic involvement and size of shareholding were other central considerations. Do streaming and royalty companies that receive metals from mining operations without shareholding qualify or are they just specialised financing vehicles? We included Franco Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals.

Lithium and battery metals also pose a problem due to the booming market for electric vehicles and a trend towards vertical integration by battery manufacturers and mid-stream chemical companies.  Battery producer and refiner Ganfeng Lithium, for example, is included because it has moved aggressively downstream through acquisitions and joint ventures.   

Vertically integrated concerns like Alcoa and energy companies such as Shenhua Energy where power, ports and railways make up a large portion of revenues pose a problem, as do diversified companies such as Anglo American with separately listed majority-owned subsidiaries. We’ve included Angloplat in the ranking but excluded Kumba Iron Ore in which Anglo has a 70% stake to avoid double counting.

Many steelmakers own and often operate iron ore and other metal mines, but in the interest of balance and diversity we excluded the steel industry, and with that many companies that have substantial mining assets including giants like ArcelorMittal, Magnitogorsk, Ternium, Baosteel and many others.

Head office refers to operational headquarters wherever applicable, for example BHP and Rio Tinto are shown as Melbourne, Australia, but Antofagasta is the exception that proves the rule. We consider the company’s HQ to be in London, where it has been listed since the late 1800s.

Please let us know of any errors, omissions, deletions or additions to the ranking or suggest a different methodology.

Gold price hits 8-month high on Fed slowdown bets

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 09:46

Gold prices hit an eight-month high on Monday, helped by a drop in the US dollar after economic data late last week raised hopes for slower rate hikes from the Federal Reserve going forward.

Spot gold inched 0.3% higher to $1,870.43 per ounce by 12:20 p.m. ET, after reaching an intraday high of $1,880.90 earlier in the session. US gold futures were up by 0.4% to $1,877.50 per ounce.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

Meanwhile, the US dollar slipped 0.8% to its lowest in seven months, making gold cheaper for overseas buyers. Benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields were also hovering near a three-week low.

“Interest rates are looking like they’re going to continue higher. But they do have a limit of what they can do and the market is pricing that in,” said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, in a Reuters note.

“We are also seeing some flight to safety. Technically, gold looks like it has more room to go because it’s been strong through all these resistance points that we continue to see,” he added.

Gold prices jumped nearly 2% on Friday after data showed a moderation in US wage growth and a contraction in activity in services industries in December.

Money market bets show 75% odds of a 25-basis point hike at the Fed’s February policy meeting, with the terminal rate expected just below 5% by June.

Traders now await Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech at a central bank conference in Stockholm on Tuesday and the closely watched US consumer price index data due later this week, which could offer more cues on the rate hike path.

(With files from Reuters)

Ivanhoe hits upper end of 2022 guidance, expects higher output this year after debottlenecking

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 09:08

Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) reported on Monday that its flagship Kamoa-Kakula mining complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produced a total of 333,497 tonnes of copper in concentrate during the past calendar year.

Kamoa-Kakula’s 2022 copper production represents the upper end of the company’s original guidance range of 290,000 to 340,000 tonnes. It also represents a 215% increase over 2021 — its first year of commercial production.

The lower end of the 2022 production guidance was raised to 325,000 tonnes last year following the successful ramp-up of Kamoa Copper’s Phase 2 concentrator plant, which was commissioned several months ahead of schedule and declared commercial production on April 7, 2022.

“Kamoa-Kakula has firmly established a track record of excellence during the development of Phase 1 and Phase 2 operations, which has led to an industry-leading growth profile in terms of copper production that will continue as we bring Phase 3 online,” Ivanhoe’ co-chair Robert Friedland said in a press release.

Friedland said Kamoa-Kakula stands out among its peers as one of the few mining operations worldwide to strongly deliver on its original 2022 production guidance, which he said “is a further testament to the team of engineers and contractors who commissioned the Phase 2 concentrator several months ahead of schedule.”

The 2023 annual production guidance for Kamoa-Kakula is estimated at between 390,000 and 430,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate, following the anticipated completion of the debottlenecking program early in the second quarter of 2023.

The debottlenecking program, which would soon increase the rate of annualized production to 450,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate, is at the moment over 90% complete. All major equipment for the program has been delivered to the site, and the final step of installation will take place over the next few months, with cold commissioning targeted for April 2023.

“With the Phase 3 expansion well on track, including the integration of Africa’s largest single-line blister-copper flash smelter, Kamoa-Kakula is poised to become one of the world’s leading producers of vital copper metal for global markets … a producer that will have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, carbon footprints in the industry,” Friedland added.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2023 integrated development plan, which will include both the Phase 3 and Phase 4 expansions as well as the smelter, is expected to be released later this month, in addition to cash cost and capital expenditure guidance.

