Paladin considers care & maintenance action for LHM mine

Paladin Energy is considering placing its Langer Heinrich mine (LHM) in Namibia on care and maintenance as a result of the difficult conditions currently facing the uranium market. The company is undertaking preparatory steps for a potential care and maintenance decision and has commenced negotiations with the relevant stakeholders.

Paladin is expected to run out of the medium-grade ore stockpiles that currently serve as processing feed for the mine’s processing plant before mid-2019. As a result, the company feels a decision is required on whether to restart physical mining, process low-grade stockpiles or place LHM on care and maintenance at least six months before the stockpiles are exhausted.

Additional major factors affecting the planned resolution include the deterioration of macro factors such as low spot uranium price, foreign exchange rates and the price of processing reagents.

Paladin noted that it is unlikely to be in a position to restart physical mining activity at LHM this year, while processing low-grade stockpiles is not currently being considered as a viable alternative.

Paladin Energy CEO Alex Molyneux said: “The uranium market has failed to recover since the Fukushima incident in 2011, with the average spot price so far in 2018 the lowest in 15 years. It’s deeply distressing to have to consider suspending operations at LHM because of the consequences for our employees, and the broader community.

“However, as there has yet to be a sustainable recovery in the uranium market, and with the aim of preserving maximum long-term value for all stakeholders, it is clearly prudent to consider these difficult actions.”

A decision on care and maintenance is expected to be made within the next two months and will be conditional upon the receipt of any required approvals, as well as the completion of preparatory initiatives.

The announcement will be followed by a final, one-to-two-month process in preparation for the termination of uranium production at the site.

LHM has a capacity of 5.2 million pounds of uranium production per year and has been in operation since 2007. The mine produced a total of 3.4 million pounds of uranium last year.




Zinc One Resources discovers new zinc deposit at Bongara project

Zinc One Resources discovered a new high-grade zinc deposit in the Mina Chica zone of the Bongara zinc mine project in north-central Peru.

The discovery underlines the potential upward scalability of the project and was made during drilling works at Mina Chica, which targeted several areas of known high-grade zinc mineralisation.

Zinc One announced the latest discovery on the basis of additional high-grade results with substantial vertical thicknesses at Mina Chica. It is expected to be included in the project’s upcoming resource estimate.

The company has reported assays for only 18 of the 50 holes drilled at the zone to date. Zinc is expected to release the data for the remaining 32 holes after the assays results have been received, checked and compiled.

Zinc One Resources COO Bill Williams said: “The confirmation of the discovery of a new high-grade zinc deposit at Mina Chica marks an exciting turn of events for the Bongará zinc mine project. Our drilling results have clearly demonstrated that the high-grade zinc mineralisation forms a contiguous body, whose vertical thickness is beyond our previous expectations.

“Furthermore, zinc mineralisation has been encountered in nearly every hole drilled to date and we look forward to reporting the assays from these holes so that the magnitude of the zinc in this deposit can be properly quantified.”

New intercepts include 19.8m of 46.8% zinc and 49.5m of 38.7% zinc.

Mina Chica is primarily known for high-grade, near-surface zinc-oxide mineralisation, which comprises zinc oxides, carbonates and silicates hosted by soils, highly weathered carbonates and fine to coarse-grained dolomites.




Highland Gold signs deal to acquire mining assets in Russia for $91m

Highland Gold Mining signed an agreement to purchase an operating mine and two exploration licence areas in the Russian region of Chukotka for a consideration of $91m. The assets are set to be secured via the acquisition of a 100% interest in three companies from Cyprus-registered Aristus Holdings.

Highland will be required to issue 38,621,343 ordinary shares worth around $78.7m under the arrangement. The deal also includes the assumption of approximately $12.3m of net debt.

The proposed acquisition includes Valunisty, an operating gold mine and processing plant with annual production of 31,000oz, as well as the Kanchalano-Amguemskaya Square (KAS) and Kayenmivaam (Kayen) exploration licences.

