Archive | International Media Resource Articles

From Warheads to Cheap Energy – by William J. Broad (New York Times – January 27, 2014)

Thomas L. Neff’s Idea Turned Russian Warheads Into American Electricity

As the Cold War ended in the late 1980s and early ’90s, a new fear arose amid the rejoicing and relief: that atomic security might fail in the disintegrating Soviet Union, allowing its huge stockpile of nuclear warheads to fall into unfriendly hands.

The jitters intensified in late 1991, as Moscow announced plans to store thousands of weapons from missiles and bombers in what experts viewed as decrepit bunkers, policed by impoverished guards of dubious reliability.

Many officials and scientists worried. Few knew what to do. That is when Thomas L. Neff, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hit on his improbable idea: Why not let Moscow sell the uranium from its retired weapons and dilute it into fuel for electric utilities in the United States, giving Russians desperately needed cash and Americans a cheap source of power?

Last month, Dr. Neff’s idea came to a happy conclusion as the last shipment of uranium from Russia arrived in the United States. Continue Reading →

Sweeping change across China’s Inner Mongolia – by Martin Patience (BBC News – February 5, 2014)

Inner Mongolia, China – Traditional music floated across the freezing grasslands that stretched far into the distance. Inner Mongolia is China’s strategic frontier and home to its Mongolian ethnic minority.

They are the descendants of the Mongol warrior, Genghis Khan, who on horseback eight centuries ago swept across much of Asia, creating one of the world’s greatest empires. Today, the Mongolians still celebrate their traditions at nadaams – or traditional games.

Hundreds watched as a train of camels swept into a small stadium on the grasslands, their hooves kicking up the snow. Some of the animals pulled wooden sleighs with children sitting in them.

They were ridden by Mongolian herdsmen wearing traditional blue, green and red lambskin outfits to protect them from the bitter winter cold. Throughout the day, the crowd watched camel racing, archery on horseback, and traditional wrestling. But most of this was for show. The nomadic way of life is fast disappearing. Continue Reading →

[South Africa platinum] Mining has to get its Act together – by Lynley Donnelly (Mail & Guardian – February 7, 2014) [South Africa]

The issue of labour representation is central to the problems in the industry. The protracted strike by 70 000 mineworkers was the platinum elephant in the room at the 2014 Mining Indaba in Cape Town this week.

The volatile labour environment has become a major concern for companies and investors alike. Industry experts argued that, unless there is a major shift in industrial relations and the legacy of socioeconomic deprivation faced by mineworkers is meaningfully dealt with, South Africa’s mining sector will continue to suffer.

The opening speech by Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu provided little reassurance, failing to “decisively address continuing labour-relations challenges in the mining sector, especially the platinum sector”, Tony Zoghby, a partner at the professional services firm Deloitte, said.

Presenters at a discussion held by the South African Institute for International Affairs said violent strikes would persist if the labour relations framework did not become more democratic and miners’ living conditions were not addressed. Continue Reading →

South Africa: Landmark Silicosis Case Reaches a Milestone – by Sibusiso Tshabalala (All – February 6, 2014)

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) hosted a special event on 5 February 2014 to highlight its landmark silicosis case and the implications for future legislative and policy reform in South Africa. The meeting took place as part of the 5th Alternative Mining Indaba.

For ten years, the Legal Resources Centre has represented 24 former miners who worked for Anglo American Mines. The miners, who come from some of Southern Africa’s most rural areas, had worked in Anglo American mines between 1970 and 2000 and had contracted silicosis.

Silicosis is an incurable but preventable lung disease. It is caused by prolonged and severe inhalation of silica dust particles.

The prevalence of silicosis in South African mines can be traced back as early as 1903 to the Miners’ Phthisis Commission (Milner’s Commission) which deplored the unsanitary underground conditions in the mines as being “conducive to contracting infectious diseases”. Continue Reading →

China returns to hunt for African mine assets – by Andrew England and Javier Blas (Financial Times – February 7, 2014)

Cape Town – China is making a return to African mining after a hiatus of nearly two years – seeking out new copper, iron ore and uranium deposits in a sign that Beijing is still a keen investor in the continent’s industry.

However, executives and bankers attending the annual Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town – the biggest of its kind in Africa – have warned that China is unlikely to spend large sums solely to secure a flow of commodities, as it did until 2012. Instead, they said Beijing was more likely to buy smaller assets offering strong financial returns and raw materials.

“Selectively, yes, they [the Chinese] are coming,” said Michael Rawlinson, co-head of mining and metals at Barclays. “Some of their acquisition vehicles are on the hunt.” Since the beginning of the year, deals have started to flow: China National Nuclear Corporation has taken a large stake in one of Africa’s largest uranium mines in Namibia for nearly $200m, and China National Gold is in final talks to buy a copper mine in Congo.

