Vale to double exploration spend in Sudbury area

By Natalie Latuszek

Vale’s Sudbury Operations will spend $42 million on exploration in the Greater Sudbury Area, doubling the company’s exploration spend from a year ago.

The company plans to have 13 drill rigs and about 30 active exploration projects operating in the area.

Vale’s outlay is part of a larger trend of increased exploration spending in Canada. According to Natural Resources Canada, exploration spending will increase in Canada by 6.0% in 2018 to hit $2.2 billion this year.

Exploration will be conducted on the surface and underground. Sudbury residents can expect airborne surveys will be conducted by helicopters from mid-July through the end of September carrying suspended surveying instruments.

Vale’s Sudbury Operations have been in operation for more than 100 years. There are six mines, a mill, a smelter, a refinery that employ nearly 4,000 workers. Products include nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group metals, gold and silver.

Written with material from Vale news release.

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How to close the loop on lithium-ion battery recycling

By MINING.com Editor

Only two per cent of Australia’s annual 3,300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste is recycled, says the consultancy CSIRO in a report on Lithium-ion battery recycling published Wednesday.

The authors of the study want to emulate the same success that was achieved in recycling lead-acid batteries. Of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, CSIRO says 98 per cent were recycled.

The authors of the study are proposing a multi-pronged effort to encourage recycling of lithium-ion batteries. The advantage would be less environmental contamination and reducing the risk of fire from discarded lithium-ion batteries. The materials needed to make lithium-ion batteries are also costly and recycling can add to the supply.

Low battery recycling rates can be overcome through better understanding of the importance of recycling, improved collection processes, and by implementing ways to efficiently recycle materials, says CSIRO.

If lithium-ion batteries were recycled, 95 per cent of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

Access the full report here.

Creative Commons image of junkyard courtesy of Kamyar Adl

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Cleveland-Cliffs EPS jumps 171% in 2Q

By Michael Allan McCrae

Higher prices and greater volumes shipped all helped Cleveland-Cliffs report consolidated revenues of $714 million, compared to the prior year’s second-quarter revenues of $471 million.

Earnings per share from continuing operations up 171 percent to $0.76 per share.

The American-based iron ore mining company said iron ore realized revenue rate in the US increased 16 percent to $113 per long ton.

Cleveland-Cliffs expects full-year U.S. iron ore pellet sales volume expectation to increase to 21 million long tons. Cliffs has also increased its full-year sales volume expectation by 500,000 long tons to 21 million long tons. Its production volume expectation of 20 million long tons is being maintained.

Creative Commons image of jumping person courtesy of Kate Russell

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Bacanora Lithium changes its mind on how to fund flagship Sonora mine

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Lithium exploration and development company Bacanora Minerals (LON:BCN) won’t go ahead with a proposed $100 million share sale, citing volatile prices for the battery raw material as the main reason for the u-turn, it said Thursday.

Earlier this week, the company had announced the plan saying it would help it help fund the construction of its 17,500 tonnes-a-year lithium carbonate mine in Sonora, Mexico.

“Challenging market conditions have led us to take the decision not to proceed with the placing at this stage,” chief executive Peter Secker said in the statement.

Initially, investors reacted negatively to the news and the company’s shares dropped in London from 80p to 67p. The stock ended up closing 4.34% higher to 69.7p.

Investor are growing increasingly concerned about a wave of new lithium projects sprouting up from Australia to Nevada, which could put pressure on prices.

Bacanora said it will now focus on completing the Front End Engineering Design, while talks are ongoing with several additional parties to find alternative funding.

Sonora’s first phase is expected to cost $420 million with a further $40 million needed for working capital. A recent feasibility study assigned the asset a net present value of $1.25-billion and an internal rate of return of 26%.

The company plans to extract lithium from clay, a technology that has not yet been proven at mass scale. Bu that hasn’t stopped giants, such as Tesla Motors, from signing an agreement with the company and its partner Rare Earth Minerals (LON:REM) that secure supply of lithium hydroxide from the Sonora project to the electric cars and energy storage products company.

In May 2017, Bacanora secured a $11 million investment from Blackrock. It came a few months after inking another long-term supply deal with Japan’s Hanwa Corporation, which will see the Tokyo-based trader acquire up to 100% of the output coming from Sonora.

