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Metals

Ooooh, this is lots of fun

The $2 Million Coal Mine That Might Hold a $37 Billion Treasure

They’ve found rare earths in the coal mine. A layer of ionic clay above and below the coal bed in fact.

Very exciting.

Except, well……there’s nothing at all to indicate this is a special coal bed. So, assume that there really are lots of rare earths here. Well then, that means lots of rare earths in many coal beds. Or, they ain’t rare.

And, well, most coal does contain some rare earths. We’ve known that for decades. The point is always “How much?”.

Ah. So about 10% of the level of other ionic clays that people are exploiting for rare earths. And, well, 10%? That might not be economic at all. Maybe, you know. Just the level of cost of getting it out might be more than the value of what is extracted. Or, alternatively, if they can extract profitably at those levels then rare earths really are not rare – because that’s not, from memory at least, an unusual content level for a coal bed. So they’re really, really, not rare.

This isn’t quite true

So Russian gold is being re-refined in UAE and so getting past the sanctions. London Bullion Market acts like the LME, accrediting producers for “good delivery” bars.

It cannot be imported into the UK as bars because it lacks LBMA certification,

Nonsense. You can’t sell it as a good delivery bar because it’s not a good delivery bar. But you can import it, sure. You’ll end up selling it at a discount to a refiner – who will do locally what is being done in the UAE. It’s not all that difficult either – recall, the Brinks-Mat folk did this in a shed at the bottom of the garden. It loses a few percent in value by this thing being done. But it is only that few percent too. Because the conversion of pure gold scrap (what you have to sell a non-good delivery bar as) into a good delivery bar costs a couple of percent of the gold value. Therefore that’s the discount.

Add or subtract whatever you want for it being illegal gold dodging sanctions of course. But the process? Easy enough to do. If Russia were willing to accept something outrageous – 20% say – as a disount they could sell all the gold they want around sanctions.

Getting taken in by the PR process

Distaste for mining projects among investors is threatening net zero targets, the world’s biggest asset manager has warned.

Blackrock said a “complacent attitude” towards the sector has led to money managers underestimating the importance of base metals in delivering clean energy.

It said environmental apprehension around mining has led to a “staggering” investment gap, which could lead to a “scarcity” of critical raw materials.

Blackrock fund managers Evy Hambro and Olivia Markham said the mining and metals industry will play a critical role in achieving net zero, as they called for more investment to help the sector go green.

Tossery and bollocks.

Blackrock recently launched a copper ETF and a critical minerals investment fund. Clearly, not sold all that well and they’re trying to drum up trade.

Not really, no

Europe’s biggest copper producer has warned it may face hundreds of millions of euros in losses after being hit by a massive theft.

Shares in Hamburg-based Aurubis dropped as much as 18pc after the company said it had found significant discrepancies in stockpiles and shipments of scrap metal linked to its recycling business.

Bosses believe some of its suppliers have manipulated details about the scrap metal they provided and have been working with employees in the company’s sampling department to cover it up.

That’s unlikely to be a massive theft. Far more reasonable for it to be a series of minor thefts. Which then turn up once you do a proper stocktake and audit. It’s damn difficult to lie about the arrival of a train of scrap, or the content of that train full of scrap. Trivially easy, with inside help, to get paid out on 2 and 5% variations in your favour of weights and purities. Nudging up the tin content by 2 or 5% on a 5 tonne load, that sort of thing. Over time and a group of suppliers that would indeed add up.

Sure, obviously, I could be wrong. But that’s the way I’d bet. Long standing and individually small scale fiddle, they’ve just found out the cumulative effect of it.

Also hahaha

It is the world’s oldest and most famous lawn tennis tournament, so it is no surprise that Wimbledon pulls out all the stops to keep its grass immaculate.

But achieving a garden as vivid green as the courts of the All England Club is not as impossible as one may believe, as its secret ingredient – a rare mineral salt mined beneath the Yorkshire Moors – can be bought for just £10.

Polyhalite is a naturally occurring crystal made up of four nutrients – potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphate – which experts say can help to make grass and other crops grow faster and stay healthy when used alongside other fertilisers.

