What Makes a Critical Metal “Critical” or a Strategic Element “Strategic”? – by Michael S. Fulp (The Mercenary Geologist – August 6, 2012)


I was a keynote speaker at the recent Murdock Capital Partners Critical Metals / Strategic Elements Symposium in New York City. This is my second gig at one of convener Tom Dean’s on-going series of symposia and I thank him for continuing support. Although the venue is small, intimate, and limited to 75 attendees, the investor quality is second to none, particularly in the amount of money represented and managed. In my presentation I categorized the metals critical to modern-day civilization and reviewed the minor metals that are increasingly used by society in new technological applications.

Recently a plethora of alternative names have been proposed and promoted for what were once known as the specialty or minor metals. These mostly obscure elements span the gamut from the lightest to the heaviest on the periodic table. In my opinion, analysts and investors alike have become confused by these newly-invented misnomers.

Much of the confusion can be blamed squarely on two recent reports from the United States government.

In December 2010, the US Department of Energy (DOE) produced a report entitled “Critical Metals Strategy”. It identified seven rare earth elements and three minor metals (lithium, indium, and tellurium) that are or could become in high demand and short supply from 2011-2025. The DOE list and analysis was predicated on future growth fueled by Obama’s proposed subsidies of the electric and hybrid vehicle, wind turbine, solar, and fluorescent lighting industries.

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Potential Future Copper Shortages May Impact Industrial Growth – by Ron Thiessen

Based in Vancouver-based Ron Thiessen is CEO of Hunter Dickinson Inc. (HDI) a leading diversified, global mining group with more than 25 years of mineral development success.

There may come a time in the not too distant future when copper will be in shorter supply than the current shortage of rare earth elements (REEs). While this is not the situation today, an examination of the longer-term outlook for copper indicates this scenario might not be so far-fetched.
According to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), a global production deficit of 92,000 metric tonnes was recorded for copper as of January 2012. Furthermore, ICSG estimates that worldwide usage in 2011 increased by 3.2% over the previous year while mine production remained unchanged. Market commentator Jack Lifton says the world has essentially ignored the need for copper, which he calls “the nerves of our civilization” because of its importance to a modern society. In a recent speech, Lifton says if this trend continues, where global copper production is less than the increase in demand, the copper deficit could make the REE shortages seem minor by comparison.
The REE deficit highlights a growing concern about how other minerals and metals might be similarly affected. It is not by chance that China became the world’s supplier of rare earth minerals.

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In Peru, Chinese mining firm moves a town to get to the copper underneath – by Caroline Stauffer (Globe and Mail/Reuters – July 4, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

MOROCOCHA, PERU — Reuters – High in the Andes mountain range, a Chinese mining company is now in the housing construction and demolition business as it works to relocate a Peruvian town that sits in the way of its $2.2-billion (U.S.) Toromocho copper mine.

By late July, state-owned miner Chinalco says it will finish building a new city of paved roads and multistorey homes for 5,000 people currently living on the side of a giant red mountain of copper 4,500 metres above sea level.

Residents from the poor, ramshackle town of Morococha, where children attend school steps away from discarded mine tailings, will get access to amenities they currently lack, like modern water, sewage and electrical systems. They will all also own their homes and no one will need to pay rent.

Chinalco calls the new $50-million town the biggest privately funded social project in Peru’s mining history and it may help the company avoid community opposition that has stalled other major projects.

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Chinese demand for Chile’s copper holds strong – by Pav Jordan (Globe and Mail – June 26, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Global copper goliath Chile says Chinese demand for the metal is holding up despite a slowing of China’s economic growth, signaling a continuation of market dynamics that have driven consumption for over a decade.

“We have not seen a relevant decrease with respects to the Chinese market,” Chile’s deputy mining minister, Pablo Wagner, said by telephone from Santiago.

Mr. Wagner pointed to forecasts for a rise in overall copper exports in 2012 of between 5 per cent and 6 per cent over the year-earlier period. “Signs of demand, shipments and inventories, continue to be solid.”

Chile exports about 53 per cent of its copper to China, giving it one of the clearest insights into the demand patterns of the giant Asian economy that has devoured the red metal as it fuels booming economic growth and urbanization. Chile is also home to the world’s largest copper company, state miner Codelco, which is a key business partner of China.

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[Duluth Metals Ltd.] Company boosts projections for mine near Ely, Minnesota – by Associated Press (Canadian Business Magazine – June 13, 2012)

Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-publishing business magazine in Canada.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — New data suggest that a proposed mine near Ely contains one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals, along with some of the largest platinum and palladium resources outside South Africa, the company planning the mine told analysts Wednesday.

Duluth Metals Ltd., the Canadian-based parent of Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, significantly boosted its estimates of what could be pulled from the mine based on the data projections, which are measured two ways.

The company said the site has “indicated resources” of 8 billion pounds of copper, 2.5 billion pounds of nickel and 12.1 million ounces of palladium, platinum and gold. The company is highly confident in those estimates because they are based on samples taken from a high number of drill sites.

