MINING.COM No 1 source of global mining news and opinion Mon, 15 Apr 2024 04:06:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MINING.COM 32 32 Illegal workers arrested at Posco Argentina operation Sun, 14 Apr 2024 19:42:18 +0000 Argentina’s National Migrations Directorate, National Labour Directorate and Federal Police carried out an operation in the northwestern Salta province that ended up with 15 people arrested for working illegally for Posco Argentina, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Posco. 

The illegal workers had entered Argentina under tourist visas and started working for the mining company at the Güemes Industrial Park.

Together with Canada’s Lithium South Development, Posco is developing the Hombre Muerto lithium project. Phosphate from Hombre Muerto is transported by train to a plant in Güemes for processing. 

Following the arrests, the Asian miner issued a statement saying that the company did not directly employ the workers as they were subcontractors. 

“It is important to emphasize that all of them entered lawfully and had no criminal record,” the communiqué reads. “Sanctions will be applied to any contracting company that does not comply with regularizing the situation of its employees. It is important to clarify that all direct personnel of Posco Argentina work in compliance with the laws and regulations of the country. The company’s actions are guided by the highest ethical and legal standards, which is why we deeply regret this situation.”

In response to Posco, the Salta Chamber of Mining Companies Suppliers (Capemisa) released a statement saying its members support all the controls and inspections carried out by authorities as laws must be complied with at the national, provincial and municipal levels. 

Capemisa used the opportunity to make some observations related to the way the province’s mining industry is operating. 

“Lately, foreign companies win tenders quoted at lower values than their real costs to not pay taxes in the country. They are also notorious for pretending to be local, using partners who clearly do not even have a mining background nor the ability to perform mining work or who act as proxies to pretend to be a local company,” the release states. “These irregularities were reported on different occasions to the relevant authorities because they cause serious damage, ruining Salta companies that fairly compete by paying taxes in the country and employing regular workers.”

The Chamber’s document says that its members are open to working with authorities and mining companies to implement a supplier and tender valuation system similar to what exists in Chile so that this type of situation doesn’t happen again. 

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New electrolyte component allows for safe, high-performance solid-state batteries Sun, 14 Apr 2024 13:57:00 +0000 A recently discovered, stable and highly conductive lithium-ion conductor in the form of a pyrochlore-type oxyfluoride has been found to address the need for non-sulphide solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries, offering higher conductivity and stability and paving the way for advanced all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries with improved performance and safety.

All-solid-state lithium-ion batteries with solid electrolytes are non-flammable and have higher energy density and transference numbers than those with liquid electrolytes. However, solid electrolytes have lower Li-ion conductivity and pose challenges in achieving adequate electrode-solid electrolyte contact. 

While sulphide-based solid electrolytes are conductive, they react with moisture to form toxic hydrogen disulphide. Therefore, there’s a need for non-sulphide solid electrolytes that are both conductive and stable in air to make safe, high-performance, and fast-charging solid-state Li-ion batteries.

This is where the discovery comes in.

Published in the journal Chemistry of Materials, the finding resulted from a collaboration between Kenjiro Fujimoto, a professor at Tokyo University of Science, and Shuhei Yoshida from Denso Corp. 

“Making all-solid-state lithium-ion secondary batteries has been a long-held dream of many battery researchers. We have discovered an oxide solid electrolyte that is a key component of all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries, which have both high energy density and safety. In addition to being stable in air, the material exhibits higher ionic conductivity than previously reported oxide solid electrolytes,” Fujimoto said. 

Suitable for airplanes

The pyrochlore-type oxyfluoride studied in this work underwent structural and compositional analysis using various techniques, including X-ray diffraction, Rietveld analysis, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry, and selected-area electron diffraction. Specifically, it was developed, demonstrating a bulk ionic conductivity of 7.0 mS cm⁻¹ and a total ionic conductivity of 3.9 mS cm⁻¹ at room temperature. This is higher than the lithium-ion conductivity of known oxide solid electrolytes. The activation energy of ionic conduction of this material is extremely low, and the ionic conductivity of this material at low temperatures is one of the highest among known solid electrolytes, including sulphide-based materials.

Even at –10°C, the new material has the same conductivity as conventional oxide-based solid electrolytes at room temperature. Furthermore, since conductivity above 100 °C has also been verified, the operating range of this solid electrolyte is –10 °C to 100 °C. Conventional lithium-ion batteries cannot be used at temperatures below freezing. Therefore, the operating conditions of lithium-ion batteries for commonly used mobile phones are 0 °C to 45 °C.

Unlike existing lithium-ion secondary batteries, oxide-based all-solid-state batteries have no risk of electrolyte leakage due to damage and no risk of toxic gas generation as with sulphide-based batteries. Therefore, this innovation is anticipated to lead future research. 

“The newly discovered material is safe and exhibits higher ionic conductivity than previously reported oxide-based solid electrolytes. The application of this material is promising for the development of revolutionary batteries that can operate in a wide range of temperatures, from low to high,” Fujimoto said. “We believe that the performance required for the application of solid electrolytes for electric vehicles is satisfied.”

Notably, the new material is highly stable and will not catch fire if damaged. 

According to the researchers, it is suitable for airplanes and other places where safety is critical. It is also suitable for high-capacity applications, such as electric vehicles, because it can be used under high temperatures and supports rapid recharging. Moreover, it is also a promising material for the miniaturization of batteries, home appliances, and medical devices.

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Elder hurt in clash between Argentinian Indigenous community, police over mining project Sun, 14 Apr 2024 12:35:00 +0000 Representatives from the Peñas Negras Indigenous community, in northwestern Argentina, clashed with heavily armed police officers who were escorting Elevado Gold personnel up the Alto de Salle hill, in the Catamarca province.

The hill, situated more than 4,000 metres above sea level north of the department of Belén, almost borders the province of Salta and hosts the Alto El Mulato mining project.

As the executives from the Australian miner and the police were heading up, residents blocked the way, arguing that the project was moving forward without their free, prior and informed consent.

They rejected the fact that the Catamarca Mining Ministry renewed the company’s exploration permit, even though the community agreed in a public assembly that it would not consent to the mining project.

As the skirmish was taking place, the Belén public prosecutor, Marina Villagra, ordered the provincial police to take action. They shot the protesters with rubber bullets and severely hurt 80-year-old resident Félix Escalante.

According to local media, this is not the first confrontation between police and Peñas Negras residents.

On March 27, the local chief, Sebastián Gutiérrez, and other community members took the complaint to the Belén Prosecutor’s Office. They exposed a series of violent situations they have been victims of and said that both police and people from other communities hired by the company visit the area regularly to confront and harass them, as well as to destroy their property and steal their farm animals.

The chief also said that he requested a hearing with the Catamarca Security Secretariat but received no response.

“We denounce that the Province is complicit in this violent situation that the Indigenous Community of Peñas Negras is enduring,” a communiqué issued by the local leaders reads. “Our rights to prior, free and informed consultation and self-determination are being disrespected.”

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Glencore tussles with farmers in Australian court over carbon storage plan Fri, 12 Apr 2024 23:10:00 +0000 Australian farmers are taking mining giant Glencore (LSE: GLEN) to federal court to block a carbon capture and storage plan they say will pollute an underground water reservoir a fifth the size of the country.

Glencore says its injection plan from a coal power plant is food-grade carbon dioxide, similar to that found in soft drinks, to depths of more than 2.3 km. The Swiss company’s plan already has approval in a 2022 government decision and the backing of independent research groups.

Queensland-based group AgForce contends its thousands of members can’t afford damage to a reservoir they depend on for watering cattle and crops. It filed papers in a Brisbane federal court on Thursday. The case, which may be heard in August, could be AgForce’s final attempt after previous disappointment at the state level, organizers said.

“We as farmers and agriculturalists know and understand the immense value of water,” AgForce president Georgie Somerset said in a release. “That’s why we can’t understand why anyone would propose to put that at risk – and our food security along with it.”

The case, which pits environmentalists against a plan to fight climate change, may create interest for projects as far away as Canada and the United States. Carbon injections have been a part of the oil and gas industry for decades and mining companies are searching for ways to reduce emissions. Alberta and Texas, home to the fossil fuel industry and burgeoning areas for lithium operations that may reinject brine, also have huge agribusiness sectors.

Coal plant

The carbon from a Glencore coal plant in Queensland is to be liquefied. Initially it will be 330,000 litres before the program increases. The groundwater at the site is already unsuitable to drink because of fluoride levels, the company said.

“The aquifer we’ve identified contains non-potable water with fluoride levels six times above the safe drinking level and is not used by any agricultural producer within a 50-km radius,” Glencore says in talking points about the process. “Our project has been reviewed by expert third-party institutions,” it said, “who concluded that the impacts would be local and minor.”

The groups include Australia’s Government Independent Expert Scientific Committee, the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a government scientific research agency. The project’s Environmental Impact Statement is available here.

Glencore has said it wants to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for its industrial assets by a quarter by the end of 2030. Its company, Carbon Transport & Storage, heads the efforts in Queensland.

