Archive | United States Mining

BMO: Miners may revisit dormant mega-projects – by Matthew Keevil (Northern Miner – Matthew Keevil)

Northern Miner

VANCOUVER — The last five years have seen large-cap miners shelve — and often write-down — ambitious, greenfield development projects that carry significant development price tags and heightened risk.

The majors instead focused on stronger operating margins and lighter balance sheets, which were typically characterized by improved free cash flow generation and lower debt.

The last 18 months have marked a shift in sentiment for metal producers, however, as metal prices have strengthened and risk capital markets entered the nascent stages of recovery. Continue Reading →

Workers to begin mining operations at the US nuclear waste dump in New Mexico following a radiation release that contaminated part of the repository (Daily Mail/Associated Press – October 17, 2017)

Workers are expected to begin mining operations at the US nuclear waste dump in New Mexico for the first time in three years following a radiation release that contaminated part of the underground repository, the Energy Department said Tuesday.

The work to carve out more disposal space from the ancient salt formation where the repository is located will begin later this fall and should be completed by 2020, the department said in a statement.

Workers will remove more than 112,000 tons of salt, making way for seven disposal rooms. Each will have space for more than 10,000 drums containing up to 55 gallons of waste. Continue Reading →

New uranium mines: no simple answers – by Emery Cowan (Arizona Daily Sun – October 15, 2017)

A town on the edge of the Navajo Nation that unknowingly drank uranium-tainted water for at least 12 years. Navajo babies showing increasing uranium concentrations during their first year of life.

Children swimming in natural pools near Cameron they later learned had been filled with water from abandoned uranium mines. The stories about the impacts of Cold War-era uranium mining on the Navajo Nation became highly personal during a forum hosted at the Museum of Northern Arizona Wednesday night.

Four decades later, the subject has come to the fore again as a grandfathered uranium mine moves forward with operations south of Tusayan and a new president stokes fears about the reopening of 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon watershed outside the national park to new mining. Continue Reading →

Trump says he ended the ‘war’ on coal companies. But it’s too late to save them. – by Adam Federman (Washington Post – October 13, 2017)

It was depicted by energy executives and conservatives as a “witch hunt,” “a politically motivated sham” and a move that would “destroy mining in the West .”

In January 2016, President Barack Obama imposed a three-year moratorium on federal coal leasing, which halted new projects and delayed pending applications for companies to extract coal from federal land. During that time, the Interior Department was to carry out an overdue review of the program’s social and environmental costs.

A year later, all this was an easy target for President Trump, who had promised to save the coal industry from oppressive regulations and slumping sales. On March 29, his administration lifted the moratorium and deep-sixed the study. Continue Reading →

A Gold Mine on Yellowstone’s Doorstep? – by Aaron Teasdale (Sierra Magazine – October 13, 2017)

“People come from all over the world just to fish this river,” says Max Hjortsberg, a local ecologist and poet, as his fly arcs through the warm July air. Beyond our drifting boat, a broad bottomland rises to alpine summits. Vaulting a vertical mile from the valley floor, one mountain dominates the rest—Emigrant Peak.

If the scenery seems like something out of a movie, that’s because it is. Much of A River Runs Through It (1992) was filmed here in the aptly named Paradise Valley, and the anglers and summer-getaway builders have been flooding in ever since. They come here because the country is big and wild and beautiful; when people imagine Montana, this is what comes to mind.

What they’re probably not thinking of is industrial-scale gold mining, which is what two companies wanted to do just over the border from Yellowstone National Park. Environmental groups feared that the resource-extraction-friendly Trump administration would OK the projects. It did not, and now Paradise Valley’s experience looks like a model for successful land conservation in the Trump era. Continue Reading →

New York City billionaires are battling over coal. And Kentucky is caught in the middle – by James BRuggers (Louisville Courier-Journal – October 13, 2017)

The two New York City billionaires are battling it out over coal. And coal-dependant Kentucky and Indiana are in the crosshairs. The moves come as Kentucky, once the third-ranked coal-producing state, has fallen to fifth behind Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois and Pennsylvania, according to the latest numbers from the government. Indiana ranks 7th.

