The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush – by Donovan Webster (Smithsonian Magazine – February, 2012)

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Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru’s Amazon basin

It’s a few hours before dawn in the Peruvian rainforest, and five bare light bulbs hang from a wire above a 40-foot-deep pit. Gold miners, operating illegally, have worked in this chasm since 11 a.m. yesterday. Standing waist-deep in muddy water, they chew coca leaves to stave off exhaustion and hunger.

In the pit a minivan-size gasoline engine, set on a wooden cargo pallet, powers a pump, which siphons water from a nearby river. A man holding a flexible ribbed-plastic hose aims the water jet at the walls, tearing away chunks of earth and enlarging the pit every minute until it’s now about the size of six football fields laid side by side. The engine also drives an industrial vacuum pump. Another hose suctions the gold-fleck-laced soil torn loose by the water cannon.

At first light, workers hefting huge Stihl chain saws roar into action, cutting down trees that may be 1,200 years old. Red macaws and brilliant-feathered toucans take off, heading deeper into the rainforest. The chain saw crews also set fires, making way for more pits.

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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Mining Movie – 1948)

This information is from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia:

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 American film written and directed by John Huston, a feature film adaptation of B. Traven’s 1927 novel of the same name, in which two impecunious Americans Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) during the 1920s in Mexico join with an old-timer, Howard (Walter Huston, the director’s father), to prospect for gold. The old-timer accurately predicts trouble, but is willing to go anyway.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was one of the first Hollywood films to be filmed almost entirely on location outside the United States (in the state of Durango and street scenes in Tampico, Mexico), although the night scenes were filmed back in the studio. The film is quite faithful to the novel. In 1990, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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NEWS RELEASE: McEwen Mining: US Gold and Minera Andes Business Combination Completed

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Jan. 24, 2012) – McEwen Mining Inc. (“McEwen Mining”) is pleased to announce that the previously announced business combination (the “Combination”), pursuant to which US Gold Corporation acquired Minera Andes Inc. and was renamed McEwen Mining, has been successfully completed and closed today. The Combination was carried out by way of a plan of arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (Alberta), which was approved by the shareholders of both US Gold and Minera Andes on January 19, 2012 and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta on January 20, 2012.

Shares of McEwen Mining will commence trading on the NYSE and the TSX, subject to final exchange approvals, under the symbol “MUX” on Friday January 27, 2012. Holders of Minera Andes shares will receive 0.45 of an exchangeable share of McEwen Mining – Minera Andes Acquisition Corp. for each one (1) Minera Andes share held. These exchangeable shares of McEwen Mining – Minera Andes Acquisition Corp., will also start trading on the TSX on January 27, 2012 under the symbol “MAQ”. The exchangeable shares of McEwen Mining – Minera Andes Acquisition Corp. are convertible on a one-for-one basis at any time into shares of McEwen Mining. McEwen Mining will have an aggregate of 267,084,203 shares of common stock outstanding and issuable upon the exchange of exchangeable shares.

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Canadian mining company denies link to shooting death of protester in Mexico – by Peter O’Neil (National Post – Janurary 26, 2012)

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

OTTAWA — Vancouver-based mining company Fortuna Silver says it has nothing to do with the shooting death of a protester in a town near the company’s mine site in Mexico.

Police have arrested the alleged shooter implicated in the death of Bernardo Mendez Vazquez, who was shot last week during a protest that news reports have linked to opposition to the gold and silver mine.

The shooting took place in the town of San Jose del Progreso, where the mine is the chief employer. The town and mine in the southwestern state of Oaxaca have been the sites of past conflicts involving groups who say the mine is an environmental threat to the arid region’s scarce water supply.

But Fortuna Silver president Jorge Ganoza said “misinformation” is behind media reports tying his company to the violence, which also left another protester with a leg wound.

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Pan American Silver buys Minefinders Corp. – by Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – January 24, 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.

VANCOUVER – Pan American Silver Corp. plans to create a silver-producing powerhouse with the proposed $1.5-billion acquisition of Mexico-focused Minefinders Corp. But investors weren’t impressed, driving down Pan American shares 10 per cent on Monday.

