Editorial: Shockwaves from Indonesia’s unprocessed minerals export ban – by John Cumming (Northern Miner – January 22, 2014)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. Editor John Cumming MSc (Geol) is one of the country’s most well respected mining journalists.  jcumming@northernminer.com

The crisis for miners in Indonesia that quietly built up over late December has exploded in the new year, as miners active there grapple with sweeping new restrictions on exports of raw concentrates from the country.

Indonesia’s unprocessed minerals export ban was proposed in 2009, but only came into force on Jan. 12. Importantly, not all commodities are treated equally and, thanks to some last-minute manoeuvering, the ban is not structured in the way it was first proposed.

On the part of miners, the broad attitude of denial — that the Indonesian government was playing chicken with concentrate exporters — is now giving way to more sober assessments of how to work under the new rules.

There are already mineral concentrates that have been exempted from the export ban and can still be exported: copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, iron sands and manganese.

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How Caterpillar’s weak results reflect mining industry’s huge slowdown – by Peter Koven (National Post – January 28, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

TORONTO – Year-end earnings from Caterpillar Inc. paint a grim portrait of the mining industry for both 2013 and the year ahead, but the company sees spending activity picking up across the sector in the not-too-distant future.

Caterpillar is the world’s largest heavy equipment maker, so its earnings are a useful bellwether for global mining activity. Not surprisingly, the indicators in the fourth quarter were very poor as far as mining is concerned. The Illinois-based company said that revenue from its resource industries segment (which is primarily mining) plunged 48% year-over-year to US$3-billion, with the steepest declines coming in Australia and emerging markets.

The outlook remains very weak for 2014, as Caterpillar expects resource sales to fall another 10% from 2013 levels. “We continue to be cautious about the mining industry,” Mike DeWalt, head of Caterpillar’s strategic services segment, said on a conference call.

The drop in sales reflects the fact that mining companies have made aggressive capital spending cuts over the past year in order to preserve their balance sheets at lower commodity prices. Every significant mining company has cut or deferred some spending plans (especially on new projects), so the impact on Caterpillar was not a shock.

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Transition Metals announces new platinum discovery near Thunder Bay – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – January 27, 2014)


TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Project generator Transition Metals on Monday announced that a recent drilling campaign in partnership with South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings, at its 50%-owned Sunday Lake project, near Thunder Bay, Ontario, has confirmed platinum-group metals mineralisation.

TSX-V-listed Transition said that of the six diamond drill holes completed, for a total of 2 546 m, four returned intersections containing significant platinum-rich mineralisation, including hole SL-13-002, which intersected 20.2 m containing 3.22 g/t of combined precious metals platinum, palladium and gold (PGMs).

Transition president and CEO Scott McLean told Mining Weekly Online from the sidelines of the Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014, being held in Vancouver, that the company had found a large intrusion similar to other intrusions in the area that were known to be mineralised.

Those intrusions included Panoramic Resources’ nearby Thunder Bay North PGM project, Rio Tinto’s Tamarack, in Minnesota, and Lundin Mining’s Eagle mine, in Michigan, to which the Sunday Lake project had shown similarities.

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First Nations, conservationists file lawsuit over protection of Yukon watershed – by Dene Moore (Canadian Press/Edmonton Journal – January 27, 2014)


VANCOUVER – A coalition of First Nations and conservation groups is suing the Yukon government over its decision to open a vast region of the Canadian North to mining and industrial development.

The group says the decision ignores a land-use plan seven years in the making. A lawsuit was filed Monday in Yukon Supreme Court by the Nacho Nyak Dun, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon and the Yukon Conservation Society.

They say the plan released a week ago in Whitehorse violates the land-use planning provisions of a land claims agreement the territory signed with First Nations.

“It’s a lawsuit that nobody wanted to bring,” said their lawyer Thomas Berger, who headed the landmark Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Commission in the territory almost 37 years ago.

“But the government of Yukon has forced these plaintiffs … to go to court not only in defence of First Nations rights and environmental values in Yukon, but also to uphold principles entrenched in the Constitution.”

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Little-known federal office to oversee natural resource projects secretive, heavy-handed: NDP – by Jason Fekete (Calagary Herald – January 26, 2014)


OTTAWA — A little-known federal office of barely two dozen people is charged with overseeing $230 billion worth of proposed natural resource projects across Canada and helping get aboriginal groups onside, but it’s facing criticism of being too heavy-handed and secretive.

The Major Projects Management Office is responsible for overarching management of federal environmental and regulatory reviews of what are currently 76 projects representing approximately $231 billion in potential new resource development investment across Canada.

The MPMO also organizes Ottawa’s broader consultation with Aboriginal Peoples on these major projects, including the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline that has been conditionally approved by a National Energy Board panel and is currently under review by the Conservative government.

Yet, this small but critically important office — it has approximately 25 staff — continues to function with a very low profile within Natural Resources Canada. The official Opposition NDP says the MPMO, like the Prime Minister’s Office, is too secretive and is trying to force through projects without sufficient consultation.

