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Mineral Resources’ BB/Stable rating is unlikely to be affected by delays in the commissioning of the new features of its Wodgina lithium operation.

According to Fitch Ratings, the Australian company will no be immediately affected because it has benefited from stronger iron ore prices and lower discounts on low-grade iron ore in the second half of FY19, a situation that is expected to continue in the short term.

Should the delay in production at Wodgina be prolonged, Fitch then expects Mineral Resources to implement countermeasures to maintain a strong balance sheet

“We expect that Mineral Resources’ leverage to have improved to within the guidance for its current rating, to around 2.5x at FYE19,” a report by the market analyst’s reads. “We previously forecast leverage to have been 4.0x at FYE19.”

In a previous assessment, Fitch had predicted that the Wodgina mine would add to Mineral Resources’ revenue from the beginning of FY20, helping the company reduce its FFO adjusted net leverage to below 3.0x, the level at which Fitch would consider negative rating action.

The delay in the kickstarting of the operation was caused by the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, whose officials have not approved the commissioning of train 2 at the mine.

The department has also requested additional information about the water balance at the tailings dam. However, Mineral Resources has said that the tailings dam is functioning as expected and engineered, so management does not expect the delay to have any material impact on the project and on the company’s financial position. 

Additionally, the miner should receive a cash injection soon, as Albemarle should pay, by year-end, $1.15 billion from the sale of half of its stake in Wodgina.

“The proceeds will push Mineral Resources’ balance sheet back into a net cash position. Fitch believes the strong balance sheet position will allow the company to withstand the delay in production at the Wodgina mine and weakness in spodumene price over the short term while maintaining its credit metrics at a level commensurate with its rating,” the report concludes. 

Wodgina is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It started operations in April 2017, mining lithium direct shipping ore or DSO. However, in 2018, Mineral Resources decided to expand the site to enable the production of lithium spodumene concentrate and, potentially, lithium hydroxide. The company’s plan is to create the country’s first fully integrated downstream lithium operation located on one site.

Among other things, the miner is building a spodumene concentrate plant with three modules. Once completed, 833,000 wet tonnes or 750,000 dry tonnes of 6% spodumene concentrate will be produced every year.

Mineral Resources is also undergoing a feasibility study for a 56,800 – 113,600 Ktpa lithium hydroxide plant that will be in charge of converting spodumene concentrate to lithium hydroxide.

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Mexico’s Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection or Profepa ordered the partial and temporary closure of Grupo Mexico’s Guaymas facility following last week’s failure of a pressure valve of a tank that receives purges from the shipping lines at the Maritime Terminal of Guaymas, located in the northwestern Sonora state.

The accident resulted in the spill of 3,000 litres of sulfuric acid into the waters of the Sea of ​​Cortez. 

Officers from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection at Grupo Mexico’s facility in Guaymas. Photo by Profepa.

In a media statement, Profepa said that the closure was ordered because the mining company doesn’t have the required environmental impact permit to operate. Such a permit had to be issued by the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Based on article 170 section I of the General Law for Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, and on article 47 paragraph 3 of Semarnat’s Internal Bylaw, we enforced, as a safety measure, the partial temporary closure not just of tank 19 where the breach happened, but of all operations and activities related to the storage and maritime transportation of sulfuric acid,” Profepa’s media statement reads.

The agency goes on to explain that only a few operations remain active, such as the works related to the relocation of the train tracks inside Mexicana del Cobre’s property and those related to the construction of an industrial facility aimed at storing 22,000 tonnes of copper.

Mexicana del Cobre is the subsidiary of Grupo Mexico that mines copper at the Buenavista del Cobre mine in the nearby town of Cananea and operates the Guaymas facility.   

Following the tank’s failure on July 9, Grupo Mexico’s personnel started transferring the spilled acid into a pipe. At the moment, the incident was not deemed serious enough for the maritime authorities to activate an emergency plan. This assessment was later confirmed by officers from the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources who visited the site last Tuesday.

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MINING.com by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud - 15h ago

Peru’s Compañía Minera Antamina is planning to invest $390 million in a series of upgrades to its copper and zinc operation near the north-central Áncash region.

Recently, the miner submitted a technical report to the National Service of Environmental Certification for Sustainable Investments or Senace, where it explains that the plan is to upgrade the mine’s entrance and implement a transportation system that allows for easy unloading, modify some piping platforms, and reconfigure the crusher.

