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Metals

NUM, ANC ‘very encouraging’ – Royal Bafokeng Platinum

Royal Bafokeng Platinum CEO Steve Phiri said on Tuesday that he was “very encouraged” by the stance taken the day before by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

“We can only improve the situation if we work together and not against each other,” Phiri outlined to Mining Weekly Online in an interview after the company reported a R31.9-million loss in the first six months of this year. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).

“We’re very encouraged by the statements released by ANC yesterday and this morning, which raises serious concern about the damage Mining Charter Three does to the mining industry and the economy of this county.

“We hope that we’ll see something different in a few days, few weeks, few months to come,” said the head of the 52% black-community-owned Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed platinum mining company.

On Monday, NUM expressed fears that the South African mining sector, which had already shed more than 80 000 jobs over the past five years, would shed tens of thousands more jobs and called for the resignation of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, citing a complete breakdown in relations.

Phiri described as “very encouraging” the supportive comments of ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, who in an interview with Radio 702 host Xolani Gwala referred to the private sector, the government and the ANC as being economic partners.

LOSSMAKING PLATINUM SECTOR

In the tough economic environment which has resulted in 70% “or more” of the platinum industry being lossmaking, Royal Bafokeng Platinum has been forced to respond by discontinuing mining upper group two (UG2) reef at the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine’s (BRPM’s) South Shaft, restructuring to match to the declining South Shaft resource, lowering unit costs to below the consumer price index, increasing tonnes milled by 14.3% and holding down year-on-year unit costs at BRPM.

Capital expenditure (capex) at the Styldrift 1 expansion, on which R7.23-billion has been invested to date, has been tailored to a 150 000 t a month ramp-up in the last quarter of 2018.

Company funding has been bolstered by the raising of a R1.2-billion convertible bond and the concluding of debt facilities totalling R2-billion.

Against this arduous backdrop, Phiri, who leads a 52% black-owned company, has refused to mince his words in condemning South Africa’s legislative and mining policy environment.

“We certainly can do better without the value-destructive Mining Charter Three. How the industry is supposed to understand and comply with it defies any stretch of the imagination,” said Phiri, 61, a former public prosecutor, who decried the document as “shabbily drafted, confused and ambiguous”.

He reminded the government that many still toiling in the mining industry had also helped to transform the sector by playing key roles in the formulation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act in 2002 and 2003 – “from nothingness, where the industry gave up private ownership of mineral rights, and shareholders sacrificed equity without any compulsion”.

The first and second mining charters also came about by participants willingly shedding value through negotiation.

He condemned those latecomers who now condemned such trailblazing transformers as being anti-transformational.

As a crucial Constitutional imperative, transformation should come by way of a charter that was realistic, achievable and sustainable and not something that caused economic downfall.

“Transformation should not, as a matter of principle, be used as a populist football. We should not produce an unrealistic and unachievable piece of work and sugar-coat it as transformation, when it is so bitter and unpalatable to the core.

“It will implode on us, certainly. The industry will fall flat, capital will be chased away and so will growth remain a myth. Jobs will be lost.

“We hope that, in the end, wisdom will prevail and a realistic charter, with realistic targets, will be achieved through honest and meaningful engagement,” he said.

STYLDRIFT PROJECT

Royal Bafokeng Platinum reported a 70% increase in tonnes delivered from Styldrift, an 8.9% improvement in tonnes milled per employee, a 9.4% increase in four-element (4E) metals in concentrate and zero fatalities in the six months to June 30.

The low price environment resulted in a 9.8% reduction in average rand revenue basket price, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation being cut by two-thirds to R100.4-million from R305.3-million in the same period last year, and headline earnings per share collapsing to 15.3c a share from 77.8c in the corresponding period of last year.

But despite the stringency, the company remained steadfast in spending R15.9-million in the half-year on its social and labour plan commitments, which was up on last year’s R13.8-million.

Moreover, 86.3% of its total discretionary procurement spend was with historically disadvantaged companies.