Shares of Ivanhoe Mines traded 0.3% lower by noon ET Monday. The Vancouver-based miner has a market capitalization of C$13.9 billion ($10.4bn).

Eskom CEO de Ruyter survives alleged poisoning attempt

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 08:39

South Africa’s power utility Eskom Holdings has revealed that police are investigating an alleged attempt to poison outgoing chief executive Andre de Ruyter.

The company’s boss, who leaves the post at the end of March, said the stated incident happened on December 13, a day before his resignation was made public

De Ruyter became suddenly ill after drinking a cup of coffee that reportedly contained cyanide at his office in Johannesburg, EE Business Intelligence first reported.

Pravin Gordhan, the minister overseeing Eskom and other state companies, on Saturday confirmed that de Ruyter had informed him of the alleged attempt to poison him. “This attempt on his life will be thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be charged,” Gordhan said.

One of the working hypotheses is that those behind the attempted murder did not know that de Ruyter had already quit. The coffee machine at Eskom’s Johannesburg headquarters was out of service, according to a source external to Eskom, quoted by EE Business Intelligence. The executive was served the drink from a different source using his usual mug. He immediately felt dizzy and confused, forgetting familiar words and vomiting.

After taking the post in January 2020, De Ruyter made many enemies as he led a company-wide clampdown on corruption and organized criminal behaviour, including sabotage of infrastructure, at Eskom plants. 

He faced increasing political pressure, which culminated in his departure, after failing to solve a crisis in the company responsible of record levels of power cuts in Africa’s most industrialized economy.

Copper price at over 6-month peak as China reopens border

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 07:48

The copper price jumped to a more than six-month high on Monday as demand prospects brightened after China reopened its borders.

Copper for delivery in March rose 3% on the Comex market in New York, touching $4.03 per pound, or $8,866 per tonne.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange hit its highest since June 23, 2022 at $8,711 earlier in the session.

The most-traded March copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed up 1.5% at 66,090 yuan ($9,750.52) a tonne.

Mainland China opened sea and land crossings with Hong Kong and ended a requirement for incoming travelers to quarantine.

The reopening of China’s borders marks the end of Covid Zero, a strategy that left the world’s second-biggest economy isolated for three years and weighed heavily on the economy.

On Sunday, more than 36,000 people from Hong Kong departed the city via its land borders, all but one of which go directly to mainland China, according to government data. That’s eight times as many as the departures made a day before and the biggest outflow since Feb. 3, 2020, according to government statistics and data compiled by Webb-Site.com.

“The events of last weekend have seemingly changed many people’s views on the global economy…This in turn has led to talk of green shoots of recovery, full steam ahead for the Chinese, and thus the global economy,” Malcolm Freeman, a director at broker Kingdom Futures, said in a note.

The US dollar eased on China’s reopening of its borders and rising hopes that the US Federal Reserve would slow the pace of its interest rate hikes following the December jobs report.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

Researchers solve major issues blocking development of lithium-sulphur batteries

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 06:06

In a new study, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory advanced sulphur-based battery research by creating a layer within the battery that adds energy storage capacity while nearly eliminating a traditional problem with sulphur batteries that caused corrosion.

In their paper, the scientists explain that a promising battery design pairs a sulphur-containing cathode with a lithium metal anode. In between those components is the electrolyte, or the substance that allows ions to pass between the two ends of the battery.

Early lithium-sulphur (Li-S) batteries did not perform well because sulphur species (polysulfides) dissolved into the electrolyte, causing its corrosion. This polysulfide shuttling effect negatively impacts battery life and lowers the number of times the battery can be recharged.

To prevent this polysulfide shuttling, prior research focused on placing a redox-inactive interlayer between the cathode and anode. The term ​“redox-inactive” means the material does not undergo reactions like those in an electrode. But this protective interlayer is heavy and dense, reducing energy storage capacity per unit weight for the battery. It also does not adequately reduce shuttling. 

To address this, the Argonne group developed a porous sulphur-containing interlayer. Tests in the laboratory showed initial capacity about three times higher in Li-S cells with this active, as opposed to inactive, interlayer. More impressively, the cells with the active interlayer maintained high capacity over 700 charge-discharge cycles.