That’s from that mine where the civil servants said they’d not give planning permission because there was no market for the output.

The stolen iron making technique

This one:

Industrial Revolution iron method ‘was taken from Jamaica by Briton’
Wrought iron process that drove UK success was appropriated from black metallurgists, records suggest

Dunno enough about it to be categoric. But wouldn’t surprise me if the basics are true.

They’re saying that 70 slaves came up with a method which enabled wrought iron to be made from scrap (as opposed to only from brand new). This involved rolling and specifically rolling on ridged rollers as used to sugar cane.

Lots of bits that I’m not sure about here both in tech and history. But, umm, yes, could have happened.

Something worth thinking about – this is late Georgian we’re thinking about here. The Satanic Mills are still to come really. 70 metalworkers under the one roof was a damn big factory by the standards of the time.

I’ve no proof of anything either way in this story but the message from your local dodgy metals dealer is there’s little reason to think that it couldn’t have happened this way.

Well, yes, and no, not really

British Lithium, which is partly funded by Government grants, has been conducting tests on the open pit mine since 2017.

Granite deposits at the mine are believed to contain around 0.54pc lithium oxide, a promising level to extract the crucial battery metal.

The site will include a quarry and processing facilities to extract high-purity lithium.

The joint venture, which will be 80pc owned by Imerys, is a significant boost to Britain’s electric car ambitions. It comes after the collapse of Britishvolt, which had aimed to build one of the country’s only gigafactory battery production plants, and as rival miner Cornish Lithium warns it needs millions in new funding to avoid collapse. A House of Lords committee report two years ago had warned that the UK needs to step up lithium mining in Cornwall to rescue its car industry.

Imerys owns what used to be English China Clay.

0.5% Li in a hard rock deposit would be thought to be, well, marginal at very, very, best.

But china clay is a kaolin, which is formed from the weathering down of granites, granite is often a host rock of Li ….and you can see where this is going, right? If the weather has already done the grinding for you then you can afford to extract from a lower grade resource….

The scrap metal story you all want the details on

John Reyes, a realtor in the Inland Empire area, was helping his wife, Elizabeth, clean out her father’s 1900s-era home last year when they discovered more than 1m copper pennies in a cramped crawlspace in the basement, according to KTLA news. The trove has a face value of at least $10,000, but could be worth more than $1m.

OK, so, copper value. These are pre-1942, so are high in copper.

Except we don’t get paid copper value. We get paid copper value minus cost of processing.

1864–1942 bronze (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc) 3.11grammes

Hmm. Bronze scrap today is an average price of: 1.64 USD/LB

So, $1.64 x 2.204 / 1,000 x 3.11 for scrap value. 1.12 cents per coin scrap value. Because we don’t get paid copper value, we get paid metals value before metals processing costs.

Much of a muchness therefore. But maybe rarity value?

Once you get up to speed, know what you’re looking for, you can check one penny every 10 seconds? Say? 6 a minute, 360 an hour. Labour’s what, $10 an hour? $27,000 in labour costs to check ’em for rarities.

Hmm, if I were there then yes, I probably would take a punt on that. Offer $10k minimum for the lot – ie, cash value. Plus some percentage – 30% if I could get away with it – of any value received over $40k. Labour input would be time spent perhaps, over a couple of years. That sort of deal at least.

The metals scrap value is misdirection that is, it’s the hope of finding a rarity or three in there – an 1873 Indian Head (?), just the one, would pay for it all.

What’s rather more amusing about this:

Pennies were initially made of pure copper until the US Mint switched to zinc-covered steel in 1943 because copper was needed for the second world war. By 1982, pennies were primarily zinc.

Fritz most probably started collecting pennies once the US began switching over from copper to zinc, Reyes told the LA Times.

“You have German immigrants who came over very young and these were two great men who thought you should own things that are stored in value,” Reyes said. “They don’t believe in much besides the value of precious metals.”

The 1943 zinc pennies are, these days, often worth much more.

