57. The Mining Bank or eBay for Mining Properties

I recently attended the Money Show here in Toronto to learn a bit more about current investing strategies, ETF’s, and see what’s up with the latest stock analysis software.   Along with speakers at the show, there was a trade show but only one mining company booth was present.  This definitely wasn’t the PDAC.  Interestingly there were about five marijuana company booths, so that seems to be where the promotion is today.
The lone mining company was Globex Mining, here is their website.  They referred to themselves as a “mining bank”, so this was something that peaked my interest.
Speaking with their president, Jack Stoch, he gave me an overview on their business model.  As I understood it, GLOBEX’s model is to acquire a lot of mineral properties, enhance their value by undertaking some limited geological work, and then option, JV, or sell the property while retaining a long term NSR royalty.
Mr. Stoch told me that Globex currently has over 140 land packages in their inventory.  Their properties may include resource estimates, mineralized drill intersections, mineral showings, untested geophysical targets, or combinations of these.   They are focusing their acquisitions on lower risk jurisdictions like Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Tennessee, Nevada, Washington, and Germany.  They try to acquire historical mines that have old shafts and workings, following the adage the best place to find a new mine is next to an old mine.   They even have some industrial mineral properties in their portfolio.

Globex’s only NSR revenue producing property right now is a zinc project in Tennessee that can generate a seven-figure royalty each year, when that operation is up and running.  Unfortunately for Globex the zinc operation has not been in consistent operation over the last few years.
Overall I like the concept that Globex are promoting.  I like the idea of having a one-stop shop that collects and then options out exploration properties to junior mining companies that are looking for new projects to take on.  I also like the idea of trying to consolidate land packages in an area to minimize the patchwork of claims with different ownership that can hinder advanced development.   They hope that by putting time and effort into a suite of properties a few of them will pay off big.  If they can generate sufficient NSR revenue, the company may get to the self-sustaining stage.
The idea of companies involving themselves with a portfolio of early stage prospects isn’t new.  This has been being done by EMX Royalty Corp (formerly Eurasian Minerals) for mineral properties around the globe.    Abitibi Royalties is also doing something vaguely similar, whereby they would help fund prospectors in exchange for a long term royalty on a property.  First Mining Finance is another “mineral bank” player. There is a high risk to being successful but the cost of entry is relatively low.
It will be interesting to follow Globex over the longer term to see how many properties they can acquire and how many of these will pay off. Spending a bit of money on mapping and exploration on a property may pay off for them by increasing value in the eyes of potential partners.
Statistically mineral exploration is a high risk game but by limiting expenditures and diversifying the portfolio, some risk can be mitigated.  Diversification… that’s the same advice the ETF sales people were giving me.

56. Does the Mining Industry Employ Interns?

Over the last year or so I have been working on a side project I founded within the tech industry.   One of the things that recently came to the forefront was the use of interns, unpaid interns, that is.   I know that  interns have been used for years in other industries including legal, politics, journalism, and marketing; however I have never come across the use of interns within the mining industry.
Intern
I was recently speaking with a marketing consultant about how to undertake tech marketing and one of the suggestions she made was to hire an intern to do much of the legwork of finding contacts and making contact with them.  My first question was why would anyone work for free?  I was told there were three reasons:
  1. For credit; as part of a course credit in college or university where an internship is part of the programme requirement.
  2. For experience; one can’t get a real job without experience and so the internship teaches something, builds up experience, and creates a portfolio of work.
  3. Networking; building up network connections can possibly lead to permanent work.
At first I was taken aback at the thought of asking someone to work for me for free.  Are we that cheap?   On the other hand if you are paying someone a salary, the expectation is that they should be relatively skilled at their job.  Giving it some further thought, , I have come to realize that the internship may actually be a win-win for both parties.
The company gets to better know potential employees and also gets some productive service from them at no cost.  The intern grows their employment experience and learns about the realities of the business world.  The students are paying the schools to teach them, and now businesses can help teach them as well, but at no cost.   It’s a win-win.
So how did our intern search go?  We posted a free ad on indeed.ca.  Within 48 hours we received eight replies, of which only 2 came close to meeting the qualifications.  Some of the applicants had no relevant experience at all.   Possibly in today’s job market people are willing to work for free on the chance they can get some experience on their resumes which will hopefully lead to a job in the future.  We’ll maintain the job ad for a couple more weeks and see what the overall response will be.
My bottom line is asking whether the mining industry can make use of interns in the areas of geology, engineering, marketing, graphics, etc?  There may be a lot of young students out there looking for opportunity and willing to do whatever it takes to help advance their careers.   Even if your payroll budget cannot afford the cost of another person, you still may be able to help out someone within the industry.

