Category Archives: Mine construction

Axiom granted mining lease for Isabel nickel project in Solomon Islands

Imelda Cotton | Small Caps | September 20, 2018

Axiom is now fully permitted to commence mining of the Isabel nickel project (San Jorge), with first shipment of ore expected in Q1 of 2019.

Minerals explorer, via its 80%-owned subsidiary AxiomKB, has been formally granted a mining lease by the Solomon Islands government for the San Jorge nickel deposit, which sits within the company’s flagship Isabel nickel project.

The 25-year lease has been issued for the extraction, export and sale of nickel ore and associated commodities from San Jorge and allows Axiom to commence construction at Isabel, with a view to commercial production in early 2019.

In awarding the lease, Solomon Islands Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification Bradley Tovosia commented on Axiom’s contribition to the local region.

“The Isabel project is to be an important part of our economy, and it is exciting to see real production now moving forward for everyone’s benefit,” he said.

Upgrades of a temporary exploration camp to a long-term mining camp have commenced, in addition to the construction of supporting roads and loading facilities.

Community consultations are also underway in preparation for the first shipment of ore.

Financing for life of mine construction and development is in the advanced stages and due to be finalised over the coming weeks.

The Pacific’s largest nickel deposit

The Isabel nickel project is widely considered one of the largest nickel laterite deposits in the Pacific region, hosting a historical non-JORC deposit of 159 million tonnes at 1.1% nickel and 0.07% cobalt.

It comprises a number of deposits within the Solomon Islands’ Isabel province, including the key deposits of San Jorge and Kolosori, operated by AxiomKB (Axiom 80% ownership) in partnership with local landowners (20%).

Both are spread over 36 square kilometres each, with San Jorge accounting for approximately 50% of the known deposits within the Isabel acreage.

The deposits at San Jorge sit very close to the surface in uninhabited land along a shore which encompasses a natural deep water harbour – all qualities which will enable Axiom to bring a direct shipping of ore operation to the market in a timely and environmentally-acceptable way.

Project history

Axiom’s milestone signifies the first time in the Isabel nickel project’s history that an owner has been granted a mining lease.

Previous San Jorge tenement owner and former nickel major, Inco Ltd (now owned by Brazilian mining giant Vale) conducted feasibility studies during the 1970s based on results from over 7000 drill holes and pits and 10,000 samples.

In 1991, Kaiser Engineers completed its own study on Inco’s data, determining preliminary capital and operating expenditures and conducting economic analyses and financial modelling.

Development by either owner did not progress further due to a failure to win the support of customary landowners from the Kolosori and Bungusule tribes.

In December 2010, Axiom’s collaborative approach resulted in a partnership with the landowners and the Axiom KB joint venture was established. Then in September 2014, AxiomKB emerged successful after three years of litigation proceedings instigated by Sumitomo Mining Metals Solomon over the Isabel nickel deposit.

Last month, Axiom announced it would be recruiting key positions and growing its board of directors to enhance its operational expertise and strengthen its position during the project’s development.

At midday, shares in Axiom were trading 34.02% higher at $0.130.

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Futuna rejects seabed exploration and mining

Photo: AFP

Radio New Zealand | 14 September 2018 

The kingdoms on the French Pacific island of Futuna have ruled out allowing any work related to seabed mining in their waters, saying their stance is final.

The rejection of any further exploration of the seabed was expressed at a meeting in Futuna with French delegates sent to explain the potential of mining rare earths.

The king of Sigave as well as a leader of the kingdom of Alo told local television that any discussion about land matters had to held with the customary leadership and not with the assembly of Wallis and Futuna.

They said they had seen the negative impact of activities in French Polynesia and didn’t want a repeat of them in Wallis and Futuna.

At the beginning of this decade French teams carried out three exploratory missions in the territory’s waters without consulting the local kings who are officially recognised by the French republic and on its payroll.

The traditional leaders’ view of what comprises their domain clashes with the law which grants France the control of its exclusive economic zone.

Five years ago, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council urged the government to secure resources in the seabed off France’s overseas territories.

