December Newsletter – 19.12.18



COAL: Canadian coal plants to be phased out by 2030

OTTAWA – The federal government of Canada announced on Dec. 12, 2018, that traditional coal-fired electric generation plans will be phased out by 2030. Greenhouse gas regulations for natural gas-fired generating stations was also published.

The government says it wants to have 90% of this country’s electricity generated from non-emitting sources. It estimates that carbon pollution from the electricity sector will be cut by 12.8 million tonnes.

Earlier this year, Canada launched a task force for coal power workers and communities to better understand the impacts of the phase-out and how to minimize them, including funding for skills development, economic diversification, and transition centres.

Copies of both regulations were published on Dec. 12 in the Canada Gazette, Part II.


Germany secures access to world’s second-largest lithium deposit


Germany and Bolivia today sealed a partnership for the industrial use of lithium , a key component in the batteries that power electric cars and cell phones.

ACI Systems will work with state-owned Bolivian Lithium Deposits (YLB) on installing four lithium plants in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, which hold the world’s second-largest lithium deposit.

The joint venture also plans to build a factory for electric vehicle batteries in the country.

While more than 80% of the lithium extracted will be exported to Germany, the company is said to be in talks with other European companies.

The partners expect to produce up to 40,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year, beginning in 2022,  over a period of 70 years.


China’s Dominance in Rare Earths Threatens European Electric-Car Industry

Rare-earth metals are critical to the modern economy as they are a key material for making batteries that power electric vehicles; are added to touchscreens and circuit boards in smartphones; and are used in laser systems that guide missiles and bombs.

While European Union countries are among the world’s biggest electric-vehicle markets, the bloc as a whole has only a few rare-earth metal deposits. Other than deposits in several countries such as Greenland, Norway, and Finland, the EU relies on imports to support industrial demand.

Cobalt, one of the key minerals in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars and smartphones, is currently only mined in Finland, among all EU countries.

The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), a Swedish government agency, issued an updated report on the Scandinavian country’s rare-earth deposits Dec. 7, detailing the country’s geological potential for mining the metals. But the potential mining boom in Sweden could be dashed because of China’s dominance in the market, said a Swedish analyst.

“China has historically used its strong leverage to influence prices and minimize competition,” Tobias Persson, an analyst at Growth Analysis, told Swedish national radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio AB, on Dec. 10. Growth Analysis is a think tank directed by the Swedish government.

China currently controls more than 90 percent of the global supply in rare-earth metals, according to a January 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Energy. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo accounted for 65 percent of global cobalt supplies in 2017, according to the research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie

The Plan to Build a Nuclear Future From a Communist Relic

In the poorest corner of the European Union, political leaders are looking for a savior with 10 billion euros to spare.

On the edge of a small Bulgarian town on the southern bank of the Danube River lies a relic from communism with eerie echoes of one of the Soviet era’s most infamous places.

Empty apartment buildings squat on the snow like forgotten boxes. Windows are broken, facades are crumbling and weeds flourish where gardens were meant to blossom. It looks like the ghost town at the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear site 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) north.

Except the crucial difference is that the one at Belene in Bulgaria was never occupied, save for the occasional squatter. The buildings were erected in the 1980s by the government to house workers at a planned facility. But the project was scrapped, revived and scrapped again during the eastern bloc’s transition from communism to capitalism.

Now, in the heart of the European Union’s poorest corner, Bulgaria plans to get the nuclear plant off the ground for real. Facing a dilemma that’s familiar across the continent, the government says the nation can’t keep up with demand for electricity any other way.

It will solicit bids from investors early next year to build a 2,000 megawatt plant at a capped cost of 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion). The land, empty apartment blocks, already prepped foundations and two unused Russian-made reactors will be thrown in as incentives.

“This project has been standing as an unsolved issue in the Bulgarian electricity sector for a long time,” Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said at her office in Sofia. “But the situation now is much different.”


PNG government rethinking China mining deal after opposition

In November, China and PNG signed a $US148 million memorandum of understanding to extend the Ramu nickel mine’s refinery in Madang’s Basamuk Bay.

But more than 1,000 locals are now threatening to shut down the Basamuk refinery if their demands aren’t met.

They want funding for a local highway extension and other local benefits from the Chinese developer, the Metallurgical Corporation of China.

