Construction at Adriatic Metals’ Vares high-grade silver project in Bosnia and Herzegovina is picking up speed

Construction at Adriatic Metals’ Vares high-grade silver project in Bosnia and Herzegovina is picking up speed as the company prepares to bring the project’s namesake underground mine and processing facility online next year. Adriatic says the project is now at the mid-way point and importantly remains on schedule and budget to deliver the first concentrate around September 2023.

The company says the past six months have been a whirlwind of activity with construction around the site’s surface infrastructure gathering pace.

Management states earthworks associated with the project’s Rupice mine are progressing as planned and are at around 56 per cent complete. The backfill pad is about 85 per cent finalised and 45 per cent of the work needed on the stockpile pad excavation has been done. Additionally, all geotechnical drilling for the backfill pad has been wrapped up.

In addition, the lower and upper decline of the underground mine is currently sitting at depths of 277m and 177m respectively for a total distance of 454m as of November 21.

A pair of diesel generators have been installed to give the operation a source of power. The devices will supply interim power to the Rupice mine ahead of the fitting of an underground cable grid link.

The operation’s 24.5km haul road is also said to be on track for first ore delivery early next year.

Along with the company’s construction efforts, it is also closing the loop on a year-long confirmation and definition drilling program at Rupice.

Recent exploratory programs have focussed on the Rupice’s northwest extension and intercepted a package of massive and semi-massive sulphide mineralisation that Adriatic believes could bolster the mine’s projected 10-year shelf life. The recent efforts confirmed an extension of mineralisation up to 250m north-west of the resource.

Notable intercepts from recent work include 0.9m at 846 grams per tonne silver equivalent and 27.2 per cent zinc equivalent from 207m including a 6.5m interval going 1861 g/t silver equivalent and 59.8 per cent zinc equivalent.

Another 32.5m hit was returned about 155m north-west of Rupice going 657 g/t silver equivalent and 21.1 per cent zinc equivalent from 285.5m. The wide strike also enclosed a richer 2m hit at 1331 g/t silver equivalent and 42.8 per cent zinc equivalent.

Adriatic began building the infrastructure for its Rupice mine in November last year after securing a financial facility a month prior.

The work follows a study by mining consultancy group CSA Global which suggested the project could hold a 12 million tonne resource grading 149 grams per tonne silver, 1.4 g/t gold, 4.1 per cent zinc, 2.6 per cent lead, 0.5 per cent copper and 25 per cent barite.

A subsequent definitive feasibility study released late last year says the operation could deliver an average EBITDA of US$281.1 million a year in its first five years of concentrate production, The West Australian reports.

North Macedonia, Central Asia Metals increases copper production

Central Asia Metals today announced a Q3 2022 operations update for the Kounrad dump leach, solvent extraction and electro-winning copper recovery plant in Kazakhstan and the Sasa zinc-lead mine in North Macedonia.

The company said that Kounrad’s Q3 2022 copper production of 4,067 tonnes brings output for the first nine months of 2022 to 10,685 tonnes (9M 2021: 10,360 tonnes). Copper sales during Q3 2022 were 4,093 tonnes, bringing the total for the first nine months of the year to 10,499 tonnes.

CAML added that Sasa’s Q3 2022 payable production of zinc was 4,837 tonnes and of lead was 6,554 tonnes, bringing total payable production for the nine-month period to 13,625 tonnes of zinc and 19,690 tonnes of lead.

Importantly, the company noted it is on course to achieve increased 2022 guidance for Kounrad’s copper production (13,500 to 14,000 tonnes) and on track to meet Sasa’s 2022 production guidance (zinc in concentrate, 20,000-22,000 tonnes; lead in concentrate, 27,000-29,000 tonnes).

CEO Nigel Robinson commented, “I am pleased to report safe and strong production from both of our operations during Q3 2022, with zero LTIs. At Kounrad, we announced increased 2022 production guidance with our H1 2022 results, and we are on track to deliver this and meet our production targets at Sasa.”

Central Asia Metals, an AIM-listed UK company based in London, owns 100% of the Kounrad SX-EW copper project in central Kazakhstan and 100% of the Sasa zinc-lead mine in North Macedonia, Kitco reports.

Kazakhstan, KAZ Minerals increases copper production 26% in first nine 2022

KAZ Minerals, the largest copper producer in Kazakhstan, reported today that its copper production increased by 26% to 282 kt in the first nine months of 2022 (9M 2021: 224 kt).

