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Not So Nifty: Metals X Puts the Brakes on Copper, Turns to Tin

The company said it would review its options for the Nifty copper mine in Western Australia, which was not living up to expectations.

Diversified Australian miner Metals X (ASX:MLX,OTC Pink:MLXEF) has decided to dip out of copper for the time being after production at its Nifty copper mine in Western Australia levelled off despite an ongoing “reset plan.”

According to the company’s release on Tuesday (November 26), an ongoing operational review announced in mid-November had shown that the company was not going to achieve its planned copper production at an acceptable cost in the timeframe it laid out in May 2019 under the reset plan. The plan had envisaged that Nifty would eventually produce around 35,000 tonnes of copper concentrate annually by the March 2021 quarter — in the last quarterly report, the mine yielded 3,425 tonnes of copper.

“On this basis, the Board … considers that continuing operations at Nifty at this time is not in the best interests of shareholders,” the company said.

The mine, located in the East Pilbara region of Western Australia, will still see some activity, with the company committing to processing remaining ore stocks over the coming week, before progressively placing Nifty on care and maintenance after it makes its final copper shipment.

While mothballed, the company will continue to process its already available drilling data to upgrade the strategic resources of the mine to “support planning for future mining operations.”

The company didn’t commit to reopening the mine itself, however, adding that it is reviewing its strategic options in relation to Nifty and will appoint external advisors.

Metals X Managing Director Damien Marantelli said that the company had invested significantly to get the mine going again after acquiring it in 2016.

“Unfortunately, despite this, the operation is not where it was expected to be at this stage of the reset plan and following the operational review, the increased uncertainty in the plan leaves us with no viable alternative,” he said.

The conundrum facing Metals X had been noted by financial analysts at Hartleys, who had said in their November report that because cash was likely to be so tight due to issues with output at Nifty, there were questions around whether Metals X was capable of bringing Nifty to a cash positive position.

“The March 2020 quarter was pencilled in for break-even, but if the company sees more cash going out, it might be forced to pursue alternative plans, including placing Nifty on care and maintenance, and/or asset sales,” analysts said at the time, accurately predicting that care and maintenance would be the fate of Nifty.

“Mine closure would bring over $40 million site rehabilitation commitments to the fore (although not immediately), so care and maintenance is a more likely move,” they said.

Hartleys moved Metals X from a speculative buy recommendation to a neutral one, noting that Nifty’s failure put the company in “its toughest position.”

The mine closure will lead to the loss of 290 jobs, and will cost the company AU$12 million in upfront costs, AU$7 million in the following two months and AU$1.4 million each month after.

Copper has been down in the dumps amid the trade war, and as of November 25, was trading at US$5,872 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Instead, the company said it would focus its efforts on its 50 percent share of the Renison tin joint venture in Tasmania, which the company shares with the Chinese state-owned company Yunnan Tin — the largest tin producer in the world.

Renison, which is operated by Bluestone Mines Tasmania Joint Venture and is the largest tin producing asset in Australia, is also in the process of being expanded.

It has its own associated infrastructure and is located near the town of Zeehan on the west coast of the island state, making Metals X an integrated miner.

Renison currently produces around 7,000 tonnes of tin concentrate annually and has an associated mineral resource of 15 million tonnes grading 1.35 percent tin.

Currently, tin is trading on the LME at US$16,325 a tonne.

Metals X was trading at AU$0.115 at the end of trading on November 26.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Featured

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation  is pleased to announce positive results from 48 drill holes, totaling 7,936 metres, drilled on the C6, C1 and C2 targets at its Cameron Copper Project as part of ongoing exploration at the property.  The drill program encountered intercepts of high-grade mineralization, within long, low-grade mineralized envelopes, with lateral continuity between intercepts of up to 1 kilometre. …

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (TSX: CMMC) (ASX: C6C) (the “Company” or “Copper Mountain”) is pleased to announce positive results from 48 drill holes, totaling 7,936 metres, drilled on the C6, C1 and C2 targets at its Cameron Copper Project (“Cameron”), as part of ongoing exploration at the property. The drill program encountered intercepts of high-grade mineralization, within long, low-grade mineralized envelopes, with lateral continuity between intercepts of up to 1 kilometre. The Company plans to carry out further drilling that will also include new undrilled targets with significant copper-gold anomalies in surface soil and rock samples. Cameron is situated 40 kilometres south of the Company’s Eva Copper Project (“Eva”), located in the Mount Isa region of Queensland, Australia near Cloncurry. See Appendix 1 for a regional location map. View PDF

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Copper Mountain Mining Corporation will be hosting a conference call on Monday, November 1, 2021 at 7:30 am for senior management to discuss its third quarter 2021 results. The Company will be releasing its third quarter 2021 financial and operating results before markets open on Monday, November 1, 2021 . Dial-in information: Toronto and international: 1 764 8650 North America : 1 664 6383 Webcast: Replay …

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (TSX: CMMC) (ASX: C6C) (the “Company” or “Copper Mountain”) will be hosting a conference call on Monday, November 1, 2021 at 7:30 am (Pacific Time) for senior management to discuss its third quarter 2021 results. The Company will be releasing its third quarter 2021 financial and operating results before markets open on Monday, November 1, 2021 .

