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Grants support innovation in mining and resources

The Federal Government will provide more than $12 million in funding for Australian companies across industries including the resources sector to commercialise innovations.  The Accelerating Commercialisation grants are part of the government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme that will help Australian companies grow, commercialise their products and gain further investments to enter new domestic and international markets.

Tribe Technology in Western Australia is the recipient of an $864,040 grant to commercialise its world-first automated reverse circulation drilling sampling system which will improve safety in the global mining industry.  Tribe Tech reduces workforce risk while increasing drill time by 100 per cent, therefore improving efficiency and productivity.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme has provided 573 grants worth more than $281 million to Australian businesses since it was established in 2014.  The program aims to strengthen, grow, innovate and commercialise businesses by improving supply chain performance and improving capabilities to trade and export in global markets.

Businesses who are awarded an Accelerating Commercialisation grant must meet a comprehensive set of merit criteria, including how novel the project is, to be awarded up to $1 million in matched funding.

CREDIT – Australian Mining

New nickel targets boost St George at Mt Alexander

St George Mining has identified new priority nickel-copper-PGE targets at its flagship high-grade Mt Alexander project near Menzies in Western Australia.  A Seismic survey has indicated large intrusion structures prospective for nickel sulphides have the potential to host significant volumes of mineralisation.

The company has announced drilling is now underway on the first of five targets with management saying existing high-grade nickel-copper-PGE deposits at Stricklands and Cathedrals in the Cathedrals Belt will be the subject of resource definition to assess the potential for a starter mine. Four of the targets are located on ground 100 per cent owned by St George.   The seismic surveys to date cover only 3 kilometres of the more than 15km of strike length for the mineralised belts.

St George interpret the structures as continuing beyond the seismic survey area in line with magnetic survey data suggesting there may be plenty to get excited about as the project develops.  St George has a strong geological team that has considerable local nickel sulphide experience with WMC and Western Areas.

With the addition of new priority targets and the discovery of several parallel mineralised belts, St George is turbo-charging its push for a new nickel-copper-PGE mining operation in Western Australia.

Northern Star ready for WA open borders

Northern Star Resources has taken lessons from its North American operations in managing workforce disruptions expected in Western Australia as border restrictions lift next month.  The major gold miner’s Pogo operation in Alaska was dealing with more than 100 cases of COVID-19 to end 2020 and still continued to meet its production target of 210,000 ounces of gold.

One year later, the Western Australian border is expected to open to the rest of Australia on February 5, with fears this will lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases and related isolation periods.  In Northern Star’s December quarter report, managing director Stuart Tonkin said the company was well prepared to deal with the forecast disruptions.

“We remain on track to meet our FY22 guidance, which incorporates the current WA border closure and associated labour and cost impacts,” Tonkin said.

“Our experience at Pogo in Alaska has provided examples of the disruption we may face in WA and the mitigating actions required to reduce operational impact.”

These measures have previously been stated as simple strong hygiene practices and various other protocols.

The company is on track to produce between 1.55 million and 1.65 million ounces of gold for the 2022 financial year, led by its Kalgoorlie operations.  Kalgoorlie produced 244,915 ounces for the December quarter while the Yandal operations, further north in Western Australia, produced 102,163 ounces.

CREDIT – Australian Mining

Nickel prices trade at decade high; gain 9% this year

Nickel prices are trading at a decade high and have gained 9 percent already for the current year on the back of strong demand expectations and announcements of new nickel mining projects. Shanghai Nickel is near a record high.  According to the IEA, Nickel demand will grow 19-fold by 2040. Nickel use in battery storage/EV will jump 20 percent by 2025. Tesla has signed a nickel purchase deal of 75,000 tonnes with Talon.

The China rate cut and expectations of more stimulus coming in from China has been supportive for metals and nickel seems to be taking in cues too.  Nickel is one of the most widely used minerals for EV batteries. Considering this commodity has climbed to its highest level in a decade as stockpiles decline, it could present some challenges for EV producers.

The nickel demand of the EV battery sector is expected to accelerate, with experts predicting it to be near 35 percent of the total demand by the end of the decade.

Here are the key factors for rise in nickel prices

– Announcements of new nickel mining projects

-China rate cut, expectation of more stimulus

-Increase in demand for lithium-ion batteries
-Global stockpiles dwindle, with LME stock near record low
-Ramp-up of EV production also a key factor
Prices in nickel from 2017 to 2021 are:
2021 : +26.4%
2020 : +18.6%
2019 : +31.55%
2018 : -16.5%
2017 : +30.5%

Blackstone connects battery resources through NICO purchase

Blackstone Minerals has made a lightning bolt strategic investment in laterite nickel by rolling A$2.75m into NICO Resources’ IPO to gain a 15.11 per cent interest in the battery minerals hopeful that last year picked up Metals X’ massive Central Musgrave project that spans both WA and South Australia. With a serious nickel metal endowment of some 1.95m tonnes, Blackstone says it is likely one of the largest undeveloped nickel resources globally.

