Bill Gates-led fund invests in making lithium mining more sustainable

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, helmed by Bill Gates, and MIT’s The Engine fund are leading an investment round of $20-million for Lilac Solutions, a US startup aimed at making the extraction of lithium less water-intensive and more sustainable. As the world looks to cut carbon emissions, people are increasingly turning to lithium-ion batteries for solutions such as powering electric vehicles or storing renewable energy. While there’s enough lithium available to meet today’s demand, BloombergNEF expects the market could see a shortfall as soon as 2023 as demand for the metal grows fourfold over the next decade.

China boosts first batch rare-earth mining quota for 2020

The coronoavirus outbreak isn’t damping appetite for rare-earth minerals in China. The country has increased the first batch of mining quotas for the strategic materials used in everything from electric vehicles to military hardware. The quota for six dominant producers, including China Northern Rare Earth Group High-Tech, was set at 66 000 t, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on Wednesday. That is half of last year’s total of 132 000 t, and 10% higher than the 60 000 t in the first batch in 2019. China, which issues two batches of quotas every year, boosted the annual rare-earth mining quotas to a record high last year as domestic demand for the minerals rose. This year’s second-batch quota will be issued in the second quarter, according to the ministry. The annual total will be capped below 140 000 t to preserve the resource, under the government’s five-year plan for 2016 to 2020.

South Africa permission for ACWA plant expires, lawyers say

ACWA Power has been informed by the South African government that its environmental authorisation to build a 306 MW coal-fired power plant in the country has expired, according to lawyers opposing the project. The authorisation for the Khanyisa coal-fired plant lapsed on October 31, 2018, and the Saudi electricity company has opposed the ruling in South Africa’s High Court, the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights, a legal organisation, said in a statement Tuesday. The ruling that the authorization had lapsed was made “recently.”

South Africa’s permission for ACWA plant expires, lawyers say

ACWA Power has been informed by the South African government that its environmental authorisation to build a 306 MW coal-fired power plant in the country has expired, according to lawyers opposing the project. The authorisation for the Khanyisa coal-fired plant lapsed on October 31, 2018, and the Saudi electricity company has opposed the ruling in South Africa’s High Court, the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights, a legal organisation, said in a statement Tuesday. The ruling that the authorization had lapsed was made “recently.”

Gold tops $1 600 as virus fuels growth fears

Gold traded near the highest level since 2013 on concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus and how it’s impacting global growth. Palladium topped $2 700/oz as it continued its record-breaking rally. Bullion steadied after surging 1.3% Tuesday’s as Apple’s warning that the virus and efforts to contain it would have its sales missing forecasts spurred a sell off in stocks. China’s death toll from the disease topped 2 000, while the province at the center of the outbreak reported fewer additional cases. The flight to safety has benefited haven assets, with the rally spilling over to the palladium market, where a multi-year deficit is expected to widen in 2020.

South Africa’s ‘Energy War Room’ to meet for first time

South Africa’s Energy War Room, a grouping of the main cabinet ministers responsible for the power industry, will meet for the first time this week since being reconstituted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December as the country battles an electricity crisis that’s stalling economic growth. The team, which is headed by Deputy President David Mabuza and includes the Finance, Energy and Public Enterprises Ministers, will meet on Thursday, according to the deputy president’s office, which didn’t give further detail.

Billionaire Sawiris hopes to join Egypt gold rush as rules eased

One of Egypt’s richest men has long coveted a role in his nation’s gold-mining industry. Now, a shakeup in regulations and a potential auction of new licenses could give Naguib Sawiris a shining opportunity. The Egyptian government “already started talks with us as well as other companies to promote the new tender,” Sawiris, the chairman of La Mancha Holding, said in a phone interview. “We are willing to participate in any area that could be promising.” He didn’t specify which of the firms he’s involved with would submit bids.

The top miner’s vision of the future looks a lot like the past

BHP’s new top executive has a plan to prosper in a world that’s accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions – double down on the raw materials that’ve been key through its near 170-year history. The world’s top miner, with roots in a 19th Century tin mine, plans to add more copper and nickel to meet rising demand from renewable energy and electric vehicles, and sees a continuing role for key coal mines and oil wells, according to Chief Executive Officer Mike Henry, who signaled his tenure won’t begin with any radical overhaul. “We already produce some of the products that will be essential as the world transitions to a lower carbon economy and which will continue to prosper in a decarbonized world,” Henry, who took his post last month, told reporters Tuesday. “We do still need to create more options in future-facing commodities.” Alongside copper and nickel, potash is regarded by BHP as another key future material and the producer is on track to seek board approval next year to spend as much as $5.7 billion on the first stage of its Jansen mine project in Canada, Henry said.

Polish miners’ strike may hit the wall as coal is on the way out

Polish coal miners planning a protest in Warsaw later this month may find it more difficult than ever to secure their pay hike demands. The workers, whose strong negotiating position harks back to the Solidarity union’s emblematic fight against communism, have so far seen most of their expectations met by every government in the last 30 years. This time it could be different. Coal is becoming less popular in the European Union’s largest eastern economy that’s also one of the heaviest polluters. The government, which came to power in 2015 with the firm support from miners, has signaled that the good times for coal are over.

Egypt eyes gold rush with fresh exploration tender by March

Egypt will invite international gold-mining companies to take part in a new exploration tender after the North African country eased the rules to woo investors, according to a person familiar with the matter. The tender will be announced by early March, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Egypt, whose mineral wealth remains largely under-explored and undeveloped, is hoping that gold production can be a future source of growth for its economy, which is emerging from a sweeping International Monetary Fund-backed reform program.