“Previous experiments with cells having the redox-inactive layer only suppressed the shuttling, but in doing so, they sacrificed the energy for a given cell weight because the layer added extra weight,” said Guiliang Xu, a chemist and co-author of the study. ​“By contrast, our redox-active layer adds to energy storage capacity and suppresses the shuttle effect.”

To further understand the redox-active layer, the team conducted experiments at the 17-BM beamline of Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source. The data gathered from exposing cells with this layer to X-ray beams allowed them to ascertain the interlayer’s benefits.

The data confirmed that a redox-active interlayer can reduce shuttling, reduce detrimental reactions within the battery and increase the battery’s capacity to hold more charge and last for more cycles. ​

“These results demonstrate that a redox-active interlayer could have a huge impact on Li-S battery development,” said Wenqian Xu, a beamline scientist at APS. ​“We’re one step closer to seeing this technology in our everyday lives.”

Going forward, the team wants to evaluate the growth potential of the redox-active interlayer technology. ​“We want to try to make it much thinner, much lighter,” Guiliang Xu said.

Anglo Asian Mining invests again in Libero Copper

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 06:03

Gold, copper and silver producer Anglo Asian Mining (LON: AAZ), has made a third investment in Canada’s Libero Copper & Gold (TSX-V: LBC), which focuses on finding copper assets in the Americas.

The Azerbaijan-focussed miner acquired on Monday 2.6 million new Libero shares at 15 Canadian cents each, for a total consideration of C$390,000 (about $291,000).

The investment maintains the company’s share holding at 19.8% of Libero, and forms part of a recently launched private placement by Libero, with gross proceeds of about C$2 million ($1.5m) to be used for exploration at the Mocoa and Esperanza copper porphyry projects in Colombia and Argentina, respectively.

Libero provides Anglo Asian with exposure to significant copper resources, in addition to the company’s fully-owned projects, including the world-class Garadagh resource. 

“With an exciting range of significant copper assets across the Americas, and an experienced management team, we have the utmost confidence in Libero to develop these assets in a swift and responsible manner,” chief executive officer Reza Vaziri said in a statement.

Anglo Asian’s investment in Libero is the first and so far only one the company has made outside of Azerbaijan, where it is the top gold producer.

Anglo Asian is currently at the final stages of developing its medium-term growth strategy, culminating in its transition to becoming a copper focused, mid-tier miner.

Central bank gold buying continues in November as China joins the foray — report

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 06:00

Central banks bought a further 50 tonnes on a net basis during November 2022, representing a 47% increase from October’s (revised) 34 tonnes, the latest World Gold Council data shows.

Of this net total, three central banks accounted for gross buying of 55 tonnes, while two largely contributed to gross sales of 5 tonnes, showing the strength of demand, says WGC.

Source: IMF IFS, Respective Central Banks, World Gold Council

The biggest announcement of the month came from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), which reported an increase of 32 tonnes, the largest reported purchase in November and the first announced increase in its gold reserves since September 2019.

This announcement is significant – according to the WGC – given China’s historic position as a large gold buyer, having accumulated 1,448 tonnes between 2002 and 2019. It remains to be seen whether this is followed up with reports of continued buying in December. At the end of November, PBoC gold reserves stood at 1,980 tonnes (3.4% of total reserves).

The Central Bank of Türkiye continued to buy gold in November, adding a further 19 tonnes to its official reserves (central bank plus Treasury). This lifts its year-to-date net purchases of gold to 123 tonnes – the largest reported by any country – and its official gold reserves to 517 tonnes (27% of total reserves).

The Central Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic added to its gold reserves for the first time this year, buying 3 tonnes in November to increase its total gold reserves to 16 tonnes (+61% YTD).

On the sales side, the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Central Bank of Uzbekistan were the largest sellers. Kazakhstan reduced its gold reserves by around 4 tonnes to 380 tonnes (-5% YTD), while Uzbekistan’s gold reserves fell by almost 2 tonnes to 397 tonnes, 10% higher YTD.

Source: IMF IFS, Respective Central Banks, World Gold Council

“We have noted previously that it is not uncommon for central banks who purchase gold from domestic sources – as both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan do – to also be frequent sellers of gold,” notes Krishan Gopaul, senior analyst EMEA at WGC.

“The central bank sector has been one of the highlights of the gold market in 2022, having bought a net 673 tonnes between Q1 and Q3. Looking ahead to the full year picture, it’s likely that central banks accumulated a multi-decade high level of gold in 2022,” Gopaul adds.

Tianqi, IGO to buy Australian lithium junior Essential Metals

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 05:23

Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia (TLEA), a joint venture between Tianqi Lithium (HKG: 9696) and IGO Ltd (ASX: IGO), has made a A$136 million ($94m) bid to acquire lithium explorer Essential Metals (ASX: ESS) as part of the partners’ plan to expand their footprint into Western Australia.

