Chilean government wants conflict at Escondida to be over

The Chilean government asked both workers and management at BHP’s (ASX, NYSE:BHP) Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, to put an end to the labour conflict they have been dragging for months now and that needs to be resolved before a 30-month contract expires on July 24.

Speaking to local media, Finance Minister Felipe Larraín said an agreement must be reached soon to avoid a strike and, therefore, a negative effect in the Chilean economy. Larraín said he understands the process is going to take time and he added that the most important thing is that both sides are open to talking.

The possibility of a strike was talked about over the weekend, when the 2,500-worker union rejected the BHP’s latest offer because it excludes two of their main demands: a 5 per cent increase in salaries and a one-time bonus equivalent to 4 per cent of dividends distributed to shareholders in 2017, or between approximately $34,000 and $40,000 per worker. Instead, the company offered them other bonuses, a $23,900 loan and extended benefits.

In an interview with Radio Cooperativa, the union’s spokesman, Carlos Allendes, said that the company is not listening to them and that management’s proposal is deceiving. In his view, the bonuses proposed by BHP only masks already existing benefits.

The Australian giant asked the union to provide an answer by July 17 so that the new collective contract can be signed before the deadline and a strike can be avoided. Back in 2017, the global copper market was jolted after workers at Escondida downed their tools for 44 days.

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Argentina releases mining census, made $1321 million in 2016

It’s been a decade since the Argentinian government last polled its mining sector but this week some results from a census carried out in 2106 were made public.

According to the document the National Institute of Statistics and Census made available online, over 1,500 mining companies were operating in the South American country in 2016. Their extractive activities generated $1,329 million while their processing activities generated $2,386 million.

Ninety per cent of the operations take place at open pit mines with metallic minerals making up 73.1 per cent of the production. Gold and silver take the lead in this segment, as they are responsible for 49.9 per cent and 14 per cent of the production, respectively.

Aggregates, on the other hand, contribute 23.2 per cent to overall production and non-metallic minerals 3.7 per cent. Within the non-metallic minerals segment, most of the production is focused on pure sodium chloride and halite.

Although most companies’ headquarters are located in the Buenos Aires and Cordoba provinces, Santa Cruz, Catamarca y San Juan were, altogether, responsible for 70.5 per cent of the production.

In terms of employment, the census revealed that the Argentinian mining sector provided jobs to 40,129 people.

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Gold particles help scientists find defects

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in the U.S. have developed a technique that allows gold to actually ‘shine’ inside 3D printed parts to highlight any problems.

The scientists used particles of gold that are 100,000 times thinner than a human hair and that show up as a deep maroon colour. The elements were embedded inside printing material to see whether it could help flag defects.

The process involves mixing the gold nanoparticles with a dissolved plastic polymer, dispersing it throughout the medium. When it dries and hardens, the plastic is extruded or pressed into gold nanoparticle-filled polymer filaments, or thin tubing, which can then be used in standard 3D printers.

After a part is printed, it goes into a special UV-Vis spectrophotometer to inspect for defects.

“We’re using the absorbance properties of the embedded gold nanoparticles,” said in a press release Cole Brubaker, civil engineering graduate student, and lead scientist in this research. “You just scan light across the surface of the sample and see where the absorbance decreases inside, signaling a defect in that material. A defect can be found with one single nondestructive measurement. It’s very quick. It takes just a matter of seconds. We don’t have to rely on large sensing systems that have sensors placed all over the part.”

Brubaker and his team believe that their solution is critical in a world where 3D printed materials are becoming increasingly common, from consumer goods and products to demonstrations of 3D-printed automobiles and homes.

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Explorer Reports Assays Up to 226 g/t Gold

Source: Streetwise Reports 07/15/2018

This Canadian firm’s summer exploration program has produced assays ranging to 226 g/t gold.

In a July 12 press release, Canadian explorer TerraX Minerals Inc. (TXR:TSX.V) reported assay results from summer field programs on several zones in its Yellowknife City gold project.

The first set of results is from samples taken from the Gull Lake and Rater Lake zones. “The highlight assays are 43.7 g/t Au, 28.0 g/t Au, and 19.05 g/t Au on the Gull Lake Zone with several additional assays in the 1 to 5 g/t Au range on both zones,” the company reported. “These gold zones are interpreted as being the continuation of the Giant Mine gold structure, warranting immediate further work along these structural trends.”

