News

$1.3m for Laverton airport upgrades

A $1.3 million upgrade of the Laverton Airport is set to start later this year after councillors voted to accept a tender for the runway works.   The $1.3m tender by Fulton Hogan for the construction of turning nodes, resealing the runway, taxiways, apron and parking areas was accepted at last week’s council meeting, with work expected to be completed by the end of October.

Shire of Laverton chief executive Peter Naylor said the work would provide the opportunity for mining charter flights to bring in slightly bigger planes, with the airport seeing about 90 flights a month. He said once works were complete, the shire would turn its attention to upgrading the airport terminal and surrounding landscaping.

A 3 per cent differential rate increase and 9.4 per cent increase in minimums were also endorsed by the council at last week’s meeting. The increase in minimums is the first since being held at the same rate from 2019-20.   A report to the council stated other rating categories remained in line with the past two years as council received about 94 per cent of its rates from mining categories.

Councillors also approved the development of focus groups including community representatives to undertake research and provide input into matters including airport, racecourse and townscape development.

 

Northern Star tightens up its portfolio

Northern Star Resources has shed the Paulsens and Western Tanami gold projects from its portfolio after divesting the assets to Black Cat Syndicate for $44.5 million.  The transaction comprises $14.5 million in cash to be paid at the completion of the sale, $15 million to be paid on June 30, 2023, and $10 million to be paid through four performance-related payments.

In the situation Paulsens achieves both 5000 and 50,000 ounces of refined gold following the sale, $2.5 million will be paid for each milestone. The same goes for Western Tanami.  Northern Star will also be issued 8.34 million Black Cat shares at $0.60 per share as part of the transaction.

“The sale of Paulsens, our foundation asset, and the Western Tanami gold project align with Northern Star’s five-year strategic plan to generate superior shareholder returns through active and disciplined portfolio management,” Northern Star managing director Stuart Tonkin said.

“We are delighted that Black Cat, which has a proven track record as a responsible operator and successful explorer, intends to undertake extensive exploration at each operation to provide a potential future redevelopment path for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The sale is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Ora Banda reviews Davyhurst

Ora Banda Mining is streamlining its Davyhurst operations to focus on mining the Missouri open pit for the next six months.  The reorientation of activities at Davyhurst, 120km north-west of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, was outlined in a statement to the ASX last week, and came a week after Ora Banda announced managing director and chief executive Peter Nicholson had left the company.

Ora Banda last week said it was undertaking a strategic review at Davyhurst.

“Stage one of the review has now been completed with the delivery of an initial 24-month plan to improve productivity, lower costs and build cash to invest back into exploration and next mine resource development,” Ora Banda said.

“The rollout of this plan will commence immediately.

“Stage two of the review focuses on resource development and sustainable mine production beyond 24 months.” Ora Banda said mining of the Riverina stage one open pit would cease in the fourth quarter of this year, while the smaller Sand King stage one pre-strip had been deferred until November to allow a single mine operational focus on the Missouri open pit for the next six months.

The company said an allowance had been made for exploration and resource development drilling activities.  Ora Banda had reported an upbeat performance during the December quarter, saying gold production of 17,192oz was the best since the restart of the Davyhurst operation, where first gold had been poured in February last year.

WA program to tap into demand for drillers

A new short course is being piloted with the Western Australian resources sector to meet strong demand for drill rig operators.  The Driller’s Offsider Job Ready program is among a suite of new skill sets developed in collaboration with WA industries to deliver short, sharp training for job seekers and young people enabling them to upskill or reskill in industries with a need for skilled workers.

The new program, which is part of the WA Government’s $5.5 billion investment in WA Recovery Plan initiatives, will provide participants with skills to work safely on site, apply first aid and CPR, work safely at heights and operate and maintain a four-wheel drive vehicle.  Expressions of interest for the new program are now open, with the first intake of students scheduled to start training with registered training organisation Australian Training Management next month.  The training is free for all job seekers, young people, and concession-eligible students and low-fee for non-concession students.

Prior to commencing the training, participants will undertake a one-day induction delivered by industry to introduce them to a driller’s role and working environment.  On completion of the course, students will be connected with opportunities to transition into employment, undertake a traineeship with a participating employer or further their training to gain a drilling operations qualification.

To register interest in the Driller’s Offsider Job Ready program visit here.

First Quantum makes moves at Ravensthorpe

First Quantum Minerals has proposed to expand its Ravensthorpe nickel operation in southwestern Australia, adding 220ha to the footprint of the Shoemaker-Levy orebody.  Shoemaker-Levy was officially opened in November 2021, adding 20 years to Ravensthorpe’s mine life, and the proposed expansion would add room for extra pits, topsoil storage and construction of water rock dumps.

The proposal was justified by claiming the company had re-evaluated the resource to find the current proposal was not sufficient to keep the mine viable.  The proposal also identified several environmental areas to address including terrestrial environmental quality, inland waters, social surroundings and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ravensthorpe currently produces up to 220,000 tonnes per annum of nickel-cobalt hydroxide from multiple deposits which is then processed on site.  The proposal has been made available for public review from April 11 to May 26, 2022, with submissions to be made through the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (EPA WA).

First Quantum acquired the decommissioned mine from BHP in 2010 for $US340 million and shipped first nickel concentrate in November 2011.  By 2017 the mine was put on care and maintenance to manage lowly nickel prices, before being restarted once more in 2020.

Ravensthorpe is expected to produce up to 30,000 tonnes of nickel in 2022 in consideration of major shutdowns and descales of autoclaves in March and August.