Rajat Kohli, head of mining and metals at Standard Bank, which is 20 per cent owned by ICBC, China’s largest bank, said: “The clear message . . . from state-owned enterprises and some of the better established private companies is that they are open for business to Africa.” Continue Reading →

Indonesia miners must pay smelter cash guarantee -govt officials – by Wilda Asmarini (Reuters India – February 7, 2014)

JAKARTA – Feb 7 (Reuters) – Miners with smelter plans in Indonesia will have to pay a financial guarantee to prove they are serious about building domestic metal-processing plants, said mining ministry officials.

The move indicates the Southeast Asian nation may be unwilling to significantly roll back or make major concessions in its mining policy that have ground ore and concentrate exports to a complete halt.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month imposed new mining rules, including a controversial mineral ore export ban and progressive export taxes on concentrates, aimed at forcing miners to build smelters and process their raw materials in Indonesia.

The policies have forced U.S. miners Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Newmont Mining Corp to halt all exports, as both firms say the export tax breaches their mining contracts and it is not economically viable to make such large smelter investments in Indonesia.

High level executives from both companies have been involved in talks with the government over the tax and building of smelters, and a breakthrough now looks a distant prospect. Continue Reading →

Mandela’s Contribution to Mining – by Gavin du Venage and Joseph Kirschke (Engineering and Mining Journal – January 2014)

Last month, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leaders denounced South Africa’s mining companies for ignoring a day of mourning for Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Ironically, saddled with corruption, infighting and often voiceless workers, the NUM itself may be one of his struggle’s more unfortunate byproducts.

Still, since Mandela’s Anti-Apartheid campaign ended in 1994, it’s clear that were it not for South Africa’s heavy concentration of gold, diamonds and other metals, 46 years of white minority rule would likely have been impossible. Something he understood extremely well.

Indeed, a crucial element of Mandela’s decades-long fight was to free blacks from being indentured laborers in mines while ensuring they participated in the wealth the mines created. His greatest successes have included helping establish 1995’s Leon Commission, the country’s most comprehensive health and safety inquiry, and a mining-related Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The discovery of diamonds, then gold, in the late 1800s flooded white fortune seekers into the country. Unlike mineral rushes elsewhere, however, this one proved sustainable. Continue Reading →

At least eight dead in S.African gold mine accident – by Ed Cropley (Reuters India – February 6, 2014)

JOHANNESBURG – (Reuters) – Rescuers recovered eight bodies and continued to search for another missing worker on Thursday after a fire and rock-fall at a Harmony Gold (HARJ.J) mine near Johannesburg, the worst accident in South Africa’s mines in nearly five years.

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu ordered an investigation into the incident at the Doornkop mine, 30 km west (20 miles) of the city, after initial reports that the fire was triggered by a small earthquake on Tuesday evening.

“The situation is deeply regrettable,” Shabangu said in a statement. “We must ensure that we do all we can to get to the bottom of what caused this incident in order to prevent similar occurrences in future.”

It is the most serious accident in South Africa’s mines since nine workers died in a rock fall at a platinum mine in July 2009. Shares in Harmony, South Africa’s third-largest bullion producer, fell 3 percent at the start of trade.

Rescue teams battled through smoke and debris nearly a mile underground on Wednesday to reach eight other miners who had managed to flee to a refuge bay equipped with a telephone and other survival gear. They were brought to the surface unharmed. Continue Reading →

Book Review: ‘Insight Trading,’ 
a Roadmap to Mining Sustainability – by Joseph Kirschke (Engineering and Mining Journal – January 20, 2014)

In 2006, Nick Fleming and Susanne Cooper, chief sustainability officer and sustainability practice leader, respectively, with engineering and consulting firm Sinclair Knight Merz, joined a team of miners developing a major new copper asset in Southeast Asia.

On evaluating the project, however, Fleming and Cooper noticed a potentially serious complication: the planning of a road alongside a slurry pipeline—one that could facilitate haphazard development, rainforest clearing and a mass influx of job-seeking migrants.

“The potential for unrest, disease and impacts on nearby villages was high; in short, a technology that worked well in other situations was inappropriate,” they write in “Insight Trading: Collaborating to Transform the Infrastructure that Shapes Society,” (Sinclair Knight Merz Pty. Ltd. 2013). “So the team went back to basics—using river barges. This solution eliminated social and environmental risks, created community benefits and enhanced the mine’s social license to operate.”

Through these and other examples, Fleming and Cooper have compiled a compelling road map for miners, engineers, and others seeking to understand the core nuances of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in natural resource and infrastructure projects in a world where the only constant is change.
 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 →

South Africa a Hard Sell at Mining Bash (Reuters/Voice of America – February 5, 2014)

CAPE TOWN — South Africa hosts the annual Africa mining conference but the country is a hard sell at its own party.