Dial-in information:
Toronto and international: 1 (416) 764 8650
North America (toll-free): 1 (888) 664 6383
Webcast: https://produceredition.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1501080&tp_key=fd3437f8d3

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Copper Mountain Mining Corporation  is pleased to announce that it has successfully installed and commenced commissioning of the third ball mill at its Copper Mountain Mine, which is located in southern British Columbia, Canada near the town of Princeton.  The installation of the third ball mill completes the Ball Mill 3 Expansion Project which will increase plant milling capacity to 45,000 tonnes per day from …

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (TSX: CMMC) (ASX:C6C) (the “Company” or “Copper Mountain”) is pleased to announce that it has successfully installed and commenced commissioning of the third ball mill at its Copper Mountain Mine, which is located in southern British Columbia, Canada near the town of Princeton. The installation of the third ball mill completes the Ball Mill 3 Expansion Project which will increase plant milling capacity to 45,000 tonnes per day from 40,000 tonnes per day.

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a bowl of U3O8 yellow cake

Australia is the second largest producer of uranium in the world. Here's a look at the mines that are producing today, and the significant ones that are being developed.

Despite sitting on the largest known recoverable resources of uranium worldwide — 1.69 million metric tonnes in 2019 — Australia uses no part of it for energy. Instead, Australia exports the valuable resource, which accounts for one-quarter of its energy exports.

In fact, Australia was the second largest producer of uranium in 2020, producing 6,203 metric tonnes. It was only beaten by Kazakhstan, which produced nearly 20,000 metric tonnes that year.

Australian uranium production has centred around three mines in recent years — Olympic Dam, Beverly Four Mile and Ranger — until the Ranger mine ceased operations in 2021.

Main mines in the country

Here's a closer at these mines and the companies that own them:

1. Olympic Dam owned by BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)

The Olympic Dam complex is built upon one of the world's most significant deposits of copper, gold, silver and uranium. In fact, it's the world's largest known uranium deposit. It has both underground and surface operations and it has a fully integrated processing facility, which means it is capable of extracting, refining and processing mined commodities.

In 2020, BHP Billiton produced 3,000 metric tonnes of uranium oxide (U3O8), which is nearly half of Australia's output and 6 percent of the world's production. In 2021, their uranium segment accounted for US$249 million in revenue.

Although the company produces a significant amount of global uranium, its production of copper, iron ore, coal and petroleum dwarfs its uranium production by a wide margin.

2. Beverly and Four Mile owned by private company Heathgate Resources

Australia's first in-situ recovery mine at Beverly sits on a uranium deposit about 520 kilometres from Adelaide. Owned by Heathgate Resources, a subsidiary of US-based General Atomics, the Beverly mine itself has all been mined out and production exclusively occurs at the nearby Four Mile mine (owned by Quasar, a subsidiary of Heathgate).

In 2020, Heathgate Resources mined 2,130 tonnes of uranium oxide from Four Mile, accounting for 4 percent of the world's uranium production.

3. Ranger Uranium Mine owned by Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA)

Ranger was the longest serving uranium production mine in Australia at 35 years, located 8 km east of the town of Jabiru. The mine officially stopped processing operations in January 2021 after traditional owners of the land did not support extending the Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA) authority in the area. The company had already stopped mining operations back in 2012 and had been processing stockpiled ore since then.

The ERA, whose parent company is Rio Tinto, produced 1,574 tonnes of uranium oxide for 2020 — accounting for 2 percent of the world's uranium production — before shutting the mine down.

According to their 2020 annual report, continuing mining at Ranger in the future is also unviable. A change in legislation would be required and the company states that monitoring the mine in the gap between ceasing and resuming operations would simply add to its cost burden.

While ERA still holds the lease on the nearby Jabiluka orebody, it has been firm that it will not develop the site without the consent of the Mirrar Aboriginal people, and so the Jabiluka development has been indefinitely deferred.

