Kazakhstan and Canada Explore Cooperation Prospects in Mining and Metallurgy
Nearly 150 delegates participated in the forum, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Almas Aidarov, representatives of government and business associations, as well as top managers of leading Canadian companies, such as Hatch, Cameco Corporation, B2Gold, Arras Minerals, Nutrien, Teck Resources Limited, Ion Energy, among others.
The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Canada in 2022 reached $838.6 million, which is 69.2 percent higher compared to the same period last year. Canada has invested $2.7 billion in the Kazakh economy since 2011.
Aidarov said in his speech that Kazakhstan values long-term cooperation with Canada, built on strong bonds of friendship, shared values, and support, emphasizing that the country is Canada’s largest trade and investment partner in Central Asia.
Rocco Rossi, President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, noted the significant potential for developing bilateral relations and emphasized that large Canadian companies are interested in implementing investment projects in Kazakhstan.
Kazakh Invest Deputy Chairman Zhandos Temirgali stressed several similarities between Kazakhstan and Canada, including the climate, a multicultural society, and the structure of the respective economies. He also outlined the investment opportunities in Kazakhstan and state support measures.
“The pool of joint projects with the Canadian side consists of 11 projects worth $1.4 billion in mining, metallurgy, energy, agriculture, and engineering industries. There is a huge potential for expanding cooperation in developing strategic mineral deposits necessary for creating high-tech industries”, said Temirgali.
The Canadian business leaders commended the potential of Kazakhstan’s mining industry, noting the country’s importance as an investment partner in the region.
The sides signed several bilateral documents, including memorandums between Kazakhmys corporation and First Quantum for geological exploration projects in Kazakhstan, and with Bureau Veritas to create an international geochemical laboratory in Kazakhstan, Astana Times reports.
Calcite battery industry to match lithium demand and high risks, Serbian mine could provide reliable supply
Calcium ions could be used as an alternative technology to lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), bringing benefits as a result of their abundance and low cost. Serbia could be one of the top suppliers of calcium carbonate for battery production as it has the highest confirmed quality of calcite deposits of 99% pureness even attractive for high tech pharmaceutical and chemical industry.
Due to a significant disturbances in the supply chain in Europe, there was an interruption in the consistent delivery of materials. Serbian calcite and graphite mine Belkalhan.eu, its availability and cost effective exploitation makes this project highly attractive for investment and R&D JV project.
Time to Take a Calcium Battery Seriously
Calcium is 2,000 times more abundant than lithium, and is available locally in Europe. We find it in anything from bones to chalk in fact. Calcite / calcium carbonate is one the most abundant elements on the earth’s crust,’ adds Dr. Palacín of Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid.
‘It’s not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery inexpensive because the raw material is cheap.’ His team’s calcium battery prototype is already proving promising. Europa.Eu reports the material forms a successful negative cathode with twice the electron exchange as lithium.
‘As any calcium travels through the electrolyte, two electrons would travel outside (instead of one with lithium),’ Dr. Palacín explains. ‘One could imagine that for the same battery size, the range would be higher if you used it in an electric vehicle.’
Why Develop a Calcium Battery Now?
Lithium batteries are making a significant contribution to stored energy. However, their success could become their downfall as scarce lithium prices skyrocket, and the green circular economy becomes paramount. Moreover, the silvery metal is dangerous to handle according to Europa.Eu, questioning its sustainability further.
Europe alone may demand 60 times more lithium by 2050 to fulfill the need for electric vehicle batteries. Not to mention renewable energy storage that will form the backbone of reaching its emissions goals.Meanwhile lithium mines, many in remote locations are struggling to meet 2022 demands and are opposing serious environmental opposition.
Calcite batteries are surely becoming more attractive for industry usage but also for investors seeking sustainable returns. Serbian academic and technology institutions could serve as excellent ground base for joint venture R&D projects and later its industrial usage. Competitiveness of local Serbian market could be another driver for Joint venture with calcite mine developer Belkalhan company which has all the preconditions meet including permits and location infrastructure managed.
European mining eyes uncertain future
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced Europe to look at weaning itself off Russian dominance in its mining industry.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provided Europe with the opportunity to conduct a much needed re-appraisal of its raw materials supply chain and its vulnerabilities, the EU has been forced to take a similar look at the parlous state of its own metals mining industry.
There is widespread agreement that if Europe is to have any chance of achieving its clean energy goals, renewable energy is an obvious prerequisite. However, this requires metals such as lithium, a metal in which Europe remains far from self sufficient. Recognising this urgency, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in her September 14 state of the union address announced a new European Critical Raw Materials Act.
