Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gold And Gems Stolen From Cali Museum

The California Mining and Mineral Museum includes
specimens from around the world, including the Fricot
nugget, a mass of crystalline gold from the Gold Rush era. 
MARIPOSA, CALI (FRESNO BEE) -- An estimated $2 million worth of gold nuggets and other precious gems were stolen Friday afternoon from the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, a state parks spokesman said. In the assault, several robbers threatened museum staff with weapons before stealing the gems and gold. According to witnesses, there were two men, one of whom was armed with a pickax. Some of the nuggets are as large as a closed fist, which will make them difficult to sell. Darci Moore, curator of the museum, said that an accurate value of the amount stolen will be unavailable until inventory on the vault can be completed. The thieves also attempted to steal the 13 pound Fricot Nugget, but were unable to break through its casing. Source: Gold, Gems Stolen From Mariposa Museum (Reliability: High)

Comment: With the rising price of precious metals, law enforcement must likely be more aware of threats similar to this robbery. Concentrations of gold, platinum and other minerals, in banks, museums and other locations will be at higher risk. Law enforcement should consider these risks in their planning in the near future.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mineral Trade War Looms In East Asia

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute
is a continuing source of tension
between Japan and China.
NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA (THE AUSTRALIAN)--Due to the recent flare-up of a territory dispute between China and Japan, China is reportedly planning to halt all rare earth sales to Japan. Japanese companies are scrambling to find alternate sources, which shows in recent deals with companies like Lynas Corp and Alkane Resources. Unfortunately these sources have lower concentrations of  heavy rare earths such as dysprosium and neodymium that Japanese companies require to make everything from wind turbines to handheld electronics. In light of China's recent attempts to corner the global gold market, experts are also keeping watch on gold prices. Source: Rare earths a victim of Japan-China islands spat (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: China enacted a similar rare earth embargo on Japan in 2010, causing the price of some rare metals to more than triple. Two years later but still with few alternate sources for the heavy rare earth metals, Japan again faces potential shortages. Alkane Resources' Dubbo Project does contain heavy rare earths, but since Japanese companies will be required to process the metals in Japan it will almost certainly take a few years to develop before it significantly affects global prices.

Crossland Uranium Mine's Charley Creek Project A Potential Early Rare Earth Producer

Figure taken from Crossland website showing drill
sites in Charley Creek with a high potential TREO
NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA (STEEL GURU) -- Crossland Uranium Mines recently completed heavy mineral concentrate pilot test work at its Charley Creek Project in Northern Territory and the results obtained reinforce Crossland's ability to turn the project into an early low cost and long term producer of valuable rare earth oxides.  The results of the study also confirm that the Crossland can successfully concentrate the xenotime and monazite rare earth bearing minerals at Charley Creek using low cost technology commonly used in the mineral sand industry.  Crossland also identified simple flowsheet improvements to improve Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO) recoveries during the next phase of test work. Source: Crossland Uranium Mines' Testwork Shows Charley Creek Could Be Early Rare Earths Producer (Reliability: High

Comment:  According to Steel Guru, potential buyers have already approached Crossland for output from Charley Creek, and Crossland plans to further develop xenotime and monazite concentration production.  Since the mineralization is found in alluvial deposits (free digging) Crossland can conduct mining operations at a low cost.   

ANC to potentially nationalize mineral reserves

SOUTH AFRICA (Mail & Guardian)- South Africa's governing political party, The African National Congress (ANC), has begun discussing various forms of state control of mineral reserves. According to the South African newspaper, Mail & Guardian,  members of the ANC discussed the issue, saying potentially, "state ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies, as well as strategic nationalization, where deemed appropriate on the balance of evidence." However, the ANC found that state control of 100% of mineral assets would be financially unfavorable, citing a potential cost in excess of R1-trillion. While this was deemed unfavorable, control in the form of "State-custodianship" was deemed more feasible. According to the Mail & Guardian, the ANC also recommended that the state develop strategies to identify and manage strategic minerals in the national interest. (Reliability: High)

Comment: These discussions are likely in response to the violent conflicts between striking miners and police in the last month at mining camps. The ANC also discussed the improvement of working conditions and increase of wages for workers and stated that any government policy enacted for the purpose of increase resource exploitation should "focus on benefaction".  The full congressional report can be found here:

Australia Choosing Not To Follow U.S. Lead On Conflict Minerals

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (THECONVERSATION.EDU) -- The SEC brought in new legislation last month that prohibited the use of 'conflict' minerals. After setting the precedent, countries around the world are now deciding whether or not they should be following suit. Australia, however, is not one of them.
The source of much debate. Minerals mined in conflict
zones such as the DRC are funding militia groups.
The SEC recognizes the role of US companies in exploiting workers and trade of resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo and also its direct impact on funding militia groups. The SEC conflict minerals legislation aims to keep US companies accountable by making the dealings more transparent and shaming companies into not participating.
Australia, however, has huge mining interests in Africa and is not willing to follow suit. In 2011 alone, Australia had seven firms actively working in the DRC. Furthermore, Australia has more ventures in Africa than it does in any other place in the world.
Given the lack of infrastructure in the DRC, companies that do business there are expected to regulate their own behavior. It is therefore their responsibility to act accordingly in relation to the people, standards and impact that their company is having. This is not happening due to companies concentration on profits and not on ethically sourced minerals. Australia has a large stake in mining in the DRC and is unwilling to risk their enterprises by following up and implementing similar legislation to the Dodd-Frank bill.
Source: Australia Needs To Act On Conflict Minerals. (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: US businesses could be at a distinct disadvantage if the Dodd-Frank bill has the desired affect. If companies in the US withdraw or switch to conflict free sources of minerals, then Australia, and other countries that choose not to source ethically, could be at an advantage with a big supply of minerals at a lower price.

Price of Gold Soars as Investors Seek Safe Haven

Gold bullion.
People are investing more in gold because of the increased price.
AUSTRALIA (ABC NEWS) -   For most of this year, the price of gold has been around it's all time high of USD 1700 an ounce and is predicted to rise to USD 2000 in 2013.  Sources claim economic problems in the United States and Europe are causing the increase in the price of gold.  Gold is becoming a safe investment against market volatility due to the economic stimulus measures by the U.S. and Europe according to financial advisor Jordan Eliseo.  Analysts are predicting mergers and take-over bids to increase because gold miners are undervalued compared to the price of gold.  Countries are also starting to stockpile gold in order to build up their reserve currency during the tough economic times.  China in particular is a government that is known to stockpile bulk commodities and industrial related metals.  Analysts suggest this is the time to start investing in gold.       Source:  Price of Gold Soars as Investors Seek Safe Haven (Reliability: High)

Comments:  Before gold, iron ore was in the focus of Western Australia's mines.  Due to the economic times, more and more people are beginning to invest in gold instead. 

Rare Earth Recycling Activity In France

BRUSSELS (REUTERS)-Solvay an international chemical group committed to sustainable development is opening two rare earth recycling units in France. Solvay has developed a process for recovering rare earths contained in end-of-life equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, batteries and magnets.
The project was first launched in 2007, it required two years of research and development followed by two years of industrialization studies and on site selection. The investment of the project was approved in 2011. Solvay decided to focus on low-energy light bulbs because the recovery channel already existed. Light bulbs contain six different rare earths (lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium, and gadolinium). Solvay can recycle the light bulb while preserving 100 percent of its functional properties.

The process begins when used light bulbs are collected, sorted, and processed by specialized companies. These companies recycle their different components (glass, metals, plastics, mercury). The luminescent powders are shipped to Solvay's facility in Saint-Fons (Rhone-Alpes, France) where the rare earth concentrate is extracted. Than it is shipped to La Rochelle (Charente Maritime, France) where the rare earths are separated. Once the rare earths are separated, they are reformulated into luminescent precursors that will be reused in the manufacturing of new lamps.

Solvay has developed a large number of innovations used in flat screens, low-energy light bulbs, automotive pollution control, and high precision opticals. Solvay is headquartered in Brussels, it employs about 31,000 people in 55 countries and generates about USD 16.4 billion in net sales in 2011. Source: Solvay Launches Its Rare Earth Recycling Activity In France (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: Solvay is aiming to become a major player in the recycling of rare earths. Global demand for rare earths is growing at more than 6 percent per year. This makes the elements a strategic raw material.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rare Earth Prices To Decline

To defeat counterfeiters: Shining UV light on a Euro
results in green fluorescence from terbium
THOMSON REUTERS (NEW YORK) - Rare earth (RE) prices soared by hundreds of percent in 2011 when China restricted its exports. Hot money entered this illiquid sector but later departed resulting in a crash. One of the REs, lanthanum, used in rechargeable batteries, rocketed 26-fold from USD5.15 per kilogram in January 2010 to a peak of USD140 in June 2011, while the current price is USD20.50. New production from US Molycorp - the biggest RE producer outside China - and Australia's Lynas in Malaysia is likely to further push down prices of "light" rare earths, which are not as scarce as their "heavy" peers. China's slower economic growth will decrease rare earth prices as well, as the country not only produces more than 90 percent of the elements, but it is the most significant consumer of the materials. In August 2012, China raised the yearly export quotas on rare earths by 2.7 percent, which is the first increase in five years. Light REs such as cerium and lanthanum will be hit hardest by the increased supply because they are not rare at all. Nevertheless, the price outlook for heavy REs (e.g. terbium oxide), which are scarcer and expected to see higher demand in applications such as high performance magnets and energy efficient lighting. Source: Rare Earth Prices To Erode On Fresh Supply, China (Reliability: Medium)

Comment:  The group of REs is not an entity. Based on supply and demand that affect prices, it is useful to divide the group into two categories: light and heavy REs.