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B.C. to review environment assessment process – by Vivian Luk (Canadian Press/Global Toronto – January 27, 2014)


VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has ordered a review of the province’s environmental assessment process, saying the current system has become too cumbersome.

However, Clark revealed few details about the evaluation project she’s handed over to Environment Minister Mary Polak to undertake.

The premier made the announcement at a mineral exploration convention in Vancouver on Monday, in the middle of a speech about extending a $10-million tax credit program to B.C.’s mining industry for another year.

She said environmental reviews of major projects are crucial, and while the current process is rigorous and transparent, the province’s environmental assessment office can “do better.”

“In my view, it is better to do the hard and rigorous work at the front end and get it right, than to endure decades of questions and debate in acrimony about why and how it was done,” Clark said.

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Boutique investment dealers in Canada struggle to survive – by Barbara Secter (Ottawa Citizen – January 27, 2014)


Mid-sized investment dealers were riding high in 2007, feasting on healthy markets and booming commodity prices that drove underwriting, trading and acquisitions.

But today, the approximately 180 smaller or boutique firms in Canada are struggling with chronic weak business conditions in an increasingly tough competitive landscape.

The Investment Industry Association of Canada and other industry watchers have been warning for a couple of years that many of Canada’s smaller firms are on precarious ground and many could cease to exist without a significant recovery in the small-cap trading and underwriting business.

“The traditional model of the independent firms relying on trading and corporate finance is broken, at least for the moment,” says John Turner, a partner who heads to global mining practice at Toronto law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. On Monday, Stonecap Securities Inc. was swallowed up by Edgecrest Capital, a relatively new player in the industry.

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Opinion: Exploration developing into strong catalyst for B.C. economy – by Gavin Dirom (Vancouver Sun – January 26, 2014)


Gavin C. Dirom is president and chief executive officer of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.

Although most metal prices remain at or near 10-year averages, over the last two years there has been a major downturn in the venture capital market. With virtually no access to venture capital, the strength, resiliency and experience of the industry were put to the test, and not surprisingly, the resilient mineral exploration and development industry rose to the challenge in 2013.

For many mineral explorers, particularly the junior companies, last year was about building strategic partnerships, entering into joint venture agreements, raising private equity and successfully exploring — not just here in B.C. — but around the world.

There was an estimated 29 per cent drop in global exploration spending for the year 2013. And the majority of respondents to a fall Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia survey reported a decline in their exploration spending. But the industry is well acquainted with the cyclical nature of the business, and many AME BC members have been taking this opportunity to prepare for the next upswing in the markets.

While most have made changes to their exploration programs and reduced spending for the short term, it rarely dampens their optimism for the future.

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Moving goods poses hurdle – Editorial (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – January 25, 2014)


Grain is stuck in farmers’ bins, Ontario’s Ring of Fire can’t be developed for lack of a means to reach markets, Canada’s Arctic doesn’t have the icebreaking or patrol capacity to monitor through-traffic much less ship out its own resources, and the American and Canadian transportation safety boards are warning that oil must not be shipped in tanker cars deemed dangerous since the 1990s.

In spite of a decade of determined efforts to transform its economy back to resource sales, Canada is increasingly looking like a Third World nation when it comes to getting those products to market. Not only is there a dearth of infrastructure to handle the volume, but there’s neither a workable plan to get that infrastructure in place nor a commitment to transfer the risks of the inadequacy to users rather than innocent bystanders.

As the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reported this week, the “staggering” increase in the transportation of crude oil over North America’s rail systems has created a “significant risk for loss of life and damage to communities and the environment,” along the routes.

That risk was manifest in the deaths of 47 people in Lac-Megantic last year when 60 of the 63 Class 111 tankers in a runaway train spewed their deadly cargo of Bakken crude onto a fiery inferno that consumed the heart of the town and contaminated a nearby lake and river.

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Exploration companies cautiously optimistic about 2014 prospects – by Derrick Penner (Vancouver Sun – January 24, 2014)


Higher mineral prices and higher demand needed to boost financing, officials say

Imperial Metals Corp.’s plans to open its $500-million Red Chris copper/gold mine in British Columbia’s far northwest in early June is one of the bigger reasons for optimism in the mining sector for 2014.

That, coupled with a bounce in resource stocks since the start of the year and the continuing advance of high-profile development projects such as Pretium Resources Inc.’s now famous Brucejack gold deposit, make B.C.’s prospectors more hopeful the industry is making a turnaround.

“It’s a pretty bullish year,” said Gavin Dirom, CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C. “There’s a sense that the worst is behind us. You couldn’t get much worse than 2013, in terms of trying to attract venture capital.” The new mine is particularly important, he said.

Located 80 km south of Dease Lake, Red Chris will become the second new greenfield mine to open in as many years, following Thomson Creek Metals Inc.’s Mount Milligan mine, which started commercial production last fall.

