November 2015

Industry at a glance

By Kelsey Rolfe and Kate Sheridan

Coal association encourages optimism at annual conference

Paul Vining
Paul Vining, CEO of Florida-based Cutlass Collieries, spoke at the Coal Association of Canada’s 2015 conference in Vancouver in September. He presented on the potential for new coal mines in Canada, highlighting his own project in Nova Scotia | Courtesy of the Coal Association of Canada

Paul Vining, CEO of Florida-based Cutlass Collieries, spoke at the Coal Association of Canada’s 2015 conference in Vancouver in September. He presented on the potential for new coal mines in Canada, highlighting his own project in Nova Scotia.

News for coal producers around the world has been grim as of late, but Ann Marie Hann, president of the Coal Association of Canada (CAC), said she believes coal markets will perk up – it is just a matter of when. “Coal is a cyclical industry and has been through downturns before and rebounded well,” she said following the CAC’s 2015 conference, held in Vancouver on Sept. 17-18. “We need to be ready when [markets] do [recover].”

More than 200 people from 16 countries attended the event to discuss how coal miners can begin “preparing patiently for the upturn,” which was the theme of this year’s conference.

The conference’s five general sessions focused on strategies for building and investing for the future. Financial analysts and experts presented on the potential for coal in global markets, including those in emerging India and China, where the economy has slowed.

For the first time, the event also included technical presentations. The first session centred on new technologies for the industry like wave liquefaction and a holistic, multi-modal approach to handling coal. The second delved into environmental control and mitigation topics, including selenium filtration technology and the response to the 2013 incident at Obed mine in Alberta, when coal process water was accidentally released from a storage pond into the Athabasca River.

At the conference banquet, CAC presented a Special Recognition Award for environmental and innovation achievement to SaskPower for its Boundary Dam power station, which uses carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions by 90 per cent, according to a press release announcing the award.

The association also awarded the CAC Award of Distinction to David Fawcett for his role in acquiring and developing coal properties in British Columbia over the past 20 years, including his work on the Willow Creek, Belcourt, Wolverine, Burnt River/Brule, Wapiti/Echo Hill and Horizon projects. “His involvement in so many projects has left a strong legacy for the future of the region and province,” said Hann.

The 2016 conference is scheduled for June 8-10 in Vancouver. 

– Kate Sheridan

MiHR announces three new occupational standards, pilot certification program

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) will be piloting certifications for three new National Occupational Standards early next year.

MiHR announced in early October it is developing standards for frontline supervisors, hoist operators and trainers.

Frontline supervisors are “crucial” to a smooth mining operation, executive director Ryan Montpellier said. However, an aging workforce makes the position among the most difficult to fill, according to MiHR’s 2015 national labour outlook survey. As for trainers, skill sets can vary widely from site to site, and hoist operators perform a highly technical and specialized role.

The new certifications will fall under MiHR’s Canadian Mining Certification Program, which has been certifying miners in “undesignated occupations” in underground mining, surface mining, minerals processing and diamond drilling since 2012. These occupations are not considered skilled trades, but still involve performing job-specific tasks.

Montpellier said the new certifications are meant to recognize people already serving in positions for their skills but may also encourage miners to apply for frontline supervisor positions.

“We know that youth today are looking for a career, not just a job,” he explained. “For many years, the occupations in mining that were not considered skilled trades did not have the recognition needed for people to want to pursue them. The certification program does that.”

The new standards will be ready for review this fall and will officially launch next year. National certification pilots for these standards will begin around the same time. MiHR is hoping to recruit about 100 miners currently in the field to go through the pilot certification process for the three newly added occupations.

– K.S.

Kaminak gets a boost

Kaminak’s Coffee gold project in Yukon includes four deposits (labelled above), the largest of which is Supremo. The company’s Sept. 2015 Mineral Resource Estimate stated the project contains 2,968,000 ounces of Indicated Resources | Courtesy of Kaminak

Kaminak Gold has gained another significant investor. The company, which is advancing its Coffee gold project in Yukon, announced on Sept. 28 it received $22.5 million through a non-brokered private placement agreement with Electrum Strategic Opportunities Fund LP. The funding will allow Kaminak to continue exploration at its flagship project.