“The world class ramp up of the second sulphide concentrator at Aktogay, as well as improved performance at Sulphide 1 and the oxide plant, enabled Aktogay to increase its copper output by 64% to 168 kt in the year to 30 September 2022 (9M 2021: 102 kt),” the company said in a statement.

The company’s 9M 2022 gold production of 129 koz increased by 2% compared with 9M 2021 (126 koz) due to higher output at Bozshakol where throughput and grades processed improved in the period.

In 9M 2022, KAZ Minerals also produced 2,718 koz of silver (9M 2021: 2,513 koz) and 29.4 ktonnes of zinc (9M 2021: 34.1 ktonnes).

KAZ Minerals added that its copper sales were aligned with copper production in the first nine months of the year but were 9% behind production in the third quarter, as Aktogay output exceeded expectations.

Importantly, the company noted that its finished goods inventory is expected to reduce in the fourth quarter and fully unwind during 2023.

CEO Andrew Southam stated, “KAZ Minerals has delivered an excellent set of operational results in the first nine months of 2022, with copper output increasing by 26%. The world class ramp up of the second sulphide concentrator at Aktogay has resulted in a step change in our production, while site management has continued to improve ore throughput across the Group to maximise copper output.”

KAZ Minerals is the largest copper producer in Kazakhstan. It operates the Aktogay and Bozshakol open pit copper mines in the Abay and Pavlodar regions of Kazakhstan, three underground mines and associated concentrators in the East Region of Kazakhstan and the Bozymchak copper-gold mine in Kyrgyzstan. The company also completed a Bankable Feasibility Study for the greenfield Baimskaya copper project in Russia, which it acquired in 2018, Kitco reports.

Modern mining companies are now going to more zero emissions and green eco-responsible extraction technologies

Securing access to commodities is one of the top list items of industrialized countries’ agendas. With eco-sustainability issues and global changes, modern mining companies are now going to more zero emissions and green eco-responsible extraction technologies to harvest the precious underground metals/commodities and foster economic growth of our unsatiated advanced-technological industry.

The mining industry is often associated with dirty activity involving huge tailings/wastes of barren rocks disposed at the surface of the Earth, excavations of the ground endangering workers, damages on building surfaces, roads, and irreversible environmental impacts [1]. This collective-mind conventional old picture might be changed soon by the past decade’s advances in in-situ leaching (ISL) technologies that are now better mastered by the use of 3D computer modeling technology and chemical simulation, making ISL mining technologies a possible substitute to conventional mining in many cases [2] (Figure 1, above).

First implemented in Wyoming in the 1950s for uranium recovery, in-situ leaching (ISL) or in-situ recovery (ISR) involves injecting chemicals (typically sulfuric acid or ammonium carbonate) called “lixiviants” into porous geological formations that host the ore body (i.e. deposit), recovering the metal/commodities by dissolving them, pumping through production wells the pregnant solution to the surface where metal/commodities are recovered in processing plants, and regenerating the chemical solution (sometimes using biotechnology) for reinjection in wells.

Compared to traditional mining, this technology leaves the ore in the ground and extracts only the metals/commodities of interest, suppressing the huge mining wastes. This technology requires favorable geological conditions (i.e., impermeable layers on top and below the ore body) (Figure 2) to avoid the dispersion of the lixiviant in neighboring aquifers. In the case of uranium deposits, regeneration of exploited ore deposits is thought to be possible after less than 30 years for naturally re-confining possible toxic substances initially associated with the ore bodies but mobilized during exploitation. Groundwater contamination is the critical aspect requiring reagent management during ISL operations. The environmental regulation in many countries is sometimes a limiting factor in the use of ISL as they require that the water quality in the aquifer be restored to its pre-mining use.

The ISL technology (Solvay process) is widely used to extract water-soluble salts, including sodium chloride (halite, NaCl), sulfate (Na₂SO₄), trisodium hydrogendicarbonate dihydrate (trona, Na2CO3.2NaHCO3.3H2O)), bicarbonate (nahcolite, NaHCO3), potash (sylvinite, KCl and carnallite, KMgCl3·6(H2O)), and boron, and is often used for ore deposits that are too deep to be exploited by conventional underground mining [3].

