I tend to think that this won’t work out well

An Aim-listed miner is hoping to drive off with a slice of the European electric car market by reviving an old lithium mine near Dresden.

Bacanora Minerals, which is developing a lithium project in Mexico to cater for the Asian market, now wants a toehold in Europe, and believes it can feed the German auto industry by reopening the Zinnwald mine in southern Saxony.


The company will pay €5m (£4.26m) for a 50pc stake in Zinnwald, and put another €5m into a feasibility study over the next 18 months. Should the project pass muster, it will have the option to buy out its partner, SolarWorld AG, for a further €30m.

‘Coz, y’see, I know SolarWorld and their work on this deposit. And at least at the last update I got it made economic sense if the mineral containing the lithium was already above ground. But it didn’t if you had to go and dig it up.

Bacanora would use processing techniques developed at its Sonora mine in Mexico in its German operation,

Don’t really see that happening either. It’s entirely different minerals, y’see?

But, obviously, I can be wrong about these things.

This could be very fun indeed

Fairphone have just released a report talking about how soon we’ll run out of various minerals and thus why we must recycle phones.

I’ve been in touch with them because, obviously, they’re simply misunderstood what is a mineral reserve. My sorta subject.

In fact, their entire report, not to say their entire strategy, is based upon this misunderstanding. So, let’s see if they’re willing to be told of their error…..because their mistake does in fact entirely kablooie their entire point.


Well, they’ve now changed their graphics and sent me to their source. Which is still wrong but less wrong, it’s wrong in its assumptions, not in its broad logic.

So, an insight into the life of a journo. There’s a lot that could be written about which on closer inspection isn’t very interesting…..


The two defendants are alleged to have been involved in a racket which led purchasers to believe they could make big profits out of the rising value of the metals.

What these victims were never told was that there was no chance of them being able to re-sell the commodities in 1 kg blocks, said Mr Polnay.

“These metals all have industrial uses. But those businesses who use them don’t want to buy them by the kilogram from various members of the public,” he said.

“The metals these defendants sold were, in effect, worthless, because in the form they were in – 1kg blocks – there is no one who would want to buy them,” said Mr Polnay.

I recognise that wording….

“This meant that for every £100 that a client thought he was investing, £50 to £74 would go to the salesman. Obviously and contrary to all fair, reasonable and honest behaviour, this was kept secret from the consumer,” he said.

On average, the defendants would use only £19 out of every £100 paid by investors to buy the metals.

I even recognise those numbers.

Dickinson, said to have been the prime mover in the scam, was sent to prison for seven years and disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.

Oorloff, who was described as having had a lesser role, was jailed for four and a half years and disqualified for seven years.

Both defendants will face a confiscation hearing at Guildford Crown Court on May 19, 2017.


Just so you know about the Cornish lithium

Cornwall looks set for a £50billion mining revolution after plans were revealed to make Poldark country Europe’s sole producer of lithium.
Lithium – known as ‘white petroleum’ – is used in the rapidly growing market for electric cars and rechargeable batteries in everything from mobile phones to cordless vacuums.
Most lithium is produced in South America, Australia and China but there are vast quantities locked inside its large granite stores up to 1,000 metres below the Cornish soil.

But with no European source the UK Government has earmarked lithium as a metal of strategic importance to the country and new mines could be opened or existing ones brought back into action.

I don’t say that this will work and I’m certainly not suggesting that you invest.

However, it is at least realistic .

There’s plenty of lithium around, any number of places you could get it from (there are at least two plans within 10 km of where I am now in Bohemia). But two good starts are with granite and with hot brines. And here in Cornwall they’re talking about extraction from hot brines running through granite – an entirely reasonable starting point.

Myself I would check on one other source before charging ahead though. The wastes from the China clay industry will have a decent amount of lithium in them and God Knows there’s enough of that lying about…..

