Archive for August, 2014


Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

CEOs-in-mining infographic image


Henry Sapiecha

Abandoned Canadian mining town up for sale

Monday, August 25th, 2014

A whole town in British Columbia, Canada’s most western province, has been put up for sale and for less than $1 million. Yes, you read that right.

Just two hours north from the popular resort town of Whistler and four from Vancouver, the ghost town of Bradian, a former suburb of the gold mining town of Bralorne, has been listed for Cdn $995,000.

The 20-hectares town has over 22 houses still standing in reasonable condition and all basic infrastructure and it is already zoned rural residential, according to realtor John Lovelace.

The seller is a family who bought it in 1997 and used Bradian as a place to take holidays and work on the buildings.

In fact Lovelace told The Province he has received dozens of inquiries, but most back off when they realize how much work is required to upgrade the town.

Henry Sapiecha

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mining town for sale canada image map

EU Confirms New Economic Sanctions Against Moscow

Monday, August 25th, 2014

EU agreed a new set of economic sanctions against Russia blue flags image

BRUSSELS, July 29 (RIA Novosti) – The European Union agreed on Tuesday a new set of economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, a joint communique by EU leaders said.

“Today the European Union has agreed a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation,” a statement by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said.

“These decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector,” the document said.

The Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) reached Tuesday an agreement on EU restrictive measures “ in view of Russia’s actions destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.”

In a move to restrict Russia’s access to EU capital markets, new sanctions ban EU nationals and companies to buy or sell new bonds, equity or similar financial instruments with a maturity exceeding 90 days, issued by state-owned Russian banks, development banks, their subsidiaries and those acting on their behalf.

Services related to issuing such financial tools, including brokering, are also prohibited. In addition, the EU ambassadors have agreed on an embargo on the import and export of arms and related material from/to Russia. It covers all items on the EU common military list.

Coreper also reached agreement on “banning exports of dual use goods and technology for military use in Russia or to Russian military end-users.”

Exports of “certain energy-related equipment and technology to Russia” are to become subject to prior authorization by competent authorities of member states.

“Export licenses will be denied if products are destined for deep water oil exploration and production, arctic oil exploration or production and shale oil projects in Russia,” the document says.

In the joint communique, the EU leaders said Moscow will find itself increasingly isolated by its actions. However, the EU could reverse its decision if Russia “starts contributing actively and without ambiguities to finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis.”

New economic sanctions on Russia will be enforced for one year, a high-ranking EU official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“The sanctions will be in effect for 12 months, their effectiveness and consequences will be monitored and are subject to change in light of changes in the political situation or for procedural reasons,” the source said.

These restrictions will due to be formally adopted by the Council through a written procedure. They will apply from the day after their publication in the EU Official Journal, which is scheduled for late on July 31, the communique said.

The new package reinforces the recently expanded listing of persons and entities already subject to EU sanctions.

The United States and the European Union earlier imposed targeted sanctions against a number of Russian officials and companies as a response to Crimea’s reunification with Russia. After the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine, Washington has been pushing the EU to implement further sanctions against Moscow.

Russia’s envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said last week that the sanctions were «a road to nowhere» and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said such actions toward Russia were a way to conceal protectionist measures in the interests of certain companies.

Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 25th, 2014

President Vladimir Putin, middle standing, alongside Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping image

President Vladimir Putin, middle standing, alongside Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, right standing, in Shanghai in May, when Russia and China signed a much-anticipated gas deal.

With multi-billion dollar energy deals between Moscow and Beijing recently being pushed through, China, the world’s second-biggest economy, is benefiting the most from the spiraling tension between Russia and the West over the violence in Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban earlier this month compared the European Union’s sanctions policy against Russia to “shooting oneself in the foot,” and experts on China said Friday that Beijing would be better served by not answering U.S. calls to punish Russia.

Nonetheless, the U.S. seems determined to get China onside. Last week, in an interview with Lithuanian news portal Alfa.Lt, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy Daniel Fried, said Washington was continuing its campaign to drum up support for sanctions on Russia and was seeking allies in Asia, namely in South Korea, Singapore and China.

“We had consultations with China and will continue our consultations,” Fried said.

So far, the U.S. has been joined by the EU, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland in slapping various degrees of economic sanctions on Russia over its role in the increasingly bloody Ukraine crisis.

