Archive | Cobalt, Critical, Strategic and Rare Earth Minerals and Metals

RB Energy says TSX statement a key factor in CCAA filing – by Peter Koven (National Post – October 20, 2014)

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

TORONTO — The chief executive of RB Energy Inc. believes the lithium miner might have avoided insolvency if not for a two-sentence statement issued by the Toronto Stock Exchange.

CEO Rick Clark said in an interview the company thought it had a $70-million financing package lined up in mid-September that would have resolved its liquidity issues. But then the TSX, following its guidelines, issued a blanket press release saying it was conducting a de-listing review of the stock.

The TSX statement simply repeated what Vancouver-based RB said the day before. But the stock price collapsed as soon as it came out, and Mr. Clark said he could no longer line up financing on reasonable terms.

Instead, he elected to file for creditor protection last Monday. “We got absolutely hit in the side of the head [by the TSX statement],” said Mr. Clark, who was formerly CEO of market darling Red Back Mining Inc. Regardless, he said he does not want to blame the exchange for what happened.

The impact of the TSX announcement on Sept. 16th is undeniable. The stock plunged 25% that day, with 14.4 million shares changing hands. It then fell another 25% during the following five trading days and could not recover. Continue Reading →

Japan loosens China’s grip on rare earths supplies – by Sonali Paul and Yuka Obayashi (Reuters U.S. – September 4, 2014)

MELBOURNE/TOKYO – (Reuters) – Japan is pushing to secure at least 60 percent of its rare earth needs from outside China within four years, as it bolsters efforts to curb its dependence on the world’s biggest producer of elements crucial in smart phones, computers and cars.

Japan aims to sign a deal as early as this month that would give it four types of light rare earths from India, and has helped fund an Australian rare earths mine and Malaysian processing plant built by Australia’s Lynas Corp.

Its search for supply security has also led to a joint venture in Kazakhstan, recycling rare earths from batteries and motor magnets, and even exploring for rare earths in the Pacific Ocean seabed. China currently produces about 90 percent of the world’s rare earths.

Japan, which sources virtually all its rare earths from China, either directly or indirectly, has been trying to find new sources of supply since its neighbor held back shipments in 2010 during a row over disputed islands and then curbed global exports to preserve its own resources.

“It is critically important for Japan to secure sources of rare earths outside of China,” said Akira Terakawa, deputy director at mineral and natural resources division of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The Indian deal would provide 15 percent of Japan’s needs. If Lynas is able to ramp up production as agreed, Japan could be sourcing more than 60 percent of its expected rare earths demand from outside China by 2018, based on Reuters calculations from Japanese demand data and growth figures provided by a trading house which deals with rare earths. Continue Reading →

Vanadium: The metal that may soon be powering your neighbourhood – by Laurence Knight (BBC World Service – June 13, 2014)

Hawaii has a problem, one that the whole world is likely to face in the next 10 years. And the solution could be a metal that you’ve probably never heard of – vanadium.

Hawaii’s problem is too much sunshine – or rather, too much solar power feeding into its electricity grid. Generating electricity in the remote US state has always been painful. With no fossil fuel deposits of its own, it has to get oil and coal shipped half-way across the Pacific.

That makes electricity in Hawaii very, very expensive – more than three times the US average – and it is the reason why 10% and counting of the islands’ residents have decided to stick solar panels on their roof.

The problem is that all this new sun-powered electricity is coming at the wrong place and at the wrong time of day.

Hawaii’s electricity monopoly, Heco, fears parts of the grid could become dangerously swamped by a glut of mid-day power, and so last year it began refusing to hook up the newly-purchased panels of residents in some areas.

And it isn’t just Hawaii. Continue Reading →

The 800 Pound Gorilla in the room for rare earth sustainability in North America – thorium – by Alessandro Bruno ( – August 3, 2014)

The West must deal with thorium content limits before it can hope to become rare-earths independent…

James Kennedy works closely with the Thorium Energy Alliance to promote US legislation for the commercial development of thorium energy systems and rare earths. And when he asked me to review a video where he presents a paper entitled “Creating a Multinational Platform, Thorium, Energy and Rare Earth Value Chain – a Global Imbalance in the Rare Earth Market” – it occurred to me that Tracy’s frequently referenced ‘800 lb. gorilla’ in the proverbial rare earth room was overdue for discussion: thorium.

Kennedy’s essential argument is that the rare earth imbalance is largely the result of regulations with unintended consequences: “Rare earths and thorium have become linked at the mineralogical and geopolitical level.” In other words, thorium should be considered as a rare earth mineral.

