Blue diamond ring breaks world record

A cut-cornered rectangular step-cut fancy intense blue diamond weighing 3.47 carats set a price-per-carat world record for a blue diamond after it sold for $1.9 million per carat to reach almost $6.7 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Auction.

The gem’s final price nearly tripled Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate of between $2 million and $2.5 million and pushed up the auction final results to $26.2 million. The blue rock was previously owned by an anonymous midwestern family.

In total, the fine jewelry broker garnered $34 million across its New York spring auctions, says Rapaport.

According to Sotheby’s, buyers from all over the world flooded the Big Apple also emptied their wallets by acquiring a 72.96-carat diamond bracelet for $1.4 million and a 13.70-carat Tiffany & Co. diamond ring for $1.2 million.

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Deep-sea mining: scientists say collaboration is key

Researchers from the University of California San Diego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are advocating for collaborations between academia and industry when it comes to finding a balance between exploiting mineral resources from the seabed and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Matthew Alford, a physical oceanographer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the UC -San Diego, and Thomas Peacock, director of the Environmental Dynamics Laboratory at the MIT, are making the call following a field study investigating potential impacts of extracting minerals such as cobalt, copper, and nickel from the deep-sea.

According to a university press release, the two conducted a simulation of sediment plumes that would be created by seabed mining. From onboard research vessel Sally Ride and using samples obtained from a proposed mining area in the deep Pacific Ocean, they ejected plumes of particle-laden water like those that would be produced during such operations. Their goal was to understand how the plume disperses in the water column between the surface and the seafloor. From these data, researchers can assess how such plumes can affect marine life and over what distance.

Researchers Matthew Alford (left) and Thomas Peacock. Photo by UC.

Alford and Peacock see the access to this information as the key link that should connect researchers and industry. “A key consideration regarding seabed mining is the role of sediment plumes. Using a combination of the latest ocean measurement techniques and modeling, and collaborating with ocean biologists, we can help determine their impact as regulations are being developed,” Alford said.

The researcher and his teammate emphasized that in addition to the involvement of academic researchers, the International Seabed Authority should be part of all seabed mining projects to make sure that operations take place on a limited scale.

The ISA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a private company, Global Sea Mineral Resources, all participated in the Sally Ride cruise in what the researchers consider a model of collaboration going forward.

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Caledonia wants to expand in Zimbabwe

Investors are encouraging Africa-focused Caledonia Mining (TSE:CAL) to expand operations in Zimbabwe, given the new political climate in the southern country.

Following the ousting of president Robert Mugabe, the new Emmerson Mnangagwa administration decided to knock out the rule that established that all mines had to be 51 per cent owned by Zimbabweans. Only diamond and platinum assets must comply with the order now.

Given this new scenario, Caledonia’s head of corporate development Maurice Mason told Reuters that the company has plans to work on mines that had previously been forced to shut because of a lack of investment.

In parallel, the Jersey-based miner wants to boost output to about 80,000 ounces a year so it is investing $4 million over the next 18 months to explore the area around its 49-per cent owned Blanket project.

The gold mine, which is located in the southwestern region of Zimbabwe, reported 16,425 ounces of gold produced in the last quarter of 2017, which was a record for Caledonia. Total 2017 gold production was approximately 56,135 ounces, marginally ahead of the previously announced production guidance of 54,000 – 56,000 ounces, while target production for 2018 is between 55,000 and 59,000 ounces.

The company is also negotiating the possibility of buying the government’s 16 per cent stake in Blanket.

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Canadian miner eyes New Zealand’s gold

Vancouver-based Full Metal Minerals (TSXV: FMM) announced today that it has entered into a Share Purchase Agreement with Australia’s Evolution Mining (EVN-ASX) to buy out the Puhipuhi Gold Project, located in the Northland region of the North Island of New Zealand.

In a press release, Full Metal explained that Puhipuhi is an exploration stage epithermal gold project where high grade Au and Ag has been intercepted by drilling at localities over 2 km apart including 2 m at 17g/t Au and 15 g/t Ag, 0.6 m at 23.4 g/t Au and 146 g/t Ag and 2 m at 12.4 g/t Au and 85.0 g/t Ag. A 28 m vein intercept was also detected, but it hasn’t been followed up by subsequent drilling.