The closure of the nonprofitable South Shaft UG2 production sections and redeploying 60% of the UG2 mining crews to superior-margin Merensky at South and North shafts and UG2 production at North Shaft has enabled the company to maintain current levels of platinum group metals production but with the enhanced effect of the base metals revenue that accompanies Merensky production and optimised processing arrangements equating to
R37-million a year.

Net revenue decreased by 3.2% from R1 646.9-million in the first half of 2016 to R1 593.9-million for the first half of 2017.

The company’s gross profit margin reduced from 11.4% for the first six months of last year to 0.7% for the six months ended June 30 this year on the 3.2% decrease in net revenue and the 8.5% increase in total cost of sales.

Total capex for the period under review increased by 63.8% to R847-million on the first half of last year.

Replacement capex fell by R33-million to R10-million and expansion capex increased by 86.1% to R778-million on the acceleration of construction at the Styldrift I project.

Stay-in-business capex increased by 5.4% to R59-million.

The total mining scope of the BRPM Phase III replacement project has been completed with only construction activities related to services, conveyor belts and associated bulkheads on 14 and 15 levels remaining.

A technical planning review of the Phase III extraction schedule has indicated that these levels will only be required to come on line during the second quarter of 2019, allowing capex to be deferred to 2018 without any negative impact on extraction.

During the reporting period, a total of 3 328 m of capital development was completed on 600 and 642 levels of Styldrift I, with 238 000 t of ore being delivered to the concentrator at a built-up head grade of 2.53 g/t 4E.

Key construction activities being undertaken include overland belt construction, services shaft equipping, ventilation shaft No 3 construction, silo No 3 and No 4 construction, 600 Level permanent trackless workshop and ancillary service bays construction, settler No 1 slip and line activities and conveyor belt construction on 600 and 642 levels.

In line with project execution resource requirements, there are 23 mining and construction crews operational on site.

MARKET REVIEW

The platinum price started the year close to $900/oz., rose to above $1 000/oz. in February, but subsequently weakened to end the first half not far above where it started the year. The rand remained relatively strong against the US dollar in the first half of 2017 at around R13.20. This led to platinum prices in rand terms dipping below R12 000/oz. on a number of occasions during the first half of 2017, to lows not seen since November 2015.

Platinum production is forecast to be 2.5% lower this year as both primary and secondary supply ease. Primary supply is estimated to be down 2% year-on-year on lower output from Southern Africa. Secondary supply is expected to contract as lower recycling of jewellery in China is likely to more than offset a modest recovery in auto catalyst recycling.

However, lacklustre platinum prices are reflecting limited buying by end-users as overall demand, excluding investment, is forecast to soften year-on-year.

Western Europe remains the largest diesel market, but diesel market share continues to decrease, particularly in the small car segment.

Diesel share in larger cars remains relatively stable, while in heavy-duty vehicles, diesel is currently the only viable option.

Purchasing of platinum by Chinese jewellery fabricators in platinum’s largest market has not improved from a weak 2016. Platinum trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange in the first half of 2017 was a third lower than in the first half of 2016, although this reflects industrial as well as jewellery demand.

Investment demand has been steady so far this year with platinum exchange traded funds (ETFs) adding 83 000 oz in the first six months, resulting in global ETF holdings increasing to about 2.6-million ounces. Platinum bar purchases were low in the first quarter owing to the high platinum price. However, weaker prices during the second quarter lifted buying.

Overall, the industrial market balance is projected to be in a modest surplus in 2017. If the platinum price remained weak in the second half of the year this would raise the risk of closures of unprofitable mining areas which could move the market closer to balance.

Palladium started the year trading at $676/oz and although volatile, the price continued to trend higher through the first six months of the year. Temporary tightness in palladium ingot availability resulted in the price briefly pushing through $900/oz in June before it eased back to end the month at $842/oz, up 25% for the year to date.

Palladium demand is expected to be little changed in 2017 as a slight increase in auto catalyst demand is offset by small declines in jewellery and industrial usage.

