Industry NEWS

22 May 2019

New Zealand officials re-enter Pike River mine after nine years

New Zealand officials have re-entered the abandoned Pike River mine on the country’s South Island, nine years after a string of explosions killed 29 workers and injured a further two at the project.

The re-entry effort has been organised by the Pike River Recovery Agency (PRRA), a government department tasked with organising the project, and the agency’s chief operating officer Dinghy Pattinson led a three-strong team into the mine on Monday. The miners opened the doors to the mine 30m below the surface, which had been sealed after the accident.

The country’s Labour party promised to re-enter the mine to learn more about the accident and recover the remains of the victims. While the re-entry project has been repeatedly delayed due to safety concerns, the final issue, a leaked sampling tube that interfered with oxygen supply, was fixed earlier this month, allowing miners to safety re-enter the mine.

“Watching those doors open and seeing the light enter that dark tunnel for the first time in years was incredibly emotional,” said Anna Osborne, a member of the Pike River Family Reference Group (FRG), a body representing 29 of the victims’ families. “We’ve known we are going back in for a year now, today it feels like it. This is the start of a journey that will end with truth and justice.”

The mine was opened with a number of FRG members present, and the PRRA has shared a video showing the three officials opening the mine’s doors, to cheers from the assembled crowd. The accident was New Zealand’s most deadly mining disaster since 1914, and the government has committed around NZD36m to the recovery effort, to cover expenses such as the construction of a nitrogen plant to vent methane gas from the mine.

For many members of the PRRA and the FRG, the re-opening is the result of close to a decade of work.

“In my mind I know this is just one moment in a long process that we have been planning for since the agency was created, but to stand there today and see the doors open hit me in my heart,” said FRG member Sonya Rockhouse. “And to think, all this might never have happened if we hadn’t blockaded the sealing of the drift and if New Zealand hadn’t stood with us. It’s just incredible.”

Pattinson and PRRA chief executive Dave Gawn also discussed the next steps of the operation including progressing to a second blockade at 170m below the surface, which will require draining weirs which have filled with water since the accident, and expanding the ventilation infrastructure that was put in place to enable access to the doors at 30m. The officials estimated that it will take up to eight weeks to reach the 170m checkpoint, and that plans for future exploration will be made during this time.

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22 May 2019

Zambia to take over Vedanta copper assets and bring in new investor

The Government of Zambia plans to take over Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, due to alleged mining breaches and introduce a new investor to manage the operation.

Zambia President Edgar Lungu said that the government has filed a notification of plans to strip KCM of ifs operating licence and take over Vedanta’s domestic copper assets. The state has also started looking for a new investor.

Lunga went on to say that the government would comply with the law in taking over Vedanta’s assets, and that other investors were keen to operate them.

The President’s spokesman, Amos Chanda, said that the action followed a number of breaches of the terms of the KCM’s mining licence. “The government is planning to revoke KCM’s mining licence because of the breaches,” Reuters quoted Chanda as saying.

Last week, the president had threatened to “divorce” Vedanta and Glencore, two of the biggest employers in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.

Earlier this year, the government had increased royalties and unveiled a plan to overhaul the value-added tax system, souring the relationship between the government and the mining companies.

Lungu primarily targeted KCM in a weekend visit to Zambia’s Copperbelt province, where some companies are reportedly cutting production and firing workers.

Vedanta said that is has sought an urgent meeting with Lungu over the future of KCM and that it has not received formal communication from the government on the company.

In a statement, Vedanta said that it was its intention to continue to engage with the government in a constructive and transparent manner.

Vedanta said that the government, which also has a stake in KCM through a state mining company, “[is] fully apprised of and party to the circumstances of the company and major decisions that have been taken.”

Chanda said that a default notice had been issued to KCM in April 2018 over a number of breaches of the terms of its licence and it had not convinced the government it should keep the licence.

He said that three investors were interested in the asset, without naming them. He said that no formal negotiations had begun.

Chanda said: “Everything will be done within the law and that’s why we cannot name the interested investors until the separation process with KCM is done.”

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22 May 2019

Rusal receives licence to develop Goryachegorsk nepheline mine

Global aluminium producer Rusal has secured a licence to develop the Goryachegorsk nepheline mine located in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia.

The primary main raw material for the Achinsk alumina refinery is supplied by the Goryachegorsk mine, which according to the initial analysis, has enough reserves to remain operational for the next 60 years.

At the Achinsk alumina refinery, nepheline ore is refined and alumina is produced. The refinery currently makes use of raw materials from the Kiya-Shaltyrskiy nepheline mine and Mazulskiy limestone mine that contain enough reserves for ten years.

