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Monsters of Rock: Big miners ready for the weekend as sentiment turns positive

It’s been a tough week for the big miners, who have borne the brunt of volatile iron ore and gold … Read More
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It’s been a tough week for the big miners, who have borne the brunt of volatile iron ore and gold prices.

The materials sector has contracted by some 3.22% over the past five days and more than 10% over the last month.

Pic: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Nickelodeon.

But finally a bit of joy for resources investors today as the industry swam in sea of soothing green.

mining stocks performance Sept 10 2021
Pic: Commsec

Iron ore stocks received a shot in the arm from news a slow ramp up at its operations in northern Brazil means Vale will be unable to hit its planned 400Mtpa production capacity next year, knocking down its forecast 2022 runrate to 370Mtpa.

The iron ore miners were led by the Pilbara’s fifth wheel Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN), which jumped more than 5% to pare back losses for the week.

The biggest winners today were again aluminium stocks, with Alumina (ASX:AWC) and South32 (ASX:S32) basking in the afterglow of a 1.9% rise in LME aluminium prices to 13 year highs of US$2829/t while nickel was up 2.5% to push through the US$20,000/t barrier and tin rose 4% to US$34,092/t.

Battery metals stocks prospered with IGO (ASX:IGO), Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL), Nickel Mines (ASX:NIC), Lynas (ASX:LYC) and Australian Strategic Materials (ASX:ASM) all among the top performers in the large and mid cap space.

 

RAMELIUS RESOURCES (ASX:RMS)

Gold miners also saw signs of life.

Ramelius Resources was up slightly after announcing a 15% increase in resources at its WA gold operations to 5.4Moz.

Mark Zeptner’s Ramelius, which owns the Edna May and Mt Magnet gold mining hubs, also maintained reserves at record levels of 1.1Moz albeit with a drop in grade form 2.1g/t to 2g/t.

The ~275,000ozpa gold producer says work is under way to convert resources to reserves.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Kaan Peker said the resource upgrade was largely positive, boding well for future underground developments at the Eridanus and Galaxy deposits at Mt Magnet.

“The increase in resources at Eridanus below the current Stage 2 Pit bodes well for the potential conversion to underground mining at the operation, especially with some of the high grade intercepts that have been hit recently including 45m at 3.23g/t gold,” he wrote.

“Ramelius has completed scoping study work on the potential for an underground at Eridanus (FY25 start, LHOS, Capex A$38M, production 119koz), but at this stage, we don’t include this in our forecast until further infill drilling and pit deepening have been completed.

“The Galaxy Resource increase provides a platform for Scoping study work that is expected to commence in December 2021. Previous scoping work (July 2021) envisioned mining the Galaxy Resource from FY24 for an initial 6-yr life, producing 179koz at an AISC of A$1,689/oz with minimal upfront capital expenditure of A$40m.

“With no ongoing open pit work above the potential Galaxy undergrounds (See Exhibit 2), we believe there is potential to bring forward the start of underground mining at Galaxy once additional studies and drilling have been completed.”

 

Ramelius Resources share price today:

 

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Bryah nabs strategic exploration ground around namesake project

Special Report: Bryah Resources has expanded its footprint in WA, securing three exploration licences covering 50 km2 around its existing … Read More
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Bryah Resources has expanded its footprint in WA, securing three exploration licences covering 50 km2 around its existing land holding in the Bryah and Padbury Basins.

The Bryah Basin hosts the high-grade copper-gold mines at DeGrussa, discovered by Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) in 2009, and at Horseshoe Lights, which was mined until 1994.

It also hosts several historical and current manganese mines including the company’s Horseshoe South mine.

Bryah Resources’ (ASX:BYH) is confident that the new tenements – E52/3848, E52/3898 and E52/3963 – cover prospective and under-explored areas which have gold, copper-gold and manganese exploration potential.

The tenements were acquired for 4 million ordinary shares at an issue price of $0.055/share.

Tenure right next to historic gold mine

The largest tenement (E52/3898) covers exploration ground adjacent to the historic Wilthorpe shallow open cut gold mine.

The mine straddles the boundary of new tenement E52/3898 and an adjacent E52/2059, held by Westgold Resources (ASX:WGX).