TLEA, which is 51% owned by China’s Tianqi Lithium and 49% by Australian miner IGO Ltd, set the bid at 50 Australian cents per share.

The sum represents a 36.3% premium to Essential’s 30-day volume weighted average share price, the bidders said.

The joint venture already has a 51% stake in Greenbushes, the world’s largest hard rock lithium mine, and 100% of the Kwinana lithium refinery.

The acquisition of Essential Metals, which has been backed by the junior’s board, will add early-stage project Pioneer Dome to venture’s asset portfolio.

Pioneer, which is years from development, includes the Dome North mineral resource of 11.2 million tonnes at 1.16% lithium oxide. 

Essential Metals also holds the Juglah Dome and the Golden Ridge gold projects, both within Western Australia, as well as a JV interest in a number of gold and nickel projects in the region.

The transaction requires the approval of Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), with Treasurer Jim Chalmers having the ultimate say. 

A major supplier of minerals key to the energy transition such as rare earths and lithium, Australian authorities recently said they planned to become “more assertive” in deciding who is allowed to invest in the country’s growing critical minerals industry.

Activists fighting coal mine expansion in Germany in standoff with police

Sun, 01/08/2023 - 12:15

Activists in Germany were in a standoff with the police on Sunday, as they protested against the expansion of RWE Group’s Garzweiler open-pit coal mine on the western side of the country.

The expansion demands the demolition of Lützerath, an abandoned village 40 kilometres west of Cologne. Since there are no permanent residents there, it has been declared an exclusion zone and police are allowed to do what it takes to remove people or materials hindering its clearance, which is scheduled to start on January 10, 2023.

According to DW, some activists began occupying the town two years ago but as the deadline to demolish it approaches, more protesters have joined the action and are now estimated at 1,500 people. They live in tents, treehouses, huts and other precarious accommodations. 

On the other side of the skirmish, about 100 police keep dismantling the blockades the protesters set up and delaying buses taking supporters to Lützerath.

For the activists, the tiny village has become an emblem of the fight against doing business as usual, seriously comitting to the Paris Agreement and, thus, keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Back in December, RWE, the German government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia ratified a deal that pushes the country to phase out coal by 2030 instead of the previously set 2038 deadline. The agreement saved several villages from destruction but Lützerath wasn’t among them. 

RWE has said that coal from Lützerath and nearby areas will be needed to supply power stations from 2024 onwards, as other mines in the region continue to shut down and Germany reduces its dependence on Russian energy imports. 

Mining investments on the rise in Peru

Sun, 01/08/2023 - 08:02

The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) issued its latest Mining Statistical Bulletin which shows that accumulated mining investments rose by 3.2% through November 2022 to $4.6 billion compared to the $4.4 billion accrued the year before.

November was, in fact, the best-performing month last year, adding up to $467 million, a 7.8% increase from the $434 million reported in the previous month.

According to the Bulletin, Anglo American (LON: AAL) was the top investor in 2022 with $964 million. The London-based company’s share in all mining investments was 20.9%.

Next to Anglo was Minera Antamina, which is co-owned by Glencore, BHP Group, Teck Resources and Mitsubishi Corp. The joint venture invested $394 million last year and was is followed by Newmont’s (NYSE: NEM) Minera Yanacocha whose investments reached $332 million and Southern Peru, which invested $238 million.

Altogether, the four companies were responsible for 42.7% of the mining investments in Peru in 2022. 

The breakdown

The official report puts the spotlight on exploration activities, which received $383 million in investments between January and November 2022, a 33.9% increase compared to the same period the year before.

Accumulated mine development investments, on the other hand, added up to $778 million by November 2022, a 49.5% hike from the previous year.

Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer after Chile.

Scientists one step closer to turning coal into graphite

Sun, 01/08/2023 - 07:49

A team at Ohio University carried out a series of simulations showing how coal can be converted to valuable—and carbon-neutral—materials like graphite and carbon nanotubes.

Using the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges-2 system, the researchers simulated coal and graphite in computer software and recreated the coal-to-graphite conversion virtually. Generations of scientists know that, at least in theory, it is possible to convert coal to graphite if the fossil fuel is put under enough pressure at a high enough temperature.

Pure graphite is a series of sheets made up of six-carbon rings. A special type of chemical bond called ‘aromatic bond’ holds these carbons together.

