US develops new gold-silver alloy for military use

Scientists with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the University of Maryland and the Paulista State University in Brazil created a new gold-silver alloy with the idea of lightening the load and enhance the power of devices used by soldiers on the battlefield.

In an article recently published in Advanced Optical Materials, the researchers explain how they are working on controlling the optical and plasmonic properties of gold and silver alloys by changing the alloy chemical composition.

“We demonstrated and characterized gold/silver alloys with tuned optical properties, known as surface plasmon polaritons, which can be used in a wide array of photonic applications,” David Baker, one of the authors of the paper, said. “The fundamental effort combined experiment and theory to explain the origin of the alloys’ optical behavior. The work highlights that the electronic structure of the metallic surface may be engineered upon changing the alloy’s chemical composition, paving the way for integration into many different applications where individual metals otherwise fail to have the right characteristics.”

U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientists Dr. David Baker and Dr. Joshua McClure pose in their lab at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, where they are working to lighten the load and enhance the power of Soldier devices used on the battlefield. Photo by Jhi Scott, U.S. Army.

According to the researchers, having discovered these properties allows them to optimize the optical dispersion and light-harvesting capability of the alloys. This means that these materials can outperform systems made of individual elements like gold.

“The insights of the paper are useful to soldiers because they can be applied to a variety of applications including, but not limited to photocatalytic reactions, sensing/detection, and nanoscale laser applications,” co-author Joshua McClure said. “When tuned properly, the integrated alloyed materials can lead to reductions in the weight of energy harvesting devices, lower power requirements for electronics and even more powerful optical sensors.”

As a follow-up to this work, the scientists are now looking at other metallic alloys and anticipate that their combined experimental and computational approach may be extended to other materials, including nonmetallic systems.

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New corporate alliance aims to bring better efficiency and ethics to cobalt mining industry

When Henrik Fisker joined First Cobalt’s (TSX-V: FCC) board of directors in September, it was like a marriage of the minds between the global automotive design entrepreneur and the company’s president and CEO, Trent Mell.

Both Fisker and Mell are focused on providing cobalt to the American EV market efficiently, and also on maintaining stringent ethical mining practices.

First Cobalt is operating domestically within a global supply chain that has been so rife with concerns over child labour in the Congo that cobalt has been dubbed the ‘blood diamonds’ of the mining industry. But cobalt is on the US critical minerals list – and is a key component in next-generation batteries.

Fisker is also Chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc., and in the automotive sector he has provided leadership in premium electric vehicle development. Fisker Inc. holds pending patents on the Fisker Solid-State Battery, which the company says delivers 2.5 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. This is a potential  game changer in charging electric vehicles and consumer electronics. Fisker Inc. holds pending patents on the coming Fisker Solid-State Battery, which the company says delivers 2.5 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. This is a potential  game changer in charging electric vehicles and consumer electronics

“When we started Fisker Inc. in 2016, one of my goals was not only to redo the business model for a car company, but also to really get involved in what is essentially the most important and most expensive part of an electric vehicle, which is the battery.” Fisker said. “What is so important to this technology is, it not only has a much higher efficiency [but] a much longer range.”

Cobalt is the mineral that brings stability to the battery technology, Fisker said.

“That is why everybody wants to make sure they have access to it…as we have this rise in demand for batteries over the next seven to ten years. I want to make sure we have access, but that it is ethically mined.”

On the safety side, the technology has the capability to cool batteries more efficiently, and it is also carries a lower cost, Fisker said.

Fisker said joining the board at First Cobalt was a good fit because he felt the company’s values are in line with his in terms of ethical practices.

First Cobalt has three North American assets: the Iron Creek project in Idaho, with inferred mineral resources of 29.6 million tons grading 0.11% cobalt equivalent; the Canadian Cobalt Camp, and the only permitted cobalt refinery in North America capable of producing battery materials.

Fisker also said it is exciting that the market can get cobalt from North America, when a majority of the material and mines are owned by foreign interests.

Trent Mell said First Cobalt walks its talk by ensuring every worker at the company’s mine sites is outfitted with personal protective equipment, and that the local environments are protected.

“Where Henrik and I are aligned, it starts in the Congo. What people forget is that we are trying to clean up the supply chain,” Mell said. …read more

World’s top copper producer faces lengthy smelter halt at major mine

Chile’s state miner Codelco, the world’s No.1 copper producer, has revealed its smelter at Chuquicamata, its second largest operation by size, will be running at reduced rates until at least the end of the year, as it hurries to complete a planned overhaul ahead of stricter emissions standards coming in effect.