It was mined by Dominion Mining from 1993-94, producing 4,650 ounces of gold from 72,817 tonnes of ore grading 2.0 g/t gold.

And there has been limited gold exploration since.

Based on the reported mineral occurrences, Bryah considers the tenement package highly prospective for copper, gold, and manganese.

Pic: Tenement location plan

Exploration planning underway

The company will shortly commence a thorough desktop review of all historical exploration reports as well as its own extensive database.

The data review will support a detailed phase of exploration planning, ahead of ground exploration activities.

In the meantime, reverse circulation drilling is underway at Bryah’s manganese JV, in a 2000m program fully funded by partner OM Holdings.

 


 

 

This article was developed in collaboration with Bryah Resources, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

 

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.

 

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Mining battery metals from the sea floor – could it soon be a low-impact reality?

Low-impact sea mining could become a reality for one ambitious company with the arrival of a 228m ship in Rotterdam … Read More
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Low-impact sea floor mining could finally become a reality for one ambitious company with the arrival of a 228-metre ship in Rotterdam earlier this week, heralding a critical milestone in its plans to become a producer of battery metals sourced from the deep ocean.

Named the Hidden Gem, the vessel is the key to The Metal Company’s (NASDAQ:TMC) vision of developing the world’s largest source of battery metals from the ocean floor with commercial production plans targeted for 2024.

TMC’s strategic partner, Allseas, will be converting a former deep-sea drilling vessel into a subsea mining vessel, retrofitting the ship with equipment to gather polymetallic nodules on the seafloor within contract areas held by TMC in the Pacific Ocean’s Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ).

The Hidden Gem. Pic: Business Wire

These potato-sized polymetallic nodules contain high grades of critical minerals such as nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt, which are integral to the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries and other renewable energy technologies.
 

Enough to power 250 million EVs

Back in April 2020, TMC acquired its third seabed contract area to explore for polymetallic nodules from Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML), which opened it up to a further 74,713km square block of exploration rights.

The third contract area comprises an inferred resource of 756 wet tonnes of polymetallic nodules, meaning its expanded footprint now contains enough nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese to build more than 250 million electric vehicle batteries.

Speaking to the TOML acquisition, TMC’s chairman and CEO Gerard Barron said the project will enable The Metal Company to bring more critical minerals to market to break through the bottleneck and shift away from fossil fuels.

“Our research shows that ocean polymetallic nodules can provide society with these metals at a fraction of the environmental and social impacts associated with land-based extraction.”

Pic: Supplied

 

Environmental concerns about sea floor mining

The environmental concerns which surround mining of the ocean’s floors are well documented, with several jurisdictions and regulatory bodies imposing bans and strict regulations on subsea mining due to the lack of understanding around the environmental impacts and growing fears about the irreversible effects these practices may have on the fragile ecosystems that we know very little about.

Many scientists believe that far more resources have been spent researching ways to mine the ocean floor rather than studying the impact this type of mining might have on the underwater environment.

TMC, however, believes that the Hidden Gem subsea vessel, which will deploy a 4.5km riser to collect the nodules off the seafloor without drilling, blasting or digging, can avoid much of the environmental disturbance associated with traditional sea floor mining methods.
 

Past failures

Planning to mine the oceanic crust’s wealth of mineral resources is a well-trodden path that’s seen many companies fail to deliver on their promises of production due to regulatory and financial hurdles.

Companies such as Nautilius and its high-grade Solwara 1 copper-gold project off the PNG coast is one recent example.

Nautilius had plans to turn its Solwara 1 project into the world’s first underwater copper-gold mining operation but wound up delisting from the TSX and going bankrupt in 2019.

The Canadian company had developed three undersea robots to mine hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor before funding issues became a problem midway through construction.
 

On the road to meeting deep-sea battery metals goal

There are examples of successful mining ventures in the ocean such as in Indonesia’s tin industry, diamond extraction in Namibia, and gold mining off Alaska’s coast, however these ventures are often heavily scrutinised by environmental lobby groups and constantly face the risk of being shut down due to increasing global environmental awareness and a trend towards greener policies from the governments who licence them.

