COVID-19 kills worker at First Quantum’s Cobre Panamá mine

Panama’s Ministry of Health confirmed that one person died at the Cobre Panamá operation due to complications caused by the novel coronavirus infection.

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On Sunday, the government agency posted a tweet saying that following the identification of the first case of COVID-19 at the site on March 24, and despite efforts to stabilize the patient and isolate others suspected of carrying the infection, a worker died over the weekend.

Cobre Panamá has proven copper reserves of 3.18 billion tonnes and a 40-year mine life. According to Reuters, First Quantum is considering selling a minority stake in its flagship operation to reduce debt

“We regret the loss of this worker and together with the Social Insurance Registry we will proceed to expand our testing procedures to follow up with the other workers,” the Ministry’s tweet reads.

Cobre Panamá is 90% owned by Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) through its subsidiary Minera Panamá. The massive mining complex is located about 120 kilometres west of Panama City and 20 kilometres from the Atlantic coast.

The initial COVID-19 cases identified at the site were members of the contractor workforce, who are currently being cared for in the public healthcare system.

According to First Quantum, by the time the infections were detected, Cobre Panamá had already implemented control, isolation and quarantine measures in line with the guidelines issued by the Panamanian government.

Although most economic activities have been halted in the Central American country, the mining operation was allowed to continue under Executive Decree 500. The condition to do so is that there is strict adherence to the protocols established by the Ministry of Health, that the labour force is reduced to the minimum necessary and that shifts last only for 12 hours.

In late March, Panama enacted nationwide movement restrictions and the closure of non-essential businesses.

As of Sunday, the country had over 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and had registered 46 deaths.

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Explosion at Colombian coal mine kills 11

Eleven people died and four were injured following an accidental explosion at a coal mine in Colombia’s central Cundinamarca department. 

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The incident took place at the Veracruz coal mine, a legal operation located in the Cucunubá municipality. 

About 12% of Colombia’s electricity is generated at coal-fired power plants 

Even though both the Cundinamarca governor, Nicolás García, and the local fire department attended to the emergency, they did not provide details on the causes of the explosion.

After the accident was made public, the National Mining Agency announced a halt to all underground coal mining operations in Cucunubá. 

According to local media, a similar accident took place on Friday at the Montgomery coal mine in the San Cayetano municipality in northeastern Colombia, where six miners were found dead following an unintended blast.

Even though most economic activities have been suspended in Colombia due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mining operations have been excluded from the measure. 

As of Sunday, the South American country registered about 1400 confirmed cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus.

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Great Panther suspends Mexico operations

Great Panther (NYSE: GPL; TSX: GPR) has suspended mining and processing activities at the Guanajuato and Topia mines in Mexico until April 30 in compliance with the government directive to mitigate the spread of covid-19. 

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The miner has begun ramping down activities at both mines and will retain only essential personnel during the suspension. Some administrative and technical staff will continue to work from home, Great Panther said.

Great Panther’s Mexican operations combined produced 41,292 gold equivalent ounces in 2019.

Mining and processing operations at the Tucano mine in Brazil continue uninterrupted 

Mining and processing operations at the Tucano mine in Brazil continue uninterrupted at this time.

Monthly production from Great Panther’s Mexican operations accounts for approximately 2% of annual consolidated production on a gold equivalent ounce basis, and the Company’s Tucano Mine accounts for the remainder of production.

There are no confirmed or suspected cases of covid-19 across the company’s global mining operations, projects, and corporate offices, it said.  

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Nevada Gold Mines donates $1.5m to covid-19 Task Force

Nevada Gold Mines has announced measures to provide financial and logistical support to mitigate the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on local communities.

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At the state level, the company has committed an initial $1.5 million to the Nevada covid-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force, as well as offering to support the effort through its supply chain.

The company is developing a framework for a fund to assist small businesses along the I-80 Corridor in Northern Nevada

Nevada Gold is also developing a framework for an ‘I-80 Fund’ to assist small businesses along the I-80 Corridor in Northern Nevada.