Most uranium mining in the United States, Australia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan is now exploited by ISL. With 46 percent of the annual world production, Kazakhstan is the world’s leading country in uranium mining [4]. In 2021, Kazakhstan extracted about 21,800 tons of U by in-situ leaching (ISL) mining [5]. The capacity of ISL mining of uranium is now superior to that of conventional uranium mines, reaching 57 percent of the world’s production in 2019.

ISL has been successfully developed over the past 20 years for other commodities such as copper, gold, nickel, scandium, rhenium, rare earth elements, yttrium, selenium, molybdenum, and vanadium ([2][3]). As a historical curiosity, the Chinese were probably the first to use solution mining to produce copper by 907 A.D/, and perhaps as early as 177 B.C. ([3], [6], [7]) In the 1970s, ISR was introduced for copper. It is mostly used as low-cost heap-leaching technology on ground ore and then recovered from solution by solvent extraction electrowinning (SX-EW) or by chemical precipitation [3]. There were several successful natural tests and mines such as recently in the Kupferschiefer underground copper mines in the Lubin region (Poland) within the BioMore European Research project ([8]-[10]), the oxidizing properties of the reagent solution was regenerated using bacteria (Biomining).

A recent paper published in the review Minerals [4] had investigated the key chemical parameters and 3D computer modeling for optimizing uranium extraction on a hexagonal grid of wells. Further progress is needed to fully understand the complex mechanisms involved in the dissolution processes underground. However, these recent results show that an improvement of about 20 percent in recovery and mining time can be expected by better chemical modeling. Other commodities are under study such as copper ([8],[9]) and gold [11].

Rare earth elements (REE), rhenium, scandium, selenium, yttrium, molybdenum, and vanadium were also mined in pilot tests as byproducts of uranium extraction but are often limited in practical uses because radioactive particles are often physisorbed on the metal surface ([12] [13]). ISR of copper, gold, nickel, rare earth elements (REE), and scandium has been successfully developed over these last recent years.

With the increasing demand for commodities and rare metals used in advanced space technology, investigations had begun in exploring and exploiting outer space; space agencies have recently renewed their interest in space mining, including ISL biomining [14], and in situ resource utilization (ISRU) [15].

In terms of environment, ISR technology extracts ore preserving existing natural conditions with minimal disturbance. In contrast to open-pit mining and underground, the volumes of hydro-metallurgical effluents and mine tailings are smaller. The critical aspect requiring management during an ISR operations is the possible contamination of groundwater by ISR reagents.

Valuable economic aspects of ISL benefits should also be accounted for. ISL involves lower Capex costs for mining development, processing plant, and infrastructures. A lower capital cost is necessary to start ISL production, allowing a modular increase in production and capacity. The Capex, Opex, and common cut-off grades for ISL differ according to commodities but are lower compared to conventional open pit or underground mining approaches, HS Today writes.

Anglo Asian Mining announced the start of an expansion of its flotation plant

Anglo Asian Mining, a gold, copper and silver producer focused on Azerbaijan, today announced the start of an expansion of its flotation plant, which will be doubled in capacity, and provide additional operational flexibility.

The company said that the expansion forms part of Anglo Asian’s increase in throughput capacity to process ore from new mines in the short and medium term.

“This will begin with Zafar, which is due to commence production in H2 2023. It will support the company’s ambition to become a mid-tier miner producing over 100,000 gold equivalent ounces per annum,” Anglo Asian noted in a statement.

Anglo Asian’s flotation plant opened in 2015 to produce copper concentrate as the company was mining ore with increasing amounts of copper. The flotation plant is located at its Gedabek site, next to its agitation leaching plant.

According to the company’s statement, the expansion of the flotation plant will double its capacity from 80 to 160 tonnes per hour from Q3 2023.

CEO Reza Vaziri commented, “Anglo Asian is at the beginning of its next phase of growth, as we prepare to bring a number of new mines into production. The development of our medium-term growth strategy is well underway and we need to increase our processing capabilities to accommodate additional ore production.

“This expansion is an important step in the company’s preparation for our new mines entering production. The mine design at Zafar is well advanced and production will commence in H2 2023. This increase in production capacity is a critical part in enabling Anglo Asian to achieve mid-tier production status in due course.”

Anglo Asian Mining is a gold, copper and silver producer in Central Asia with a broad portfolio of production and exploration assets in Azerbaijan. The company produced 64,610 gold equivalent ounces for the year ended 31 December 2021, Kitco writes.