Future mines in Australia

Australia accounts for almost one-third of the world's uranium deposits and there are several future exploration and expansion uranium projects brewing in the country. With 31 known deposits for uranium including the three discussed above, the list for potential new mines or mines being brought back online is long. Here are a few noteworthy ones.

1. Honeymoon

The deposit was discovered in the 1970s, and in 2015 Boss Energy (ASX:BOE) bought Uranium One Australia and acquired the mine as part of the deal. The project is permitted to export up to 3.3 million pounds (1,496 tonnes) per annum and production is expected soon.

2. Mulga Rock

This polymetallic deposit was first discovered by PNC Exploration in 1979 and is now owned by Vimy Resources (ASX:VMY), formerly Energy & Minerals Australia. The deposit is divided into Mulga Rock East and West, and also hosts scandium, nickel and cobalt.

With approvals from both state and federal governments in 2016 and 2017 respectively, the mine can produce up to 1,300 tonnes of U3O8 per year. Vimy Resources intends to start on the Ambassador deposit with open-pit mining with an 85 percent recovery rate.

3. Angela / Bigrlyi / Obagooma / Thatcher Soak

Elevate Uranium (ASX:EL8), formerly known as Marenica Energy, has acquired or bought stakes in several mining projects in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. While there is no clear timeline on start of operations for any project, managing director and CEO Murray Hill was quoted saying that he expects the price of uranium to increase over the next decade, meaning the company would be well-leveraged as it bought assets at a reduced price.

Hill also expects modular reactor technology to improve in the next decade, allowing nuclear energy to be used across the landscape in rural areas and not just the bigger cities.

Market Outlook

After suffering low prices after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the nuclear energy market is expected to pick up, with generation growing nearly 3 percent annually by 2040, according to the World Nuclear Association's Nuclear Report. As the world continues to pivot to net-zero emissions, nuclear energy will find increasing favour from countries looking to shift their energy generation to cleaner sources.

The report states that uranium production will remain stable until the end of the 2020s and then decrease by nearly half from 2030 to 2040, highlighting the need for increased exploration and production in the space to avoid future supply disruptions.

Many projects are at advanced development stages and are only waiting for improved prices from the market.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Pallavi Rao, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

carbon emissions

Following international pressure, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In a last-minute commitment after months of debate, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, expecting to meet the goal largely through technology development.

The move comes following international pressure as Australia had previously refused to join countries in pledging to meet the target ahead of the United Nations' COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

However, the plan unveiled on Tuesday (October 26), which includes a government investment of AU$20 billion, does not strengthen the target set for 2030, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australia is on track to beat its Paris Agreement goal, cutting emissions by 30 to 35 percent by that decade.


"We will do this the Australian way," Morrison said ahead of a press conference, announcing investments in new energy technologies like hydrogen and low-cost solar.

An Australian hydrogen industry could be worth more than AU$50 billion in 2050, according to the government. Meanwhile, expanding production and processing of metals like lithium, nickel, copper and uranium could together be worth around AU$85 billion in exports in 2050.

That said, Australia will continue to be heavily dependent on fossil fuels as the plan will not shut down coal or gas production. The country is a major coal player, with the third largest reserves in the world, but its reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita.

"We want our heavy industries, like mining, to stay open, remain competitive and adapt, so they remain viable for as long as global demand allows," Morrison said. "We will not support any mandate — domestic or international — to force closure of our resources or agricultural industries."

Australia's desire to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 is a step in the right direction, Prakash Sharma, Wood Mackenzie's Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions, said.

"Our analysis shows that Australia can reach net zero emissions by 2050," he said. The country's major trading partners — China, Japan and South Korea — are already in transition towards that goal.

According to Wood Mackenzie, nearly 83 percent of Australia's power generation will come from solar and wind by 2050, as compared to about 20 percent last year. Natural gas, bio energy, geothermal and small modular reactors will supply the remaining 17 percent in power output. Coal into power is expected to be phased out by 2035.

"Although the pathway requires complete transformation of its traditional energy and export sectors, there are significant opportunities to capitalise on and protect future revenues," Sharma said.

"This will require Australia to become a significant player in low-carbon hydrogen trade as well as being able to offer carbon storage and offset services."

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the prime minister's commitment to reach net zero by 2050, but said the mid-century goal is only meaningful with deep cuts to climate pollution this decade.

"Unless the government sets the wheels in motion to cut our emissions in half by 2030, it is making climate change worse and turning its back on the opportunities," said Chief Executive Kelly O'Shanassy.

"Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy," she added. "We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent, but we cannot delay any longer."

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.