55. Underground Feasibility Forecasts vs Actuals

I recently attended a CIM Management and Economics Society presentation discussing the differences between actual underground production versus the forecast used in the feasibility study. The presenter was Paul Tim Whillans from Vancouver Canada. His topic is interesting and relevant to today’s mining industry and Paul raised many thoughtful points supported by data. The abstract for his paper is copied below and the entire paper can be downloaded at this LINK and here are the presentation slides.
ABSTRACT
An underground mining study that is done in accordance with NI43-101, JORC or similar reporting code is generally assumed by the public to be representative, independent and impartial. However, it has been well documented by academics and professionals in our industry that there is a sharp difference between the forecasts presented in these underground studies and the actual costs when a mine is put into production.
For underground mines, the risks associated with obtaining representative information are much greater than for surface mining and the cost of accessing underground ore is also proportionally much greater. There is a pressing need to align expectations, by improving the accuracy of projections. This will result in reduced risk to mining companies and investors and provide more reliable information to government agencies, the public, and more importantly, the communities in which the proposed mine will operate.
The objective of this article and an article currently being written titled “Mining Dilution and Mineral Losses” is to:
– Discuss the dynamics of intention that lead to over-optimism;
– Provide simple tools to identify which studies are likely to be more closely aligned with reality;
– Identify some specific points where underground mining studies are generally weak;
– Discuss practices currently in use in our industry that lead to a composite or aggregate effect of over optimism;
– Describe the effects of overly optimistic studies;
– Outline specific changes that are necessary to overcome these challenges; and
– Stimulate discussion and awareness that will lead to better standards.

Headframe

In my opinion, I agree with many of the points raised by Paul. The mining industry has some credibility issues based on recent performance and therefore understanding the causes and then repairing that credibility will be important for the future of the industry. Credibility impacts on shareholder returns, government returns, local community benefits, and worker health and safety; so having a well designed mine will realize benefits for many parties.
If you need more information Paul’s website is at http://www.whillansminestudies.com/

54. Windshieldink – New Smartphone App

After the last few years, the downturn in the mining industry has given me time to pursue a few side interests. Writing this blog was one of those interests. The other was developing a new smartphone mobile app called Windshieldink. The tag line is “it’s the new way to leave a note on a windshield”. The website is Windshieldink.com
Windshieldink image
Here is an overview.
Windshieldink’s messaging platform allows anyone to anonymously send messages to vehicle owners registered with Windshieldink using the vehicle license plate number. Registering a license plate with Windshieldink is free. The app provides users the convenience of receiving their messages by e-mail or phone text message. You also have the option of receiving push notifications, attaching contact information, attaching a GPS location within your message, and there is also an in-app chat functionality.
Stats Canada reported 23.9 million motor vehicle registrations in 2015. Based on personal experience, the desire for being reachable via a license plate number was recognized as far back as the mid-1990’s and is becoming even more recognized as new vehicles enter the roadways daily.
The Windshieldink messaging platform is available worldwide, however we are concentrating marketing efforts in North America due to our limited marketing capacity.
The app is now free to download from Google Play Store and App Store and hopefully simple to use.
Here is a video link to how the app works.

Windshieldink logo

 

