Archive | Latin America Mining

Lithium price: Chile giant’s scorched earth strategy – by Frik Els ( – August 17, 2018)

SQM this week sold its 50%-share in an Argentinian brine joint venture, leaving the world’s number two producer of lithium with a single project outside its core Chilean operations.

The $12.8 billion Santiago based company can afford to let assets go – its pipeline is choc full already.

Production startup for the 40,000 tonnes per year Mt Holland project alongside Kidman Resources in Western Australia is 2020. The spodumene mine will begin producing lithium carbonate and hydroxide a year later. Continue Reading →

THE BATTLE OVER GOLD BURIED IN A COLOMBIAN MOUNTAIN – by Bram Ebus (Vice News – August 13, 2018)

Some 1,300 metres above sea level, where millennia-long tectonic movements pushed golden veins to the upper crusts of the earth, sits an ancient town.

It’s mining that dictates the clock in Marmato, nestled in the Central Cordillera, the highest of three mountain ranges in the Colombian Andes. At night, lights appear on the hillside where processings mills are grinding stones that contain precious gold. At first daylight, vehicles start to climb the winding roads, up to the higher parts of the mountain where a new day of hacking away in the narrow tunnels begins.

About 80 percent of the village population depends on mining activities to survive, and it’s typically not on any sort of contract. Organized in cooperatives, independent miners say they can earn about US$300 a month. Since almost everybody relies on their luck in the mines, people help each other out when a mine does not produce. Continue Reading →

Battery Boom Revives World War II Cobalt Mines – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – August 14, 2018)

The giant rocky outcrop known by locals as La Cobaltera offers a glimpse into northern Chile’s mining past, and a hint of its future.

Slag from an ancient furnace is piled at the entrance of a mine shaft that hasn’t seen commercial activity since World War II. Inside, eucalyptus posts still support narrow tunnels, placed there by German engineers as a kind of alarm system: when they creaked it was a sign the tunnel might collapse.

Now the global hunt for cobalt, a key commodity in the electric-vehicle revolution, is rousing the sleepy community on the edge of Chile’s northern desert. Trucks are bouncing down the meandering dirt road from Freirina, carrying modern mining equipment to La Cobaltera. Continue Reading →

Chile braces for potential strike at Escondida copper mine – by Antonio De la Jara (Reuters U.S. – August 13, 2018)

Aug 13 (Reuters) – Chile’s copper industry on Monday braced for the announcement of a potential strike at the world’s biggest copper mine, Escondida, as government-led mediation is expected to close by day’s end.

Escondida’s union and the mine’s owner, Anglo-Australian firm BHP , have until Monday evening to agree to a contract deal in tense negotiations that have been closely watched by other miners and international markets.

The negotiations have been held under tight wraps, but a union source told Reuters that “all will be known today” about negotiations at Escondida, which last year produced 925,400 tonnes of copper, almost 17 percent of the country’s total. Continue Reading →

BHP settles US class action over Samarco dam failure for $67 million – by Darren Gray (Sydney Morning Herald – August 9, 2018)

Mining giant BHP has agreed to settle a US class action claim relating to the Samarco dam failure of 2015, which triggered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, and agreed to pay the plaintiffs $US50 million ($67.3 million).

The agreement comes with no admission of liability. It remains subject to approval by a US court. Melbourne-based lawyers acting for BHP investors in an Australian class action against the miner over the dam failure are watching the US legal developments with interest.

Brett Spiegel, a lawyer for the Melbourne-based law firm Phi, Finney, McDonald which filed the Australian class action in May in the Federal Court, welcomed the news from the US. Continue Reading →

Cat Calling, Whistling and Groping Greet Women in Mines of Chile – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – August 8, 2018)

Despite efforts pushing for gender equality, the Chilean mining industry, slow to change, is still notoriously inhospitable to women.

The first time Karen Requena entered the cafeteria at BHP Billiton’s massive Escondida mining operation in northern Chile, she couldn’t help feeling countless eyes fixed on her body as she walked across the vast hall.

“It can’t get worse than that,” she thought. Then as Requena looked for a place to sit, the noise started. Thousands of men began banging their knives and forks against their plates. The pace of the deafening clattering picked up as she searched for an empty seat.

That’s how it went day in and day out at the world’s largest copper mine. It was 2012, and Requena was working 10-day shifts as an Escondida safety officer for BHP Billiton contractor Villatol. Soon she began eating in her room alone. Continue Reading →

These Massive Renewable Energy Projects Are Powering Chilean Mines – by Laura Millan Lombrana and Jamey Stillings

A surge in solar, geothermal, and wind development is helping to wean the industry off imported fossil fuels.

Minerals are so abundant in Chile’s northern Atacama Desert, you can get copper just by kicking the mountain—or so says one of the miners’ favorite proverbs. A century after many of the mines there were first opened, finding copper—or gold, or lithium, or iron ore—isn’t that easy.

The concentration of minerals in the earth decreases as the miners dig deeper, meaning companies need to process more ore to extract the same amount of metal, a messy and highly polluting process to begin with. To fuel that effort, they need vast amounts of energy.

Chile has little in the way of fossil fuels, leading it to rely on imports and making electricity there extremely expensive. In 24 of the last 30 years, the country’s energy prices were higher than the world average; at its peak in 2011, the price per kilowatt-hour reached $150.90, almost double the global average. Continue Reading →

Miners Set to Spend $11 Billion in Search of the Next Jackpot – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – August 7, 2018)

Miners and investors are poring over satellite images, tracking drilling rigs and quizzing company executives for clues on whether the sector’s heavyweights are close to a new jackpot discovery.

