The forgotten factor in Donald Trump’s quest to buy Greenland — rare-earth elements – by Genna Buck (National Post – August 22, 2019)

Do you have a drawer — or perhaps a whole garage — piled with old or broken electronic devices left to languish after you’ve upgraded? You’re not alone. And you are sitting on a gold mine, or maybe something even more valuable.

Rare-earth elements are an essential component of smartphones, computers and tablets, as well as many industrial, defence and energy applications, especially wind turbines.

There are 15 or 17 of these elements, depending on how you count, and they’re not actually all that rare — just complicated, expensive and environmentally destructive to mine. The vast majority come from China. This has led to worries they could become a trump card, so to speak, in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. Continue Reading →

No pot of gold for locals as China mines Sierra Leone – by Nellie Peyton and Richmond Tholley (Reuters U.S. – August 22, 2019)

MASUMBIRI, Sierra Leone (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When the Chinese gold miners came to Masumbiri town in northern Sierra Leone, everyone lined up for jobs.

Teenagers lied about their age. Women and girls went to cook and clean at the miners’ camp, a gated compound on a nearby mountainside overlooking rice fields.

Dayu, a private company that started working in Sierra Leone last year, was just the latest in a line of Chinese firms drawn to the mineral-rich ground of the West African state’s Tonkolili district in search of gold. Continue Reading →

Into Africa: the US’s drive for African rare earth minerals – by JP Casey (Mining Technology – August 22, 2019)

The international mineral trade is becoming increasingly fractured. An escalating trade war between the US and China is threatening to deprive the former of a number of key commodities, including scandium, graphite and gallium, all of which are not produced domestically in the US and all of which are imported, predominantly from China.

Rare earth minerals are among the commodities most threatened by these increasingly hostile foreign policies. According to 2018 data from the US Geological Survey, the US is entirely reliant on imports for its supply of rare earth minerals, with 78% of all such imports coming from China, orders of magnitude ahead of the second-largest importer to the US, Estonia, which is responsible for 6% of imports.

Demand for these minerals is also increasing dramatically due to their use in the construction of devices such as mobile phones and rechargeable batteries, and in military hardware. The global production of rare earth minerals increasing from less than 20,000 metric tons in 1970 to close to 140,000 metric tons in 2017. Continue Reading →

NEW CAMPAIGN FOR NATURAL DIAMONDS AIMS TO FIGHT MISCONCEPTIONS – by Arabella Roden (Jeweller Magazine – August 23, 2019)

The Diamond Producers Association (DPA) has released new promotional materials to combat misinformation about diamond mining. Called ‘Essential Diamond Truths’, the campaign from the US-based industry group involves a video that is shareable via social media, as well as an infographic series.

A DPA spokesperson told Rapaport News, “The goal is to convey some of the key facts and truths about natural diamonds in a compelling, cinematic way that will engage viewers. Continue Reading →

China would benefit most from billion-dollar, 700-km highway through Canadian Arctic, critics say – by Meagan Campbell (National Post – August 23, 2019)

Questions are being raised about plans to build a $1-billion, 700-km highway from Yellowknife to a proposed port on Nunavut’s Arctic coast, paid for by Canadians but which critics say would largely serve Chinese government interests.

Last week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau pledged more than $50 million to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to study the feasibility of a highway to replace ice roads that are no longer reliable amid climate change.

While local leaders applaud the funding, critics say the largest benefit would go to a mining company, MMG, which is controlled by the Chinese government and holds several mineral deposits in the region where the highway would be built. Continue Reading →

The complexities of military involvement in mining – by Patrick Kingsland (Mining Technology – August 22, 2019)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to one of the world’s poorest populations, many of whom survive on less than a pound a day. It is also home to 64% of the world’s cobalt supplies – a vital mineral that powers smartphones and electric cars, and offers hope of a more renewable future.

While the majority of Congo’s cobalt is produced by some of the world’s largest mining firms, roughly a third is dug out by hundreds of thousands of informal, artisanal miners who work in dangerous conditions with few safety measures and little recompense.

The big firms use heavy duty trucks and other expensive equipment to dig out the metal. The local Congolese usually use their bare hands, with children making up a significant part of the labour force. Their efforts often end up in global battery supply chains – usually via China – and then into western smartphones and vehicles. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Iron ore’s balloon is popped, but prices may have deflated too much – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – August 22, 2019)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Iron ore’s bubble has burst in the last month with prices down by a third, but just as the market got ahead of itself during the rally it may also be overcooking the decline.

Benchmark 62% iron ore for delivery to China MT-IO-QIN62=ARG, as assessed by commodity price reporting agency Argus, ended at $83.75 a tonne on Wednesday, down 33% from its peak so far this year of $125.20 on July 3.

It’s also worth noting that the steel-making ingredient is now only just above the $75.50 a tonne close on Jan. 24, the day before a tailings dam disaster at a mine operated by Brazil’s Vale killed more than 200 people and upended the supply-demand balance. Continue Reading →

Mining in the Arctic: The Beginnings of an Industry – by Scott Tibballs (Investing News – August 22, 2019)

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The Arctic is a harsh and unforgiving environment; whether it’s the weather conditions, darkness or isolation, it’s a region that hasn’t seen much human activity relative to the rest of the world.

Seven nations have territory north of the Arctic Circle: Canada, the US, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and, through its enduring ownership of Greenland, Denmark. Iceland is also regarded as an arctic nation despite not having any territory within the circle, and China has declared itself a “near Arctic state” — whatever that means.