Designing Products For Conflict Minerals Compliance

According to "Dodd-Frank
is not a solution to the social, historical,
political, and economic problems of the
DRC...but a stong and firm U.S. response to
the call from the Congolese
end years of illicit plundering."
OHIO (SUPPLY CHAIN DIGEST) - Beginning in May 2014, companies will need to report to the SEC the presence of any conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Conflict Minerals law, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, specifies these new requirements for publicly traded companies that manufacture products containing tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and their derivatives.

Manufacturers should begin implementing identification of critical minerals early in the product development cycle so that any potential issues can be resolved before they become costly problems. Additionally, by identifying minerals across the organization, manufacturers may be able to negotiate bulk purchase rates for the materials used across the company’s portfolio of products. This could have an enormous impact on reducing costs of goods sold while generating savings. Source: Designing Products For Conflict Minerals Compliance (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: While identifying any potential conflict minerals early in the design process is optimal, current products already in production are also affected by this law. It is likely manufacturers who do not monitor their supply chain from mine to product will have difficulty conforming with the law. Therefore, it is important for any manufacturer who uses tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold or their derivatives to begin addressing the use of conflict minerals now.

Alaskan geologists are seeking to map
previously unknown  rare earth deposits
FAIRBANKS (Fairbanks Daily News)- The Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys  is working to map Alaska’s strategic and critical mineral resources has been tasked to survey the potential  strategic mineral reserves in the state of Alaska. The state has commissioned $3 million in an effort to create a comprehensive map of the strategic and critical minerals in Alaska. These minerals include rare earth metals, cobalt, platinum, tin and yttrium. The mapping effort began in 2011 and is scheduled to continue until 2013 and will determine which locations should be prioritized for mining. (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: This is a pretty solid development on the national security front, as findings could potentially reduce foreign (and therefore possibly hostile) control of critical minerals. Also, large finding could potentially drive down market prices for certain minerals previously thought to be in short supply. Alaska, a state which is both currently and historically very open to resource exploitation will likely reap massive benefits if large deposits are discovered.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Mining" For Metals Using Nature

UK ( - University of York scientists will lead an international team to develop methods of extracting platinum group metals (PGM) from plants.  Researchers in the University’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) with support from Yale University, the University of British Columbia, and Massey University in New Zealand will investigate phyto-mining.  Phyto-mining involves growing plants on mine waste materials to soak up PGM into their cellular structure. Initial studies show these phyto-mined PGM plant cells can be turned into materials for a variety of industrial applications, most notably catalytic converters for vehicle emissions control.
Phyto-mining platinum from hyperaccumulator plant Iberis.
According to the University of York's Professor James Clark, “We are looking at ways of turning these residual metals into their catalytically active form using the plants to extract them from the mine waste. The plant is heated in a controlled way with the result that the metal is embedded in a nano-form in the carbonised plant. The trick is to control the decomposition of the plant in a way which keeps the metal in its nano-particulate or catalytically active form. ”
Researchers will investigate about 400 species of plants known as hyperaccumulators, which take larger-than-normal amounts of toxins, including heavy metals from the soil. Plants such as willow, corn and mustard can accumulate relatively large amounts of these metals.
CNAP Professor Neil Bruce stated, “The ability of plants to extract PGMs from soil and redeposit the metal as nano-particles in cells is remarkable. This project will allow us to investigate the mechanisms behind this process and provide a green method for extracting metals from mine tailings that are currently uneconomical to recover.” Source: 'Mining' for metals using Nature's machines  (Reliability: High)

Comment:  The word phyto-mining was coined in 1977, and was implemented as an environment solution for contaminated sites.  This research into phyto-mining as a method of extracting strategic minerals has exciting possibilities. Any method by which strategic and rare earth minerals can be reused and recycled has the potential to provide both ecologic and economic benefits. Additionally,  the ability to re-use these phyto-mined byproducts offers alternative sources for PGM.

Professor Neil Bruce, of CNAP, added: "The ability of plants to extract PGMs from soil and redeposit the metal as nanoparticles in cells is remarkable. This project will allow us to investigate the mechanisms behind this process and provide a green method for extracting metals from mine tailings that are currently uneconomical to recover."

Read more at:
"We are looking at ways of turning these residual metals into their catalytically active form using the plants to extract them from the mine waste. The plant is heated in a controlled way with the result that the metal is embedded in a nano-form in the carbonised plant. "The trick is to control the decomposition of the plant in a way which keeps the metal in its nano-particulate or catalytically active form. Catalysis is being used more and more in industrial processes and particularly for emission control because of the demand for cleaners cars, so 'phyto-mining' could provide a sustainable supply of catalytically active metals."