While there is still plenty of obstacles and work to be done, TMC, with the help of Allseas and their new vessel, which is expected to be the first ship classified as a sub-sea mining vessel under American Bureau of Shipping, are much closer than many of their peers to realising the goal of supplying the market with battery metals from the seafloor.

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Pilbara Minerals’ Ken Brinsden on that record-breaking lithium auction and why high pricing is ‘expected to persist’

Pilbara Minerals sold an 8,000t spodumene cargo on the spot market for a record $US2,240/t. Where do prices go from here? … Read More
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Last week, the share price of Aussie hard rock lithium miner Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) hit an all-time high off the back of its second Battery Material Exchange (BMX) auction.

The miner sold an 8,000t spodumene cargo on the spot market for an extraordinary $US2,240/t, essentially doubling the $US1,250/tonne received via the inaugural auction held late July.

This is a record price for spodumene concentrate — far above the peak at the last price cycle in 2017/18, where the highest spodumene price reached $US1,000/tonne.

The first PLS auction price (green cross below) was so far outside the trendline it caused the average price to spike in July.

BMX #2 will have an even bigger impact.

While the super high price can be partially attributed to the relatively unique and competitive form of sale (open auction), it also verified what has long been suspected – there is not enough lithium being produced to meet current demand.

Good news for miners.

Pilbara Minerals managing director Ken Brinsden says significant participation in the first round of the BMX auction, combined with lithium chemicals pricing continuing to accelerate, meant the company was always confident of strong response in the second auction.

“We were optimistic it would be a healthy price and well bid. That was certainly the case,” Brinsden told Stockhead.

“As to the final price – look, we were probably a little surprised as to where it landed.”

While a date has yet to be set, Brinsden expects at least one more BMX auction before the end of the year.

“We would say the lot size would not be much different – 8,000 to 10,000t, up to a maximum of 15,000t,” he says.

“What it boils down to is the restart of the Ngungaju operation because that’s where the volumes for the spot market will come from.”

The restart of the ‘Ngungaju’ facility at Pilgangoora — or the former Altura operation – is a very important part of the business.

At full capacity that plant should be about 200,000t of uncontracted spodumene concentrate by about the middle of next year.

“It will be about 30% of our underlying production from Pilgangoora,” he says.

“Those tonnes are well positioned to feed the emerging spot market.”

 

A maturing lithium market

Brinsden says the Pilbara Minerals would consider having other lithium companies use the BMX platform “because we advocate for greater transparency in pricing”.

The contract market — where most tonnes are sold — has traditionally been very opaque, with prices determined behind closed doors.

This, amongst other things, makes it harder for aspiring miners to get finance.

“Greater volumes in the spot market makes sense because it represents a step toward the maturity of lithium markets,” Brinsden says.

“Greater transparency is going to translate to greater, more definitive pricing outcomes, the potential for futures markets, hedging instruments – all the financial tools being built around the industry that support the flow of capital.

“That is very natural, and it happens in the growth of just about every commodities market.

“Lithium raw materials won’t be any different.”

 

The lithium price boom ‘expected to persist’

This high pricing is fundamental, Brinsden says.

“It’s all about the next round of incentive pricing to attract capital to lithium raw materials supply,” he says.

“That is what is going to be required to grow the pool of producers to support this pretty significant global demand.”

Solving the lithium shortage isn’t as easy as turning on production.

“In the hard rock space – at least as it relates to merchant spodumene supply – the next available [production] uplift besides us is probably late next year at the earliest, I would say,” Brinsden says.

Australia’s next miner is shaping up to be Core Lithium’s (ASX:CXO) ‘Finniss’ project in the NT, which is targeting first production in the second half of 2022.


 

That is why tightness in the market is expected to continue.

And while one cannot say that the market price for spodumene is now ~$US2,000/t — when the majority of spodumene supply is currently being shipped for between $700/tonne and $1,100/tonne – it does demonstrate that more is needed, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst George Miller says.

“Spodumene prices such as this indicate that converter margins are being passed upstream to where the tightness is in that market — spodumene supply,” he says.

“Feedstock inventory with many spodumene converters is either non-existent or quickly dwindling.

“Meanwhile, very little additional tonnage [will] come online in the near-term as a result of underinvestment and low prices within the lithium industry over the past three years.”

 

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