The past and the future collided at this week’s Diggers & Dealers mining forum in the outback WA city of Kalgoorlie with of iron ore and gold challenged for top dog status by the fast-growing crop of “green” metals

Three speakers highlighted the story of yesterday’s investment winners, and tomorrow’s likely winners. Bill Beament, a flag-carrier for gold over the past decade, turned critic when he unveiled the new name for his copper and battery metals focused business, Develop, saying that “gold is not green, sorry but it’s not”.

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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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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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Sandfire Resources has boosted the resource for its A4 satellite deposit, part of the Motheo copper project in Botswana (reports The West Australian).

A4 now has an indicated and inferred resource of 9.8 million tonnes at 1.4% copper and 21 grams per tonne silver for 134,000 tonnes of copper and 6.6 million ounces of silver, using a 0.5% copper cut-off and constrained by a US$4.50 per pound optimised pit shell. Contained copper is up 34% over the previous all-inferred estimate, while 93% of the resource is now indicated and available for inclusion in reserves. A maiden reserve is due in the December quarter.

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Sandfire Resources has combined a strong operational performance with buoyant copper prices to post record annual revenue of $813 million (reports The West Australian).

The unaudited figure, which was up 24 per cent on last year, comes after the Karl Simich-led company posted annual copper production of 70,845 tonnes, beating its full-year guidance of 67,000-70,000t. The strong production figure along with record high prices for the red metal saw Sandfire complete another strong year of copper concentrate sales, including two record shipments with cargo values exceeding $50m. Gold production of 39,459 ounces was at the upper end of guidance of 36,000-40,000oz.

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Now that Sandfire has received the mining licence for its US$279 million (A$364 million) Motheo copper project in Botswana, the market’s focus shifts to a soon-to-released updated mineral resource for the project’s satellite A4 deposit (writes Barry Fitz)

Now that Sandfire has received the mining licence for its US$279 million (A$364 million) Motheo copper project in Botswana, the market’s focus shifts to a soon-to-released updated mineral resource for the project’s satellite A4 deposit (writes Barry FitzGerald on MiningNews). Located 8km west of the mainstay T3 deposit, the higher-grade A4 discovery is being banked on to upscale Motheo from a 30,000tpa copper producer to 55,000tpa within 12-18 months of first T3 production in early 2023.

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High copper grades and chunky widths are providing confidence for US-focused explorer New World Resources ahead of the maiden resource estimate at its Antler copper project in Arizona (reports Stockhead).

So much so that the continuity of mineralisation uncovered will likely see many of the initial JORC resources classified as “indicated”. Typically early stage explorers like New World Resources (ASX: NWC) will start off with inferred resources only. That New World is already looking at the higher category is testament to the continuity of the widths and grades being seen in drill core since acquiring the historic mine in early 2020.

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14th - 15th Oct 2021

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