The fund is an investment arm of the Vancouver-based corporate advisor Electrum Group and now owns more than 10 per cent of Kaminak. Other shares in the placement went to existing shareholders including Ross Beaty and Zebra Holdings and Investments S.à.r.l., Luxembourg. Both investors each now own 8.29 per cent. Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining Fund remained the largest shareholder after the placement, holding 16.83 per cent.

“Kaminak is very pleased to be welcoming Electrum as a significant new shareholder in conjunction with a financing that renews and builds upon the support of our existing strong shareholder base,” said Eira Thomas, president and CEO of Kaminak, in a press release.

The company estimated in a 2014 preliminary economic assessment that the proposed open-pit, heap-leach project could produce almost 1.86 million ounces over the proposed 11-year mine life.

Kaminak is aiming to begin construction in 2018 with production following in 2019, according to the press release. A feasibility study is fully funded and expected in early 2016.

– K.S.

Work restarts at Ontario deposit after 24-year lawsuit settled

Richmond Minerals’ Swayze gold project in northern Ontario shows some signs of life this fall. Diamond drilling resumed in September after a 24-year lawsuit was resolved in January 2014. | Courtesy of Richmond Minerals

After a 26-year hiatus due to outstanding litigation, junior miner ­Richmond Minerals resumed diamond drilling on Sept. 21 at its fully permitted Ridley Lake gold project in northern Ontario. The last major exploration work at the site was a 13-hole diamond-drilling program in 1989.

Work stopped at the project because of a lawsuit launched by Jacobus Hanemaayer in 1990 against Robert Platt, the former president of the company that became Richmond Minerals. Hanemaayer alleged that Platt had misallocated funds he had invested in a kaolin project in the James Bay lowlands instead toward the unrelated Ridley Lake site, referred to in the lawsuit as the Swayze Claim.

The claim is located in the Swayze greenstone belt, in the same area as Goldcorp’s Borden Lake gold project, which it obtained in the acquisition of Probe Mines for close to half a billion dollars earlier in the year.

The case was thought to be the oldest outstanding civil litigation in the province when the trial began in 2013. The delay between the initial orders to stop work and the start of the trial was due to other intervening legal issues, said Richmond Minerals’ exploration manager Warren Hawkins.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released the decision in January 2014. It stated that Hanemaayer did not own any interest in the claim where the Ridley Lake project is located. Further, he was not entitled to a tax credit for investments in mineral exploration projects based on expenses at the Swayze Claim because there was no evidence that his funds had been used at the site.

Since the lawsuit was resolved, the company has raised $638,000 and signed memorandums of understanding with local First Nations.

This year’s drilling plan will start with six holes and will be re-evaluated from there. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” Hawkins said. “Certainly the fortunes of our company are vastly different now in a positive way than they were a couple of years ago.”

– K.S.

Gold miner resumes processing at Argentina operation

Barrick has resumed normal processing activities at its Veladero open-pit gold mine in Argentina following the removal of a restriction that prevented the addition of new cyanide to the heap leach circuit on Sept. 24. The restriction was instituted Sept. 16 after workers discovered a valve failure in the circuit, which caused a leak of a cyanide-containing solution into the Potrerillos River three days earlier. The circuit continued to function during the restriction.

Before normal operations were allowed to resume, Barrick was ordered by an Argentine court to demonstrate that additional preventative measures were in place.

In compliance with the judge’s orders, Barrick increased the frequency of valve inspections, installed new heat tracing and insulation materials to pipe valves, and implemented further water monitoring requirements, said Andy Lloyd, Barrick’s senior vice-president of communications.

Barrick is a signatory of the Cyanide Code, a management strategy for the gold-leaching chemical developed in 2005 by the International Cyanide Management Code that includes protocol surrounding emergency response to a cyanide incident as well as public reporting and stakeholder involvement.