There is, in fact, a close relationship between thorium and rare earths; they often come together. In fact, monazite, was first mined to produce thorium and rather than rare earths. In the 19th century, thorium was used to make gas mantles. Later, with the development of technology that required rare earths to function, monazite started to be mined for elements other than thorium. Meanwhile, monazite itself is a by-product.

It is separates easily, through gravity and at almost no cost, in the mining of titanium or zirconium, such that the monazite can be said to be produced practically free of charge. The United States was the leading supplier of monazite – which was in the main source of rare earths – in the first decades of the rare earths industry (the post WW2 period). Continue Reading →

The obscure metal that could solve solar energy’s conundrum – by Carl Mortished (Globe and Mail – July 16, 2014)

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.

On the fringes of global stock markets, fascination with materials continues and the latest obscure object of adoration is vanadium, a metal you may have never heard of but which is well known in the steel industry because it does the neat trick of making steel both stronger and lighter.

Add a couple of pounds of vanadium to a ton of steel and you double its strength, a formula that excites Largo Resources Ltd., a Toronto-listed miner that is only weeks away from opening a Brazilian mine that could supply almost a 10th of the worldwide vanadium market in two to three years time.

There are few sources of the metal; China is the big producer and consumer of vanadium, taking more than half of global output. South Africa and Russia currently account for the remainder. China’s hunger for construction steel laced with vanadium is expected to increase as the government grapples with poor building standards, exposed in recent earthquakes and civil engineering disasters.

Aircraft and automobile manufacturers are also falling in love with vanadium’s dual attributes of lightness and toughness. Boeing’s Dreamliner and the Airbus A380 each contain 100 tonnes of titanium-vanadium; Largo says demand for the alloy is rising by 6.5 per cent annually, despite a global steel glut. Continue Reading →

Glencore kicks off $2bn takeover race for Syrah Resources – by Amanda Saunders (Sydney Morning Herald – July 10, 2014)

Swiss commodities giant Glencore is understood to have made an informal approach to Syrah Resources that could value the graphite and vanadium junior at as much as to $2 billion.

Melbourne-based Syrah’s prized asset is the mammoth Balama graphite and vanadium deposit in northern Mozambique.

After the Fairfax Media revealed Glencore’s interest on Thursday, the company’s shares surged as much as 25 per cent before it dived into a trading halt before noon. When shares were halted, Syrah’s shares were up 19 per cent at $5.09. The shares have more than doubled in value since touching a 52-week low of $2 on July 10 last year.

Syrah responded promptly to the report and a share price query from the market operator on Thursday afternoon, saying, “From time to time Syrah receives informal,confidential and non-binding enquiries from various parties regarding Syrah’s interest in entering takeover discussions”.

“None of these enquiries have progressed to formal discussions or resulted in any indicative offers being received by Syrah.”

Sources say Ivan Glasenberg’s Glencore, one of the largest producers of primary vanadium in the world, is keen to exert control over the wider vanadium market. Pouncing on Syrah and ­secur­ing its Balama project would be an early strategic play to shut out fresh competition. Continue Reading →

REPORT: THE RARE EARTH ELEMENTS INDUSTRY IN CANADA ─ SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE – by Standing Committee on Natural Resources (June 2014)

Standing Committee on Natural Resources – JUNE 2014 – 41st PARLIAMENT, SECOND SESSION (Government of Canada report)


In November 2013, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources (hereafter “the Committee”) commenced a study on the rare earth elements (REE) industry in Canada. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to the development of REE in Canada and around the world. This document summarizes witness testimony presented to the Committee during the course of four meetings.

It is organized according to the following topics: background information on REE and their applications; REE global market, including the role of China in rare earths supply; opportunities and challenges of developing rare earth resources in Canada with a brief overview of current exploration activity; and, ongoing initiatives that support Canada’s REE industry.


A. What Are Rare Earth Elements?

Rare earth elements (REE)1 are a group of 17 metals (including scandium and yttrium), which exhibit similar properties and occur in many of the same mineral deposits. According to Christine Villemure, Director General at Natural Resources Canada, contrary to what the term “rare earths” may suggest, REE are relatively abundant in the earth’s crust.2 However, REE seldom occur in concentrations that are economically exploitable; instead, they are found together with other elements and as a result, are difficult to separate for extraction.3 Continue Reading →

THE RARE-EARTHS ROLLER COASTER – by Alastair Gee (The New Yorker – May 24, 2014)

Starting in early 2010, a small Canadian company called Elissa Resources spent more than $1.66 million exploring a hilly scrap of desert dotted with cacti, creosote bushes, and Joshua trees, at the southern tip of Nevada. The company was looking for rare earths: obscure metals with magnetic and luminescent properties which are used in such products as high-efficiency light bulbs, smartphones, and TV screens. The metals are also of enormous value to the defense and renewable-energy industries.