Pan American is offering cash or shares – or both – for fellow Vancouver-based company Minefinders, owner of the Dolores silver and gold mine in northern Mexico and the nearby La Bolsa property set to begin production later this year.

The deal will create a combined company valued at $4-billion and double Pan American’s silver production to 50 million ounces by 2015, with eight mines across Latin America. Still, Pan American shareholders showed concern about the dilution of their shares as a result of the transaction.

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Why the heavens of Peru are a hell of a place to seek a fortune – by Jennifer Wells (Toronto Star – December 10, 2011)

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.

LA RINCONADA, PERU—Stepping from a brothel into morning in Rinconada, a suppurating wound of excrement and garbage and fuel exhaust.

Rough night. No heat. No running water. Ergo: no toilet. The wooden floors and cracker-thin walls of the bordello had served as efficient sound vectors for the heavy boots of the importuning miners, orchestral hosts to their loud and meaty door-banging fists. The only detail missing was the jangle of brass spurs.

The floors of the “hotel” rooms — bordellos offer the only lodging in town — had been doused in germ-killing gasoline, the fumes infusing the atmosphere with acrid, lung-invading top-notes. Thus the head: woozy, thick-feeling. Can barely breathe, not that breathing in this fetid atmosphere holds much appeal.

A metre in the distance, a stream of effluent bisects the packed mud path that serves as a primary artery through town. There are no paved roads. Panfuls of slop are heaved into the street.

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Peru declares emergency after talks fail on ending anti-mining protest – by Franklin Briceno (Toronto star – December 6, 2011)

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.

LIMA, PERU—President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency Sunday to quell increasingly violent protests over the country’s biggest investment, a highlands gold mine, by peasants who fear it will damage their water supply.

The emergency restricts civil liberties such as the right to assembly and allows arrests without warrants in four provinces of Cajamarca state that have been paralyzed for 11 days by protests against the $4.8-billion (U.S.) Conga gold-and-copper mining project. U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. is the project’s majority owner.

Dozens have been injured in clashes between police and protesters, some of whom have vandalized Conga property. The general strike also shuttered schools and snarled transportation as protesters mounted roadblocks.

Humala said in a brief televised address Sunday night that protest leaders had shown no interest “in reaching minimal agreements to permit a return of social peace” after a day of talks in Cajamarca with Cabinet chief Salmon Lerner, who had been accompanied by military and police chiefs and was guarded by hundreds of heavily armed police.

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Fate of Vale, Petrobras CEOs [Roger Agnelli, Jose Sergio Gabrielli] Hinges on [Brazil] Politics – by Brian Ellsworth and Guillermo Parra-Bernal

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper. This article was originally published in the Financial Post on January 25, 2011.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva harshly criticized Agnelli for slashing
investment and firing 2,000 workers after the 2008 financial crisis. Vale raised
capital spending again following heavy government pressure.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Markets dictate that corporate managers who create the most value for shareholders keep their jobs. But for Brazil’s two biggest companies, state-controlled oil firm Petrobras and mining giant Vale, the reality may shape up to be exactly the opposite.

Roger Agnelli, who over a decade helped transform Vale into the world’s leading iron ore producer, is under fire for not creating enough jobs in Brazil and rumors are swirling that President Dilma Rousseff could lobby for his ouster.

In contrast, Jose Sergio Gabrielli may stay on as Petrobras CEO despite a US$38-billion tumble in market value last year sparked by a plan that boosted government control over the company despite complaints from private shareholders.

Although Brazil is still a hot destination for emerging market investments, the apparently diverging fate of the two chief executives is a reminder that political interference is still a risk in Latin America’s largest economy.

As Brazil flexes its economic muscles and boosts its global influence, investors fear its companies could be vulnerable to government pressure to lead economic development efforts at the expense of private shareholders.

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Canada and Sudbury are Very Important to Vale – by Vale CEO Roger Agnelli

Roger Agnelli - CEO ValeThe end of the strike that lasted nearly a year at Vale’s operations in Ontario, Canada, is very significant for our company, as we have overcome yet another challenge. Besides making our Canadian employees’ pension and variable pay regime more similar to the successful system already in place in other countries, the deal removes restrictions and interference in managing the company, thereby aligning our operational efficiency in Canada with our practices elsewhere.