Read more at:
"We are looking at ways of turning these residual metals into their catalytically active form using the plants to extract them from the mine waste. The plant is heated in a controlled way with the result that the metal is embedded in a nano-form in the carbonised plant. "The trick is to control the decomposition of the plant in a way which keeps the metal in its nano-particulate or catalytically active form. Catalysis is being used more and more in industrial processes and particularly for emission control because of the demand for cleaners cars, so 'phyto-mining' could provide a sustainable supply of catalytically active metals."

Read more at:
with support from Yale University, the University of British Columbia and Massey University in New Zealand.

Read more at:
with support from Yale University, the University of British Columbia and Massey University in New Zealand.

Read more at:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nevada's Safe Bet On Gold

Mining operations create jobs that pay approximately
double the national average income for an individual.
LAS VEGAS (Las Vegas Review Journal) -- While Nevada is famous for its tourism, it is little known that the state makes just as much off of its mining industry. Gaming and mining bring in approximately $10 billion a year, each. Most of the money brought in from mining goes into state coffers to support many social programs. In 2011, Nevada processed approximately $24 million in gold each day, helping make the United States the third largest gold producer behind China and Australia. It is estimated that Nevada has 15 years of gold reserves left and is continuing to search for more throughout the state. Production of gold in Nevada is of critical strategic importance, as the United States strives to become less dependent on foreign countries for its minerals. Source: Nevadans Have Long Bet Their Lives, Fortunes On Mining (Reliability: High)

Comment: Nevada acknowledges that mining has its booms and busts, and so it is continually searching for new places to mine, replenishing resources, and being strategic in its operations to make the industry last well into the future.

Friday, September 21, 2012

India Revisits Rare Earth Potential

Monazite is a phosphate mineral containing the rare
earth metals cerium, lanthanum, and thorium.
ODISHA, INDIA (INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES) -- India will soon foray into rare earths mining as it targets to open by December its 10,000 tonnes capacity monazite processing plant in the eastern state of Odisha. Indian Rare Earths was awarded the authority to mine the rare earths, and plans to begin  mining around 2,500 hectares. An earlier survey by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research, Hyderabad, a unit under the Department of Atomic Energy of India, revealed huge deposits of rare earths minerals in the coastal stretch of Puri. "The Odisha plant could be commissioned by December. We will carry out dry runs, and hopefully, start production early next year,'' Mineweb quoted R N Patra, chairman of Indian Rare Earths Limited, as saying. Worth $25 million, the monazite processing plant will handle around 2,250 tonnes of rare earths. It will then be separated at Indian Rare Earth's Aluva facility in Kerala for domestic consumption, while the rest will be exported, Mr Patra said. No exact figures were mentioned how much rare earths will be exported. Source: India Ventures Into Rare Earths, To Launch Soon Monazite Processing Plant (Reliability: Medium)

Comment: India also plans on capitalizing on China's new rare earth policy by entering the global market. With the plant expected to open in December of this year, they likely are in a better position to profit amid the ongoing dispute between the WTO, China and the United States.

Hitachi Tries To Block Chinese Rare-Earth Magnet Imports To The US

Hitachi to make rare-earths magnets
with Molycorp in the US
NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The US International Trade Commission will investigate a complaint filed by the Japanese Hitachi Metals Ltd. in order to block US imports of competitors's rare-earths magnets used in electronics, golf-ball markers and power tools from China. The debate is about patented inventions related to the manufacture of sintered rare-earth magnets. The complaint is against more than two dozen companies including Chinese corporations that mine or use these materials as well as multinational companies that import or make products containing these rare earths including Scullcandy Inc.Harman International Industries Inc., Bose Corp., Callaway Golf Co., Taylor Made Golf Co., and Adidas AG. Hitachi stated that it and other suppliers will be able to make up for any loss of available products if the concerned rare-earth magnets from China are banned from US market. The Japanese company said to have an agreement with Molycorp Inc., the owner of the only rare-earth mine in the US. Source: Hitachi Metals Rare-Earth Magnet Complaint To Be Probed By US  (Reliability: Medium)

Comment:  Even the US Congress has called for an increase of domestic rare-earth production to decrease dependance on China and combat high prices.