Channel sampling at the past-producing Ptarmigan mine, acquired by TerraX earlier in 2018, included “assay results for gold range up to 226 g/t Au and 126 g/t Ag in 0.50 m channel samples from Channel ECH18-037,” according to the release. Results from other assays included:

• ECH18-037 – 24.75 g/t Au over 5.50 m (including 44.82 g/t Au over 3.00 m);
• ECH18-036 – 5.39 g/t Au over 7.50 m (including 10.44 g/t Au over 2.50 m);
• ECH18-035 – 4.25 g/t Au over 2.00 m.

The company’s executive chairman, Joseph Campbell, noted that the samples “on both our Northbelt and Eastbelt properties were taken from easily accessible areas,” alongside or proximal to roadways.

“The channels from the Ptarmigan area have grades very much in line with its historical high grade production and our initial work at both these areas confirms continuity within these large mineralizing systems. We are continuing to work in these areas and additional results are pending,” Campbell commented.

TerraX’s Yellowknife City gold project is located within the historically productive Yellowknife gold district in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Read what other experts are saying about:

TerraX Minerals Inc.

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1) Tracy Salcedo compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC and provides services to Streetwise reports as an independent contractor. She or members of her household own securities of the following companies mentioned in the article: None. She or members of her household are paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in this article are billboard sponsors of Streetwise Reports: TerraX. Click here for important disclosures about sponsor fees.
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Miramont expands Peruvian project but can't drill just yet

South America-focused Miramont Resources Corp. (CSE: MONT) announced that it has entered into an option agreement to acquire the rights to the Milenos 32 concession adjacent to its Cerro Hermoso project in Peru.

With this acquisition, the combined area of the project has increased to 1,318 hectares. Cerro Hermoso is located in the southern Puno region, 60 kilometres from the city of Juliaca and 5 kilometres northwest from the supply town of Santa Lucía.

“This concession gives Miramont full control of the Pocomoro zone where highly anomalous copper and silver have been identified in surface rock samples,” the company said in a press release.

The Pocomoro zone is along the same ring-fracture system as the Santa Barbara vein and is considered its southern extension. According to Miramont, over 750,000 tonnes at an average grade of 15 oz/t, Ag, 1% Cu, 2% Zn, 2% Pb and 1.0 g/t Au were historically mined from complex veins and breccia bodies in the combined Santa Barbara and Pocomoro mines.

The miner also explained that the Pocomoro zone is underlain by an emerging ground magnetic anomaly that may indicate the presence of a buried intrusion.

The Vancouver-based firm, however, hasn’t been able to start drilling at the site as it is still awaiting response to a request submitted in June to the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines to reassess its earlier decision of delaying a final drill authorization at Cerro Hermoso.

“The company’s request is supported by additional documentation that shows the land underlying the project’s area of influence is privately held negating the need for further consultation. Miramont has agreements with all private owners,” management said in the media statement.

Vice President Tyson King told via email that now would be the ideal time to start working at the 20 drill pad locations Miramont has requested.

The company is planning a 3500-5000 meter drill program where three priority targets, Central Breccia, Stockwork and Carbonate Replacement Zones, will be tested.

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Germany to host Europe's first EV battery plant

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed this week the investment Chinese firm CATL will make to build Europe’s first electric car battery plant.

During a press conference held with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Merkel confirmed previous informations that stated that the factory will be built at Erfurt, in Thuringia, and its main goal is to supply the country’s key auto industry in its transformation toward electric cars.

According to AFP, Ningde-based CATL already supplies large Chinese car firms like Saic Motor and Geely and has just struck a deal with BMW. The luxury carmaker will buy 4 billion euros worth of batteries from the Chinese giant, with 1.5 billion euros worth of sales in Germany and 2.5 billion in China.

In terms of the supplies to build the batteries, BMW itself is buying cobalt under a 500 million euros investment program.

Volkswagen also has contracts with CATL and Mercedes-Benz maker, Daimler, is weighing a deal with the company as well.

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MGX, Belmont set lithium joint venture in Nevada.

MGX Minerals, the Canadian junior that grabbed headlines earlier this year for testing a technology that turns oil and gas wastewater into lithium is doubling down on North America as a future lithium heavyweight with a new joint venture.

The Vancouver-based company has entered into a strategic JV with Belmont Resources, to acquire up to 50% interest in Belmont’s flagship Kibby Basin Lithium Brine Property, just north of Clayton Valley and the Tesla Gigafactory. It’s also where Abermarle’s Silver Peak mine, the only North American lithium producer, is located.

MGX will fund up to Cdn$300,000 of exploration, namely drilling at Kibby. The junior will acquire an initial 25% interest, but can earn a further 25% stake in the project by funding another Cdn$300,000 in exploration for drilling at which time the project will become a 50:50 joint venture with access to MGX’s rapid lithium extraction technology. MGX will be operator.