“We are talking about returning management power to supervisors, for example, enabling them to do their work at the operational level in a more appropriate manner in order to achieve their objectives and ensure the safety of their team members, assuming responsibility for management and pursuing innovation,” said Vale’s CEO, Roger Agnelli, in an exclusive interview with Vale News (July 16, 2010). Read the full interview below.

“Canada is important for Vale and Vale is important for Canada. Our partnership is for the long term.” – Roger Agnelli

1) What are the main changes resulting from the approved collective agreement in Ontario?

The most important points that we agreed to are a defined contribution pension plan for new employees, variable pay based on performance and the removal of restrictions and interference in managing the company. In these three areas, we have simply aligned Sudbury and Port Colborne with the successful system that exists in other countries where we operate.

This issue about interference in management is very important, not only for me, as CEO, or for the executive director. We are talking about returning management power to supervisors, for example, enabling them to do their work at the operational level in a more appropriate manner in order to achieve their objectives and ensure the safety and efficiency of their team members. And we are also talking about further developing a meritocratic system. With this new variable pay plan, employees will be rewarded for the results they produce rather than just changes in the nickel price.

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Goldcorp is Losinging its Social Licence to Operate in Guatemala – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Mining companies often speak of having a “social licence” to operate. This reflects the willingness of local communities to support their endeavours. The more the miner and the indigenous people talk, the better their understanding and ability to accommodate one another.

What sounds straightforward is often complicated by unrealistic expectations, earlier history, cultural rigidity and interference by third parties.

The latest company on the verge of losing its social licence is Vancouver’s Goldcorp, that operates the Marlin gold mine in Guatemala. The most recent report to examine Goldcorp’s record there was commissioned by the company in response to charges of human rights violations at the Marlin mine. The report concluded that the company had failed to respect the right of indigenous peoples in that country, but also had brought jobs, healthcare and education to the impoverished western highlands region. Goldcorp further insists that allegations of environmental problems are unfounded.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 5 of 5)

Application of Sherritt’s Pressure Hydrometallurgical Technology to Other Metals

Much of Sherritt’s metallurgical and product technology developed over the last 50 years can be traced back to work done during the development of the ammonia leach process.  Pressure leaching of sulphide ores and concentrates, using continuous horizontal autoclaves, provided the basis for a thriving pressure hydrometallurgical process licensing business which offered processes for treating nickel mattes and concentrates, zinc concentrates, and refractory gold ores and concentrates.  The nickel reduction process perfected in the Ottawa pilot plant was subsequently licensed worldwide.

During the early 1950’s, following the successful commissioning of the nickel refinery at Fort Saskatchewan, Sherritt utilized its laboratory and pilot plant facilities in Ottawa to look for other potential applications for pressure leaching processes in the metals industry (14).  Laboratory tests were carried out on the pressure leaching of uranium ores and on the pressure oxidation of refractory gold ores, where the oxidative pressure treatment proved an excellent method for oxidizing pyrite and arsenopyrite to liberate the gold for subsequent recovery.

Two additional leaching plants were built by Chemico to treat cobalt concentrates in the aftermath of the Korean War, when the cobalt price was artificially high, but both plants became uneconomic as the price of cobalt declined, and closed in the early 1960s.  A fourth pressure leaching plant was the Port Nickel plant, constructed by Freeport to treat the nickel-cobalt sulphide from Moa.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 4 of 5)

Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Moa

The acid pressure leach process for the treatment of low magnesium content lateritic ore has been in operation at the Pedro Sotto Alba plant in Moa, Holguin, Cuba since 1959.  The plant was originally constructed by Chemico for Moa Bay Mining Company, a subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur, but was taken over by the Cuban government in 1960.  The plant recommenced operations in 1961, under Cuban management.

Under Cuban management the production at Moa gradually increased and improvements were made to the recovery of nickel and cobalt.  In December 1994, Sherritt Inc. and General Nickel Co. S.A. announced the formation of a combined enterprise that included the Moa plant, now known as Moa Nickel S.A.   The nickel and cobalt sulphides produced by Moa Nickel S.A. (13) are transported to the nickel and cobalt refinery at Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada now known as “Corefco” (The Cobalt Refinery Company Inc.), a second combined enterprise company, for processing to pure metal products.