GTP Partners With AERC To Reclaim REM

Mercury Retort System used at AERC
FLANDERS, NJ (PRWeb) In an attempt to identify new sources of rare earth minerals and create a recovery process, AERC Recycling Solutions (AERC) has partnered wit Global Tungsten & Powders Corporation (GTP).  This agreement permits GTP to extract REM from spent fluorescent lamps. Fluorescent lamps require a mercury and phosphor powder combination, but the mercury has to be removed before the REM can be recovered.  The REMs', Yttrium, Europium, and Terbium are refined and processed into those phosphors used to illuminate.  AERC operates one of the few mercury retort operations in the United States, and is under 150 miles from GTP's Pennsylvania plant.
According to Lindsay Kissell, vice president of sales for AERC, "AERC is very excited to partner with GTP to recover rare earth metals from recycled fluorescent lamps.  We are always looking for ways to improve our processes, recycle more efficiently and find new uses for our recycled materials.  The recover of the rare earth metals is one more way to contribute to the reuse of rare minerals." The president of GTP, Andreas Lackner is also pleased, and stated that "the recycling of rare earth metals found in fluorescent lamps will help GTP minimize the uncertainty surrounding these critical materials".  Source: AERC Recycling Solutions Partners with Global Tungsten and Powders Corporation to Reclaim Rare Earth Metals from Spent Fluorescent Lamps (Reliability: High)

Comment: According to GE, 65 percent of the cost of fluorescent lighting is attributable to the cost of rare earths.  Extracting usable REM will mitigate price fluctuations in the market. Additionally, all AERC facilities are located in the U.S. improving employment rates and contributing to domestic economic growth. 

New Regulations Seek to Expose Congo Conflict Minerals

LOS ANGELES (LA TIMES) - New U.S. regulations will require publicly traded companies that use minerals including tin, tungsten, and gold to disclose if the minerals they purchase to make goods, helped the bankroll conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighboring countries.  The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted these regulations last month effective November. 
Mining locations in the DRC.
Activists focused on the conflict in eastern Congo argue that this new law will urge corporations to stop by "naming and shaming" these companies that buy minerals to profit armed groups.  After the law was passed, Congo President Joseph Kabila halted all mining the country's eastern provinces for six months, intending to break up the mafia that control the trade.  Others fear that these measures will crimp legitimate trade because other countries aren't applying the same pressure as the U.S.  Companies are not banned from using conflict minerals, they only have to say that they use them.   Source:  New Regulations Seek to Expose Congo Conflict Minerals (Reliability: High)

Comments:  The SEC only recently adopted these regulations.  Two years ago Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill.  Part of this bill required publicly traded companies to say if they use minerals from the region.  

China Pursuing Arctic Mineral Riches

NUUK, GREENLAND (New York Times)--Although China does not currently hold any Arctic territories, it is deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure a foothold. The country sees its involvement as important so that it is not shut out of mineral and shipping decisions. The Arctic region has risen rapidly on the country's foreign policy agenda: this year alone diplomats have visited Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and also Greenland, where Chinese companies are investing to create a mining industry. Retreating of Greenland's ice cap has made accessible deposits of many valuable minerals; so far there has been little exploitation of Arctic resources. Greenland's proximity to the US is also of concern to American officials, who have accordingly stepped up diplomatic efforts with Arctic countries. Source: China Joins Nations Seeking Treasure in Warming Arctic (Reliability: High)

Comment: If China is successful in establishing a significant presence in the Arctic region, the supply of critical minerals such as cobalt and rare earth minerals, over which China already holds considerable control, will almost certainly become more skewed in favor of the Chinese. Furthermore, in light of the recent flare-up of the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands dispute with Japan, China will highly likely double its efforts to gain Arctic territory, and its scramble for Arctic territory will likely be a source of diplomatic tensions among prominent nations.

Soon Businesses Will Be Required To Disclose Where Their Minerals Come From

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (LOS ANGELES TIMES) -- New regulations in the U.S. could see publicly traded companies have to state whether or not their mineral purchases are directly funding conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighboring countries. However, despite it's good intentions, there are activists and businesses that are questioning the effectiveness of the legislation.
Money from mineral exports is directly
 funding DRC militia groups
The law will require that publicly traded companies state whether they use minerals from the troubled region, as well as assessing whether their minerals are 'DRC conflict free'. Activists focused on the conflict believe that naming and shaming the bigger corporations using this law may lead to them ceasing in their activities. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has questioned how costly and effective these laws will be, stating that cutting off one source of revenue won't stop militias from fighting.
There are also huge flaws in the currently proposed legislation. Whilst the DRC is synonymous with government troops and rebels involved in mass slayings and rape, some companies will be able to disassociate themselves with the minerals and legislation as they do not directly make/mine the product. This will let many big brands off the hook as they merely stick a label on a product and sell it, rather than mining it themselves and facing the legislation.
Legitimate US companies in Africa could be harshly affected by this. The SEC estimates that the overall cost of this legislation could escalate to as much as $4 billion. Many companies may cease to do business in Congolese minerals. The biggest question remaining is how will this new legislation affect businesses and the conflict itself, once it is put into place?
Source: New Regulations Seek To Expose Congo Conflict Minerals (Reliability: High)

