‘Ramaphoria’ Evaporates as Reality Sets In for South Africa – by Robert Brand and Colleen Goko (Bloomberg News – August 16, 2018)


If there were any doubts that the euphoria following Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as president of South Africa has worn off, this week’s slump in the rand has removed them.

The currency has plunged to a level last seen when Jacob Zuma was still in charge, having retreated from a three-year high against the dollar amid a toxic cocktail of negative economic news, political risks and falling commodity prices. An investor retreat from emerging markets has accelerated its slide of almost 10 percent against the dollar this month.

When Ramaphosa took over as president in February, he promised to stimulate growth and attract investment, fix the finances of state-owned enterprises, and root out the corruption that marked Zuma’s administration. Continue Reading →

Canada needs to focus on infrastructure in the North, Nunavut tells ministers’ conference – by Michelle Pucci (CBC News North – August 15, 2018)


Ministers responsible for energy and mining across Canada wrap up meetings in Iqaluit

Canada says it wants to increase mining and development in the North, as discussed at a conference in Iqaluit this week, but Nunavut is calling for better infrastructure to make it happen.

Ministers responsible for energy and mining from across the country met in Iqaluit for the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference from Aug. 12 to 14.

Delegates from across Canada, except Ontario and Saskatchewan, came to an agreement that natural resources industries need to be more competitive globally while also considering environmental sustainability and ecosystems in the Arctic that are vulnerable to climate change. Continue Reading →

UPDATE 1-Russian miners explore payment schemes eschewing dollar – by Polina Ivanova (Reuters U.S. – August 15, 2018)


MOSCOW, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Two of Russia’s biggest mining companies said on Wednesday they were investigating rouble-based payments schemes, amid calls from Moscow to reduce the role of the U.S. dollar in Russian trade and so limit the impact of U.S. sanctions.

The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia favoured bilateral trade with all countries in their national currencies, rather than the dollar, but that the idea needed detailed work before being implemented.

Russia’s Norilsk Nickel, which vies with Brazil’s Vale SA to be the world’s biggest nickel producer and is the world’s top palladium producer, said on Wednesday it was discussing the possibility of settling payments in roubles with foreign customers that had signalled their readiness for such an arrangement. Continue Reading →

Metals Poisoned by Turkey Contagion as Copper Nears Bear Market – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – August 15, 2018)


From Turkey’s financial crisis to China’s trade war, the emerging-market contagion is infecting metal markets.

Base metal markets tumbled on Wednesday, with most contracts falling more than 2 percent in London. Copper sank below $6,000 a metric ton and is now approaching a bear market. Not even gold, the usual safe haven, was spared from the selloff. Bullion prices sank 0.7 percent to $1,186 an ounce. Natural resource shares were also in the red.

“It’s going to be difficult to shake this bearish sentiment,” Nicholas Snowdon, a metals analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said by phone from London. “When you look at the broad selloff across metals, the key drivers are clearly macro factors.” Continue Reading →

Yukon safe, possibly filled with treasure, unearthed in Gold Rush capital – by Tristin Hopper (National Post – August 15, 2018)


A crew in Dawson City, Yukon, was digging what is delicately termed a “lifting station” — essentially, a pumping facility designed to move the community’s human waste from one place to another.

Until, an excavator struck something with a clang. “Two metres deep, they hit something hard and metallic,” said Mark Dauphinee, the town’s public works superintendent.

Digging up strange things is relatively common for Dawson City work crews. The community owes its existence to buried gold, of course, but the region is also home to a rich trove of Ice Age fossils. A uniquely pungent aroma wafting over a work site is often all that’s needed for crews to realize that they stumbled upon the long-buried carcass of a prehistoric horse. Continue Reading →

Commentary: Nickel is dancing to a new electric (vehicle) beat – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – August 15, 2018)


LONDON (Reuters) – The world used almost 2.2 million tonnes of nickel last year. Around two thirds of that metal was absorbed by the stainless steel industry, which uses it as a key alloying agent.

Stainless steel production has been booming. Global output rose by 5.8 percent last year and accelerated by another 9.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum.

This has been good news for nickel. The International Nickel Study Group (INSG) estimates that global first-use nickel usage jumped by 7.8 percent last year and by another 9.7 percent in the first five months of this year. Continue Reading →

Massive Barrick-Novagold gold mine project in Alaska receives key U.S. environmental permits – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – August 15, 2018)


Barrick Gold Corp. and Novagold Resources Inc. have been given a key governmental green light to build a massive new gold mine in Alaska, but uncertain economics amid a weakening gold price mean it’s unclear whether the capital-intensive project will ever see the light of day.

In a joint release, Barrick and its junior joint-venture partner Novagold said that they had received a number of U.S. federal government environmental permits that would pave the way for the development of the Donlin Gold project, which the duo first teamed up on more than a decade ago.

Donlin, in southwestern Alaska, is one of the world’s biggest undeveloped gold projects with 39 million ounces of gold held in the economically uncertain “resources” category. Continue Reading →

Canada eyes unprecedented safeguard tariffs on steel imports – by Naomi Powell (Financial Post – August 15, 2018)


HAMILTON — Finance Minister Bill Morneau is launching formal consultations on whether to impose unprecedented trade measures to block a surge of steel imports diverted into Canada because of U.S. tariffs.