Rusal CEO Evgenii Nikitin said: “One of the company’s top priorities is the development of the proper resource base whilst there is still a period of high pricing. The Goryachegorsk field reserves will ensure that the work at the Achinsk alumina refinery can continue uninterrupted for dozens of years after mining has completed at Kiya-Shaltyrskiy.”

The Goryachegorsk deposit is located in Krasnoyarsk’s Sharypovsk area. Since last year, the nepheline reserves, which are on the state’s balance, amount to about 414.4 million tonnes.

Production from the mine is scheduled for 2028-2029, prior to which a number of operations are required to be carried out.

These operations include the addition of the reserves to the balance, project design work and construction of the necessary infrastructure including reconstruction of the railway.

Additionally, the pit and enrichment facility will be constructed at the Achinsk refinery.

Upon finalising all the project documents, Rusal will make an agreement with regard to the total volume of investments and exact start time for the production works.

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15 February 2019

AngloGold Ashanti to buy ore from Matsa Resources project

Australian company Matsa Resources has signed a five-year ore purchase agreement with AngloGold Ashanti Australia (AGAA) for the purchase of ore from the Red October gold mine in Western Australia.

The deal will provide Matsa with a long-term processing option for Red October ore, which will be treated at the AGAA-owned Sunrise Dam gold mine.

The costs and revenues of the ore purchase agreement are said to be consistent with the parameters applied in the previously published mining studies.

Matsa acquired Red October from Saracen Minerals for $2m in September 2017 when it was under care and maintenance.

Located around 60km from the Red October gold mine, the 3.8mtpa mill at the Sunrise Dam gold mine provides Matsa with access to a nearby milling solution for its stage one production ore and for an additional four and a half years thereafter.

Matsa has previously delivered ore from its Fortitude and Red Dog gold mines to Sunrise Dam. The two gold producers also worked together to identify and develop gold deposits in 2018.

Under the terms of the agreement, Matsa will be responsible for mining and transporting the ore to Sunrise Dam.

The agreement is also expected to allow Matsa to continue to progress mining at the Red October gold mine at a relatively low capital cost.

Matsa Resources executive chairman Paul Poli said: “The execution of the agreement with AngloGold Ashanti continues our strong relationship and builds on the MOU both parties entered into in mid-2018.

“Previous mining campaigns at Fortitude and Red Dog have been successfully processed at Sunrise Dam with minimal fuss and we expect this to be no different.

“The fact that AngloGold are prepared to potentially accept all ore from Red October for up to five years is testament to this as Matsa looks to develop a longer term mine plan in the future.”

The first delivery of ore to Sunrise Dam is expected by the end of June 2019.

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21 May 2019

Study links increased inhalation of silica to rise in black lung

Midland Exploration has started a drilling programme totalling more than 1,800m to test new geophysical targets identified on the Jouvex project in Canada.

The programme to be carried out on Jouvex comprises 268 claims, covering a total of 150km² and is slated to begin this month.

The property covers the extension over a strike length of more than 6km of the Casa Berardi-Douay-Cameron deformation zone, which hosts the Casa Berardi mine.

Last year, Midland completed two OreVision IP surveys totalling 35km in the north-west and north-east parts of the Jouvex property. The surveys were aimed at targeting conductors and historic gold occurrences in volcanic rocks of the Orvilliers-Desmazures Group.

On the north-east grid, the first drill hole will test at a vertical depth of 400m, the extension of a mineralised zone intersected in the historic KMA-88-71 drill hole. This drill hole will also test a chargeability IP anomaly of moderate intensity.

Another three drill holes will test three different IP anomalies characterised by moderate to strong chargeability combined with high resistivity. To date, the company has not drill-tested these three IP anomalies.

Jouvex is a 50/50 joint venture project with Soquem, a subsidiary of Ressources Québec. Having participated in more than 350 exploration projects, Soquem also contributed to major discoveries of gold, diamonds, lithium and other mineral commodities.

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21 May 2019

QRC calls for Carmichael mine to go ahead following Australian election

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC), the body representing the mining industry in the north-eastern Australian state, has said that Adani Mining’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in the Australian state must be allowed to go ahead, following the victory of the Liberal-led Coalition in last weekend’s federal election.

The election returned a surprising victory for incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Liberal Party, which is generally seen as supportive of the mining industry, and did not pledge to increase Australia’s commitment to renewable energy as the opposition Labor Party did during the campaign.

The Coalition won 23 of the 30 seats available in Queensland, including taking two seats held by Labor in the last election, and state officials have been quick to interpret the results as a show of support for the mine by those living in Queensland.