In Elko, Battle Mountain, and Winnemucca, the closest towns to the company’s operations, the Nevada Gold has to date committed a total of $275,000 to support these local communities with food supplies and other basic necessities.

In Southern Nevada, it has committed $100,000 to Three Square Food Bank.

“We have ensured that our operations are working as safely and responsibly as possible but it is not only our employees that we are concerned about — we are also using our resources to support our friends and neighbors, and particularly seniors,” managing director Greg Walker said.

The company is the largest global gold producing complex and a joint venture between Barrick Gold (61.5%) and Newmont Corporation (38.5%) and operated by Barrick.

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Rio declares force majeure at Kennecott after quake

The world’s number two miner, Rio Tinto, (ASX:RIO) said it has invoked force majeure on contracts at its Kennecott copper operation near Salt Lake City, Utah following an earthquake last month.

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Kennecott copper mine and smelter was shut down following a 5.7 magnitude earthquake close to the town of Magna on March 18. There were no injuries and Rio at the time said it identified limited damage to the operation or risk to the surrounding community.

Rio said in a statement to Reuters, “we are working to restart Kennecott’s smelter after the emergency shutdown in response to the earthquake.”

In December, Rio Tinto announced it is spending $1.5 billion to expand Kennecott and extend the life of the more-than 100-year-old open-pit mine through to 2032.

Kennecott produced 186,800 tonnes of copper last year from the iconic Bingham Canyon mine.

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Rio faces new investor rebellion over Oyu Tolgoi

Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO), the world’s second-largest miner, is facing a new setback at its massive Oyu Tolgoi underground copper project in Mongolia, as one of its investors plans a revolt over what it claims is “a massive devaluation” of the asset.

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US hedge fund Pentwater Capital wants the designation of a new independent director to represent the interests of minority shareholders at Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX, NYSE:TRQ), the Rio-controlled company that operates the mine.

The Naples, Florida-based firm also wants other shareholders to be able to nominate three more directors.

“Turquoise Hill’s board and management have failed to effectively oversee Rio Tinto, and intervene in the abuse of control and refusal to make complete and truthful disclosure by Rio Tinto of the Oyu Tolgoi Project,” Pentwater said in the statement.

US hedge fund Pentwater Capital said it had become increasingly worried at the mismanagement of Oyu Tolgoi’s underground expansion and the timing of market disclosures

The fund, which has a 9% interest in Turquoise Hill, said it had become increasingly worried at the mismanagement of a critical underground ongoing expansion at the mine and the timing of market disclosures.

“The tangled web that has been woven between Rio Tinto and Turquoise Hill has resulted in a lack of corporate governance controls, systemic disregard for the interests of minority shareholders, a sustained period of false and misleading disclosures and irreparable harm to the interests of all Turquoise Hill stakeholders,” Pentwater said.

The brewing rebellion is one of many recent challenges Rio has faced in Mongolia in the past two years.

In January 2018, the country’s government served Oyu Tolgoi with a bill for $155 million in back taxes — the mine’s second tax dispute since 2014. The company said at the time the charge related to an audit on taxes imposed and paid by the mine operator between 2013 and 2015.

Shortly after, the southern Gobi
Desert-based mine had to declare force majeure after protests by Chinese
coal haulers disrupted deliveries near the border.

The situation prompted Rio’s chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques to visit Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsuk to discuss how to build “win-win” partnerships. The trip was followed by the company’s announcement that it was opening a new office in the country, focused on exploration and local links.

The issue resurfaced later, when a group of Mongolian legislators recommended a review of the 2009 deal that launched construction of the mine. It also advised revoking a 2015 agreement allowing for an underground expansion. 

In December, Mongolia’s parliament unanimously approved a resolution that reconfirms the validity of all the Oyu Tolgoi mine-related agreement, bringing the 18-month review to a close.

Behind schedule and over budget

The company has had to deal with other issues, related to the underground expansion of the mine.