Freshwater resource

The Great Artesian Basin, where the carbon would be pumped, ranges mostly over Queensland and Northern Territory in north central Australia. It’s one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world, according to the Queensland Farmers’ Federation. The reservoir generates about A$13 billion in value annually to the national economy and is vital for 180,000 people, 7,600 businesses and 120 towns.

“The absence of state and federal policy on this matter is appalling,” federation CEO Jo Sheppard said in the AgForce release. “Both levels of government need to respond to the unified concerns of community and industry to act immediately.”

The farmers say there is scientific evidence that carbon dioxide reacts with underground rock, releasing stored toxins including arsenic and lead that make it unsafe.

Glencore says that’s misleading. The mobilization of trace metals already contained in the geology due to carbon dioxide storage is minor and localized, which is described in the project’s environmental impact statement, it said.

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Video: Tudor Gold discovers ‘Brucejack-style’ supercell at Treaty Creek’s Goldstorm Fri, 12 Apr 2024 23:00:00 +0000 Tudor Gold’s (TSXV: TUD) Goldstorm deposit in British Columbia surprised geologists with a high-grade structure called a ‘supercell’ when it updated the resource statement in February, CEO Ken Konkin says in a new video.

“It’s very similar to the tectonic, structural corridor that we discovered at Brucejack,” said Konkin, who helped discover the nearby deposit, now one of the province’s biggest producers.

“This is something that’s got three holes through it; some of the grades are 21 grams gold over 4.5 metres, with nice fine-grain visible gold – very good homogeneous distribution,” Konkin told The Northern Miner’s western editor, Henry Lazenby.

Goldstorm, part of the Treaty Creek project,now hosts 730.2 million tonnes indicated, grading 1.19 grams per tonne for 27.9 million oz. of metal, made up of 21.7 million oz. gold, 128.7 million oz. silver and 2.9 billion lb. copper.

Tudor Gold plans to roll out a preliminary economic assessment for the deposit later this year, Konkin said during last month’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto.

Watch the full interview below.

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SolGold reaches deal with Ecuador on Cascabel development, financing Fri, 12 Apr 2024 17:21:02 +0000 SolGold (LON: SOLG) said on Friday it had reached an agreement with the Ecuadorian government covering “certain financial terms and conditions”, along with a 33-year renewable permit to develop a copper, gold and silver mine at its Cascabel concession.

While the announcement clears up doubts about the project’s future, which SolGold even considered selling, it did not include any specifics related to the terms and conditions of the deal.

A recently updated feasibility study (PFS) for Cascabel showed the project could be developed for nearly $1 billion less than originally planned. 

Pre-production capital used for initial mine development, first process plant module and infrastructure is now estimated at $1.55 billion, compared to $2.75 billion from the PFS issued in April 2022.

The 2024 study incorporated a phased development strategy, which SolGold says can substantially reduce the initial capital expenditure and optimize project development by gradually scaling up operations. Post-production costs, however, will be higher at $2.57 billion.

Cascabel will begin with a ramp-up period of about two years, following which the initial block cave will achieve a production rate of 12 million tonnes per annum, extracting high-grade ore averaging approximately 1.45% copper-equivalent for the first 10 years of production.

Mining operations will then double to a production rate of 24 million tonnes per annum in year 6. The Phase 2 mill expansion is expected to be entirely funded from project cash flow, SolGold has said.

The company believes that Cascabel has the potential to become one of the 20 largest copper-gold mines in South America. Mine construction is set to start in 2025.

It’s estimated that the global copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.

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The big crunch is here as copper decouples from market cycles, Bank of America says Fri, 12 Apr 2024 15:26:00 +0000 Copper is increasingly ‘dancing to its own tune’, with prices of the red metal forecast to reach about $12,000 per tonne by 2026, say Bank of America analysts.

BofA analysts are tracking an energy transition and technology-driven decoupling of the metal from traditional commodity markets and broader economic cycles. Tight copper mine supply is increasingly constraining refined production, the bank said, adding the lack of mine projects is finally starting to affect markets, according to Michael Widmer, a commodity strategist and co-author of an April 8 report.

“The pronounced lack of new mine projects has begun to bite, constraining refined copper production and spotlighting years of underinvestment in copper exploration and development,” Widmer wrote.

The tension between demand and supply, coming as capital costs at mines rise while copper prices are slower to catch up, leads to significant price projections and concerns over the metal’s availability for essential technologies in the near term. The bank’s price forecast reflects the severity of the supply constraint amidst rising demand.

BofA’s projected copper supply-demand balance through 2026.

BofA forecasts a market deficit of 324,000 tonnes this year, growing to 743,000 tonnes by 2026.

Copper prices surged over 15% in the past two months to reach $9,419.50 per tonne on April 8, near a 15-month high, following mine disruptions that closed refined-copper capacity at Chinese smelters. These smelters contribute to more than half of the global supply. The metal was trading at $9,363 per tonne on Thursday.

Copper reached a record on the LME in May 2021 at $10,747.50 per tonne amid strong Chinese demand and covid-19 supply disruptions.

Despite potential supply constraints, the demand for copper remains strong, fuelled by investments in green technologies, a rebounding global economy, restocking efforts, and possible rate cuts.

The red metal’s importance in renewable energy technologies, EVs, and infrastructure development makes it indispensable in the global shift toward sustainability. Copper’s centre-stage role further worsens the impact of any supply limitations, the analyst said.

As a major player in the copper market, BofA warns that China’s investment decisions, particularly with green technologies, significantly impact global copper demand. The report highlights the risk of China reducing its green investments, which could ease the demand side of the equation but still leaves the overarching issue of supply constraints, Widmer says.

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Safe-haven demand lifts gold price to $2,400, silver price to 3-year high Fri, 12 Apr 2024 13:08:22 +0000 Gold reached another milestone on Friday by surpassing $2,400 an ounce for the first time ever, as support for safe haven assets remains firm on rising tensions in the Middle East.

Spot gold hit a record high $2,400.59 per ounce during the early trading hours, before pulling back to $2,395.44 per ounce for a 0.9% gain by 8:45 a.m. EDT.

Three-month US gold futures also jumped 1.7% at $2,413.30 per ounce in New York.

The surge follows reports that Israel is preparing for an assault from Iran in the next two days, in retaliation for its strike on the country’s diplomatic compound in Syria last week.

The underlying reason, as explained in a post on X by Bloomberg columnist Mohamed A. El-Erian, is that investors find gold to be a better hedge against geopolitical risk than government bonds.

Bullion has been on a tear in recent weeks, rising by nearly 20% since mid-February. Alongside safe-haven demand for the metal, purchases by central banks have also played a big part in its rise.

Traders have also been assessing the scope for rate cuts from the Federal Reserve in 2024, although still-strong inflation prints from the US have recently muddied that outlook.

Still, the longer-term outlook for gold remains optimistic, with Swiss bank UBS leading the way with a $2,500 an ounce prediction.

Another beneficiary of gold’s rally is its sister metal silver, which traded at the highest since February 2021. At press time, the metal was up 2.7% to $29.28 per ounce.

(With files from Bloomberg)

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Most Australians don’t want speedy transition toward clean energy Fri, 12 Apr 2024 13:06:00 +0000 Most Australians support the country’s transition towards a clean energy power grid but don’t want aggressive change. 

A recent survey conducted by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, found that most people in the country support a move towards an energy system that relies more on renewables but 47% prefer a moderate-paced and 13% a slow-paced transition scenario. Faster and more extensive change was the choice for 40% of respondents.

In terms of priorities, 82% of surveyed Australians listed energy affordability among their top three concerns, whether or not they were struggling to pay bills. 

Most Australians don’t want speedy transition toward clean energy
(Source: CSIRO).

Looking at the type of clean energy projects they would support, 88% of people said they would tolerate living near a solar farm. This shows an attitude change compared to a similar poll conducted in 2020 when 95% of respondents would agree to reside close to solar infrastructure. 

When it comes to wind power, more than 80% of respondents said they would at least tolerate living near a wind farm. However, those living in proposed offshore wind farm regions were more likely to reject living near them. 

Acceptance of living near associated transmission lines was lower than other forms of renewable energy infrastructure, with 23% of people rejecting it and 77% at least tolerating it.  

The study was conducted in all states and territories, across capital cities and regional areas, between August and September 2023, and over 6,700 people were surveyed. 

Overall, responses were similar between metropolitan and regional communities. However, people living out of town in regional areas were more negative towards the transition. 

“The survey showed that most Australians supported the energy transition, but opinions varied about the rate and extent of change. Many Australians held generally moderate attitudes towards living near renewable energy infrastructure, suggesting a broad willingness to support, or at least tolerate, the development of solar farms, onshore and offshore wind farms, and associated transmission line infrastructure,” senior social scientist on the project, Andrea Walton, said in a media statement.

“What this survey indicates is that when people believe that a piece of infrastructure has an important role in the energy transition, they’re much more likely to accept it.” 

