Nornickel reports another fuel spill in the Arctic

Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel reported that a pipeline belonging to Norilsktransgaz, which is part of the Norilsk Nickel Group, depressurized during the transfer of aviation fuel in the vicinity of ​​the village of Tukhard, located on the Gydanskii tundra.

In a media statement, the company said that the spill poses no threats to the health of people living in the area and that crews are already taking measures to recover the spilt fuel. Emergency services are also at the scene. 

According to Nornickel, the leak happened at about 11:15 am on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Preliminary data revealed that close to 44.5 tonnes of fuel were spilled during the depressurization, which lasted for about 15 minutes.

The miner said that Norilsktransgaz is conducting an internal investigation on the incident and has already submitted some information to Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry.

This is the second fuel spill that Nornickel reports in the Arctic in less than two months. The previous one took place in late May at Nornickel’s Heat and Power Plant № 3 near Norilsk, in north-central Russia. The accident happened when the plant’s reservoir cracked and released 20,000 tonnes of diesel into the nearby areas, contaminating land and rivers that drain into a lake linked to the Kara Sea.

Russia’s environmental watchdog demanded over $2 billion in damages for the May spill, while the company had said that clean-up costs would add up to $150 million.

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Scientists reveal the secret life of lithium

The Sun is likely to produce lithium in the future, according to a new study by scientists at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers state that stars like the Sun create lithium through their lives after they have swelled to become red giants or luminous giant stars in a late phase of stellar evolution. At some point in the future, the Sun itself will reach this stage.

These findings challenge the commonly held idea that these celestial objects only destroy lithium. This belief was widely accepted because the element gets extinguished very easily inside stars where it is too hot for it to survive.

These findings challenge the commonly held idea that Sun-like stars only destroy lithium

But by using data from a huge stellar spectroscopic survey based on The Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope in China and from an Australian star survey known as GALAH, the team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences was able to prove that previous assumptions were wrong.

“By looking at starlight, we can determine what the stars are made of,” Yerra Bharat Kumar, lead author of the study, said in a media statement. “Models show that our current theories about how stars evolve do not predict this lithium production at all. Thus, the study has created a tension between observations and theory.”

According to Kumar and his group, since the newly created lithium will end up being blown off the stars in stellar winds, it will also help researchers understand how Sun-like stars contribute to the lithium content of our Galaxy and of planets like Earth.

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Mining companies have not left Mexico – officials

Mining companies operating in Mexico have continued to invest in their operations, according to the Economy Secretariat’s Undersecretary of Mining Francisco Quiroga Fernández.

Talking at the virtual conference “Mining Reactivation in the Face of the New Normal,” organized to celebrate Miner’s Day in Mexico, Quiroga Fernández said that the covid-19 pandemic did not force local or foreign companies to shut down permanently or cancel projects, as most of those projects are conceived for 10 to 15-year terms.

Francisco Quiroga Fernandez moderated the conference ‘Mining Reactivation in the Face of the New Normal.’ Governors from mining states and companies shared their individual and joint efforts to reactivate the country’s industry.

According to the government official, even though exploration has sunk and production is expected to fall by 16% in 2020, mining activities are gradually recovering. In his view, ‘gradually’ is the keyword, as it is important that the sector’s reactivation is done following strict health and safety guidelines that give no room for possible setbacks.

About 70% of mineworkers have gone back to work, while 30% of mine personnel that have the ability to work from home are still doing so, NGO Mexico Minero reports.

Together with the paced reactivation of the mining sector, Quiroga Fernández expects also to be able to kickstart infrastructure projects in a number of communities that surround mining operations. His office is counting on a Mining Fund that currently holds some $75.8 million from special levies charged to mining companies between 2015 and 2018.

The Undersecretary of Mining also said that he expects a positive push for the industry following the launching of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, which formally replaced NAFTA last week.

In his view, the signing of the deal sends a positive message to investors as it implies that Mexico’s mining sector is aligned with productive chains in both Canada and the US.

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Japan to strengthen control over rare metal reserves

In the wake of supply disruptions of certain metals caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Japan has decided to launch a series of measures to address potential supply risks from geopolitical instability or future pandemics.