In aromatic bonds, pi electrons float above and below the rings. These “slippery” electron clouds cause the sheets to slide easily past each other. Pencil “lead”—a low-grade form of graphite—leaves a mark on paper because the sheets slip off of each other and stick to the paper.

Aromatic bonds have another virtue, important in electronic technology. The pi electrons move easily from ring to ring and sheet to sheet. This makes graphite conduct electricity, even though it is not a metal. 

Coal, by comparison, is messy chemically. Unlike the strictly two-dimensional nature of a graphite sheet, it has connections in three dimensions. It also contains hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and other atoms that might disrupt graphite formation.

Simplified coal

To begin their studies, David Drabold and his team created a simplified “coal” that consisted of only carbon atoms in random positions. By exposing this simplified coal to pressure and high temperature—about 3,000 Kelvin, or nearly 5,000 Fahrenheit—they could take a first step in studying its conversion to graphite.

“To push out the amorphous-graphite paper we needed to do a lot of serious analysis,” said Chinonso Ugwumadu, a doctoral student in Drabold’s group. “Compared to other systems which we have, Bridges is the fastest and most accurate. Our home systems … take about two weeks to simulate 160 atoms. With Bridges, we can run 400 atoms over six to seven days using density functional theory.”

At first, the Ohio scientists carried out their simulations using basic physical and chemical principles via density functional theory. This accurate but calculation-heavy approach required many parallel computations. Later, they shifted their calculations to a new software tool, GAP (Gaussian approximation potential), which uses machine learning to carry out essentially the same computations much more quickly. 

Their results were more complicated than the team had expected. The sheets did form. But the carbon atoms didn’t entirely develop simple, six-carbon rings. A fraction of the rings had five carbons; others had seven.

The non-six-carbon rings posed an interesting wrinkle, in more ways than one. While six-carbon rings are flat, five- and seven-membered carbon rings pucker, but in opposite senses of “positive and negative curvature.”

The scientists might have expected these puckers to ruin the formation of the graphite sheets. But sheets formed anyway, possibly because pentagons and heptagons balanced each other in the simulations. The sheets were technically amorphous graphite because they weren’t purely six-ringed. But again, they formed layers.

Carbon nanotubes

In another series of simulations, Ugwumadu followed up on his work with Rajendra Thapa to study molecules rather than solids. The conditions in these sims caused the sheets to curve in on themselves. Instead of sheets, they formed nested amorphous carbon nanotubes (CNTs)—a series of single-atomic-layer tubes, one inside another. 

CNTs have been hot in materials science lately, as they are in effect tiny wires that can be used to conduct electricity at incredibly small scales. Other promising applications of CNTs include fuel cell catalysis, the production of supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries, electromagnetic interference shielding, biomedical sciences, and nano-neuroscience.

One important facet of the CNT work was that Ugwumadu studied how amorphous wrinkles in the tube walls affect the movement of electricity through the structure. In materials science, every “bug” is also a “feature”—engineers may be able to use such irregularities to tune the behaviour of a given CNT to match the exact requirements needed in a new electronic device.

The group continues to study the conversion of carbon atoms to graphite and related materials. 

Sun Summit working toward first resource at Buck gold-silver-zinc project in BC

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 14:31

Sun Summit Minerals (TSXV: SMN; US-OTC: SMREF) says 2023 could be a decisive year for the company’s Buck gold-silver-zinc project in north-central British Columbia. A set of 3,000 metres of outstanding drill results will shed light on how large the emerging epithermal system is, and company president Sharyn Alexander says an initial resource could be ready before the year is out.

“With the results of the recent batch of drilling coming out very shortly, 2023 will be a time where we’ll start considering whether or not this is something that we’d like to put a resource on or continue drilling,” Alexander says.

The Buck property has a rich background as a former placer gold camp in the early 20th century, and Alexander says there is evidence of early mining through adits dating to the 1910s and 20s.

The company optioned the project from Hunter Dickinson International (HDI) in 2019, during a low gold price period.

Part of the Late Cretaceous Kasalka Group, the Buck deposit is potentially similar to significant bulk-tonnage gold deposits in B.C., such as Artemis Gold’s (TSXV: ARTG) Blackwater gold project, which is slated to pour first gold in 2026.

So far, Sun Summit’s (formerly San Marco Resources) work near the town of Houston has confirmed the presence of an extensive hydrothermal system featuring intensely altered breccia bodies, with mineralization still open in all directions.

Drilling campaigns since 2020 have consistently intersected broad new zones of mineralization, with step-out drilling preferred as the team tries to establish the lateral footprint of the Buck Main mineralized structure.