The rhodium price has continued its recovery in 2017, rising 35% to $1 040/oz during the first half of the year. However, while the price may have improved, the market still remains well supplied. Removal of unprofitable ounces from the market could move the market close to balance or into slight deficit.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

Kenya reviews mining laws as industry struggles to grow

NAIROBI – Kenya is reviewing its mining code, a year after enacting new legislation, as it seeks to attract investment into an industry that’s barely grown over the past five years.

The government is working with the UK Department for International Development-funded Extractives Hub to come up with a revised law that balances investor returns with government-revenue needs and international best practice, Mines SecretarDan Kazungu said. The review is expected to be submitted to the ministry in the next few weeks, he said.

“We want to be attractive, but we also want to get the most out of our resources, based on the spirit of win-win,” Kazungu said in an interview June 30 in the capital, Nairobi. “The investor must get a good return on their investment, but win for government, and win for the community as well.”

Mining companies are facing similar legislative disruption in other African countries. In South Africa, the main industry lobby group is going to court to challenge new rules that seek to give the black majority a bigger stake in the country’s mineral wealth. Tanzania’s parliament is debating new laws that will allow it to renegotiate contracts, while the Democratic Republic of Congo plans to overhaul its mining code to increase the state’s share of revenue from the industry.

Mining contributed 1.1% to Kenya’s total gross domestic product in 2016, compared with 1% in 2012, according to data published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The country has lagged behind neighbours like Tanzania, where the industry contributed about 4.8% to GDP in 2016, according to the country’s statistics agency.

MINERAL ROYALTIES
Kenya’s existing code imposes royalty rates ranging from 1% of the gross sales value of industrial minerals such as gypsum and limestone, to 5% for gold, 8% for coal, 10% for titanium ores, niobium and rare-earth elements, and 12% for diamonds.

Kenya last reviewed its mining royalties in 2013, when then-Mines Minister Najib Balala cancelled all mining licences and raised royalties.

The Treasury is working on a new income tax act, as part of its long-running review of tax legislation, that is receiving “considerable” input from the Mines Ministry, Kazungu said. Issues being addressed include cross-border mineral trading, he said.

Corporate income tax rates for mining firms operating in Kenya vary from 30% for companies domiciled in the East African country to 37.5% for non-residents.

“We obviously are starting from the position that we want to be competitive,” Kazungu said. “Investors have options. If you frustrate them here, they will probably go somewhere else.”

Kenya is the world’s third-biggest producer of soda ash, used to make glass, and ranks seventh in output of fluorspar, used in steel, according to the US Geological Survey. It also has deposits of rubies and sapphires.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

Sibanye says production resumes at strike-hit Cooke mine

JOHANNESBURG – Production has resumed at the Cooke mine of South African precious metals producer Sibanye Gold following the conclusion of a wildcat strike at the operation which erupted almost a month ago, a company spokesperson said on Monday.

The strike, which saw incidents of violence aimed at miners who did not support it, was sparked by worker resentment at Sibanye’s drive to root out illegal miners, which included the sacking of employees for collusion and a ban on taking food into the shafts.

Last week the company said that 461 illegal miners had been arrested at Cooke since the strike began after they were forced to come to the surface because the stoppage deprived them of sources of food and water provided by employees.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

New Mining Charter a catalyst for more inclusive economy, says Zwane

JOHANNESBURG – Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has said the controversial 2017 Mining Charter gazetted last week was meant to be a catalyst that provides practical expression to the country’s goal of a more inclusive economy.

“We encourage the young people who are the future of this country to embrace the Mining Charter by exploiting the opportunities to be unleashed by this instrument of change,” Zwane said.

“We will be embarking on provincial roadshows in the next two weeks to raise awareness and to take the Charter to the people.”

Zwane said this when he was tabling the R1.779 billion Budget Vote of the Mineral Resources Department in the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

The reviewed Mining Charter has caused a lot of uncertainty for stakeholders and the markets by setting new black ownership targets for the industry.

The Chamber of Mines vehemently rejected it, saying that the department had not held meaningful consultations before the introduction of some of the items, and thus it would approach the courts to interdict its implementation.

The targets include new mining rights, holders having 30% black ownership to be shared among employees, communities and black entrepreneurs. Mining rights holders who have complied with the previous target of 26% have to “top up” to 30% within 12 months.