Oliver Sachs and the scandium hamburger

Finally actually read Uncle Tungsten. About which, two little points.

1) If anyone is stupid enough to think that we might run out of hafnium refer them to the chapter “The Land of Stibnite” where why we won’t is explained.

2) He talks at the end of dreaming of a scandium hamburger. And, once, he was presented with one. Here. About which, well, I donated a piece or two to that periodic table table. And that scandium hamburger was made out of my scandium.

Jus’ sayin’

There is no lithium shortage

Fun little thing from Wildcat Resources:

Previous exploration focussed on tantalum mineralisation and the majority of samples were not assayed for lithium

This is a potential mine just over the hill from Greenbushes, one of the world’s largest hard rock lithium mines. It’s got the same mineralisation (the tantalum is a big clue). But no one has ever bothered to even check for the lithium content.

This would not be part of lithium reserves yet, not even lithium resources. This – assuming it’s there but the asnwer is that yes, it is – it’s not recorded in any database at all. There’s a lorra, lorra, minerals out there.

Namibia about to get much poorer in 3…2…1….

Namibia is considering taking minority stakes in mining and petroleum production companies amid increasing concerns over local ownership of valuable resources.
“We are making a case that local ownership must start with the state, which holds ownership of our natural resources,” Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo told lawmakers on Monday. “The proposed state ownership should take the form where the state owns a minimum equity percentage in all mining companies and petroleum production, for which it does not have to pay,” he said.

They already gain the royalties over value produed. In economics terms that is a share of ownership.

But here they come again, violating contracts already signed. Is it any wonder that so much of Africa is piss poor?

Oh, yes, elections are next year…..

Rare earths note

So this company confirms a substantial rare earths find. The shares drop 15%.

Nope, it’s a lovely rare earths find. High in magnet metals, in an ionic clay (which has markedly lower processing costs) and, well, you know, super.

It’s just that there are some 10 or so companies announcing ionic clay finds in Australia alone over the past two months alone.

That’s the not-very-rare-earths then.

As I’ve been saying, Earth’s a big place. All of it made up of some combination of the same 92 elements. We’ve really not got a shortage of anything very much. Therefore prices based upon assuming a shortage aren’t likely to persist.

Lordy be, yet more rare earths

As outlined in the initial announcement of the drilling results dated 29 March 2023, a
review and detailed analysis of the original intersections has been completed.
 Analysis has confirmed wide zones of low grade REE mineralisation
 The significant intersections indicate an average of 21% NdPr and 17% HREO from the
initial 22 holes drilled.
 The drill samples show Uranium (U) and Thorium (Th) grades average 3ppm and
23ppm respectively, these grades are lower than would normally be expected from clay
hosted REE mineralisation over a granite bedrock and significantly lower than hard rock
REE projects.
 Eight metallurgical composite samples have been compiled for submission to ALS for
preliminary leach test work.
 Results for the initial 58 holes into the gravity anomaly identified to the east of the clay
zone are expected to be received in May.

Lordy be, no, don’t invest in this stuff. But that’s the fifth Australian miner I’ve seen announcing an ionic clay rare earths deposit in the past two weeks, and the sixth I know of so far. That idea that this mineralisation was restricted to South China is somewhat blown. And so rare earths are not so rare. But of course the EU will insist we must all recycle everything because we’re running out of these scarce resources of critical minerals.

Idiots.

No, not really

The president of Chile plans to nationalise the nation’s lithium-mining industry, placing the material critical for electric car manufacturing in the state’s control.

For:

The government will honour existing contracts with companies, he said, some of which stretch into the 2040s.

What they mean is that they’re going to nationalise the lithium development industry, not the lithium mining one. And that’s pretty much nationalised already to be honest. For to develop you need a licence from the nuclear ministry, which doesn’t grant them.

Make that five then

Just one of those things, eh?