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Orla Mining to take Panama to arbitration court Fri, 12 Apr 2024 13:03:00 +0000 Canada’s Orla Mining (TSX: OLA)(NYSE: ORLA) is mulling taking the Panamanian government to an arbitration court following the country’s rejection of a permit extension request for each of the three mining concessions that make up the company’s Cerro Quema gold project.

The Vancouver-based miner said it had notified authorities of its intentions with the hope the move would open the door to talks between the parties.

“If these consultations are not successful, the company expects to file a formal request for arbitration under the FTA late in the second quarter 2024,” Orla said in the statement.

The company said its “preference is a constructive resolution with the government of Panama that results in a positive outcome for all stakeholders.”

The country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry in December not only rejected the permits extension — it went as far as to declare the area comprising the concessions to be a reserve area, revoking them altogether.

Orla said the cancellations were a result of a law passed by Panama’s national assembly in November, which imposed a moratorium on granting, renewing or extending concessions for metal mining activities. 

The miner, which also has assets in Mexico and in the US state of Nevada, said that the notice of intent to arbitrate was filed under the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Cerro Quema’s development considers open pit mining of 21.7 million tonnes of ore from the La Pava and Quema-Quemita pits. The operation, planned to be built in multiple phases, is estimated to be able to produce 81,000 ounces of gold over an estimated six-year mine life.

During the construction stage, Orla estimates that it would generate 3,600 direct and indirect jobs and 1,200 during operations.

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Mining People: 1911 Gold, Osprey, Traction Uranium, Aris, Great Eagle Gold, Lucapa Fri, 12 Apr 2024 12:52:00 +0000 Management changes announced this week:

1911 Gold welcomed new VP exploration Della Libera.

Aris Mining named Richard Orazietti as CFO and Oliver Dachsel as SVP capital markets.

Michael Swistun is the new president and CEO of Canadian Gold.

Great Eagle Gold secretary Gary Harbottle has added CFO to his duties.

Jane Banks has joined Lincon Strategic International, a global firm specializing in mining recruitment.   

Osprey Advanced Materials reported the death of co-founder Dale Schultz on April 3, 2024.

Traction Uranium named Paul Gorman interim CEO and a director.

Windshear Gold appointed Patricio Varas president.

Board changes:

Aurelius Minerals gave Grant Hall a seat on the board.

Headwater Gold named Fraser MacCorquodale a non-executive director.

Kore Mining named Barry Brandon a director.

Lucapa Diamond named ex-De Beers head Stuart Brown as chair.

Terry Krepiakevich joined the board of Sama Resources.

Ur-Energy appointed new board members John Paul Pressey and Elmer W. Dyke.

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CleanTech Lithium CEO steps down on shares-backed personal loan Fri, 12 Apr 2024 12:45:50 +0000 Chile-focused explorer and developer CleanTech Lithium (LON: CTL) accepted on Friday the resignation of its chief executive officer, Aldo Boitano, who was suspended earlier this week for failing to disclose a share-backed personal loan.

Between September 8, 2023 and February 6, 2024, Boitano transferred his entire holding of 9,400,002 shares to an unnamed lender. When questioned about it, CleanTech’s co-founder was unable to ascertain whether the shares may have been transferred to a further nominee account in the lender’s name or sold to third parties.

Executive chairman Steve Kesler will assume the role of chief executive until a new CEO is appointed, the company said.

Aldo resignation follows news that he was suspended earlier this week for failing to disclose a share-backed loan
Aldo Boitano. (Image: Clean Tech Lithium presentation.)

“We hold ourselves accountable to the highest governance policies, and the board has acted decisively and with the duty of care for all our stakeholders,” it said in the statement.

CleanTech Lithium is keeping Boitano as a consultant to assist the company in the process of applying for a special lithium operating contract (CEOL) to continue building relationships with the Chilean government and local communities. 

President Gabriel Boric’s administration introduced last year a national lithium strategy that requires companies to enter into partnerships with state-own entities, such as copper giant Codelco and national miner Enami. 

Public-private alliances are also needed for the other 26 lithium-rich salt flats, but in those areas the state will not be a controlling partner.

In both cases, companies need to be granted a CEOL, which will follow government-led public consultations with local communities.

Cleantech said it is updating its original application to meet the latest government guidelines.

Chile is the world’s top copper producer and the second-largest producer of lithium. Both metals are considered vital commodities for the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies.

Global demand for lithium, according to the country’s government projections, will quadruple by 2030, reaching 1.8 million tonnes. Available supply by then is expected to sit at 1.5 million tonnes. 

Chile expects at least four new lithium projects to be in production by 2026.

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Denarius sees quick restart for former Lundin nickel-copper mine in Spain Thu, 11 Apr 2024 17:55:54 +0000
Aguablanca nickel-copper mine in Spain. Credit: Denarius Metals

Denarius Metals (CBOE: DMET) has released a prefeasibility study that supports the reopening of its 50%-owned Aguablanca nickel-copper mine in Spain.

Last operated by Lundin Mining (TSX: LUN) until its closure in 2016, Aguablanca is located in the town of Monesterio, 88 km southwest from Denarius’s 50%-owned Lomero copper-zinc project. Denarius acquired the Aguablanca stake last year from its now joint venture partner RNR Shareholder group for about $27 million.

“The (prefeasiblity) confirms our decision late last year to invest in the Aguablanca project, one of the only deposits in Spain able to produce nickel and copper,” said Denarius chair and CEO Serafino Iacono in a release.

“By the end of this year, we will have restarted the processing plant, which has been maintained in good condition, and completed the preparation for underground contract mining to deliver the first production of nickel-copper concentrates in early 2025.”

The study gives the underground mine six years of life with an investment of $36.2 million. The net present value with a 5% discount is $83.1 million with an after-tax internal rate of return of 213% with payback occurring by the end of 2025. The pit is to be dewatered and mining begin from underground. Denarius plans to use half of the mill’s capacity for Aguablanca, and half to treat ore from Lomero.

At long-term nickel and copper prices of $7.30 per lb. and $3.50 per lb., respectively, total life of mine undiscounted after-tax project cash flow from mining operations amounts to $105.7 million.

“This is a relatively small, underground, low capital-intensive project with a robust economic profile,” Red Cloud Securities mining analyst Taylor Combaluzier wrote in a note to clients.

“We believe the (prefeasibility study) demonstrates that Aguablanca could be restarted with only modest capex, while returning a compelling after-tax NPV and IRR. We believe Denarius is well on its way to becoming a near-term (nickel-copper) producer, with production expected from Zancudo in H2/24 and from Aguablanca in early 2025.”

According to the study, Aguablanca could produce a total of 43.2 million lb. nickel and 34.6 million lb. copper plus gold, platinum, and palladium. All-inclusive sustaining costs per lb. of nickel are forecast at $4.04.

Denarius reports that it has several potential customers in Europe willing to take the concentrates from the mine. It owns its stake in Aguablanca through its Spanish subsidiary, Alto Minerals.

When mining ended, there remained measured and indicated resources of 6.4 million tonnes grading 0.63% nickel and 0.56% copper. There was also an indicated resource of 242,000 tonnes at 0.52% nickel and 0.42% copper.

The company holds other assets in Spain as well as its Zancudo gold-silver-lead-zinc project in Colombia.

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Mexico’s Supreme Court could strike down president’s mining reforms next week Thu, 11 Apr 2024 17:00:00 +0000 Once a popular destination for Canadian explorers, Mexico’s recent mining reforms are driving away investment — even as a looming Supreme Court decision is likely to toss out the new law, deemed by industry sources as unworkable.

The reforms introduced last May by President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (known by his initials as AMLO), require pre-consultation with communities before exploration, impact studies and cash bonds in case of damage that junior explorers may find difficult to raise. Authorities can cancel exploration concessions after two years if no work is completed and critics say water allowances have become harder to get. AMLO has also nationalized the country’s still-developing lithium sector and proposed a ban on open pit mining.

“If you plot a graph of the discoveries and production of gold and silver in Mexico, it starts a very rapid upward climb year on year from 1992, when they opened up exploration to foreign companies. And now, what you’re seeing is a cliff,” the chief executive of a mid-tier silver mining company operating in the country told The Northern Miner. “And we’re going over the cliff because no one’s doing exploration. You don’t have future mines if you don’t do exploration.”

Canadian companies accounted for up to $8 billion in exploration spending and 70% of foreign investment in Mexico’s mining sector between 2012 and 2022, according to figures from the country’s mining chamber, Camimex. They’re eyeing next week’s Supreme Court ruling like a traffic light for project exploration and development.

They’ve already been hard hit by AMLO’s mining reforms, Exploration Insights mining analyst Joe Mazumdarsaid.

“People with exploration assets in Mexico have a hard time getting funded,” he told The Northern Miner.

Mexico’s mining production was valued at $16.7 billion in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Camimex says the new law will cost the country $9 billion in investment and 420,000 jobs.