Those applying for prospecting rights would be required to have a “minimum of 50% plus one black person shareholding”. These shareholders must have voting rights.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), on the other hand, welcomed the reviewed Mining Charter, saying that it appreciated the increase from the initial 26% to the 30% minimum BEE shareholding in the industry.

Zwane said the majority of the people of South Africa who make up 90% of the population remained excluded from the economy. He said the economy remained lopsided, unequal and non-inclusive because of the legislative framework.

Zwane said this was a huge detriment to South Africa’s socio-economic growth efforts, adding that the need for radical economic
transformation was more imperative than ever before because it sought to redress the institutionalised monopoly of the economy.

“Economic reforms are needed to ensure broader and inclusive participation to enable the attainment of a far more inclusive and competitive economy,” Zwane said.

“Our primary legislation, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), is designed to facilitate easier access to the minerals beneath the soil by the people of South Africa.

“This piece of legislation is being strengthened in order to ensure that the majority of South Africans benefit from the country’s mineral resources sector.”

Over R900 million of the allocated R1.779 billion will be transferred to the department’s entities, who are responsible for work in research and development, skills development and beneficiation.

Zwane also said the rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines was ongoing, with a total of 45 sites rehabilitated in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal in the previous financial year.

Source : Mining Weekly

Zuma backs Zwane on new Mining Charter

CAPE TOWN – President Jacob Zuma on Thursday threw his weight behind the controversial revised Mining Charter published by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

“Yes, I believe firstly, the minister gave the briefing and consultation, including the cabinet and what the minister is doing has been approved by the Cabinet,” Zuma said in the National Assembly during his quarterly question-and-answer session.

The President brushed aside criticism of the charter by the Chamber of Mines of SA, unions, and his own ruling African National Congress, who are concerned about the impact the charter could have on jobs in the sector.

The revised targets in the mining sector includes mining houses should have 30% black ownership to be shared among employees, communities and black entrepreneurs.

Mining rights holders who have complied with the previous target of 26% have to “top up” to 30% within 12 months.

Those applying for prospecting rights would be required to have a “minimum of 50% plus one black person shareholding”.

In the wake of the charter being gazetted, the Chamber of Mines threatened to take the minister to court to interdict from implementing the targets.

Source : Mining Weekly

Zambia’s 2017 copper output expected to top 850 000 t

LUSAKA – Copper production in Zambia, Africa’s No.2 producer of the metal, is expected to rise to 850 000 t in 2017 from 770 597 t last year, the nation’s vice president said on Thursday.

“Copper production is poised to continue increasing owing to the expansion projects at existing mines and greenfield projects that are ongoing,” Vice-President Inonge Winasaid at a mining and energy conference.

Source : Mining Weekly

Mining Charter exposing South African economy to GATT angst

JOHANNESBURG – The procurement rules of the new Mining Charter may violate South Africa’s obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), exposing the country to challenges by other member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers Peter Leon and Patrick Leyden warned on Wednesday.

The lawyers point out that, under GATT, South Africa is obliged to afford imported products “treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like products of national origin”, and thus not to apply any regulatory measures that afford preference to domestic products over imported products.

But under Mining Charter Three, which Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane gazetted controversially on June 15, mineral right holders are not allowed to procure more than 30% of their mining goods from foreign suppliers, which clearly gives domestic producers a significant advantage over foreign competitors.

Similarly, under the General Agreement on Trade in Services(GATS) agreement, South Africa is obliged to accord foreign service providers “treatment no less favourable than domestic suppliers”, which Mining Charter Three again obfuscates by not allowing mineral right holders to procure more than 20% of their services from foreign suppliers and imposing race-based quotas.

In addition, these foreign suppliers are forced to pay 1% of turnover to the yet-to-be-established Mining Transformation and Development Agency.

Importantly, however, Leon and Leyden hold the view that the Minister does not even have the power to amend the Mining Charter, let alone make it legally binding.

This is because the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill, 2013, from which the charter is meant to get its legislative status, has not yet been passed.

