Vital Metals' Nechalacho mine in the Northwest Territorites has become the first rare earth metals producer in Canada. Courtesy of Vital Metals.

Welcome back to your weekly mining news recap, where we catch you up on some of the news you may have missed. This week we have stories about Vital Metals commencing production at Nechalacho, Peru’s new president’s approach to mining taxation and Algoma Steel receiving a federal investment for its switch to electric-arc furnaces.

Glencore announced it would become the sole owner in the Cerrejón thermal coal mine in Colombia owned by purchasing the minority shares owned by BHP and Anglo American. The company said it expects to pay US$230 million for the combined two-thirds of the asset, and emphasized that sole ownership would allow it to manage the planned decline of the mine in an environmentally responsible manner.

Anaconda mining released the preliminary economic assessment for its Goldboro gold project in Nova Scotia. Based on an estimated after-tax net present value of $547 million at a five per cent discount rate and a life of mine  projected at 17.6 years, CEO Kevin Bullock said the project has the potential to become a “multi-generational gold mine.”

The Canadian government announced it will be investing $420 million in Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to support the company’s transition to electric-arc furnaces, and away from coal-fired steelmaking processes. The investment is expected to create 500 construction jobs and over 600 new co-op placements for students, while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than three million metric tonnes per year by 2030.

New advances in digital measurement technology are simplifying the collection and analysis of critical information in areas of geotechnical engineering that formerly required a significant amount of human intervention. Autonomous drones are able to analyze the overall mine structures. Some also feature new subsidence-tracking technology to better understand infrastructure risks. Using new sensor-based methods that can automatically estimate an axis map of an environment, geotechnical engineers now have many more ways to gather critical information remotely and accurately.

A new program at the University of British Columbia’s Peter A. Allard School of Law is targeting mining professionals with the course content of its mining law and sustainability program. According to course co-creator Daniella Chimisso dos Santos, students will learn about legal and social topics, such as the cultural and traditional perspectives of Indigenous peoples and how they “need to be interwoven with business decisions” as well as corporate and social responsibility. The five-week course, which is fully online and asynchronous, requires a 30-hour commitment from students and yields a certificate from Allard Law.

Vital Metals Limited has begun production at its Nechalacho project near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, thereby becoming the first producer of rare earth metals in Canada, reports. Managing director Geoff Atkins said the mine will continue to ramp up and is expected to reach full production rates this month. The news follows a report that was presented before the House of Commons last week that emphasized the need for Canada to secure a domestic rare earth metals supply chain.

Pedro Castillo, Peru’s president-in-waiting, expects mining companies to accept “prudent” tax hikes on mineral resources, Reuters reports. Castillo, who is set to be confirmed after a ballot review of the June 6th election, had once said he would impose steep hikes (as much as 70 per cent on mining profits) on miners who had “plundered” the country’s wealth. But his economic adviser Pedro Francke said that after dozens of meetings with businesses he is confident they would not be “closed-minded to new revisions of the taxation system, if done with prudence,” and that Castillo was open to dialogue with businesses.

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF) have  agreed to work together to explore the commercialization and deployment BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and internationally, Cameco said in a press release. Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said that he expects small modular nuclear reactors to “play a massive role in the global shift to zero-carbon energy” and that Cameco will be exploring whether it can be a supplier for GE and GNF’s SMR design.

According to a KPMG in Canada study, rising demand for green metals is “contributing to renewed optimism in the growth prospects for Canada’s mining industry.” The report, which is based on a survey of 225 mining companies, including 89 based in Canada, also warned that that growth potential could be limited for some companies by how they manage environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks, with 42 per cent of Canadian miners ranking community relations and social governance as the top ESG risk.

Bloomberg reported that it will cost about $75 billion to reduce greenhouse gases from oil sands operations to zero by 2050, according to the CEOs of Suncor Energy and Cenovus Energy. Mark Little of Suncor said that the goal could require up to two-thirds government capital investment as has been the case in Norway, and will mean a significant burden to be borne by taxpayers.

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