First Quantum catches a break, BHP invests US$4.9 billion in Jansen and Canada launches

First Quantum’s contract with Panama’s government for its Cobre Panama copper mine was spared from a bill putting a moratorium on future mining activities in the country. Courtesy of First Quantum Minerals.

Welcome back to your weekly mining news recap, where we catch you up on some of the news you may have missed. This week’s headlines include Marathon Gold’s Valentine gold project expansion being greenlit, Imperial Oil completing the conversion of its truck fleet at Kearl to fully autonomous vehicles and unionized workers at Goldcorp Canada making major gains in a new contract.

Panama legislators approved a bill on Thursday night that banned all future mining concessions and contract renewals in the country, but at the last minute eliminated the clause that would repeal the highly controversial contract with Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals, as reported by The contract, signed into law last week, allows First Quantum to continue operating its Cobre Panama copper mine for 20 years, with a potential 20-year extension, and granted the government a minimum US$375 million in royalties annually. Protests have roiled Panama City for weeks in response to the contract. Last weekend, the country’s president capitulated by promising a national referendum on the contract, but parliament buried his bill. It will now be up to Panama’s Supreme Court to decide whether the contract is unconstitutional. In a Nov. 3 statement, First Quantum said that production at the mine has been unaffected, but protests and road blockades have “caused disruptions on site as well as shortages in certain supplies.”

The federal government’s $1.5 billion critical minerals infrastructure fund will begin accepting applications in late fall, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson announced on Tuesday. The fund is meant to address infrastructure gaps hindering the production of critical minerals in Canada, and is looking to support clean energy and transportation projects.

BHP greenlit a US$4.9 billion investment in the second phase of its Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, as reported by Reuters. The spend is one of BHP’s largest ever capital investments. Stage two is expected to take six years to complete and will double Jansen’s capacity to roughly 8.5 million tonnes per year by the end of 2029. The first stage of the project, which would see the first ore produced in 2027, is 32 per cent complete and progressing on schedule, the company said.

Imperial Oil has converted the entire fleet of 81 haul trucks at its Kearl oil sands mine in Alberta to autonomous operation, as reported by Canadian Mining Journal. The company began its multi-year conversion program in 2018, and is now one of the largest autonomous mine fleet operators globally. It also announced in its third-quarter results that it has started up the final boiler flue gas unit, which will reduce the operation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Marathon Gold received approval to expand its Valentine gold project in Newfoundland to include the Berry deposit on Monday, concluding the provincial environmental assessment process. The Berry deposit was discovered in 2020, and Marathon announced it would include it as a third pit within the Valentine mine plan in its December 2022 updated feasibility study. Marathon filed environmental assessment registration materials with the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in mid-August. The company said that it has been told by federal regulators that no new impact assessment would be necessary, though the federal environment and climate change minister may make amendments to the decision statement on Valentine.

Unionized workers at Goldcorp Canada in Timmins, Ont., locked in major wage gains in their new contract, as reported by Northern Ontario Business. United Steelworkers Local 7580 reported its new collective agreement secured 20 per cent wage increases for operations staff and 26 per cent increases for tradespeople. Operations workers will receive a $4,000 contract signing bonus, and trades workers will get a $1,000 bonus. The 250 employees in the local union branch will also see shift premium increases and pension and benefits improvements.

Rio Tinto signed a five-year agreement on Monday with Italian cable manufacturer Prysmian Group to supply it with low-carbon aluminum from Rio Tinto’s Canadian operations. The companies will use their shared technologies, and research and development capabilities, to develop “multi-material solutions in support of North America’s growing electrification demand.” Rio Tinto noted in a press release that renewables are expected to grow to represent 44 per cent of power generation by 2050, up from 21 per cent in 2021, a transition that will require major investments in power grids.

Eight mining companies launched the GeoStable Tailings Consortium to study new tailings management technologies and methods, wrote Silvia Pikal in the November issue of CIM Magazine. The consortium includes Antamina, Barrick, Newmont and Teck Resources, among others. The group is building on work started by Goldcorp Inc. to advance geo-waste and geo-tailings research, before its acquisition by Newmont.

Ukraine is already a major source of metals and minerals, with the annual value of mineral production from the country sitting at US$15 billion. Absent the war and with some foreign investment, the country has the potential to become a producing powerhouse, Robert Horn, a former member of the Geological Survey of Canada’s advisory committee, told Ailbhe Goodbody in the November issue of CIM Magazine. Horn said the country will need financial and technical assistance to rebuild its mining economy after the war, and argued Canada is in a position to help.

Screens and screening media are key not just to getting the right particle size, but also cutting downtime and improving processing capacity. Tijana Mitrovic reported for the September/October issue of CIM Magazine on the solutions screen manufacturers have created to address a range of materials, boost capacity, monitor performance and more.

More third quarter reports have been released this week, including from Barrick Gold Corporation, Taseko Mines Limited, Centerra Gold, Cameco, Sherritt International Corporation, Lundin Mining, Torex Gold, Equinox Gold and First Majestic Silver Corp.

That’s all for this week. If you’ve got feedback, you can always reach us at If you’ve got something to add, why not join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram pages?

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