Frequently referred to as “white petroleum,” lithium drives much of the modern world, as it has become an irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in high tech devices and electric cars.

Investor are growing increasingly concerned about a wave of new lithium projects sprouting up from Australia to Nevada, which could put pressure on prices. Lithium carbonate, a key ion battery raw material, have climbed almost 40% in the past 12 months on the back of increasing electric car production, according to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.

Shares in the world’s largest producers of lithium, however, have gone the opposite way this year, following double-digit gains in 2017.

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De Beers buys Canada’s Peregrine Diamonds for $81 million

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Anglo American’s De Beers has bought Canada’s Peregrine Diamonds (TSE:PGD), the company behind the Chidliak mine in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, as the world’s largest roughs producer by value needs to replace its closing mines in the country.

The Cdn$107 million-deal ($87m) extends De Beer’s footprint in Canada’s frozen north beyond the Gahcho Kué joint-venture, which recently achieved full production.

The Chidliak resource, discovered in 2008, has an inferred resource of 22-million carats and needs about Cdn$455m to bring into production.

“With a strong outlook for consumer demand, we are seeking new opportunities to invest in our future supply potential and look forward to growing our portfolio in Canada,” De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver said in the statement.

Canada produces approximately 10% of world’s overall diamond output by volume and about 15% by value.

More to come…

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Miners wrote off almost one-third of investments over last decade

By Cecilia Jamasmie

While global miners invested almost $1 trillion in major projects over the last decade, almost one-third of that — $273 billion to be precise — was written off, research from Morgan Stanley shows.

In a study carried out in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the American investment bank found that the extent of the write-downs was almost as high as the dividends paid by the world’s top 40 mining companies by market capitalization between 2008 and 2017.

Australian majors contributed to the high percentage of lost investments, the report shows, with Rio Tinto’s losses on aluminum and coal projects and BHP’s multi-billion dollar write-off of shale oil assets being the most significant ones.

But the experts also say the industry has made key changes that suggest the “capital destruction” of the last 15 years should not repeat.

Dividend payout ratios sit now at a range of between 40%-50%, with more cash returned to shareholders when profits climb, which decreases the risk of throwing money around during booming cycles.

Courtesy of Morgan Stanley.

Morgan Stanley and PwC also say that miner now have more realistic growth assumptions, compared to the overly optimistic assessments in years previous to the 2015-2017 downturn, which were the catalyst for poor investment decisions.

And boards also have stricter remuneration policies, extending the timeline for share-based incentives and increasingly using return on capital as a core performance metric.

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Australia’s Northern Minerals makes first rare earth from pilot plant

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Australia’s Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) has produced its first rare earth carbonate during commissioning of a pilot processing plant at its Browns Range project, in northern Western Australia.

Around 1,000 tonnes of ore have been crushed at the facility, expected to be fully operational by the end of July, the company said, adding it anticipates starting shipments before the end of September.

Northern Minerals aims to be the first significant world producer of dysprosium outside of China.

It aims to be the first significant world producer outside of China of dysprosium, used by electric vehicle makers in the manufacturing of engine magnets.

Dysprosium is a sought after rare earth that is used by the electric vehicle makers in the manufacturing of industrial magnets that are used in electric engines.

It is also used in wind turbines and other large industrial engine applications.

The research and development phase for the pilot plant began in June and is expected to take up to three years.

Northern Minerals will investigate the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed larger-scale project during R&D phase.

Earlier this week, the company resumed exploration drilling at Browns Range aimed at increasing the expected mine life for a full scale project from the current 11 years to more than 20 years.

The 100%-owned project in the East Kimberley is based on unusual xenotime mineralization, which is rich in high-value heavy rare earth elements such as dysprosium and contains a small fraction of the less valuable light rare earths, which are more difficult and expensive to process.

Browns Range has an ore reserve of 3.75 million tonnes containing nearly 2,300 tonnes of dysprosium oxide within 26,375 tonnes of total rare earth oxide.

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Earth holds quadrillion tonnes of diamonds deep beneath its surface

By Cecilia Jamasmie

An interdisciplinary team of researchers have found a gigantic treasure trove of diamonds buried below Earth’s surface, way more than ever thought possible, but getting to them would take technology far beyond what we currently have at our disposal.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) team, there is a quadrillion tonne of the precious stones encased in the very deepest roots of our planet, in a thick, immovable layer of rock known as cratons.