The Arctic provides many opportunities by way of its historical resistance to human interference: It’s relatively untouched, and its changing climate means there are new opportunities to pursue in transportation, exploration and discovery — especially in the mineral resources space. Continue Reading →

Linden MacIntyre shares personal connection to Newfoundland disaster in The Wake – by Holly McKenzie-Sutter (CBC News – August 22, 2019)

As a journalist Linden MacIntyre covered adversity around the world, sharing the experiences of those caught in tragic circumstances, but he’s waited decades to bring the story of his hometown to the page.

The investigative reporter and novelist was born in St. Lawrence, N.L., where his new book The Wake is set. The author’s hard-rock miner father moved there in the 1940s to work for the fluorspar mining operation that rolled into the poverty-stricken community, which was recovering from a natural disaster and an unexpected collapse of the area’s crucial fisheries.

In 1929, an earthquake-related tsunami struck southern Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, washing homes out to sea and killing 28 people. The story of environmental destruction and industrial exploitation that followed is narrated in The Wake. Continue Reading →

Profit slumps at Australia’s South32 as trade war hits aluminum prices – by Aditya Soni (Reuters U.S. – August 21, 2019)

(Reuters) – Australian miner South32 Ltd reported a bigger-than-expected 25% drop in annual profit as the trade war between China and the United States hurt aluminum prices, sending its shares lower by as much as 5.8% on Thursday.

South32 also said it was in talks to sell its South Africa thermal coal business to Johannesburg-based Seriti Resources, the latest company to get out of energy coal at a time when investor pressure and climate change concerns are prompting businesses to limit their exposure to fossil fuels.

The miner’s fortunes have soured in tandem with a decline in aluminum prices, which have come under pressure this year due to a slowdown in China – the world’s biggest consumer of the metal – as the Sino-U.S. trade war has escalated. Continue Reading →

Column: Tiny tin market sounds a recessionary warning note – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – August 20, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – Fears of a global recession are rising. Industrial metals such as copper are struggling to make any price headway as funds take an increasingly negative view of where the global manufacturing economy is heading.

The tiny tin market seems to be already trading as if recession were a reality. London Metal Exchange (LME) tin lurched sharply lower at the beginning of July and has kept falling ever since, touching a fresh three-year low of $16,255 per tonne on Monday.

That’s lower than the Global Financial Crisis sell-off in 2009 and the price is now approaching the decade’s lows seen over the 2015-2016 metallic bear market. Continue Reading →

Lithium prices to remain low as “hype” meets “reality” — CRU – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – August 21, 2019)

An ongoing avalanche of lithium supply, coming mostly from Australia, as well as cuts to China’s electric-vehicles (EVs) subsidies, is set to keep prices for the coveted battery metal in the single digits for longer than expected, analysts at commodity research group CRU warn.

Prices for lithium carbonate, the most common type used in the batteries that power electric cars, doubled over 2016 and 2017, but have fallen by more than 40% over the past year, crashing through the $10/kg mark at the end of July.

While many market players continue to forecast long-run prices in the mid-teens, based on bullish forecasts for sales of EVs and energy storage systems, CRU analysts remain unconvinced. Continue Reading →

Trans Mountain pipeline construction to restart, but prospective buyers stay on sidelines – by Geoffrey Morgan (Financial Post – August 21, 2019)

CALGARY – Construction is poised to restart on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion but even as activity ramps up, at least one prospective buyer — Pembina Pipeline Corp., fresh off its purchase of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s remaining Canadian business — said it’s not interested for now in “the noise” of the controversial pipeline.

Trans Mountain Corp. announced Wednesday that construction would re-start imminently in multiple communities along the pipeline route and the project would be in service, delivering 590,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the West Coast, by the middle of 2022.

The company said that by the end of the year, 4,200 people would be working on the pipeline project. “Clearly this project has been subjected to numerous delays and setbacks over the past several years,” Trans Mountain president and CEO Ian Anderson said in a release. Continue Reading →

Singapore Says Musk’s Electric Cars Are About ‘Lifestyle,’ Not Climate – by Dan Murtaugh, Yongchang Chin and Haslinda Amin (Bloomberg News – August 21, 2019)

(Bloomberg) — Singapore has a message for Elon Musk: Taking mass transit is a better climate-change solution than tooling around in one of his Tesla Inc.’s electric vehicles.

The city-state, which has said its efforts to cope with climate change are as crucial as military defense, has prioritized greater use of its trains and buses, Masagos Zulkifli, minister for environment and water resources, said in an interview Wednesday. Musk has criticized the country for being slow to adopt EVs and said in a January tweet the government “has been unwelcome.”

“What Elon Musk wants to produce is a lifestyle,” Zulkifli said Wednesday when asked about the entrepreneur’s comments. “We are not interested in a lifestyle. We are interested in proper solutions that will address climate problems.” Continue Reading →

Trump calls Danish PM’s rebuff of Greenland idea ‘nasty’ as trip cancellation stuns Danes – by Jeff Mason and Nikolaj Skydsgaard (Reuters U.S. – August 21, 2019)

WASHINGTON/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – President Donald Trump declared Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s dismissal of his idea to buy Greenland “nasty” and an affront to the United States on Wednesday, a day after shocking Danes by canceling a Copenhagen visit over the rebuff.

Danes voiced disbelief at Trump’s decision to forgo the trip, although Frederiksen said she believed relations with the United States, a NATO ally, would not be affected.

Trump, who built his career as a businessman dealing in real estate, had mused openly in recent days about a U.S. purchase of Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory rich in natural resources, raising eyebrows in Europe and in the United States. Continue Reading →