Rio warned last year that the project would take 16-30 months longer than expected …read more

Golden Minerals stock up on promising PEA

Colorado-based miner Golden Minerals (TSX: AUMN) has reported positive findings in a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) and updated mineral resource estimate for the Velardeña properties, its wholly owned silver and gold project located in Durango state, Mexico.

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Tetra Tech, the engineering company responsible for preparing the PEA, assigned the project a pre-tax net present value of approximately $86 million and a possible internal rate of return of 138% after one year.

The PEA envisions a ten-year mine life for 188,000 ounces of gold and 12.3 million ounces of silver contained in the resource

Total pre-production capital cost of the project is estimated at $10.2 million, with a pre-production development time of one year. The post-production sustaining capital needed will be nearly $16 million.

The PEA envisions a ten-year mine life for 188,000 ounces of gold and 12.3 million ounces of silver contained in the resource. Average gold grade achieved over life of mine is anticipated to be 5.15 g/t, while average silver grade is expected to be 337 g/t.

The project also has 33 million pounds of contained lead and 40 million pounds of contained zinc, grading 1.32% and 1.63% respectively.

Shares of Golden Minerals rose by 20% at Thursday’s market close following the latest PEA results. The company has a market capitalization of C$39.4 million.

Also on Thursday, the company said that the oxide mill at Velardeña would continue to operate despite certain business restrictions being implemented in Mexico in response to the covid-19 situation.

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De Beers CFO to leave by end of July

De Beers announced on Thursday that Nimesh Patel, chief financial officer, will leave the company to join Spirax-Sarco Engineering as their new chief financial officer and executive director by the end of July.

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Nimesh joined Anglo American in 2012 as group head of corporate finance before moving to De Beers Group in 2016 as CFO, joining both the executive committee and board.

“Nimesh has worked closely with me and as part of our executive team to develop and implement our compelling growth and innovation strategy. He has built a strong finance team and led a transformation of our finance processes and systems, leaving the function well-positioned for the future,” Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers said.

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Kirkland Lake Gold withdraws 2020 guidance

Kirkland Lake Gold (TSX:KL, NYSE:KL) announced on Thursday more ramp downs in response to the covid-19 pandemic, including the temporary suspension of operations at the Holt Complex in Northern Ontario, and reduced operations at the Macassa Mine in Kirkland Lake.

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The new measures, which are in effect until April 30, follow the transition of the Detour Lake Mine to reduced operations.

Kirkland Lake said it is withdrawing its 2020 guidance until further notice.

Workers impacted by the reductions will receive their base wages for the month of April, the miner said.

The latest ramp downs are in response to recent developments related to the covid-19 virus, including increased border restrictions between Ontario and Quebec

Increased border restrictions between Ontario and Quebec is making the movement of workers increasingly difficult, Kirkland said.

Kirkland also recently announced it would wind down its Cosmo mine and Union Reefs processing plant near Darwin, Australia.

The company’s Fosterville mine in Australia continues to operate at full levels of production.

Ian Holland has departed the role of vice president, Australian Operations. The executive will continue to support business activities as a consultant, Kirkland said. Duncan King, currently vice president, mining, is assuming the role of vice president, Australian Operations on an interim basis.

Kirkland Lake Gold produced 974,615 ounces of gold in 2019.

The company’s stock was trading up 9% on the NYSE Thursday. Kirkland’s market capitalization is $9.13 billion.

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Central bank gold purchases decline 52% y/y in February

The latest data from the World Gold Council (WGC) shows that central banks’ monthly net gold purchases increased in both January and February, following December’s five-month low.

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In February, central banks around the globe bought a net 36 tonnes (t) of gold, almost a third higher than January’s net purchases, but still 52% lower year-over-year. This brings year-to-date net purchases to 64.5t, down 44% compared to the 116.1t of net purchases over the first two months of 2019.

Breaking down February’s net total into its component gross purchases (39.1t) and sales (3.1t) shows that purchases remain healthy and sales remain low, the Council said.