China — Asia’s most powerful economy, and a partner of Russia in energy-related trade — has been asked to join the sanctions before but has been reluctant to dance to Washington’s tune.

The White House is not in a position to force the issue either. The U.S. economy and trade have become so intertwined with China that Washington does not possess any real tools that could be used to convince Beijing to follow its policy, analysts said.

In addition, Chinese officials have repeatedly said that the sanctions tactic is ineffective and will only lead to retaliatory measures from Moscow, a prediction that came to pass earlier this month when Russia imposed a one-year food import ban on countries that targeted it with sanctions, causing billions of dollars in estimated damages.

China Skims The Cream

Vasily Kashin of the Moscow-based Institute of Far Eastern Studies said that China had nothing to gain from Russia being weakened by Western pressure.

“Officials in China are now quietly clapping their hands if not rejoicing openly. … The situation that came about because of the crisis in Ukraine is in their best interests and they would like to keep things the way they are,” Kashin told The Moscow Times.

China is already cashing in on Russia’s impasse with the West as long-planned deals are finally clinched in its favor.

In May, just as the conflict in Ukraine was gaining momentum and Russia’s relations with the West were deteriorating into what is now being called the worst standoff since the Cold War, Russia signed a $400 billion gas deal with China that had been under discussion for a decade.

“This deal has shown that China is a tough negotiator. [The deal] was discussed for years before being signed only in the wake of a difficult political situation,” said Sergei Grinyayev, head of Moscow-based Center for Strategic Estimates and Forecasts, a nongovernment foreign affairs and national security think tank.

Apart from future gas supplies, Moscow and Beijing recently agreed on increasing crude oil imports from Russia, and on the construction of new reactors at the Tianwan nuclear power plant on China’s east coast.

Also, as Russian companies now have limited access to Western technology because of the sanctions, many of them are turning to China for supplies, a market they are likely to stay in long term.

“When the current crisis is over, it does not mean that these companies will redirect their logistics back to Europe, they will likely continue buying their supplies in China,” Kashin said.

No Means To Squeeze The Dragon

The U.S. State Department’s Fried said he could not gauge the current effect of sanctions on Moscow’s policy in Ukraine, but stated that the U.S. was constantly looking for ways to ramp up the pressure.

But experts on China said they doubt the U.S. can persuade Beijing to join the sanctions club against Russia.

“The U.S. has no means to put pressure on China. It could be done only regarding some limited projects or companies,” Kashin said.

What the U.S. could do is pressure its own companies not to provide technology to their partners in China. For instance, limit the supply of know-how and software to Chinese IT companies, said Vladislav Inozemtsev, a professor of economics and director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

But the Chinese market is very important to U.S. information technology firms, Kashin said, meaning that such a measure would do mutual damage.

Furthermore, China has already proven itself to be a tough fighter when put under pressure, and will not succumb to any forceful attempts to make it impose sanctions, according to experts.

“Chinese companies are all too familiar with U.S. State Department sanctions as many of them have been blacklisted by the U.S. and denied access to technology,” said Sergei Sanakoyev, secretary-general of the Russia-China Chamber for Trade Cooperation on Machinery and Innovative Products.

U.S. diplomats will get nothing more than a polite refusal to comply with their sanctions, Sanakoyev said, adding that all attempts to squeeze China will only result in harsh retaliatory measures.

One way China could retaliate would be through the revision of large trade contracts. For example, China is one of the world’s biggest markets for aircraft producers Boeing and Airbus and all large procurement deals have to be approved by the government.

“In the blink of an eye, Beijing could easily cut deals worth billions of dollars,” Kashin said.

China could also put several top managers of large Western corporations in jail, as was the case with Australian mining company Rio Tinto, Kashin said.

In 2010 a number of Rio Tinto staff were sentenced to prison terms for bribery. The arrests came shortly after Rio Tinto declined to sell part of the company to the Chinese state-owned company Chinalco and at a time when Chinese steelmakers were faced with sharply growing prices for iron ore.

“What in Russia is considered outrageous in China is common practice. This has been done a thousand times before and could be applied again,” Kashin added.

Henry Sapiecha

INFOGRAPHIC: Of the world’s largest diggers

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

worlds-largest-diggers infographic image

Henry Sapiecha

Evironmental Protection Agency grants Kimberley rare earth mine approval in Western Australia

Monday, August 18th, 2014

trucks working on mine site image

A rare earth elements mine in the Kimberley has been recommended for conditional environmental approval.