The changes to the entrance seek to optimize the removal of waste from the Antamina pit to the East Botadero zone, which will reduce trucks’ travel time

The upgraded crusher is going to be semi-mobile and should be able to process 13,200 tonnes of ore per hour. Overall, the company expects to be able to process 85 million tonnes of mineral per year.

Antamina is also planning to optimize the site’s wastewater treatment system and the recycled water system.

The proposal is currently under evaluation at the Senace, whose officials are assessing whether the project’s environmental permit is still valid, and whether the changes are within the mine’s approved area and don’t affect freshwater bodies, glaciers, snowed peaks, farmlands or nearby communities not considered in its existing environmental permit.

Antamina’s mine is located 4,300 metres above sea level in the San Marcos district of the Huari province. It is considered one of the world’s top 10 copper producers by volume and it is responsible for 18% of Peru’s copper output.

Besides copper, it also produces a large amount of zinc, lead, and silver and it is comprised of various stakeholders. BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Glencore (LON:GLEN) each have 33.75% stakes in Antamina. Teck Resources (NYSE:TCK) holds a 22.5% stake in the mine and Mitsubishi Corporation has 10%.

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MINING.com by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud - 15h ago

Geoscience BC has set up to start a project aimed at analyzing the possibility of extracting rare earth elements from British Columbia’s coal deposits and coal tailings facilities.

According to Geoscience, coal deposits have been identified and studied in the United States and elsewhere as a potential source of REE. 

Geoscience BC was recently awarded C$5 million in one-year bridge funding to support earth science research in British Columbia 

Based on this information, a team led by Maria Holuszko, a professor at the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at the University of British Columbia, plans to travel to the East Kootenay area, in the southeastern part of the Canadian province, and collect samples from coalfields that, at least in the scientific literature, have been identified as possible sources of rare earths. 

Once they have the samples, the group will quantify and characterize the REE found within them, and test potential extraction processes at the laboratory scale. 

In parallel, they will develop a database of REE concentration in the East Kootenay coalfields.

“Consumption of rare earth elements has increased rapidly with the emergence of clean energy and defense-related technologies,” Holuszko said in a media statement. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting, they are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” 

In the expert’s view, the information generated by her project may help establish a ‘home-grown’ source of REEs.

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Vancouver-based Aftermath Silver’s (TSX: AAG.H) stock was up over 20% Friday, after it announced it is increasing its non-brokered private placement from 18.7 million units to up to 25 million units at a price of C$0.08 cents per share.  

Aftermath said it will use the proceeds for the acquisition and exploration of the Challacollo and Cachinal silver-gold projects in Chile and for general working capital. 

Aftermath Silver will use the proceeds for the acquisition and exploration of the Challacollo and Cachinal projects

Aftermath entered into a non-binding letter of intent with Mandalay Resources to purchase its 100% interest in the Challacollo deposit, which hosts a historic 30 million silver ounce Indicated Mineral Resource (4.7 million tonnes at 200 g/t silver) and a 6.9 million silver ounce Inferred Mineral Resource (1.6 million tonnes of 134 g/t), with associated gold credits. 

The Challacollo project is located in Chile’s Tarapaca region, about 130 km southeast of the port city of Iquique. 

Aftermath also entered into a definitive agreement with Halo Labs to purchase its 80% interest in the Cachinal silver-gold project in Chile.

The Cachinal project is in Chile’s Antofagasta region and the deposit hosts a current CIM compliant 18.4 million silver ounce Indicated Mineral Resource (5.66 million tonnes of 101 g/t) and 3 million silver ounce Inferred Mineral Resource (0.82 million tonnes of 115 g/t), with associated gold credit. 

The deal is subject to the approval of the TSX Venture Exchange. At market close Friday, Aftermath’s shares had been traded 244,000 times, over 100 times the average daily volume of 2,285. The company has a C$2.6 million market capitalization.  

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The world’s no. 2 gold miner, Barrick Gold, (NYSE:GOLD) (TSX:ABX) is actively seeking to extend the life of its Tongon gold mine while exploring new opportunities elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire, chief executive Mark Bristow said Friday. 

Tongon is now in its 10th year of operations, and on current reserves, has under three years of life left, but Barrick hopes to extend it by converting near-mine resources to reserves, exploring the potential of satellite deposits and probing targets along the Badenou trend in the Tongon lease area.   

Bristow said Randgold Resources, since merged with Barrick, has been involved in Côte d’Ivoire for more than 20 years, spending in excess of $90 million on exploration.  