The company also said that it considers this deposit analog to Oceana Gold’s Waihi Mine, a low sulphidation epithermal gold-silver deposit that has been in modern production since 1988, is also located on the North Island of New Zealand and whose 2018 guidance is 75-85,000 ounces of gold.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the Canadian miner will provide Evolution with an initial cash payment of $50,000 at closing. In addition, the Full Metal has agreed to pay up to $275,000 upon Evolution NZ entering into a new or amended access agreement with certain surface rights owners; $250,000 upon exploration expenditures of $2,000,000 being incurred; $250,000 upon cumulative exploration expenditures of $4,000,000 being incurred; $500,000 upon completion of a NI 43-101 compliant technical report containing an estimate of mineral resources of at least 500,000 oz. gold; $1,750,000 upon completion of a feasibility study; and $2,500,000 upon commencement of commercial production.

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How gold is improving cancer treatment

Researchers at the University of Queensland have developed new nanotechnology that includes gold particles and that is aimed at monitoring the diversity of individual cancer cells circulating in the body.

The groundbreaking technique was tested on blood samples from melanoma patients and was able to track critical changes in spreading tumour cells before, during and after treatment.

“We have developed a simple technology which uses a special type of gold nanoparticle attached to different antibodies, which can stick to different proteins on a wide variety of circulating tumour cells. These nanoparticles emit a unique barcoded signal when hit with laser light, and this signal changes ever so slightly if that nanoparticle encounters a circulating tumor cell and sticks to it, making them easy to detect,” said UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology PhD student Jing Wang in a media statement.

Professor Matt Trau and PhD student Jing Wang. Photo by University of Queensland.

Circulating tumour cells or CTCs are cells that have been shed by the original tumour and entered the bloodstream, which means that they can then form into new tumours if they lodge in distant tissue. These cells are difficult to detect with existing techniques, which are designed to only identify one type of CTC protein at a time.

This is where Wang’s proposal comes in. In the case of the melanoma sample patients, the technology successfully tracked in real-time how the diversity of tumour cell populations were changing in response to particular therapies for all of the patients studied, and was highly predictive of treatment effectiveness and patient outcomes.

According to Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute’s Medical Director Jonathan Cebon, having information about changes at a cellular level can help identify signs of drug resistance and this, in turn, can help doctors and patients make informed decisions about treatment.

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HSBC pulls the plug on coal

HSBC pulls the plug on coal

HSBC has joined an increasing list of large banks by announcing Friday it would not longer finance coal-fired plants, oil sands and arctic drilling.

The move, announced by Europe’s largest bank at its annual meeting as part of its new energy policy, seeks to head off criticism from investors who want the institution’s actions to be aligned with the Paris Agreement, a global pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curb rising temperatures.

Daniel Klier, HSBC’s sustainability boss, said the decision reflected the bank’s ambition to help its customers make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Europe’s largest bank, however, will continue to finance coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“We recognize the need to reduce emissions rapidly to achieve the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees Celsius and our responsibility to support the communities in which we operate,” he said in a statement.

Other large banks, such as Deutsche Bank, ING, BNP Paribas and BBVA, have all set out similar commitments in the past year.

HSBC, however, will continue to finance coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam in order to “appropriately balance local humanitarian needs with the need to transition to a low carbon economy,” the statement reads.

“The bank will consider supporting new coal-fired projects in these countries on a case-by-case basis – and only where a carbon-intensity target is met and independent analysis finds that no reasonable alternative is available to meet the country’s energy needs,” it said.

The exception to the newly created rule triggered immediate criticism from environmentalists, such as Paddy McCully, Director of the Rainforest Action Network Climate and Energy Program (RAN).

“HSBC’s new policy is a mixed bag. That Europe’s number one banker of tar sands is distancing itself from the sector is encouraging. HSBC’s prohibition on direct finance for tar sands mines and pipelines is the latest signal that the financial sector is gradually losing its appetite for those risky projects,” he said in an emailed statement. “But [the bank’s] coal power policy has a glaring, 80 gigawatt-sized loophole, and on both coal and tar sands HSBC still lags far behind its leading global peers.”