Australian Mines Ltd – Can’t See This Working Myself

A little report in from the wilder shores of the junior metals market:

Australian Mines Ltd, a very junior gold and base metals explorer, is about to become the largest producer of scandium, a rare metal key to making better alloys for cars and planes.

A short time ago, its shares were 27% higher at $0.014. Before the announcement the company had a market capitalisation of just $12 million.

The Perth-based company today announced two deals: the 100% acquisition of the Flemington Scandium-Cobalt Project in NSW, one of the highest grade scandium deposits in the world; and up to 75% interest in the Sconi Scandium-Cobalt Project in Queensland, Australia’s largest, and one of the most advanced, scandium mining projects.

“Australian Mines plans to become the world’s largest scandium supplier producing from a primary deposit, resulting in cost-effective and reliable production,” says managing director Benjamin Bell.

I did some work 12, 14, years ago on one of those projects under a different owner and it’s nice to see that they’re still using my rhetoric.

The two projects have been bouncing around the junior mining companies and groupuscules for all that time. And they’ve both got the same basic problem. It’s is undoubtedly possible to extract scandium from either or both of these projects. It’s a piece of piss actually. But the economics are hard.

Current global market for scandium is some 15 tonnes a year. And there’re plenty of Chinese (and now Russian again) sources to supply that. OK, so, perhaps coming in with a more reliable supply and maybe lower operating costs would allow someone to clean up. Sure.

However, each of these projects needs to be producing in the 40 – 80 tonne a year range in order to be economic. That’s just a result of the technology and the deposit. So, either of the projects comes to market and they’re producing, at minimum, 3 x global consumption. And the way this all works they come to market with that in their first year too. To make the plant work you’ve got to be running it at full pelt.

Currently scandium oxide is around $2,000 a kg. The production costs from these projects will be in the $1,400 to $1,600 range. And again, they must run at full pelt to achieve that.

What happens to that $2,000 price when there’s 3 x global consumption on the market?

This isn’t a problem which putting both projects into one company solves either.

And this is the thing I pointed out to them that decade back as well. Incremental production might well work (although I wasn’t able to make my attempt do so). But the leap to volume, I just can’t see it working economically.

Not a huge amount to worry about, this radioactive sinkhole in Florida

A sinkhole has opened up at a fertilizer plant in the US, causing about 980 million litres of radioactive water to leak into one of Florida’s main underground sources of drinking water.

The sinkhole, which is about 14 metres in diameter, collapsed beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”.

Sitting on top of that stack was a storage pond containing phosphogypsum, which is a radioactive byproduct resulting from the production of phosphate.

Well, yes and no. The by product isn’t made radioactive by the process. You dig up the earth, take out the bit you want and what’s left over is radioactive. Because the original dirt is radioactive.

And it leaking into the ground water —- the radioactivity has been sitting there above the aquifer for a few million years now. The bits that are radioactive and water soluble have probably leached through anyway. And an aquifer also isn’t a big pool of water, it’s soused rock. Meaning that there’s rather a lot of filtration that goes on.

Can’t see it as being a major problem really. Except for the hysteria, obviously.

From memory the radioactivity is thorium and uranium. So, very akin to having a bit more granite around.

Oh dear God….

What a time to be an iron ore miner. Not a substance, perhaps, that gets the pulse racing, but as the key ingredient in steel, and therefore a primary material for the building industry, it’s one that can tell us much about the health of the global economy, and of the miners that supply it.

Iron ore futures hit a two-year high today on the back of a rally in steel prices, amid reports that Chinese ports hold less of the material than previously thought. In the last eight months, the metal has turned from a six-year low of $38 a tonne to around $60. While it’s not quite party time for the iron ore majors – five years ago, the metal was changing hands for $180 a tonne – it’s a far better situation than any of them expected to be in last December.

The ore is not the metal, the metal is not the ore.

It is the iron ore price which is $38 or $60, not the metal price.

