Argentina rejects Barrick’s challenge to glacier protection

The verdict is in, and it does not look good for miners in Argentina.  

In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, Argentina’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge to an environmental law banning mining in glacial areas that was brought by Barrick Gold. The Canadian miner had attempted to subvert Argentina’s controversial Glacier Protection Law prohibiting mining in glacier and permafrost areas.  

Barrick owns the Veladero gold mine in Argentina and the Pascua-Lama project on the Argentine-Chile border. 

The company did not issue a statement, but a Barrick source with knowledge of the matter said the court's decision would not affect any of the company's current operations in Argentina. The source, who said Barrick would "analyze" the ruling, spoke anonymously, Reuters reported.

Miners have long marked this region for its rich gold, silver and copper deposits, and have been on standby for nearly a decade awaiting a judicial decision from Argentina’s top tribunal as to whether or not they could mine in glacier terrain,” said Jorge Daniel Taillant, executive director, Center for Human Rights and Environment in a media statement.  

McEwen Mining’s Los Azules, Stillwater’s El Altar, and Meryllion Gold’s Cerro Amarillo are a few other mining projects that stalled when Argentina passed the world’s first Glacier Protection Law, prohibiting any industrial activity that could harm glaciers and periglacial areas Miners have long marked this region for its rich gold, silver and copper deposits, and have been on standby for nearly a decade awaiting a judicial decision from Argentina’s top tribunal as to whether or not they could mine in glacier terrain

The Argentine Glacier Law was passed in 2008, unanimously by Congress, when then activist Environment Secretary Romina Picolottibrought the draft law through Congress with no opposition whatsoever,” Taillant said. 

Then President Fernández de Kirchner vetoed the new Glacier Law on the grounds that it was detrimental to the mining sector.  

Environmentalists fought for the return of the Glacier Law, and in 2010 Congress passed a national Glacier Protection Law, prohibiting mining and oil and gas projects in glacier and permafrost areas, making the law retroactive. 

In 2015 Chile's Environmental Court ruled that the Pascua-Lama project had not damaged glaciers within the project's area of influence. 

Argentina’s public officials in the mining sector, and environmental authorities took nearly 10 years to carry out the glacier inventory which the law called for, and failed to crack down on mining operations already in glacier areas, which the law also mandated 

Sure that the court system would take years, or even decades to rule on the case, pro-mining public officials went about their business as if the Glacier Law did not exist, encouraging mining companies to move forward with investments, although the billions of dollars promised by mining companies to extract gold, silver and copper, did not materialize,” Taillant said. 

Argentina's Supreme Court knocked down the miner’s arguments, maintaining that the company failed to show that the Glacier Protection Law affected mining investments.  

“The request of Barrick to declare the unconstitutionality of the national regulations has been a perverse move that fortunately lost. Now, it is necessary to enforce the law and close Veladero. We can not allow more mining on the glaciers of the Argentines, " said Gonzalo Strano, a Greenpeace Argentina spokesperson in a media statement.  

Tuesday’s ruling halts 44 mining projects nearby or on bodies of ice that are being evaluated, according to the National Secretariat of the Environment. 

 

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Portofino receives encouraging results from Yergo lithium brine project in Argentina

Portofino Resources (TSXV:POR) made public this week initial sampling results from its Yergo lithium brine project, located at the Aparejos salar in the province of Catamarca, northwestern Argentina.

In a press release, Portofino said that the exploration program consisted of surface and near-surface brine sampling and geological mapping. “Hand augers were utilized to obtain the brine samples from surface to a maximum depth of 1.3 meters. A total of 22 locations across the property were sampled within the project concessions with samples returning values of up to 373 mg/L lithium, and up to 8,001 mg/L potassium. In all, the analyses for the 22 sample sites averaged 224.4 mg/L Li, 4,878 mg/L K and 184.4 mg/L magnesium,” the release states.

The 2,932-hectare Yergo project encompasses the entire Aparejos salar and is located in the southern part of the “Lithium Triangle”

The Vancouver-based company explained that due to the unusually high levels of water in the salar, most of the sample sites are located in the southeast portion of the property. The 16 "southeast corner" sample sites averaged 278.1 mg/L Li, 6,091 mg/L K and 86.2 mg/L Mg and their analyses also indicated low Mg:Li ratios (0.4 avg).

In Portofino’s view, due to the proximity of the salars comprising Neo Lithium's 3Q project and Portofino's Yergo project, it is likely that they have experienced similar geological histories and are similarly enriched in lithium and potassium as a result of their common evaporitic climate and local geology.

“We are encouraged with these very good, initial lithium and potassium sample results combined with extremely low magnesium/lithium ratios,” David Tafel, the firm’s CEO, said in the media brief. “As soon as weather permits, our geological team will continue their exploration work to follow up on the potential surface extent of the mineralization.”

