World’s top copper producer faces lengthy smelter halt at major mine

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Chile’s state miner Codelco, the world’s No.1 copper producer, has revealed its smelter at Chuquicamata, its second largest operation by size, will be running at reduced rates until at least the end of the year, as it hurries to complete a planned overhaul ahead of stricter emissions standards coming in effect.

CChile’s Codelco is in the midst of upgrading its smelter at Chuquicamata, its second largest operation by size.

Unions expect production at the facility to be suspended for at least 60 days, while the company said some processes are likely to be affected for as many as 80 days, starting Dec. 13. That day, Bloomberg reports, is when the new rules will begin to be enforced.

Century-old Chuquicamata is running out of profitable ore and has to switch to a modern underground operation. The new mine, this time underground, will need 1,700 fewer workers, the company has said, partly because conveyor belts will replace trucks.

Codelco, which hands over all of its profits to the state, holds vast copper deposits, accounting for 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves and about 11% of the global annual copper output with 1.8 million metric tonnes of production.

Last year, Chuquicamata produced 330,900 tonnes of copper, out of Codelco’s total of 1.734 million tonnes and the miner contributed nearly $3 billion to Chile’s coffers.

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Lynas jumps after its critic in Malaysian Gov’t leaves review team

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Shares in rare earths producer Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC) climbed on Friday, closing 9.2 percent higher, after the Malaysian minister in charge of a committee reviewing the miner’s plant offered to step down following criticism that she would not be impartial.

Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Fuziah Salleh, a long-standing critic of Lynas’ plant, said she didn’t want to be used by the company to divert attention from the effects of the plant’s radioactive waste on people and the environment.

Fuziah Salleh, a long-standing critic of Lynas, said she didn’t want to be used by the company to divert attention from the effects of the plant’s radioactive waste.

“If I remain in the committee, I will not be able to provide comments to the media and the public,” Salleh said according to local paper New Straits Times. “When I am no longer chairman [of the review committee], it will be easier for me to make comments and fight from the outside.”

Earlier this month, the Sydney-based miner raised concerns about the impartiality of Salleh and committee member Wong Tack, both long time opponents of having Lynas’ refinery in Malaysia.

The six-year-old facility — known as the Lynas Advance Material Plant (LAMP) — was the centre of relentless attacks from environmental groups and local residents while under construction in 2012. They feared about the impact the low-level radioactive waste the refinery generates could have on the health of those living nearby and the environment.

Lynas is the only major rare earths miner outside China. The metallic elements, crucial in the production of magnets, are extracted in Western Australia, but processed in Malaysia.

The company’s operating license in the country is up for renewal in September next year.

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A big graphene industry breakthrough out of Arizona

By Amanda Stutt

In what the company calls an industry breakthrough, Arizona based Urbix Resources has produced the first economically viable graphene-enhanced lightweight concrete.

Urbix’s research and development team created what they call a ‘Graphenesque’ additive that provides a 33% increase in compressive strength, a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions, and at a cost that is over 16% lower than the next best lightweight concrete alternative on the market.

“As the world continues to apply IOT-enabled smart materials, we are creating and opening new market potentials for graphite, directly, positively, impacting graphite demand in the world,” Cuevas said.

The team has been working on the project since 2014, with the simple intent of commercializing graphite out of a mine in Mexico, Urbix Chairman Nicolas Cuevas told Mining.com. With carbon atoms 200 times stronger than steel, it’s pretty much the plastic of now, Cuevas said. It’s pretty much a new revolution in materials

Urbix worked with the University of Arizona’s optical science department on methods of purifying graphite without using high temperature ovens or hydrofluoric acid. Through a trial and error purification process, they were able to make graphene through a microwave reactor the company developed.

Cuevas said graphene is a ‘wonder material’, derived from graphite. Defined as a layer of carbon atoms, global demand for graphene is expected to increase as it has been shown to improve battery technologies.

“With carbon atoms 200 times stronger than steel, it’s pretty much the plastic of now,” Cuevas said. “It’s pretty much a new revolution in materials.”

“The material performance of our solution for lightweight concrete is great,” Urbix Chief Marketing Officer Adam Small said in a statement. “But the low costs and large-scale capabilities are what makes this achievement so profound. By leveraging our existing global graphite mining relationships, we offer near vertical integration, an aspect that is almost mandatory for any company entering the graphene space.”

