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Metals

  • This Critical Uranium Shutdown is Going Ahead

    A brief news item yesterday may be one of the most important happenings in commodities for years.The coming shutdown of one of the largest uranium mines on the planet.I noted a few weeks back that workers at Cameco's McArthur River uranium mine in northern Canada were contemplating labour action. And yesterday that threat came to fruition--with the major uranium company announcing that mineworkers' unions have authorized a full strike.It appears this action is going to bring McArthur River to a complete standstill. With Cameco saying it is now initiating shutdown activities at the mine, and the associated Key Lake uranium…

  • These Miners Are Seeking Over $1.3 Billion in Acquisitions

    There's been a lot of press lately about a possible slowdown in the economy of China. And speculation over the effects that such a happening might have on the commodities sector.But two separate news items last week suggest Chinese mining companies are still cash-rich. And on the hunt for acquisitions.In the gold space, for example. Where China's largest gold miner, Zijin Mining, said it is looking to buy up to $1.3 billion worth of assets this year alone.Zijin officials told Bloomberg that the firm is primarily targeting gold projects in Africa. Noting that they are looking for projects with more…

  • How to Play the Uranium Price Rebound

    When it comes to uranium market sentiment, "it's all about Japan," says David Talbot, senior mining analyst at Dundee Capital Markets. With restart applications trickling in and reactor construction underway throughout the world, a turnaround looks less like an "if" and more like a "when." In the meantime, Talbot sees many investors sitting on the sidelines. In this interview with The Energy Report, Talbot discusses the catalysts that could trigger the next uranium boom and the companies that could make investors wish they had arrived at the party a little earlier.The Energy Report: In your last interview with The Energy…

  • Doomsday: Will Peak Phosphate Get us Before Global Warming?

    Although climate change catches the headlines, it is not the only doomsday scenario out there. A smaller but no less fervent band of worriers think that peak phosphate—a catastrophic decline in output of an essential fertilizer—will get us first.One of the worriers is Jeremy Grantham of the global investment management firm GMO. Grantham foresees a coming crash of the earth’s population from a projected 10 billion to no more than 1.5 billion. He thinks the rest of humanity will starve to death because we are running out of phosphate fertilizer.  This post on Business Insider from late last year provides…

  • China Continues to Reduce Rare Earth Production as Prices Fall

    Chicken or egg, which came first?The same question could be asked of the rare earth metals market.Rare earth metal prices have been falling steadily for the last couple of years, in spite of China reducing export volumes. Usually a reduction of supply results in a rise in prices, but the falls are indicative of the size of the REE bubble that had formed around the turn of the decade.Chuin-Weip noted in the WSJ last week that Chinese exports had plummeted 71% in 2012 from 2011; however, this year has seen a remarkable change – exports have been picking up, with…

  • Foreign Mining Companies Flee China

    In the 1990s, China opened up the country’s vast mineral resources to international investment.Over the past decade, it has reformulated its mining legislation to attract foreign companies into the Chinese mining sector with the hope of speeding up its modernization.Between 2001 and 2004 the number of foreign mining projects quickly increased from 150 to 279.But by 2010, this number had declined to 92. International firms continue to feel stymied by an inconsistent and convoluted mining policy and their inability to create relationships of trust with local mining stakeholders.Foreign investors’ hopes of being successful in the Chinese land of opportunity have…

  • Japan Signs Rare Earth Deal with India

    Japan has sealed its new “friendship” in the world of rare earths by formally signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India for imports of rare earth (REE) minerals annually.The agreement signed last Friday will allow Japan to import about 4,100 tons of rare earths per year from India, probably from next spring. Once upon a time, Japan used to rely almost 100% on China for its supply of rare earth minerals, a crucial component in mobile phones, hybrid cars and missile guidance systems.The imports from India will take care of about 10 percent of Japan’s peak annual demand. A…

  • Chinese Rare Earth Mining Monopoly Threatens US Defense Technology

    Technology that drives the Pentagon’s weapons program, the US auto industry and renewable energy ambitions is threatened by a lack of heavy rare earths for which China enjoys the global mining monopoly.Heavy rare earths are a class of 17 elements of a similar chemistry that are used in the production of everything from unnamed military drones, radar and navigation systems to high-performance magnets used in commercial vehicles, wind turbine technology and a host of consumer electronics.The Pentagon was caught napping in 2010, when the reality of China’s global monopoly on heavy rare earths mining hit home with Beijing’s decision to…

  • Recycling Magnets to Extract the Rare Earth Metals

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory is working to more effectively remove the neodymium, a rare earth element, from the mix of other materials in a magnet.  The initial results show the recycled material maintains the properties that made rare-earth magnets useful in the first use.The potential is important because rare earth prices increased ten-fold between 2009 and 2011 and supplies, primarily in China, are in question due to quotas for China’s internal use.This makes rare earth elements a recycling priority.  So far the process hasn’t been especially useful, but the Ames Lab is showing the recycling process can…

  • Are Rare Earth Metal Prices About To Rise?

    Rare earth metal prices have fallen sharply since mid-2011, some declining by as much as 80% as expectations of rising supplies coincided with declining demand. More recently, prices have shown signs of stabilising. Chinese restrictions on mine output and plans to stockpile materials, coupled with the increased likelihood of problems at mines outside China may mean rare earth metal prices are about to rise. China reduced its export quota for rare earth metal’s by 27% year on year to 10.5kt for first half 2012 in an effort to stabilise prices and preserve stock. Then, in August, under scrutiny from the…