The raw truth of Europe’s raw materials

As the world’s eyes were fixed on United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 in Egypt, a more low-key bureaucratic gathering was taking place in Brussels, working on growing the industrial supply chains needed to wean the Continent off the most carbon-intensive fuels for both environmental and national security reasons.

Indeed, European Raw Materials Week has now been imbued with an added sense of purpose and urgency, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and some European Union members’ subsequently unavoidable turn toward coal to get through the winter, has exposed Europe to the harsh realities of energy security.

Being dependent on unreliable and hostile actors elevates the strategic imperative of avoiding new dependencies for the critical materials needed to power the green transition with solar panels, advanced batteries and wind turbines — an opportunity and challenge that arguably constitutes a historic inflection point currently being shaped by several converging trends and events.

For one, due to recent landmark legislation across the Atlantic, the United States will now be devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to sustainable energy initiatives, technologies and supply chains. However, there’s understandable consternation that purchasing tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) through the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will advantage countries that share a free trade agreement with the United States — excluding those in the EU.

This is unnecessarily restrictive, and the U.S. should include preference for EU and NATO members — however, it doesn’t mean Europeans shouldn’t play a significant role, and reap significant benefits, from partnering with North America to diversify its supply chains for raw materials.

The EU currently spends tens of billions of euros subsidizing the purchase of EVs, most of which are heavily reliant on sources for mining and processing that are dominated by China. Getting serious about “Made In Europe” means getting serious about these supply chains as well. Europe has significant mineral processing capacity, and this can be expanded to loosen China’s grip on — and possible weaponization of — this crucial phase of the EV battery supply chain.

For example, the EU already ranks second in global processing capacity for nickel, cobalt and manganese, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Meanwhile, with limited mining and processing available domestically, many U.S. automakers are now scrambling for alternate sources for such raw materials, so they can be eligible for the IRA’s tax credit. However, minerals extracted from IRA-compliant countries (North America or U.S. Free Trade Agreement partners) could be processed in ever-growing quantities in Europe, and the resulting EV batteries would still qualify for the tax credit within the U.S.

Additionally, information technology such as blockchain is becoming increasingly available, allowing governments, businesses and consumers to track where materials and components come from — as well as how they’re extracted and processed. Thus, democratic nations could agree to condition market access on shared human rights, labor and environmental requirements, in effect creating a “race to the top,” turning high standards into competitive advantage.

Collectively, the EU and North America make up close to 45 percent of global GDP, which provides enormous leverage. Other nations must either comply with these standards — thus, raising their costs and limiting their price advantages — or be excluded. Given today’s supply chain imbalances, the early stage of that transition won’t be easy. But if the world’s technologically advanced democracies have the will, and stick together through the preliminary turbulence, the means do exist.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted as much in her State of the Union address earlier this year, observing that with “like-minded partners,” Europe can ensure labor and environmental standards outside its borders as well. We have models of collaboration to build upon for this — such as the former Trilateral discussions (including the EU, U.S., Japan — and now Canada and Australia as well), which address what “responsible” mining and permitting really look like.

Finally, the fallout from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has also laid bare the risks of jettisoning incumbent sources of energy too early in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Even the most climate-friendly power generation systems will require tremendous amounts of energy — principally electricity. And in this capacity, the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Norway have vast natural resources to help end the EU’s dependence on Russia, even as we recognize this isn’t a sustainable solution.

These priorities are all consistent with recent European policy initiatives, from REPowerEU — a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels — to the Critical Raw Materials Act. They require widening the aperture of our thinking and collaborating on a comprehensive approach to deliver on the EU’s Green Deal and strategic autonomy

President von der Leyen led her address by calling Russia’s aggression “a war on our energy,” as part of a broader assault on Europe’s economy, values and future. And getting our energy response right will require a shared transatlantic approach to critical raw materials, which addresses today’s requirements as part of — and not in conflict with — a prosperous, carbon-neutral future, Politico writes.

Spain, Denarius will initially have an option to subscribe for a 51% stake in EMI

Canadian firm Denarius Metals has signed an option agreement to acquire up to 80% in EuropaMetals’ Spanish subsidiary, Europa Metals Iberia (EMI).

EMI owns the Toral zinc/lead/silver project in Leon, northern Spain.

Under the agreed terms, Denarius will have the first option to subscribe for a 51% stake in EMI, until 22 November 2025.

Denarius will be entailed to invest $4m on the Toral project over a three-year period, complete a preliminary economic assessment, and submit a mining licence application by 31 July 2023 to the local Junta.

