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.


Saturday, August 24, 2019 – 10:59:17 AM

In a media statement, Desert said that each shareholder of Ashanti will receive 0.2857 Desert Gold shares for each Ashanti share held. In parallel, 21,097,657 Desert Gold shares were issued to Ashanti shareholders.

The buyout increases Desert’s land position along and near the Senegal-Mali Shear Zone and Main Transcurrent Fault Zone by 28% to 296.9 square kilometres. This is due to the addition of the Kossanto East project, located in western Mali, near the border with Senegal.

“Both of these regional structures are related to multi-million-ounce gold mines and deposits owned by B2Gold, Barrick, AngloGold Ashanti/IAMGOLD and Teranga,” the British Columbia-based miner said in the press release.

According to Dessert, the Ashanti concession hosts five gold zones with drill intercepts to 2.04 g/t Au over 75 metres. Gold mineralization in these zones is related to hydrothermal-type breccia zones and typical, structurally-controlled shear and fault zones hosted by both volcanics, sediments and felsic intrusions.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The financing, part of long-term strategic cooperation between the two companies, brings CITIC’s investment in Ivanhoe to more than $1 billion.

Another Chinese firm, Zijin Mining Group — which became Ivanhoe’s partner four years ago — exercised its anti-dilution rights in May, generating additional proceeds for the Vancouver-based miner of C$67 million ($50m).

Ivanhoe now has the equity cushion required to fast-track Kamoa-Kakula’s 6 million copper tonnes per year Phase 1 mine to production
Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe Mines’ founder and executive chairman

“The investments completed today comfortably provide Ivanhoe with the equity cushion required to rapidly advance Kamoa-Kakula’s 6 Mtpa Phase 1 mine to production,” billionaire Robert Friedland, the company’s founder and executive chairman said in a statement.

CITIC now owns 29.4% of Ivanhoe Mines’ issued and outstanding common shares, with Zijin Mining holding 9.8%.

Friedland, who made his fortune from the Voisey’s Bay nickel project in Canada in the 1990s, has said the capacity of the project’s first phase could later be easily tripled.

The mining complex, which is expected to begin commercial production in late 2021, has the potential to become the world’s second-largest copper mine.

Analysts also believe the giant mine could restore the DRC’s historical position as one of the world’s top copper producing countries.

Ivanhoe Mines has been working on Kamoa-Kakula for ten years. In 2015, its now partner Zijin got on board by acquiring a stake in the company. CITIC Metal followed suit last year, becoming Ivanhoe’s top shareholder.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Anglo American Platinum Ltd. wants to develop a lithium battery that uses platinum-group metals instead of cobalt and nickel. The aim is to create a new multi-billion dollar source of demand for the metals as electric vehicles reduce the need for traditional fuel autocatalysts.

Platinum miners have good reason to be worried. Electric-car sales are forecast to reach 56 million by 2040, making up about 57% of the overall car market versus 2% now, according to BloombergNEF. That could curb demand for autocatalysts, which use platinum and palladium to clean toxic emissions. Platinum is already under pressure — prices are near a decade-low as drivers turn away from diesel engines and supplies remain ample.

“Platinum could play a big role in batteries, but we need to thrift out the other metals to make it viable,” said Mike Jones, chief executive officer of miner Platinum Group Metals Ltd., which is working with Amplats to develop the new battery.

Amplats and Platinum Group Metals have agreed to invest up to $4 million in Lion Battery Technologies Inc. to find a way to use platinum metals to keep batteries cool and create a lighter product with a greater driving range. The venture is studying how much metal will be needed and aims to have a commercial prototype in three to five years.

The idea isn’t new. Academics have researched the technology since the 1990s, but developing it has so far been unfeasible.

“The battery industry is trying to reduce its reliance on expensive/resource scarce material, so I question how hungry the market would be for these batteries”
James Frith, energy storage analyst

There’s no proof yet that such a battery can be mass manufactured, and no technology right now can compete with nickel-cobalt batteries in terms of affordability and performance, said George Heppel, a battery metals analyst at CRU Group.

Part of the challenge is that platinum metals are much more expensive than cobalt and nickel. Early research also shows that 0.5 to 1 ounce of platinum or palladium could be used in the new technology, as much as six times the amount of metal currently used in traditional autocatalysts, said Jones of Platinum Group Metals.