A report by market consultancy firm Argos states that one of such measures implies ramping up government control over strategic reserves of 34 rare metals and increasing inventories of some strategically important metals such as cobalt.

According to Argos, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry presented a proposal to the central government where it asks for the State to take full control of strategic rare metals reserves by setting target levels for stocks, as well as plans for procurement and the release of supplies from the reserve.

The Ministry of Economy urged more flexibility in determining inventory levels for each rare metal, after taking into account their strategic importance, geopolitical risks and domestic demand

The ministry also urged more flexibility in determining inventory levels for each rare metal, after taking into account their strategic importance, geopolitical risks and domestic demand.

For national security considerations, the department asked the Shinzo Abe cabinet to keep inventory targets and actual stockpile levels secret.

“Japan has designated 34 ‘rare metals’ – including rare earths – as having the potential for stockpiling and currently holds reserves of seven — nickel, chrome, tungsten, cobalt, molybdenum, manganese and vanadium,” Argus report states. “The stocks can cover 60 days of the country’s consumption, after including non-obligatory privately-held stocks equivalent to 18 days of consumption. The strategic reserves are defined as being the property of state-owned agency Jogmec and are managed by the agency in its storage bases.”

Besides managing its internal reserves, the Asian superpower has also been securing its external supply of rare earths. Back in June 2019, Japan Australia Rare Earths BV (JARE), a joint venture between state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) and Sojitz Corp., approved a generous financing package for Australia’s Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC), expanding the country’s control over the company’s rare earths output.

The deal was signed amid China’s threats to use its market supply dominance as a weapon in the trade war with the United States.

At its Mt Weld mine in Western Australia, Lynas produces neodymium and praseodymium, key ingredients in permanent magnets used in electric vehicles, energy-efficient consumer devices, and in the aerospace and defence industries.

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SSR-Alacer Gold merger gets shareholder approval

SSR Mining (TSX: SSRM) and Alacer Gold (TSX: ASR)(ASX: AQG) announced Friday the receipt of shareholder approvals for the previously announced at-market merger.

In May, Vancouver-based SSR Mining agreed to a deal to acquire its Canadian counterpart in an all-stock, zero-premium deal valued at C$2.4 billion ($1.7 billion).

The business combination would see Alacer’s flagship Çöpler mine in Turkey added to SSR’s existing portfolio that includes the Marigold gold mine in Nevada, the Seabee gold operations in Saskatchewan and the Puna operations in Jujuy, Argentina.

On closing, each of the Alacer issued and outstanding common shares will be exchanged for 0.3246 of an SSR Mining common share, the companies said in a joint statement.

The transaction was approved by approximately 99.9% of the votes cast by Alacer shareholders at the special meeting of shareholders that was held Friday, representing 79.9% of eligible shares voted.

SSR Mining shareholders approved the transaction by approximately 96.5% of the votes cast.

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Hecla Mining weighs options for San Sebastian mine

American silver producer Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) said on Friday it was mulling options for its San Sebastian silver-gold mine in Mexico, which is due to cease production in the third quarter of the year.

The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based miner brought the past-producing mine back to life in late 2015, initially planning a two-year mine operation at the Durango state asset.

Exploration at the property allowed Hecla Mining to move operations underground in 2018.

As San Sebastian runs out of ore, Hecla continues to study the possibility of mining sulfide ore

As San Sebastian runs out of ore, with milling slated to stop in the last quarter of the year, the company continues to study the possibility of mining sulfide ore.

“Mining of oxide material is expected to be completed in Q3 and milling in the fourth quarter of 2020,” Hecla said in a production update for the three months ended June 30.

San Sebastian production for the quarter was affected by lower grades and government-mandated shutdowns of four weeks to help slow down the spread of coronavirus, Hecla said.

The mine churned out 58,842 ounces of silver and 1,331 ounces of gold in the April-June period, down 66% and 63%, respectively, from 463,735 ounces and 3,547 ounces in the same quarter of 2019.

The company’s overall silver production rose 13% in Q2 to 3.4 million ounces, while gold output fell 1% to just shy of 60,000 ounces.

All of the company’s five mines were in operation during the quarter, although the Casa Berardi and San Sebastian had to halt operations to comply with covid-19-related government orders.