“We have confirmed that Buck Main hosts these large intercepts of near-surface mineralization. We have intercepts of up to 300 metres from surface of 0.5 gram gold per tonne, up to 1 gram. And when you work in a gold-equivalent calculation, which includes gold, silver, and zinc, were have more than a gram per tonne over 300 meters right from surface,” says Alexander.

Startup’s satellite technology could change weather forecasting for mining  

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 11:18

Tomorrow.io, a Boston-based climate and weather intelligence company has been making news headlines with its technology and is partnering with miners to schedule blasting operations, monitor routes and highways and put protocols in place to protect workers from extreme weather, based on its forecasts.  

For the past 40-50 years companies that once comprised the private weather industry would repackage data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its predecessor agencies to sell it. NOAA is a public data model which was not built for regional forecasts or mass alerts and does not cover remote locations well.

Its data, by the time it reaches people, is already three days old.  

Tomorrow.io said its technology can refresh data every three hours and plans to launch 30 satellites equipped with meteorological radar that can monitor ocean activity many weather stations aren’t able to decipher until it hits the coast.

Last month, the six-year-old company was named a leader among climate risk analytics providers. It has raised $260 million and has a team of over 40 data scientists. Its three founders met in the Israeli air force.

Rei Goffer, co-founder and its chief strategy officer, recalls piloting an F-16 with a “super generic” one-page report listing winds and cloud patterns, without any specifics for his route or aircraft.

“It’s a little more technical than what you’d see on TV,” he told Bloomberg. “That’s the state of the art in weather.” The veterans formed their company to tailor forecasts for specific industries that depend on predictable weather, such as airlines and sports leagues. Tomorrow.io aggregates existing data—from weather stations and sensors slapped on buoys and balloons—and mixes in other signals it collects from cell towers and car windshield wipers, an approach the company calls the “weather of things.”

It has built its own proprietary network of weather forecasting technology, satellites equipped with radar, for a fraction of the cost of a regular satellite and about the size of a mini-fridge.

This year, it will deploy two more satellites adding to the one already in space. It is collaborating with NOAA and the satellites were funded in part by a $19 million grant from the US Air Force.

“It’s a changing of the tides – it’s the next generation of climate impact,” Dan Slagen, Tomorrow.io’s chief marketing officer told MINING.com. “Climate security is the new cyber security.“


Sample dashboard with insights on when to not blast, increase in dust. Image from Tomorrow.io.

“We’ll be the only company in the world with that, and additionally the only company that is able to really look in depth at remote parts of the world such as South America, Australia and Africa. Right now we basically don’t have access to real time weather forecasting over the oceans.”

“We’ve been able to basically translate weather data into weather insights,” Slagen said.  

“We work with mining companies to identify specific job use cases that are impacted by weather and how to get around them so they are not impacted anymore,” Slagen said. “It’s a changing of tides – the next generation of climate impact.”

Monica Leal, director of mining sales said the technology signals a new generation of sustainable mining.

“Weather costs this industry millions – we need to have better systems in place,” she said.

“Companies are trying to reach sustainability goals by 2030 or 2050, but what can we do in the short term – what can we do now to decrease risk and to increase operational efficiency? This is where we come in.”

(With files from Bloomberg)

Copper price rises on China-led demand hopes

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 09:59

The copper price rose on Friday as investors hoped that China’s efforts to bolster its economy will improve demand for metals.

Copper for delivery in March rose 2.3% on the Comex market in New York, touching $3.91 per pound, or $8,602 per tonne.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

The most-traded February copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 1.5% to 65,060 yuan ($9,460.25) a tonne.

Economists and analysts believe policymakers in China will roll out more support measures to stimulate demand this year, as part of Beijing’s overall goal to bolster the $17 trillion economy after a sharp covid-induced downturn.

The probable modest demand recovery in the property sector will propel the demand for industrial metals.

The sentiment was also buoyed by news that China will reopen on Sunday, welcoming international travelers and returning residents without the need to quarantine for the first time since 2020.

China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou plans 1,722 projects in 2023 worth more than 6.5 trillion yuan ($945 billion), state media CCTV reported on Thursday.

On the output front, Chile’s total copper production fell 6.9% in November to 449,000 tonnes, government body Cochilco said on Thursday.

(With files from Reuters)

Gold price on track for third straight weekly gain following US jobs report

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 09:06

Gold rebounded on Friday as US Treasury yields and the dollar fell after new economic data cemented expectations of a less hawkish Federal Reserve, setting the metal up for a third consecutive weekly gain.

