January Newsletter – 23.01.2023

Happy Chinese New Year!!  恭喜發財!
  • Court told Anglo turned blind eye to Zambian lead poisoning
  • Glencore halts operations in Peru due to violent protests
  • Argentinian lawyers call for annulment of provincial lithium law
  • Vedanta to sell overseas zinc business to India unit for $2.98 billion
  • U.S., Congo, Zambia Strengthen EV Battery Value Chain
  • Saudi mining firm AMAK procures license to explore for gold in KSA’s Asir region
  • Saudi Arabia signs MoUs, presents projects at Riyadh mining conference
  • ChatGPT doesn’t know where the world’s copper comes from, AI images show mining stuck in the Great Depression

Court told Anglo turned blind eye to Zambian lead poisoning

The Zambian town of Kabwe hosted one of the world’s biggest lead mines for many decades and scientists have reported “alarming” levels of lead in people’s blood.

South Africa’s High Court was told that Anglo American Plc turned a “blind eye” to lead poisoning in the Zambian town of Kabwe, where it held a stake in a mine for almost 50 years.

The case, a hearing to determine whether the lawsuit can be classified as a class action for as many as 140,000 women and children, began Friday and will run until the end of the month. Anglo denies responsibility and opposes attempts to turn the case into a class action.

“Anglo knew of these dangers, or at best turned a blind eye to them,” Gilbert Marcus, counsel for the complainants, said in his opening remarks. “Children were already falling ill and dying of lead poisoning, and a high number of them were suffering from massive blood lead levels while it exercised control of the mine.”

The group lawsuit, filed in South Africa because Anglo was headquartered in Johannesburg when it held a stake in the Broken Hill mine, follows several similar cases. In 2018, Anglo and five other companies paid about $390 million to settle a class action by former gold miners suffering from the respiratory disease silicosis. Gencor Ltd. — a mining conglomerate that has now closed — in 2003 paid $60 million to settle claims from asbestos miners.

Anglo, which had a stake in the Broken Hill Mine between 1925 and 1974, said it only held a shareholding in the operator and mining continued after the mine was nationalized.


Glencore halts operations in Peru due to violent protests

Following Friday’s attack that set on fire a worker housing area, Glencore announced that it has halted operations at the Antapaccay copper mine in southern Peru.

In a media statement, the company said that yesterday’s incidents endangered the safety of its employees and, therefore, authorities should start taking action to safeguard people’s integrity and private property rights.

According to the Swiss miner, a group of citizens from the Espinar province, where Antapaccay is located, arrived at the site Friday noon and demanded that operations be stopped and that the firm issue a communiqué asking for the resignation of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte.

Next, some of the people forced their entry into different mine facilities, stole workers’ belongings, and set the housing area on fire. Two and a half hours later, the protesters left the site.

“The emergency and security teams are working to guarantee the safety of the employees that remain in the operation, as well as to extinguish the fires. So far no injuries have been reported,” the press release states.

Prior to this incident, Glencore’s mine, one of the country’s largest, was operating only with 38% of its workforce due to protests. Less than a week ago, ​​activists broke into Antapaccay’s water plant and set the facility on fire. The plant provides drinking water to over 6,000 people in nearby communities.


Argentinian lawyers call for annulment of provincial lithium law

Argentina, together with Bolivia and Chile, is part of the Lithium Triangle. Pictured here is the Hombre Muerto salt flat.

The Argentine Institute of Mining Law (IADEM) is calling for the annulment of Law N°10.608, which declared lithium and its derivatives as strategic natural resources in La Rioja province and which prioritizes state companies when it comes to the exploitation of the battery metal.

The call follows the unilateral approval and publication, by the provincial government, of the Law on January 17, 2023, right after having suspended, for 120 days, all exploration permits and concessions previously granted to private companies.

According to the Institute, La Rioja has gone beyond its competencies by suspending and establishing causes for nullity of search, prospecting and exploration permits and concessions in the provincial territory. 

In a communiqué, IADEM also noted that Law N°10.608 collides with and undermines the existing Mining Code, which establishes that decisions regarding Argentina’s mineral endowment are delegated by the provinces to the national government, in agreement with article 75 of the Constitution.

In addition to this, “the Mining Code regulates, among others, the mechanisms for the acquisition, maintenance and termination of mining rights (exploration and concession permits, among others). This means that the Province of La Rioja cannot just decide to rule on these matters,” the media statement reads.

The Institute also pointed out that the province doesn’t have the right to monopolize the mining business.


Vedanta to sell overseas zinc business to India unit for $2.98 billion

Vedanta Ltd. will sell its international zinc operations to unit Hindustan Zinc Ltd. for $2.98 billion in cash to help consolidate the businesses and pare debt for ultimate parent, Vedanta Resources Ltd.

Rajasthan, India-based Hindustan Zinc will buy the assets of THL Zinc Ltd. Mauritius in a phased manner from its parent over a period of about 18 months, subject to regulatory approvals, the Indian miner said in an exchange filing Thursday. The operations of THL include Black Mountain Mining (Pty) Ltd. in South Africa and Skorpion Zinc (Pty) Ltd. in Namibia, it said.

“This investment is an attractive opportunity for Hindustan Zinc to grow and increase its foothold overseas and take its brand global,” it said in the filing. “This transaction will improve overall synergies between the businesses, market share gains as well as geographical diversification to a mineral-rich African continent.”

The deal is important for Vedanta’s billionaire-owner Anil Agarwal, who is seeking to simplify the corporate structure of his commodities empire and cut Vedanta Resources’ debt after a failed attempt to delist Vedanta Ltd. in 2020.

