Archive for July, 2007

Click this link: the site to which you will go fills the screen with a series of views of an upstream tailings impoundment. Rather conventional.

Then the screen brings up an advert for a larger spread in the current issue of Harpers, that venerable old liberal insititution. Be patient and slowly a series of the most amazing photos appears–slowly, one-by-one, and each worth waiting for. There is no political agenda here, or if there is, the art is perfect enough to transcend the polemic.

While in the mood for aesthetics, click this link and see geology turned art.

Another artist working in the rocks mined from who knows where, is my neighbour; you can see his mined-product turned aethetic at this link.

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There are few mines in Costa Rica. Tourism is more lucrative. And it seems so too are displaced Americans and Canadians building houses at bargain basement prices.

There will probably be even fewer mines in Costa Rica once the problem at the Bellavista mine heap leach pad becomes common knowledge. Here is an edited version of the news report I saw:

    Shares of Glencairn Gold Corp. fell after the company suspended operations at its Bellavista Mine in Costa Rica, citing the risk of a cyanide spill and ground movements that may compromise containment of cyanide used to dissolve gold from crushed ore. The earth movement – up to one centimetre a day in some parts of the leach pad and waste pile – is attributed to years of unusually heavy rain.

    “Based on earth movement patterns in Costa Rica, the geological structure at the site and the opinions of its experts, the company does not believe that there is a risk of sudden earth movement at this time,” Glencairn stated. “However, continued small movements could compromise the sub-liner, liner and drain system.”

    Glencairn said the mine closure is a “precautionary measure until a full technical analysis has been completed and required remedial action has been implemented.”

    Gray said the company first noticed earth movements as early as May. “Monitoring since then has revealed that the movements have been identified in the range of one centimetre per day,” Gray said, adding the company has stated the movement in part is caused by water saturation due to abnormally high rain fall during the past several years.

    “We are taking a conservative approach with our valuation and are assuming that the ground movement problems will take one year to resolve and mining will not restart until August 2008,” wrote Gray.


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In yesterday’s blog posting, I mused about the quality of information on Wikipedia about Canadian mining companies–basically said it is lousy. Then I wondered if the open model of Wikipedia would beat out the closed model of the Encyclopedia Britannica and other sites where you pay a fee to access information.

I repeat below an insightful comment made on my posting. It is from Patrick Littlejohn, a Masters Student at the University of British Columbia.

    I’d bet that each model will find a niche that it’s best at. For example, Wiki blows EB out of the water for all things computer science, statistics, high level mathematics, number theory, astronomy, and physics.

    I think this is because the types of people who know most about these topics have worked in open source style projects before (especially computer scientists). It’s also good for pop culture stuff because there’s a rabid fan base with time to spare for every movie, TV show, etc you can think of.

    It’s worse for applied physics/chemistry, engineering, mining, business, both because of the demographics that use Wiki (more young people than old) and because the movers and shakers in this latter category are too busy moving and shaking to add to Wiki.

    In my mind Wiki is the ultimate starting point, rather than the be-all & end-all. If you treat it as what it is – a quantum encyclopedia where facts may or may not be correct, then it is an excellent resource, no matter what you’re doing.

I am impressed and persuaded by his point that Wikipedia information on mining etc. is “worse” because the movers and shakers in the industry are busy moving and shaking.

The issue then is can the industry do anything about it, and if it can do something, should it do something about it?


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Some of my best friends are confirmed hypocrites. They loudly criticize Wikipedia, while proudly praising the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet on enquiry, I find that none of them owns a hard-copy of the famous encyclopedia, nor are they prepared to pay for a subscription to the encylcopedia’s website. I suspect they have never actually looked into the encyclopedia.

Their criticism of Wikipedia is the complaint that they do not know who writes the articles and that they are not assured of the accuracy of the articles. To which I reply: big deal, use your brains and discretion to judge, and take a look at other e-resources on the same topic.