“Queenslanders have spoken and their message is clear. They support mining jobs and they expect their Governments to support them too,” said QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane. “Queenslanders don’t want a bet each way. They want a future that includes resources jobs and the resources investment that is so important to regional Queensland.”

The Carmichael mine has been dogged by environmental controversies, with both its plan for managing groundwater pollution and the protection of a local finch species coming under fire. While the Federal Government has approved the plans, Adani is still waiting for approval from the Queensland Government, and both the company and the state claim that they have done all they can, and are waiting for input from the other.

Groups such as the QRC are hopeful that the election results will create a breakthrough in this bureaucratic impasse, and will inspire future talks about the state’s mining sector. The council claims that mining generates more than A$60bn for the state economy, with coal mines alone providing A$3.52bn in annual royalties to the Queensland Government. Mining accounts for four-fifths of the state’s exports, and the QRC will be hopeful that work at the Carmichael mine will be allowed to continue to further develop the industry.

“The QRC will be seeking to meet as soon as possible with the Premier to discuss the long-term future of the resources sector,” said Macfarlane. “The fact is Queensland needs resources and renewables. We need to have a strong energy mix and we need to be able to give the world the resources they need to deliver their own energy mix.”

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13 February 2019

Amplats fires over 600 underground workers at Mototolo mine

South African mining company Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has sacked around half of the underground workers at its Mototolo mine following an alleged illegal strike.

The General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) served a strike notice to the company at the Mototolo mine on 9 May 2019 after a dispute over the changes made by the company regarding employees’ medical benefits, following the purchase of the mine from Glencore in November 2018.

The dispute reached South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the body which tried to broker an agreement between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Sibanye-Stillwater earlier this year.

The union told the CCMA of a unilateral change in employees’ conditions of service by the company. The company claimed that it has offered a medical scheme with similar benefits.

On 10 May, Anglo American Platinum secured an interim court interdict against any strike action by GIWUSA at the mine.

However, workers belonging to the GIWUSA downed tools on 12 May despite an interim court interdict against any strike action, the company said.

Amplats said that it has dismissed 643 employees at Mototolo after its appeal to end the strike was ignored.

An official of the GIWUSA, the only recognised union at the mine, said that the union will take the dispute to the country’s labour courts. According to Amplats, the fired employees have until 21 May to appeal the company’s decision.

The company said that the impact on production has so far been minimal and the company is exploring options to ensure that Mototolo mine resumes full production as soon as possible. The mine produced 57,700 ounces of platinum group metals in the first quarter of 2019.

Amplats had acquired Glencore’s 39% stake in the mechanised platinum mine in South Africa’s platinum belt in 2018.

Anglo American Platinum, a member of the Anglo American Group, has its mining, smelting and refining operations in South Africa.

The group also owns Unki Platinum Mine in Zimbabwe, in addition to joint ventures with several historically disadvantaged South African consortia as part of its commitment to the transformation of the mining industry.

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21 May 2019

Bezant secures approval for new environmental report at Eureka project

Polymetal International is set to start construction of the POX-2 project in Russia, following the completion of a recent feasibility study (FS).

The FS showed that the second POX line would increase the value of Polymetal’s refractory reserve base, consisting of about 55% of total ore reserves.

The POX facility will process concentrates from the company’s mines located at Kyzyl, Nezhda, Mayskoye and Voro.

Polymetal International Group CEO Vitaly Nesis said: “POX-2 leverages our core technical capabilities and creates substantial value. It also fully de-risks our business model by eliminating dependence on concentrate off-take markets. Emerging trends in the global gold mining industry make POX-2 a crucial element of the company’s long-term strategy.”

The POX-2 project is expected to generate economic benefits as all refractory concentrates will be retained for in-house processing.

It would also result in the incremental annual production of about 30,000oz to 35,000oz of gold from the same amount of feedstock.

Pre-production capital expenditures for the POX-2 project in 2019-2023 are estimated to be $431m.

The design throughput capacity of the facility is 250-300 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) of concentrate and maximum sulfide sulfur processing capacity is 48ktpa.

Canada-based Hatch has been selected to carry out the basic engineering, detailed engineering and POX procurement support. It will also supply custom-made equipment for high-pressure and acidic processing areas. Polymetal Engineering will look after other processing areas, general site layout and infrastructure.

Detailed engineering and construction of the POX-2 Project is expected in the second quarter of this year, and all permits are set to be received in the first quarter of 2020. The total design capacity of the POX-2 plant will be 250-300kt of concentrate annually.

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