Chile’s Codelco is in the midst of upgrading its smelter at Chuquicamata, its second largest operation by size.

Unions expect production at the facility to be suspended for at least 60 days, while the company said some processes are likely to be affected for as many as 80 days, starting Dec. 13. That day, Bloomberg reports, is when the new rules will begin to be enforced.

Century-old Chuquicamata is running out of profitable ore and has to switch to a modern underground operation. The new mine, this time underground, will need 1,700 fewer workers, the company has said, partly because conveyor belts will replace trucks.

Codelco, which hands over all of its profits to the state, holds vast copper deposits, accounting for 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves and about 11% of the global annual copper output with 1.8 million metric tonnes of production.

The company handles nearly 4 million tpy of concentrates at its four smelters – Ventanas, Chuquicamata, Caletones (El Teniente division) and Potrerillos (El Salvador division).

Last year, Chuquicamata produced 330,900 tonnes of copper, out of Codelco’s total of 1.734 million tonnes and the miner contributed nearly $3 billion to Chile’s coffers.

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Canada’s Rusoro Mining reaches $1.3B deal with Venezuela

Canadian junior Rusoro Mining (TSX-V: RML), which in March scored a major victory in its international arbitration complaint against Venezuela, has accepted the almost $1.3 billion offered by the country’s government as settlement for the seizure of the company’s gold projects.

The deal gives Venezuela Rusoro’s mining data and forces it to fully release the arbitral award issued in favour of the miner in August 2016.

Settlement creates partnership that could lead to restarting production at Rusoro’s former mines in the South American country.

It also creates a partnership between the parties that will assess the current status of Rusoro’s former gold projects and consider options of restarting production at two mines. A decision of the future of those assets will be made by the end of January, the company said.

The dispute between Rusoro and the South American nation goes back to 2011, when former president Hugo Chávez nationalized the gold industry and seized the company’s 95%-owned Choco 10 mine as well as its 50%-owned Isidora mine.

The Vancouver-based company attempted a series of negotiations with Chávez’s left-wing government but after they all failed, its legal team took the matter to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes Expropriation (ICSID).

That Tribunal upheld Rusoro’s claims that Venezuela had breached its obligations under the Canada-Venezuela Bilateral Investment Treaty. It also order the country’s government, in addition to pay compensation for damages, to contribute $3.3 million towards Rusoro’s costs in the arbitration.

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Lynas jumps after its critic in Malaysian Gov't leaves review team

Shares in rare earths producer Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC) climbed on Friday, closing 9.2 percent higher, after the Malaysian minister in charge of a committee reviewing the miner’s plant offered to step down following criticism that she would not be impartial.

Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Fuziah Salleh, a long-standing critic of Lynas’ plant, said she didn’t want  to be used by the company to divert attention from the effects of the plant’s radioactive waste on people and the environment.

Fuziah Salleh, a long-standing critic of Lynas, said she didn’t want  to be used by the company to divert attention from the effects of the plant’s radioactive waste.

“If I remain in the committee, I will not be able to provide comments to the media and the public,” Salleh said according to local paper New Straits Times. “When I am no longer chairman [of the review committee], it will be easier for me to make comments and fight from the outside.”

Earlier this month, the Sydney-based miner raised concerns about the impartiality of Salleh and committee member Wong Tack, both long time opponents of having Lynas’ refinery in Malaysia.

The six-year-old facility — known as the Lynas Advance Material Plant (LAMP) — was the centre of relentless attacks from environmental groups and local residents while under construction in 2012. They feared about the impact the low-level radioactive waste the refinery generates could have on the health of those living nearby and the environment.

Lynas is the only major rare earths miner outside China. The metallic elements, crucial in the production of magnets, are extracted in Western Australia, but processed in Malaysia.

The company’s operating license in the country is up for renewal in September next year.

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A big graphene industry breakthrough out of Arizona

In what the company calls an industry breakthrough, Arizona based Urbix Resources has produced the first economically viable graphene-enhanced lightweight concrete.

Urbix’s research and development team created what they call a ‘Graphenesque’ additive that provides a 33% increase in compressive strength, a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions, and at a cost that is over 16% lower than the next best lightweight concrete alternative on the market.

