Saturday, September 28, 2019

Chinese furnaces now produce 56% of the world’s steel despite pollution-related output cuts mandated by Beijing over the winter months and a slowdown in construction activity.

This is due to blast furnaces in the rest of the world being idled, notably in Japan where August saw a 7.8% drop in crude steel leaving mills. US output was flat while Europe marked a 2.2% decline. Production in the rest of the world outside China is now down for three straight months.

Benchmark iron ore prices were flat on Friday with the Chinese import price of 62% Fe content fines exchanging hands for $90.91 per dry metric tonne, according to Fastmarkets MB, after coming close to triple digits a fortnight ago.

Iron ore remains in a bull market for 2019, up 25% on the back of supply disruptions from top miner Vale following a deadly dam burst in January.

The Australian export price of metallurgical coal (FOB hard coking coal Fastmarkets MB) used in steelmaking eased again on Friday to $121.50 a tonne. That’s down almost $70 a tonne compared to the start of the year amid oversupply and import restrictions imposed by Beijing.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Chile’s production dropped 2.5% as heavy rains in the country’s north and lower grades weigh on the country’s outcome, the latest report by the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) shows.

Indonesia’s copper concentrate output fell by a staggering 55% owing to the transition of Grasberg into block caving and the Batu Hijau mine to Phase 7.

This means that global refined copper market ended the first half of 2019 with a supply deficit of about 220,000 tonnes.

Factoring in changes to unreported, bonded stocks in China, the deficit likely totaled 190,000 tonnes, the industry group said.

Analysts, such as Colin Hamilton at BMO Capital Markets, believe overall output may have fallen further, as the ICSG still has Chinese mined copper output rising.

“On our estimates, and balancing for stronger concentrate imports and spot treatment charges, we believe it may well have fallen,” Hamilton wrote in a note to investors. “We reiterate that, with supply holding up its end of the bargain, the copper market is in deficit this year. However, deficits don’t matter for pricing without improved demand.”

In early September, copper prices fell to their lowest level since mid-2017 due mainly to the ongoing trade spat between the US and China, the world’s biggest consumer of the red metal.

On a regional basis, ICSG data shows that mine production declined 6% in Asia, 1% in Latin America and 3% in Europe, but increased around 2% in North America and 7% in Oceania, and remained essentially flat in Africa.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Montreal-based miner said each Barkerville shareholder would receive 0.0357 common share of Osisko for each share of Barkerville held, implying a value of C$0.58/share, based on Osisko’s Sept. 20 closing price on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The deal gives it access to Barkerville’s touted Cariboo gold project in British Columbia, which Osisko sees as a “potentially world-class asset” with significant infrastructure in place.

The company said the asset has similar attributes to Canadian Malartic mine, when it identified the opportunity.

“Osisko and Barkerville will take advantage of their combined mine building, exploration, permitting, development and construction expertise to advance the Cariboo gold project,” the company’s chief executive chair of the board, Sean Roosen, said in the statement.

According to a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for the Cariboo project, published last month, the proposed underground mine would produce a high-quality concentrate averaging 20.5 grams of gold per tonne.

Located near a site where the old historic Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine operated from the 1930s to the 1960s, the operation will have a 11-year productive life, providing 320 full-time positions and 120 construction jobs.
Branching out

The company noted it would fund planned work through available liquidity, future revenue from royalties and streams, project debt as well as outside private equity and joint venture (JV) capital through the creation of a new company — the North Spirit Discovery Group.

The new firm is expected to become a leading resource development and finance company, which may seek joint venture partners and/or private equity capital.

Following the highly publicized multi-billion mergers of Barrick – Randgold and Newmont – Goldcorp, rising gold prices have spurred an anticipated wave of consolidation in the sector, which has favoured Canada and Australia.Earlier this month, Osisko announced it was buying fellow Canadian Stornoway Diamond, which has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company, formed in 2014, is a royalty firm, which means that it seeks agreements giving it the right to a share of income from mines operated by other companies.

Its primary focus is the North American precious metal offtake market, with more than 135 royalties and a portfolio of resource companies such as a 16.6% interest in Osisko Mining Inc. and a 19.9% interest in Falco Resources Ltd.


Monday, September 23, 2019

The mineral is named goldschmidtite in honour of Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the founder of modern geochemistry. According to Nicole Meyer, the graduate student in the Diamond Exploration Research and Training School that discovered the rock, it has an unusual chemical signature for a mineral from Earth’s mantle.

“Goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, whereas the rest of the mantle is dominated by other elements, such as magnesium and iron,” Meyer said in a university press release.

According to the researcher, for potassium and niobium to constitute a big part of this mineral, it must have formed under exceptional processes.

She estimates that the diamond containing the goldschmidtite formed about 170 kilometres beneath Earth’s surface, at temperatures reaching nearly 1,200 Celsius.