Of the central banks which have reported their gold reserves at the end of February, Turkey (24.8t), Russia (10.9t), Kazakhstan (1.8t) and Qatar (1.6t) were the only noteworthy buyers during the month. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan (3.1t) was the only significant seller.

So far this year, only five central banks have increased gold reserves by at least a tonne, compared with eight over the first two months of 2019. The five countries are Turkey (41t), Russia (19t), the United Arab Emirates (5.9t), Kazakhstan (2.8t) and Mongolia (1t).

“The past two months clearly suggest gold continues to be an important component of foreign reserves despite heightened levels of demand in recent years,” WGC market intelligence manager Krishan Gopaul said.

However, he also warned that the recent market instability and uncertainty will still be at the forefront of central bankers’ mind for the rest of this year. Earlier this week, Russia’s central bank, the biggest buyer of recent years, announced it would stop buying gold starting April 1, 2020.

“Nonetheless, we will have to wait and see how this impacts their outlook in the coming months,” he added.

Gold has been on a wild ride over the past several weeks, dropping as low as $1,450 an ounce last month. However, in late March, gold surged to a seven-year high as mine closures around the world along with unprecedented monetary action by the US central bank stimulated investor demand for safe haven assets such as gold.

While the Council believes central banks will remain net buyers in 2020, there is a possibility that we may not see as much buying as we did over the past two years.

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Centamin appoints new CEO

Egypt-focused gold miner Centamin (LON:CEY) (TSX:CEE) has appointed Martin Horgan, the co-founder of Toro Gold, which was acquired by Resolute Mining (ASX: RSG) last year, as its new chief executive officer.

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The company, which has been without a full time boss since the resignation of Andrew Pardey in October, said the hire was the result of an intensive international search process. 

Horgan brings more than 10 years of experience in the gold industry and the African market in particular. He will face the challenge of improving the performance of the company’s Sukari mine, Egypt’s largest gold operation, which has disappointed investors in the past two years.

He will succeed interim CEO, Ross Jerrard, allowing Jerrard to focus on his role and responsibilities as chief financial officer.

Martin Horgan, co-founder of a gold company acquired by Resolute Mining last year, is taking the post

The new CEO will also have to deal with the aftermath of covid-19, which has forced miners around the world to halt operations and revise production targets.

Centerra, which rejected a takeover approach by Canada’s Endeavour Mining (TSX:EDV) at the beginning of the year, recently postponed publication of its 2019 results “for a minimum of two weeks”, following a request issued on March 21 by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Sukari, which began operations in January
2010, comprises a large open pit and an underground mine. The company
spent most of 2018 on operational improvements on both sections, but they
took longer than planned to materialize.

As a result, Sukari churned out 472,418 ounces of gold in
2018, down from 544,658 ounces in 2017, and Centamin struggled to boost
production at its flagship mine last year.

Challenges prompted changes at the top, including removing then executive chairman Josef El-Raghy from the position and the appointed three independent non-executive directors.

Centamin’s board now consists of eight members, with two
executive and six-non-executives. Of the non-executives, five are independent.

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The virtues of virtual interaction

On a global scale, work is grinding to a halt and operations at mines are being temporarily suspended as majors and minors move to enact measures to protect against the spread of covid-19.

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With governments from Africa to Latin America issuing lockdown orders, disruptions to operations and supply chains are affecting the way we work in the industry.

In
these unprecedented times of mandatory social distance, the benefits of virtual
interaction are amplified.

The world’s workforce has moved home, and that creates opportunities to improve industry knowledge and upgrade existing skillsets during this period of reduced activity.

“Online
learning doesn’t just offer cheaper education for the masses. It improves the
student learning experience across the spectrum by allowing students to learn
at their own pace and on their own timetable,” said Steve Denning of Forbes.

Online learning also offers the opportunity for virtual interaction between instructors and students, which can help lessen the impact of social isolation.

Our Edumine division offers a range of virtual learning experiences and live webinars, with two scheduled for the month of April: Mining 101: A Non-Technical Primer for Mining and Mineral Property Valuation.

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