The Bill, which was referred back to Parliament in January 2015, has been in the correction phase for the last two-and-a-half years, with little chance of it being passed this year.

“The legal position thus remains, in our view, that the Minister can neither amend the charter nor make it binding on the industry,” the lawyers stated in a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online.

Section 100(2)(a) of the MPRDA, according to Leon and Leyden, empowers the Minister to develop a policy, rather than a set of binding rules, and to do so only once – within six months of the MPRDA’s promulgation date of May 1, 2004, which, in fact, occurred on August 13, 2004.

While the MPRDA Amendment Bill of 2013 aimed to address this by elevating the charter to the status of legislation, this had still not been done, and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had meanwhile missed an opportunity to create more regulatory certainty, and instead heaped new ownership, procurement, employment equity and quasi tax burdens on an already battered industry.

After months of speculation regarding the nature and content of the new charter, the DMR sparked instant retaliation when they brought it into immediate effect through a gazette notice.

The Chamber of Mines is applying for an interim court interdict to suspend the implementation of the charter, owing to its devastating set of new legal requirements on which there was no consultation.

South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa this week called for a recrafting of the charter to correct the “clear misalignment” between the chamber and the Minister; the Bench Marks Foundation denounced it as a measure that will worsen the lot of mining communities; and the ruling African National Congress drew attention to its negative impact on jobs.

GATT IMPACT FAR-REACHING

While a breach of either the GATT or GATS would not directly impact on mineral right holders, it could make South Africa vulnerable to challenges by other member States of the WTO, the lawyers warned.

If the implementation of Mining Charter Three causes South Africa to act in breach of its GATT and GATS obligations, it would have to negotiate a modification or face referral to the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

In the case of negotiation of a modification, South Africa would have to tender necessary “compensatory adjustments”, which could result in other sectors of the economy being deprived of protections afforded by the GATT and GATS.

Reference to the dispute settlement body could result in South Africa’s rights under the GATT and GATS being suspended until the dispute is resolved.

Predictably, such a suspension would have a detrimental impact on the entire economy and not simply the mining industry, the lawyers cautioned.

NEW PROSPECTING RIGHTS

Under the new charter, applicants for new prospecting rights must have a minimum of 50% plus one black person shareholding, in a move that places a capital-intensive and high-risk exploration burden on South Africa’s black population as controlling shareholders in prospecting ventures.

NEW MINING RIGHTS

Applicants for new mining rights must have a 30% black shareholding, which must be held in a separate entity from the holder of the right and must be made up of a minimum of 8% of issued shares owned by employee share ownership plans (Esops), 8% of issued shares owned by mine communities; and 14% of issued shares owned by black entrepreneurs.

Community shares must be held in a trust managed by the Mining Transformation and Development Agency and black shareholders in general may only sell their shares to other black persons, which may well result in communities and Esops struggling to find other communities and other Esopsto buy their shares.

New right holders must pay a minimum of 1% of yearly turnover to black shareholders over and above any distributions to shareholders; whether this is intended to be a “distribution” under the Companies Act, 2008, or a form of tax or royalty is not yet clear.

If under the Companies Act, it appears contrary to the provisions of the Act, which require the equal treatment of holders of the same class of shares.

If it is a tax or royalty, the lawyers point out that the Minister has no power to impose such a tax.

If, after ten years, vendor loans to black shareholders are not being repaid through dividends the outstanding balance must be written off by the mineral right holder, which arguably violates the prohibition on the arbitrary deprivation of property.

EXISTING RIGHTS

Transactions concluded prior to the charter date with a 26% black shareholding are subject to a 4% top-up to 30% black shareholding, which must happen by June 15 next year.

In addition, black shareholders must directly and actively control their equity interest in the empowering entity, including the transportation, trading and marketing of their proportionate share of mine production.

The obligations imposed by this provision are seen as being vague and contrary to the general principles of company law, which decrees that the mining company is the owner of the mine production, and not its shareholders.

In the view of Leon and Leyden, shareholders cannot ‘actively control’ a pro rata portion of the assets or decisions of the mining company.

