Industry NEWS

10 July 2020

Minerals Council South Africa funds Covid-19 research

The Minerals Council South Africa, the body representing miners, has announced research funding in three Covid-19 related areas critical to mining industry.

These three projects are with regard to understanding the nature of coronavirus, changing behaviours to contain the spread of the virus, as well as a geographic information mapping system to improve decision-making.

Minerals Council Head of health Thuthula Balfour said that the country’s healthcare workers are learning continuously about the Covid-19 virus and its impact, especially on the mining industry.

Thuthula Balfour added: “While the mortality rate in the mining industry is lower in the mining industry compared to the rest of the country, we recognise that we are only seeing the initial impact of the pandemic in some regions and that it is likely that mining operations will be affected similarly to the regions in which we operate.”

Furthermore, the council said that foreign mineworkers have started returning to work in the country’s mines as the industry restarts production after the easing of the national lockdown.

On 7 July, 698 foreign mineworkers had returned, which is lower than the 1,150 workers the Minerals Council had planned to bring back. Foreign workers represent about 10% of the country’s mining workforce.

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10 July 2020

Covid-19 disruptions almost halve output of Canada’s Endeavour Silver

Canadian miner Endeavour Silver’s second quarter production took a significant hit as operations were halted for two months to comply with the Government of Mexico’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

During the second quarter this year, the Canadian miner produced about 596,545 ounces (oz) of silver and 5,817oz of gold.

According to the company, these figures represent an output drop of 42% when compared with the output of the same period last year (Q2-2019).

Production fell at the three silver-gold mines, namely Guanaceví, Bolañitos and El Compás that Endeavour holds in Mexico.

In April this year, Endeavour Silver suspended mining operations at the three mines when Mexico declared a national health emergency to limit the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Endeavour CEO Bradford Cooke said: “We implemented our coronavirus prevention and response plan in mid-March and it has been very effective.

“During the mine suspension period, we sent our employees home on full salary while keeping essential personnel working at each mine site to maintain safety, security and equipment. After the mines restarted, we were able to outperform our adjusted mine plans in June.

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09 July 2020

Almost 3,000 workers infected with Covid-19, say Chile’s Codelco unions

Unions representing Codelco workers have stated that nearly 3,000 workers have been infected with Covid-19 and urged for more safety measures at the company’s operations.

Reuters cited Federation of Copper Workers (FTC) president Patricio Elgueta as saying that the FTC had counted infections in 2,843 workers as of 5 July.

The news agency quoted Patricio Elgueta as stating: “The company does not give the database to the workers, so we have to rebuild it every day in order to see how (infections) are progressing.”

Some unions and social groups have urged the company and others to stop operations in and around the Calama mining hub.

Elgueta added: “They make it seem as though we want to shut down mining, but we only want to protect the lives and health of workers.”

The number of coronavirus cases has passed the 301,000 mark in Chile, according to the Johns-Hopkins University tracker.

Recently, Codelco said it would temporarily suspend expansion works at its flagship El Teniente mine, as part of the company’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 at its operations.

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09 July 2020

Rio Tinto to close New Zealand Aluminium Smelters

Global mining giant Rio Tinto has announced its plans to wind down operations and eventually close New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS).

The latest move comes after the company concluded a strategic review on the closure of NZAS.

In October last year, Rio Tinto considered a possible closure of NZAS at Tiwai Point and decided to carry out a strategic review of its stake in NZAS.Rio Tinto owns 79.36% of NZAS, while the remaining interest is held by Sumitomo Chemical Company. 

According to Rio Tinto, with the current market conditions and high energy costs, the aluminium industry would continue to be unprofitable.

Last year, the smelter made Rio Tinto an underlying loss of NZ$46m ($30.1m).

Citing a challenging outlook in the aluminium market, Rio Tinto said that the business is no longer viable to the company.

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08 July 2020

Newcrest Mining seeks options for stake in SolGold

Australia-based Newcrest Mining has reportedly appointed investment bank RBC Capital Markets to explore options for its 15% stake in gold and copper miner SolGold after it contested the latter’s latest fundraising initiative.

In May this year, SolGold secured up to $150m from Franco Nevada, to develop its Alpala copper-gold project at its flagship Cascabel asset.

According to Reuters, the move with Franco-Nevada defied Newcrest, which had urged it to raise funds through equity.

Newcrest Mining is seeking advice on its options for the stake that it owns in SolGold.
However, no conclusion has been reached on whether to sell or buy more, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

In an email to Reuters, Newcrest stated: “The royalty transaction, coupled with an expensive bridge loan, could lead to a transfer of significant risk to existing SolGold shareholders.”

Meanwhile, SolGold chief executive Nick Mather emailed Reuters: “The funding … to get to a development decision at Alpala will be mainly done using the Franco royalty deal because it is considerably less dilutive to all shareholders than deeply discounted equity proposals mooted by Newcrest.”

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08 July 2020

Six workers at Glencore’s KCC mine test positive for Covid-19

Commodities major Glencore’s Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reported that six workers tested positive for Covid-19 at the operation.

The affected workers are currently isolating at home under medical supervision, Reuters reported.

Glencore owns 75% of KCC through its Congo unit Katanga Mining, which is 99.5% owned by Glencore.

According to the commodities major, all the workers who have been screened and tested positive were asymptomatic to the virus.

A provincial surveillance team has been appointed to trace others who have been exposed to the infected workers.

KCC did not disclose if this would affect production at the site. Reuters cited sources with knowledge of the matter as saying that the confirmed cases would not impact production.

KCC said that it had increased health and sanitisation measures in the last three months to contain the spread of the virus.

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