Northern Minerals’ flagship venture the Browns Range Project, which is about 160 kilometres south-east of Halls Creek, received the Environmental Protection Authority’s recommendation on Monday.

The mine straddles the West Australian and Northern Territory border on the Browns Range Dome and is expected to produce 279,000 kgs of dysprosium a year over its 10-year mine life.

A Northern Minerals spokeswoman said production was targeted to begin in 2016.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the agency recommended several conditions for the mine, including the development of a significant fauna conservation plan before any ground-disturbing activities began.

The EPA’s report will be open for appeal until September 1.


Henry Sapiecha

China is taking lunar mining seriously for rare resources

Monday, August 4th, 2014

moonscape with earth globe view image

As the world’s largest energy consumer, China is deeply aware of the imperative of addressing its energy trilemma – how to simultaneously achieve and balance energy security, energy equity (access and affordability), and environmental sustainability – in the coming decades, and is determined to develop clean and unconventional power to quench its thirst for energy. Indeed, powering an economy the size of China’s, especially by mid-century, solely by burning massive quantities of finite fossil fuels and relying on conventional nuclear power is not a viable option. For this reason, China is devoting considerable resources to the most futuristic and elusive of unconventional energies: nuclear fusion.

Most research in nuclear fusion has focused on deuterium and/or tritium (heavy isotopes of hydrogen) as the fuel used to generate the fusion. Deuterium is found in abundance in all water on earth, while tritium is not found in nature but can be produced by the neutron bombardment of lithium.  However, nuclear fusion could become much more attainable by shifting to another isotope on the periodic table: helium-3.

Helium-3 is a helium isotope that is light and non-radioactive. Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 could provide a highly efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and negligible radiation. In the words of Matthew Genge, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the Imperial College in London, “nuclear fusion using helium-3 would be cleaner, as it does not produce any spare neutrons. It should produce vastly more energy than fission reactions without the problem of excessive amounts of radioactive waste.” Unfortunately, helium-3 is almost non-existent on earth.

It does, however, exist on the moon. Lacking an atmosphere, the moon has been bombarded for billions of years by solar winds carrying helium-3. As a result, the dust of the lunar surface is saturated with the gas. It has been calculated that there are about 1,100,000 metric tons of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few meters, and that about 40 tons of helium-3 – enough to fill the cargo bays of two space shuttles –could power the U.S. for a year at the current rate of energy consumption. Given the estimated potential energy of a ton of helium-3 (the equivalent of about 50 million barrels of crude oil), helium-3 fuelled fusion could significantly decrease the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, and increase mankind’s productivity by orders of magnitude.

However, supplying the planet with fusion power for centuries requires that we first return to the moon. At present, only China has this in mind, with its Chang’e program, a lunar exploration program that will send astronauts to the moon by the early 2020s. If Beijing wins the second “race for the moon,” and establishes a sustained human outpost conducting helium-3 mining operations, it would establish the same kind of monopoly that in the past created the fortunes of ventures like the East India Company. The ramifications would be significant, to say the least.

First, “China is what international relations scholars call a ‘revisionist power,’ seeking opportunities to assert its enhanced relative position in international affairs,” according to Foreign Policy. Establishing an automated or manned helium-3 operation on the moon would be a spectacular assertion. Second, with the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels on Earth, China would be in a position to gradually build a helium-3 empire in which it would control the supply of the lunar gas. The rise of such an empire would most likely be met with resistance. The prospect of China’s energy supremacy would probably lead to pervasive geopolitical influence, cause geopolitical tension and anti-Chinese alliances to coalesce, and prompt other countries – particularly the U.S. – to hasten to the moon to break the dragon’s monopoly.

Still, this scenario is hardly inescapable. On the contrary, lunar exploration and resource development could end up encouraging international cooperation and build confidence. If the spacefaring nations see a common destiny, then creative politics, diplomacy, and new legal frameworks could be used as instruments for good governance and an equitable sharing of the spoils. A new international regime for the joint development of lunar helium-3 would then be viable, with all the possibilities for the planet that would entail.

Fabrizio Bozzato is a PhD Candidate at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies – Tamkang University (Taiwan).

Henry Sapiecha