Bristow said the success of the company’s exploration program depends on the government’s support in the processing of applications and facilitating access to permits.   

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Shutting down a primary gyratory crusher for relining requires careful planning. The entire shutdown process—from cleaning out the pit to the final relining steps—can take days and, in some cases, up to a week.

Many of the tasks involve safety concerns that need to be examined and mitigated. To mitigate some of these problems and speed up the overall relining process, there are four solutions to consider. Each has advantages in terms of safety improvements and reducing downtime, but they also carry certain costs that need to be evaluated. Below is a quick overview of the benefits of these options.

Double tier concaves for quick gains in PG relining

The outer lining of a typical gyratory crusher consists of individual pieces called concave segments; each one of these needs to be lifted separately during installation and/or removal. A 60-89 gyratory crusher has a standard lining of 6 tiers of concaves that need to be changed during a planned shutdown event. Normally, all the concaves would be removed piece by piece and new concaves installed.

However, switching to concave segments with a different design is a quick way to reduce both downtime and maintenance. The double-tier concave segments are twice as high as regular linings. This translates to 50% fewer consumable parts to be changed, and ultimately reduces exposure to risks for the crews performing the reline. The same relining methods are used for double tier concaves, so no additional tooling is required. The double tier components can be slightly more difficult to manipulate; however, the plusses often far outweigh any challenges in handling the longer and heavier components.

Carousel and removal trays to cut installation time

For further improvements, using handling tools to manipulate both the worn and new concave segments for removal and installation can bring even further gains. In a large primary gyratory, there can easily be 80 concave segments to lift out and replace (4 tiers with 20 segments per tier). Not only is each individual lift a safety risk, but it is also time consuming as the pieces are lifted one by one.

For removals of the older worn concaves, an entire tier of segments can be lifted at the same time using concave removal trays. This significantly cuts down on the number of lifts required. In the example with 80 concave segments, this would cut the number of lifts from 80 to 4. The same logic applies to using a concave carousel for the installation of the new tiers of concaves. The carousel can be used to install an entire tier of replacement concaves, thereby also reducing the number of lifts from 80 to 4 for the entire installation sequence. By reducing the number of lifts, risk exposure and maintenance times are reduced.

In terms of overall time, using these two handling systems in combination typically cuts reline time in half. Each carousel and removal tray is custom designed to fit the specific PG model and chamber profile. Investing in these tools carries initial investment costs but pays itself back with increased uptime as well as improving safety thanks to the reduced number of lifts. 

Maximizing primary gyratory uptime with rotable top shells

For customers who require the highest levels of availability from their Primary Gyratory, there is a third option to consider. Rotable top shells are complete shell segments relined in advance (either on or off-site) and ready to be installed once the existing shell segments are removed with their worn concaves still in place.

This solution saves time as you do not need to install the concaves during the planned shutdown, and fewer components are being manipulated during the outage period. It is no longer necessary to transport and place work platforms in the crusher and maintenance can be done in a more controlled and safer environment. During the shutdown, the shells are separated and lifted (optionally with hydraulic shell separators) and replaced with the relined shells.

Compared to a typical shutdown period, using the rotable top shell concept can provide a reduction in downtime. Using rotable top shells significantly reduces the time needed to reline as well as requiring fewer labor hours and offering improvements in safety by reducing the likelihood of incidents or risks to personnel. However, the flip side of the coin is that additional shell segments are needed which carry capital costs and also involve lifting capacity considerations.

Tools are only as good as the crews using them

A final factor to consider is whether hiring a reline crew to perform the shutdowns can bring further benefits. Metso Life Cycle Services (LCS) contracts often make use of the above solutions, while also utilizing tools such as SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) analysis, which looks at each task within a shutdown to determine where delays are taking place to help determine where time savings can be made. Over the course of the contract, shutdown times often continue to decrease as the SMED is a continuous improvement process always looking for delays to be eliminated.

Making the right choice

Each of the above solutions can help to make significant improvements in reducing shutdown times for concave replacement. Comparing the cost considerations for each option versus the potential savings is an exercise that needs to be performed in order to make the decision that will bring the highest operational gains for your specific site and application.

(By Alex Merklein, Maintenance and Planning Engineer, Field Services, Metso)

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Shares in Nemaska Lithium Inc soared on Friday after the company announced it has received a letter of intent for a $460m (C$600m) investment from specialist mining investment firm, Pallinghurst.

Pallinghurst is contemplating C$200m private placement at C$0.25 per share and a stand-by purchase agreement to fully guarantee the successful completion of a rights offering of up to C$400m at the same issue price, according to a press release.