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Company floats plan to mine coal in Springhill again – by Francis Campbell (Halifax Chronicle Herald – January 23, 2014)


Proposal before environment department sparks expert’s concern

SPRINGHILL — Coal is becoming the talk of the town again in the Springhill area.The Springhill Coal Mines Ltd., a subsidiary of Nova Construction, has applied to the provincial Department of Natural Resources to excavate three test pits with the goal of examining the coal seams for a potential open-pit mining operation.

“I don’t have a real problem with Nova Construction coming in to do some surface mining, providing that all environmental conditions are met,” Springhill Mayor Maxwell Snow said last week.

But at least one Springhill resident does have a real problem with it. “If the equipment does come into town to take out the coal pillars of Springhill, they will have to go over my body to do it,” said Ralph Ross, the 64-year-old owner of Ross Refrigeration in town, and an authority on the geothermal operations and capabilities that exist there because of the abandoned underground mine tunnels.

This week, Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill signed a special lease to give the town final provincial approval to open Nova Scotia’s first municipal geothermal program.

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UPDATE 2-Barrick to re-calculate gold reserves at $1,100 -CEO – by Nicole Mordant and Allison Martell (Reuters U.S. – January 23, 2014)


Jan 23 (Reuters) – Barrick Gold Corp will use a lower-than-expected gold price to estimate its bullion reserves, its chief executive said on Thursday, making some of its in-the-ground gold uneconomical to mine and may result in asset writedowns.

The world’s biggest gold producer will re-calculate its reserves at a gold price of $1,100, down from $1,500 a year ago, resulting in a decrease in its reserve base, CEO Jamie Sokalsky said.

At 140 million ounces, Barrick’s reserves are the biggest in the industry and equal to about 20 years of production for the miner. Reserves are those parts of an ore body that are economically feasible to extract.

“We’ve taken a conservative approach this year and we’re going to value our reserves at $1,100 per ounce as well as running the mine plans at $1,100 per ounce,” Sokalsky said at a conference in Whistler, British Columbia.

Gold’s price rise in 12 of the past 13 years made lower-grade ore profitable to extract, allowing miners to expand their reserves.

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Gold production soars to record in 2013 despite price drop: study – by Peter Koven (National Post – January 24, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

TORONTO – Despite plummeting gold prices, global production of the precious metal reached a record in 2013 for the fourth-consecutive year.

The result appeared in a report on Thursday from the precious metals consultancy Thomson Reuters GFMS. In addition to dispelling theories about “peak gold,” the study shows that gold miners are churning out the metal at a furious pace, even though they are facing severe margin pressure.

Total gold mine supply reached 2,982 tonnes last year, according to GFMS estimates, up 4.1% from 2012. But Rhona O’Connell, head of metals research and forecasting at GFMS, said the final number will likely be higher as fourth quarter production guidance from miners has been stronger than expected.

There are a few explanations for this uptick in production, which seems counter-intuitive in such a tough market.

According to GFMS, many mines boosted their output. In some cases, miners may be processing greater quantities of ore in order to maintain revenue and contain costs at lower gold prices.

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Mining Project Reignites Global Debate Over Indigenous Rights On Resource-Rich Land – by Sunny Freeman (Huffington Post – January 23, 2014)


LONG LAKE NO. 58, Ontario — Along the remote stretch of highway that connects this northern community to the rest the world, it’s easy to distinguish the haves from the have-nots.

The aboriginal groups who first inhabited this region once sold furs and fish, but clear-cutting and water pollution have put an end to that. About 400 of their descendants now live in the Long Lake No. 58 First Nation reserve, where the homes are dilapidated, about 70 percent of residents are unemployed, and there’s just one business — a gas station.

But now those on the reserve are poised to gain from a surge of investment to their area, following the discovery of a $50-billion mineral deposit that has been dubbed “The Ring of Fire.” It’s the biggest resource development Ontario has seen in more than a century, often referred to as “Canada’s next oil sands.” The prospect of a mining project fills people here with a mixture of anticipation and concern.

Around the globe, the discovery of precious resources has proven both a blessing and curse for native people. They have sometimes tapped riches via profit-sharing and employment opportunities, but they have also seen the toll that mining takes on land and wildlife, disrupting subsistence economies.

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Dawson City toasts Klondike TV miniseries (CBC News North – January 21, 2014)


A few inaccuracies don’t tarnish the allure of the modern Gold Rush myth

You don’t need a prospector’s sharp eyes to spot inaccuracies in Klondike. But residents say it’s a fun adventure series and a fine reason to throw a costume party.

Last night Dawsonites packed the KIAC ballroom to watch the first episode of the new Discovery Channel miniseries.  Rian Lougheed-Smith was working the bar at the event. “You know what, I think it was entertaining,” she says. “The sets are really incredible, the storefronts, the mud…”

Lougheed-Smith says it doesn’t really take away from the series but there are more than a few inaccurate details. One example: Snow and darkness in Dawson in July.

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