St Barbara's Day Mining Summary

On the feast day of St Barbara (the patron saint of miners) we look at mining industry announcements over the past week that have implications for equipment suppliers, the service sector and the global financial community.

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Rio Tinto has approved a US$2.6 billion investment in the 'intelligent' Koodaideri iron ore mine, which is part of the Hamersley Consolidated operation in Western Australia. With a capacity of 43 Mt/y upon completion, Koodaideri will fully incorporate technologies implemented in its other operations, including robotics and driverless trains and trucks.

Reuters reports that Algerian state energy company Sonatrach Spa and Chinese state-owned conglomerate Citic Ltd have signed a US$6 billion deal to build a phosphate plant in Algeria's Tebessa region. Sonatrach CEO Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour said the plant will become operational in 2022. The deal includes a US$1.2 billion investment at the El Hadaba mine.

Saudi Arabia is planning to lift mining's contribution to GDP from US$17 billion to US$64 billion by 2030, Reuters reported November 26. The development will focus on the country's untapped reserves of bauxite, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium. Earlier in November, Saudi Arabia unveiled a US$22.7 billion mining project in the country's northern region, which is said to host 500 Mt of phosphate ore.

Adani Enterprises Ltd will self-finance development of the US$16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine and railway project in Queensland after banks declined to fund the controversial operation amid pressure from environmental groups. Adani Mining's CEO Lucas Dow said that the company will develop a smaller open-cut mine then ramp up production over time to 27 Mt/y.

Glencore Plc has revised its three-year capex forecast, retaining the 2018 capex estimate at US$4.8 billion but increasing next year's guidance to US$5.0 billion from US$4.7 billion previously, and that for 2020 to US$4.9 billion from US$4.0 billion.

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Ltd, a joint venture between Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp., is set to expand the southern boundary of its Kalgoorlie Super Pit mine. The company is reported to be planning a smaller starter pit as it assesses the rock falls that took place at the operation earlier this year.

Potash miner PJSC Uralkali plans to spend 214 billion Russian rubles on projects, according to Interfax. The proposed investments include a plant at the Polovodovsky mine, the Berezniki greenfields project and construction of the new Solikamsk-2 mine.

Congolese state miner Gécamines SA has agreed a production-sharing deal with Hongkong Excellen Mining Investment for copper and cobalt from the Kingamyambo and Kilamusembo deposits. The Chinese firm will pay a US$40 million signing bonus by the end of this year.

Piedmont Lithium Ltd is raising A$12.2 million to fund exploration and infill drilling, aiming to expand and upgrade resources at its namesake Piedmont lithium project in North Carolina. In September, an updated scoping study for Piedmont resulted in an increased net present value of US$888 million (discounted at 8%).

The government of Western Australia will provide A$5.3 million to 40 drilling projects in 2019 under its exploration incentive scheme. The co-funding will support exploration for gold, base metals, petroleum, nickel, lithium, rare earth elements, potash and diamonds, according to a statement from Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.

A pre-feasibility study for the Wasamac gold project in Quebec has defined a net present value, discounted at 5%, of C$311 million. The study by Monarques Gold Corp. estimated average annual gold production of 142,000 oz over an 11-year mine life. Initial capital expenditure is pegged at C$464 million, including about C$230 million for the construction of a mill and tailings facility.

Continental Gold Inc. expects to complete construction and achieve first gold pour at its Buritica project in Colombia in the first half of 2020, with commercial production ramping up six months later. An updated mineral resource estimate remains on schedule for completion in the first quarter of 2019.

Argosy Minerals Ltd has released a preliminary economic assessment for its Rincon lithium project in Argentina. The mine has a base case, pre-tax, net present value, discounted at 10%, of US$399 million.

A scoping study by Infinity Lithium Corp. for lithium hydroxide production at the San Jose lithium-tin joint venture in Spain outlined a net present value, discounted at 8%, of US$905 million. The study was based on a total indicated and inferred resource estimate of 111.3 Mt grading 0.28% lithium.

Poland plans to invest in a new coal mine in Silesia in 2019 following an increase in imports, according to Reuters. Most of the imports come from Russia as local production has fallen.

A feasibility study for the Loma Larga gold-copper-silver project in Ecuador of INV Metals Inc. generated a net present value of US$356 million, at a 5% discount rate. The company expects to produce an average of over 200,000 oz/y (equivalent) over the 12-year mine life.

Construction of the US$2.2 billion Pampa de Pongo iron ore project in Arequipa, Peru, is likely to begin in 2020 rather than this year. The project is operated by Jinzhao Mining Peru SA, a joint venture owned 51% by Jiangtong Group and 49% by Zhongrong Xinda Group Co.

Bloomberg reports that Peru is close to unlocking its vast reserves of copper in the northern region of Cajamarca as anti-mining sentiment subsides. Bloomberg was citing Cia. de Minas Buenaventura SAA's chairman Roque Benavides, who said a recent change of government could make new projects viable again. Meanwhile, Buenaventura is set to implement mining projects at Trapiche, Rio Seco and San Gabriel in 2021. All these projects are currently at the pre-feasibility stage.

Meanwhile, Peru has overtaken Chile as the country in Latin America that attracted the highest exploration budget from miners, according to the Metals and Mining Research team at S&P Global Market Intelligence. Overall, the region attracted an exploration budget of US$2.7 billion this year, an increase of 15% over 2017.

Fura Gems Inc. is planning a private placement to raise up to C$5.2 million for exploration and development of the company's emerald and ruby assets in Colombia and Mozambique, and for general corporate purposes.

Following closure of the last hard-coal mine in Germany, Prosper-Haniel, scheduled for December, the country will have to rely on Russia, the US and Colombia to import coal, Bloomberg News reported. The mine was forced to shut down after the government stopped €1 billion of annual subsidies.

Meanwhile, according to a report by environmental think-tank Carbon Tracker Initiative, 42% of the global coal capacity is currently unprofitable due to rising fuel costs. The report forecasts that further cost pressure from air pollution regulation and carbon pricing will make 72% of coal plants unprofitable by 2040.

Source: All material is taken from S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals & Mining database.

Chris Hinde

Chief Commentator, Mining Beacon

Previously editorial director of Mining Journal, and more recently head of S&P Global Market Intelligence's metals and mining team, Chris is now Mining Beacon's editor-in-chief and lead commentator. He posts two blogs every week, one on Monday reviewing market conditions over the prior week, and a second on Thursday looking at issues on the global mining scene. There is also a quarterly blog on business opportunities in the sector.