One way for Agarwal to generate cash has been to get dividend pay outs from Hindustan Zinc. The company announced a third interim dividend of 13 rupees a share, totalling about 55 billion rupees ($676 million) on Thursday. This is in addition to 154 billion rupees already paid out this financial year.

Hindustan Zinc, which also appointed Agarwal’s daughter Priya Agarwal Hebbar as chairperson of the company, reported a net income for the third quarter that missed analyst estimates. Vedanta owns about 65% of the miner and the Indian government holds about 30%.


U.S., Congo, Zambia Strengthen EV Battery Value Chain

Today, the Department of State released the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on electric vehicle battery value chains signed by the United States on December 13, 2022, during the Africa Leaders Summit. Through this MOU, the United States will support the commitment between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia to develop jointly a supply chain for electric vehicle batteries. The MOU supports the DRC and Zambia’s goal of building a productive supply chain, from the mine to the assembly line, while also committing to respect international standards to prevent, detect, and take legal action to fight corruption throughout this process.

The DRC produces more than 70 percent of the world’s cobalt. Zambia is the world’s sixth-largest copper producer, and the second largest cobalt producer in Africa. These resources, and this commitment to cooperation, are crucial components of the urgently needed global energy transition. The plan to develop an electric battery supply chain opens the door for open and transparent investment to build value-added and sustainable industry in Africa and creating a just energy transition for workers and local communities. The U.S. private sector is a tremendous resource, both for technical knowledge and financing, for commercial development at every step in the process. The U.S. government will work with the DRC and Zambia to ensure the private sector has a level playing field to participate in these projects.


Saudi mining firm AMAK procures license to explore for gold in KSA’s Asir region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources has issued a gold exploration license to Al Masane Al Kobra Mining Co., also known as AMAK, according to a Tadawul statement.

AMAK will have an exploration license to prospect for gold in the Kingdom’s Asir region, which covers an area of 34 square kilometers.

The license is valid until Nov. 24, 2027, in line with the new Mining Investment Law and its executive regulations, it said.

In the statement, AMAK said that it will carry out the necessary exploratory studies during the statutory period to ensure the availability of the required raw materials.

The financial impact value and timing of this license will become clear after the completion of exploration work and studies, the statement added.

AMAK further noted that any related material developments will be duly revealed.

The mining sector in Saudi Arabia is one of the key pillars of the Kingdom’s economic diversification efforts. A recent report by the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School for Mines in the US suggested that Saudi Arabia is set to become a “global leader” in the mining sector, due to its positive investment environment.

In January, the Kingdom also hosted the second edition of the Future Minerals Forum, where industry experts discussed the future of the mining sector in Saudi Arabia. They also talked about several options that could ensure sustainability in the mineral exploration industry.


Saudi Arabia signs MoUs, presents projects at Riyadh mining conference

6 mining projects spread over 1,000 sq km were presented to investors at a mining conference

Saudi Arabia signed nearly 60 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with companies participating a three-day mining conference that ended on Thursday.

The MoUs covered covering mine exploration, technology and metal manufacturing, the Arabic language daily Aliqtisadia said.

The Kingdom also unveiled six large mining projects with an area of nearly 1,055 square kilometres during the Future Minerals Forum, the daily said without making clear when bidding for those projects would begin.

More than 12,000 investors and other delegates attended the conference, the second to be organized by Saudi Arabia since last year’s mining event.

Prominent local entities participating in the signing ceremony, according to the event organisers, were the Ministry of Energy; the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources; the Saudi Geological Survey; Ma’aden; the Saline Water Conversion Corporation; King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Saud University; the Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu; Saudi Aramco; King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals; the Federation of Saudi Chambers, and the Saudi National Industrial Development Centre.

The companies exchanging agreements were the Red Sea Aluminum Company, the Saudi Phosphorus Industry Company, Al-Rasheed Group, Barrick Gold Corporation, Ivanhoe Electric, Eurasian Resources Group, Moxico Resources and Ajlan & Brothers Mining Company and EV Metals; Hangzhou Jinjang Fluor Corporation; BAO Steel; Hallcore Drilling Corporation, Shell Corporation, Rockburst Technologies Corporation; Metso Outotec; Thyssenkrupp Mitsu Corporation, and Nokia.


ChatGPT doesn’t know where the world’s copper comes from, AI images show mining stuck in the Great Depression

There’s no shortage of breathless reports about the latest advances in artificial intelligence ushering in the 4th industrial revolution (whatever that is) and changing the world of work forever.

Even the most skilled workers are supposed to fear for their jobs as chatbots like ChatGPT answer questions and solve problems that would take humans hours or days, instantly. Likewise, image generators like Midjourney can interpret our world and provide cutting edge visuals on any topic or peer into the future.  

Time to meet your new robot overlords.

A simple prompt to OpenAIs ChatGPT suggests machine learning needs a bit more study time. The same question was asked multiple times and weeks apart in case the millions of conversations since the natural language bot was opened to the public may have taught it something.

It still got the simplest of questions on mining’s most important metal wrong.

A quick crosscheck with the USGS bible finds not only the country level production volumes to be wrong (China has never produced more than 2 million tonnes in a year, the Chile figure is off by a half a million tonnes) but there is also a glaring omission.

Where is the Congo? If the fact the USGS uses “Congo (Kinshasa)” to name the country threw it off, it’s a rudimentary mistake. The DRC produced 1.6m tonnes in 2020 – that’s a lot of metal to go missing.