53. Ore Stockpiling – Why are we doing this again?

In many of the past mining studies that I have worked, stockpiling strategies were discussed and eventually implemented. Sometimes study team members were surprised at the size of the stockpiles that were generated by the production plan. It became apparent that not all members of the team were clear on the purpose of the stockpiling strategy or else they had preconceived ideas on the rationale. To them stockpiling may have seemed to be a good idea until they saw it in action.
Mine Stockpile
In this blog I won’t go into all the costs and environmental issues associated with stockpile operation but will focus simply on the reasons for stockpiling and why stockpiles may get large or numerous .
In my experience there are four main reasons why stockpiling might be done at an operation. They are:
1. Campaigning: For metallurgical reasons, there may be certain ore type(s) that can cause process difficulties if mixed in with other ores. Therefore the problematic ore(s) might be stockpiled until sufficient inventory is built up until it makes sense to process that ore (i.e. campaign) through the mill. Such stockpiles will only grow as large as the operator allows them to, before processing the material and eliminating the stockpile. Be aware that if the mine operations are still delivering different ore types to the crusher area, then those ores may need to be stockpiled during the campaigning period.  More different ore types may mean more stockpiles.
2. Grade Maximization: This stockpiling approach is used in situations where the mine delivers more ore than is required by the plant, thereby allowing the best material to be processed directly and the lower grade material to be stockpiled for a future date. Possibly one or more low grade stockpiles may be used, for example a low grade and a medium-low grade stockpile. Such stockpiles may not be processed for years, possibly remaining in place until the mine is depleted or until the mined head grades are lower than those in the stockpile. Such stockpiles can grow to enormous size if accumulated over many years.
3. Surge Control: stockpiling may be used in cases where the mine may have a fluctuating ore delivery rate and on some days excess ore is produced while other days there is underproduction. The stockpile is simply used to make up the difference and provide a steady primary crusher feed rate. These stockpiles are also available as short term emergency feed if for some reason the mine is shut down (e.g. extreme weather). In general such stockpiles may be relatively small in size since they are mainly used for operational surge control.
4. Blending: blending stockpiles may be used where a processing plant needs a certain quality of feed material with respect to head grade or contaminant ratios (silica, iron, etc.). Blending stockpiles enables the operator to ensure the plant feed quality to be consistent and uniform. Such stockpiles may not be large individually; however there could be several of them depending on the orebody character.
There may be other stockpiling strategies beyond the four listed above but those four capture the bulk of the situations.
Using today’s automated production scheduling software, one can test multiple stockpiling strategies by applying different cutoff grades or using multiple grade stockpiles. The scheduling software will have algorithms to determine whether one should be adding to the stockpile or drawing from it. It will track the grades in the stockpile and sometimes be able to model stockpile balances assuming reclaim by average grade, or first in-first out (FIFO), or last in-first out (LIFO).
Stockpiling in most cases will provide some potential benefits to an operation and the project economics. Even if metallurgical blending or campaigning is not required, one should always test the production schedule and project economics with a few grade stockpiling scenarios. Unfortunately these are not simple to undertake when using a manual scheduling approach and so are another reason to move towards automated scheduling software. Also make sure everyone on the team understands the rationale for the stockpiling strategy and what the stockpiles might ultimately look like. They might be surprised.

52. Mining Press Releases – Where to Get Them

There are numerous sources of mining information on the internet, encompassing topics such as technical articles, analyst opinions, and company press releases. It can be overwhelming sometimes. Now if your main interest is just seeing company news releases in a timely manner then what is the best way to do this?
One way is to go to the individual company website and sign-up one their email list. This approach generally works well but it forces you to sign up on a myriad of websites if you intend to follow a lot of companies. There are alternatives however.
One option is to sign-up for a free account with a newswire service where you can select the specific companies that you want to follow and then will get emailed news releases as soon as they are disseminated. The nice thing here is that you can select mining companies, non-mining public companies, as well as entire industries. Here are a few that I personally make use of.
Since different companies may use different news release distributors, the three websites that I track are:
Marketwire: There you can create a “Hot Off the Wire” account and then select your companies of interest. You can also select entire industries to add to your company list.
CNW Group Ltd.  Create an account there and search various companies to add to your “My Subscriptions” list.
Junior Mining News is another source to get general news updates via their daily newsletter, a screenshot is shown below. Their daily email gives a brief summary of events that happened recently and includes “Read More..” links if you want to read the entire press release. This website accesses some of the same news release distributors as mentioned above so there could be some repetition from time to time.

 

Junior Mining News screenshot

Using the services described above, it’s very easy to sign up for a lot of companies, too many companies in fact, and then get inundated with emails. We know that public companies need to keep the news flow active and some companies are very good at continually issuing news alerts. However by using the press release distribution websites you are consolidating your requests, thereby making it easier to control the amount of information you want to receive.
Feel free to share your method for tracking companies, whether using the same websites or something entirely different and better.