“(The discovery) gives us a snapshot of fluid processes that affect the deep roots of continents during diamond formation,” said Graham Pearson, who is Meyer’s co-supervisor in her doctorate degree.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The South American country, the world’s No. 2 lithium producer, has held global road shows ahead of a second lithium-for-investment tender, according to officials and Chilean government documents seen by Reuters.

These have attracted dozens of firms in China, Japanese battery makers like Toshiba Corp and Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom, the documents show, lured by potential access to Chile’s huge deposits of the “white gold” under the arid salt flats in the Atacama desert.

An auction – slated for early 2020 – offers a guaranteed supply of discounted Chilean lithium in exchange for a commitment to build battery parts plants in Chile as the government looks to move up the value chain.

Oversupply and plummeting lithium prices, however, have made the deal a tough sell. In a previous tender in 2018, all three winners, including electronics giant Samsung SDI and Korean steelmaker Posco, subsequently dropped out.

“I don’t see this ending any better than the previous auction,” said Jaime Alee, a Chilean lithium consultant who has advised foreign investors in the country. He noted that the global trend was for supply chains closer to home.

“Given this, I just don’t see the logic in installing (a plant) in Chile.”

Nonetheless, Chile’s huge deposits are a lure amid a sharpening race to lock in supplies, which will be key to a future of electrified transport and smart devices.

Chile’s investment and development agencies InvestChile and CORFO held events in China, France, Japan and South Korea this year to drum up interest. They say issues from the first auction have since been resolved.

The road shows attracted interest in China from dozens of firms, including China Development Bank, energy firm TBEA, chemicals giant Sinochem and aluminum miner Chinalco, the document dated Aug. 29 showed.

Japanese banks and miners, South Korea’s overseas infrastructure body, Belgium’s Umicore and French transportation conglomerate Bollore attended other global shows, an official for InvestChile confirmed.

A statement from Rosatom Group confirmed its companies were weighing their options in Chile.

“Rosatom’s organizations are still considering Chile as a potential partner for implementation of lithium projects and supporting local government’s initiatives aimed to attract foreign companies to participate in joint projects in this area,” it said.

Bollore declined to comment, as did Japan’s Toshiba, with spokesman Ryoji Shinohara adding: “We are not disclosing business-related information, including participation in such road shows, unless an official decision is made.”

The China Development Bank, TBEA, Sinochem, Chinalco and Umicore did not respond to requests for comment.
Little by little

Chinese interest in Chilean lithium in particular has grown as the Asian giant ramps up production of electric vehicles. Last year, China’s Tianqi clinched a $4 billion deal to purchase a quarter stake in top Chilean lithium miner SQM .

Chile is home to half of the world’s lithium reserves, with both SQM and U.S-based Albemarle, the world’s top producer, extracting the coveted metal from bright blue brine pools on the desert’s vast white salt flats.

However, a Reuters investigation in July found Chile has struggled to capitalize fully on the tenders, failing to make clear both how much lithium it could provide, as well as how deeply it would be discounted.

Chilean producers currently export mostly unrefined lithium, not the higher-value battery parts Chile hopes will someday generate added earnings for its export-oriented economy.

Despite the renewed interest, the administration of center-right President Sebastian Pinera has tempered expectations for this second round.

Falling lithium prices and Chile’s distance from consumer markets increase costs and make it difficult to entice foreign manufacturers.

Pablo Terrazas, head of the Corfo development agency, which oversees the auction, told lawmakers this month that the offered deal was perhaps not as sweet as anticipated.

“If the battery-making companies are not interested… we can’t obligate them to set up in Chile,” he told lawmakers. “This can still succeed or fail.”

Terrazas said he hoped to entice companies that make parts for batteries used in tools, electric scooters and storage devices.

“We started out wanting to sell the most sophisticated batteries to the likes of BMW or Volkswagen. But I think we need to go little by little… and work our way up,” he said.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

According to Mining News Pro – CEO of National Iranian Copper Industries Company (NICICO) announced the production of 110 thousand tons of copper cathode.

Ardeshir Sadmohammadi said that the company plans to raise the capacity of Khatoun Abad melting factory.

“Fortunately, we produced 110 thousand tons of copper cathode which is a record,” he said.

“In the near future, we have development plans such as Daraloo and Zaar Alley concentrate factory. We hope Khatoun Abad melting factory opens soon so we could get rid of environmental pollution,” Sadmohammadi said.

The company has 833.3 million USD sales plan until 20 September.

“Until 20 September, we will reach 833 million USD. This number is equivalent to total sales last year” he said.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Nickel is now up 65% since the start of the year, rocketing more than 8% to $17,695 per tonne in London on Friday, the highest since September 2014. As an indication of just how tight supply has become, in London the spread between spot prices and nickel for delivery in three months spiked to the highest in a decade.

The nickel price jumped to a record high in Shanghai to the equivalent of $18,342 per tonne, surpassing the value of tin on that futures market for the first time.