Hardest hit metal

Silver was the commodity hardest hit by mine closures mandated by governments to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Prices for the precious metal, however, are forecast to surpass the $21 per-ounce-mark later this year. The gold:silver ratio – the quantity of silver ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold – is expected to drop below 90, The Silver Institute said on Thursday.

Silver prices averaged $16.65 an ounce in the first half of the year, reaching $17.84 per ounce at the end of June. It has since broken through the $18 per ounce barrier.

Mexico, the world’s top producer of the metal, is facing in 2020 one of the deepest recessions in its history as an already weak economy can barely cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The country’s economy is forecast to contract 6.7% this year, deeper than during the devastating Tequila Crisis of the mid-1990s, the latest Citibanamex analysts survey shows.

Mexico is responsible for nearly 23% of world production of silver, churning out more than 200 million ounces last year, up from 196.6 million ounces in 2018.

It also has major copper and zinc mines, operated by Grupo Mexico and Southern Copper, and produces a significant amount of gold, making the mining sector responsible for about 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

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American Lithium buys back royalty on TLC project, stock up

American Lithium (TSXV: LI) announced Friday it will buy back 1.5% of the existing gross overriding royalty pertaining to its wholly owned TLC lithium claystone property from Nevada Alaska Mining, an arm’s length party.

The TLC project, located approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno near the town of Tonopah, Nevada, is a new lithium claystone discovery within in the same basinal environment as Albemarle’s Silver Peak lithium mine.

The TLC discovery is amongst a handful of potential lithium deposits in Western North America capable of development

With an estimated 5.3 million tonnes of measured and indicated lithium carbonate equivalent resources, and an additional 1.7 million tonnes inferred resources, the TLC discovery is amongst a handful of potential lithium deposits in Western North America capable of development.

Nevada Alaska currently holds a 2.5% gross overriding royalty on commercial production from the property, and the buyback would reduce American Lithium’s royalty obligation on TLC to 1.0%.

As consideration, American Lithium will pay $150,000 cash and issue 843,750 common shares to Nevada Alaska at a deemed price of C$1.36 per share.

Meanwhile, American Lithium has entered an agreement with a separate arm’s length party to acquire a series of lode mining claims totalling approximately 2,000 acres northwest of the TLC property. The company will issue four million common shares at a deemed price of C$1.36 per share to acquire these land claims, which it says are highly prospective for lithium claystone based on projections from recent drilling.

Shares of American Lithium soared to a new 52-week high of C$2.03 on Friday. The stock was trading 17.6% higher on the TSX Venture Exchange by 1 p.m. EDT. The Vancouver-based lithium explorer has a market capitalization of approximately C$184.2 million.

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Peruvian authorities grant Camino drilling, exploration permits for Los Chapitos project

The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines granted Canada’s Camino Corp. (TSXV: COR) authorization to start drilling and other exploration activities at its Los Chapitos project, located in the southern Arequipa province.

As of next week, the miner plans to begin mapping, sampling and refining targets for a drilling program scheduled for September.

At the same time, the General Directorate of Mining (DGM) of the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted Camino authorization to start the activities defined in its environmental impact assessment, which has been approved by the General Direction of Mining Environmental Affairs.

The Canadian miner wants to test copper mineralization and develop drilling platforms along a 5-kilometre mineralized trend

The approval allows the miner to test copper mineralization and develop drilling platforms along a 5-kilometre mineralized trend.

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the Edmonton-based firm also had to request approval for a Surveillance, Prevention and Control Plan that allows it to have up to 10 workers at the project in July and August.

“I believe that we are one of the first junior exploration companies to commence exploration activities in Peru since the onset of covid-19 restrictions,” Jay Chmelauskas, Camino’s president and CEO, said in a media statement. “With our Peruvian based team, we will proceed in a cautious and measured way following our covid-19 policies to continue our copper discovery efforts at Los Chapitos in a safe manner. Our geologists will be mapping drill targets, particularly new copper mineralization identified along trend to the south of the maiden drill program in 2017/18 to drill this September. Our vision is to expand the known areas of copper mineralization, target new areas of mineralization, and begin to determine the size of the copper system at Los Chapitos.”

