How Dodd-Frank Led to More Mayhem in Africa – by Tate Watkins (Wall Street Journal – November 13, 2016)

Spontaneously combusting smartphones may be in the news, but the danger not being reported is the one caused by the minerals inside these devices. Conflict minerals have fostered violence where they’re mined in central Africa, and the U.S. response has made the situation worse.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the average resident lives on about $400 a year, mining is the most lucrative game around. The value of the Congo’s mineral reserves is estimated at $24 trillion, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, most of them dug by informal miners working with picks and shovels. But in a nation that has been crushed by civil war on and off for two decades, much of the mining sector is now controlled by militias that have committed murder, rape and other atrocities against civilians.

When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial bill in 2010, it included a provision aimed at curbing the violence caused by these minerals. Companies like Apple and Intel use the metals to make electronic components in devices such as cellphones and laptops.

Read more

[Cobalt] The ‘Minor Metal’ with a major impact – by Stockhouse Editorial (November 3, 2016)

Humans have been producing the major metals for thousands of years. Gold, copper, silver, iron … the big hitters. The “minor metals” are those that have relatively small global production, and are primarily a by-product of a base metal.

No one would be surprised to hear that tellurim, for example, is a minor metal. A by-product of gold, lead or copper mining, global production of tellurim is a miniscule 220 tonnes a year. The Minor Metals Trade Association lists 49 metals it currently considers “minor metals”, presenting them in a helpful version of the periodic table. One metal that we think should be removed from that list is #27, cobalt. It’s about to have a major impact on your portfolio.

First, the conclusion: we are entering a prolonged global cobalt shortage. Consumption is skyrocketing, production is decreasing. Basic economics says this is low-hanging fruit for investors to pick.

Read more

Cobalt Supply Chain Under Scrutiny for Congo Links – by Mara Lemos Stein (Wall Street Journal – November 2, 2016)

Cobalt isn’t officially a “conflict mineral” of the kind that’s subject to strict reporting requirements under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, but a study published Wednesday says companies are treating the metal as if it were.

Increased pressure from non-government organizations and trade associations advocating responsible mining practices is leading many companies to adopt the same supply chain due diligence programs they use for conflict minerals—gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum.

Cobalt is the main raw material in lithium-ion batteries powering cell phones and electric vehicles, and although relatively abundant, mining of the metal is concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict minerals rule was aimed specifically at depriving Congolese warlords of funds through requiring companies to scrub their supply chains, so the mining of cobalt there could raise the same concerns about proceeds of the metal fueling conflict.

Read more

Speciality miners seek global role for NSW – by Barry Fitzgerald (The Australian – October 26, 2016)

Environmental activism and government aversion to approvals have seen NSW lose ground to other mining locations in terms of new investment in coal and coal-seam gas developments.

But a long slog by a couple of ASX-listed resources groups, Alkane Resources and Clean TeQ, means it is increasingly looking as if NSW will secure a new global role in the delivery of speciality metals plugged into high-growth green technologies.

The projects come with a combined development price tag of more than $2 billion — $1.3bn at Alkane’s Dubbo zirconia and rare earths project near Dubbo, and Clean TeQ’s $900m Syerston nickel/cobalt and scandium project near Fifield.

Read more

[Congo] Gunmen still control metals mined for modern gadgets (Daily Mail/Associated Press – October 25, 2016)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Violent gunmen still menace pick-and-shovel miners in eastern Congo, a new report finds, despite years of efforts to loosen their grip by local reformers, Western activists and companies like Apple and Intel that use minerals from the African region in their products.

Conditions are improving for miners who dig the ore that’s processed into tin, tungsten and tantalum for smartphones and other electronics, though some still face interference from armed groups. But slumping demand and depressed prices for those minerals have driven many workers to dig instead for gold that’s used in electronics, jewelry and other consumer products sold by Western companies.

Armed groups hold sway over mining sites where nearly two-thirds of Congo’s gold miners ply their trade. There, under threat of violence, workers are often forced to pay illegal “taxes” that support corrupt army units, rebel groups or unauthorized militias. Sometimes they’re conscripted into forced labor.