As Rio Tinto Group searches Australia’s Great Sandy Desert for copper and Anglo American Plc scours a 19,000-square kilometer package of land in Brazil, they’re among the mining giants stoking excitement over potential reserves that’ll replenish project pipelines and overturn the industry’s lack of recent success in unearthing deposits.

It’s part of a broader global push across the industry that’s driving a revival in exploration spending on key metals, forecast to top $11 billion after hitting a low of about $9 billion in 2016, according to Melbourne-based MinEx Consulting Ltd. Continue Reading →

[Bolivia Silver Mining] Cerro Rico – The greatest of the great.- by Andrew Watson (Geology For Investors – July 2018)

In this column on great deposits, I have discussed those that were rich, big, changed destinies, broke governments and accumulated a wealth of stories. However, only one has definitively changed the world. Cerro Rico, or Potosi in Bolivia, is perhaps the greatest of the great deposits.

It’s origins are shrouded in myth, the wealth proverbial, the toll horrific. The Cerro Rico was the keystone in the arch of colonial Latin American precious metal deposits whose combined wealth provided the single greatest metallic bonanza there was, and likely will be on earth.

Eduardo Galeano has said ” You could build a bridge of pure silver from Potosi to Madrid with ore extracted. And you could build a bridge back with the bones of those who died mining it” Continue Reading →

Chile is canary in copper mine as price of metal falls – by Benedict Mander (Financial Times – July 30, 2018)

Concerns are growing in Chile that it could be the first country in resource-rich South America to feel the impact of the slowdown in China and the US’s escalating trade war with Beijing, with a fall in copper prices already putting pressure on the economic agenda of President Sebastián Piñera.

As the world’s leading copper producer, and one of South America’s most open economies, Chile is particularly vulnerable to a drop in copper prices, which last week touched its lowest level of the year on worries over China’s economic growth. The metal accounts for more than 43 per cent of Chile’s exports.

The challenges faced by Chile are a warning signal for other commodity exporters in the region, economists said, especially given the metal’s reputation for predicting turning points in the global economy. Continue Reading →

C-Suite Moves Rock Lithium as Industry Expands in Battery Boom – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – July‎ ‎26‎, ‎2018‎)

Unexpected leadership changes within a day at the world’s two largest lithium producers underscore concerns over a lack of executive experience in the industry amid a nascent boom for the battery metal.

On Wednesday, Albemarle Corp. announced the replacement of its lithium president John Mitchell, who was named chief of a Chilean exploration company hours later.

Also on Wednesday, Soc. Quimica y Minera de Chile SA said Chief Executive Officer Patricio de Solminihac will leave the company by the end of the year. Both executives will be replaced internally. Continue Reading →

Brazil mining reforms stalled by impasse over new agency – by Jake Spring (Reuters U.S. – July 27, 2018)

BRASILIA (Reuters) – A new Brazilian mining regulator created last year to cut red tape and attract foreign investment has still not gotten out of the blocks, with experts warning that the agency will be stalled at least through the October election and perhaps until 2019. Miners say major investments are hanging in the balance.

The National Mining Agency (ANM) — approved by Congress in November — cannot begin its activities until the Senate confirms five directors appointed by President Michel Temer. A separate initiative to modernize the country’s mining code will only go into effect once the agency launches.

With less than three months to go before general elections, “it isn’t feasible” that the directors will be confirmed before a new government is elected, said Israel Lacerda de Araujo, Senate mining expert who advised lawmakers on the regulations. Continue Reading →

Copper Trains Ransacked by ‘Moles’ in Full-Moon Desert Heists – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – July 13, 2018)

On nights lit by a full moon, thieves leap from trucks onto trains as they roll through Chile’s Atacama Desert, before throwing 80-kilo (180-pound) slabs of copper to the ground and disappearing into the dark.

It’s a tactic known as “the cat” and the robbers are “moles” because no one knows where they come from or where they hide their loot. What’s worse for the mines that dot the desert, the robberies are becoming more common and more audacious.

About 40 incidents were reported in the first half of this year, according to the prosecutor’s office in Antofagasta, up from just six in all of 2014. The thefts started to increase late 2017 as copper rose to the highest in more than two years. While prices have slumped in the past month, the thieves seem immune to the trade-war turmoil that’s rattling metal markets. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Tesla’s battery maker suspends cobalt supplier amid sanctions concern – by Pratima Desai and Makiko Yamazaki (Reuters U.S. – July 19, 2018)

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) – Panasonic Corp (6752.T) said it was unable to determine how much of the cobalt used in batteries it makes for Tesla cars comes from Cuba, a country subject to U.S. sanctions, and that it had suspended relations with a Canadian supplier as a result of its concerns.

The Japanese electronics maker, the exclusive supplier of batteries to Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), made the comments following questions from Reuters about whether the batteries contained Cuban cobalt.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that some of the cobalt that Panasonic uses to make Tesla’s batteries is mined in Cuba by Canadian supplier Sherritt International Corp (S.TO). Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto, BHP, Vale tipped to report strongest ever quarterly iron ore exports – by Peter Ker (Australian Financial Review – July 15, 2018)

The world’s three biggest iron ore miners are expected to confirm the industry’s strongest ever quarterly export figures this week, helping to explain recent weakness in prices for the bulk commodity.

Big miners have exercised restraint in both supply and rhetoric in recent years in a bid to calm fears the iron ore market could be flooded with supply, but port statistics suggest the miners’ inexorable export growth reached new heights in the three months to June 30.

Brazilian miner Vale is expected to announce record quarterly production of 96.3 million tonnes when it kicks off reporting season early on Tuesday morning Australian time, and Rio Tinto is expected to report strong numbers of its own several hours later. Continue Reading →