The recognition of historical empowerment transactions will not apply to applications for new rights, renewals of rights or applications under Section 11 of the MPRDA, which suggests that existing holders will need to comply with the requirements for new mining rights in these circumstances. This would mean that mining companies that may already be “compliant” with the 30% ownership requirement would need to restructure their existing black shareholding completely, for any renewal of existing rights or to acquire existing rights from other companies.

BENEFICIATION OFFSET

A holder may offset up to 11% of its black person ownership requirement provided that the beneficiation activities are ongoing and that the DMR has approved the proposed activities. There is still no method or manner of calculating the offset fifteen years after this principle was first introduced in the original Mining Charter.

SALE OF MINING ASSETS

A holder who sells its mining assets must give black-owned companies a preferential option to purchase them.

PROCUREMENT RULES

The rule that a minimum of 70% of expenditure on the procurement of mining goods must be for South African manufactured goods, has an additional rider of at least 21% being sourced from black-owned companies.

Moreover, 5% must be sourced from black-owned companies with a minimum of 50% plus one black female or black youth control; and 44% must be sourced from black economically empowered manufacturing companies.

A minimum of 80% of expenditure on mining company services must be from South Africa-based companies, with at least 65% of these services coming from black-owned companies; 10% of services from black-owned companies with a minimum of 50% plus one black female control; and 5% of services from black-owned companies with a minimum of 50% plus one black youth control.

Foreign suppliers must pay 1% of their yearly turnover from local mining companies to the Mining Transformation and Development Agency.

EMPLOYMENT EQUITY

Boards of mining companies must be made up of a minimum of 50% black persons, 25% of whom must be female. Executive management must have a minimum of 50% black persons, 25% of whom must be female.

Senior management must be made up of a minimum of 60% black persons, 30% of whom must be female and middle management must be made up of a minimum of 75% black persons, 38% of whom must be female.

Junior management must be made up of a minimum of 88% black persons, 44% of whom must be female.

Employees with disabilities must make up at least 3% of all employees.

MINING TRANSFORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

The Mining Transformation and Development Agency replaces both the social development fund and the ministerial skills development fund and is to be responsible for skills, enterprise and supplier development, and managing community trusts.

HUMAN RESOURCES

A holder must invest 5% of the leviable amount as defined in the Skills Development Levies Act, 1999, on essential skills development, with 2% on essential skills development activities; 1% to South African historically black academic institutions for research and development initiatives; and 2% to the Mining Transformation and Development Agency.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

A holder must contribute to mine community development by identifying priority projects in accordance with the municipality’s approved integrated development plans, under which the holder’s contribution must be proportionate to the size of its investment and in accordance with its social and labour plan (SLP), which must be published in English and other languages used by the community; and all project management and consultation fees incurred are capped at 8% of the total budget.

HOUSING CONDITIONS

A holder is required to submit a housing and living conditions plan that is approved by the DMR after consultation with organised labour and the Department of Human Settlements.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Holders must implement elements that improve environmental management; health and safety performance; and research and development spend.

All targets stipulated in Mining Charter Three are applicable throughout the duration of the mining right, including prospecting rights, unless a specific element specifies otherwise.

NONCOMPLIANCE CONSEQUENCES

If a holder fails to comply with the ownership, mine community development and human resource development elements and falls within level five to eight of the scorecard, the holder will be regarded as noncompliant and in breach of the MPRDA. This provision attempts to elevate the Mining Charter to the status of legislation, which it is not.

BDO Africa desk leader Owen Murphy says the charter contains measures that are extremely difficult to meet and is indicative of a government unwilling to negotiate any form of compromise with leading industry players.

“The Minister has the power to cancel a company’s mineral rights for noncompliance with the charter, so the implications of this could have the effect of threatening the industry’s economic viability,” Murphy commented in a release to Mining Weekly Online.

Source : Mining Weekly

Kodal discovers further lithium mineralisation at Mali prospect

JOHANNESBURG – West Africa-focused mineral exploration company Kodal Minerals on Tuesday announced further wide, high-grade lithium mineralised drill intersections at the Ngoualana prospect, at its Bougouni lithium project, in Southern Mali.