Read more

‘Catastrophic’ decline in Eastern lowland gorilla blamed on mining for minerals used in mobile phones – by Aislinn Laing (The Telegraph – October 20, 2016)

The Eastern lowland gorilla, the world’s greatest ape, has suffered a “catastrophic decline” in the restive Democratic Republic of Congo, blamed on mining for minerals used in mobile phones.

Scientists said the numbers in the wild have dwindled three quarters in 20 years, to just 3,800 from 17,000 before civil war first broke out in 1996, and fear that without rapid intervention, the majestic creatures could disappear altogether in the next five years.

Andrew Plumptre, of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the lead researcher on the gorilla count, said while they knew numbers had declined, the results came as a shock. “‘Back of the envelope’ calculations had predicted a 30-50 per cent decrease,” he said. “However, we received a major shock upon pulling together all the regional survey data: none of us were prepared for such a large decrease.”

Read more

WA mining: red-hot demand for cobalt with prices set to escalate – by Vetti Kakulas (Perth Now – October 6, 2016)

WA mining companies want to exploit the red-hot demand for cobalt with prices set to escalate in the next four years.

Commodities research group CRU has forecast global demand for refined cobalt will exceed the 100,000-tonne mark for the first time in 2017. And it could exceed 150,000 by 2025.
The metal is used in smartphones, laptops and aircraft engine superalloys, and is a major component in lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars.

MineLife senior resource analyst Gavin Wendt said there was growing excitement around the lithium-ion battery market. “As a result investors are looking at the commodities that could benefit from surging demand for these particular batteries,” he said.

Read more

Friedland a skeptic on lithium, rare earths – by Salma Tarikh (Northern Miner – September 30, 2016)

Robert Friedland, a renowned mining financier and promoter, took the stage at the recent Mines and Money Americas conference in Toronto to highlight the need for platinum and copper, as rapid global urbanization continues. Both are key metals in projects his company Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) is developing in Africa.

“I am not here to depress the gold bugs in this room. I’m just here to get you excited about copper and other metals that we need in our new society,” Friedland said.

The executive — who sold the large nickel-copper-cobalt deposit Voisey’s Bay in Labrador to Inco for $4.3 billion in 1996, and whose company discovered the large Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold deposit in Mongolia in 2001 — noted that there will likely be a billion more people living in urban environments by 2030. As a result, more people would live in cities filled with “toxic smog,” he said, citing that 6.5 million people die a year from air pollution.

Read more

Electric car revolution brightens outlook for a medley of metals – by Jan Harvey (Reuters U.S. – October 5, 2016)

LONDON – Electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf may look no different from the standard family runaround. But the new materials that go into them could revolutionize the market for metals used in the industry, opening up a new field for commodities investors.

“We identified electric vehicles as an area where we are at an inflection point for demand,” said Duncan Goodwin, portfolio manager of the Baring Global Resources Fund.

Around 12 percent of the fund’s $378.2 million in assets is exposed to materials that are used in electric vehicles. It has investments in New York-listed Albemarle and Australia’s Orocobre, two companies producing lithium, a key element in electric car batteries. Shares in both companies have risen sharply this year.

Read more

THE COBALT PIPELINE – by Jorge Ribas (Washington Post – September 30, 2016)

Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers’ phones and laptops

The sun was rising over one of the richest mineral deposits on Earth, in one of the poorest countries, as Sidiki Mayamba got ready for work. Mayamba is a cobalt miner. And the red-dirt savanna stretching outside his door contains such an astonishing wealth of cobalt and other minerals that a geologist once described it as a “scandale geologique.”

This remote landscape in southern Africa lies at the heart of the world’s mad scramble for cheap cobalt, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles made by companies such as Apple, Samsung and major automakers.

But Mayamba, 35, knew nothing about his role in this sprawling global supply chain. He grabbed his metal shovel and broken-headed hammer from a corner of the room he shares with his wife and child. He pulled on a dust-stained jacket.