Mexico mining law expert Santiago Suarez Sevilla says over 500 constitutional challenges (Amparos) have been filed against the law, with the Supreme Court recently issuing new guidance walking back some of the reforms and, in some cases, grandfathering those filing an Amparo from enforcement of the new rules.

AMLO’s term ends in November, but his hand-picked successor Claudia Sheinbaum leads the polls ahead of an election scheduled for June. Sources were divided on what a win for her could mean for miners.

Given the regulatory uncertainty, several companies and investors The Northern Miner spoke to declined on-the-record interviews. That uncertainty affects not just individual companies but the economic ties between Mexico and Canada.

One senior executive of a gold-silver miner in Mexico says the political noise created by AMLO’s mining and other reforms has overshadowed traditional investment concerns in Mexico, such as the influence of drug cartels and violence.

Mining reforms

Mexico’s mining slowdown has been in the making for some time. Camimex says there has been a 51% fall in exploration investment to $72 million in 2022 from $1.2 billion in 2012 since fiscal reforms in 2013 removed tax incentives.

Since taking power in 2018, the AMLO administration has not granted any new concessions. And about a year ago, his Morena party shook miners when senators approved a new mining law in an accelerated late-night process that excluded opposition legislators.

Companies complain that the reforms have created disincentives for mineral exploration, introducing exploration and water resource management plans that amount to burdensome red tape, time, and money.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect for explorers is the stipulation that only the state can conduct greenfields exploration in partnership with the proponent. However, once a deposit has been proven, an open bidding process is still required, and the original proponent must match the highest bid to retain the concession.

That means there’s no security of tenure for exploration assets.

AMLO threw fuel on the fire in February, pushing a new constitutional amendment banning open-pit mining.

Such a decree could crush the sector since open pit mines generate more than 60% of Mexico’s mined production, Mazumdar says.

Top producers such as Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista del Cobre, Newmont’s (TSX: NGT; NYSE: NEM) Peñasquito, two of Fresnillo’s (LSE: FRES) gold-silver mines, and several others owned by Industrias Peñoles are open pit operations.

Mazumdar points out that the economics for many projects such as San Nicolas, a joint venture between Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A, TECK.B; NYSE: TECK) and Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM), are based on an open pit scenario. Agnico paid $580 million for half of the project last year.

GoGold Resources (TSX: GGD; US-OTC: GLGDF) has adapted its Los Ricos South gold-silver project to transition from a wholly open pit plan to underground mining initially. Other projects may never be developed if the open pit ban is implemented.

There are certain ironies to AMLO’s mining reforms. The apparent ban on open pit mines contrasts with the nationalization of lithium mining in Mexico early last year. Hard rock lithium mining is usually best suited for open pit, bulk mining methods.

One mining executive operating in Mexico noted the contradiction between populist AMLO’s advocacy for Indigenous and remote communities and his actions that undermine the mining sector.

Mines in Mexico, often located in remote areas, contribute to local development by building schools and hospitals, and providing job training and economic opportunities. Yet, AMLO’s policies are essentially “cutting the hand that feeds” the very people he claims to support.

Majority to pass

Law expert Sevilla points out that AMLO’s proposed constitutional reforms need the support of two-thirds of Congress for approval. The Morena party and its coalition hold 273 of the 334 votes required for a qualified majority in the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies. In the 128-seat Senate, they have secured 71 of the needed 84 votes.

“Following this trend, we believe it will be very difficult for Morena to reach the necessary majority to approve constitutional changes in this and the next period,” Sevilla said. “The new mining law is highly unlikely to survive a challenge of unconstitutionality, a fate that open-pit mining also faces.”

In the upcoming election, Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate for the ruling Morena party and its coalition, Let’s Keep Making History, is competing against Xóchitl Gálvez of the Broad Front for Mexico coalition.

Sources expect Sheinbaum to maintain the government’s hardline approach and the status quo. However, several see the potential for her to take a more moderate approach once in power, depending on how strong AMLO’s influence over her remains.

Though chances of forming a government are slim, the opposition is strongly pro-mining.

Camimex says, for its part, it is ready to work with the incoming government come November.

“As a business chamber and representatives of the mining industry in Mexico, we always maintain open channels of dialogue with the authorities with the aim of guiding and providing support in technical matters of public policies,” it said in a statement to The Northern Miner.

“We are currently working with the authorities to build communication bridges that allow them to learn about the best practices that the industry has.”

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Costco is selling up to $200 million of gold bars and silver coins every month Thu, 11 Apr 2024 16:20:32 +0000 Costco has been selling up to $200 million worth of gold bars and silver coins each month, according to a Wells Fargo analysis.

The warehouse started selling gold bars last year. Since then, online forums and Reddit threads have emerged where customers exchange advice on how to buy the bars before they run out of stock.

Costco is selling one-ounce, 24-karat gold bars, according to its online store. It has also increased the maximum number of bars that can be purchased at once from two bars per customer when the product was first introduced to now allowing five bars per customer.

As of Thursday, the bars were sold out for members online. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that shoppers purchased them for around $2,000 in December.

Costco has also been selling silver coins, advertised as 99.9% pure silver, since January, according to an analyst report from Wells Fargo.

The growing sales have followed a surge in the gold price. The metal has registered all-time peaks for eight straight sessions, including $2,365.35 an ounce on Tuesday. Since mid-February, gold has gone up by nearly 17%.

Given its pricing and shipping costs, however, it’s likely a “very low-profit business at best,” analysts with Wells Fargo wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

“The reason that we looked at this is that it’s becoming a larger contributor to sales for them,” said Edward Kelly, managing director of equity research at Wells Fargo.

“It’s not that $100 or $200 million a month is a lot for Costco, but it’s new business and they didn’t have that business last year.”

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Flying Nickel updates Minago resource, including first PGM estimate Thu, 11 Apr 2024 16:06:50 +0000 Flying Nickel Mining (TSXV: FLYN) has provided an updated mineral resource estimate (MRE) for the company’s 100% owned Minago project in Manitoba that encompasses its first estimation for platinum group metals.

The MRE, prepared to CIM standards, displayed a total measured and indicated resource of 43.4 million tonnes grading 0.72% nickel, 0.2 g/t palladium and 0.09 g/t platinum, for 689.5 million lb. of nickel, 279,330 oz. of palladium and 125,700 oz. of platinum.

Flying Nickel CEO John Lee said this was an “outstanding MRE update” that had the project’s inaugural PGM resource as well as a 42% increase in the in-pit portion of the M&I nickel resource, which had nearly 36 million tonnes grading 0.67% nickel for 531.3 million lb. of contained metal.

Those two factors, Lee added, will be studied further in Minago’s ongoing feasibility study. “In a short time under Flying Nickel’s watch, the Minago project is now known for both its nickel and PGM endowment,” he noted.

The addition of PGM resources is based on assays before 2022, additional assays from the company’s 2022 drill program, as well as the 2023 assay program on historic drill cores. In total, 4,041 metres from 47 holes (drilled prior to 2021) were assayed for PGM in 2023.

This, according to the company, expanded on its existing PGM sample dataset that includes six holes and 1,320 metres of sampling completed by Flying Nickel in 2022 and 70 holes and 9,622 metres of sampling by previous operators.

The Minago project was most recently explored by Victory Nickel, which had been responsible for most of the activities on the property since the 2000s. In early 2021, Silver Elephant Mining (TSX: ELEF) bought the project and soon after spun it out to create Flying Nickel.

To date, about C$50 million has been spent on exploration, historical feasibility study and environmental permitting, most of which by Victory and Flying Nickel.

By midday Thursday, Flying Nickel’s stock had surged 12.5% to C$0.09 a share, for a market capitalization of C$7.9 million ($5.7m).

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G Mining’s Brazil gold mine construction near complete, on track for production in H2 Thu, 11 Apr 2024 13:32:27 +0000 G Mining Ventures (TSX: GMIN) reiterated on Thursday that its Tocantinzinho gold project in Brazil is still on track and on budget for commercial production for the second half this year.

Construction of the gold operation in Pará state, which began in fall of 2022, is currently at 89% completion, according to G Mining, with detailed engineering and procurement done and infrastructures commissioned. The remaining construction is focused on areas related to the mine’s processing plant.

The overall project itself is 87%, trending on time for commercial production in H2 2024 as the company had previously targeted.

Tocantinzinho is host to an open-pit gold deposit located on underexplored land covering nearly 1,000 sq. km. The property has direct access via 103 km of all-weather roads starting from the national highway, the BR-163, that links the industries in southern Brazil to the city of Belem in the north.

To date, G Mining has spent $433 million on the project and committed a further $16 million in expenditures. The total spending commitment of $449 million represents about 98% of the project total, and is tracking in line with the project’s feasibility study (FS).

According to the FS report from 2021, the Tocantinzinho gold project has an initial capital cost of $427 million and a life of mine sustaining capital of $71 million. Its after-tax net present value is pegged at $622 million (at 5% discount), with an internal rate of return of 24.2%.

Over a mine life of 10.5 years, Tocantinzinho is expected to produce 1.83 million oz. of gold, averaging 175,000 oz. per year. Over the first five years, annual gold production is expected to reach 196,000 oz. 