Duluth Metals separately projects “inferred resources” of 13.5 billion pounds of copper, 4.6 billion pounds of nickel and 15.8 million ounces of precious metals. Those estimates are less certain because they’re based on fewer bore holes.

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[Minnesota] Ely copper deposit estimate doubles – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – June 14, 2012)


Already reported as the world’s largest untapped deposit of copper, the Twin Metals mine exploration area near Ely contains even more copper, nickel, platinum and other valuable metals than previously estimated, the mine’s parent company said Wednesday.

Already reported as the world’s largest untapped deposit of copper, the Twin Metals mine exploration area near Ely contains even more copper, nickel, platinum and other valuable metals than previously estimated, the mine’s parent company said Wednesday.

Toronto-based Duluth Metals released an updated resource estimate that’s double its 2009 estimate, though the new findings aren’t likely to change the already developing plans for Twin Metals mining operations.

Data gathered from exploratory drill sites, including 170 new drill core samples reviewed in the past nine months, indicate a staggering 8 billion pounds of copper, 2.5 billion pounds of nickel and 12 million ounces of palladium, platinum and gold underground at the site along Highway 1 near the Kawishiwi River.

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New report confirms enormous potential of Duluth base metals/pgm/gold resource – by Lawrence Williams (Mineweb.com – June 14, 2012)


A new independent technical report from AMEC confirms the vast tonnages and economic grades in the Duluth Metals/Antofagasta Twin Metals base and precious metals project in Minnesota.

LONDON (MINEWEB) – We have always been very aware of the enormous potential of the ground held by Duluth Metals in eastern Minnesota on the edge of the old iron range which contains literally many billions of tons of complex ore grade material with significant copper, nickel, platinum group metals and gold content.

It has to be one of the world’s great mineral deposits – the major problems are permitting and finding the funding to mine it – neither necessarily an easy task nowadays, although one suspects the funding may be the easier of the two given that Duluth has brought in a base metals mining major, Antofagasta, to help it develop and mine a significant part of the resource under the Twin Metals jv (60% Duluth and 40% Antofagasta) banner.

On the permitting front there is bound to be considerable opposition to mine development there from environmentalists given it borders on the Boundary Waters recreational area.  However Twin Metals reckons it can meet the environmentalists’ concerns using modern mining standards, mining the deposit underground to reduce the surface impact and use brownfield sites from old iron range operations to locate some of the key surface facilities. 

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How First Quantum settled with ENRC for compensation over Congolese mine – by Matthew McClearn (Canadian Business Magazine – June 05, 2012)

Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-publishing business magazine in Canada.

It’s a bit like discovering your spouse’s name on a marriage certificate—to somebody else. Written in French and bearing official-looking stamps in red and black ink, the 56-page contract detailed a joint venture between a collection of mysterious shell companies and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The happy new partners had agreed to harvest a valuable collection of mining scrap heaps called the Kolwezi Tailings. But for executives at First Quantum Minerals, the implication seemed clear: its crown jewel had just been stolen.

This was not entirely unexpected. Founded in the mid-1990s, Vancouver-based First Quantum developed a reputation for mining in difficult frontier countries. The Congo is the frontier of frontiers, where one either takes or is taken. Since Belgium’s King Leopold II ran the country as a private fiefdom in the late 19th century, a dominant theme of Congolese history has been plunder of this abundant natural endowment by those in power.

Beneath its soils lie some of the world’s richest reserves of copper, cobalt, uranium, gold, diamonds and other resources. First Quantum coveted the copper- and cobalt-rich scrap heaps; it invested years and billions of dollars building the necessary infrastructure to harvest them. But then its relationship with the Congolese government went to hell. Losing its mining licence to someone else was just a formality.

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Anvil acquisition helps Minmetals turn the corner in Congo – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – May 30, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

KINSEVERE, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Three months after a $1.3-billion takeover, the new owners of Anvil Mining Ltd. have posted an ambitious business plan on the wall of their Congo mining office.
At the top of the list: “savvy acquisitions” – with the goal of becoming one of the world’s three biggest mid-tier miners and creating a $20-billion global player. And the former Canadian-owned copper mine in Congo is crucial to the strategy.

Anvil’s acquirer, China Minmetals Corp., has learned its Canadian lessons well. Eight years ago, the state-owned company ignited a firestorm of controversy in Canada with its clumsy bid for Noranda Inc., sparking fierce criticism from Canadian politicians and leading to the eventual failure of the bid.
This time its expansion drive is shrewd and carefully planned. Anvil will become the springboard for Minmetals’ aggressive growth plan, which is focused primarily on Africa – especially the risky but mineral-rich terrain of Congo.

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B.C.’s controversial former Britannia mine now serves as museum – by Scott Simpson, Postmedia News (Canada.com – May 13, 2012)


VANCOUVER — Marshall Tichauer was still in his teens when his father decided it was time for him to make his own way in the world. “I turned 18. My father said, ‘Get a job’ and kicked me out,” Tichauer recalled.