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German police clear protesters from ancient forest marked for mining

Police officers are seen in the forest as they prepare to clear the area at the “Hambacher Forst” in Kerpen-Buir near Cologne, Germany, September 13, 2018, where protesters have built a camp with tents and tree houses to stop the clearing of the Hambach forest for a nearby open cast coal mining. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Reuters |15 September, 2018

German riot police cleared environmental activists from tree houses in an ancient forest on Thursday, dismantling a protest camp set up five years ago to block a coal mining project.

Wearing helmets and carrying shields, they used a hydraulic platform mounted on a truck to force activists from the tree houses erected in Hambach forest, west of the city of Cologne.

Officers carried off some of the protesters who were trying to prevent utility RWE from clearing the forest that it bought decades ago to expand mining in the area. Most of the forest has already been chopped down and the activists were trying to save a remaining patch of green.

The activists had asked RWE to delay the logging until a year-end deadline for a commission to submit plans to the government for Germany to give up coal-fired energy.

Germany aims to raise wind and solar power’s share of energy generation from a third now to 65 percent by 2030 to help to cut carbon dioxide emissions and achieve its climate commitments.

Police said measures were being taken to prevent the activists from returning to the site. “After the operation we will monitor people and vehicles trying to come here in order to prevent the reconstruction of what we so painfully dismantled,” said police spokesman Paul Kemen.

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Wafi-Golpu plan to dump mine waste in sea queried

The National aka The Loggers Times | September 13, 2018

Salamaua LLG president Philemon Tomala has expressed concern about the plan to dump Wafi-Golpu mine tailings into Huon Gulf.

He said that both Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture and Morobe government should spell out the effects of the tailings on the gulf, where people fish for their livelihood. It is also one of few places in the world where the endangered giant leatherback turtle nests.

“The mining company and Morobe government say it is safe to get this waste into the sea,” Tomala said.

“From experiences we have seen, like Panguna mine and others, the people out there still have questions in their minds as to how safe the waste is, going onto the sea.

“This is because our people’s livelihood is in the sea.

“They go fishing to sustain their day-to-day living, but with this thing coming, we have a lot of questions Whether it is safe for marine life or not.”

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Geopacific now holding 93% of PNG goldfield

Matt Birney | The West Australian | 23 August 2018

ASX listed gold developer Geopacific Resources now holds a 51% direct interest in its flagship Woodlark gold project in PNG, after achieving the second tranche incentive milestone with its project JV partner Kula Gold Limited.

The company now holds a 93% economic interest in the project, courtesy of its 85% controlling interest in Kula Gold in addition to its direct interest in the project.

The project level earn-in agreement with Kula dates back to July 2016 and required the company to spend up to A$8m over a 2-year period and complete an estimation of an initial ore reserve exceeding 1.2 million gold ounces to achieve this second tranche.

With both of these hurdles now overcome, Geopacific will concentrate on meeting the requirements of the third and final tranche of the JV agreement with Kula, where it can earn a 95% economic interest in the project, effectively winding up the JV.

The remaining 5% interest will be taken up by the PNG Government, who has agreed to take this stake when the project is ready to be mined, by reimbursing a proportionate share of sunk costs.

Geopacific Managing Director Ron Heeks said: “Geopacific now directly owns 51% of Woodlark Mining Limited and will continue to increase ownership as we move forward with development of the project.”

“The DFS continues as does exploration to scope out the larger goldfield that holds such potential. Our debt advisors Ironstone Capital are also progressing well. The project is coming together as we hoped and continues to move towards a 2019 start to construction.”

The company has strongly focussed its attention on the Woodlark gold project over the last two years in order to stay on schedule for this intriguing opportunity.

Geopacific reported the outcome of its PFS for the Woodlark project in March, saying the results indicated a robust, low-cost, low stripping ratio, open pit operation that could deliver an average of 100,000 ounces of gold annually, over a 10-year initial mine life.

Since that time, the company has commenced an island-wide soil sampling program over its tenements in PNG and has hardly missed a beat, turning up multiple gold and copper targets pretty much everywhere it looks.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given the project’s location in the “ring of fire”, surrounded by multi-million ounce deposits at Lihir, Panguna, Simberi and Misima.

Geopacific has proved up a mineral resource of 1.57 million ounces, whilst developing new exploration targets nearby to potentially add to its arsenal over coming years.