51. Pre-Concentration – Savior or Not?

Can pre-concentration become a key savior for the mining industry and help in lowering metal production costs?
Pre-concentration is a way to reduce the quantity of ore requiring higher cost downstream processing, i.e. grinding in particular. By using a low cost method to pre-concentrate mineral-bearing particles into a smaller volume, one can attain significant cost savings in overall energy consumption and operational expenses. A previous blog “Remote Sensing of Ore Grades” discussed a new pre-concentration method under development.
Pre-concentration is nothing new and has been around for many years but is generally limited in the techniques available. Hence many ore types are not amenable to it..unfortunately. The main methods being used are:
Ore sorting can be done using automated optical, electrical, or magnetic susceptibility sensors to separate ore particles from waste particles. The different sensor types can include colour recognition, near infrared radiation sensors, x-ray fluorescence, x-ray transmission, radiometric, or electromagnetic sensing. The sensors can determine if a particle contains valuable mineral or waste, thereby sending a signal to activate air jets to deflect material into ore and waste bins.
Density or specific gravity difference is another property that some pre-concentration methods can rely on. Gravity based systems such as dense media separation (DMS), jigs, or centrifugal concentrators are currently in production use.
Another simple pre-concentration method used is scrubbing, whereby simply washing away fines may remove some deleterious materials prior to final processing.
 Jig Plant 1
Pre-concentration can provide several benefits to an operation:
-If done underground or at remote mine site, the net ore hoisting and ore transport costs can be reduced.
-If the pre-concentration rejects can be used as mine backfill, this can reduce backfilling costs.
-Processing of higher grade pre-concentrated mill feed can reduce total energy costs and ultimately reduce the cash cost of metal produced.
-Grinding costs can be reduced if waste particles are harder than the ore particles and they can be removed beforehand.
-Minimizing waste through the process plant will reduce the quantity of tailings that must be disposed of.
-Lowering operating costs may potentially allow lowering of the cutoff grade and increasing mineral reserves.
-Higher head grades would increase metal production without needing an increase in plant throughput.
Not all ore types are amenable to pre-concentration and therefore a rigorous testing program is required. In most cases the pre-con method would be relatively obvious to the metallurgical engineer but testing is still required to measure performance. Testing is required to determine the amount of waste rejection that can be achieved without incurring significant ore loss during the process. Generally one can produce a higher quality final product if one is willing to reject more ore with the waste, so it becomes a trade-off of recovery versus total processing cost.
Fine particles from the primary and secondary crushing stages might require bypassing the pre-con circuit. If this bypassed material is sent for downstream processing, one may need to examine crushing systems that minimize fines generation to avoid too much material bypassing the pre-con circuit.
One must also decide if the pre-con system should reject waste particles from the material stream or reject ore particles from the stream since the overall recovery and product quality will be impacted depending on which approach is used.
My bottom line is that the mining industry is continually looking for ways to improve costs and pre-concentration may be a great way to do this. Every process plant design should at least take an initial look at it to see if is feasible for their ore type. While the existing pre-concentration methods have their limitations, future technologies may bring in new ways to pre-concentrate and so this is probably an area where research dollars would be well spent.

50. Landslide Blog – If You Like Failures

For those of you with a geotechnical background or have a general interest in learning about rock slides and slope failures, there is an interesting website and blog for you to follow. The website is hosted by the American Geophysical Union the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists. The blogs on their site are written by AGU staff along with contributions from collaborators and guest bloggers. Their website screenshot is shown below.
Landslide Blog screenshot

Landslide Blog web page screenshot

The independent bloggers have editorial freedom in the topics they choose to cover and their opinions are those of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the American Geophysical Union. This provides for some leeway on the discussions and the perspectives the writers wish to take.
One specific area they cover well in their Landslide Blog are the various occurrences of rock falls and landslides from any location around the globe. They will present commentary, images, and even videos of slope movements as they happen. Often they will provide some technical opinion on what possibly caused the failure event to occur. The Landslide Blog has a semi-regular email newsletter that will keep you updated on new stories as they happen.
Landslide
The following links are a few examples of the type of discussion that they have on the website.
Here is a description of a small water dam failure in Greece.
Here is some video of the Samarco tailings runout in Brazil.
Here is some video of boulders raining down on some buses along the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan.
From time to time the Landslide Blog will examine mine slopes, tailings dams, and waste dump failures, however much of their information relates to natural earth or rock slopes along roads or in towns and cities. Some of their videos are quite fascinating, illustrating the forces behind some of earth’s natural erosion processes. Check it out for yourself.
My bottom line on all of this is that the less the mining industry is mentioned in the Landslide Blog, the better it is for all of us.

49. Remote Sensing of Ore Grades

The mining industry must continually find ways to improve and modernize. The most likely avenue for improvement will be using new technologies as they become available. One of the new players on the scene is a start-up company called “MineSense Technologies Ltd.”  They are a British Columbia company looking to improve ore extraction and recovery processes based on the sensing and sorting of low-grade ore (pre-concentration in other words). They hope their pre-concentration methods will improve mine economics by reducing the consumption of energy, water, and reagents.