Comment: Businesses in the US could suffer dramatically if this legislation is put in place. With the SEC estimating losses at $4 billion and the U.S. Chamber for Commerce putting that figure between $8 and $16 billion, this is a huge move that may punish businesses without necessarily fixing the bigger issue of militia and DRC conflict.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

China Cuts Rare Earths Mining Permits

China has about 30 percent of the world
supplies of rare earths, but accounts for
more than 90 percent of production
BEIJING (ASSOCIATE PRESS)-In a new move to tighten control over rare earths, China's Ministry of Land and Resources has decided to cut the number of mining permits by 40 percent from 113 to 67. This announcement comes amid tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over control of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The last time tensions over the islands flared in 2010, Beijing temporarily suspended rare earths shipments to Japanese buyers.There is no indication whether Japan might be affected by the latest change. The restrictions are especially sensitive at a time when governments are trying to boost exports to reduce unemployment. China also limited the number of companies permitted to export rare earths.

Beijing has alarmed global manufactures when it restricted production exports, while it was trying to build up its own processing industry to capture profits that flow to U.S., Japanese and European companies. China's trading partners have said that quotas and taxes push up rare earths prices abroad, giving buyers in China an unfair advantage. Source: China Cuts Rare Earths Mining Permits (Reliability: High)

Comment: Beijing's restrictions have prompted producers to announce plans to reopen or develop mines in California, Canada, India, Russia, and Malaysia.

New Mineral Processing Plant To Be Built In Canada

A piece of processing equipment at
the new processing plant in Saskatoon
SASKATOON (TSP) -- The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) plans to construct a mineral processing plant in Saskatoon designed to improve the processes involved in recovering valuable metals and minerals.  According to Craig Murray, VP of SRC's mining and minerals division, the company expects the plant to be fully operational in the next few months and says the plant will support companies across the globe involved in processing minerals such as potash, gold, base metals, and especially rare earth minerals. SRC expects that the plant's pilot scale demonstrations  will increase mining yields and decrease overall cost of production.  According to Lynne Yelich, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification, the facility increases the SRC's ability to develop, test, scale-up and demonstrate more efficient ways for companies to extract and process rare earth minerals. Source: SRC To Build New Mineral Processing Plant In City (Reliability: High)

Comment: According to Yelich the new processing plant will be the only one of its kind in Saskatchewan and one of the very few within Canada with the ability to process rare earth minerals.

South African Platinum Miners Return To Work

SOUTH AFRICA (LA TIMES) - After winning a 22 percent wage increase, workers ended their six-week "illegal" strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine. The strike was considered illegal because workers had not submitted grievances to a conciliation body or notified officials 30 days prior to beginning. The mine shut down allegedly cost the South African government $550 million and caused the deaths of 45 people, including ten killed by angry mobs of workers.
One of the thousands of striking miners from the Lonmin
platinum mine celebrates 19 September 2012 after the workers
and management came to an agreement on a wage increase.

The strike, along with an on-going strike at Goldfields' KDC West mine, ignited strife between President Jacob Zuma and rival Julius Malema, the expelled youth leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). In addition, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), closely aligned with the ANC, lost credibility among miners after calling for an end to the strike last month. The NUM claims the deal rewards anarchy and undermines the normal bargaining process surrounding wage rates and work conditions. Source: South African platinum miners end strike, accepting pay raise (Reliability: High)

Comments: While Malema called on all miners in South Africa to strike, no new walk-outs have taken place. Zuma, who praised the deal, is likely to benefit from siding with the miners in the up-coming December conference where he is hoping to be renewed as President of South Africa.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Legalities Complicate Sourcing Minerals

Conflict minerals supply warlords
in the Congo.
JOHANNESBURG (MINING WEEKLY)-- The Securities and Exchange Commission voted in Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Acts, which requires manufacturers to disclose if they have purchased conflict minerals. Conflict minerals, such as gold, tungsten, and tin provide funding for war groups in or around the Congo. As is the case with blood diamonds, it is difficult, though not impossible, to determine the origins of minerals purchased as they are often bought and sold many times before reaching a final buyer. Although manufacturers rarely have control over where the minerals come from, they can require that their suppliers prove that their minerals are conflict-free. This law may subsequently impact the minerals market worldwide and become a global standard, as the Sarbanes-Oxley law did. While there are no punishments for using conflict minerals, the public pressure from customers and organizations may in fact prove to be more damaging. Source: Complying With Conflict-Minerals Law Will Be A Challenge For Miners, Says Consultant (Reliability: High)

Comment: Since this is a new initiative by the United States, it may be many years before the impact of this law can be measured.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Theft Of Catalytic Converters Likely To Steadily Increase, Due To Rising Metal Prices; LE Struggles Likely To Continue

Executive Summary:
Catalytic converter thefts will likely continue to increase due to rising metal prices. In addition, it is likely that law enforcement agencies will continue to struggle with these crimes as stealing a catalytic converter takes a matter of minutes to commit, is hard to trace, and yields high returns. Increasing awareness for motor vehicle owners, working with scrap yards, and implementing various deterrents are likely to facilitate law enforcement agencies in reducing the number of these crimes committed.