Seriously folks, try to just get the very basics right…..

The LME is an odd market

The Chelmsford site includes a reconstruction of the ring, the central open-outcry trading floor where metal prices are set by dealers throughout the day.

Umm, no, not really. Here’s the list of trading times.

Each metal is traded in 5 minute bursts in said ring two or three times a day. it’s an interrupted market, not a continuous one.

A thought occurs too. There are proposals that the equity markets should move to something like this. The US ones anyway. something to do with the terror of HFT. What I’ve not seen though is anyone proposing this who then looks to the LME and says “See! It solves our problem!”. Which I’m not sure it does because the LME also whines a lot about HFT.

This is wrong too:

It is a moot point when international metals trading began in the UK. The LME points to the AD43 Roman invasion of Britain and the subsequent exploitation of copper and tin ore.

We’ve recorded instances of 1000 BC Cornish tin ingots being found in sunken Phoenician boats…..not that Cornwall was really part of Britain then as it still isn’t. Odd folk those over the Tamar…..

That New Scientist piece

These bodies are thought to be rich in resources that
are increasingly hard to find on Earth: platinum, for instance, and
rare-earth elements such as yttrium and lanthanum.

Lanthanum? Hard to find?

It sells for half its cost of production.

Given that we dont know much about the precise composition of most
asteroids, we have to rely on estimates of their monetary value. The
Asterank database, owned by Planetary Resources since 2013, collates
data from NASAs Jet Propulsion Lab and Harvards Minor Planet Center.
By its reckoning, the five most easily reached asteroids are worth
between $8 billion and $95 billion.

They’re worth nothing.

What’s the cost of mining them? Higher than the revenue you say? They’ve a negative value then, don’t they?

Cosmic cartels could also be a problem: the high costs of entry to the
business plus a lack of regulation could create monopolies on an
unprecedented scale. If you could put a factory in space and have it
print copies of itself, output could grow exponentially until you have
an industry millions of times bigger than any industry on Earth, says
Metzger. So space enterprise could vastly enrich a few at the expense
of the rest, fuelling inequality.

Eh? If you can make a Von Neuman factory then absolutely every single sodding human being is as rich as Croesus about 6 months later. What fucking inequality?

News to me I admit

Most people have no idea what’s in an iPhone. Yttrium and praseodymium don’t exactly roll off the tongue, but they’re part of what make smartphones so small, powerful, and bright.

Not sure I know where those two are used in an iPhone. Can’t think of where or why either.

Well, yes, seems logical

A dagger entombed with King Tutankhamun was made with iron from a meteorite, a new analysis on the metal composition shows.

Before the Iron Age (which was after Young Tut) the only source of iron was metorites, as us ‘umans didn’t know how to make iron.

So, err, yes. The vast surprise would be to find something from 1300 BC or so which was iron and not meteorite iron.

Trying it on somewhat

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed a 155bn-real ($43.5bn) civil lawsuit against iron miner Samarco, and its owners Vale SA and BHP Billiton, for the collapse of a tailings dam in November that killed 19 people and polluted a major river.

$43 billion?

The total damages, they said, were calculated based upon the cost of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the United States. BP’s total pre-tax charge for that spill reached $53.8bn.


Crowd sourcing of a blast furnace?

A management buyout of Tata’s UK steel operations could use a crowd funding model to help gather the financial firepower needed to save the business from closure.

Well, I’d like to see them try, for sure. They need a few hundred million at minimum…..

Staff at the plant were briefed on Tuesday about the scheme, which could involve employees being asked to contribute up to £10,000 to help fund a deal.

Ah, they don’t actually mean crowdfunding at all. they mean plain old fashioned worker capitalism. Not a good model: losing your job and your savings at the same time just isn’t quite the point of having savings.

Mr Phillips said to be workable the buyout would need the Government to invest alongside – and it is not certain what form this would take – but added that funding could come from a wide base.

