July Newsletter – 06.07.2021
- General Motors moves to secure US-sourced lithium for its EVs
- Anglo Knew of Lead Danger at Zambian Mine, Doctor Says
- Mining brines from dormant volcanoes could provide the metals needed for a sustainable future
- Antofagasta secures copper supply deals with China smelters
- Unrelenting coal demand poses challenge to climate goals
- Colombia Looks To Ramp Up Coal Mining As Economy Struggles
- Rio Tinto declares force majeure at mineral sands project in South Africa
- Climate change: Will UK mining drive a green revolution?
General Motors moves to secure US-sourced lithium for its EVs
Hell’s Kitchen geothermal brine project is located near California’s Salton Sea, roughly 258 km southeast of Los Angeles.
General Motors has taken steps to secure lithium, a crucial ingredient for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, sourced in the US through a strategic investment and partnership with Australia’s Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), which is developing a project poised to become the country’s largest by 2024.
The deal, announced on Friday, will see GM investing “multi millions” into CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen geothermal brine project near California’s Salton Sea, roughly 160 miles (258 km) southeast of Los Angeles.
The automaker did not disclose the exact investment figures, but said the move makes it one of the first to develop its own source of the battery metal.
The company will have first rights to lithium produced by the first stage of the project, including an option for a multiyear deal going forward if CTR’s extraction process proves successful.
The announcement comes as both the Biden administration and US-based automakers seek to speed up the development and adoption of cleaner lithium extraction methods and increase domestic supply of the white metal.
Anglo Knew of Lead Danger at Zambian Mine, Doctor Says
A doctor said Anglo American Plc was aware of the danger lead poisoning posed to employees and commissioned a study into its impact in a community close to a Zambian mine where he worked.
The claim bolsters a lawsuit in which a group of Zambian women and children allege Anglo caused widespread lead poisoning from the Broken Hill mine it had a stake in until 1974 in the northern city of Kabwe. They are demanding compensation and a clean-up of the area.
Anglo said while it had an interest in the mine it wasn’t the owner or operator, without giving more precise detail. “Conflating Zambia Broken Hill Development Company with Anglo American is simply incorrect,” it said.
“The mine management were certainly aware of the risk of lead poisoning to its employees, the blood levels of all staff were checked regularly,” Ian Lawrence, who worked as a medical officer at the mine in 1969 and 1970, said in a supplementary affidavit that’s been added to the case. “I became deeply concerned at the number of deaths amongst children under the age of five in the residential township where local employees lived.”
Lawrence’s affidavit was submitted in April, six months after the case was brought to South Africa’s High Court. He said the delay was because it was not feasible to visit a notary public in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mining brines from dormant volcanoes could provide the metals needed for a sustainable future
Scientists at the University of Oxford are proposing the idea of sustainably extracting copper, gold, zinc, silver and lithium from brines trapped in porous rocks at depths of around 2 kilometres below dormant volcanoes.
In a paper published in the journal Open Science, the researchers explain that the gases released by magma beneath volcanoes are rich in metals. As the pressure drops, the gases separate into steam and brine. Most metals dissolved in the original magmatic gas become concentrated in the dense brine, which in turn gets trapped in porous rock. The less-dense and metal-depleted steam continues up to the surface, where it can form fumaroles, such as those seen at many active volcanoes.
According to the team led by petrologist Jon Blundy, this trapped, subterranean brine is a potential ‘liquid ore’ containing a slew of valuable metals, including gold, lithium and several million tonnes of copper, all of which could be exploited by extracting the fluids to the surface via deep wells.
Employing this method could potentially reduce the cost of mining and ore processing. In addition to this, since geothermal power would be a significant by-product of this green-mining approach, operations would be carbon-neutral.
Antofagasta secures copper supply deals with China smelters
Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) has reportedly secured copper concentrate supply deals with four major Chinese smelters for the first half of 2022, sources told MINING.COM.
The contracts with China Copper, Jiangxi Copper, Tongling Nonferrous and Jinchuan Group came after a recent round of talks. A final agreement was reached on the evening of Wednesday June 30, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Miners pay treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) to smelters to turn ore into refined metal and the agreed rate plays a big role in determining the profitability of both sides.