Every new vehicle sold in the United States must meet specific emissions standards. In order to achieve these, automobile manufacturers use a device called a catalytic converter to reduce harmful emissions into more benign ones. Manufacturers construct catalytic converters with metals that include: platinum, rhodium, palladium, and, increasingly, gold, in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The significant increase in prices for these metals in the last decade, coupled with the ease of removing and selling these parts for scrap, will likely contribute to the rising number of thefts.

Theft of catalytic converters is difficult for law enforcement to detect and stop.  The catalytic converter comes free of the vehicle after two cuts along the exhaust line using a battery operated saw and thieves can accomplish this in under a minute. Thieves prefer vehicles that sit higher off the ground, such as SUVs and trucks, as they are easier to maneuver under. In addition, catalytic converters are worth anywhere from $50 to $200 from scrap metal dealers. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported an increase in the theft of catalytic converters beginning in mid-2008. Due to the low risk of apprehension, coupled with the high payoff for a quick job, it is likely that this trend will continue to increase.

Once a catalytic converter is stolen, thieves take converters to scrap yards. Scrap yard then typically resell the catalytic converters to plants that are designed to recover the metals. With rhodium worth approximately $9,500 an ounce and platinum worth approximately $2,000 an ounce, and the value of the metals only increasing, it is likely that the number of thefts will continue. Recently, scrap yards have tried to deter catalytic converter thefts refusing to buy  them directly from individual sellers.

The number of catalytic converter theft cases are plentiful nationwide. For instance, on 16 August 2012, the Ventura Police Department in Ventura, California issued a public warning to city residents to be aware of an increase in thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles since 1 July 2012. Police said that over the course of the two month investigation, criminals stole converters from 13 vehicles, all Toyota SUVs.  Milwaukee’s Journal Star reported an increase in thefts beginning in May 2012, and the NY Daily News reported that, across the country, the black market resale of the converters has increased thefts.

Because of the increase seen across the country,  the concern for law enforcement agencies on all levels will likely increase. Police agencies attempt to combat the problem by issuing a series of public warnings, like the case in Ventura, CA, and raising awareness. Unfortunately, the nature of the crime negates the possibility of truly combatting criminals. Law enforcement authorities’ efforts are mostly focused on prevention. The Ohio Department of Insurance Fraud Division, along with Nationwide, sponsored an “Etch and Catch” event in Columbus to help motorists protect their vehicle’s catalytic converters from being stolen.

Gary Bush, the National Law Enforcement Liaison and Director of Theft Prevention at the Institute of Scrap Recycling industries said that a lack of communication between victims, law enforcement and recyclers can cause thefts to go unsolved.  Adding to the difficulty, thieves often mix stolen items with legitimate ones, making it difficult for scrap yards to tell the difference.

Analytical Confidence:
Analytic confidence for this assessment is moderate.  The analysts did not utilize structured methods of analysis for this report.  Source reliability is high and the sources corroborated each other.  The analysts’ expertise is  low and the analysts worked in a group.  Subject complexity is medium and the time available for the task was adequate.

Methods And Processes:
Tools used by the team were divided by purpose. In order to coordinate a time in which work would be done, the team agreed to use phone communications, both calls and SMS. While working on the document, the team used Google’s built-in document chat. If work was done outside of the team work sessions, the Google Doc comment function was used to note additions, revisions, or suggestions.

Due to conflicting schedules, the team was unable to work simultaneously for very long. However, the team was still able to carry out its original plan, with the only modification being the use of SMS to update other team members of work done.

Contact Information:
For comments, questions, or additional information, please contact the analysts:

Chad Los Schumacher

Peter O’Malley

Shawn Ruminski

Despite International Research, Thorium Fluctuations Unlikely To Threaten U.S. Nuclear Power Supply Over Next 3 To 5 Years

Executive Summary:
It is unlikely that thorium will threaten United States national security by way of critical infrastructure over the next three to five years. Key factors include lack of advantages over uranium nuclear power, minimal domestic demand, and the abundant thorium reserves in the U.S.

Countries such as India and China are
conducting research with molten salt
reactors, technology the US developed
over 40 years ago.
Thorium nuclear power is not significantly better than uranium power. Solid thorium reactors are comparable to uranium reactors in terms of waste, vulnerability, and efficiency. Numerous countries are currently conducting research on molten salt reactors using thorium, but these reactors lack real-world testing and are not commercially ready. Although the molten salt method poses advantages over traditional systems, the U.S. has discarded it. Experts say that proponents overstate the advantages, suggesting a switch to thorium nuclear power is not economically viable.