The assay results continue to confirm the high-grade and consistent mineralisation of the Ngoualana pegmatite that currently remains open along strike and at depth.

The intersections have been reviewed against the logged geology to confirm zones and the duplicate sampling reviewed to confirm reliability of information.

The 1% lithium oxide (Li2O) lower cutoff is regarded as a high limit for reporting and reflects the nature of the spodumene-rich pegmatite units and the consistency of the mineralised zones.

The pegmatite veins intersected by drilling at Bougouni are spodumene-rich low mica pegmatite bodies.

The high-grade lithium mineralisation returned in the assays compares favourably with other hard-rock spodumene mineralised pegmatite veins under development around the world where grades range from 1.1% Li2O to 1.4% Li2O.

The intersections have been estimated using a 1% Li2O lower cut off, and have consistently high mineralisation throughout the pegmatite bodies.

“In addition to this major drilling campaign, we have been undertaking metallurgical testing and a review of the logistics for mining in the Bougouni region. Our exploration is at an early stage; however, we are ensuring that we are maintaining a very fast pace to move rapidly through the mining development phases,” CEO Bernard Aylward said.

The Bougouni project comprises two concessions, the Kolassokoro and Madina concessions, which cover a contiguous area of 500 km2.

Kodal has been exploring the concessions since September 2016 and has completed geological reconnaissance, rock chip sampling, geophysical review and trench sampling.

The exploration activities continue to enhance the project, with numerous exploration targets developed and drill results confirming high-grade mineralisation.

Source : Mining Weekly

Iron seen in low-$40s by Citi as supply grows, demand peaks

SINGAPORE – Iron-ore may extend a slump into the low-$40s as supplies swell and demand reaches a short-term peak amid steel mill restarts and ramp-ups in China, according to Citigroup, which cut its forecasts by as much as 20% over the next year.

The nadir in prices may occur in six to eight months, analysts including Tracy Liao wrote in a report received Monday. Iron-ore is seen at $51 a metric ton in the third quarter compared with a previous estimate of $64, and at $48 in the final three months of the year, down from $60.

The raw material has sunk by more than a third since rising to almost $95 in February as global output increases, with miners such as Vale SA in Brazil and Australia’s Roy Hill Holdings Pty boosting capacity, and China’s efforts to curb financial leverage hurt demand. The pullback in iron-ore is in contrast to surging prices of steel reinforcement bar, and Citigroup estimates that mills have ramped up output to a maximum because of the robust margins.

“Chinese blast furnace utilization and its associated iron-ore demand reached a near-term peak,” the bank said in the report dated June 19. “We foresee more downside risks to iron-ore prices and anticipate the near-term trough to occur in the fourth quarter and first quarter.”

Ore with 62% content at Qingdao was at $56.30 a dry ton Monday, up from $53.36 on June 13, the lowest in almost a year, according to Metal Bulletin.

Even with prices dropping, global supply continues to rise, according to Citigroup, which forecasts a surplus of 118-million tons in 2017 after a glut of more than 60-million tons last year. Ongoing expansion by large miners, notably Vale’s biggest project S11D and Roy Hill, will probably contribute about 60-million tons of additional supply this year, the bank estimates.

Iron-ore will probably trade at about $55 for the next few months, according to Barclays, which said in a note on Monday that the momentum behind the sell-off has abated and further stabilisation in the benchmark price is likely. Futures in Singapore and China extended gains.

Citigroup reduced its price targets for BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group while keeping buy ratings on both, according to a separate report received Monday. The bank downgraded Fortescue Metals Group to sell from neutral, saying the producer faces a “double whammy” of lower prices and higher discounts for low-grade products.

Miners’ shares were mixed in Sydney. Rio’s shares fell 0.1% to cap a fifth straight day of declines, while BHP was little changed. Fortescue gained 1.3%. The trio are Australia’s largest shippers.

Source : Mining Weekly

Busiest project bidding period ever – ELB

JOHANNESBURG – Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed ELB Group is having its busiest project bidding period ever, and is seeing a strengthening in base metals and great opportunities in gold.