“As the world continues to apply IOT-enabled smart materials, we are creating and opening new market potentials for graphite, directly, positively, impacting graphite demand in the world,” Cuevas said.

The team has been working on the project since 2014, with the simple intent of commercializing graphite out of a mine in Mexico, Urbix Chairman Nicolas Cuevas told Mining.com.  With carbon atoms 200 times stronger than steel, it’s pretty much the plastic of now, Cuevas said. It’s pretty much a new revolution in materials

Urbix worked with the University of Arizona’s optical science department on methods of purifying graphite without using high temperature ovens or hydrofluoric acid. Through a trial and error purification process, they were able to make graphene through a microwave reactor the company developed.

Cuevas said graphene is a ‘wonder material’, derived from graphite. Defined as a layer of carbon atoms, global demand for graphene is expected to increase as it has been shown to improve battery technologies.

“With carbon atoms 200 times stronger than steel, it’s pretty much the plastic of now,” Cuevas said. “It’s pretty much a new revolution in materials.”

“The material performance of our solution for lightweight concrete is great,” Urbix Chief Marketing Officer Adam Small said in a statement. “But the low costs and large-scale capabilities are what makes this achievement so profound. By leveraging our existing global graphite mining relationships, we offer near vertical integration, an aspect that is almost mandatory for any company entering the graphene space.”

Testing continues, and Cuevas anticipates that they will bring the technology to market in 2020.

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Unloved gold sector regains shine with mergers, price spike

Merger and acquisitions in the precious metals sector are gaining momentum following Barrick’s recently announced $6.1 billion-deal to acquire Randgold Resources.

Shortly after, Canada’s Americas Silver (TSX:USA) announced it was buying Pershing Gold (Nasdaq:PGLC) for $50.78 million in an all-stock deal.

“This transaction aligns with our stated initiative of building a profitable and low-cost precious metal company in the Americas by operating and building low risk, low capital, high return projects,” Darren Blasutti, President and Chief Executive Officer of Americas Silver tells MINING.com.

Low precious metal prices had led to low trading volumes and corresponding share prices as generalist investors looked elsewhere for returns, resulting in a lack of interest in the sector from the capital markets.

At the same time, production among the world’s largest gold producers has declined by around 5 percent on average over the past three years as they focused on cutting debt and costs, selling off operations that were expensive to operate, and reducing investment in exploration, projects and acquisitions.

The lack of significant capital sources has impacted good projects as they wait for funding, and Pershing Gold’s Relief Canyon project is a good example of that, says Darren Blasutti, President and CEO of Americas Silver. 

“We expect this situation to turn around in the near-to-midterm as producers will inevitably have to replace their precious metal resources,” Blasutti says.

The lack of significant capital sources has impacted good projects as they wait for funding, says the executive, adding Pershing Gold’s Relief Canyon project is a good example of that. “[The asset] is a great multi-year, low capital, shovel-ready  project with advanced permitting in Nevada, one of the world’s best locations for precious metals mining,” he say.” We believe it will provide further leverage to precious metals for our investors.”

Pershing’s feasibility study estimated a pre-tax net present value of approximately $120M (5% discount), capable of producing approximately 90,000 ounces of gold annually and generate post-tax cash flow of $30-35M per annum over the 6 year life (at $1,290 /oz Au).

By acquiring Pershing, Americas Silver is expected to increase precious metal production by five times and silver equivalent production to about 14 million AgEq ounces by 2020.

While mergers and acquisitions have become cheaper than expanding reserves of gold through exploration, Americas Silver does not see further acquisitions in the horizon. “The company’s philosophy has been to find value through better execution, but not event-type risk so the strategy is to remain Americas focused,” Blasutti says.

Currently, Americas Silver expects to produce between 1.6 million and 2 million ounces of silver and between 7.2 and 8 million silver equivalent ounces this year. The company, which owns multiple producing assets in Mexico, has also focused on zinc and lead as silver prices have been lackluster through most of the year.

The deal, expected to close in early 2019, comes at a time when gold prices are on their way up, hitting their highest in two months Thursday.

Spot gold gained 0.8 percent to $1,203.30 an ounce by 0947 GMT, while  US gold futures added 1.1 percent at $1,206.20 …read more

Canadian space mining developer inks deal with US-based Moon Express

Canadian space mining developer inks deal with US-based Moon Express

A Canadian company focused on develop mining technologies and robotics for the resource sector is partnering with Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, on future opportunities in outer space.