The next step towards production will be the plant commissioning activities, which are expected this month starting with primary crusher and ore reclaim system, the company said.

Shares of G Mining Ventures were up 0.9% at C$2.20 apiece in Toronto at market open, near the midpoint of its 52-week range of C$2.13-C$2.34. The company’s market capitalization is C$984.6 million ($720m).

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Project to turn hydrogen into a powder for easy export gets $3.2 million in funding Thu, 11 Apr 2024 13:06:00 +0000 A Curtin University project that proposes turning hydrogen into a powder so that it can be safely exported has been awarded A$5 million ($3.2 million) in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

Developed in partnership with Velox Energy Materials, the Kotai Hydrogen project will use a new method of hydrogen production and transportation developed by Curtin’s Hydrogen Storage Research Group (HSRG). 

“Our aim is to provide a circular hydrogen export value chain,” Craig Buckley, head of the HSRG, said in a media statement. “The initial research component of the project will feed into the commercial stage, where a pilot facility will be designed and built in Perth to evaluate the technology for large-scale production directly from renewable electricity.” 

Hydrogen has long been identified as a clean energy source, however, there are challenges in transporting it affordably and practically. One established method is using sodium borohydride powder as a carrier, however, it isn’t popular because the by-product left behind, known as sodium metaborate, has always been expensive to recycle. 

The HSRG research team is developing a new, renewable way of exporting hydrogen as a powder, which is safer and cheaper than other methods. Their chemical process and catalyst have the potential to quickly and cheaply revert sodium metaborate back to sodium borohydride, enabling it to be reused to transport hydrogen. 

“The lower costs attached to this method’s production and transport could make it potentially the cheapest means of exporting hydrogen from Australia,” Buckley said. “This method could play a part in meeting the rapidly rising global demand for Australian hydrogen.” 

Curtin and Velox Energy Materials will contribute an additional combined cash commitment toward the overall project. 

“We’re backing Australian technological innovation that helps build our clean industries and underpins our ambitions of becoming a renewable energy superpower,” ARENA’s chief executive officer, Darren Miller, said. “Through our strategic priorities, we have highlighted the importance of renewable hydrogen and low emissions metals growing to become a significant export industry. Innovation starts in the lab and we have the best minds taking our decarbonization efforts to the next level.” 

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Canada Nickel starts working on Crawford, eyes 2027 production Thu, 11 Apr 2024 12:39:00 +0000 Canada Nickel (TSX-V: CNC) has kicked off front end engineering design (FEED) at its flagship Crawford nickel project in northern Ontario, which it expects to bring into production in 2027.

Ausenco Engineering Canada, the engineering partner, will lead this development phase, which is planned to be finished by August. Data collected during the 2024 winter geotechnical program, which is nearing completion, will support FEED activities, Canada Nickel said.

“As we continue to successfully advance Crawford financing and permitting activities, we are confidently moving into this next phase of project development,” chief executive Mark Selby said.

Canada Nickel’s boss reiterated the company is aiming for a mine construction decision by mid-2025, with first production by the end of 2027.

The proposed operation will consist of two open pits complemented by an on-site mill, to be completed in two phases to allow for throughput ramp-up, the feasibility study showed. Total capital cost for the two phases is estimated at $3.5 billion.

Over a 41-year project life, total metal production is calculated at 3.54 billion lb. of nickel, 52.9 million lb. of cobalt, 490,000 oz. of palladium and platinum, 58 million tonnes of iron, and 6.2 million lb. of chromium.

Crawford’s feasibility study describes the use of conventional open-pit mining methods to extract 1,715 million tonnes of ore and 3,992 million tonnes of waste over a 33.5-year period. This time-frame includes 2.5 years of pre-stripping. 

Canada Nickel starts working on Crawford, eyes 2027 production
Entrance to the company’s flagship Crawford nickel-cobalt project. (Image courtesy of Canada Nickel.)

The company will use a mixed fleet of mining equipment for the open-pit, including 120-tonne-class backhoe excavators to load 40-tonne articulated trucks. Areas with sand and till footwall will be mined using 300-tonne electric face shovels to load 90-tonne trucks, Canada Nickel has said.

Peak production at Crawford nickel mine is expected in year 11, when autonomous trucks and remotely operated shovels are fully integrated into the operation. Canada Nickel counts the backing of top players in the mining and batteries markets. The Toronto-based miner attracted the interest of Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX, NYSE: AEM), Canada’s largest gold producer, which now owns 12% of Canada Nickel.

Also in January, the company secured an investment from South Korea’s Samsung SDI. Through this deal, the battery maker can earn a 8.7% in Canada Nickel as well as rights to 10% of the nickel-cobalt production from the Crawford project over its expected mine life.

Crawford hosts one of the world’s largest nickel resources, totalling 2.46 billion tonnes at 0.24% nickel for 13.3 billion pounds of contained nickel, according to its feasibility study. This pegged the project’s after-tax net present value (8% discount) at $2.6 billion and internal rate of return at 18.3%.

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Sibanye-Stillwater to axe 4,000 jobs in gold mines restructuring Thu, 11 Apr 2024 10:45:00 +0000 Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW)(NYSE: SBSW) said on Thursday that the planned reorganization of its four gold operations in South Africa could potentially impact 4,022 people — 3,107 employees and 915 contractors. 

The precious metals producer kicked off in October a business review at its gold mines in the home country, which revealed the need to address losses at Beatrix 1 shaft and Kloof 4 shaft. 

The precious metals producer noted Beatrix 1 has failed to achieve the planned production, while Kloof 4 shaft has been already shut. 

The planned move is in line with the Sibanye-Stillwater’s previous cost-cutting measures, that saw it axe jobs at all its platinum group metal (PGMs) operations, including those in the United States.

Prices for the main PGMs — platinum and palladium — plummeted by about 38% and 63%, respectively, in 2023.

The company has faced headwinds at its US operations beyond issues related to the price collapse of PGMs, used in catalysts that curb toxic vehicle emissions. Those mines have been affected by weather-related incidents, particularly flooding.

Job losses are also expected at the miner’s Kloof 2 plant, which has had insufficient processing material after the Kloof 4 shaft was closed last year, Sibanye-Stillwater added.

“We continue to act prudently to protect the balance sheet and ensure the sustainability of the Group. We are committed to constructively engaging with affected employees and through their representatives to minimize job losses,” chief executive Neal Froneman said in the statement.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s boss recently indicated his company is considering raising about $500 million through prepayment arrangements, such as metals streaming, to strengthen its cash position.

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Rio Tinto to invest $9.3 million in technology startups Wed, 10 Apr 2024 23:52:23 +0000 Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) said on Wednesday it is teaming up with a global venture studio and start-up investor to back the development and commercialisation of breakthrough technologies in the mining industry.

Rio will partner with Founders Factory and invest A$14.4 million ($9.3m) in global pre-seed and seed stage start-ups over the next three years, it said, adding that the focus will be on technologies in the fields of safe mine operations, decarbonization, exploration processing and automation.

Each start-up will receive a cash investment and participate in a four-month accelerator program run by Founders Factory to support product development and commercialization.

The Western Australian government has also partnered with Founders Factory to invest in nature-tech start-ups that preserve and restore nature and biodiversity.

The partnerships with Rio Tinto and the Western Australian government will support the first Australian hub of Founders Factory in Perth. The company currently operates in London, Johannesburg, Milan, Berlin, Bratislava, New York and Singapore.

“Technology has always been at the forefront of our industry and Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry,” Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said in the statement.

“With the backing of industry and the state government, local and international start-ups will receive investment opportunities and access to real-world testing and scaling support, helping Western Australia’s innovation economy to grow.”

“Securing the internationally renowned Founders Factory for Perth is a major coup for our state,” Western Australian Premier Roger Cook said. “This is the first time the tech accelerator has operated in Australia, providing a springboard for innovative local businesses to reach an international audience and maximize their chances of success.”

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The Metals Company names new board vice chairman Wed, 10 Apr 2024 23:32:05 +0000
Steve Jurvetson. Image from LinkedIn.

The Metals Company (Nasdaq: TMC) announced the Wednesday the appointment of Steve Jurvetson to its board of directors as vice chairman and his engagement as special advisor to the CEO.

For over 25 years, Jurvetson has been known for his early-stage venture investments in some of the world’s most impactful technology companies.

As co-founder and managing director of the venture capital Draper Fisher Jurvetson, he led the firm’s founding investments in several companies that had successful IPOs (Tesla, Planet Labs, D-Wave) and others that were acquired (Skype, Nervana, Hotmail), representing $800 billion of aggregate value creation.

In 2018, Jurvetson co-founded Future Ventures to focus on trailblazing, purpose-driven entrepreneurs with ideas that have the potential to reinvent entire industries — from nuclear fusion and space exploration to sustainable energy and AI.

As a former long-standing board member of Tesla and a current board member of SpaceX, Jurvetson brings a wealth of experience in helping companies navigate through high-uncertainty industry startup phase and transition to global scale and industry leadership.