“In the last six months, we’ve experienced our busiest bidding period ever,” ELB Group CE Dr Stephen Meijers told Mining Weekly Online in an interview.

Meijers described the potential volume of infrastructure spend in Africa as massive, on everything from rail to bulk port development, and told of junior mining companies being enabled for quick entry into gold through the availability of mobile modular-type plants.

ELB – which has a tremendous history dating back to the formation of the group in 1919 by Edward L Bateman, who brought the first Allis-Chalmers crushers out to South Africa– continues to represent world-class technologies, know-how and products.

One of the longest surviving engineering companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, ELB last raised capital there when it listed in 1951.

“There are not many engineering companies that have been around since 1919 that are still going strong,” said Meijers, a University of the Witwatersrand graduate with a doctorate in mechanical engineering, specialising in materials handling and who spent time at Harvard University in the US doing management courses.

The group has minimal debt and its business model has always centred on having a very strong balance sheet.  “Keeping sufficient cash on the balance sheet has always been a strong philosophy of the Group and will continue to be going forward,” says Meijers.

“When you go through tough years – and we went through a particularly tough year last year, you need a strong balance sheet, in order to survive,” Meijers says.

Even in the current tight business environment, ELBEngineering Services business unit has an order book that provides it with project work for the next two or so years.

Its turnover of approximately R2.5-billion a year arises out of equal contributions from the Engineering Services business unit and the Equipment business unit.

ELB Engineering Services employs 1 000 to 1 200 people at present and the equipment business has a staff complement of approximately 250.

In minerals and metals, the sub-Saharan Africa-focused group does all projects from small modular gravity separation projects through to large minerals processing projects.

Its current flagship project is the Gamsberg zinc project in the Northern Cape, which is being developed by Vedanta Zinc International’s Black Mountain Mine.

The scope of supply to this engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) project involves the provision of everything from the run-of-mine tip through to the stockyard, milling, flotation and final product, as well as providing the water pipeline from the Orange river to the processing plant, plus overhead power supply.

The greenfield Gamsberg project consists of an opencastmine, ore beneficiation plant and associated infrastructure, and is located on one of the world’s largest known zinc deposits, where Vedanta is investing $400-million in developing the first phase of the opencast zinc mine, concentrator plant and associated infrastructure.

The first phase encompasses a four-million-tonne- a-year zinc and lead concentrator.

Another of its exciting projects is the world’s longest single-flight overland conveyor project, for which the front end engineering and design is close to completion. This 27 km overland conveyor project is to be carried out in Ghana for Asanko Gold.

ELB’s longest-standing project that is still ongoing is its contract at Eskom’s Medupi power station in Limpopo.

“It’s been a great project for us. I know there has been certain criticism of Medupi but it’s really an unbelievable project and really one of the world’s greatest infrastructure projects.

“We’ll probably be at Medupi for another 18 months and working for Eskom has been a good experience so far,” Meijers told Mining Weekly Online.

The company is doing the coal distribution right up into the bunkers for the boilers and then collecting the bottom ash and taking it out to the dump.

Also under way are several other projects in South Africa and in Zimbabwe for a cement company, projects for Unilever, which ELB has been serving on an ongoing basis for the last six years, and a number of projects across South Africa for Nestlé.

ELB continues to be active in the manganese, iron-ore and coal sectors.

To date, the company has grown organically; however, it is now considering acquisitive growth as well, in a manner that does not stretch the balance sheet or risk the business.

CORPORATE SOCIAL INVESTMENT

ELB supports the African Academy, which was established in 1994 to address the critical need for well-trained and skilled draughtspersons, and to contribute towards reducing unemployment in South Africa.

The academy, which has been a fantastic success story, produces approximately 230 qualified students in computer aided design a year in different areas and is looking to establishing satellite academies around the country.

ELB also supports St Vincent’s School for the Deaf, where the overwhelming percentage of children are from disadvantaged backgrounds, enabling the children there to be provided with a hot meal every day.

The ELB Trust for black South Africans is also assisting students at various universities. Twelve students are currently registered and, to date, 23 students have been assisted through their studies.

Source : Mining Weekly