Testing continues, and Cuevas anticipates that they will bring the technology to market in 2020.

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Canadian space mining developer inks deal with US-based Moon Express

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Canadian space mining developer inks deal with US-based Moon Express

A Canadian company focused on develop mining technologies and robotics for the resource sector is partnering with Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, on future opportunities in outer space.

Northern Ontario-based Deltion Innovations will help Florida-based Moon Express collect, process, store and use materials found in celestial bodies, or what’s known in space exploration as “in situ resource utilization.”

“This is a very important milestone,” Deltion chief executive Dale Boucher said in a statement. “It’s an opportunity to provide a defined platform for launch, cruise, orbiting, landing and potential surface hopping, allowing us to offer more complete technical solutions for lunar science and lunar prospecting.”

The agreement will allow the partners to focus on mining exploration on the lunar surface and also pre-test later stage activities, such as excavation and infrastructure buildup.

Those capabilities, said Boucher, are critical for early stage mining exploration on the lunar surface and will allow the partners to pre-test later stage mining activities, such as excavation and infrastructure buildup.

As a contractor to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA, Deltion has been developing space mining systems since 1999. The team approaches technology development from a terrestrial mining perspective and facilitates the transfer of technology between the terrestrial and space sectors. Their technology includes drilling/excavation systems, processing, power systems, mobility systems, remote operations and subsurface exploration equipment.

Moon Express, also a CSA partner, is focused mostly on providing low cost, frequent access to the Moon for science, exploration and commerce while seeking new resources that could be used in our planet.

If the company’s dream come true soon, it would pave the way for several other for-profit space ventures currently in the works. These include plans to mine asteroids, track space debris, build the first human settlement in Mars, as well as Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s own plan for an unmanned mission to the red planet by 2022.

The billionaire has said his timeline for sending a space vehicle to Mars could mark its first milestone next year, as his spaceship is expected to be ready for short trips in the first half of 2019.

No longer science fiction

After being considered mostly a science-fiction tale, governments are now rushing to implement programs and legislations that allow them to join the race for mining in the space.

In 2015, former US President Barack Obama signed a law that grants US citizens rights to own resources mined in space. The ground-breaking rule was touted as a major boost to asteroid mining because it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by US firms.

Shortly after, Luxembourg launched an official initiative to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals. The tiny European country, which has been studying possible involvement in the sector since 2013, aims to become Europe’s centre for space mining.

Geologists as well as emerging companies, such as US-based Planetary Resources, a firm pioneering the space mining industry, believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.

In this concept image, a resource prospector carrying a payload roves on the lunar surface. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

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Chile wants lithium to be traded on LME

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Chile wants lithium to be traded on LME

Chile’s mining minister Baldo Prokurica asked the London Metals Exchange (LME) Wednesday to consider trading the coveted metal used in the batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs) and high-tech devices, and so provide greater “clarity” about its value.

Chile produced 80,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent last year, representing 35 percent of global production.

On his first visit to Britain after taking office in March of this year, Prokurica met with local companies about potential partnerships with state-miner Codelco to eventually produce value-added lithium products, EFE news agency reports.

In July, the LME asked companies that assess prices of battery-grade lithium to submit proposals to supply a reference for cash-settled contracts it plans to launch next year. Currently, producers negotiate contracts with buyers, but the terms of the deals are not made public.

“We want to generate conditions for our products to be sold in a transparent manner, and that raises the possibility that lithium be traded on the LME so there can be clarity about its value,” the minister said, according to Chilean paper Estrategia.

Already the world’s top copper producer, Chile holds about 48% of the known lithium reserves, and it’s the second largest miner of the metal, after Australia, with 80,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent produced last year. But both companies and the government are working hard on reversing that.

Copyright: MINING.com.

Over the past several months, Chile’s SQM — the world’s number two lithium producer — has been expanding its mines. The company recently finished the first stage of a lithium carbonate ramp-up in Chile’s Salar del Carmen, reaching a capacity of 70k million tonnes a year.

“Our next step will be to work towards our goal of 120k MT/year, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019,” chief executive officer Patricio de Solminihac said in August.

The firm actually believes it will soon overtake US-based competitor Albemarle as the world’s top lithium miner, by 2022 to be exact. SQM would boost production capacity that year to 28% of the world’s total versus Albemarle’s 16%.