Spot gold rose 1.5% to $1,861.24 per ounce by 11:45 a.m. ET, after falling by nearly the same percentage point last session. US gold futures were up 1.4% to trade at $1,866.40 per ounce in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

Gold’s recovery comes on the back of the latest US Labour Department data, which showed that non-farm payrolls rose by 223,000 jobs for the month of December 2022.

Additionally, US services industry activity contracted for the first time in nearly three years in December, offering evidence that inflation was abating.

“We did see kind of a Goldilocks number for the jobs report this morning … that is we saw a headline jobs number slightly higher than expectations, but we did see a slowdown in wage growth,” David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures, told Reuters.

“I don’t really think we saw a lot of information here to change the direction of the Fed, and clearly the market is more focused today on the idea that we are getting closer to the end of those fed rate hikes.”

Boosting bullion’s performance, the dollar index was down 0.7%, while benchmark Treasury yields were close to their lowest in nearly two weeks.

Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco Metals, said gold could continue to trade sideways to higher in the first quarter, having seen new interest on the long side from hedge funds at the start of the New Year.

(With files from Reuters)

Copper Mountain reopens mine after ransomware attack

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:19

Copper Mountain Mining (TSX: CMMC) said it reopened its mine in southern British Columbia this week following a December 27 ransomware attack that left deliveries unaffected.

The Vancouver-based company restarted the primary crusher at its mine near Princeton about 300 km east of Vancouver on Jan. 1 and resumed operations at the mill “shortly thereafter,” Copper Mountain said in a news release on Friday.

“On Jan. 4, the mill was at full production and the operation is currently being stabilized as the remaining business systems are fully restored,” the company said.

“Throughout this downtime, which resulted from the attack on its IT systems, the company has been shipping copper concentrate to the port of Vancouver from mine inventory and has maintained its planned shipping schedule.”

The shutdown was a preventative measure as Copper Mountain assessed the extent of the attack on its systems at the mine and its corporate offices, the company said.

Copper Mountain Mining’s update on Friday didn’t mention any damage, the identity of the attackers, dollar amounts they may have sought or any amounts paid to the hackers. A spokesperson for the company didn’t immediately reply to emailed questions.

All the mine’s environmental management systems operated during the outage and there were no incidents or injuries to personnel, the company said. Its information technology teams and cybersecurity consultants are establishing safeguards against further risks, it said.

The company said at the time of the attack it isolated operations, switched to manual processes where possible and contacted authorities.

Copper Mountain owns three-quarters of the open-pit mine, which produces an average of about 100 million lbs. of copper equivalent a year. Japan’s Mitsubishi Materials owns the remaining quarter.

There are plans to expand the mill to 65,000 tonnes per day from 45,000 tonnes and increase average annual production to 138 million lbs. of copper equivalent.

The mine has proven and probable reserves of 650 million tonnes grading 0.25% copper, 0.11 gram gold per tonne, 0.73 gram silver for 3.6 million lbs. contained copper, 2.2 million oz. gold and 15.2 million oz. silver, according to a company filing.

Shares in Copper Mountain gained 2.9% Friday morning in Toronto, valuing the company at C$379 million ($282m).

The View from England: When copper production was dominated by the Welsh

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 06:16

The U.K. no longer springs to mind as a mining giant, but we used to have a dominant role in the global industry. The extraction of non-ferrous metals on these islands, particularly copper and tin, dates back to before 2000 BC, and surface workings for coal and iron ore were widespread after the beginning of the Iron Age around 750 BC. This mineral wealth was one of the things that attracted the attention of Rome.  

The nation’s mining history comes to mind with the recent news (courtesy of the ‘North Wales Live’ website) that after 37 years of clearance work, volunteers are nearing their goal of breaking through to an unexplored section of Llandudno’s Ty Gwyn copper mine. Although worked for just 18 years in the mid-19th century, this mine was briefly thought to be the most profitable copper operation in the world.  

Dating from only 1835, Ty Gwyn (meaning ‘white house’ in Welsh) started much later than the other two mines on the Gt Orme peninsula (the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Great Orme operations) and was geographically separate.  

Great Orme (Norse for sea serpent) is a carboniferous limestone hill immediately to the west of the seaside town of Llandudno. Mining of Great Orme’s dolomite-hosted malachite was extensive 3,500 years ago (circa 1700-1400 BC) and the main site was worked again from 1690 to 1860. The original Bronze Age tunnels (over 8 km of them) were only discovered in 1987, and the prehistoric site was opened to the public in 1991.  