“Never before has this parliament debated the state of our union with war raging on European soil,” she began. “Lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas. Our demand for rare earths alone will increase fivefold by 2030. We must avoid becoming dependent again, as we did with oil and gas,” she continued.
The act will update the 30 raw materials that the EU has already classified as critical, and could provide a framework for a new balance of power in European mining, if the continent can overcome challenges to expanding its internal mineral production.
Setting targets for European metals
Commenting on the address, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, said that the EU Critical Raw Materials Act will help by: focusing on strategic applications including setting the criteria for identifying raw materials relevant for transition and defence needs; creating a true European network of raw materials agencies to anticipate risks; and building and strengthening a more resilient supply chain.
“For example, a target could be set that at least 30% of the EU’s demand for refined lithium should originate from the EU by 2030, or to recover at least 20% of the rare earth elements present in relevant waste streams by 2030,” Breton said.
Demand for all battery materials is skyrocketing with demand for graphite and rare earths predicted to jump 14 and five times respectively by 2030. This is expected to create enormous supply problems. Indeed, so dire is Europe’s raw materials plight that Bernd Schäfer, CEO and managing director of EIT Raw Materials told Euractiv, “With the recent energy crisis, it’s become difficult to prioritise. This is because ALL critical raw materials are becoming super critical now.”
But observers caution that serious hurdles stand in the way of the EU achieving an adequate level of raw materials self sufficiency. At a think tank held last year organised by Ghent University, Prof Dr Jonathan Holslag, a lecturer on international politics at the Free University Brussels warned that there is a huge gulf between China’s economic nationalism and determination to control the global raw materials supply chain and the EU’s lukewarm attitude to supporting its own raw materials industry.
“China does not consider its basic industries as backward,” said Holslag. He noted that despite 16 years of EU policies on mining and the mineral supply chain in place, production volumes in Europe, “have decreased and mining in the EU is currently almost absent.” In September a joint Franco-German paper, supported by Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Finland, Belgium and Romania, called for greater financing for raw material production within the bloc.
The role of recycling
One aspect of the Commission’s critical raw materials plan that might hold more promise, according to Julie Klinger, a geologist, is recycling. Interviewed in Politico Klinger said that while the EU may need to open new mines, this should only be a “distant third choice behind reprocessing waste and behind recycling.” Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted to impose mandatory recycled content targets for the lithium, cobalt, nickel and lead in lithium-ion batteries.
A number of recycling ventures are now underway. The EU-funded Susmagpro project that is running to November 2023 is looking to kick start the recycling of rare-earth magnets. These magnets are applied in electronics, wind turbines, electric car motors and others.
“The aim of the project is to develop a recycling supply chain for rare earth magnets in the EU and to demonstrate these new materials on a pilot scale within a range of application sectors,” said the European Commission. “The EU imports far more neodymium-iron-boron magnets than it manufactures.”
Considering that the EU imports less than 1,000 tonnes of such magnets a year, and up to three times that volume are currently available for recycling, the reuse of these batteries presents a significant opportunity.
Acceptance versus apathy
But while EU governments largely accept the need for greater raw materials self sufficiency, within the European population at large there is substantial apathy, if not downright hostility, towards the metals resource industry. Serbia, the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal host world class lithium deposits, but there is considerable opposition to their development.
In Spain, local residents are battling to defeat Infinity Lithium’s proposed lithium mine in the Valdeflores Valley. Campaigning under the banner of the citizen group ‘Save the Mountain’ they have resisted the company’s plans and taken Infinity to court. This is despite an amended proposal for an underground, rather than open pit mine.
Also in the region, Lithium Iberia has proposed another large lithium mine, known as Las Navas. But it too, has faced steep opposition from locals on the grounds that it is an area traditionally dedicated to common pastures for ranchers and cork harvesting.
Similar opposition is on display to the EU’s most notable deposit of heavy rare earth metals zirconium, hafnium and niobium in Sweden. Three years ago, Canadian company Leading Edge Materials presented a plan to the Swedish Mining Inspectorate for an open cast pit development of the Norra Kärr rare earth element deposit located in Jönköping County. Mark Saxon, interim company CEO stated, “Norra Kärr is a strategic project that has a unique ability to dramatically reduce European reliance on China for critical raw materials.”
However, the company’s plan was vigorously opposed by environmental campaigners at the time. They now appear to have had some success when a subsequent ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden ruled that a Natura 2000 permit was required, prior to the evaluation of the mining lease. Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the EU. The project is now in limbo and the company is carrying out maintenance activities to protect its tenure over the project. With the mining lease application valid until August 2026, the dispute could continue for a number of years.
