Bill Gates-backed company to hunt for cobalt near Glencore mine

A startup backed by a group of tycoons including Bill Gates plans to use data-crunching algorithms to search for cobalt near a Canadian nickel mine owned by Glencore. Kobold Metals has acquired rights to an area of about 1 000 km2 -- roughly the size of New York City -- in northern Quebec, according to CEO Kurt House. It’s the first such foray by the company to become public. San Francisco Bay Area-based Kobold Metals is hoping to use data analytics to build a “Google Maps for the earth’s crust.” The company is betting it can find metals crucial to the electric-vehicle revolution, such as cobalt, that so far have eluded more traditionally-minded geologists.

Arctic diesel spill caused $2bn damage, Russia says

Russia’s ecological watchdog said the diesel spill from a tank owned by MMC Norilsk Nickel in May caused 148-billion rubles ($2-billion) of damage in the Arctic. The vast majority of the damage was to waterways that are linked to the Kara Sea, according to the report from the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, known as Rosprirodnadzor. The accident was the largest ever in the Arctic region. About 20 000 t (150 000 bbl) of diesel spilled when a fuel tank owned by one of Nornickel’s power plants collapsed, polluting surrounding land and rivers.

EVs are starting to buoy the global metals market

The market gloom over the metals that will power the cars of the future is starting to lift. Supply overhangs and then the coronavirus pandemic had crushed short-term prospects for the minerals used to make rechargeable batteries. But new government commitments to green transport in China and Europe, as well as curtailments to mining and future investments, have led to a growing consensus the markets are bottoming out.

Hundreds of coal companies got $170m in US virus aid

Coal companies received at least $170-million in small business loans under the US government’s coronavirus relief programme, according to data released Monday. Ramaco Resources of Kentucky, JRL Coal of Georgia and Knight Hawk Coal of Illinois were among the 449 coal companies that received funds through the $669-billion Paycheck Protection Program, overseen by the US Small Business Administration. About 20 coal companies received at least $5-million. Hundreds of others got $1-million or less.

Pandemic helps Russia tighten its grip on a key strategic metal

As the coronavirus pandemic pummeled demand from key customers in the auto industry, Russia’s biggest mining company quietly tightened its grip on the palladium market. MMC Norilsk Nickel was already the No. 1 miner of the metal used in autocatalysts, but the crisis has allowed it to gain market share. That’s because Nornickel’s Russian operations have barely missed a beat, while its main rivals in South Africa are struggling to ramp up production after shuttering mines during a national virus lockdown. “Norilsk Nickel has always been considered as the last company to die,” said Artem Bagdasaryan, an analyst at BCS Global Markets. “The pandemic only highlights it.” Nornickel, whose shallower operations make it the industry’s lowest-cost producer, has so far maintained its 2020 palladium output guidance, a spokeswoman said. The miner on April 30 reiterated its 2.6-million to 2.8-million ounces guidance, which was originally issued in January, before the pandemic was declared.

Commodity freighters are shrugging off Covid-19. For now

The cost of moving commodities like coal and iron-ore across the world’s oceans is surging as China lifts cargo purchases. Whether the rally will withstand the economic aftershocks of the coronavirus is a thornier question. Rates for giant capesize ships climbed to almost $31 000 a day on Wednesday, almost certainly the highest for the time of year since 2009. The rally has been driven by an increase in cargo flows from Australia and Brazil, the two top iron ore producers, as easing lockdown measures saw Chinese steel mills increasing purchases. “There is strong demand from China, with steel production up 5% year-on-year in June,” said Frode Morkedal, an analyst at Clarkson Securities, a unit of the world’s biggest shipbroker. “Port inventories of iron ore are relatively low, so steel mills and traders are replenishing stocks.”

Hydrogen to fuel giant mining trucks in green shift by Anglo

Anglo American is advancing plans to convert its fleet of giant diesel-fueled mine trucks to hydrogen power as the company seeks to burnish its green credentials. More than 400 mine-haul trucks could be rebuilt to use hydrogen fuel, with a pilot project starting next year at Anglo American Platinum’s openpit Mogalakwena operation in South Africa. A 3.5 MW electrolyzer will produce hydrogen on site, while the trucks will also be fitted with a platinum catalyst.

After taking out $1 800, gold investors focus on Fed’s next step

Fresh from cracking $1 800/pz, the global gold market wants to know what the Federal Reserve may do next to rescue the US economy, with minutes due later on Wednesday that may shed light on the central bank’s willingness to embrace yield curve control. Futures held near the highest in more than eight years, with a focus on the central bank release and warnings about the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, Fed chairperson Jerome Powell stressed that getting the virus under control was vital. Separately, infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said new US cases of Covid-19 could hit 100 000 a day, up from about 40,000 at present. Gold’s ascent in 2020 has been underpinned by aggressive central bank action to counter the pandemic’s economic fallout, with US real interest rates already negative. The minutes of the Fed’s June 10 meeting may add detail on policy makers’ view on curve control, a strategy that involves using bond purchases to cap yields on certain maturities at a specific level.

A miner blew up ancient human history. Now an industry may pay

Scraping away delicately at the reddish-brown earth of northwestern Australia’s vast Pilbara region, a team of archaeologists uncovered a record of life dating back more 40 000 years. Buried in natural shelters at the base of a cliff were thousands of stone and wooden tools, the sharpened fibula bone of a kangaroo and braided strands of hair. They worked quickly inside the Juukan Gorge rock shelters to recover the artefacts -- and needed to. The team was a salvage squad, sent in with a tight deadline to excavate a site in the path of an encroaching iron ore mine and approved for destruction. Blasts carried out in late May by Rio Tinto Group flattened the features in the central Hamersley Range, more than 1 000 km northeast of Perth. Now the fallout is mounting for the London-based producer, and new risks are being posed to an iron ore sector that produces Australia’s top export, forecast to generate earnings of A$100-billion in the year ended June 30.

House Democrats urge ‘racial justice’ on climate, carbon cut

House Democrats unveiled an ambitious plan to combat climate change that won plaudits from mainstream environmentalists, but disappointed some progressives who have tried to push the party to the left on the issue. The more than 500-page report sets a target for the US to cut 88% of planet-warming emissions by 2050 by requiring utilities to use carbon-free power sources and automakers to sell only zero-emission, light-duty vehicles after 2035. It would also curb oil and gas development on public lands, among other goals. After 2050, the plan sets a goal of taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than is emitted through a range of “carbon capture” technologies, tree-planting and other methods.