Glencore to power GM EVs

Glencore has struck a deal with a leading US carmaker to supply a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries from a Goldfields mine.  The multi-year sourcing agreement will see Australian cobalt used in the batteries that power General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq vehicles, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday.

Cobalt from Glencore’s Murrin Murrin mining operation east of Leonora will be used for GM’s Ultium battery cathodes.  Australia has some of the world’s largest recoverable resources of minerals such as cobalt, which are crucial elements for the batteries needed to electrify cars, homes and businesses.

The companies said the agreement builds on a commitment they have to sustainable supply chains. GM vice-president Jeff Morrison said EVs have a critical role in reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector.

Global Glencore, one of Australia’s largest coal producers, is also a leading producer, recycler and supplier of critical minerals.  GM is securing key materials and components of electric vehicles as it plans to have the capacity to build one million electric vehicles in North America by the end of 2025.

Cobalt has heat-resistant properties and is added to lithium-ion battery cathodes to extend their life – and the range of the driver.  The number of EVs in the world is projected to increase by 30 per cent every year to 2050 as the global economy goes electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Traditional owners are given their say on copper-nickel project

The team behind a proposed $1.1 billion mine near the WA-Northern Territory-South Australian border has met more than 40 people across the Goldfields to discuss the West Musgrave copper-nickel project.   Last week OZ Minerals travelled to Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Laverton and Leonora to meet Ngaanyatjarra people residing in the Goldfields to provide an opportunity for them to find out more information and raise any concerns.

The company said it had been working closely with the State Government and community stakeholders since 2016, with the traditional owners of the West Musgrave Project’s land an active part of the process.

OZ Minerals approvals manager Daniel Leinfelder said consultation with the Ngaanyatjarra people had been a core focus of the project that was in its final study phase.

“OZ Minerals’ priority has been on a consultation process that ensures the Ngaanyatjarra people are fully informed and have a clear understanding of the impacts and opportunities the proposed project would create,” he said. “The meetings held this week in the Goldfields are a demonstration of OZ Minerals’ commitment to a free, prior-informed consent consultation process and we look forward to continuing these as we move towards finalising the mining agreement.”

The project sits 100km east of Warburton, with a net-zero emissions target helping OZ Minerals win a tick from WA’s environmental regulator.

 

IGO’S BID IS NOW $1.26B

IGO has been forced to up its offer to keep alive hopes of securing takeover target Western Areas after the friendly tie-up was derailed by an independent expert’s report.   The two companies emerged from days of talks to reveal they had agreed on a higher cash offer of $3.87 a share, up just over 15 per cent from an initial $3.36-a-share.

The new bid values Western Areas at just more than $1.26 billion. The offer represents a 6 per cent premium to Western Areas’ last traded price on April 4 before its shares were placed in a halt.

Western Areas chair Ian Macliver said the board had unanimously recommended to shareholders that they approve the revised scheme.

“The board is pleased to have negotiated an agreement with IGO considering the recent volatility in the nickel price and the positive impact this has had on Western Areas’ cashflow position and fundamental asset value since the initial scheme was announced on December 16, 2021,” Mr Macliver said.

The deal was left on the brink of collapse when KPMG, which had been appointed by Western Areas to rubber stamp the union, amended a draft report from January which had declared it fair and reasonable to say it was no longer in the best interests of shareholders.   IGO had initially said its $3.36-a-share offer was based on its long term-view of nickel market fundamentals and pricing.

The timetable for IGO’s offer has been extended until July 31.

 

LYNAS ON A SALES HIGH

Lynas Rare Earths has ramped up production to achieve record quarterly sales revenue of $327.7 million.

The company said the stellar result for the three months to the end of March – $125m higher than the same time a year earlier – came amid ongoing disruption from COVID-19 as operations in Australia and Malaysia increased production to meet demand. Sales receipts were also up $11m to $262m. Lynas said a global rush for rare earths, particularly in the neodymium magnets market, drove strong demand for its neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) product and its heavy rare earths compound.

“The market price for NdPr continued to strengthen during the March quarter and our customers continue to advise that demand for rare earths remains strong, particularly in automotive industry,” chief executive Amanda Lacaze said.

“We are focused on developing initiatives to increase supply to support continued market growth.”

Lynas is building a cracking and leaching plant at Kalgoorlie-Boulder that will process concentrate from its Mt Weld mine near Laverton but its existing Malaysian plant will continue to handle refining.

The company said all necessary approvals for the Kalgoorlie-Boulder project had now been received and construction was under way.

It said it also remained “closely engaged” with a number of governments as they focus on securing diversified and resilient critical mineral supply chains.

Aboriginal Contracts on a healthy curve

The State Government continues to boost the number of contracts it awards to Aboriginal businesses, with the figure growing for a third year in a row.  The Government’s latest procurement policy report revealed it handed out 284 contracts worth more than $136 million to 114 Indigenous businesses in 2020-2021 – up 21 per cent from the previous year.

The contracts covered work in maintenance, construction, human resources, cleaning, community and social services. Goldfields-Esperance building project management company Ngaanyatjarra Services (NG Council) was among the Aboriginal businesses awarded contracts, with more than $400,000 committed to the company to refurbish several schools north-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Ngaanyatjarra’s general manager Thomas Williams said the policy opened opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to deliver government contracts and provide additional training.

“We’ve successfully facilitated Aboriginal apprenticeships in carpentry, electrical and plumbing and currently we’ve got a mature-age plumbing apprentice from the town of Tjukurla,” he said.

The Government has pledged to ensure a set percentage of contracts, to increase annually, are granted to Aboriginal businesses. The figure reached in 2020-2021 was 6.5 per cent, more than doubling the 3 per cent target for the year.