“It could be open to the 130,000 members of the pension scheme,

Government (ie, taxpayers) plus the already in the red pension scheme? These might be serious political manouevres but they’re not serious economic ones, are they?

The £485m deficit the Tata pension scheme has is seen as one of the major stumbling blocks to any deal, and involving its members could help clear away potential hurdles.

Because investing in a loss making business does such wonders for the returns of a pension scheme….

Just can’t see it myself

From the world of technical expertise:

Scandium International Mining (TSX:SCY) has announced results of a definitive feasibility study for its Nyngan scandium project in New South Wales, Australia. The project is 80 percent owned by Scandium International.

As quoted in the press release, highlights included:

Capital cost estimate for the Project is US$87.1 million,
Operating cost estimate for the Project is US$557/kg scandium oxide,
Oxide product volume averages 37,690 kg per year, over 20 years,

Capex adds another $100, $150 per kg to that opex.

Current market price is good. A few months back at least you’d be getting $3,000 a kg, something like that. I’ve seen very much lower prices just this past couple of weeks.

However, here’s the killer. Global market is currently no more than 15,000 kg a year. One single producer comes in with 2x global consumption and the price is going to do what? 15 years ago, when there was stock around but no ongoing production prices were $300 per kg.

Just cannot see it working myself.

Glasto festival kills Port Talbot steel works

Glastonbury Festival supporting British steel with 250,000 reusable stainless steel cups for 2016

Going to be fun drinking coffee out of those, no? But the important bit:

Teaming up with APS Metal Pressing Ltd, the cups are made from recycled steel which is smelted in Sheffield.

Mr Eavis said he wanted to support the UK steel industry.

“Week after week, there’s a story in the national press about jobs in the UK steel industry being put at risk. There’s seemingly no end to the negative slide of this critical industry and with it the jobs, skills and infrastructure are lost and won’t be replaced.”

The bit of the British steel industry falling over being that bit of it that makes virgin steel. Because everyone’s using recycled steel these days.

(HT Robert Harries)


Steel imported from China, amounts of which are very limited, has little to do with the predicament of the UK’s steel industry. In both volume and value, steel from China makes up only a fraction of the UK’s total steel imports.

In 2015, for example, of the UK’s 6.66m tons of imports, only 11pc, or 760,000 tons, were from China. If put in value, that was $457m, only 7.6pc of the $5.98bn total. Moreover, steel products from China are mostly low value-added, such as ordinary steel rods and plates, which Britain no longer makes and would have to import from other countries anyway.

Therefore, imports from China have no impact upon the British steel market.

Don’t know how true it is, my industry knowledge runs out rather before this point. But seems reasonable at least.

Timmy’s still right

Mr Gupta, executive chairman of commodity group Liberty House, quickly came forward as a potential white knight, with a plan to return it to profit in months. His aim is to replace the Port Talbot blast furnaces – which make steel from raw materials – with electric arc furnaces that melt scrap, a process he says will be more efficient.

And there’s more of course. He won’t take on the environmental nor pension liabilities. Wants a break on energy prices. And it’s not obvious that he’s willing to pay for the arc furnaces, seems to be angling for the government to provide that cash.

But that basic contention, that it’s all about the blast furnaces, does seem to be true, doesn’t it?

My word, Timmy was right

Sanjeev Gupta, the businessman at the centre of efforts to salvage the Welsh steel industry, says any plan to buy Tata’s operation will aim to avoid mass redundancies but will end blast furnace steelmaking at Port Talbot.

Amazing what you can work out if you actually understand the basics of an industry, isn’t it?

But in words aimed at reassuring a nervous workforce, he said he would only become involved if he was able to avoid mass redundancies, “transitioning” the 4,000 blast furnace workers into new roles in the industry.
In an interview with the BBC Today programme, he expressed confidence for the rolling mills and the downstream businesses, and not just the specialist production lines as had been suggested.