The opposition by local activists to mining projects is creating something of a dilemma for the EU’s goal of increasing its raw materials self sufficiency. A similar dilemma is being faced by the energy industry. The lesson that is having to be hard learned by that industry is there is quite often a ‘disconnect’ between the need for more renewable energy and opposition at the local level to the building of any new wind and solar farms.
How the metals mining sector squares this sort of circle is uncertain. But if European industry is to wean itself off Russian and Chinese metals then a solution needs to be found, and quickly, Mining Technology writes.
Mining companies have no intention of leaving Serbia and there will be more and more of them
Mining companies have no intention of leaving Serbia and there will be more and more of them, and justice and laws are not on the side of citizens who fight for human rights and environmental protection, lawyer Sreten Đorđević said today.
At the conference “Availability of environmental (in)justice in Serbia” in Belgrade, Đorđević pointed out that mining companies will not leave Serbia “at any cost”, neither because of financial losses nor the revocation of permits.
“We should not be fooled that mining companies engaged in any type of exploitation or applied geological research will leave Serbia within the existing legal framework. I think there will be more and more of them,” Djordjevic said.
Speaking about the boron and lithium mining plans in the Valjevo basin, Đorđević, the legal representative of the citizens’ movement “March from Kolubare”, recalled that the rights to applied geological research of boron and lithium in the area of Valjevo North were taken away from the company Euro Lithium Balkan.
However, the same company announced a few days ago that it wants to engage in applied geological research on the geothermal potential of the Valjevo area in the same area.
“I think it’s actually a simulation of the desire to explore geothermal potential, behind which could be the company’s desire to stay in that research area by any means, with some new solution, and not allow another company to enter its place,” he said. Djordjevic.
Although the company Euro Lithium Balkan has been operating with huge losses for several years, which amounted to 2.9 million euros in 2021, Đorđević said that the company is incorporating other companies backed by investment funds into its ownership structure.
Namely, in 2021, Euro Lithium Canada concluded a lien agreement with Lithium Royalty Corporation from Canada by pledging 10% of the ownership of Euro Lithium Balkan in the name of that company’s claims.
Behind the company Lithium Royalty Corporation is the investment fund Waratah Capital Advisors Ltd, which manages assets of about four billion dollars.
“At risk citizens from the Valjevo area should be told that nothing is over.” The interests of the mining sector are so strong that they will want to stay in this area at all costs at the cost of losing permits and constantly operating with losses,” said Đorđević.
According to him, in order for mining companies to leave Serbia, the Law on Mining and Geological Research, the Law on Expropriation and the entire “mining lobby legislative framework that destroys the entire system of regulations in the field of environmental protection and consequently human rights protection” must be changed.
Đorđević mentioned that in Serbia, excluding Vojvodina, there are only three mining inspectors, one for the field of underground water, one for geological research and one for solid rock masses.
He said that citizens are demoralized and disincentivized to fight for their rights, because court proceedings take a long time, costs are huge and unpredictable; In most cases, there is a huge disproportion between the plaintiff and the defendant, and they are increasingly exposed to strategic lawsuits against members of the public (SLAPP lawsuits).
“In all these proceedings where citizens are fighting for the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment, the balance of justice is drastically tilted to the other side, the side of investors, because on that side the state administration factor prevails and that is why there is such a great inequality, as well as in economic powers one side and the other,” Djordjevic said.
He noted that the law does not recognize the possibility of exemption from court costs in proceedings with elements of environmental protection, which, in his opinion, would be justified because it is not about particular personal interests, but about the protection of collective interests.
Djordjević also pointed out that the legal system of Serbia in the area of civil rights has not changed for 50 years, as well as that in the draft of the new Civil Code, no provisions refer to procedures with an element of environmental protection or compensation for damages in that area.
“It seems that the future law makers did not recognize the area of environmental protection rights in the civil-law sense, which is unacceptable because environmental problems increase with geometric progression,” said Đorđević and added that in the meantime laws in the field of mining are being developed to the detriment of citizens’ interests, N1 writes.
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 . 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  (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 .
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 . In 2021, Kazakhstan extracted about 21,800 tons of U by in-situ leaching (ISL) mining . 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 (). 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. (, , ) 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 . 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 (-), the oxidizing properties of the reagent solution was regenerated using bacteria (Biomining).
A recent paper published in the review Minerals  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 (,) and gold .
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 ( ). 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 , and in situ resource utilization (ISRU) .
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.
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.
Lithium mining projects around Europe
Europe is looking to increase its domestic supply of lithium. Find out which companies are moving ahead with lithium-mining projects in the area.