“Ramu operation produces approximately 35,000 tonnes of nickel, equivalent to 23% of the metal held in LME inventories”

Friday’s move comes after the mines ministry of Papua New Guinea said a nickel processing plant owned by Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC) that spilled mine waste into Papua New Guinea’s Basamuk Bay may face closure.

“The (Ramu) operation produces approximately 35,000 tonnes of nickel, equivalent to 23% of the metal held in London Metal Exchange inventories,” antipodean investment bank ANZ said in a note quoted by Reuters.

The price received another boost on Friday after Indonesia’s mine minister said the country my  expedite the reinstatement of a ban on unprocessed ore exports first mooted for 2022.

China’s nickel pig iron (NPI) production fed from Indonesian and Philippine mines dominate the global industry, and despite the economic slowdown in China, which imports some 50% of the world’s nickel, stainless steel production is growing rapidly.

Bloomberg also reported on Friday that US-based Carlyle Group has been caught up in a years-long attempt to untangle an elaborate nickel warehousing fraud in Hong Kong worth around $300 million that ensnared major metals brokerages.

Miners of the devil’s copper are used to wild swings in price. From the lows of mid-2017 below $9,000 a tonne to around this time last year, the metal gained 79%, only to slump by nearly a third to its opening levels of 2019. And who can forget that in March 2007, nickel peaked at $51,780 per tonne.

Jolt by Jakarta

When Jakarta enforced the ban to encourage the building of domestic smelters from 2014 to 2016 the price gained initially, but Chinese NPI producers were able to switch to Philippine miners in a relatively short time, so it’s unclear the impact of export restrictions would be this time around.

NPI contains only 8–12% nickel and less than half of the total nickel output is so-called Class 1 product, which is suitable for conversion into nickel sulphate used in battery manufacturing.

Class 1 nickel powder for sulphate production enjoys a large premium over LME prices, but for miners to switch to battery grade material requires huge investments to upgrade refining and processing facilities.

But confidence in future demand is such that BHP decided last year to hold onto Nickel West after many attempts to offload it, and is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars switching its Australian operations to battery-grade production.

The electric vehicle (EV) narrative is an exciting one for the metal, but it is still early days. Last year, only around 6% of nickel ended up in EV batteries, as 70% of supply goes into making stainless steel.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

The building of the two-mile high-density polyethylene pipeline corridor connecting the Johnson Camp Mine processing facility to the production wellfield began in January.

“We are now more than 90% finished in terms of the entire construction process, and we look forward to completing the remaining elements over the next month,” Stephen Twyerould, Excelsior’s CEO and president, said in a media statement.

The 9,560-acre Gunnison project hosts the North Star deposit which, according to Excelsior, contains a measured and indicated copper resource of 4.99 billion pounds.

The mine is expected to produce 2.2 billion pounds of pure copper cathode over its 24 year lifespan.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Glencore said that once a definitive feasibility study for the expansion is completed, which is expected to happen in early 2020, it would invest another $40 million into recommissioning and expanding the refinery, located 600 km from the US border.

Once operational, the facility will be North America’s only producer of refined cobalt for the EV market

The facility has the potential to produce either a cobalt sulfate for the lithium-ion battery market or cobalt metal for the North American industrial and military applications.

Based on a study carried out by Ausenco Engineering Canada, if the First Cobalt refinery operated at 55 tpd, it could produce 5,000 tonnes a year of contained cobalt in sulfate, assuming cobalt hydroxide feed grading 30% cobalt.

The companies are targeting first production late next year, with the planned expansion completed in 2021.

Prices for the battery metal have soared more than 30% since Glencore announced this month it would close its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest cobalt mine, offering hope for a sector whose shares have been hit by fears over a global recession.

Oversupply and stockpiling by companies in the battery supply chain, however, had caused the metal fell to $12 a pound. In April last year, cobalt was selling for $44 a pound, its highest level in a decade.


Monday, August 26, 2019

This is what researchers at the University of California San Diego found after developing a technique to measure the amounts of inactive lithium species on the anode and studying their micro- and nanostructures. In detail, they added water to a sealed flask containing a sample of inactive lithium that formed on a cycled half-cell. They found that unreacted lithium metal is the main ingredient of inactive lithium. As more of it forms, the lower the Coulombic efficiency

The researchers hope their method could become the new standard for evaluating efficiency in lithium metal batteries

Their discovery was published in the scientific journal Nature and it challenges the conventional belief that lithium metal batteries fail because of the growth of a layer, called the solid electrolyte interphase or SEI, between the lithium anode and the electrolyte.

“By figuring out the major underlying cause of lithium metal battery failure, we can rationally come up with new strategies to solve the problem,” the lead author of the study, Chengcheng Fang, said in a media statement. “Our ultimate goal is to enable a commercially viable lithium metal battery.”

According to Fang, lithium metal batteries, which have anodes made of lithium metal, are an essential part of the next generation of battery technologies. They promise twice the energy density of today’s lithium-ion batteries -which usually have anodes made of graphite-, so they could last longer and weigh less.

“This could potentially double the range of electric vehicles,” she said.