The big picture envisaged by the company more than 2 years ago is finally coming together, with project development well underway, ongoing exploration success outside the main mining leases and consolidation of the project ownership on schedule.

Geopacific is well on track to become PNG’s next significant gold producer over the coming year or so.

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MP upset at Australian advisors in Bougainville

A lake in the pit of the long defunct Panguna mine in Bougainville. Photo: www.travelinspired.co.nz

Radio New Zealand | 23 August 2018

An MP in the autonomous Bougainville parliament says Australian aid to the region is being used to jockey for position ahead of the vote on possible independence.

Bougainville is due to vote next year on whether to remain part of Papua New Guinea or choose independence.

Donor nations have started increasing their support but MP Joseph Watawi is taking issue with Australia sending in teams of advisers, without consultation.

He says the advisers are there to gain political power and influence for Australia when what Bougainville needs are nurses, doctors and engineers.

Mr Watawi told Don Wiseman he thinks the Australian assistance is focused on the possible re-emergence of the former Australian owned mining company, Bougainville Copper Ltd – the company which sparked the Bougainville crisis.

TRANSCRIPT

JOSEPH WATAWI: So rather than Australia trying to get back here under the cover of BCL, to re-open the mine, I think it is a fair thing for them to seriously look at how they can provide some form of redress to the people of Bougainville through supporting the current, ongoing reconciliation process in Bougainville. That’s what I see it is currently lacking.  

DON WISEMAN: You have been critical of Australia sending in advisers but the truth is isn’t it, that the ABG – the Bougainville government – still needs advice. It hasn’t got a lot of the capacity it needs if it is going to get itself organised for this vote.  

JW: So called advisors, which have flooded the Bougainville administration, I think some of these are absolutely unnecessary. Only on areas which we think we need critical advice then we should be able employ people that we identify and people that might come from Australia, but there are other places. In PNG we also have a lot of retired public servants who may be able to engage in terms of  providing capacity in whatever administrative area that we think we need and require that kind of advice. I don’t see a wholesale advisory capacity that should come from retired Australia. It is like Australian aid is being given to Bougainville and we take it on the right hand and they take it back on the left hand. So it really doesn’t make any sense.

DW: When you say unnecessary advisors, what are you thinking of?

JW: Well in areas where we think it is necessary that we should have some advisers, then we should engage people in those areas that must be identified in terms of strategic advice in what ever areas. For example in terms of growing the economy, I think it is an area we think we can probably need some expertise in giving us some rough forecast on what they think the economy will be like in the next ten years down the road. So these are some of the areas I think we could be able to take on advice, but anything else, in terms of weapons disposal – what do they know about weapons disposal when we own the weapons here, and we think we had ways and means to deal with people who are holding onto weapons.

DW: The New Zealand government has also stepped up its involvement and I see from a press release you have put out that you are quite happy with what New Zealand is doing. So what is the difference between what New Zealand is doing and what Australia is doing?

JW: New Zealand I think, because they are also based with the culture of the Maori people and I think they know how to deal with the indigenous people and the manner in which they offer their support and assistance, particularly on the policing service, I see the role New Zealand plays also involves some kind of customary, cultural relationship that sort of enhances the manner and the attitude they are offering the kind of advice and support, in terms of capacity for Bougainville, and that’s the difference I see. 

DW: There are discussions around restarting mining on Bougainville, and BCL is one of those, but it is not of course an Australian company anymore is it? You have tied this Australian involvement into a possible return of BCL but BCL is now owned by Bougainville and the PNG governments, isn’t it?

JW: The sale by Rio Tinto to the PNG government and the ABG was a rush job, and I think it was just a way out, of Rio Tinto not willing to address the legacy issues in terms of the environmental damages and all of these other things that they had created while operating the Panguna mine. And not only that but even they wanted to basically pass on some of these liabilities to the ABG. I think Rio Tinto on that note basically, just acting, like, you know, we don’t want to know what happened to you guys. We picked up the wealth and whatnot from your ground, and therefore we do not to come and recognise the difficulties you are suffering, the pain the people have gone through. From my observation and analysis this is very unfair.    

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The new battle for Bougainville’s Panguna mine

Rusting trucks at Panguna mine, Bougainville

Speculation about the future of the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville, which ignited a decade long civil war in the 1990s, peaked late last year when an application for exploration by former Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), was put to a local vote.