At TMC, he will help guide the seafloor mining company through the next phase of growth as it seeks to harness the potential of deep-sea polymetallic nodules for the energy transition and wider global development.

“Steve Jurvetson is not just a legendary investor but a visionary with wide and deep-ranging curiosity,” TMC chief executive officer Gerard Barron said in a news release.

Whether it’s the world of bits or atoms, Steve has the uncanny ability to quickly get to simplicity on the other side of complexity,” Barron said. “He’s played a pivotal role in the growth of some of the greatest companies of our time and I am personally excited about the prospect of benefiting from his counsel on our challenging journey.”

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Two workers dead at Newmont’s Cerro Negro mine in Argentina Wed, 10 Apr 2024 23:02:46 +0000 Newmont (NYSE: NEM) confirmed on Wednesday that two members of its workforce died this week at the Cerro Negro mine located in the Santa Cruz region of Argentina.

Details regarding the cause of the death are currently under investigation. Both workers were part of the Newmont’s technical services team.

Mine activities have been suspended at Cerro Negro. Relevant authorities have been notified and a full investigation into the incident has begun, the world’s biggest gold miner said.

Additional information will be provided once available, and relevant learnings from the investigation will be embedded into Newmont’s safety standards, it added.

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NextSource stock jumps on lease agreement to build graphite plant in Mauritius Wed, 10 Apr 2024 20:08:17 +0000 NextSource Materials (TSX: NEXT) said on Wednesday it has signed a long-term lease agreement for a site in the Freeport Zone of Port-Louis to build its first battery anode facility (BAF) plant in Mauritius.

It has also integrated engineering improvements into the plant design and initiated the environmental permitting (EIA) process, the graphite miner said.

The news comes just days after NextSource submitted an application to build the facility to process graphite in the African island nation.

The plant will have capacity to produce 3,600 tonnes of battery-grade graphite a year, increasing to 14,400 tonnes after 2024, according to filings with the country’s government.

Set within an industrial environment, the site has logistics improvements over the previously leased site, including direct port access and a high-quality concrete structure requiring minimal modifications with sufficient space to expand the plant capacity in the future.

NextSource has pre-ordered process equipment with a production capacity of 3,600 tonnes per annum of spheronized and purified graphite (SPG) and coated SPG. The process equipment is currently being fabricated and assembled offshore and will be shipped to Mauritius once the EIA process is completed.

Graphite concentrate from the company’s Molo mine in Madagascar and equipment for a small-scale pilot line have already arrived at the site in order to prepare for production of samples for key OEM customers, said the company, adding that it is preparing an updated economic assessment for the site.

The quest to bring graphite projects to fruition has become more urgent since China announced in October it will require export permits for the kind of graphite used for electric vehicle batteries. Africa-mined graphite could help the car industry meet requirements under Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act, which encourages auto makers to be less reliant on Chinese components.

NextSource Materials’ stock was up over 12% in afternoon trading in Toronto. Shares were traded over 834,000 times, compared to an average daily volume of 81,198.

The Toronto-based company has a C$122 million ($89m) market capitalization.

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Video: Argo Digital Gold aims to shake up retail physical metal access Wed, 10 Apr 2024 18:13:38 +0000 A new investment platform called Argo Digital Gold, backed by the Sprott Family and SCP Resource Finance chair Peter Grosskopf, launched last month to transform how investors interact with gold, says president Michael Petch.

The platform aims to innovate precious metals investing with features like enhanced security, 24/7 trading, fractional ownership, and low, transparent fees, according to Petch, an experienced leader in digital assets and blockchain technology.

“We are setting our sights on providing seamless crypto-to-gold trading and to be on the leading edge of the tokenization of gold which will unlock powerful use-cases for this $5 trillion industry,” Petch told The Northern Miner’s western editor, Henry Lazenby, during last month’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto.

As Argo plans global expansion, Petch says the platform democratizes gold access, making gold investment more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.

Listen to the full interview below.

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Capstone Copper feeds first ore to new mill at Mantoverde Wed, 10 Apr 2024 17:35:49 +0000
One of the four new P&H electric rope shovels purchased for the Mantoverde development project in Chile. Credit: Capstone Copper

Capstone Copper (TSX: CS; ASX: CSC) has introduced the first ore to the new mineral processing plant at the Mantoverde development project in the Atacama region of Chile.

The project – including a new concentrator, tailings management facility, and doubled desalination plant – came in on budget at C$870 million.

Mantoverde is 70% owned by Capstone and 30% by Mitsubishi Materials.

John MacKenzie, Capstone’s CEO, said: “I am pleased with the progress to date as we work towards a safe and efficient ramp-up of the Mantoverde development project. In March we saw first ore through the grinding circuit, and we remain on track for first saleable concentrate during the second quarter of 2024.”

“Mantoverde is a transformational asset for Capstone, driving significant production growth and margin expansion across our portfolio,” he added.

The Mantoverde project consists of four open pits and the new 32,000 t/d mill. Together they will extend the life of the project to 2042. The mill will treat primarily sulphide ore, producing a 29.6% copper concentrate. Oxide ore will continue to be heap leached.

The existing solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) circuit, which has a capacity of 132.3 million lb. of copper annually, will remain in service.

Capstone is planning a second phase of expansion for the concentrator. Phase two will evaluate adding a second processing line to the mill, boosting throughput by 77%.

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Victoria Gold says Eagle mine recovered 29,580 oz. in first quarter Wed, 10 Apr 2024 17:32:46 +0000
The Eagle mine, part of the Dublin Gulch heap leaching property in Yukon. Credit: Victoria Gold

Victoria Gold (TSX: VGCX) produced 29,580 oz. of gold from its Eagle mine during the first quarter of 2024, compared to 37,619 oz. in the first quarter of 2023.

“While quarterly gold production is down year over year, the summer and fall seasons are our strongest operating periods, and we expect to achieve 2024 gold production guidance of 165,000 to 185,000 oz. and cost guidance of $1,450 to $1,650 per oz. of gold sold,” said CEO John McConnell.

For the second year in a row, ore was placed on the leach pad throughout the winter. The 2 million tonnes of ore delivered for leaching was in line with the 2.1 million tonnes of 2023.

However, the average grade was 0.63 g/t gold in 2024, compared to 0.86 g/t in 2023. The lower year-over-year grades were related to mine sequencing in the Eagle orebody, the timing of placing stacked tonnes under leach, and lower-than-planned stacking rates in the last quarter of 2023.

Both the Eagle and Olive gold deposits are being mined as part of Victoria’s Dublin Gulch project, located 375 km north of Whitehorse and 85 km from Mayo, Yukon.

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Metso launches TSE horizontal triple shaft screen for North and Central Americas markets Wed, 10 Apr 2024 17:27:55 +0000
Metso’s TSE Series screens are compact, high performance units for either portable or stationary applications. Credit: Metso

Metso has expanded its standard product offering of screens for the North America, Mexico, and Central America markets with TSE Series triple shaft screen.

The new TSE Series screen is a high-performance horizontal screen used in a wide range of wet or dry applications in coarse or fine screening. They are designed for superior accuracy and efficiency in a very compact installation.

The TSE Series offers a robust design to support the stresses generated by the high-performance mechanism that produces the high G elliptical motion.

The rigidity in the design is provided by frames made from standard sections with K-bracing and with side plates that are huck bolted without any welding. The result is a reliable screen design with less natural frequencies and a much larger operating window.

The high-performance mechanism offers the flexibility to operate the screen in a large range of applications due to the ease of gear and counterweight adjustments. The TSE Series screen’s elliptical motion is combined with high acceleration, thereby bringing more performance in terms of throughput and screening efficiency.

The TSE Series screen is suitable for replacement of most standard triple shaft machines on the market in which minimal changes are required.

Metso TSE Series offers several benefits. The robust, compact design makes it portable due to low height. The screen gives high performance elliptical motion up to 6.5 times gravity. The TSE Series can be used for wet or dry applications and separates even sticky material. Adjustments to the elliptical stroke and stroke angle are easy and maximize production of any material.

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CleanTech Lithium suspends CEO on shares-backed loan Wed, 10 Apr 2024 17:26:00 +0000 Chile-focused explorer and developer CleanTech Lithium (LON: CTL) has suspended its chief executive officer, Aldo Boitano, pending an investigation into a loan he entered into with an unnamed lender.

The company said it noted that between September 8, 2023 and February 6, 2024, Boitano transferred his entire holding of 9,400,002 ordinary shares to a custodian account nominated by the lender. 

When questioned, Boitano was not able to ascertain the extent to which these shares might have been transferred to a further nominee account in the name of the lender or sold by the lender, CleanTech said.

Shares in the company took a big hit in early trading in London, falling to 11p. The stock recovered later in the day, closing 3.46% higher at 11.65p. That leaves the company with a market capitalization of £16.91 million ($21.2m).

“The board of CleanTech Lithium would like to make it clear that Mr Boitano is cooperating with the investigation,” the company said.