McCully believes that HSBC’s coal power policy leaves the door open for the bank to support two of what he calls “the world’s most controversial” proposed coal plants — Rampal and Payra, in Bangladesh. He said those threaten the Sundarbans forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coal still provides about 40% of the world’s electricity, and many countries aren’t willing to commit to a total phase-out just yet, particularly developing countries in Asia, including India, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

What’s more, according to data released in March by the International Energy Agency, global coal consumption increased in 2017, after two straight years of decline.

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World’s top diamond producer first-quarter output hit by mine accident

World’s top diamond producer first-quarter output hit by mine accident

Alrosa (MCX:ALRS), the world’s top diamond producer by output, saw its total production fall by 17% in the first three months of the year mainly due to the halt of its Mir underground mine and lower-grade ores processed from the Jubilee pipe.

The Russian miner produced 7.4 million carats in the quarter, compared with 8.9 million carats in the same period of 2017, and 10 million carats in the preceding quarter.

The company noted that the output decline was also partially caused by the closure of its Udachny open-pit mine, which has now become an underground operation only. As a result, the unit’s production decreased by 19% when compared to the same quarter last year, to 817,000 carats.

Other divisions helped offset Udachny’s results. Mirny, comprising alluvial deposits, the Mir underground mine, and the International underground mine, posted a 46% year-on-year decline in production to 1.17 million carats.

Courtesy of ALROSA.

Operations at Mir, located in eastern Siberia, were suspended in August 2017, after water flooded into the mine shaft from the open-cast above trapping 151 people. Alrosa said it was assessing technical solutions for resuming operations at the deposit.

The company’s Lomonosov division’s production jumped by 49% year-on-year to 729,000 carats, it said. But Nyurba’s output fell 15% to 1,9 thousand carats in the period.

Last month, Alrosa unveiled its own synthetic diamonds detector, aimed at cracking down on dishonest suppliers that mix lab-made stones with mined ones. The effort complements rival De Beers’ recently launched initiative to create the first industry-wide blockchain platform, which will enable greater tracking of gems being traded worldwide.

The technology, which the Anglo American’s unit began developing last year, is currently being tested in a pilot program at Sierra Leone.

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Nevada gold mine grows production by 130%

Frank Giustra-backed Fiore Gold (TSXV: F) announced today that its Pan Mine, located in east-central Nevada, registered a 130 per cent production growth in Q2 2018, compared to the previous quarter.

The Carlin-style, open-pit, heap-leach operation generated 8,695 ounces of gold during the second fiscal quarter that ended on March 31, 2018, which allowed the company to sell 8,673 ounces of the yellow metal.

Given these results, the company expects total production for the year to be near the lower end of its guidance range of 35-40,000 oz, with gold production weighted towards the second half of FY2018 as higher-grade ore is mined.

“With the mine operating at its planned capacity for the past two quarters we’re seeing the leach pads working at a steady state, with no change in gold inventory over the past quarter and a positive impact on working capital. The initial results from the two test cells on the leach pad suggest that adding a crushing circuit should have a very positive impact on recoveries that significantly outweighs the added operating costs and the cost of capital,” Tim Warman, Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto-based firm, said in a media statement.

Warman added that exploration work aimed at increasing the resource and reserve base at Pan is underway, with drilling planned to continue throughout the remainder of 2018 at both Pan and the adjacent Gold Rock project.

The executive explained that firm wants to advance exploration and development at the latter, and increase gold production in the former to between 40-50,000 ounces per year by fiscal 2019 to be able to reach its goal of becoming a 150,000-ounce-per-year gold producer.

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Canadian miner sees future in graphite

Cranbrook-based Eagle Plains Resources (TSX-V: EPL) announced today that it has acquired, by staking, the 711-hectare Slocan Graphite Project, located 32 kilometres northeast of Nelson, British Columbia.

According to the company, the property hosts several large flake graphite-bearing outcrops and float occurrences known as the Tedesco Zone. Results from carbon graphite analyses ranged in grade from 1.2 to 3.5 per cent.

In a press release, the miner explained that the acquisition is consistent with its policy of identifying and buying out undervalued exploration projects during downturns within a particular commodity space.