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RANKED: Top 10 lowest cost gold mines on the globe

In 2018, global gold mining companies' average all-in sustaining costs (AISC) fell 6% across the board as miners reacted to a gold price in steady decline for most of the year.

The AISC metric serve as a benchmark of a mine’s operating efficiency. They provide a more comprehensive look at mine economics than the traditional "cash costs" approach that many companies may interpret arbitrarily – and it includes important expenses such as overhead outlays and capital used in ongoing exploration, mine development and production.

Mining Intelligence, a MINING.com sister company, looked at costs at primary gold mines and ranked them based on AISC. Primary gold operations are defined by Mining Intelligence as “mines where gold contributed to 80% or more of revenues from operating activities generated last year.”

The data used by Mining Intelligence represents companies reporting quarterly production and listed on the following stock exchanges: TSX (+TSX-V), ASX, LSE (+LSE-AIM), NYSE, and JSE. The ranking excludes privately-owned mines, tailings, re-processing operations, mines where the precious metal is produced as a by-product, and operations where companies report gold-equivalent output.


Falling out of the top ten list compiled by Mining Intelligence in 2018 are two Barrick mines that were on the Mining Intelligence list compiled in 2018: Lagunas Norte in Peru, where costs have gone up from $483 to $636/oz, and Pueblo Viejo, in the Dominican Republic, where costs rose from $525 to $623/oz. The Barrick mines made way for two recently commissioned mines: B2Gold's Fekola mine in Mali, and Atlantic Gold's Moose River mine in Nova Scotia.

1 Svetloye – $425/oz

Svetloye mine. Image from Polymetals.

Polymetal’s Svetloye mine is an open-pit gold operation that located in the far east region of Russia. Despite the remote location and lack of infrastructure, high-grade ores and heap-leaching technology help this mine to produce gold at the lowest costs possible.

2 Fosterville – $442/oz

Fosterville mine. Image from Kirkland Gold.

Fosterville is the largest gold producer in the state of Victoria, Australia. The underground mine is owned by Toronto-based Kirkland Lake Gold. Production in 2018 totalled 356,230 ounces. Recently the company raised the production guidance to 550,000-610,000 ounces for 2019-2020, up from the previous guidance of 390,000–430,000 ounces.

3 Olimpiada – $468/oz

Olimpiada mine. Image from Polyus.

Located in one of Russia’s most prolific gold mining provinces, Olimpiada is Polyus’ largest operation.To treat Olimpiada’s sulphide ores, Polyus employs BIONORD, the company’s proprietary bio-oxidation technology. Successful exploration activities in the area indicate the potential for substantial extension of the life of this mine.

4 Voro – $477/oz

Voro mine. Image from Polymetal.

Voro is one of Polymetal's very first key gold assets, acquired in 1998. The mine and processing facility is located in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia. The open-pit and heap leach operation started in 2000 and has another nine years of life.

5 South Arturo – $478/oz

South Arturo mine. Image from Premier Gold Mines.

The South Arturo open-pit gold mine in Nevada is a high-grade oxide deposit amenable for highly efficient heap leaching mineral processing and extraction technology. This deposit is of the prominent Carlin-type widely known as being one of the most productive and cost efficient geological formations worldwide. Premier Gold Mines holds a 40% interest in the South Arturo property with Barrick owning the remaining 60%. Barrick processes South Arturo ore at its Goldstrike plant 5 km south of the mine.

6 Long Canyon – $505/oz

Long Canyon mine. Image from Newmont.

Newmont’s Long Canyon open-pit mine is of the same mineralization style as the South Arturo deposit, and the only significant discovery made in Nevada in the last decade. The nature of the deposit, application of a heap leach technology and tapping into existing infrastructure keep costs at Long Canyon at some of the lowest levels in the industry.

7 Fekola – $533/oz

Fekola mine. Image from B2Gold.

B2Gold first acquired the world-class Fekola gold project in Mali through a merger with Papillon Resources back in 2014. First gold pour at the Fekola mine took place three years later. The company recently decided, based on a positive PEA study, to invest $50 million into expanding the mine's capacity.

8 Cerro Negro – $535/oz

Goldcorp’s Cerro Negro mine.

Sitting 600 metres above sea level on the Patagonian plains in southern Argentina, Goldcorp’s Cerro Negro underground mine has 4.86 million ounces in proven and probable gold reserves. Commercial production began on January 1, 2015.

9 Blagodatnoye – $547/oz

Blagodatnoye mine. Image from Polyus.

Polyus commissioned Blagodatnoye in Krasnoyarsk, eastern Siberia in July 2010. Processing capacity at the open pit, located 25 km from the Moscow-based company's flagship Olimpiada mine, is 8.1 million tonnes of ore per year, which makes it one of the largest facilities of its kind in Russia.