Catherine Wilson | The Interpreter | 21 August 2018

The outcome revealed that the mine remains a contested site and that a new battle for its riches is deepening divisions among traditional landowning groups. Chris Baria, a Bougainville writer and commentator, who lived through what is known as the “Crisis”, explained the sentiment in a recent interview:

When those with mining interests meddle with Panguna, it makes people revisit the pain and suffering, and the horrors of war that the government wrought on its citizens for closing down a mine, which they felt had not compensated them enough for their loss.

The mine still stands in ruin. From the Morgan Junction checkpoint near the entrance, the drive is long and winding up into the white mist that often veils the peaks of the Crown Prince mountain range. In a valley at the top is the scene of a time warp: rusting mine machinery disintegrating into the all–consuming jungle, rows of silenced trucks and gutted housing blocks.

Locals amid the ruined mine buildings at Panguna (Photo: Catherine Wilson)

In 1989, the Nasioi on Bougainville were the world’s first indigenous people, angered by inequity and environmental damage, to shut down a multinational mining venture. But the feat came at a huge cost. The ensuing civil war, primarily between local rebel groups and the PNG Defence Force, decimated infrastructure and development and left 15,000–20,000 people dead, with many more suffering still from untreated trauma.

Yet debate about the mine’s possible revival has persisted for the last eight years. It’s the focus of the Bougainville autonomous government’s ambitions of fiscal self–reliance as an independence referendum approaches in June 2019; an enormous challenge for a region still occupied with post–conflict reconstruction and heavily dependent on aid. Last year, only 14% of the government’s expenditure, totalling K162 million ($67 million), was covered by internal revenues, while experts point out that an independent nation of Bougainville will need a budget two to three times greater.

This is a dilemma for many Panguna landowners. A few years ago, as I sat with villagers near the mine pit, no–one expressed a wish for mining to return to this beautiful valley. But views faltered among those committed to secession. Janet Colman from Guava Village said she did “not really” want the mine to reopen.

If I had a choice, but I don’t think I have a choice. If I am crying for independence; then I need the mine.

When BCL’s latest bid was defeated, Bougainville’s President John Momis announced an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining in Panguna, highlighting his fears of potential conflict between landowner factions.

However, the link between mining and political aspirations continues to fuel the contest for Panguna’s wealth. Other foreign companies are jostling for position, such as Perth–based RTG Mining, which has forged an alliance with Philip Miriori, former combatant and now president of the Panguna–based Mekamui government, and chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association.

Three years ago, Bougainville passed new mining legislation vesting traditional landowners with ownership of minerals on their land and rights to participate in key development decisions. At the same time, power plays appear to be mounting between Panguna landowning clans and groups; those who previously, without rights, united against a common external foe. As Baria explains:

people who come from around the mine area are not homogenous, and deep divisions exist along family and clan lines going back to the time before the Crisis.

Mining companies now understand they will not be successful without landowner support. At least five ex–combatants and local leaders are known to be entertaining a range of corporate interests from Australia, Canada, China, Brazil and the US.

It is another hurdle for Momis and his government, who are working to rally a sense of political unity in a Melanesian society, where people still prioritize allegiance to their clan and customary land.

Panguna mine in operation, circa 1971 (Photo: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons)

Suspending developments in Panguna aligns with those landowners, such as Lynette Ona, Chairwoman of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association, who believe the mine should stay closed until they can master their own destiny. Yet independence in itself won’t remove landowner rivalries or other risk factors Bougainville is currently challenged with, such as high youth unemployment, constrained institutional capacity to reach and govern rural areas and incomplete disarmament. Some armed groups, such as the Mekamui Defence Force, didn’t sign the peace agreement or surrender firearms.

Helen Hakena of the local Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency has expressed concern that “they [the Mekamui] get their strength from guns … there needs to be a priority set by the government in getting those arms out before the reopening of the Panguna mine”.

Bougainville is still working toward establishing the post–war unity, strong governance and state resources that are needed to manage the complex combination of post–conflict recovery, unaddressed mining grievances, and risks of resource–related corruption and land disputes. For mining, without peace, won’t contribute to Bougainville’s longing for successful self–government and equitable development.

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