Morneau, who said an import surge has already been detected, announced Tuesday a 15-day consultation period during which he will evaluate possible safeguards on seven steel products, including plate, concrete reinforcing bar used in construction, hot-rolled sheet, wire rod and tubes for the energy industry.

If the consultations provide evidence of harm or threat of harm to producers, the federal government will impose immediate provisional safeguards to shield the industry while the issue is referred to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) for inquiry. Continue Reading →

Opening the lid on North Korea’s untapped mineral reserves – by Heidi Vella (Mining Technology – August 15, 2018)


Landmark discussions between the US and North Korea have led to speculation that the latter’s mineral riches, estimated to be worth around $6tn, could soon be within reach. But what do we know about mining in the secretive, dictatorial nation, and how accurate are the resource estimations?

The world watched in awe in June as US President Donald Trump shook hands and co-signed a ‘de-nuclearisation’ agreement in Singapore with Kim Jong Un, the infamous supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The historic meeting of the formerly hostile nations immediately raised hopes that Jong Un will, finally, end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, paving the way for an end to international sanctions against the country. As peace glimmered delicately on the horizon, attention turned to the economic opportunities a denuclearised North Korea could offer, particularly for the mining sector. Continue Reading →

Mining in the UK and Ireland is well and truly alive – by Joshua Warner (IG Group Limited – August 15, 2018)


Joshua Warner is a London, U.K. Market Analyst.

The mining industry in the UK and Ireland may be past its prime, but there are still a number of new and revitalised mines being developed, both big and small. The coal pits may have closed and the industry we once knew may have gone, but mining remains well and truly alive.

‘If you can’t grow it, it has to be mined,’ – an old mining truism.

The UK and Ireland have a rich history of mining. The industrial revolution was fuelled by vast deposits of coal and iron and when underground mining was at its peak between the middle of the 19th century until the early part of the 20th century the UK was not only self-sufficient in many minerals and metals but also a world-leading producer of several crucial materials.

Over 35 different commodities have been extracted from the UK, with the mining industry resonating with several regions, including but not limited to, tin and copper in Cornwall and West Devon, ochre and iron ore in the Forest of Dean, and limestone in Staffordshire. 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 →

Threat of Contagion in Emerging Markets Deepens Commodity Risk – by Javier Blas (Bloomberg News – August 14, 2018)


When Thailand devalued its currency two decades ago, few in global commodity markets took note. Within a year, the crisis morphed into an emerging-market rout that eviscerated the price of everything from crude oil to copper.

Fast forward to today and Turkey is presenting a similar challenge. The lira plunged to a record low against the dollar this month, taking local stocks and bonds with it.

Commodity markets have failed to react, with even gold unmoved by the chaos. Traders are focused more on Iranian sanctions, South American mine strikes and drought damage to crops, all of which point to higher, not lower, raw-material prices. Continue Reading →

Commentary: Gold’s tentative positive China, India signals blown away by Trump, Turkey – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – August 14, 2018)


LAUNCESTON, Australia (Reuters) – Gold bulls must be wondering what needs to happen for them to catch a break, as recent positive demand numbers from top consumers India and China were blown away by the crisis gripping Turkey.

Spot gold dropped to as low as $1,191.35 an ounce during Monday’s trade, the lowest since January 2017 and taking the precious metal’s year-to-date loss to around 8.4 percent.

The latest travail for gold is to be found in Turkey’s currency crisis, which saw the lira plummet as much as 18 percent against the U.S. dollar on Aug. 10, taking its losses for the year to more than 40 percent. Continue Reading →

Why are German coal workers so powerful, when there are so few? – by Felix Heilmann (Climate Home News – August 14, 2018)


The German energy transition has long been seen as one of the world’s most ambitious and effective undertakings in the fight against climate change, and the country has widely been praised as a climate leader.

And Germany has indeed achieved significant progress: public and private investments in renewables have helped drive down costs of clean technologies and the share of renewables in the country’s electricity mix has quickly grown to over 40%.

Recently, however, German climate policy has been subject to international criticism. Former US vice-president Al Gore has warned Germany risks being “left behind” as other countries outpace the former energy transition leader. Continue Reading →

Why something as seemingly minute as sand is as critical to modern life as cells are to the human body – by Vince Beiser (National Post – August 11, 2018)


Sand has been used for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 15th century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into fully transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution.

But at the dawn of the 20th century, almost all of the world’s large structures — apartment blocks, office buildings, churches, palaces, fortresses — were still made with stone, brick, clay, or wood. The tallest buildings stood fewer than ten stories high. Roads were mostly paved with broken stone, IF at all. Glass in the form of windows or tableware was a relatively rare and expensive luxury.

The mass manufacture and deployment of concrete and glass changed all that, reshaping how and where people lived in the industrialized world. Decades later, digital technology, powered by silicon chips and other sophisticated hardware made with sand, began reshaping the global economy in ways gargantuan and quotidian. Continue Reading →