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Vale, Epiroc sign Batteries as a Service deal

Vale and mining gear maker Epiroc announced that they have finalized the world’s first Batteries as a Service (BaaS) agreement, which is a new approach for utilizing battery technology in mining operations.

The idea is that Epiroc will work directly with Vale and other clients to define a battery plan that suits the needs of their operations. Then, the Swedish company will be in charge of monitoring the batteries for predictive maintenance with reduced downtime and guarantee their lifespan.

In a media statement, Epiroc said its BaaS team will also be in charge of removing old batteries from mining sites and replacing them with new ones. The older batteries will be then used for secondary applications and will be recycled at the end of the process.

“Along with the BaaS agreement, Epiroc will be providing Vale with 10 battery-electric vehicles for two Canadian mine sites,” the press release reads. “To complement the new battery fleet, Vale will also be adding three of Epiroc’s charging cabinets and seven charging posts for equipment support.”

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MINING PEOPLE: Colorado, Hycroft, Imperial, Marathon, Pretium, Strongbow

Management moves announced this week include:

Pamela White has been appointed corporate secretary of Bell Copper.

Tony Barresi will become president and a director of Colorado Resources at the beginning of August. Barresi was previously president and a director of Triumph Gold, where he continues to serve as a technical advisor and is also a director of ArcWest Exploration.

Hycroft Mining has announced a leadership transition: Randy Buffington stepped down from his roles as chairman, president and CEO of the company. Stephen Jones, the company’s executive VP, CFO and secretary has been appointed interim president and CEO and David Kirsch, a director of the company, was named the new chairman. Jeffrey Stieber, VP of finance, has been appointed interim CFO.

Andre Deepwell has retired from his CFO and corporate secretary role with Imperial Metals. The company has appointed Darb Dhillon, its current VP of finance, to fill this role.

Tim Williams is now the COO of Marathon Gold; Williams is a professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in the areas of mine construction and operations.

Keith Benn is now the VP of exploration for both Mistango River Resources and Orefinders Resources.

Mac Jackson has joined New Placer Dome’s advisory board as a technical advisor.

Peter Mullens has been appointed VP of business development with NxGold.

Patrick Godin will be joining Pretium Resources at the beginning of August as VP and COO; Godin succeeds David Prins, the company’s VP of operations.

Board changes include:

Thomas Sarvas and Timothy Froude have joined the board of Benton Resources.

Peter O’Malley has been named an independent non-executive director of Bonterra Resources; Allan Folk has resigned from the board.

Greg Andrews has been appointed to the board of Cascadero Copper.

Euro Manganese has started a board restructuring process, with strategic advisory roles planned for Roman Shklanka, Harvey McLeod and Daniel Rosicky and two new independent directors envisioned for the board. John Webster, Greg Martyr, David Dreisinger and Marco Romero will continue as directors. Jan Votava will resign as a director, but remain a member of the executive team as managing director of the company’s Czech subsidiary.

Thuso Dikgaka and Maureen Mokgaotsane are now on the board of Giyani Metals’ wholly owned subsidiary in Botswana, Menzi Battery Metals.

Patrick Anderson has been appointed chairman of Strongbow Exploration’s board. Anderson is currently CEO and a director of Dalradian Resources, and succeeds Grenville Thomas in the chairman role – Thomas remains a director of the company.

Taseko Mines has announced changes to its board of directors: Peter Mitchell has been appointed to the board while Richard Mundie and Alex Morrison did not stand for re-election.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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Novagold dismisses chance of “scam-based” class-action

Canada’s Novagold (TSX, NYSE: NG), which is suing short-selling firm J Capital Research (JCAP) for defamation, said a US law firm potential attempt to launch a class suit against the company on alleged securities fraud would be based on “malicious and false information”.

Lawyers at Hagens Berman and Portnoy said this week they were investigating whether Novagold had misled investors about the viability of its Donlin gold project, in Alaska.

Novagold said the move by the San Francisco-based law firm’s appeared to be entirely based on JCAP’s “tapestry of deceit” as well as “false and misleading statements” about the company and its 50-50 development partner in the project, Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD).