The company and local authorities are currently investigating the incident for possible causes.

Barrick estimated that 1,072 cubic metres (over one million litres) of processing solution escaped. However, cyanide made up only a small fraction of the total volume. “The water testing results that we have downstream show that the cyanide level never exceeded the safe, legal drinking water limit,” Lloyd said. Nevertheless, Barrick and local municipalities worked together to distribute drinking water.

Veladero has 4,737,000 ounces of Proven and Probable Reserves and is expected to produce up to 625,000 ounces this year.

– K.S.

Mining industry lags in board and C-suite diversity: review

About 65 per cent of mining companies on the TSX have no women on their boards according to a review spearheaded by the Ontario Securities Commission. Securities regulatory authorities from 10 provinces and territories participated in the review, which evaluated board and executive officer diversity across 722 TSX-listed companies. Published in late September, the review examined companies’ adoption of specific diversity targets, and their disclosure of the number of women on corporate boards and in C-suites, as required under recently instituted comply-or-explain regulations. The review did not include 164 companies that had fiscal years ending outside of Dec. 31, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Overall, 49 per cent of the issuers sampled had at least one woman on their board, and 60 per cent had at least one in an executive officer position. Mining had the highest proportion of companies with no women on their boards of any industry, followed closely by technology and oil and gas. The three industries, along with biotechnology, also had the worst records when it came to the proportion with no women in executive officer positions, at around 50 per cent. Here are some findings for the mining industry:

– Kelsey Rolfe

Infographic on board and C-suite diversity

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame to induct five new members

 Stewart L. Blusson  Robert M. Friedland  Louis Gignac  Keith Brimacombe  Harold Williams

Stewart L. Blusson, Robert M. Friedland, Louis Gignac, J. Keith Brimacombe and Harold Williams (left to right) were announced as the 2016 inductees into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame | Courtesy of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame

Five men who have made major contributions to the mining industry will be inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame on Jan. 14 during a ceremony at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Stewart L. Blusson, Robert M. Friedland, Louis Gignac, J. Keith Brimacombe and Harold (Hank) Williams are the 2016 crop of inductees.

Blusson is an entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for his help discovering what became the Ekati mine in the early 1990s, Canada’s first diamond project, which is now owned by Dominion Diamond.

Friedland is the founder of Ivanhoe Capital Corporation and Ivanhoe Mines, which has ongoing projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa. “This honour is proudly shared with the members of several teams of bright, dedicated individuals whose outstanding efforts during the past three decades have contributed to a number of notable discoveries,” he said.

Louis Gignac also acknowledged that his achievements as president and CEO of Quebec-based Cambior for 20 years were team efforts. “This nomination was totally unexpected and is extremely rewarding after an intense 45-year career in the mining industry,” he said. Gignac led more than 20 projects over the past three decades. “I owe this one to thousands of people who got us through many dreams and challenges.”

Brimacombe and Williams will be inducted posthumously. Brimacombe was a professor and the founder of the Centre for Metallurgical Process Engineering at UBC. His efforts as a researcher in metallurgical engineering led to the development of improved metallurgical processes and processing advancements. “This is such an honour, and my Dad would have been so pleased,” said Brimacombe’s daughter, Kathryn Brimacombe Alvarez.

Williams was a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and advanced the theory of plate tectonics, advocating for a theory of colliding super-continents. His work shaped the way greenfield exploration is done today, said Steve Piercey, a professor at Memorial and one of the group that nominated Williams. “His work ushered in a new way of thinking about mountain belts and allowed explorationists to use his maps and concepts to predict where future resources may be.”

The induction ceremony is supported by Hecla Mining, a diamond sponsor; Hatch, the dinner wine sponsor; and platinum sponsors Barrick Gold, Franco-Nevada, ­Goldcorp, Magris Resources and SNC-Lavalin.

– K.S.

Mining Hall of Fame sponsor logos

Canadian junior launches crowdsourced exploration contest

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