The funding will enable Nemaska to complete the construction of its Whabouchi hard rock lithium mine in the James Bay region and Shawinigan processing plant north of Montreal.

After a trading halt was lifted, shares in Nemaska gained as much as 45% to $0.32 a share in Toronto, lifting the market value of the developer to $260m. The stock had been under pressure since February when Nemaska said it was facing a budget overrun of C$375m on the project.

Last year, Nemaska arranged $1.1 billion financing for the lithium project. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the largest tech investment fund ever assembled, entered the mining sector for the first time in May 2018, buying up to 9.9% of the Quebec City-based company.

DOWNLOAD FREE BATTERY METALS MAP

Map of major producing mines and mine development projects of minerals used in Lithium Ion Batteries. Commodities include Lithium, Graphite and Cobalt. Map includes locations of 240+ producing mines, 45 development projects, 110+ projects in economic assessment, and 40 suspended mines.
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The mining business environment is constantly changing; it would not be an overstatement to say that the paradigm is shifting, as mines face new challenges. The pressing issues are not only about low-grade ore bodies and mines going deeper, but also about long-term environmental impacts.

Mining involves the processing of mined ore to separate valuable minerals, leaving behind huge volumes of waste tailings. Driven by mining volumes, globally generated tailings are estimated to total up to 3.2 billion tons for copper and up to 1.8 billion tons for iron per year. Water conservation and the cost of tailings and reclamation are also becoming increasingly significant factors for sustainable and economically viable mining and long-term survival.

The practice of dewatering tailings, however, is still limited to few areas globally. According to Metso’s analysis, only ~5% of tailings generated in 2018 were dewatered into thickened, paste, or dry tailing. We estimate that by 2025 the share of generated tailings that are dewatered will increase to ~13%.

Challenging the conventional

The way tailings are handled can have a long-term impact on economic efficiency as well as on community well-being and ecosystem sustainability. The recent tailings dam failures have brought safety and environmental concerns to the forefront; there have also been stronger regulatory compliances affecting the social license to operate in many regions.

Metso views dry filtered tailings as the most viable and long-term solution for tailings handling, as it not only helps in recycling significantly more water to the concentrator, but also allows for a smaller freshwater footprint compared to traditional tailings impoundments. Contrary to the conventional belief, dry tailings are much more CAPEX and OPEX efficient compared to wet or paste/thickened tailings. Technology is evolving and shifting the gears towards the adoption of smart and hybrid solutions that maximize ore and water recovery while optimizing operational costs.

Enabling a water-positive world

Today, about 70% of the mines operated by the major mining companies are in countries where water scarcity is considered as the major risk. Therefore, responsible water use is the primary driver of the growing interest in tailings dewatering – especially in countries like Peru, Chile, the US and South Africa, where the significant mines are in dry areas.

The industry needs future-ready and smart filtration solutions to solve complex tailings handling challenges. Backed by proven technology and industrial knowledge, Metso is ahead of the curve in developing the most efficient dewatering solutions with an intense commitment to maximize water recovery and reuse.

Getting future ready

A lot of old tailings facilities have residual mineral values, or secondary metals that were not of interest at the time. With the advent of novel technologies, mining companies are now figuring out ways to extract valuable metals from tailings. There are ongoing feasibility studies and capabilities to look into legacy dams enabling customers to plan an “end of the mine” strategy. 

Reprocessing could provide opportunities to help in environmental reclamation, while at the same time offering an attractive investment opportunity. Treating tailings ponds as a potential source for converting “waste to value” would surely help in changing the way the mining industry has been perceived all these years.

(By Niclas Hällevall, VP, Beneficiation Solutions)

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Canadian Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI) (NYSE:AUY) published on Friday the results of a pre-feasibility study for its Agua Rica copper-gold project in Argentina, which shows higher reserves and an initial mine of 28 years.

Agua Rica’s proven and probable copper mineral reserves increased by 21% since the end of 2018 to 11.8 billion pounds, while gold mineral reserves gained 12% to 7.4 million ounces.

The Toronto-based miner said the initial capital cost, estimated in $2.4 billion, realizes significant synergies from using infrastructure and facilities of Alumbrera, a joint venture with Glencore and Newmont Goldcorp.

The project, located in the northwestern Argentinean province of Catamarca, is forecast to generate 533 million pounds of copper-equivalent in its first 10 years of operation. A feasibility study is expected to be completed by 2020.

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