Chile expects lithium to soon become its second largest mining asset, just behind copper. It’s currently the country’s fourth biggest export.

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Graphite One’s Alaska project may prove key to US defence industry — CEO

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt, have attracted lots of investors and media attention this year. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, seems to have been overlooked.

The situation is about to change or so it thinks Anthony Huston, chief executive officer of Graphite One Resources (TXS-V:GPH), especially after a White House/US Department of Defence (DoD) report highlighted last month the importance of the mineral to the country’s security industry and the broader manufacturing sector.

The Canadian junior, which is developing the Graphite Creek project in Alaska, believes is in a particularly privileged position, as the report also said the US should reduce its 100 percent-import dependence when it comes to graphite supply.

With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, the Canadian miner sees potential for its Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain.

“With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, we see the potential for our Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain, essential to the high-tech sector, renewable energy and national security/defence applications,” Huston said Wednesday.

“The report’s recommendation of direct investment in companies developing domestic sources of strategic and critical materials is a welcome sign,” he noted.

The report comes as Graphite One winds up its 2018 field program, a key step in the company’s ongoing field work in support of a pre-feasibility study at the Graphite Creek deposit, which the Vancouver-based miner says is the largest known flake graphite deposit in the US.

There is as much as 40 times the amount of graphite in a lithium-ion battery as lithium. This is one of the key drivers for the increasing demand for the mineral, which is expected to jump by as much as 200 percent by 2020. Only between Dec. 2016 and Dec. 2017, prices for the metal climbed 25% rise on the back of surging demand.

Demand for graphene, a recently developed “super-mineral” that comes from graphite, will also increase as the material believed to be able to dramatically improve battery technologies. While not economically viable for all applications, Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, said Wednesday it planned to incorporate graphene materials into several automotive applications by year’s end.

Less than a year ago the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology announced that its researchers had developed a “graphene ball,” a material that would allow lithium-ion batteries to charge five times faster and have 45 percent more capacity. That alone could have big impact on both consumer electronics and the automotive industries.

Graphite Creek, located 59km north of Nome, Alaska, comprises 165 mineral claims spread over 18,080 acres.

The proposed mine will produce high-grade coated spherical graphite (CSG), which is in high demand due to the adoption of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of the mine development project, announced last year, estimates an average annual production of 55,350t of CSG, once the mine reaches its full production in its sixth year, through its estimated life of 40 years.

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Global coal mining industry sees compound annual growth

By MINING.com Editor

The global coal mining market is growing, with a CAGR of close to 2% from 2018-2022, according to a global coal mining industry report published by Technavio.

The industry is largely driven by coal requirements and a rise in electricity generation, and has seen an overwhelming response due to an increase in mining techniques and the development of coalmine sites.

The global market is witnessing upward traction as the industry scope is exhibiting vast labor, but market challenges such as illegal possession, fraud and government policies are obstacles.

While the industry is segmented as North America, South America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific’s industry is the most lucrative market, due to high population rates and heavy dependence on coal energy.

The report identifies key industry players: Arch Coal Inc, Consol Energy Inc, Cloud Peak Energy, Coal India Ltd, BHP Billiton Ltd, Rio Tinto Group, ShenHua Group, China Coal Energy Co Ltd and Peabody Energy Corporation.

The European market is home to several mining industries with extraction and refinery processes at large, while the North American industry thrives owing to a rise in sources of energy. The report maintains a key market driver is bettering electricity technology.

Access the full report here.

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The top ten zinc producing mines in the world

By MINING.com Editor

Fitch Solutions Macro Research has just published its outlook for global zinc production. Globally, mined zinc production continues to ramp up over the coming years as elevated prices encourage miners to restart idled capacity and key new mines come online, according to the report.

Fitch forecasts global mined zinc production to increase by 3.5% in 2018, to 13.7mnt, and rise to 16.8mnt by 2027.

The report focusses on industry trend analyses in Australia, Canada, Peru, China, The U.S., Kazakhstan, Mexico, Namibia, India and Iran.

The global zinc mining outlook also identifies the ten largest zinc mines by volume:

1- India clinches the title for largest zinc mine with Rampura Agucha.

2- Red Dog in the U.S.

3- Antamina in Peru.

4- Mount Isa, Australia.

5- Penasquito, Mexico.

6- San Cristobal, Bolivia.