The Santiago-based company and representatives from the Chinese smelters are said to have agreed on treatment charges averaging the mid-$50s.
Unrelenting coal demand poses challenge to climate goals
Coal prices across Asia are surging to records, underscoring a challenge for governments seeking a faster energy transition: the dirtiest of fuels they’re racing to phase out is enjoying booming demand.
Power plants are rushing to secure adequate electricity supplies as a hot summer adds to demand from the region’s post-pandemic industrial revival. On top of that, output in some key producer nations has been hurt, while high natural gas costs mean there’s no cheaper alternative for utilities to turn to.
All that has sparked a coal rally in Asia, the center of demand for the fossil fuel. The price of physical coal cargoes in Australia’s Newcastle and China’s Qinhuangdao ports have soared more than 50% this year to their highest ever. Futures are also up, with those in Australia jumping almost 50% and prices in China more than doubling.
Colombia Looks To Ramp Up Coal Mining As Economy Struggles
Despite the intensifying fight against global warming and climate change, which is supported by some of the world’s largest energy companies, Colombia’s president Ivan Duque is determined to expand the country’s coal mining. The strife-torn Andean nation is South America’s largest coal producer and the national government is seeking to bolster output as part of its plans to reactivate the economy after it shrank nearly 7% during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duque intends to expand Colombia’s thermal coal production regardless of the environmental consequences and the government’s obligations as a signatory to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. A key component of the agreement is that the 196 signatories, including Colombia, will implement greenhouse gas emission-reducing strategies to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. It is recognized that this can only be achieved if thermal coal is removed from the global energy mix because it produces more carbon emissions than any other fossil fuel. U.S. EIA data shows anthracite coal emits 228.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units produced, whereas bituminous coal pumps out 205.7 pounds when burned.
Those emissions are nearly double the 117 million pounds of carbon dioxide emitted by natural gas, considered to be the cleanest of the fossil fuels, and around 40% greater than either gasoline or diesel. Bogota intends to expand coal production despite 94% of Colombia’s proven coal reserves, which amount to more than 5 billion tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey being comprised of anthracite and bituminous coal, the most polluting types of fossil fuel. This is because coal generates 85% of mining royalties, making it a key driver of government revenue, and is Colombia’s second-largest export, after crude oil, accounting for 11% of export earnings.
Rio Tinto declares force majeure at mineral sands project in South Africa
June 30 (Reuters) – Rio Tinto RIO.AX said on Wednesday it had declared a force majeure on customer contracts at its Richards Bay Minerals project in South Africa, citing “an escalation in the security situation at the operations.”
The global miner said all mining and smelting operations at the mineral sands project have been halted.
Rio Tinto did not give details of the security situation.
A report earlier in June in the Sydney Morning Herald said an employee at the project was killed in May, the third since 2015.
“We continue to offer our full support to the investigating authorities,” said Rio’s chief executive of Minerals, Sinead Kaufman.
“I would like to acknowledge the ongoing support of the regional and national governments and South African Police Service as we work together to ensure that we can safely resume operations,” Kaufman said in a statement on Wednesday.
Climate change: Will UK mining drive a green revolution?
The rapid growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles means the demand for the minerals they rely on is set to soar. By 2030, the world could need half as much tin again, and for lithium the increase is a massive 500% by 2050 according to the World Bank. With battery production set to start in the UK, could the answer to their supply lie in the rocks of Cornwall?
Bumping around in the back of a truck, we descend underground.
Just the headlights guide our way into the gloomy tunnels ahead.
We’re heading into South Crofty mine in Cornwall, where copper and tin have been excavated for hundreds of years.
Cornish Metals wants to open up South Crofty again
“This tunnel, we believe, is Elizabethan, so it dates back to the 1500s,” says Richard Williams, CEO of Cornish Metals, as we enter one of the oldest parts of the site.
But access is limited. Much of the mine flooded after South Crofty shut in 1998.
Now though, it may open again. With the growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles, demand for some minerals is soaring.
“Next-generation solar panels use a compound called tin perovskite; anything with an electric connection, a circuit board has tin in it,” explains Mr Williams.
“We’d be contributing to the UK’s objective of meeting its carbon neutral target by 2050. And to have that domestic supply on your doorstep, it makes sense to see this mine put back into production.”
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