Minesense

 It’s not entirely clear to me how developed their technology is, but MineSense is relying on a combination of ground-penetrating sensors with other sensor technology in order to measure and report the grade of ore in real time. Existing ore sorting technologies seem to focus on distinguishing mineralized material from gangue, but MineSense seems to be targeting using actual ore grades as the defining factor. They hope to be able to eventually integrate their technology into equipment such as shovels, scooptrams, conveyors, feeders, and transfer chutes.
More specifically their proprietary technology is based on High Frequency Electromagnetic Spectrometry and High Speed X-Ray Fluorescence sensors. Reportedly these can deliver better sensitivity and operate at high speeds. They plan to develop two distinct product lines; shovel-based systems; and conveyor belt-based systems.
Their ShovelSense system would be a real-time mineral telemetry and decision system and used for measurement of ore quality while material is being scooped into the dipper, then reporting the ore quality and type to the grade control/ore routing system, and then enabling real-time online ore/waste dispatch decisions. Additional features may include tramp metal and missing tooth detection.
Their belt conveyor systems (SortOre and BeltSense) will use high-speed multi-channel sensing to characterize conveyed ore and waste in real time, allowing grades and tonnages to be reported and allowing ore to be diverted to correct destinations based on the sensor responses. MineSense say that pilot units are operating at 20 tph and systems of up to 2000 tph are in the development stages. Ore sorting has been around for a long time, with companies like Tomra (www.tomra.com), but possibly the MineSense technical approach will be different.
My bottom line is that we should all keep an eye on the continued development of this technology, especially as MineSense completes larger field trials. Hopefully they will readily share the results with us since it will be critical for industry players to see more actual case study performance data on their website. I recognize that developing new technology will have its successes and failures. Setbacks should not necessarily be viewed as fatal flaws since it takes time to work out all the kinks. Hopefully after being able to fine tune their technology they can advance to their next stage which will be to convince the mining industry to adopt it.
P.S. Unfortunately it appears MineSense don’t have a newsletter sign-up form on their website to help us in following their progress.

48. Online Collaboration and Management Tools (Part 2)

This blog is the Part 2 continuation of the post from last week regarding software tools that the mining people should take a look at. Here are a few more ideas that I would like to share, having found that these are also great to have in your toolbox.
Google Sheets and Google Docs: When undertaking group reviews of spreadsheets or text documents don’t many of us have frustrations? We typically end up with different versions of the same document floating around and nobody knows which one is the most recent version and which one they should be editing. With Google Sheets and Google Docs you can create online spreadsheets and documents and then allow people on your team to review and edit them in real-time online. Writing reports gets simpler since there is only one version of the document with which everyone is working. A “track changes” option is still there (called “Suggesting”) and everyone can see the edits as they are being made. No more asking “who has the most current version?” it’s always there on-line. This type of collaborative editing is also great for certain types of spreadsheets as well as for Design Criteria Documents that are regularly being updated by different team members.
Foxit Reader:  This is an alternative to Adobe Reader and can be used for reviewing PDF documents, whether text documents or drawings. Foxit provides great editing and commenting tools like highlighting text, adding comments, drawing lines and boxes, adding comment balloons, cut & pasting images into the PDF file, and then saving the commented version. For the most part I have stopped using Adobe Reader and have now switched over to Foxit.
Foxit Reader screenshot

Foxit Reader screenshot

UberConference:  This is an online application for team conference calling that allows screen sharing, online conversations, sends out meeting reminders, and it will call participants at the require time. Watch the video on their website to gain a better understanding; it’s entertaining and true to life.
Uber Conference screenshot

Uber Conference screenshot

Those are a few of the software tools that I have found useful and so now you’re probably wondering “what else is out there for me?” The website The Freelance Stack lists many of different tools that exist. Check them out and some of the others may be of value to you. :
One of the key marketing approaches used by most of the tech companies is to provide a fully functional product for free and then charge money to access the enhanced features. The objective is to get future users familiarized and trained on the system, and then they will decide that they wish to upgrade their capability and so pay for the full product suite. I’m not sure if any geology or mining software  is available in a basic functional format enabling optional upgrading. By functional, I don’t mean simply providing a “viewer” to view the work of others or a 30-day trial period, I mean actual software that provides some actual useful capability for free in order to get you hooked.
My bottom line is that there is a lot of good stuff out there, readily available, much of it free, and it can make managing your project teams easier. Just because it’s related to the tech industry, don’t assume it wouldn’t have an application in the mining industry.