I tried to get a subscription to the e-version of the Encyclopedia Britannica. They wanted my credit card number so they could give me a one-month free trial. But I could not find anywhere how much it would cost me thereafter. So I closed the site and fled to the comfort and easy-use of Wikipedia. There I found a feature I had not previously seen: they now have articles on Canadian Mining Companies.

I tried Barrick Gold for no particular reason. At the very top is a warning; The neutrality of this article is disputed. Damn, I wish I could afford a paper copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. But the warning is so enticing that I read further. I finished the article and can see why somebody would dispute the neutrality of the article. Consider these statements, that are but representative of many more under the unusual heading On-going litigation against Barrick:


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Stan Dempsey, Executive Chairman of Royal Gold, and Randy Parcel, Attorney, made an intriguing presentation at the 53rd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute in Vancouver last week. Intriguing because they spoke of the law of mining royalties as it affects their company Royal Gold.

They noted, as is repeated on their website, that they are the only U.S.-listed precious metals royalty company. You can buy shares in their company at NASDAQ. In introducing the speakers, the session chairman noted that Royal Gold has capitalization of near $800 million.

But the question that intrigues me, is why are the only precious metals royalty company listed in the U.S. Here is some of what they say on their sites, and it sounds good, so why is it not replicated?

    The Company’s royalty portfolio provides investors with a unique opportunity to capture value in the precious metals sector without incurring the capital and operating costs, and many of the risks faced by mine operators. Additionally, Royal Gold’s sliding-scale royalties provide investors with upside leverage during periods of gold price appreciation. Conversely, the Company’s fixed-rate royalties and floors on the sliding-scale royalties mitigate investor risk in times of decreasing gold prices. With a successful business strategy that generates strong cash flow and high margins due to its low cost structure, Royal Gold provides shareholders with a premium precious metals investment vehicle. Royal Gold’s management team possesses a broad base of mining industry experience and knowledge from which to make sound business decisions. The Company’s royalty portfolio offers direct exposure to precious metal prices and the growth potential of world class ore deposits.


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I spent many years wondering around the American Southwest, poking around old uranium mines and mills. I worked around the old uranium production plants of Fernald and Weldon Springs. At these plants and at these old mills and mines, the soil was often heavily contaminated by uranium and its daughter products. Afterall the bombs were made at Fernald and Weldon Springs.

Thus with interest I read that Cameco has stopped over 420 people from working at their Ontario uranium hexafluoride conversion plant because they found uranium and “evidence of other production-associate chemicals in the soil.” In the announcement, Cameco also said that holes are being drilled around the area and the soil and groundwater are being tested to ascertain the area affected. The quantity of information in the news reports varies immensely, but one report stated that “the affected area of soil appears to be within and near perimeter walls of its UF6 plant.”

The most amazing reporting is this gloss-piece: “Due to the nature of soil at the plant, Cameco expects the ground water flow rate, with the chemicals, to average approximately 40 to 60 metres each year. The perimeter of the plant is about 70 metres from the edge of the property. This provides ample time to address, contain and mitigate the affected area. Cameco has monitoring wells around the property to detect chemicals in the area. These wells are checked quarterly and reported to the regulator annually. The last scheduled samples were taken in April and did not indicate potential issues. Cameco has arranged for additional samples to be taken.”


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Yamana Gold has made a hostile bid valued at a reported $3 billion for Meridian Gold.

The announcement on the Meridian Gold site is not enthusiastic: “Consistent with its fiduciary duties, Meridian Gold’s Board of Directors will carefully review and consider the offer and will advise Meridian Gold shareholders of the Board’s recommendation with respect to the offer and the reasons for its recommendation within the next ten business days. Accordingly, Meridian Gold urges its shareholders to defer making any decision with respect to the Yamana offer until they have been advised of the Board’s recommendation.”

By way of disclosure, I have consulted to Meridian Gold on some of their operations including Beartrack and the Royal Mountain King Mine. I like and admire the people from Meridian for whom I have been privileged to work.


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