Highland Gold Mining CEO Denis Alexandrov said: “This acquisition adds a fourth operating mine, Valunisty, to our portfolio, as well as positive upside potential in the surrounding KAS licence area, all in a familiar region with existing mining infrastructure.

“The transaction is structured in such a way as to be immediately value-accretive to the benefit of all our shareholders.”

The KAS licence covers the area surrounding Valunisty and hosts several satellite deposits, including the operating Gorny open pit and Zhilny deposit, while Kayen is located 130km to the south-east of Kinross Gold’s Kupol mine and contains multiple target deposits.

Valunisty and KAS have total proven and probable ore reserves of 3.4 million tonnes (Mt) at 5.1g/t of gold equivalent as of 1 January, in addition to indicated and inferred mineral resources of 17.6Mt at 3.0g/t of gold equivalent.




Material suppliers join Finnish battery cluster cooperation project

A consortium of raw material suppliers for the battery industry has joined a cooperation network to secure investments for the development of a battery cluster in Finland.

The network was established last year by the Finnish city of Vaasa and has been allocated a large area for the construction of battery factories.

In addition to the cities of Vaasa and Kokkola, the cooperation network comprises cobalt refinery and battery chemicals producer Freeport Cobalt, nickel metals and nickel chemicals producer Nornickel, and a producer of nickel, zinc, cobalt and copper known as the Terrafame Group.

The network also includes Keliber, which is on course to commence lithium production in Kaustinen and Kokkola, as well as BeoWulf Mining, which owns a graphite deposit in Heinävesi. All five companies participating in the project have assets in Finland.

The development is expected to support increasing global efforts to transition to eco-friendly, battery-operated and hybrid electric vehicles in order to address climate change concerns.

Vaasa mayor Tomas Häyry said: “Demand for batteries will continue to grow, especially around applications like local energy storage solutions and traffic. Finland now has a unique opportunity to be involved in the growth and active development of this new field of industry.”

Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta produced almost 60,000t of nickel last year, which is used in electric car batteries, while Terrafame produced approximately 21,000t of nickel and roughly 47,000t of zinc.

Terrafame is currently preparing an investment decision regarding the further refinement of its nickel-cobalt product for use in battery chemicals in an effort to commence operations at the new plant in 2020.

Terrafame Group CEO Matti Hietanen said: “Global electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid penetration would need to reach 12% in order to comply with international climate targets by 2025. This would mean that the proportion of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids would be ten times higher than currently.

“At the same time, the demand for raw materials for electric cars is expected to grow strongly.”

In a separate development, BeoWulf’s subsidiary Fennoscandian Resources has also secured €161,000 in funding from Business Finland for a new research project called Green Minerals – Graphite, Exploration to Products.

Fennoscandian is currently part of a consortium project that intends to develop new exploration methods for natural flake graphite, as well as optimise beneficiation methods and the purification process of natural flake graphite.




Randgold expects automation to drive production at DRC mine

Randgold Resources expects to achieve this year’s production guidance with support from an automated materials-handling system at Kibali gold mine’s underground operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The company said Kibali mine remains on course to achieve its planned production increase to a total of 730,000oz, which represents a 22% increase over the previous year’s output.

Randgold Resources CEO Mark Bristow said: “Aside from the continuing optimisation of the underground system and the construction of the mine’s third hydropower station, scheduled for commissioning towards the middle of this year, the giant Kibali project is now complete.”

The project is expected to be moved from an underground mining by contractors to an owner-mining arrangement later this year. Randgold previously invested $2.7bn in Kibali over an eight-year period in order to transform the site into one of the most highly automated underground gold mines in Africa.

“The investment in Kibali was motivated by the stability provision in the 2002 mining code, which in our view has been triggered by the recent promulgation of the 2018 code,” Bristow added. “We trust we shall be able to reach consensus on this issue with the government, which we believe is critical to future investment in the country.”

The mine will be developed in two phases and is slated to produce more than 600,000oz of gold per annum over the next ten years.




Newcrest gets approval to use Cadia open pit as storage facility

Newcrest Mining secured approval to use the old Cadia Hill open pit in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, as a tailings storage facility.