They are encased in the very deepest roots of our planet, in a thick, immovable layer of rock known as cratons.

That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 — or one thousand times more than one trillion diamonds lying some 145 to 240 km (90 to 150 miles) below the surface, much deeper than current mining equipment allows. The Mir Diamond Mine in Russia, for instance, is the world’s second-largest human-made hole and only goes about half a km deep.

“We can’t get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before,” Dr Ulrich Faul, a researcher in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

“It [also] shows that diamond is not perhaps this exotic mineral, but on the [geological] scale of things, it’s relatively common,” Faul noted.

The scientists were alerted by an anomaly in data collected from ground-shaking events like earthquakes and tsunamis. They noticed sound waves seemed to travel too quickly through cratons. Through observations, experiments and modeling, they figured that a potential way to explain the sound speed anomaly would be the presence of diamonds, as they allow sound to travel faster than other crystals.

They found our planet is likely to be composed of as much as 2% of diamonds by volume.

Their study was published last month in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

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Peru unit of Plateau Energy finds one of ‘world’s largest’ lithium resource

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Peru unit of Plateau Energy finds one of ‘world's largest' lithium resource

Macusani Yellowcake, the Peruvian subsidiary of Canada’s Plateau Energy Metals (TSX-V: PLU) has found 2.5 million tonnes of high-grade lithium resources and 124 million pounds of uranium resources at its Falchani hard rock deposit, in the region Puno.

Ulises Solis, general manager of the unit, told local paper El Comercio (in Spanish) the find suggested the project could end up becoming one of the world’s five or six largest lithium mines.

Company plans to complete a feasibility study next year, which will reveal whether the proposed $800 million, underground lithium-uranium mine can and should be built.

The executive also noted that, while it was unclear how much of the lithium resources found would eventually end up being classified as economically viable reserves, the deposit contains high-grade resources.

Salt flats in neighbouring Chile and Bolivia, Solis said, have an average grade of 500 parts per million (ppm). The Falchani deposit, in contrast, is believed to have ore grades six to seven times higher of between 3,500 to 4,000 ppm, he said.

The company plans to complete a feasibility study next year, which will reveal whether the proposed $800 million, underground lithium-uranium mine can and should be built. If so, Macusani plans to do so quickly, with production anticipated to start in 2020.

Since 2007, when exploration work began, Plateau’s unit has drilled 3,000 metres or about 15% of the surface of its concessions in Puno, which are located at an altitude of about 4,500 meters in the Andes, according to the company’s latest presentation. Another 10,000 metres will be drilled in the coming months.

Investors are growing increasingly concerned about a wave of new lithium projects sprouting up to take advantage of rising prices of the key ingredient for making batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs) and high tech devices.

Wave of much-needed supply coming online. (Source: BMO Capital Markets, companies reports.)

Lithium carbonate has climbed almost 40% in the past 12 months on the back of increasing electric car production, according to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.

Shares in the world’s largest producers of lithium, however, have gone the opposite way this year, following double-digit gains in 2017.

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Lakes, rivers near abandoned mine sites likely sources of antibiotics

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Canadian scientists from Laurentian University have found that waterbodies impacted by decades of mining activity could be a potential new source of antibiotics.

The group, led by Dr. J.A. Scott, a bioengineering professor, examined lakes and rivers located within five kilometres of abandoned Northern Ontario mine sites. The goal was to determine whether those stressed environments could produce algae with antibiotic properties.

The results, published in a recent issue of Phycologia, a journal that features research on algae, showed that, when tested against Staphylococcus aureus (a common, naturally occurring bacterium that can cause infections of the skin, lungs, brain or blood), 38% of the algae found near closed mines was effective against it. And their antibacterial property was stronger than what’s been uncovered in previous research.

The study could help solve the increasing issue of antibiotics-resistant bacteria and set a precedent for the mining industry on how to deal with polluted water left behind.

Scott and his team will continue to further prove their hypothesis over the next two years, thanks to additional funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations.

In this second phase, the team will analyze waterbodies near currently producing mines – with Glencore’s full participation – to see if he can replicate the same results.

Hat Tip: Northern Ontario Business.

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