10 Moose River – $564/oz

Atlantic Gold's Moose River mine.

Atlantic Gold’s Moose River open-pit mine is located in Nova Scotia that has a long history of gold mining. Commercial production was declared in March 2018, and in the first year production reached 90,500 ounces. Atlantic expects its phase two expansion plans will have gold production ramping up to more than 200,000 ounces per annum.

(Based on research compiled by Vladimir Basov of Mining Intelligence)

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Argentina expects $29B in mining investments in 2019

The Argentinian Chamber of Mining Entrepreneurs issued a report this week stating that it expects mining industry investments to reach $29 billion and employ about 80,000 people in 2019.

According to the group, the mining sector is experiencing continued growth and has become the sixth most important sector when it comes to exports.

"At the Chamber we work day in and day out to create synergies with the states, contribute to better public policies, professionalize the relationship between public and private entities, and create a political and social dialogue that generates a shared vision of a sustainable industry," Marcelo Álvarez, First Vice-president of the Chamber, said when presenting the report to the local press.

Álvarez's presentation was made at the launching of Arminera, an international mining expo taking place in Buenos Aires in May.

At the event, the executive also said that the Argentinian mining industry is working hard to comply with a program called "Towards sustainable mining," which provide companies with concrete tools on how to operate in a transparent fashion and following international environmental and sustainability standards.

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Millennial Lithium stock jumps 12% following boost in resource estimate

Shares of Millennial Lithium Corp (TSX.V:ML) traded up 12.4% at the open on Wednesday to an intraday high of C$1.92, lifting the Vancouver-based company's market capitalization to over C$150 million. Over 120,000 shares were traded by early afternoon, almost three times the average session volume.

Earlier, the company released an updated resource estimate for its Pastos Grandes lithium project in Salta, Argentina. The project now contains 4.12Mt lithium carbonate equivalent and 15.3Mt potash equivalent in Measured and Indicated resource. Inferred resource has also increased to 798,000t lithium carbonate equivalent and 2.97Mt potash equivalent.

The resource estimate is based on over 15,000 metres of drilling across 33 holes and represents a near 100% increase over the previous 2017 resource estimate. The company expects to table a feasibility study and build a pilot processing plant at the project site by the end of 2019’s second quarter.

Pastos Grandes is Millennial Lithium's flagship project and covers over 8,600 hectares in the Argentina portion of the South American Lithium Triangle. Earlier this year, the company produced battery-grade lithium from the Pastos Grandes brine. The project is about two years away from production.

Currently, the battery-grade spot price for lithium carbonate is $10,400-$11,700 per tonne, down almost 50% from this time last year.

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Fortuna Silver updates resources, production guidance

Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX: FVI; NYSE: FSM) reported a jump in resource tonnes and ounces exclusive of reserves at its Lindero gold project in Argentina and estimates the project will produce between 145,000 and 160,000 ounces of gold in its first year of commercial production.

The company reported measured and indicated resources for Lindero of 18.9 million tonnes (a 51% increase over earlier estimates) grading 0.50 grams gold per tonne and 0.11% copper for 302,000 ounces of contained gold (a 211% increase).

Inferred resources stand at 8.6 million tonnes (a 51% increase) grading 0.38 gram gold and 0.10% copper for 106,000 ounces of contained gold (a 63% increase).

Proven and probable measure 84.23 million tonnes (5% decrease) grading 0.63 gram gold and 0.11% copper for 1.71 million ounces of contained gold (2% decrease).

Based on infill drilling last year and optimization of its mine plan, the company says it was able to identify a higher grade mineralized area for mining in the first year of production.

The gold-rich porphyry system at Lindero sits at an elevation of 3,500-4,000 metres, about 260 km west of Salta City in Salta province. Based on infill drilling last year and optimization of its mine plan, the company says it was able to identify a higher grade mineralized area for mining in the first year of production

Fortuna Silver decided to build the open-pit, heap leach mine in September 2017. It has been designed as an 18,750 tonne-per-day, owner-operated mine with a pit life of 13 years.

The company updated shareholders on construction progress at Lindero in February, noting that abnormal rains and electrical storms had slowed its progress and that the overall project was 40% complete.

Fortuna said the slow start and ramp-up in excavations at the leach pad and crushing plant had resulted in delays and revisions to the construction schedule. It now expects to start stacking ore in the fourth quarter of 2019 and to pour its first dore by the end of the year, with commercial production targeted for the first quarter of 2020.

It also forecast that total construction capital costs would rise to $295 million, an increase of 20% over initial guidance.

Ryan Thompson, a mining analyst who covers the company for BMO Capital Markets, forecasts the company will produce about 149,000 ounces of gold in its first year of production, from April 1 2020 to Mar. 31, 2021.

“With commissioning expected in October and commercial production expected in Q1/20, we think FVI shares have the potential to rerate higher as construction continues to advance,” he commented in a research note.

The analyst has a price target on the stock $7.50 per share and an outperform rating.

Friday afternoon in Toronto, Fortuna Silver’s shares were trading at $4.56 within a 52-week range of $4.20 and $7.78. The company has about 160 million common shares outstanding for a market cap of $729 million.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)

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Sable expands Margarita with best intercept to date

Sable Resources (TSXV: SAE) has extended the mineralized corridor at its Margarita silver project in Chihuahua State, Mexico, 350 metres to the northwest with results from its ongoing 19 hole Stage 2 drill program.

The company is targeting the project’s Margarita Vein, where it recently drilled the project’s best intercept to date. Hole 24 cut 116.93 grams silver, 0.7% zinc, 0.21% lead and 0.17 gram gold, or 177.05 grams silver equivalent, over 37.35 metres from 74 metres down hole.

That included 400.45 grams silver, 3% zinc, 1.09% lead and 1.07 grams gold, or 688.9 grams silver equivalent, over 5.5 metres from 102 metres down hole.

The company also recently completed exploration programs at its Don Julio gold project in Argentina and its Scorpius gold project in Peru.

The company drilled 3,000 metres across 11 holes at Don Julio and did not encounter any significant mineralization. It says it will figure out how to move forward at Don Julio while refocusing on its other projects.

At Scorpius, the company mapped a 4 sq. km area, collected 49 rock samples and performed 4 km of induced polarization survey across four lines. Rock samples graded as high as 4.91 grams gold with 19 of the samples grading between 0.1 and 1 gram gold. Historic samples provided by the tenement holder graded as high as 7.75 grams gold. The company has requested drill permits from the Peruvian government and expects start drilling the project in 2019’s third quarter.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)

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Sable expands Margarita with best intercept to date

Sable Resources (TSXV: SAE) has extended the mineralized corridor at its Margarita silver project in Chihuahua State, Mexico, 350 metres to the northwest with results from its ongoing 19 hole Stage 2 drill program.

The company is targeting the project’s Margarita Vein, where it recently drilled the project’s best intercept to date. Hole 24 cut 116.93 grams silver, 0.7% zinc, 0.21% lead and 0.17 gram gold, or 177.05 grams silver equivalent, over 37.35 metres from 74 metres down hole.

That included 400.45 grams silver, 3% zinc, 1.09% lead and 1.07 grams gold, or 688.9 grams silver equivalent, over 5.5 metres from 102 metres down hole.

The company also recently completed exploration programs at its Don Julio gold project in Argentina and its Scorpius gold project in Peru.

The company drilled 3,000 metres across 11 holes at Don Julio and did not encounter any significant mineralization. It says it will figure out how to move forward at Don Julio while refocusing on its other projects.

At Scorpius, the company mapped a 4 sq. km area, collected 49 rock samples and performed 4 km of induced polarization survey across four lines. Rock samples graded as high as 4.91 grams gold with 19 of the samples grading between 0.1 and 1 gram gold. Historic samples provided by the tenement holder graded as high as 7.75 grams gold. The company has requested drill permits from the Peruvian government and expects start drilling the project in 2019’s third quarter.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)

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Company Updates From Management – Wed 27 Mar, 2019

New Dimension Resources – Trenching and New Target Updates

New Dimension Resources (TSX.V:NDR) released trenching results yesterday from its Los Cisnes Property in Argentina. These 4 trenches are part of a larger 8 trench program as well as a 16 trench program at the Sierra Blanca Property, also in Argentina.

I chatted with Eric Roth, President and CEO of New Dimension to get some more information on the high grade trench results. We discuss the importance of trenching when looking for new targets undercover and the value of high grade.

Click here to visit the New Dimension website for more information on the trench results.

OceanaGold walks away from exploration projects in Argentina

Australia’s OceanaGold (ASX, TSX: OGC) has withdrawn from two exploration projects in Argentina in which spent about $4.5 million (C$6m) over the past two years as explorations results have not met the miner’s expectations.

Mirasol Resources (TSX-V:MRZ), the owner of La Curva and Claudia prospects in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province, said that while results to date weren’t what OceanaGold expected, it believed the work completed has identified “compelling targets” that warrant further testing.

The Claudia gold-silver project is located about 20km to the south of AngloGold Ashanti’s majority owned Cerro Vanguardia gold-silver mine.

La Curva gold project, in turn, is part of a newly recognized precious metal district in a region that already has five operating multi-million ounce gold and silver mines.

OceanaGold spent almost $34 million on global exploration last year and it’s been especially successful in New Zealand, where it made a high-grade discovery only 10 km north of its Waihi gold mine.

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