The Great Orme mines were part of a group of operations in Caernarfonshire (the others being in Snowdonia) but the estimated total output of 3,000 tonnes of copper metal was dwarfed by production at Parys Mountain on the nearby Welsh island of Anglesey.  

Evidence of copper mining on this hill (it has an elevation of only 150 metres) dates back nearly 4,000 years. Originally called Mynydd Trysglwyn (a tree-topped hill) the ‘mountain’ was renamed in 1406 after Robert Parys, who had received the land from Henry IV (1367-1413) as a reward for collecting taxes and fines from inhabitants who had supported the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndwr.  

Evidence of the earlier Bronze Age workings was found in 1761, but the site didn’t become economic until a rich copper seam was discovered in 1768. At its peak, Parys Mountain employed 1,500 people and was the largest copper mine in the world. The operation slowly became uneconomic, however, and closed in 1904.  

Parys Mountain was controlled in the 18th century by a local lawyer, Thomas Williams (1737-1802) of Llanidan, who also owned mines in Cornwall and operated copper smelters. Known as the Copper King, Williams was the richest man in Wales when he died, and at a Parliamentary monopoly investigation in 1800 admitted that half of the U.K.’s copper industry was in his hands.  

Williams was instrumental in promoting the technique of covering ships hulls with copper sheets to protect them against molluscs and weeds. Williams sold to the navies of both England and her enemies, and the term ‘copper bottomed’ came to signify a sound investment.  

The shareholders of Anglesey Mining Plc., which is the current owner of Parys Mountain, will be hoping the site is a copper-bottomed investment.  

At the end of November, the company described Parys Mountain’s Northern Copper zone (NCZ) as “an exciting opportunity.”

This deposit was discovered in 1962, and an estimate in 2012 gave the zone an inferred resource of 9.4 million tonnes at 1.27% copper, 0.38% zinc, 0.24% lead, as well as 5 grams silver per tonne and 0.1gram gold (net smelter return cut-off of $48 per tonne). A preliminary economic assessment in January 2021 boosted 5.2 million tonnes of ore into the indicated category, with a further 11.7 inferred million tonnes at a grade of over 2% copper equivalent. Work in 2023 will include drilling into the NCZ to confirm historic grades and continuity and to seek further zones of high-grade mineralization.  

In November 2022, Anglesey Mining’s CEO, Jo Battershill, spoke at the Mines and Money conference in London. He described Parys Mountain as having “world-class infrastructure, a supportive local community and, in terms of its geology, a lot of unfinished business.”  

A geologist with over 25 years of experience in the industry, Battershill was appointed in August 2021 to lead Anglesey Mining’s investigation of the Parys Mountain deposit. There have been a number of failed attempts to restart the iconic mine over the past century; if Anglesey Mining succeeds, Battershill will join a long list of celebrated copper miners in North Wales.  

— Dr. Chris Hinde is a mining engineer and the director of Pick and Pen Ltd., a U.K.-based consulting firm. He previously worked for S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Metals and Mining division.

Caledonia adds one of Zimbabwe’s largest gold projects to portfolio

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 06:11

Caledonia Mining (LON: CMCL) has added to its portfolio one of Zimbabwe’s biggest gold mining projects after completing the acquisition of Bilboes Gold, owner of the namesake asset.

The shares plus royalty transaction, announced last year, will help the company achieve its goal of more than doubling annual output, potentially making it Zimbabwe’s top gold miner. 

The Bilboes gold project, a large, high-grade gold deposit located about 75 km (47 miles) north of Bulawayo, also makes of Caledonia Mining a multi-asset, mid-tier producer.

According to the latest feasibility study, the asset has the potential for an open-pit gold mine producing an average of 168,000 ounces per year over a 10-year life of mine.

Caledonia said it plans to conduct its own feasibility study to determine the “most judicious way” to commercialize the deposit. One approach that will be considered is a phased development, which would minimize the initial capital investment and reduce the need for third party funding, the company said.

Ore production from the Bilboes oxides will start in early February, chief executive officer, Mark Learmonth, said in the statement.

Caledonia anticipates beginning to recover gold from the heap leach in March. Once full production rate is achieved, the net smelter royalty would generate around $2.6 million a year for the company at current gold prices, the miner said.

The total consideration payable for the Bilboes acquisition is, subject to adjustment, 5,123,044 shares representing approximately 28.5% of Caledonia’s fully diluted share capital and a 1% net smelter royalty (NSR) on the project’s revenues.

Based on the last trading day’s closing price for Caledonia shares on the NYSE of $12.82 per share, the value of the maximum number of new shares that could be issued as consideration if there is no adjustment is currently $65.7 million.

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