Approval was granted by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and will enable Newcrest to use the first 200m of the open pit for storage purposes.

The decision comes after the company resumed its processing activities at the Cadia mine earlier this month. Newcrest suspended operations at Cadia in March following damage to a tailings dam wall at the site.

The company is currently installing new pipeline infrastructure in order to prepare the open pit for use as a storage facility, which is set to begin next month. The permit will enable the creation of enough storage capacity to enable the mine to return to full production rates for an approximately 16-month period.

Newcrest plans to begin the repair of the Northern Tailings Facility (NTF), while simultaneously working on obtaining a tailings storage permit for the remaining 300m of the Cadia Hill open pit.

The NSW Resources Regulator initially issued a prohibition notice on depositing tailings in the NTF following the embankment slump.

Newcrest claimed that using the open pit to store tailings would ultimately lead to loss of the existing ore reserve, which is said to contain around 1.5 million ounces (Moz) of gold and 0.13 million tonnes (Mt) of copper, as well as mineral resources comprising approximately 3Moz of gold and 0.27Mt of copper.

However, the company noted that the value gained from utilising Cadia Hill as a long-term tailings storage solution is expected to be much greater than that of the remaining reserves.




ALX Uranium begins drilling at Newnham Lake project in Canada

ALX Uranium commenced a diamond drilling programme at its Newnham Lake uranium project located in the north-eastern Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan, Canada. The project lies around 75km east of Stony Rapids, and consists of 15 claims across an area of 18,524ha.

The company expects to drill a minimum of 1,500m in up to five holes as part of the 2018 drilling programme. ALX Uranium will also deploy a helicopter to move the drill between hole locations as a result of weak ice conditions in the region, which were caused by heavy snowfall on the local wetlands last year.

ALX Uranium president and CEO Sierd Eriks said: “ALX’s 2018 drill targets were chosen to test conductive structures located deeper below shallow, Athabasca Basin sediments, where historical drilling intersected anomalous uranium at the unconformity.

“This is the first true test of the basement-hosted deposit model at Newnham Lake, which we believe has significant potential for higher-grade uranium mineralisation at depth.”

The company has already identified several high-priority drill targets as a result of a ground geophysical survey that was conducted last year.

ALX Uranium used a deep-penetrating, 3D induced polarisation/resistivity survey method to gather more information regarding conductors and possible alteration zones, which were previously outlined during historical ground and airborne surveys.

The company holds an option to acquire a 100% interest in the project through three separate option agreements. The company also purchased 72 claims prospective for uranium in November last year, totalling roughly 58,763ha within the Athabasca Basin area.




De Beers to launch app to support artisanal and small-scale mining

De Beers Group is set to launch an app to enable artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) to certify that the diamonds being mined at their projects are legal.

The programme is known as GemFair and will be piloted in Sierra Leone to create a secure and transparent route to market for diamonds legally sourced by ASM.

The initiative is intended to facilitate the formalisation of the ASM sector and will include criteria such as ensuring that rough diamonds are purchased from approved locations, as well as improving the working conditions and livelihoods of workers.

GemFair will leverage purpose-developed technology to record ASM production at mine sites that adhere to ethical standards.

The pilot project is being conducted in collaboration with an NGO known as the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) and will focus on small-scale mine sites across Sierra Leone.

Miners participating in the GemFair pilot must be certified by the DDI and meet certain standards.

Personnel who qualify for the scheme will receive an app and dedicated tablet equipped with a diamond ‘toolkit’ to digitally track the diamonds throughout the supply chain.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said: “The ASM sector represents a critical income source for many poverty-affected communities.

“However, due to parts of the sector being largely informal and unregulated, it lacks access to established international markets and the ability to derive fair value for participants.

“By providing a secure route to market, offering fair prices and helping to raise standards, we hope to play a role in enhancing the prospects for those working in the sector, while also potentially opening up a new source of supply for De Beers over the longer term.”

Participating miners will be given training in how to use the new technology during the project’s pre-pilot phase.

In the event that the pilot programme is successful, De Beers intends to integrate the technology with its planned diamond industry blockchain platform, which is currently under development.

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