A big part of reaching that objective is the electrification of transportation, and recently proposed legislation sets targets to cut carbon emissions from cars by 55 percent and vans by 50 percent by 2030.
As battery metals investors know, the electric vehicle industry is a key demand driver for essential metals such as lithium — which the European Union included on its critical minerals list for the first time in 2020.
Furthermore, in recent years there has been a push to build out supply chains that are less dependent on Asia, particularly China, with the European Union working to release its Critical Raw Materials Act.
Europe is desperate to increase its domestic supply of lithium, though only a limited number of projects are capable of achieving production in the coming years, Jack Bedder of Project Blue told the Investing News Network.
For Bedder, Europe will have to innovate to significantly reduce its reliance on imported lithium feedstock. “Europe’s ability to ‘win’ the battle for lithium self-sufficiency remains hinged on technological breakthroughs, along with the creation of a supporting framework in which new mining and processing facilities can operate in a globally competitive industry”, he said.
Even though Europe’s lithium supply is quite limited, there are a few companies exploring and developing lithium projects in the region, with the aim of supplying the electric vehicle industry. Here’s a brief overview of some of them listed in alphabetical order.
European Lithium’s Wolfsberg hard-rock lithium deposit in Austria has a positive prefeasibility study. The company is currently working on a definitive feasibility study that is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2023.
The ASX-listed company, which is aiming to be the first and largest local supplier of lithium hydroxide in the region, holds a non-binding memorandum of understanding with BMW. If a deal is agreed upon, the German carmaker would make an upfront payment of US$15 million for the future supply of lithium hydroxide from Wolfsberg.
The company recently made news headlines when it said it would merge with Sizzle Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company, to create a US-listed company called Critical Metals. European Lithium would be Critical Metals’ biggest shareholder.
European Metals’ Cinovec project is said to host the largest lithium resource in Europe. Cinovec, which is located in the Czech Republic, is a hard-rock lithium deposit that is 49 percent owned by European Metals and 51 percent owned by energy group CEZ.
According to a 2022 prefeasibility study, the Cinovec project will have a mine life of 25 years and annual production of 29,386 metric tons (MT) per year of battery grade lithium hydroxide.
Starting in 2028, minerals company Imerys is looking to produce 34,000 MT of lithium hydroxide per year for the next 25 years at an existing mine at Beauvoir in Central France. The company has also recently detected lithium in the British region of Cornwall; Imerys is currently exploring the viability of lithium mining in the region.
The San Jose deposit in Spain is 75 percent owned by Australia’s Infinity Lithium. The company, which published an underground mine scoping study in 2022, will mine the hard-rock mica resource and develop processing facilities. Infinity Lithium also kicked off the mining license and environmental impact assessment process this year.
Keliber holds several advanced lithium deposits in Finland’s Central Ostrobothnian area.
The privately held company’s lithium project is comprised of five mines, the spodumene concentrator area at Päiväneva, the lithium chemical plant at the Kokkola Industrial Park and auxiliary facilities at all sites. The company is aiming to reach production capacity of 15,000 MT of lithium hydroxide per year starting in 2025.
Keliber is majority owned by Sibanye-Stillwater, which upped its stake in the company earlier this year to 84.96 percent. State-owned company Finnish Minerals Group, alongside other minority shareholders, holds the remainder.
Seasoned lithium investors will have heard of the Jadar lithium-borate deposit in Serbia, a massive deposit where lithium is hosted by the previously unknown borosilicate mineral jadarite. Major miner Rio Tinto has invested and committed more than US$450 million to the project to date, but has faced massive environmental protests, leading the Serbian government to block the project.
Savannah Resources is working on the Mina do Barroso hard-rock lithium project in Northern Portugal. The asset, which is considered one of Europe’s biggest lithium projects, was awarded a 30 year mining lease in 2006, and has a three block mining lease application.
The company has faced opposition from environmental and community groups. Savannah Resources has been required to resubmit its environmental impact assessment, which is expected to happen in the first quarter of 2023.
Vulcan Energy Resources
Vulcan Energy Resources says its combined geothermal energy and lithium resource is the largest in Europe, with license areas in the Upper Rhine Valley in Germany and Italy. It is developing its zero-carbon project with the aim of decarbonizing lithium production.
Vulcan has signed deals with Stellantis, Renault, Umicore and South Korea’s LG Chem.
After acquiring Deutsche Lithium in 2021, Zinnwald Lithium is now the sole owner of the Zinnwald deposit in Zinnwald-Georgenfeld, located on the eastern side of Germany near the border with Czechia.
The Zinnwald deposit is a late-stage development project with an approved 30 year mining license. The company is currently working to update its environmental impact assessment, Investing News writes.