In a report issued on May 28, JCAP accuses the gold junior of “systematically” misleading investors about the proposed gold mine over the last 15 years.

NovaGold and Barrick’s Donlin project, with measured and indicated resources of about 39 million ounces of gold is considered one of the largest open-pit gold deposits in Alaska.

JCAP, a company founded in China a decade ago that usually targets overvalued media and tech companies for short-selling, said the Donlin Gold project would “never be built” and “in short, is a stock promote, not a mining plan.”

Unimportant asset

JCAP backed its claim by saying that Doling insignificance can be proven by Barrick’s decision to not include the project in its new 10-year production plan, which is aimed at becoming the most valued gold company.

Novagold’s chairperson, Thomas Kaplan, said Hagens Berman’s solicitation of shareholders was based on a “fundamentally flawed report”, somehow expected in a “dirty game”.

“Even with Novagold’s line-by-line factual rebuttal available to them, the law firm did nothing more than repeat a slapdash mixture of errors of fact, falsehoods, and discredited assertions,” Kaplan said.

While Novagold would not be issuing responses to “every dart aimed at it”, he said the company highlighted Hagens Berman’s press release, because it was “emblematic of the amateurishness and abject ignorance of the public statements made recently about Novagold by JCAP and now repeated by others”.

Kaplan encouraged owners to assess whether they had suffered damage from the reports and to seek advice regarding potential redress available to them from the “real perpetrator of wrongs: JCAP”.

Novagold and Barrick reopened the Donlin camp in June, following a two-month hiatus brought by measures to help reduce the spread of covid-19.

The companies anticipate that most of the planned program, aimed at confirming recent geologic modelling concepts and testing potential extensions of high-grade zones, will be completed by the end of the year.

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Tudor reports new best hole from Treaty Creek

Tudor Gold has reported its best intercept yet from drilling at its Treaty Creek project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle – a 973-metre interval grading 0.85 g/t gold-equivalent (or 0.775 g/t gold, 3 g/t silver and 0.02% copper).

The intercept, starting at 34.5 metres depth in hole GS-20-57, included a shorter 217.5-metre section grading 1.4 g/t gold-equivalent, starting at 544.5 metres depth.

The wide extent of mineralization in the hole, drilled in the central-southwest portion of the Goldstorm system where grades have been weaker, surprised the company.

The strongest mineralization has been in the system’s northeast, where the company will begin drilling in mid-July

The main aim of the drill program at Treaty Creek, located 70 km north of Stewart, is to expand the system to the southeast and northeast.

Aside from hole GS-20-57, the strongest mineralization has been in the system’s northeast, where the company will begin drilling in mid-July, and which it says is the “main event” of the drill program.

The previous best hole at Treaty Creek, which is on trend from Seabridge Gold‘s KSM project, 5 km southwest, was 1,081.5 metres of 0.7 g/t gold-equivalent.

Tudor has added another two drill rigs to the project for a total of four, and has expanded its drill campaign to 35,000 metres from 20,000 metres. It plans to publish an initial resource before the end of the year.

Currently, the Goldstorm system at Treaty Creek is over 850 metres long on its northeast axis, and 600 metres across its southeast axis. It remains open in all directions and to depth.

In a release, Ken Konkin, VP of project development, said the geological model for the system is evolving.

“It is apparent that there have been several pulses or phases of stronger gold, copper and silver mineralization that give the Goldstorm System its nebulous shape of interconnected disseminated and veinlet stockworks,” he said. “It is clear that we also need to expand drilling to the southwest given the results obtained from GS-20-57.”

The company released the results from nine new holes in all, with other highlights including: 69 metres of 1.34 g/t gold-equivalent (1.172 g/t gold, 1.69 g/t silver and 0.1% copper) starting from 360.5 metres depth in hole GS-20-55. That interval was part of a wider intercept of 156 metres grading 0.852 gold-equivalent.

Tudor owns a 60% interest in Treaty Creek, with American Creek Resources and Teuton Resources each holding a 20% interest carried through to a production decision.

Tudor’s stock was trading down 8.3% at Thursday’s close on the TSXV. The company has a C$371 million market capitalization.

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