Management added that there are other reasons behind the purchase. “Graphite is a naturally occurring form of carbon and is an excellent conductor of both electricity and heat. It is becoming increasingly important as a critical strategic component in advancing alternative energy solutions including wind and solar power, hybrid vehicles and other alternative energy uses. It is also a mainstay of the steel production industry.”

Canada is currently ranked as the world’s 5th largest supplier of graphite.

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Fourteen Colombian miners rescued from collapsed mine

It took Colombian authorities about three hours to be able to dig a back access entrance and free 14 people that were trapped inside a gold mine in the Marmato municipality of the Caldas province.

According to the regional Department of Risk Management, Environment and Climate Change, La Socorro’s mine main entrance collapsed on Wednesday at around 4 p.m., leaving over a dozen workers trapped inside.

As soon as the accident took place, the local fire department together with the Mining National Agency’s Group of Mining Rescue and Civil Defense got together to agree on the safest way to rescue the miners. They also got in touch with the men to make sure no one was hurt and that they had enough room to breathe.

During those first contacts, authorities thought there were 16 people inside but the preliminary number was a misunderstanding and has been corrected.

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Canada’s Copper Mountain grabs Altona Mining in $72-million deal

Canada’s Copper Mountain Mining (TSX:CMMC) has completed the acquisition of Australian junior Altona Mining (ASX:AOH) for A$93 million, or about $72 million at today’s rates.

As part of the deal, each Altona share will be exchanged for 0.0974 Copper Mountain shares, which equates to a 41.7% premium based on closing prices at the time of both companies first agreed on the deal, in November.

The merger gives the Vancouver-based copper miner access to Altona’s assets, which include $30 million in cash, and a permitted development project in Queensland, Australia.

Copper Mountain’s main asset is the 75%-owned Copper Mountain open pit mine, in southern British Columbia, which is forecast to produce between 34,000 and 38,500 tonnes of the red metal this year.

The combination of the two companies creates a mid-sized copper miner, with an expected annual production of about 73,000 tonnes of the metal.

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De Beers launches Sierra Leone-based pilot to remove ‘conflict diamonds’ from the market

Anglo American’s De Beers, the world’s largest rough diamond producer by value, is stepping up efforts to remove so-called “conflict” precious stones from the market by launching a pilot program in Sierra Leone that will help trace the route gems dug up there by small miners.

The trial, which aims at supplying retailers with “ethically-sourced” diamonds from artisanal miners based in the West African country, is De Beers’ latest attempt at cleaning-up distribution chains and better gems worldwide.

As part of the GemFair initiative, the diamond giant will train artisanal and small-scale miners and provide them with tablets as well as a diamond “toolkit” to digitally track their diamonds throughout the supply chain. The technology uses GPS locations and QR-codes to “bag and tag” stones, it said.

De Beers will train artisanal and small-scale miners and provide them with equipment to digitally track their finds.

It will be run with the Diamond Development Initiative, a non-government organization focused on formalizing artisanal mining in Africa.

“The ASM [artisanal] sector represents a critical income source for many poverty-affected communities,” De Beers chief executive, Bruce Cleaver, said in the statement. “However, due to parts of the sector being largely informal and unregulated, it lacks access to established international markets and the ability to derive fair value for participants.”

If successful, the GemFair technology will be integrated on to a new blockchain platform De Beers is developing, Cleaver noted.

Artisanal mining accounts for only 20% of global diamond production, but carries a tainted reputation that’s damaged consumer confidence for almost 20 years.

Between 1991 and 2002, the district of Kono, in Sierra Leone, was at the centre of the “blood diamond” trade that funded the country’s brutal civil war as rebel groups exchanged gems for weapons.

Despite the establishment of the Kimberley Process in 2003, aimed at removing from the supply chain the now called “conflict diamonds” (those mined in an area of armed conflict and traded illicitly to finance the fighting), experts say trafficking of precious rocks is still ongoing.

According to Canada-based Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) about one-fifth of diamonds on the global market in value terms are still a significant source of funding for regimes accused of committing crimes and human rights violations.

De Beers sells its diamonds mostly to authorized buyers at a series of so-called “sights” in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Then, they are normally sent to be polished or cut before ending up with retailers.

The company aims to buy the first ethically-sourced artisanal gems from Sierra Leone-based small miners this year.

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