News

The mining giant says lithium demand will grow 25-35% a year for next 10 years. Meanwhile, Pilbara Minerals is cleaning up in the here-and-now as spodumene shortage forces buyers to pay-up for spot cargoes.

Another Eastern States-lite Diggers & Dealers bash kicks off on Monday beneath Kalgoorlie’s big blue sky. Big blue sky perhaps but the weather forecast is not great. Just as well then that the biggest and the best, the mighty west, remains COVID-free because the delegates will need to get up nice and close to rub whatever they can to keep the late night chills at bay.

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Any doubts about battery metals dominating the resources sector for the next decade, and beyond, were washed away this week when BHP and Rio Tinto made overdue expansion moves into nickel and lithium.

Both mining giants have been tinkering around the edges of batteries and energy transition, but they showed their hands when BHP lobbed a bid for control of a Canadian nickel discovery and Rio Tinto giving the go ahead to the Jadar lithium project in Serbia. Fat profits from mining iron ore, and selling coal and oil assets, are funding the shift into energy metals with more to come in the next few weeks with BHP expected to take a bolder step into “green” commodities with a commitment to finish building its Jansen potash project also in Canada.

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It’s early days for Kimberley rare earths player Rarex but a 47 per cent resource upgrade at its Cummins Range project near Halls Creek this week provides a firm base on which it can build (reports The West Australian).

On Monday, the John Young-chaired company unveiled a resource of 18.8Mt at 1.15 per cent total rare earths oxide with some 60 per cent in the indicated category. The resource includes a high-grade zone of 6.5Mt at nearly 2 per cent TREO.

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Australian resource and mineral processing technology company TNG (ASX: TNG) has completed a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study for its wholly-owned Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project in the Northern Territory (reports Small Caps).

The company’s in-house engineering team is now reviewing a front-end loading (FEL-3) report delivered in March

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Plus, Fenix locks in high iron ore prices, $8m Traka goes elephant hunting and Evolution raises a big lick well below the price of a week ago.

South Korea Inc has thrown its support behind the Dubbo rare earths and strategic metals project of Alkane spin-out, Australian Strategic Metals (ASX:ASM). A consortium of South Korean investors are to pump $340m into the holding company for the project in return for a 20% equity interest, as well a 10-year metal offtake agreement with the metals plant being built by ASM in South Korea.

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Lithium developer Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR) continues to attract attention from the bigger end of town, with two initiation reports since the start of July.

Macquarie Research initiated coverage with an Outperform rating (see last week’s story in our FitzGerald column) and a $1.05 valuation, saying that the company’s flagship Kathleen Valley lithium-tantalum project in WA has the potential to produce ~700ktpa of spodumene, a scale large enough to underpin a fully integrated lithium hydroxide refinery. “Kathleen Valley is one of the largest undeveloped spodumene resources globally and the largest not tied to off-take and joint venture agreements,” Macquarie said.

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Ken Brinsden jokes that he and his colleagues have whiplash after a wild couple of years in the lithium sector (reports MiningNews).

From opening the A$284 million Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum mine in late 2018 to being forced to moderate production in 2019 and 2020 to as little as 30% of full capacity due to poor market conditions, it's been a rocky road for Pilbara. In mid-2020, when lithium market sentiment was at its weakest, Pilbara completed a critical refinancing, replacing a high-interest US$100 Nordic bond with a $110 million senior secured debt facility from BNP Paribas and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation - the first time a lithium company had attracted conventional bank financing.

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Former Orica boss Alberto Calderon has predicted a bright future for gold as a store of value in a world where central banks keep “printing money like there is no tomorrow” (reports The Australian Financial Review).

Mr Calderon is taking the reins as chief executive at AngloGold Ashanti just a month after quitting as boss of Orica. Johannesburg-based AngloGold Ashanti said Mr Calderon would bring two decades of executive leadership experience in the global mining sector to its operations in Africa, the Americas and Australia. The world’s third-biggest gold miner had been on the hunt for a new chief executive since the departure of Kelvin Dushnisky last year.

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