Read more

Prospecting for … cobalt – by Staff (Mining Journal – October 2, 2016)

Believers in an impending cobalt shortage, higher prices, and the need for supply sources that are disengaged from primary copper or nickel production – and “unethical supply chains” – don’t see many new cobalt mines on the horizon. Prospecting is certainly on the rise, but when place-names such as Cobalt (Ontario) and Mt Cobalt (Queensland) don’t help, you know the job ain’t easy!

Cobalt has been called Canada’s forgotten mining town, but the records show the focus of an unprecedented silver prospecting and mining boom in the early 1900s delivered a fortune that “far surpassed the Klondike in terms of profits, production, and long-term impact”, wrote one historian.

“The early history of hard rock mining in Ontario is essentially the story of the discovery of silver in Cobalt in 1903. It wasn’t long before the Cobalt mines became the third-largest producer of silver in the world and by the time the boom petered out in the 1920s, the camp had become the fourth-largest silver producer ever discovered,” he continued.

Read more

Lundin’s agonizing Congo decision – by Frik Els ( – September 20, 1016)

Top publicly-held copper producer Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) in May announced the sale of its largest African copper mine to China Molybdenum (CMOC) for up to $2.65 billion.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned Gecamines controls 20% of the high-grade Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mine. Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN) indirectly owns 24% which includes a right of first offer provision to pick up Freeport’s stake.

Toronto-based Lundin first received a notice from Freeport offering the company the right to acquire its effective share of 56% back in May and last week Phoenix-based Freeport granted the Canadian miner a second extension to make a decision on the purchase to September 29.

Read more

The Key Challenge To Tesla’s Growth – by Michael McDonald (Oil – August 12, 2016)

Tesla’s increasingly ambitious plans to rule not only the electric vehicle space but also the solar energy space are likely to become more difficult to achieve over the next year. It has been widely reported in recent weeks that Tesla’s gigafactory is facing some challenges in becoming fully operational.

What is perhaps less well understood is the magnitude of the supply chain challenges that will face Tesla and its gigafactory. Tesla’s goal is to produce 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. The company has accelerated its production time table in large part due to the enormous amount of demand the company saw for its Model 3 sedan.

The firm announced almost 375,000 preorders for the vehicle. To fulfill this demand plus new demand that the company will likely see for its products over the next couple of years, Tesla needs to produce more lithium ion batteries in 2018 than the entire world produced in 2013. That’s not an impossible feat given the size of the gigafactory, but it is challenging.

Read more

Lifton challenges the WSJ editorial on Honda no longer using heavy rare earths – by Jack Lifton ( – July 20, 2016)

This morning The Wall Street Journal editorial page, no less, “reports” that Honda will no longer use “heavy” rare earths in its “hybrid” car engines after 2017.

What the WSJ editorial staff does not understand is that this is shilling for Honda and says nothing about the use of rare earths in general for EVs, electrified, not hybrid, vehicles. Honda is among the world’s largest manufacturers of internal combustion engines, which do not and have not ever used rare earths in their core construction.

Honda does not want the electrification of cars, if it ever happens, to happen soon, because it has a huge investment in the design and manufacturing of internal combustion engines. Hybrid combinations of electric and internal combustion power trains, such as in Toyota’s class leading Prius, have long used nickel metal hydride (rare earth based) batteries in the electric power train and high efficiency heavy rare earth using electric drive motors.

Read more

Congo’s small miners fill hole left by downsizing multinationals – by Aaron Ross (Reuters U.K. – July 18, 2016)

His toes bursting out of sneakers several sizes too small, a miner hacks with a pick at the copper and cobalt-laced stone in southeastern Congo, slowly filling a sack that could earn him anywhere from a handful to a few hundred dollars.

The 42-year-old father of five, who only gave his first name, Stany, has done this nearly every day for a decade, after he quit his maize fields for the comparatively lucrative mines of Africa’s top copper producer.

But unlike most artisanal mining, this is sanctioned by the Congolese government. As its mining heartland endures mass layoffs at big mines caused by low commodity prices, small-scale mining is helping to fill the deficit.

Read more