Jobs weren’t difficult to find in the early 1960s. Tichauer lived in West Vancouver. He landed a job just up the highway at Britannia mine, which was still very much the Howe Sound company town it had been in its heyday in the 1920s and ’30s as the largest copper mine in the then-British Empire.

Like many of British Columbia’s major early industrial mines, Britannia got its start after a series of gold rushes that began in the Fraser River system in 1858 before spreading east and north to Rossland and Barkerville.

Those early prospecting opportunities threw open the door to waves of European and Asian adventurers across the British Columbia mainland — mining, not fish, furs or timber, was the catalyst for the settlement of the province.

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Mine revitalization [Superior Copper] – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – May 2012)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

Superior Copper developing former Sault-area mine

Eyeing up the Batchawana area north of Sault Ste. Marie, Superior Copper Corp. has identified the former Coppercorp Mine as a promising area for exploration, not because of what’s been found there, but because of what hasn’t.

“It was closed to staking for 30 years because they hadn’t covered the old shaft,” said Judy Baker, Superior’s president and CEO. “So there’s been a significant lack of exploration activity out there as a result of that.”

Minimal exploration efforts were carried out by a handful of companies when the property became available for staking in 2002. The copper exploration company, formerly operating as Cenit Corp., sees the lack of activity as a promising opportunity to find significant mineral deposits in the area.

Located 85 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, Coppercorp operated as an underground copper mine from 1965 to 1972, milling 1,021,358 tons of ore and producing 24 million pounds of copper, 2,000 ounces of gold and 228,000 ounces of silver. The mine is characterized by Keweenawan rock and Kincaid breccia just north of the site, Baker noted.

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Teck cashes in on Chile’s copper – by Gordon Pitts (Globe and Mail – April 30, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

ANDACOLLO, CHILE – For centuries, pilgrims have thronged to the Chilean mountain town of Andacollo – to worship at the historic church and to mine the dusty hills for copper.

The Incas built parts of their civilization on the rich copper and gold deposits unearthed here before Spanish conquerors swept in. Since then, church and mines have become intertwined in the culture: The epic rescue of 33 Chilean miners in 2010 is attributed by many here to prayers uttered at Our Lady of Andacollo.

Now a new wave of pilgrims is worshipping at the altar of Andacollo – Canadians, in the form of Teck Resources Ltd., (TCK.B-T36.860.110.30%) the Vancouver-based mining giant that has spent more than $440-million (U.S.) expanding an open-pit copper project on the edge of town.

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Chile $100bn copper push under threat on power scarcity – by Matt Craze (Mineweb.com – April 26, 2012)


President of Chilean mining lobby group Consejo Minero, Joaquin Villarino, says the country will have to shelve many of its mining investments due to the high cost and scarcity of electricity.

(Bloomberg) – The biggest-ever pipeline of copper projects is under threat as Chile, the world’s top producer, struggles to contain rising opposition to new power plants.
At least 5,000 megawatts of capacity, including a $5 billion coal-fired plant proposed by Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista, are facing delays or have been shelved as companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc spend as much as $100 billion on copper and metals projects in Chile.
The country, struck by a power blackout as recently as this week, needs to boost capacity by 47 percent within 8 years to keep pace with consumption. Protesters from fishermen to university students oppose the plants, prompting miners to consider their own projects to help meet China’s copper demand.

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Copper miner has golden touch – by Peter Koven (National Post – March 6, 2012)

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

Ross Beaty is the first to admit it – he is an incredibly lucky guy. Thanks to an epic financial crisis and the hard work of an outside company, Mr. Beaty’s Lumina Copper Corp. has stumbled into the biggest new copper discovery in years. The Taca Taca project in Argentina seems to add more pounds of copper by the week, and Mr. Beaty’s favourite hobby these days is just keeping track of it.

He keeps a giant wall map of Taca Taca in his office. Each day, he receives a report from the property and plots it out on the map. Despite being a veteran of many copper discoveries, the results from this project continue to amaze him.

“Just this morning, today, we had a hole that could add 800 million pounds to the size of this project,” the famed Vancouver mining entrepreneur and founder of Pan American Silver Corp. said in an interview in February. “It’s just ridiculous.”

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Arizona town bitterly split over copper mine – by Paul Waldie (Globe and Mail – January 19, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Florence, Ariz., isn’t the kind of place that usually gets a lot of attention. After all, its main claim to fame is being home to nine prisons.

But these days Florence is up in arms over plans by a Canadian company to build a copper mine right in the middle of town. The proposed mine, by Vancouver-based Curis Resources Ltd., has garnered national attention and brought out some heavy hitters, including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and developer Robert Sarver, who owns the Phoenix Suns basketball team.

Ms. Brewer has expressed support for the project, saying it will spark badly needed economic development in the area. Mr. Sarver, whose company has a housing project in town, is backing a campaign to stop the mine, arguing it will ruin the water supply.

The city’s 10,000 residents are bitterly divided over the proposed mine. A recent survey by city officials found 39 per cent of locals support the mine, 32 per cent don’t and 28 per cent aren’t sure.

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