To find them, Elissa Resources employees mapped the landscape and used special devices to figure out where radiation was unusually high. The firm contracted an aircraft to measure the land’s magnetism, surveyed the area from a helicopter, and drilled twenty-one holes to figure out what was down below. But, in 2013, Elissa Resources halted major work at the site. A slump in the rare-earths market has made it hard to attract the investment needed to continue the investigations.

Most of the world’s rare earths are mined in China. In recent years, amid fears that China’s control of the market could jeopardize Western strategic interests, firms such as Elissa pursued deposits elsewhere—in the United States, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Vietnam, Greenland, Australia, and other countries. A boom was on. “A geologist would pick up a rock, lick it, and say, ‘Oh, I’ve got rare earths,’ and suddenly you’ve got a rare-earths company,” Gareth Hatch, a co-founder of the market-intelligence firm Technology Metals Research, said. The industry acquired an air of glamour, thanks to the futuristic uses of the metals, and a moniker suggestive of preciousness. Continue Reading →

Throwing stones in a glass Dacha: The West’s metal vulnerabilities – by Christopher Ecclestone ( – April 4, 2014)

Christopher Ecclestone of Hallgarten & Company addresses supply issues the West faces with Russia as adversary.

LONDON – Some have accused the EU and U.S. of soft-pedaling on the Crimea/Ukraine issue. But might these economic powers think twice before stirring up too much of a ruckus? The EU is particularly vulnerable to Russia cutting off natural gas exports and the U.S. has to play nice with Russia to keep getting cheap uranium supplies.

According to the US Energy Administration, in 2011 the United States mined nine percent of the uranium consumed by its nuclear power plants. The remainder was imported, principally from Russia (50%), Canada, and Australia. As uranium bulls will ceaselessly inform you the supply situation is tight and if it wasn’t for those pesky Russians the price would be a lot higher.

We usually do not make common cause with the tin-foil-hatted but would beg to agree with the uranium bulls. It is a truism that the unwinding of the Soviet stockpiles have beggared the global uranium mining industry and that the great day will be when an end to this attrition is seen. Continue Reading →

Time to make Canada free of conflict minerals – by Paul Dewar (Toronto Star – April 03 2014)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Paul Dewar, New Democratic Party MP for Ottawa Centre riding, is the Official Opposition’s Foreign Affairs critic.

Today (Thursday, April 3) the House of Commons is to begin debating my bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act.
The illegal trade of conflict mineral from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other parts of central Africa has been funding and fueling the deadliest war since the Second World War. The Conflict Minerals Act is a significant and proactive step toward ending the trade of conflict minerals and eventually ending the war.

The scale of the crimes in the Congo, and the connection between consumers and the conflict, is shocking. More than five million people have been killed. Rape is used as a weapon of war – with an estimated 48 women raped every hour. In 2012, there were 2.2 million people displaced and driven away from their homes.

Bill C-486 is part of an international trend to end the trade in conflict minerals and improve consumer awareness of product supply chains. The aim is to cut off the financial resources that sustain the horrors of war in the Congo.  Continue Reading →

Strategic metal mining set to gain traction in Britain – by Harpreet Bhal (Reuters U.S. – April 2, 2014)

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) – Mining firms are looking favourably at Britain as a project destination with deposits of strategic metals leading a small mining revival following the launch of the country’s first new metal mine in 45 years.

The UK has deposits of metals such as tin – used in mobile phones, and tungsten – used to make drilling tools – as well as antimony and tellurium – used in the semiconductor industry – seen as having bullish long-term price outlooks as the appetite for electronic gadgets expands in the developing world.

The southwest counties of Cornwall and Devon experienced extensive mining in the 19th century when metals including copper, lead and tin were keenly sought, but fierce competition from lower cost operations in Latin America, Asia and Africa resulted in projects being shut and many sites abandoned.