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Why Abitibi Royalties is focusing on the Canadian Malartic mine

For Ian Ball, President and CEO of Abitibi Royalties (TSX-V: RZZ), the type of mining activities taking place a the Canadian Malartic mine represent a paradigm shift, who talked to in March at PDAC.

Abitibi is focusing its efforts on one of Canada’s largest gold mines, which is located 25 kilometres west of Val d’Or in Quebec’s Abitibi region.

“There have been well in excess 10-million-ounces-discoveries and they are making new discoveries every year, which is increasing the value of our royalty. You want to be in big mining camps and Malartic is one of the biggest in Canada,” said Ball.

Abitibi’s royalty is a 3% net smelter return royalty on the eastern portion of the mine, which is owned and operated by Agnico Eagle (TSX, NYSE:AEM) and Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI) (NYSE:AUY).

The executive explained how, based on the returns of this major asset, he has switched the way investors are treated.

“When I joined Abitibi I did not have the financial means to buy 20 per cent of Abitibi but I was willing to take all of my salary and invest it back into the company on the open market each week.

“So for four years now, I’ve been taking all of my salary and investing it into the shares so I’m literally walking in the same footsteps as my shareholders. And two years ago, I went to the board and told them that I didn’t think we should be issuing any stock options and share units, people should be paid in cash so they can use that cash to go buy stocks in the market,” he said.

Creative Commons image of northern lights in Quebec courtesy of Image Editor

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Rio Tinto’s ‘world’s largest robot’ delivers first iron ore load

Rio Tinto’s fully autonomous train, said to be the world’s largest robot, has completed its first delivery of iron ore between the company’s Mount Tom Price mine and the port of Cape Lambert.

The “significant milestone” in Rio’s  $940 million Autohaul project was reached on Tuesday when the train consisting of three locomotives and carrying around 28,000 tonnes of ore made the 280km driverless journey.

Driverless train, consisting of three locomotives and carrying around 28,000 tonnes of iron ore, travelled over 280 km from Rio’s Tom Price mine to the port of Cape Lambert.

The trip was monitored remotely by operators at Rio’s Operations Centre in Perth more than 1,500km away.

The average return distance of these trains is about 800 kilometres with the average journey cycle, including loading and dumping, taking 40 hours.

“The program will deliver the world’s first fully autonomous, long-distance, heavy-haul rail network, operating the world’s largest and longest robots,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director Rail, Port and Core Services, Ivan Vella, said in the statement.

“This program symbolizes both the pioneering spirit and innovative talents of many people across Rio Tinto and shows our absolute commitment to improving safety and productivity, as well as enabling greater flexibility across our operations,” Vella noted.

He added the company, the first top miner to install an autonomous rail system, is working closely with drivers during the transition period as it prepares employees for new ways of working as a result of automation.

Mine of the future is here now

The world’s No.2 miner is also expanding its fleet of autonomous haul trucks, controlled from Perth, with 30% of its fleet, or about 130 trucks, autonomous by 2019.

The auto system allows trucks to be operated by a central controller rather than a driver. It uses pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate roads and intersections and knows actual locations, speeds and directions of all vehicles at all times.

Getting to this point was not easy. The actual commissioning of the autonomous trains project was put off a few times, partly due to software problems. The first autonomous rail trip was finally completed in October last year.

Delays with the implementation of autonomous iron ore trains hurt Rio Tinto’s output in 2016. The miner ended up producing 330 million tonnes, down from the original target of 350 million tonnes.

The so-called Autohaul plan is part of the “Mine of the Future” project the company launched in 2008 and which also included the introduction of autonomous haulage trucks, automated drilling and the roll out of an operations centre near Perth airport.

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Rio Tinto to sell its largest pink diamond

Rio Tinto to sell its largest pink diamond

Rio Tinto (ASX, LON:RIO) said Thursday is putting up for sale a 3.14-carat, vivid pink diamond at its 2018 tender, the largest stone of its colour in the history of the annual sale of sparklers from its West Australian-based Argyle mine.

The emerald-cut polished stone, named The Argyle Alpha, is one of 63 rare pink, red and violet diamonds — weighing a combined 51.48 carats — Rio expects to sale at this year’s Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender.

The stone, found in 2015, is  part of a collection of six “hero” diamonds the miner will offer at the sale.

The six top pink, red and violet diamonds Rio expects to sale this year. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto | Flickr.)

While Rio has not set a price for the Alpha, the record sum for a pink diamond is $2.2 million per carat, which means the stone could potentially be worth around $7.9 million.

At auctions, however, pink diamonds have fetched much more than at tenders. The 59.6-carat Pink Star diamond, in fact, sold for $71.2 million last year, becoming most expensive gem ever sold that way.