Heavy Rare Earths Limited (HRE) is an Australian rare earth exploration and development company. HRE’s key exploration project is Cowalinya, near Norseman in Western Australia. This is a clay-hosted rare earth project with a JORC Inferred Resource of 28Mt @ 625 ppm TREO and a desirable rare earth composition where 25% are the valuable magnet rare earths and 23% the strategic heavy rare earths

The world and its Auntie agrees that we need many more rare earths for this EV revolution. OK. So therefore we need to recycle lots more, make at home, secure strategic supplies and and……except we don’t.

We used to think that “ionic clays” were rare and even then confined to China and the Burma border. Ionic clays are a much – much much – better source of the magnet metals than the more traditional ores.

This is the fifth – to my certain knowledge, at least the fifth – miner to announce ionic clay deposits in Australia alone in just the last two weeks.

Rare earths ain’t rare.

They’re not going to change their plans though, are they?

Ghastly, horrendous, sodding idiocy

Already the mountain is the size of 125,000 jumbo jets, and will double by 2050. We need technology but our current cycle is unsustainable. We are recklessly mining, dumping and polluting the earth with materials toxic to humans and wildlife. In the process we’re also chucking away in e-waste the rare and finite raw materials essential to modern electronics, from smartphones to solar panels. Less than 1 per cent of these strategically vital elements are being recovered. This is self-destructive stupidity.

If those elements – metals – are worth recovering then they will be recovered. Because if they’re worth recovering then there’s a profit in recovering them. Says this bloke who has happily traded in scrap metal.

That they’re left mouldering in piles is because it costs more to get those “strategically vital elements” out of the pile than it does to go dig up some fresh rock and get them that way. That they’re not recycled is the proof we require that they shouldn’t be recycled.

And then this is truly laughable:

Consider making recycling a not-for-profit sector, as in France.

But that’s already why we don’t recycle, because there’s no profit in it. That’s also why we shouldn’t recycle, because there’s no profit in it.

This is fun

Chinese mining bosses are funding Nigerian militant groups in order to secure access to the country’s mineral reserves,

Well, maybe, Probably the other way around, the militias are charging rents to the Chinese in areas they control. But, you know. This:

In one pocket of Zamfara, researchers found, interaction with militants runs so deep that some serve as runners for Chinese miners who have spread throughout Nigeria, controlling digs for gold. The country has some of the largest gold reserves in the world.

Does it? Nigeria doesn’t even appear in the list of the top 19 countries by gold reserves.

What’s he on about?

Nigeria’s gold reserves are a key factor in the nation’s economic health and strength. With an estimated gold reserves of 21.46 metric tons for 2022, Nigeria has one of the most abundant gold reserves in the world, accounting for about 5% of the global gold reserves.

Oooooh. But how much the central bank has down in the cellar has really nothing at all to do with how much is out there in the rocks now, does it?

Sometimes you can spot the press relations pieces

The legislation also included investments of $7.5 billion in electric vehicle charging, $10 billion in clean transportation, and more than $7 billion in EV battery components. Additionally, it has been stipulated that all EV chargers funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act must be built domestically.

However, building all these things, from infrastructure to electric vehicles, requires resources which the United States cannot currently obtain without going through foreign adversaries, like Russia or China.

“The United States will continue to rely on China, Russia and other foreign nations for our supply of raw materials and rare-earth minerals, and this is unacceptable,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said.

“America’s defense in the modern era increasingly demands the use of critical minerals, making it more essential by the day for our nation to have a sufficient stockpile of and reliable access to these materials,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, said. “At this very moment, our enemies like China dominate the supply chain of these increasingly vital materials, and are even expanding into regions such as Africa and Afghanistan, threatening our readiness in an emergency situation and jeopardizing our national security.”

Three crucial elements needed for projects like these are known as niobium, scandium and titanium. They are used in cars, bridges, military vehicles, buildings, aircraft and wind turbines, among other things. Because of their properties that make metals both lighter and stronger, these elements have the ability to improve the fuel efficiency of automobiles and help infrastructure last longer.

There’s the one mine that wants to produce Nb, Ti and Sc. A mine that is hopelessly uneconomic, even by its own records and proposals, without subsidy.

Only the one mine mind you.

Gee, I wonder.