While analysts said it is unlikely for Britain to experience another mining boom, the country is being eyed by some as a favourable destination due to competitive labour costs and tax rates, as well as deposits of strategic metals – a vital component in technology and industry. Continue Reading →

Tesla to Use North American Material Amid Pollution Worry – by Asher Berube (Investor Intel – March 31 2014)

March 31, 2014 (Source: Bloomberg) — Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric vehicle maker co-founded by Elon Musk, plans to use only raw materials sourced in North America for its proposed $5 billion U.S. battery factory.

The Silicon Valley company won’t look overseas for the graphite, cobalt and other materials needed for its so-called Gigafactory, said Liz Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman.

“It will enable us to establish a supply chain that is local and focused on minimizing environmental impact while significantly reducing battery cost,” she said in an e-mail.

The move comes amid heightened interest in curbing graphite pollution and a widespread corporate sensitivity about avoiding the use of industrial minerals from global trouble spots such as central Africa. China’s government, for example, has begun to shutter mines producing graphite, a major ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, over air-quality issues, Bloomberg News reported March 14.

Tesla “is a high-profile company that is entering an age of supply-chain transparency,” said Simon Moores, an analyst at Industrial Minerals Data in London. Continue Reading →

Geopolitical tensions a reminder for the West to seek greater rare earths independence from China – by Alessandro Bruno (Investor – March 11, 2014)

There are two geopolitical disputes that could have significant effects on the prices of strategic commodities. The first is in Crimea, involving Russia, the Ukraine and NATO; the second is in the Sea of Japan (also known as East China Sea) and it involves China, Japan and not so indirectly the United States. A mathematician might reduce the two issues to one geopolitical equation: Russia and China vs. the West (that is the USA, the European Union and Japan). The Crimean crisis will likely cause grain and other agricultural prices to increase, which will in turn strengthen mineral fertilizer prices.

The Sino-Japanese crisis over control of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which intensified in 2012, when Japan decided to formally annex the territory, meanwhile has grown deeper and will inevitably affect Japan’s access to much needed rare earth products from China. China’s minister of foreign affairs stated, last week, that “there is no room for compromise” with Japan over the Islands.

He added that China would maintain a decisive stance in matter of territorial integrity and sovereignty and that it would defend “every inch of the territory that belongs to us”. China is also at odds with other Asian neighbors, triggered by spats over territorial control in the South China Sea. In the latter case, the triggers are both natural resources in the disputed sea areas and the control of important waterways. Continue Reading →

Tesla battery plant will need 6 new flake graphite mines – by Simon Moores and Andy Miller (Industrial Minerals – March 7, 2014)

$5bn ‘gigafactory’ to spark EV uptake; battery graphite demand could double in 6 years with no growth elsewhere

US automotive giant, Tesla, has revealed plans to build a new $5bn lithium-ion battery (Li-ion battery) ‘gigafactory’ which could potentially increase natural graphite demand by up to 37% by 2020.

The factory, which is forecast to start production by 2017, is expecting to have an output of 35 gWh/year by as early as 2020, which would over double the size of the current market. Its important to stress that the plant is in the planning stage and capacities depend strongly on market demand, but Tesla believes it can be the market leader by producing low cost batteries in the USA.

In IM Data’s calculations, Tesla’s plant – which is set to be based in the south-west USA – will consume at least 28,000 tonnes of spherical graphite every year if operating at capacity. This equates to 93,000 tonnes of flake graphite if produced to today’s standards which sees raw material wastage of up to 70%.

If achieved, battery demand for natural graphite will increase 112% from today’s levels of 83,000 tpa. This is assuming no other growth in regions such as Asia which is today’s primary consuming region. Continue Reading →

Rare Earths gloom seems to be lifting – Ecclestone – by Dorothy Kosich ( – February 6, 2014)

While rare earths have behaved more like scorched earth in recent years, Hallgarten’s Christopher Ecclestone suggests, “The nadir of the sector is now past.”

RENO (MINEWEB) – In analysis published Wednesday, Hallgarten & Company’s Christopher Ecclestone suggests, “The storm of the last two years has winnowed the wheat from the chaff (largely) in the REE space.”

“The two bulk producers managed to get into production after a titanic struggle and have been rewarded for their perseverance with relatively lowly market caps,” he noted, adding that the fact Lynas and Molycorp have started churning out light rare earths products “are undermining Chinese dominance in some metals.”

Meanwhile, “Tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands may yet be the touchpaper to set REEs and other specialty metals alight,” he speculated.

Nevertheless, Ecclestone suggested that “the behemoth properties with gargantuan capex budgets have gone the way of the brontosaurus. Continue Reading →