To ensure there is no impact to the ongoing work program at the Laguna Verde project, Steve Kesler, currently executive chairman, has assumed the CEO’s responsibilities, it said.

Personal loans secured by executives’ own company shares can be contentious, as they may result in share sales or create a long-term overhang on share prices.

CleanTech, which recently opened a direct lithium extraction pilot plant in northern Chile, told stakeholders that it will provide updates on the situation as the investigation progresses.

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Gold price rally halted on signs of likely Fed rate cut delay Wed, 10 Apr 2024 15:22:00 +0000 Gold’s blistering run came to a halt on Wednesday after a key US inflation report signalled a likely delay in Federal Reserve interest rate cuts until later in the year.

Spot gold slid 0.6% to $2,354.80 per ounce by 1:50 p.m. EDT, retreating below the key $2,350 level. US gold futures were also down 0.3% at $2,354.80 per ounce.

The pullback comes on the back of a 0.4% rise in the core consumer price index, according to government data Wednesday. This measure, which economists view as a better indicator of underlying inflation than the CPI, has now advanced 3.8% from a year ago.

The hot print in price pressures means that interest rates may remain high for a longer period of time, which hurts the appeal of non-yielding assets like gold. Both the US Treasury yields and the dollar advanced after the print, sending bullion down by as much as 1.4% to $2,320.12 an ounce.

Still, gold is holding at elevated levels, having registered all-time peaks for eight straight sessions including $2,365.35 an ounce on Tuesday. Since mid-February, the metal has gone up by nearly 17%.

The rally has left some onlookers puzzled because of the lack of any obvious triggers — especially as convictions on three quarter-point rate cuts faded fast. Heightened geopolitical risks in the Middle East and Ukraine, plus buying by central banks led by China, have added some bullish momentum for the precious metal.

Gold is partly helped by buying as some investors shifted focus “from the number of rate cuts to sticky and rising inflation,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank AS. 

Hansen sees a short-term correction in bullion “given how far gold has traveled in a short period of time,” with a dip below $2,230 likely to trigger a round of long liquidation.

(With files from Bloomberg)

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Revival adds second gold project with takeover deal for Ensign Minerals Wed, 10 Apr 2024 14:23:37 +0000 Revival Gold (TSXV: RVG) said on Wednesday it has signed an agreement to buy privately held exploration company Ensign Minerals in an all-stock deal worth approximately C$21.9 million. This acquisition gives US-focused Revival a second gold exploration asset to complement its Beartrack-Arnett project in Idaho.

Ensign’s flagship Mercur project in Utah is located 57 km southwest of Salt Lake City in the Oquirrh Mountains region, which is known to host sediment-hosted gold deposits. Bingham Canyon, one of the world’s largest copper-gold mines, is also situated there.

Historically, approximately 2.6 million oz. of gold were mined from the Mercur district, including 1.5 million oz. by Getty Oil Company and later Barrick Gold between 1983-1998, after which it closed due to low gold prices. Since then, Barrick completed reclamation of the Mercur site.

From 2020 to 2022, Ensign entered various agreements to consolidate the Mercur project area, which now covers 62.55 square kilometres divided between private land, federal claims, and state leases. Amongst the deals was an option to acquire Barrick’s interest in the area for $20 million.

Work by past owners has resulted in the delineation of an inferred resource estimate that totals 89.6 million tonnes grading 0.57 gram per tonne gold for 1.64 million oz. of contained metal. This estimate has an effective date of Feb. 1, 2024, and is based primarily on exploration of the private land.

By adding the Mercur project, Revival’s gold resource base would now grow to 3.8 million oz. in the inferred category, on top of the 2.4 million oz. measured and indicated category already at Beartrack-Arnett, for which permitting preparations are underway.

CEO Hugh Agro says the combined mineral resource will vault Revival Gold ahead to become one of the largest pure gold development companies in the US. With Mercur, he believes the company is obtaining a “high-quality complementary project” at an attractive acquisition price of about $10 per ounce in situ.

Revival Gold considers the large regional package at Mercur to “hold attractive potential for additional discoveries” based on the project’s track record of past production and the results of recent fieldwork undertaken by Ensign.

In the short term, its primary objective with Mercur over the next 6-12 months will be to advance metallurgy, optimize the project’s geological model and pursue a potential preliminary economic assessment (PEA), the company said.

While advancing towards a PEA, Revival Gold expects to continue the compilation of historical data, property-wide prospecting, geological mapping and planning for potential future exploration drilling.

Agro said the addition of Mercur will shorten the estimated timeline to heap leach gold production while increasing the potential production scale of the company’s heap leach gold business to approximately 150,000 oz. per year.

To complete the deal, nearly 61.4 million Revival Gold shares, more than half of those outstanding, will be used to acquire Ensign’s 52.6 million outstanding stock. This share exchange ratio (1.1667:1) gives Ensign an implied value of C$0.4164 per share, a 17% premium over its 20-day volume weighted average of C$0.3569.

Upon completion, current Revival Gold shareholders would own 65% of the new company, with former Ensign holders owning 35%.

Ensign had previously agreed to a takeover by Vancouver-based Taura Gold (TSXV: TORA) in October 2023 for an implied value of C$24 million. However, the deal fell through earlier this year due to disagreements over how the Mercur project resource was calculated.

Revival Gold’s shares were up 1.1% at C$0.38 by 10:30 a.m. ET on the news, giving the Toronto-based gold developer a market capitalization of C$42.4 million ($31m).

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Byzantine bullion fueled Europe’s adoption of silver coins… until Charlemagne intervened Wed, 10 Apr 2024 13:06:00 +0000 Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam discovered that Byzantine bullion fueled Europe’s revolutionary adoption of silver coins in the mid-7th century, only to be overtaken by silver from a mine in Charlemagne’s Francia a century later.

In a paper published in the journal Antiquity, the experts note that these findings could transform our understanding of Europe’s economic and political development.

According to the article, between 660 and 750 AD, Anglo-Saxon England witnessed a profound revival in trade involving a dramatic surge in the use of silver coins, breaking from a reliance on gold. Around 7,000 of these silver ‘pennies’ have been recorded, about as many as we have for the rest of the entire Anglo-Saxon period (5th century–1066).

By analyzing the make-up of coins held by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the study’s authors solved the mystery of where the silver in these coins came from.

“There has been speculation that the silver came from Melle in France or an unknown mine, or that it could have been melted down church silver. But there wasn’t any hard evidence to tell us one way or the other, so we set out to find it,” Rory Naismith, co-author of the paper, said in a media statement.

Teflon helps figure things out

Previous research tested coins and artifacts from the silver mine at Melle but Naismith and his colleagues turned their attention to less-studied coins which were minted in England, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France.

To begin, 49 of the Fitzwilliam’s coins (dating from 660 to 820 AD) were taken to the laboratory of Jason Day in Cambridge’s Dept. of Earth Sciences for trace element analysis. Next, the coins were analyzed by ‘portable laser ablation’ in which microscopic samples were collected onto Teflon filters for lead isotope analysis.

While the coins mostly contained silver, the proportion of gold, bismuth and other elements in them guided the researchers to the silver’s previously unknown origins. Different ratios of lead isotopes in the silver coins provided further clues.

Byzantine silver

In the 29 coins tested from the earlier period (660–750 AD)—which were minted in England, Frisia and Francia—the researchers found a very clear chemical and isotopic signature matching 3rd to early 7th-century silver from the Byzantine Empire in the eastern Mediterranean.

The silver was homogenous across the coins and characterized by high gold values (0.6–2%) and a consistent isotopic range, with no distinguishable regional variations among them. No known European ore source matches the elemental and isotopic characteristics of these early silver coins. Nor is there any meaningful overlap with late Western Roman silver coins or other objects. These coins did not recycle late Roman silver.

“This was such an exciting discovery. I proposed Byzantine origins a decade ago but couldn’t prove it. Now we have the first archaeometric confirmation that Byzantine silver was the dominant source behind the great seventh-century surge in minting and trade around the North Sea,” Naismith said.

These coins are, thus, among the first signs of a resurgence in the northern European economy since the end of the Roman Empire. They show deep international trade connections between what is now France, the Netherlands and England.

Cash-strapped king

The researchers emphasize that this Byzantine silver must have entered Western Europe decades before it was melted down because the late 7th century was a low point in trade and diplomatic contacts.

“Elites in England and Francia were almost certainly sitting on this silver already,” Naismith said. “We have very famous examples of this, the silver bowls discovered at Sutton Hoo and the ornate silver objects in the Staffordshire Hoard.”

Together, Sutton Hoo’s Byzantine silver objects weigh just over 10 kilograms. Had they been melted down they would have produced around 10,000 early pennies.

“These beautiful prestige objects would only have been melted down when a king or lord urgently needed lots of cash. Something big would have been happening, a big social change,” the study’s lead author Jane Kershaw said. “This was quantitative easing, elites were liquidating resources and pouring more and more money into circulation. It would have had a big impact on people’s lives. There would have been more thinking about money and more activity with money involving a far larger portion of society than before.”