Blackstone says with the current lack of serious nickel sulphide discoveries, the major players will inevitably start to turn to laterite nickel deposits to feed the global demand for lithium-ion batteries that contain more nickel than lithium.  It says previous interest from in the Central Musgrave project by big players such as South Korea’s mining and manufacturing giants Posco and Samsung underlines its value as a major strategic nickel asset.  Interestingly it also contains significant quantities of high-quality cobalt and scandium.

Located on Pitjantjatjara land in rocky outcrops standing proudly between the mighty Gibson Desert to the north and the massive Great Victoria Desert to the south, the Central Musgraves are a treasure trove of mineral wealth and if Nico can work out a successful processing route for the laterite ore, it will have no shortage of resources to draw from.

CREDIT – Bulls n Bears

Program to target workplace mental health

The Western Australian Government has launched a grant program to help prevent mental health injury at work and promote positive work practices, including an allocation that targets the mining industry.  The Mentally Healthy Workplaces Grant program will provide funding of up to $175,000 per year to entities for initiatives that will support mentally healthy workplaces.

“The health and safety of all Western Australian workers, including their mental health, is a high priority for the McGowan Government,” Acting Mines and Petroleum and Industrial Relations Minister Rita Saffioti said.

The grant program includes a competitive application process, administered by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS).  The Mines and Petroleum and Industrial Relations Minister will determine the amount and duration of the grants that will be awarded by July 2022.

The program will provide funding for organisations to implement initiatives that prevent mental injury and mental health conditions at work by managing work-related psychosocial hazards and their associated risks and promoting positive practices at work that support mental health and wellbeing.  Due to different funding sources, there will be two allocations of funds; one for initiatives that specifically target workers at non-mining workplaces, and another for initiatives that specifically target workers at mining workplaces.

Applicants can register their expression of interest online here.

WA seeks streamlined Mining Act

The Western Australian Government has proposed to amend the Mining Act 1978 to improve regulation and update approvals processes.  The Mining Amendment Bill has three goals, according to the Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS).

According to DMIRS, these goals are “to streamline administrative processes, safeguard the security of titles and licences, and generate certainty for the resource sector.”  The goals will be achieved using three action points including the adoption of GDA2020 for more accurate geodetic datum, allowing lease conversion without marking the land in the case of a significant event, and marking some lands as “unavailable for exploration.”

GDA2020 (Geocentric Datum of Australia 2020) is the result of $225 million of investment by the Federal Government to provide 10-centimetre accurate positioning to anyone in Australia at any time.  Should the Mining Amendment Bill be passed, GDA2020 will be adopted in Western Australia and a smooth transition from the previous version will be enabled.

The second action point allows licence holders to be protected from the adverse effects on their conversion application due to natural disaster, civil disturbance, industrial dispute or other circumstance beyond their control.   Finally, it is proposed that the Mines Minister be given the ability to determine lands as “unavailable for exploration” when granting exploration licences.

Public feedback submissions close on March 11, 2022.

Liontown inks landmark offtake deal with Korean heavyweight

Liontown has executed its first offtake agreement for the Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia after signing a deal with South Korea global battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution.  Expected to commence in 2024, the initial five-year agreement will see Liontown supply LG Energy Solution with up to 150,000 dry metric tonnes (dmt) per annum of spodumene concentrate produced from Kathleen Valley.

This represents approximately one third of the project’s start-up spodumene production capacity of approximately 500,000 tonnes per annum.  LG Energy Solution (LGES) is one of the world’s battery heavyweights, having established itself as a global leader in delivering lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and other applications such as mobility and information technology (IT), and energy storage systems.

This agreement marks the first binding commitment from LGES to acquire Australian-sourced spodumene concentrate and follows on from South Korea President Moon Jae-in’s recent visit to Australia in December, where bolstering the supply of critical minerals to the country was the principal talking point.  Liontown aim to commence production at Kathleen Valley in the second quarter of 2024 with an initial base production of 2.5 million tonnes per annum delivering approximately 500,000 tonnes of spodumene.

CREDIT – Australian Mining

KalGold launches follow up WA gold drilling blitz

Kalgoorlie Gold Mining has launched a second RC drill campaign to follow up its initial successes achieved at the company’s La Mascotte and Great Ophir prospects within its Bulong Taurus project just 35kms east of Kalgoorlie.   Drilling at Bulong Taurus is primarily aimed at building on the success of the first drill program by targeting extensions of known mineralisation.

A strong focus will be on the area south of KalGold’s outcropping La Mascotte gold prospect that was recently defined through geophysical, geological and historic drill dataset analysis.  Curiously, gold nuggets from the new target area south of La Mascotte were located recently by prospectors and display an angular shape, indicating they originated locally and have not been transported far according to the company.

KalGold only listed on the ASX in November last year and the company has wasted no time getting stuck into a drilling blitz that is already onto its second pass. Gold hits from the first pass at Bulong Taurus returned some very encouraging results and with refined targeting strategies underway, the second round of drilling may well set the scene for further potential successes for the newly minted WA based junior explorer.