Engineering & Mining Journal

APR 2019

Engineering and Mining Journal - Whether the market is copper, gold, nickel, iron ore, lead/zinc, PGM, diamonds or other commodities, E&MJ takes the lead in projecting trends, following development and reporting on the most efficient operating pr

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56 E&MJ • APRIL 2019 MINING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AND YUKON ing ravaging the country from October until the beginning of 2019. Despite the turbulence, Argentina's mineral sector has continued to attract investment, with Canadian mid-tiers SSR Mining and McEwen Mining advancing their Puna and Los Azules projects, and a host of juniors taking advantage of the economic context to purchase cut-price assets. One such junior is Vancouver-based Portofino Resources, which has the right to acquire a 100% interest in the Hombre Muerto West lithium-brine project located in the Salar del Hombre Muerto in the Catamarca province, the region that has produced the most lithium in Argentina. "Although volatility in the lithium space affected valu- ations and made it difficult to raise money, projects have become cheaper to acquire," reflected David Tafel, Portofino's president and CEO, continuing: "Considering this context, Portofino is in the pro- cess of looking at other potential projects within the Catamarca prov- ince to expand its portfolio in this current buyers' market." David Tafel is also the CEO of Centurion Minerals, a producer of gypsum, a fertilizer used commonly in the South American agro- industry. Centurion has built a pilot crushing and processing facility at its Ana Sofia agricultural gypsum project in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, with a current capacity of approximately 40,000 tonnes per annum. Interestingly, the torrential rains in rural Argentina may have presented an opportunity for Centurion: "As well as being a fer- tilizer, gypsum can be used to revitalize land which has been spoiled, for instance from flooding," explained Tafel. The short drilling seasons in Canada have prompted some juniors to add assets in warmer climates, allowing for year-round explora- tion. Falcon Gold entered into an option agreement with Esperanza Resources in 2017 for its La Rioja project in Argentina to give the Vancouver-based junior a two-pronged focus: exploration on its Central Canada gold mine property in north-western Ontario in the summer, and exploration on La Rioja during the Canadian winter. Stephen Wilkinson, Falcon Gold's CEO and director, elaborated on his company's diversity-focused business model: "We are trying to eliminate some of the liability of exploration work by having a num- ber of commodities covered, but anchored by gold." Brazil looks to attract foreign investment as Vale cleans up after the Brumadinho tragedy President Jair Bolsonaro was elected with a mandate to attract for- eign investment and reduce the red tape that has hindered mineral production in Brazil. A mere 24 hours after Bolsonaro had officially taken office as Brazil's 38th president, South America's largest coun- try was rocked by the news that a tailings dam at Vale's Brumadinho mine in Minas Gerais had collapsed. By February, the death toll from the disaster had risen to 134 and a further 199 reported as still missing, and Brazil's biggest mining company had lost a quarter of its market value – approximately US$19 billion. Disasters such as Brumadinho, the Samarco dam failure in 2015 and Mount Polley in 2014 reverberate beyond borders and negatively impact the image of the global mining industry as a whole. As the dust settles and fallout from the tragic event in Minas Gerais begins, the Brazilian mining sector must balance image rep- aration with investment in an industry of enormous potential. For Michael Bennett, president and CEO of Altamira Gold, the govern- ment is being proactive in reducing bureaucracy, one of the major roadblocks to South American mining development: "It seems that the new government is looking for people with experience in different sectors and who really understand the business," he said. Altamira's focus is on the Juruena Belt and Alta Floresta Belt in the state of Mato Grosso, south of Para. The Vancouver-based junior currently holds a land package of approximately 260,000 hectares, and Bennett sees multi-million oz resource potential in a region oc- cupied by Anglo American, Nexa Resources and Codelco. Nordic exploration: the emergence of Scandinavian mining Scandinavia has a rich mining history, with historical production from mines such as Falun in Sweden, which supplied Europe with copper for a millennium from the 10th century to 1992. Today, Swe- den is the largest iron-ore producer in Europe and, with its Nordic neighbor Norway, is attracting the attention of a junior community looking to take advantage of a region yet to receive as much wide- spread attention as many jurisdictions in the Americas. In 2018, Norra Metals (formerly OK2 Minerals) acquired a past producing mine and advanced stage exploration assets in Norway and Sweden, after re-evaluating the focus and direction of the com- pany and deciding to look for assets in jurisdictions that would al- low for operating projects 12 months of the year, according to Mike Devji, executive director and CEO. This year, Norra Metals intends to work towards establishing a resource estimate at its Bastuträsk project in the central Skelleftea belt, the main massive sulfide pro- ducing belt in Sweden. In addition to this, exploration work will begin on its Bleikvassli, Sagvoll and Meraker assets in Norway. "The ad- vantage of Sweden and Norway is that the properties have not been intensively explored by historic operators so the potential upside is excellent," stated Devji. Patricio Varas, chairman and director of Boreal Metals, another Vancouver-based junior active in Scandinavia, expanded on the eco- nomic benefits of mining in Sweden: "The cost of power in Sweden is probably the cheapest in Europe, which means one can mine lower grades without the excess costs. There are also a lot of smelters in Scandinavia, so ore does not have to be shipped very far."

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