The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming! – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Readers are advised to get out their chopsticks and start practising because the Chinese are coming to Canada. In two separate deals since the beginning of this year, Jilin Jien Nickel Industry has shelled out cash to gain a toehold in potential new nickel producers.

In April, Jien agreed to advance $30 million to Edmonton’s Liberty Mines. Liberty has suspended work at its Redstone nickel mine, but it is hoping to reopen the McWatters nickel-copper mine and make a development decision on the Hart nickel-copper-PGE project. These projects are all near Timmins, ON, and all have measured and/or indicated resources.

For its investment, Jien has received 51% of the issued and outstanding Liberty common shares. The Chinese partner also holds close to 187 million convertible and redeemable preferred shares. If all the preferred shares are converted, Jien will hold 76.8% of Liberty. Jien will also appoint four of the seven Liberty directors.

Separately, Jien has become a joint venture partner with Vancouver’s Goldbrook Ventures on Goldbrook’s Raglan Belt property in northern Quebec. The Chinese firm may earn a 50% interest by supplying $45 million over three years for exploration. Jien may earn another 20% by completing pre-feasibility and feasibility studies on the property. 

The Raglan property has returned drill results as high as 0.91% Ni, 1.11% Cu, 0.05% Co and 2.94 g/t PGE over 76.3 metres from the Mystery zone. Equally encouraging results have been recorded from several other zones.

Is all of Canada’s nickel industry going to fall into foreign hands? Some of us have yet to get over the loss of Inco to Brazilian uber-miner Vale and Falconbridge/Noranda to Swiss giant Xstrata. 

The coming of the Chinese might be seen as blow to our reputation as world leaders in the mineral industry. Or it could be seen as an opportunity to keep skilled Canadian workers employed through lean times. From another point of view, Jien is locking up a secure supply of nickel that might come on-stream in time for a global economic recovery.

It seems to me the Chinese no longer shy away from capitalism when it can be turned to their national benefit.

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