Thorium currently is of limited value to the U.S.  In 2009, the U.S. spent USD 150,000 on thorium imports, suggesting there is little interest in using the mineral. Thorium nuclear reactors create no weapons-grade byproducts, and thorium is less versatile than uranium. 

Experts estimate that the U.S. holds 8 percent of the world’s total thorium reserves. The U.S. has two high-grade thorium resources in the west. More than ten states also have reserves of a lower grade content of thorium. These deposits are highly exploitable if needed and cover 13 separate regions of the country.

Analytic Confidence:
Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. Source reliability ranges from medium to high. Sources could be corroborated. Analysts were of low expertise and worked as a team of two. The subject is highly complex. Time available for the task was adequate.

Methods And Processes:
Analysts communicated via Gmail and Google Docs to share independently collected sources, information, ideas, and to create the document. Analysts continued to develop and refine the document  as they found more information.

With Google Docs, it was extremely easy to seamlessly alter the document, improving it and shaping it as the analysts proceeded in research. As analysts discovered further information, analysts were forced to reassess the original scope. The Google Docs chat and comment functions were of great use in facilitating easier communication.

Sara Marinello (email - Google+)
Laura Suprock (email - Google+)

National Mine Strike In South Africa Likely To Continue

Executive Summary:
The national mine strike in South Africa is likely to expand. South African politician Julius Malema called for a national strike in all of the South Africa’s mines. Labor unrest in South African mines already halted the production at two platinum and gold mines. South Africa accounts for 80 percent of the metal’s global output and will likely result in dramatic price fluctuations.

Platinum rose almost 3 percent on Wednesday due to the supply fears after labor unrest halted production. South Africa’s economy was built on mining, and it remains an integral driver of growth. The mining sector employs about 500,000 people and it contributes between 5 percent and 8 percent of gross domestic product. Miner unrest is a central issue in South Africa since police shot and killed 34 striking miners and wounded 78 on August 16th at Lonmin PLC’s platinum mine at Marikana.

The South African miners’ strike is becoming increasingly volatile. Eight thousand striking miners marched to a hospital to see roughly 190 miners who claim to have been beaten and tortured in police custody. In Marikana, north west of Johannesburg, strikers are threatening to kill anyone who goes to work. A dead man at Marikana was found near a granite hill where strikers normally gather. This raises the toll from violence at Lonmin’s mine to 45, including 10 people killed in the days before the police shooting. Two police officers have been hacked to death by strikers with machetes. Two mine security guards were burned alive in their vehicle.

Lonmin is condemning the ongoing intimidation and threats to life and property. Only 3 percent of workers have shown up to work in the Lonmin mines. Lonmin’s production in South Africa has been halted for five weeks. Anglo American Platinum, the world’s largest producer of platinum metal, said it was suspending operations at five shafts in Rustenburg to protect the security of its 26,000 employees at the mines. Gold Fields has since been hit by two strikes, one erupting days after the other had been resolved. The strikes have halted platinum production in South Africa which accounts for 80 percent of world platinum production. The strikes have also substantially diminished the production in the country's largest gold mines. 

Julius Malema told striking miners that South Africa’s critically important mining industry should be stopped and force the removal of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers. Malema said, “There must be a national strike. They have been stealing this gold from you. Now it is your turn. You want your piece of gold. These people are making billions from these mines.” Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress earlier this year for showing disunity and failing to accept party discipline.

Mine workers are demanding higher wages. Many workers have rejected representation of the National Union of Mineworkers; the country’s biggest union and an ally of the ruling African National Congress. Lonmin has offered an increase far below the $1,522 USD a month the miners are demanding. On Sunday, they said they could not afford the miner’s demands.

Analytic Confidence:
Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. Source reliability ranges from medium to high, but given the nature of the issue, it is difficult to maintain a firm understanding of what is taking place and the situation extremely fluid and dynamic. However, the sources do not conflict with each other indicating there is a general consensus on past events. The analysts had low expertise, worked separately and did not use structured analytic methodologies. The subject is moderately complex and the deadline was easy to meet.

Methods And Processes:
Using Google Documents, the authors shared a mutually accessible database of recent articles collected over the previous 72 hours. We independently used Google News searches to obtain articles from a variety of sources to corroborate the information available to us. Because information came from a large pool of sources and was not conflicting, the authors were able to establish that the reliability of the information was high.

After independently gathering and sharing articles on the topic, the authors met on Google Hangout and simultaneously edited the SFAR document. The edits included checking sources, providing links to sources and and proofing written material for correct usage of language and words of estimative probability. The collaborative nature of Google Hangout and Google Documents was critical to accomplishing the task of writing a joint SFAR, and allowed for maximum flexibility and minimized time lost.

Author: Irena Lazarevic:

Author: Karl A. Gustafson: