April Newsletter – 26.04.2021
- GSR collects first deep-sea nodules
- Battery metal rush pits miners against marine biologists
- More U.S. mineral mining would blunt electric vehicle makers’ dangerous reliance on China: Robert W. Chase
- China’s Chifeng Jilong terminates agreement to buy Ghana gold mine
- China’s metal imports from Myanmar show trade contortions amid post-coup protest
- Cobalt, China and Korea’s battery conundrum
- Does Afghanistan Have a Green Future?
- Miners seek gold under the desert sands after Egypt changes rules
GSR collects first deep-sea nodules
Deep-sea mining explorer Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) has reported that its underwater robot has collected its first polymetallic nodules.
GSR is deploying the Patania II in part of the Clarion Clipperton Zone
The company’s unmanned vessel collected nodules it says are rich in nickel, cobalt, manganese and copper at a depth of 4500 metres.
The Patania II was lowered from a surface vessel via a 5km-long power and two-way communications cable, and spent approximately 50 hrs on the seabed.
GSR noted that Patania II is not connected to a riser pipe to bring the nodules to the surface, only the seafloor nodule collector is being trialled and monitored at this stage.
A subsidiary of the dredging firm DEME, GSR is collaborating with the European research project MiningImpact, which involves scientists from 29 European institutes, for the trial.
“This successful trial demonstrates that polymetallic nodules can be collected from the seafloor. Now we await the results of independent analysis so we can refine our technology and environmental plans,” said Kris Van Nijen, Managing Director of GSR.
GSR said earlier this month that it will be deploying the Patania II in part of the Clarion Clipperton Zone, which lies in the Pacific between Mexico and Hawaii.
Last month, Germany’s BMW Group, South Korean battery maker Samsung SDI and US web services company Google said they don’t plan to use deep-ocean minerals in their supply chains until more comprehensive scientific research is conducted into its deep-sea mining’s impact.
Battery metal rush pits miners against marine biologists
DeepGreen is one of the companies that intends to produce metals from polymetalic rocks, found in deep oceans.
Controversial plans to mine the ocean floor face a key test this year when a United Nations body unveils rules that could spur the exploitation of hundreds of billions of dollars of battery metals.
The International Seabed Authority is preparing to pass regulations in July that could trigger a rush to extract metals needed to power the electric-vehicle revolution. Environmentalists say that would endanger fragile marine ecosystems and fear the ISA is too closely aligned with the emergent mining industry. The conflict exposes the complex trade-offs nations face to survive on a warming planet.
“It is a grand challenge of our time to reconcile humanity’s opposing interests in acquiring ocean resources — food, minerals and energy — with protecting these habitats,” said Will Homoky, a biochemist at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, who’s helped collect the environmental data being analyzed by miners and regulators.
More U.S. mineral mining would blunt electric vehicle makers’ dangerous reliance on China: Robert W. Chase
MARIETTA, Ohio — In the 1970s, the harmful effects of an oil embargo shocked Americans. The sudden realization that we needed to take responsibility for our own energy future had quite an impact. Politicians responded accordingly.
Now we must address a huge new concern — the danger of becoming hostage to China for critically important industrial materials.
It’s only a matter of time. China is our leading supplier of minerals and metals, giving it great leverage over our supply chains for advanced technologies. Consider the possibility of waking to the news that China has cut off exports of electric-vehicle battery metals — lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and rare earth minerals. What if China decides it has had enough of U.S. pressure with regard to human rights abuses and decides to retaliate by restricting the export of key metals? Then consider the panic that would set in as the price of metals skyrockets.
China’s Chifeng Jilong terminates agreement to buy Ghana gold mine
China’s Chifeng Jilong Gold Mining said on Monday it had terminated an agreement to buy the Bibiani gold mine in Ghana, five days after proposed seller Resolute Mining’s lease for the mine was restored.
Resolute agreed to sell Bibiani to Chifeng Jilong for $105 million in December. Its lease was abruptly ended by the Ghanaian government in March and restored last week under terms that did not recognise the sale.
China’s metal imports from Myanmar show trade contortions amid post-coup protest
(Reuters) – Chinese trade data gave a mixed snapshot of neighbour Myanmar’s ability to keep up metal shipments in March amid unrest after February’s coup, with flows of nickel pig iron (NPI) dwindling to almost nothing but those of copper doubling month-on-month.
With Chinese firms directly involved in Myanmar metals mining, imports of stainless steel raw material NPI from the Southeast Asian country were just 298 tonnes last month, data from China’s customs showed on Tuesday. That was a 90% slump from February and down 94% year-on-year, marking the lowest monthly total since April 2019.
Meanwhile, China’s refined copper imports from Myanmar were 11,001 tonnes in March, up 120% from February and up 37.6% year-on-year.
Cobalt, China and Korea’s battery conundrum
Why Korea’s EV battery ambition is vulnerable to supply chain disruptions in key metals
Home to three of the world’s major lithium-ion battery makers, it seems South Korea is well positioned to benefit from the global transition to electric vehicles.
A look beneath the surface, however, reveals the local firms’ precarious position in an industry still facing huge uncertainties, ranging from the supply of key raw materials to the future directions of technological innovations.
Cobalt, a key component in lithium-ion batteries, offers one way to understand the vulnerability of South Korea’s global battery expansion. It is often described by officials here with the term K-battery, in the hopes that it would follow the success of Korea’s more globally popular products like K-pop and K-dramas.
Does Afghanistan Have a Green Future?
Everyone has a different doomsday scenario for Afghanistan once US and NATO troops withdraw by September 11. The Taliban will take over and reimpose their repressive social agenda. Al-Qaeda will multiply rapidly and again become a global threat. Rival warlords will split apart the country. Another wave of Afghan refugees will overwhelm Europe. And then there’s the scenario in which China basically takes over the country, or at least the most sought-after parts of the country: the resources that lie beneath Afghan soil.
“Afghanistan is one of the richest mining regions in the world, holding untapped mineral wealth and rare Earth elements estimated at roughly $3 trillion,” writes Chris Dolan in The Hill. “Competition with China over mineral wealth is intensifying and Afghanistan presents China with a new opportunity to expand its mining and transportation projects in the Belt and Road initiative.”
So far, the China “threat,” like all the others, is hypothetical since Beijing has been hesitant to invest a lot into the war-torn country. In 2007, China contracted to build a large copper mine at Mes Aynak but has done so little to set up operations there that the Afghan government is considering retendering the contract to another investor. The Chinese have their own complaints about the Mes Aynak arrangement, particularly around security and renegotiating some of the terms of the contract. Other than the stalled copper mine and some oil exploration, Chinese investments in Afghanistan have been minimal compared to what Beijing is pouring into neighboring Pakistan.
Miners seek gold under the desert sands after Egypt changes rules
Despite plentiful reserves and a rich mining history that gave rise to elaborate Pharaonic gold jewellery, Egypt has just one commercial gold mine in operation.
Mining companies awarded blocks in Egypt’s Eastern Desert are set to start exploring for gold under a legislative overhaul that seeks eventually to unlock vast untapped mineral resources.
Despite plentiful reserves and a rich mining history that gave rise to elaborate Pharaonic gold jewellery, Egypt has just one commercial gold mine in operation. Foreign investment in oil and gas has grown, but mining has languished.
Now, the country is banking on high gold prices and amended mining laws that scrap red tape and a profit-sharing rule, unpopular in the industry, to lure interest.
One year after launching its first bid round under the new rules, it has so far clinched five gold exploration contracts in a first bidding round and kept the tendering system rolling as it tries to build momentum.
The government is looking to attract $1 billion in annual investments in mining, a target industry sources say could be within reach.
“Success is ultimately going to be measured by how many mines are going to be discovered and advanced to production,” said Patrick Barnes, Head of Metals & Mining Consulting EMEARC at Wood Mackenzie, which advised Egypt’s government on its mining law reforms.
“Early indicators show us that this bid round was much better than the ones held previously.”
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