After President Donald Trump’s top environmental official came to Kentucky to announce that he intended to ditch the nation’s first crackdown on climate pollution from coal-fired power plants, former New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg responded by sending tens of millions of dollars to environmental groups to fight against coal.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said Bloomberg has spent $100 million since 2011 on the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. It announced it would double down on that effort with another $64 million to the Sierra Club and other organizations fighting against coal and for a cleaner environment. Continue Reading →

Grasberg mine’s riches still a distant glitter for Papuan communities – by Hans Nicholas Jong (Mongabay – October 13, 2017)

High hopes that the world’s biggest gold mine will finally bring meaningful benefit to the community for which it has for decades been a source of contention have been deflated as negotiations hit a wall.

Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FCX) and the Indonesian government are currently hashing out the details of a long-term agreement for an extension of the company’s contract to operate the giant Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua province, due to expire in 2021.

Freeport announced in August that it had agreed to divest a 51 percent stake in its Indonesian subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), in which it currently holds a 90.64 percent stake, following sustained pressure by the government to reform a mining sector long seen as not doing enough to benefit local communities or contribute to the national economy. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Trump tries to save coal, but probably in vain – by John Kemp (Reuters U.S. – October 11, 2017)

LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) – For political reasons, the Trump administration has become obsessed by saving old and inefficient coal-fired power plants rather than preparing the electricity industry to face the challenges of the future.

Senior officials appear to have an almost romantic attachment to the hard physical labour of the coal mines and saving existing coal-fired power plants, most of which are now more than 40 years old and wearing out.

At the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry has proposed a grid resiliency rule which would increase payments to coal-fired power producers that can promise secure on-site fuel supplies. And Environmental Protection Administration chief Scott Pruitt has announced his intention to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to try to keep coal-fired power plants running longer. Continue Reading →

Indonesia’s giant copper nationalisation may be good news for Rio Tinto – by Matthew Stevens (Australian Financial Review – October 4, 2017)

For the best part of a quarter of a century Rio Tinto has struggled to extract any sort of return from its still accumulating $US2 billion investment in the routinely controversial Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia.

But some sort of pay day seems close at hand. Rio’s 40 per cent share in future production from the mine in the West Papua skies is emerging as a pivotal subject of dispute in the latest tug-of-war between Grasberg’s developer and senior owner, Freeport-McMoRan, and the Indonesian government.

Indonesia’s endgame is to inflate the level of local ownership of Grasberg from 9.36 per cent to a controlling 51 per cent. And, after years of bickering that most recently saw Freeport’s copper export licences suspended for 15 weeks, Freeport’s resistance of that ambition appeared to crack with a late-August agreement between miner and government on the pathway to nationalisation. Continue Reading →

A Labor of Love: Coal mining continues despite unsettling trends – by Heather Richards (Casper Star Tribune – September 30, 2017)

POWDER RIVER BASIN — Standing ankle deep in a hill of powdery clay, chunks of rock and waste coal, Patrick “Rooster” Baumann, senior project manager for Cloud Peak Energy, can just make out equipment sitting on a ridge outside the boundaries of Antelope Mine near Wright. He’s staring northeast, at the edge of the largest coal mine in the country, North Antelope Rochelle.

Beyond North Antelope lies the second largest surface mine in the U.S., Black Thunder. Invisible on a horizon of gray and beige, are 10 more mines. This is the heart of the U.S. coal industry, which provides fuel for about 30 percent of the country’s electricity.

On a recent September morning, Baumann watched as miners he oversees drilled holes packed with fertilizer that when mixed with diesel will turn into mini bombs. They will go off like a string of firecrackers beneath the soil, breaking it up so diggers can easily shovel away the loosened ground exposing coal seams beneath. Continue Reading →

Copper project in Florence wins appeal, could break ground this winter – by Isaac Windes (Arizona Daily Star/Cronkite News – September 29, 2017)

WASHINGTON — Florence Copper officials could break ground on a $24 million “in-situ” copper mining facility by December, after an administrative appeals board last week turned down objections to the project from the Town of Florence and another opponent.

The ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board rejected challenges that the in-situ form of mining — which injects acidic water into copper ore deep underground to draw it out and refine it — could pose a threat to the area’s drinking water.

An attorney for the town said in an email that Florence officials were disappointed with the ruling, which they fear leaves the water supply at risk of pollution, “a condition that is not acceptable to the town.” She said the town is reviewing legal options. But officials with the mining company welcomed the decision, which capped a six-year permitting process. Continue Reading →

US Mining Giant Takes on Indonesian Government over Mine Divestiture (Asia Sentinel – September 30, 2017)

Freeport McMoRan refuses to go along with Jakarta’s takeover plan

Freeport-McMoRan Inc, the US-based mining giant, has come out swinging publicly against plans by the Indonesian government to take over a controlling interest in its Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold mine and the second largest copper mine, located on high on the side of a remote mountain in the province of Papua.

The Phoenix, Arizona company owns 90.64 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, the principal operating subsidiary. The Indonesian government currently owns the remaining 9.36 percent.

In a Sept. 28 letter to the secretary general of Indonesia’s finance ministry, Rick Adkerson, Freeport’s chief executive, said the company, which has operated the mine since 1972, “has worked to be responsive to the government’s aspirations for 51 percent ownership but has been consistently clear that the divestment is conditional upon the transactions reflecting fair value of the business through 2041 and that Freeport retain management and governance control. These are non-negotiable positions.” Continue Reading →

Trump and the end of Obama’s bitter ‘war on coal’ – by Sterling Burnett (The Hil – September 30, 2017)

Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

What a difference presidential leadership can make, for good or ill, for an industry’s fortunes. Before he was elected president, Barack Obama promised to bankrupt coal companies, and after eight years of his administration’s anti-energy policies, that pledge turned out to be one of the few promises he kept.

Obama imposed regulations limiting coal mining near streams and on mountain tops, allowed cities to block the expansion of coal export terminals and rail lines, and enacted limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, including many that were not justified by any reasonable calculation of human health benefits.

His policies contributed to massive job losses in coal country, the premature shuttering of vital coal-fired power plants, and were a factor in profitable coal companies being forced to file for bankruptcy. Continue Reading →

Major Grassroots Victory: Last Coal Export Terminal Goes Down In The Northwest – by Mary Anne Hitt (Huffington Post – September 27, 2017)

Mary Anne Hitt is the Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

Grassroots leaders just won a major victory for public health and the climate. The last surviving coal export terminal proposed in the Northwest was denied a permit by the state, spelling the end for the project.

On Tuesday the Washington Department of Ecology denied a necessary water quality permit for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export facility in Longview, citing the project’s negative impacts on climate, clean air, and water. This renders the project formally dead!

If you needed a reminder that people power can defeat polluters with big money, have I got a story for you. This project was one of six coal export terminals proposed in the Northwest over the past decade, as coal mining companies promised big markets in Asia were hungry for coal mined in Montana and Wyoming. Continue Reading →

Indonesia’s Freeport victory sets tone for foreign miners – by Fergus Jensen and Ed Davies (Reuters U.S. – September 26, 2017)

JAKARTA (Reuters) – For many Indonesians, investment banker-turned-minister Ignasius Jonan is the man who made trains run on time.

Months after being handed the mining portfolio, the minister notched up a bigger victory; securing majority local ownership of Grasberg – one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines – following months of difficult negotiations with U.S. giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

Foreign control of mines has been sore point for many Indonesians, who view it as a legacy of an authoritarian past when a ruling elite cut sweetheart deals to carve up precious resources.

The framework agreement with Freeport on Aug 29 was seen as a victory for Indonesia and a political win for President Joko Widodo as the U.S.-based company agreed, among other measures, to cut its mine ownership from more than 90 percent to below 50 percent in favor of Indonesian owners. Continue Reading →