Denarius executive chairperson and CEO Serafino Iacono said: “The first year will see an application being made for a mining licence at the Toral project, thereby moving the project along the path towards potential future development.

“In subsequent years, Denarius will seek to expand the current footprint of the project to encompass the nearby historic third-party Antonina mine and delineate further high-grade mineral resources, following the success of Europa’s recent drill holes.”

Furthermore, Denarius has a second option to buy a further 29% stake in EMI by delivering a pre-feasibility study and making a $2m cash payment to Europa within 12 months following the closing of the first option.

The proposed transaction is subject to Europa shareholders’ nod, and once secured Denarius Metals will make an initial $100,000 payment to EMI. Denarius will also make a second aggregate payment of $550,000 following the completion of its financing, Mining Technology reports.

Finland, Sibanye-Stillwater approved €588 million ($616m) investment to advance its Keliber lithium project

Precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW) (NYSE: SBSW) approved on Monday a €588 million ($616m) investment to advance its Keliber lithium project in Finland.

The South African miner said its board-approved capital expenditure program would start with construction of a lithium hydroxide refinery within Finland’s Kokkola industrial park. The area hosts a logistics hub from where the company plans to feed into the European battery sector.

With the operation, Sibanye-Stillwater aims to be the first fully-integrated lithium producer in Europe, targeting first production in 2024.

It will then ramp up to produce around 15,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year, enough for 300,000 electric vehicles (EVs).

The miner owns about 85% of Finnish battery chemical maker Keliber, which in turn owns the namesake lithium project.

“We are delighted to advance and grow our presence in the European battery metals industry through Keliber,” chief executive Neal Froneman said in the statement.

He noted the mine, which will mainly supply the European market, is forecast to have the lowest carbon emission footprints in the industry.

Sibanye plans to underwrite a €104 million ($109m) capital increase by Keliber by the end of January while at least €250 million ($261m) will be be borrowed to fund construction of the project.

Construction of the Päiväneva concentrator and the initial two open pit mines — Syväjärvi and the flagship Rapasaari — will commence once all the environmental permits are received.

The Syväjärvi mine is fully permitted, while the environmental permits at the Rapasaari mine and the Päiväneva concentrator are currently outstanding, Sibanye said.

Eyeing battery metals

The company, one of the world’s largest producers of platinum and palladium, also recently acquired other lithium and nickel assets in the US and Europe. With prices for those and other battery metals ballooning over the past year, mergers and acquisitions in the sector are less appealing at the moment, Froneman has said.

The proposed Keliber lithium mine consists of several advanced stage lithium spodumene deposits with 9.3 million tonnes of ore reserves and it contemplates the construction of a chemical plant near the port of Kokkola.

Once in operations, output is expected to reach 15,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide a year during its mine-life.

Europe has a limited number of lithium mining and refinery projects under development, many of which are yet to secure financing or environmental permits, Mining writes.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Discovered a gold deposit near Srebrenica

Silver-zinc and lead ore were found at the Čumavići site, at a depth of 50 meters.

The general director of the company “Drina resurs” from Srebrenica, Aleksandar Mišković, said at the presentation of the results of geological research carried out in the area of ​​this municipality – that gold was discovered at a depth of 80 meters at the Brežani site, reports the Radio-television of Republika Srpska.

Region, What next for the big miners?

As 2022 looks to be this bull market’s peak for earnings and dividends, opinions are split about what comes next for major miners

It goes without saying that commodity cycles are tricky to time right. Even picking an indicator is tough – does a dip in copper or iron ore prices mean the worm has turned, or do low inventories in Chinese ports mean sales at Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP (BHP) will be protected? These are blue-chip companies that will likely be buy-and-hold shares for most investors, but being clear on what is coming next is important.

The pressures on these companies are clear: rising costs and an uncertain macroeconomic landscape. And uncertainty here does mean a lack of clarity on the near-term future rather than just another way to describe a negative sentiment. China has remained committed to keeping Covid-19 cases low, with lockdowns still a fact of life for many people in the country. There were whispers of a step down in the harsh pandemic policies earlier this month, but so far it looks as though these will continue.

For the miners, this means lower demand from China, the key global industrial metals buyer. Rio and BHP are the most exposed, given their reliance on iron ore, while Anglo American (AAL) and Glencore (GLEN) have more varied portfolios, with proportionally more copper as well as other base metals like zinc and lead, Investors Chronicle writes.