The minister, Johnson Tuke, met with landowners on Tuesday and said he’s now raising their concerns with the company.

“There are some terms and conditions of the MoA might change and the treasury department are waiting on certain terms and conditions of the physical responsibilities too.”

The petitioners have given the government until 19 December to respond to their demands.

Barrick Moves Closer to Resolving Acacia Dispute

  • Acacia would pay $300 million to Tanzania, people say
  • Board and shareholders still need to review final agreement

Barrick Gold Corp. has reached an agreement with the Tanzanian government on a $300 million payment, a milestone toward resolving a dispute that has crippled the miner’s subsidiary in the African country, according to people familiar with the situation.

Executives from the Toronto-based producer and Randgold Resources Ltd., which is being bought by Barrick, met with Tanzanian negotiators on Dec. 7, said the people, who declined to be identified as the talks are private. During that meeting, the two sides made significant progress on a deal that includes Acacia Mining Plc paying $300 million in installments. The terms are now being handed off to a tax working group in Tanzania for review, the people said.


Kazatomprom says it has not initiated KASE listing

ALMATY – Kazakh uranium miner Kazatomprom has not initiated the admission of shares to the Kazakh Stock Exchange, the company said on Wednesday.

The exchange said this week it has opened trading in Kazatomprom shares which had initially been listed on another Kazakh bourse, the Astana International Exchange.

Brazil’s biggest coal-producing state eyes Chinese investment

Mired in a profound and lengthy economic crisis, the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which holds 90% of Brazil’s coal reserves, has opted to expand mining and create a coal gasification centre.

The initiative would enable the government, billions of dollars in debt, to create thousands of jobs but also risks locking-in into high-carbon energy infrastructure.

As the state set out to find foreign investors for the project, it found China.

“We know that China as a whole has been investing in the area of energy,” says Susana Kakuta, Rio Grande do Sul state secretary of mines and energy. “China uses technologies that are already well-established worldwide, so it is a big win-win, for them and for Brazil, especially for Rio Grande do Sul, in a new opportunity for coal from our state.”

Though the deal is not yet done, Kakuta, claims there is interest in the coal centre among companies already investing in the Brazilian energy sector, such as the Shenzen Energy Group and Zhejiang Electric Power Construction Co (ZEPCC).

Japan Gold gains on Goldcorp backing

Vancouver-based gold producer Goldcorp (TSX: G) is set to take C$3.4 million, 19.9% stake in explorer Japan Gold (TSXV: JG) as part of a private placement to strategic investors to further the junior’s projects in Japan.


Canadian universities not keeping up with mining industry demands—report

A recent report on Canada’s mining sector suggests that there may soon be a rebound in the industry, but it warns that a drop in the number of mining engineering graduates needs to be countered with educational reform to achieve sustainability.

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council’s (MiHR) annual Canadian Mining Labour Market Outlook 2019 notes declining enrollment in mining engineering programs and highlights key occupational gaps in mining employment on- and off-site.

According to the study, undergraduate mining engineering program enrollment dropped 12% between 2015 and 2016, the largest decline of all engineering programs. “We don’t teach enough [technology] – part of our strategic plan is to teach more of it but as far as educators are concerned, we are falling behind.”

“Changes are happening so fast in the industry, it is very difficult to keep up,” said Scott Dunbar, associate professor at the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“We don’t teach enough [technology] – part of our strategic plan is to teach more of it but as far as educators are concerned, we are falling behind,” said Dunbar.


Caving underway at Resolute’s Syama

First ore from Resolute Mining’s sub-level caving (SLC) of the Syama orebody in Mali has been produced, with the ramp-up to the full production rate of 2.4 million tonnes per annum targeted for June 2019.

As well as the SLC, Resolute is undertaking a series of sulphide plant upgrades at Syama to increase recovery rates from the high-grade ore to be produced.

“The combination of mine automation, improved recoveries and lower cost power has the potential to increase Syama site production to 300,000oz of gold per annum and reduce life-of-mine all-in sustaining costs to below US$750/oz,” Resolute said.

About 400,000 tonnes of development and long hole stoping ore have been extracted from the underground mine to date.

Dubbed the “most sophisticated and advanced mine in Africa” (due to its fully automated nature), the Syama SLC is a key plank in Resolute’s currently defined growth target of passing an annual production run-rate of 500,000 ounces per annum in the next couple of years.