At Moa, Nickel limonite ore is processed in a high-pressure acid leach to selectively dissolve nickel and cobalt from the ore.  Concentrated sulphuric acid is the lixiviant.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 3 of 5)

History and Development of Cobalt Production

As Sherritt was developing the hydrometallurgical process for refining nickel, they were also faced with the question of how to separate cobalt from nickel, and then what to do with the cobalt.   The selection of hydrogen reduction technology to produce metallic nickel powder also provided Sherritt with a primary nickel-cobalt separation step.  As long as the ratio of nickel to cobalt is large, nickel can be selectively reduced with hydrogen without reducing cobalt.

The Lynn Lake concentrate, with typical ore grades of 10% nickel and 0.5% cobalt, yielded nickel reduction feed solution with relatively low cobalt content (nickel/cobalt ratio greater than 30:1).  Since the relatively small amount of nickel and cobalt remaining in the solution after nickel reduction could be precipitated from solution with hydrogen sulphide to yield a saleable intermediate nickel-cobalt sulphide product, development and construction of the nickel refinery was able to proceed without a final answer as to how to handle the cobalt.

Many alternative cobalt flowsheets were studied.  The Ottawa pilot plant was closed in 1955 and some of the pilot plant equipment was shipped to Fort Saskatchewan where it was used in the assembly of a “commercial sized” cobalt refinery.   Output of this plant, at less than 150 tonnes of cobalt per year, was so low that it was only utilized for commercial cobalt production for part of the year, and used for pilot scale development of other hydrometallurgical processes during the remainder of the year. Refining of nickel-cobalt sulphides, utilizing an acid leach of the sulphides, began on June 16, 1955.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 2 of 5)



Leaching of concentrate started on May 24, 1954.  By June 19, the leach circuit was filled and by July 15 feed liquor was available for the metal recovery section.  On July 21, 1954, the first nickel metal was produced and met specifications.  The plant reached 90% of design capacity by the end of 1954 and operated at design capacity during 1955.

Ongoing Development of the Ammonia Leach Process

Through the years, as feed sources to the refinery changed and developments were made and implemented, the configuration of the leach stages and autoclaves was altered many times.  However, the basic function and operation of the ammonia leach has remained remarkably constant.  The dissolution of metal values combined with the simultaneous oxidation of sulphur forms the basis for the chemistry of the ammonia leach.

In the ammonia leach nickel, cobalt, copper and zinc are leached into solution.  Iron, if present in reactive form, upon dissolution is immediately hydrolysed and precipitated as hydrated iron oxide.  The iron oxide tailings are removed by thickening and filtration and discarded.  Sulphur chemistry is complex, as sulphur may exist as any of several intermediate oxidation states as well as the fully oxidized ammonium sulphate and sulphamate.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 1 of 5)


The Beginning

In July 1927, Sherritt Gordon Mines Limited was incorporated, and named after Carl Sherritt and the Gordon family.  Carl Sherritt was an American citizen who worked as a teamster on the construction of the Hudson’s Bay railroad.  He later became a trapper and prospector and staked copper prospects in the Cold Lake area of Manitoba.  J. Peter Gordon was a civil engineer who also worked on the railroad construction and later became interested in mining developments in the area.

The formation of the company was largely due to the efforts of Eldon Brown, a young mining engineer, with the financial backing of Thayer and Halstead Lindsley and the Gordon family (1).

The Discovery of Nickel at Lynn Lake

In 1941, a Sherritt Gordon prospector named Austin McVeigh sampled an outcrop of sulphide-bearing rock near Lynn Lake that assayed 1.5% nickel and 1.0% copper (2).  It was wartime and Sherritt Gordon could neither afford the men nor the equipment necessary to stake and drill the area.  The discovery was kept secret until after the war.

In the summer of 1945, McVeigh started staking in a six mile square area which covered all of the known magnetic anomalies and McVeigh’s original nickel-copper find.  A diamond drill was flown in but drilling on the strongest magnetic anomalies found only magnetite.  In September, the drill was moved to test several weak magnetic anomalies close to Lynn Lake and by the end of the month, an intersection with good ore grade had been made.

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