The researchers now hope to establish how and why so much silver moved from the Byzantine Empire into Western Europe. They suspect a mixture of trade, diplomatic payments and Anglo-Saxon mercenaries serving in the Byzantine army. The new findings also raise tantalizing questions about how and where silver was stored and why its owners suddenly decided to turn it into coins.

Melle was an important mine

The study’s second major finding revealed a later shift away from Byzantine silver to a new source.

When the team analyzed 20 coins from the second half of the period (750–820 AD), they discovered that the silver was very different. It now contained low levels of gold which is most characteristic of silver mined at Melle in western France. Previously obtained radiocarbon data has shown that mining at Melle was particularly intense in the 8th and 9th centuries.

A selection of the Fitzwilliam Museum coins which were studied, including coins of Charlemagne and Offa. Photo by The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
A selection of the Fitzwilliam Museum coins which were studied, including coins of Charlemagne and Offa. (Image by The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge).

The study proposes that Melle silver permeated regional silver stocks after c.750 and was mixed with older, higher-gold stocks, including Byzantine silver. In the coins minted closest to Melle, the proportion of gold was lowest (under 0.01%) while furthest away, in northern and eastern Francia, this climbed to 1.5%.

“We already knew that Melle was an important mine but it wasn’t clear how quickly the site became a major player in silver production,” Naismith said. “We now know that after the Carolingian dynasty came into power in 751, Melle became a major force across Francia and increasingly in England too.”

The study argues that Charlemagne drove this very sudden and widespread surge in Melle silver as he took increasing control over how and where his kingdom’s coins were made. A detailed record from the 860s talks about Charlemagne’s grandson, King Charles the Bald, reforming his coins and giving every mint a few pounds of silver as a float to get the process going. “I strongly suspect that Charlemagne did something similar with Melle silver,” Naismith said.

Management of silver supply went hand-in-hand with other changes introduced by Charlemagne, his son and grandson including changing the size and thickness of coins and marking their name or image on the coins.

“We can now say more about the circumstances under which those coins were made and how the silver was being distributed within Charlemagne’s Empire and beyond,” Naismith said.

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Pioneer Lithium gets financial backing from Ontario government Wed, 10 Apr 2024 12:40:00 +0000 Pioneer Lithium (ASX: PLN) has received a fresh shot in the arm from the Ontario government, which recently handed the company C$180,916 for its flagship Root Lake project in Canada.

The Australian explorer and developer said the funds were granted through the Ontario Junior Exploration Program (OJEP). The amount received represents a rebate of up to 50% of eligible exploration costs, capped at C$200,000, incurred by the company at Root Lake between April 1, 2023 to February 15, 2024, it said in the statement. 

“The OJEP program is a vital part of financing and fostering early exploration projects and allows us to further advance our exploration activities,” chairman Robert Martin said in a statement.

The company has been expanding its footprint in Canada, where it now holds five exploration projects across the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Its most recent acquisition, the Benham Project in northwest Ontario, became an instant hit for Pioneer. Bought in November, the company’s exploration team had by mid-January discovered numerous pegmatite outcrops, including a 40-metre long mineralized prominence.

Pioneer is also advancing the early exploration Root Lake lithium project in north-west Ontario.

Lithium prices hit rock bottom last year and are struggling to make a significant recovery. This is partly because miners, refiners, and auto makers are still dealing with an excess stockpile that is causing the current oversupply of the battery metal. 

Despite some projects and mines being affected by the lithium price collapse, several major producers are determined to continue expanding, adding to the uncertainty about when prices will eventually recover.

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Silvercorp sells stake in Orecorp to Perseus Mining Wed, 10 Apr 2024 10:29:00 +0000 Canada’s Silvercorp Metals (TSX, NYSE: SVM) has officially stepped aside from the race to control Africa-focused gold explorer OreCorp (ASX: ORR), agreeing to sell its 15% stake in the company to rival Perseus Mining (ASX, TSX: PRU).

The Vancouver-based miner, which has been a rival bidder for OreCorp for months, has agreed to sell its 15.6% shareholding in the Australian junior to Perseus. This takes Perseus’ interest in OreCorp to just under 75%.

Silvercorp and Perseus vied for months to acquire the OreCorp, which saw Perseus raise its cash offer in March to A$0.575 a share. The figure, representing 4.5% increase over its previous bid of A$0.55, had been originally turned down by OreCorp earlier this year.

OreCorp gave Silvercorp five days to increase its bid, but the period expired on March 26, resulting in the company encouraging shareholders to accept Perseus’ proposal. This offer remains unconditional and open until April 19, unless it is extended.

OreCorp noted on Wednesday that it’s already actively working with Perseus to transition its board and management team in respect of the takeover.

Central to the battle for OreCorp was the company’s Nyanzaga gold project in northwest Tanzania, which is located near Barrick Gold’s (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) Bulyanhulu mine and AngloGold Ashanti’s (JSE: ANG) (NYSE:AU) Geita mine.

A 2022 definitive feasibility study gave Nyanzaga an after-tax net present value of $618 million at a 5% discount rate and an internal rate of return of 25%.

Perseus had been looking for additional gold assets in Africa to grow its portfolio. This prompted it to throw its hat in the ring, approaching OreCorp with an off-market offer.

Currently, Perseus operates three gold mines in Africa: Edikan in Ghana, and Sissingu and Yaour in Côte d’Ivoire.

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Brazil Potash gets state license for Autazes project Tue, 09 Apr 2024 19:25:13 +0000 The state of Amazonas in Brazil has issued a license to Brazil Potash to built the Autazes project, pegged to be the largest fertilizer mine in Latin America within the Amazon rainforest.

Governor Wilson Lima declared on Monday that the installation license was granted by the state’s environmental protection agency, IPAAM. The company intends to invest 13 billion reais ($2.6 billion) to establish the mine, located 120 km southeast of the state capital Manaus.

The project, which could reduce Brazilian agriculture’s 90% dependence on imported potash, has been held up for years due to opposition from Indigenous Mura people, who say they have not been consulted about the use of their ancestral lands.

Federal prosecutors said on Tuesday that the license should come from Brazil’s environmental protection agency, IBAMA, and not from the local agency in the state.

“The license violates constitutional rights, international standards and also the rights of Indigenous peoples,” the federal prosecutors office in Manaus said in a statement.

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of the Amazon (APIAM), an institution that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, told MINING.COM that the Mura people’s communities were not consulted, nor was the Indigenous Component Study conducted in the environmental licensing process.

Indigenous leaders told news website Amazonia Real that they will not accept the state decision and warned about the possibility of conflicts if the issue is not reconsidered by the courts.

In October, Federal Judge Marcos Augusto de Souza suspended a lower court decision that ruled if the land would be demarcated Indigenous in the future, then only Brazil’s Congress and federal agency IBAMA could authorize mining in the area.

The IPAAM further reinforced its understanding of being the correct authority and argues that United Nations International Labour Organization protocols do not require 100% indigenous support for approval of the project.

Brazil Potash has also received a letter from the Conselho Indígena Mura (Mura Indigenous Council) declaring that more than 90% of the Indigenous people voted in support of the Autazes project.

The proposed mine and processing facilities would require about three years to build.

It would be built on low-density cattle farm land deforested several decades ago by prior owners, according to Brazil Potash, who says the ore body is not located under Indigenous land, but is within 10 km of two reserves resulting in the need for consultations with locals.

Production is expected to start in 2026 with an initial output sufficient to cover about 20% of Brazil’s potash needs. Project capacity is pegged at 2.2 million tonnes of potassium chloride per year, the company estimates.

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Sixty North outlines plans for Mon gold project following last year’s NWT wildfires Tue, 09 Apr 2024 17:45:32 +0000 Sixty North Gold Mining (CSE: SXTY) is planning to install a temporary camp at its Mon gold project near Yellowknife, NWT, to replace the camp trailers destroyed by a wildfire last year. Plans include restarting mining of the A zone at the historic mine.

The company previously widened the North ramp to 3 by 4 metres to accommodate its larger mining equipment and advanced the ramp by 132 metres to within 60 metres of the planned first stopes, about 20 metres below the historic stopes.

Crews are expected to take four weeks to reach the initial mining level before crosscuts will be driven into the vein and bulk sampling can begin, the Canadian gold junior said.

The former Mon mine produced 15,000 tonnes of ore grading 30 g/t from a folded quartz vein. Recent and historic drilling shows the vein continues to the planned depth and beyond with widths and grades similar to what was mined before.

Sixty North believes the A zone is similar to the Discovery mine, located 45 km to the north, where a million tonnes of ore yielded the same number of gold in ounces from a marginally smaller vein.

CEO Dave Webb said: “We are well positioned to take advantage of the recent record high gold prices, with our potential for early gold production.

“Our next two milestones to production are within reach – the completion of the underground development with bulk sampling of the vein, and once grade and tonnage are confirmed, installation and commissioning of the mill circuit.”

The company holds permits for both mining and milling at Mon.

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