Northern Ontario-based Deltion Innovations will help Florida-based Moon Express collect, process, store and use materials found in celestial bodies, or what’s known in space exploration as “in situ resource utilization.”

“This is a very important milestone,” Deltion chief executive Dale Boucher said in a statement. “It’s an opportunity to provide a defined platform for launch, cruise, orbiting, landing and potential surface hopping, allowing us to offer more complete technical solutions for lunar science and lunar prospecting.”

The agreement will allow the partners to focus on mining exploration on the lunar surface and also pre-test later stage activities, such as excavation and infrastructure buildup.

Those capabilities, said Boucher, are critical for early stage mining exploration on the lunar surface and will allow the partners to pre-test later stage mining activities, such as excavation and infrastructure buildup.

As a contractor to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA, Deltion has been developing space mining systems since 1999. The team approaches technology development from a terrestrial mining perspective and facilitates the transfer of technology between the terrestrial and space sectors. Their technology includes drilling/excavation systems, processing, power systems, mobility systems, remote operations and subsurface exploration equipment.

Moon Express, also a CSA partner, is focused mostly on providing low cost, frequent access to the Moon for science, exploration and commerce while seeking new resources that could be used in our planet.

If the company’s dream come true soon, it would pave the way for several other for-profit space ventures currently in the works. These include plans to mine asteroids, track space debris, build the first human settlement in Mars, as well as Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s own plan for an unmanned mission to the red planet by 2022.

The billionaire has said his timeline for sending a space vehicle to Mars could mark its first milestone next year, as his spaceship is expected to be ready for short trips in the first half of 2019.

No longer science fiction

After being considered mostly a science-fiction tale, governments are now rushing to implement programs and legislations that allow them to join the race for mining in the space.

In 2015, former US President Barack Obama signed a law that grants US citizens rights to own resources mined in space. The ground-breaking rule was touted as a major boost to asteroid mining because it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by US firms.

Shortly after, Luxembourg launched an official initiative to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals. The tiny European country, which has been studying possible involvement in the sector since 2013, aims to become Europe’s centre for space mining.

Geologists as well as emerging companies, such as US-based Planetary Resources, …read more

Leagold closing Brazil mine for two months due to drought

Canada’s Leagold Mining (TSX:LMC) has had to temporarily shut down its Riacho dos Machados (RDM) mine in Brazil as a result of continued drought conditions in the country’s Minas Gerais State.

The Vancouver-based miner said it planned to resume operations in early December, with the commissioning of the grid powerline project.

RDM was closed in August last year and restarted, on an intermittent basis, in early November with the onset of the region’s rainy season.

Riacho dos Machados (RDM) mine will be closed for about two months.

This year, the mine remained operational until earlier this month as the processing plant benefitted from the water dam and pipeline that became operational in the second quarter of 2017, chief executive Neil Woodyer said in the statement.

The shutdown, Woodyer added, is expected to provide time for water to accumulate in the reservoir to support continuous operations.

Leagold expects to spend about $5 million a month in October and November during the mine shutdown, with $1.5 million needed to complete the powerline and $4 million to finish a tailings dam lift. It will also evaluate ways to reduce water consumption and ramp up the processing plant from 7,000tpd to 9,000tpd.

Due to the unplanned two-month, Leagold will have to update its 2018 full-year production guidance when delivering earnings report for the third quarter of the year.

The Latin America focused company had disappointed the market in August with a lower-than-expected updated 2018 production guidance, reflecting the inclusion of the RDM, Fazenda Brasileiro and Pilar mines in Brazil through its acquisition of Brio Gold.

It had then put guidance at 325,000-350,000 ounces of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of $940-$975 an ounce.

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Mining in the Mekong: Myanmar to outperform, Thailand to underperform – report  

There is big opportunity, and and also big risk in the Mekong mining sector, according to recently published report.

Fitch Solutions Macro Research’s industry analysis maintains the Mekong region will remain underdeveloped and dominated by domestic players in the coming years as foreign investment flows into the sector will be minimal amid a myriad of risks.

The report also predicts that Myanmar will be an outperformer in the region and that Thailand will underperform.

The outlook forecasts large, untapped mineral deposits of the countries in the Mekong region. While the Mekong region boasts rich mineral deposits of gold, copper, iron ore, bauxite, lead, tin and zinc, foreign investment flows into the sector are expected to remain low due to political uncertainty, resource nationalisation sentiment and poor infrastructure.