While the Argyle Alpha is the biggest pink ever sold since Rio began offering its diamonds in 1984,  the largest ever pink diamond recovered from the Argyle mine is the Pink Jubilee, which weighed 12.76 carats.

The emerald-cut polished diamond the largest stone of its colour in the history of Rio’s annual sale of sparklers from its West Australian-based Argyle mine. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto | Flickr.)

The prolific Argyle mine, Australia’s biggest diamond operation and the source of rare and prized fancy pink gems, is set to close in 2020. It has been opened since 1983, first as an open pit and then from 2013 as an underground operation, producing more than 95% of Australia’s diamonds.

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Glencore shareholders mull suing firm over corruption, bribery probes

As if ongoing probes on both sides of the Atlantic weren’t enough to deal with for miner and commodities trader Glencore (LON:GLEN), now a group of shareholders is mulling potential actions against the company for causing them to lose money.

US law firm Quinn Emanuel, which is representing Glencore investors, said Thursday the recent news of imminent and ongoing probes into the Swiss firm’s dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it’s heavily invested, has caused the stock collapsed beyond acceptable limits.

Law firm Quinn Emanuel says shareholders are entitled to seek compensation for losses caused by Glencore’s alleged untrue or misleading statements and/or failures to disclose relevant information to the market.

“Glencore has a well-known appetite for risk and operates in many of the world’s most endemically corrupt countries, of which the DRC is a notable example,” Richard East, Quinn Emanuel’s Co-Managing Partner in London, said in an emailed statement. “We are of the view that Glencore shareholders may be entitled to bring claims in England under the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 in order to seek compensation for losses caused by Glencore’s alleged untrue or misleading statements and/or failures to disclose relevant information to the market.”

Last week, the company revealed it had received a subpoena from by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to produce documents related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and US money laundering statutes. The records relate to the company’s business in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela from 2007 to the present.

The company’s stock dropped as much as 13% in London after the subpoena became public, wiping more than 5.5 billion pounds ($7.3 billion) off its market value, or about half the $14.8 billion profit Glencore made last year.

Glencore said Wednesday it had set up a board committee to oversee the company’s response to US authorities’ demand for documents relating to possible corruption and money laundering.

The SOJ request came weeks after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it was preparing a formal bribery probe into the company and its deals with Dan Gertler, Glencore’s former business partner in the DRC, where the firm is the top producer of copper and cobalt.

The firm’s shareholders’ claim is being backed by leading litigation funder Innsworth. Quinn Emanuel’s London office is asking Glencore’s shareholders interested in being kept up to date as matters progress or any who would like to know more about the potential actions, to contact them.

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Rio Tinto sells $3.5bn stake in Grasberg mine to Indonesian state miner

World’s No.2 miner Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) said Thursday it had sold its 40% stake in the giant Grasberg mine, the world’s second largest copper operation, to Indonesia’s state mining company PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum) for $3.5 billion.

The deal is expected to end to a long-drawn-out, three-way dispute over the mine, which has been centred on bringing local ownership of Grasberg up to 51%, a main requisite set by the Indonesian government to allow Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), operator of Grasberg, to keep doing so.

Deal should end a long-drawn-out, three-way dispute over the mine, which has been centred on bringing Indonesia’s ownership of Grasberg up to 51%.

Rio had a joint venture with Freeport for a 40% share of Grasberg’s production above specific levels until 2021 and 40% of all production after that. But as a result of strikes and other disruptions and as the open pit at Grasberg nears the end of its life, the Melbourne-based miner hasn’t seen any benefit since 2014.

Freeport separately said it had inked a final agreement with PT Inalum through which it cedes the Indonesian miner majority control of Grasberg.

The three-way pact would see Inalum pay $3.85 billion for a 51% stake, increasing Indonesia’s holding from just over 9%. After the sale, Rio Tinto will cash out of its interest in the mine, while Freeport will receive $350 million and the right to remain as operator of Grasberg until 2041.

As Indonesia heads to presidential elections next year, sealing a deal to get a majority stake in Grasberg was a priority for President Joko Widodo, who most analysts expect will seek a second term in office.

Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that Grasberg’s reserves are worth about $14 billion. Indonesia accounted for 47% of Freeport’s operating income in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Grasberg, the world’s second-largest copper mine and fourth largest gold operation, is transitioning to an underground operation, set to reach full capacity by 2022, when it will produce 160,000 tonnes per day of ore. Today’s deal secures much-needed investment to develop underground mines at the site.

The additional Deep Mill Level Zone block cave mine, currently under construction, is projected to contribute an additional 80,000 tonnes per day of ore once at full capacity, expected in 2021.

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