Outside investors are increasingly wary of South Africa’s mining sector and extra salt is being rubbed into its reputational wound as the conference coincides with a massive strike in its platinum shafts. Foreign flight is a huge concern, not least because the industry needs outside investment to sustain itself.

“Because of the capital-intensive nature of the mining industry and the fact that South Africa doesn’t have sufficient domestic savings, the industry relies heavily on foreign investment,” said Paul Miller, investment banker for mining and metals at Nedbank Capital.

“In order to attract that investment we need to provide a competitive return,” he said. The hardening perception is that the returns in South Africa’s mines are too low and the risks too high. Around 45 percent of the country’s platinum operations are losing money, according to the industry.

Bankers and executives interviewed by Reuters at the conference all said foreign investors uniformly raised a number of concerns about South Africa, starting with labor. Continue Reading →

European Union seeks to stem use of conflict minerals – by Francesco Guarascio (Reuters U.S. – February 5, 2014)

BRUSSELS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – The EU’s trade chief will present a voluntary scheme in March aimed at stemming the import of minerals from conflict zones and prevent mining them from financing war and strife, EU officials said on Wednesday.

Karel De Gucht’s proposal to the European Commission, the EU executive, will encompass gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, in a bid to pressure importers to classify them as coming from areas free of conflict.

“Work is currently underway to prepare a proposal … for a comprehensive EU framework on responsible mineral sourcing in line with international guidelines,” said EU Trade spokesman John Clancy.

The United States defines the conflict mineral zone as the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries including Angola and South Sudan. They make up 17 percent of the global production of tantalum, 4 percent of the global production of tin, 3 percent of tungsten and 2 percent of gold. Continue Reading →

Friedland calls for ‘responsible’ mining leadership – by Brendan Ryan (Business Day Live – February 5, 2014)

MINING entrepreneur Robert Friedland on Wednesday made a plea for “responsible leadership” from mining companies, labour unions and the South African government in resolving the turmoil on the country’s platinum mines.

Addressing the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Wednesday, Mr Friedland said that while “workers labouring in the deep underground mines certainly deserve better, it is equally important for workers and their leaders to understand that mining companies must make a profit or investors will not inject the billions of dollars needed to find and build profitable mines”.

“So, workers and union leaders need to carefully consider the impact and consequences of their actions. What is required is responsible leadership all around,” he said. Mr Friedland is a flamboyant and legendary personality in the mining industry because of his successes in finding and developing the huge nickel mine at Voisey’s Bay in Canada and the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia, now controlled by Rio Tinto.

His latest ventures are being developed through Toronto-listed Ivanhoe Mines and include the Flatreef underground platinum project near Mokopane in Limpopo and the Kamoa copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Continue Reading →

Mitsui Mining Boosts Zinc Fee 70% as China Demand Rises – by Jae Hur and Ichiro Suzuki (Bloomberg News – February 5, 2014)

Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co. (5706), Japan’s biggest zinc producer, raised annual charges to overseas buyers by as much as 70 percent as consumption increases in China. Futures in London snapped a 10-day losing streak.

The higher fee compares with a 15 percent gain for special high-grade metal last year, said Osamu Saito, a general manager in the Tokyo-based company’s business department. He declined to disclose any dollar values.

Zinc stockpiles monitored by the London Metal Exchange shrank 31 percent since the start of 2013, with inventories in Asia contracting 68 percent. Morgan Stanley forecasts cash prices to average $2,127 a metric ton in 2014, a 10 percent increase on last year as the zinc deficit widens sixfold.

“The market’s been waiting for a turnaround in zinc,” said Gavin Wendt, the founder and senior resource analyst at Sydney-based Mine Life Pty. “There are a lot of people, including myself, that think that 2014 could be the year.”

The metal for delivery in three months in London climbed 0.8 percent to $1,967 a ton at 2:16 p.m. Continue Reading →

Special Report: Areva and Niger’s uranium fight – by Daniel Flynn and Geert de Clercq (Reuters India – February 5, 2014)

ARLIT, Niger/PARIS – (Reuters) – When France began mining uranium ore in the desert of northern Niger in the early 1970s, Arlit was a cluster of miners’ huts stranded between the sun-blasted rocks of the Air mountains and the sands of the Sahara.

The 1973 OPEC oil embargo changed that. France embraced nuclear power to free itself from reliance on foreign oil and overnight this remote corner of Africa became crucial to its national interests.

Arlit has grown into a sprawling settlement of 117,000 people, while France now depends on nuclear power for three-quarters of its electricity, making it more reliant on uranium than any country on earth. Niger has become the world’s fourth-largest producer of the ore after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.

But uranium has not enriched Niger. The former French colony remains one of the poorest countries on earth. More than 60 percent of its 17 million people survive on less than $1 a day.

Arlit is a dusty and neglected place, scoured by desert sandstorms and barely touched by the mineral wealth it ships off to Europe each year. Continue Reading →