7- McAurthur River, Australia.

8- Cerro Lindo, Peru.

9- Tara, Ireland.

10- Skorpion, Namibia.

The report predicts that China’s zinc production will stagnate due to declining ore grades and increasingly stringent environmental regulations, China will remain a key player in global zinc mine production.

Read the full report here.

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ALROSA extracts rare fancy intense yellow diamond

By MINING.com Editor

JSC Almazy Anabara, a subsidiary of ALROSA, has extracted a 28.59-carat rough yellow diamond at the Ebelyakh placer deposit in Russia. Following an assessment, the color of the stone is defined as rare fancy intense yellow.

It is the largest yellow rough diamond mined at ALROSA’s deposits this year. In 2017, Almazy Anabaraalso extracted a 27.85-carat pure pink diamond – the largest pink stone in ALROSA’s history, and a large 34.1-carat vivid yellow diamond.

The United Selling Organization of ALROSA and the company’s cutting division DIAMONDS ALROSA will study the diamond and decide whether to auction it as a rough or to cut it into a polished diamond.

ALROSA produces seven thousand carats of colored diamonds per year. In September, the true colors auction started in Hong Kong, where ALROSA showcased a collection of 250 diamonds of different shapes and hues.

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Canadian miner and First Nation work together on “new wonder material” project

By Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

In a moment where Canada is moving forward with a few different energy projects that involve complex consultation processes with communities, Ontario-based Zenyatta Ventures announced the launching of a partnership with the Constance Lake First Nation for the development of the Albany Graphite Project.

Located in northeastern Ontario, about 30 kilometres north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the Albany Graphite Deposit is thought to be the largest ultra high-purity graphite deposit in the area. During the exploration phase, two vertical, carrot-shaped breccia pipes that extend some 500 metres and are open at depth were discovered. Now that such a phase is over, Zenyatta considered it was appropriate to start the development stage by involving the Constance Lake First Nation in a more active role.

In an interview with MINING.com, the company’s co-CEO, Don Bubar, said that this decision was based on the fact that Constance Lake is not only the closest community whose approval of the project is key but also because this is the way things should be done.

In Bubar’s view, most mines in the future are going to be located in Canada’s north, which is the traditional territory of many Indigenous communities. Thus, it is only logical that they’re involved as active investors. “That’s what I see as the future here for the whole mineral industry in Canada going forward; First Nations not just being passive participants and not just being minority participants in mineral developments but being the future leaders of the mining industry,” he said.

An ever-evolving project

The relationship between Zenyatta and Constance Lake dates back to 2010 when the exploration work at Albany began. The following year, an exploration agreement was signed and it is still in place until a formal agreement on a new project partnership structure replaces it.

In the meantime, Constance Lake hired Long North Capital Group as business advisors to help them build a fair partnership with Zenyatta, particularly now that Albany is evolving into something different from what was outlined in its 2015 Preliminary Economic Assessment.

The Albany Graphite Deposit.

From an initial large open pit, the project might go underground and start at a modest scale. “It’s a whole different concept on how to develop a mineral resource from traditional mining of base metals and gold where you try to find the largest richest deposit you can and then build the operation at the biggest possible scale. That’s not what you do with a resource like this. In this case, you develop it at the scale that’s appropriate for the market size you have but build scalability into it so that you can scale up your production as demand for your products grows. That’s how we see this project evolving here and Constance Lake sees the same thing,” Bubar said.

The reason to scale down is that the plan now is to build the business around graphene. “This is the new wonder material. So it would actually be more a technology manufacturing business where we basically have access to this unique resource to create different, new graphene products to serve this emerging market and then grow the business over time as those markets grow,” Zenyatta’s co-CEO said.

With the help of tech companies and researchers, the plan is to upgrade hydrothermal graphite with very good crystallinity using an environmentally friendly process that consists of grinding, floating and caustic treatment using sodium hydroxide instead of aggressive acids. This purification method has produced a carbon purity of >99.9 per cent in bench-scale tests.

Graphene is believed to be able to dramatically improve battery technologies and increase pipeline resistance to corrosion.

“The next step in our program is to extract another bulk sample so we can do more product development work to introduce the product to customers that are interested and that will help us understand what products we should focus on to maximise the value of the asset. Constance Lake understands this and wants to help us make that whole process more efficient,” Don Bubar said.

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