Myanmar is expected to lead in the Mekong region for mining industry growth, driven by the high production growth of tin, lead and coal.  The country is experiencing a broadbased economic boom, while the construction sector continues to grow.

In contrast, Fitch reports that Thailand will be the underperformer of the region due to risk of political uprising and delays and cancellations of infrastructure projects.

Read the full report here.

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Chile wants lithium to be traded on LME

Chile wants lithium to be traded on LME

Chile’s mining minister Baldo Prokurica asked the London Metals Exchange (LME) Wednesday to consider trading the coveted metal used in the batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs) and high-tech devices, and so provide greater “clarity” about its value.

Chile produced 80,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent last year, representing 35 percent of global production.

On his first visit to Britain after taking office in March of this year, Prokurica met with local companies about potential partnerships with state-miner Codelco to eventually produce value-added lithium products, EFE news agency reports.

In July, the LME asked companies that assess prices of battery-grade lithium to submit proposals to supply a reference for cash-settled contracts it plans to launch next year. Currently, producers negotiate contracts with buyers, but the terms of the deals are not made public.

“We want to generate conditions for our products to be sold in a transparent manner, and that raises the possibility that lithium be traded on the LME so there can be clarity about its value,” the minister said, according to Chilean paper Estrategia.

Already the world’s top copper producer, Chile holds about 48% of the known lithium reserves, and it’s the second largest miner of the metal, after Australia, with 80,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent produced last year. But both companies and the government are working hard on reversing that.

Copyright: MINING.com.

Over the past several months, Chile’s SQM — the world’s number two lithium producer — has been expanding its mines. The company recently finished the first stage of a lithium carbonate ramp-up in Chile’s Salar del Carmen, reaching a capacity of 70k million tonnes a year.

“Our next step will be to work towards our goal of 120k MT/year, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019,” chief executive officer Patricio de Solminihac said in August.

The firm actually believes it will soon overtake US-based competitor Albemarle as the world’s top lithium miner, by 2022 to be exact. SQM would boost production capacity that year to 28% of the world’s total versus Albemarle’s 16%.

Chile expects lithium to soon become its second largest mining asset, just behind copper. It’s currently the country’s fourth biggest export.

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Graphite One's Alaska project may prove key to US defence industry — CEO

Battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt, have attracted lots of investors and media attention this year. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, seems to have been overlooked.

The situation is about to change or so it thinks Anthony Huston, chief executive officer of Graphite One Resources (TXS-V:GPH), especially after a White House/US Department of Defence (DoD) report highlighted last month the importance of the mineral to the country’s security industry and the broader manufacturing sector.

The Canadian junior, which is developing the Graphite Creek project in Alaska, believes is in a particularly privileged position, as the report also said the US should reduce its 100 percent-import dependence when it comes to graphite supply.

With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, the Canadian miner sees potential for its Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain.

“With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, we see the potential for our Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain, essential to the high-tech sector, renewable energy and national security/defence applications,” Huston said Wednesday.

“The report’s recommendation of direct investment in companies developing domestic sources of strategic and critical materials is a welcome sign,” he noted.

The report comes as Graphite One winds up its 2018 field program, a key step in the company’s ongoing field work in support of a pre-feasibility study at the Graphite Creek deposit, which the Vancouver-based miner says is the largest known flake graphite deposit in the US.

There is as much as 40 times the amount of graphite in a lithium-ion battery as lithium. This is one of the key drivers for the increasing demand for the mineral, which is expected to jump by as much as 200 percent by 2020. Only between Dec. 2016 and Dec. 2017, prices for the metal climbed 25% rise on the back of surging demand.

Demand for graphene, a recently developed “super-mineral” that comes from graphite, will also increase as the material believed to be able to dramatically improve battery technologies. While not economically viable for all applications, Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, said Wednesday it planned to incorporate graphene materials into several automotive applications by year’s end.

Less than a year ago the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology announced that its researchers had developed a “graphene ball,” a material that would allow lithium-ion batteries to charge five times faster and have 45 percent more capacity. That alone could have big impact on both consumer electronics and the automotive industries.

Graphite Creek, located 59km north of Nome, Alaska, comprises 165 mineral claims spread over 18,080 acres.

The proposed mine will produce high-grade coated spherical graphite (CSG), which is in high demand due to the adoption of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of the mine development project, announced last year, estimates an average annual production of 55,350t of CSG, once the mine reaches its full production in its sixth year, through its estimated …read more