While electric-car sales are already rising, platinum consumption in the auto sector remained fairly robust in recent years amid stricter emissions rules, and the industry has boosted palladium usage, helping push prices to a record. Total demand may rise about 18% for platinum through 2030 and 12% for palladium, according to Noah Capital Markets Ltd.

If platinum metals demand does slow, that would be especially bad news for South Africa, where 75% of all platinum and 40% of palladium are mined. The industry contributes about 96 billion rand ($6.3 billion) to exports from the nation, which is teetering on the brink of a second recession in successive years.

Miners’ support for new battery technology will likely grow, but more industry collaboration is needed to promote demand for metal, Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said. The company is also working with Toyota Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. to look at ways to use platinum metals in more environmentally friendly ways.

Creating a new battery using platinum metals “would be massively positive for the industry,” said Rene Hochreiter, an analyst at Noah Capital. But “it’s still early stages,” he said.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Nickel West contributes just a fraction to BHP’s profit, accounting for just $42 million of underlying earnings in the December half-year, compared with $3.5 billion from its iron ore unit.

After years on the block, BHP declared its nickel business core in May on the back of promising demand expectations from the electric vehicle industry.

For higher Australian nickel volumes, BHP has been investing in exploration in new areas and around existing mines

BHP, like its peers, is ploughing more investment into large-scale growth. However, it is no small feat for the world’s biggest miner to create a top-tier, low-cost business that can make an impact on its bottom line, according to analysts and investors. “The electrification of transport is certainly shaping our long-run view of nickel as an attractive commodity,” Haegel told the Diggers and Dealers mining conference in Western Australia.

For higher Australian nickel volumes, BHP has been investing in exploration in new areas and around existing mines, as well as in debottlenecking for its Mt Keith concentrator, Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter, and Kwinana refinery.

“These pathways have the potential to create a BHP-scale business,” Haegel said, according to a copy of his speech. BHP has boosted its nickel reserves by 77% to 1.5 million tonnes this year, and has secured a 13,000 kilometre exploration area in Western Australia, roughly the size of Qatar, along the state’s southern coast.

BHP Group plans to start production of nickel sulphate in the second quarter of next year, as it ramps up sales of its nickel products to the battery industry, Haegel said on Friday.

As more EVs take to the road in coming years, each of them will carry higher nickel volumes, as makers transition to larger batteries and nickel-rich technology to allow for longer distances, taking market share from other battery types, Haegel said.

Demand for the raw materials for EVs is expected to boom, although lithium miners have faced a rocky time this year after a supply glut hammered prices.

A 60kilowatt hour nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC811) battery needs 9kg of cobalt, 11kg of lithium and 70kg of nickel, he said.

“Clearly, these changes will drive a significant increase in global nickel demand, but not just yet … We do not expect to see a meaningful impact on the nickel market from batteries until the mid – late 2020s,” he said.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Even though biomining is already a reality on Earth, with 15% of the planet’s copper and 5% of the gold extracted using this method, researchers Luis Zea and Jesse Colangelo want to investigate the performance of the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis for the extraction of iron from lunar, Martian and asteroid regolith simulant under simulated reduced-gravity conditions.

Biomining in space could make it possible to build space stations or deep space probes in space itself, without the need for expensive launches of completed, heavy payloads from Earth

In a media brief, Zea and Colangelo explained that biomining is a process where mined materials are placed in vats with water and specialized bacteria that extract the desired metals from the surrounding rock.

In Zea’s view, conducting this type of activity in space could benefit Earth both financially and environmentally.

“In space, there are virtually limitless amounts of some of the 44 endangered elements that could face supply limitations here in the future,” the scientist said and put as an example asteroid 16 Psyche, which is located between Mars and Jupiter and is estimated to contain $700 quintillion worth of nickel, iron and precious metals. NASA is planning to explore it in 2022.

The scholar also suggested biomining in space has the potential to allow for Earth to be reserved exclusively for living, while all heavy industry and mining could be conducted entirely outside the blue planet.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

According to Mining News Pro – The Pastos Grandes lithium project has a life of 40 years and targeted production of 24,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year. It carries an after tax net present value (8% discount) of $1.03 billion and an internal rate of return after taxes will be 24.2%. The estimated total capex is $448.2 million and the operating cost is $3,388 per tonne of lithium carbonate produced. The operation will rely on solar evaporation technology and conventional lithium brine processing.

A pilot plan is currently being assembled on site.