Frik Els

Frik has worked as a financial journalist for 15 years covering a variety of industries for several business and consumer publications including British Airways in-flight magazine, Business Insider,,, YCharts and Business in Vancouver. Frik presented at the Global Mining Summit in Las Vegas, the Salt Lake City Mine Lifecycle Management conference and the Resources Investment Conference in Vancouver and has been interviewed on Korean state TV and CBC radio. (DISCLAIMER: Frik Els does not own shares or hold positions in any of the equities he writes about. Nothing written should be viewed as a solicitation to buy or sell any securities.)

Chavez climbs on bullion bandwagon – nationalizes Venezuelan gold industry

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (pictured) said on Wednesday he will nationalize the gold industry, from mining through to processing, and move bullion reserves held in Europe to Venezuela's central bank. Toronto-listed Rusoro is the only large gold miner operating in Venezuela and the country does not feature in the top 20 global gold producing states. In late afternoon trading Rusoro had lost 6.67% in above average volumes. Rusoro holds a 50% interest in the Isidora gold mine that produced some 100,000 ounces last year. The Chavez government holds the rest.

Namibia abandons draconian mine tax plans

A day after news of an onerous new mining royalty and taxation regime in Peru, Namibia, the world’s biggest miner of offshore diamonds and a top four uranium producer, drops plans for a huge jump in the corporate tax rate for miners and mineral export levies. Deputy Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein said on Wednesday, the country has withdrawn a proposal to increase the tax on non-diamond miners to 44% from 37.5% and will instead propose a windfall tax when international prices for the commodities are high. Namibia was one of 25 countries around the world that recently announced their intentions to increase their take of the mining industry’s profits or impose ownership and other restrictions.

Sprott charity sells gold to buy silver

The charitable foundation run by Sprott Assett Management's chief executive, Eric Sprott, announced Wednesday it is selling 2 million units in Sprott Physical Gold Trust and using the money to buy silver. The closed-end mutual fund trust holds 97% of its total net assets in physical gold bullion in London Good Delivery bar form. Eric Sprott is a well known investment manager and gold bug in Canada and personally holds 6,000,000 units of the trust worth about $94 million based on Wednesday's mid-afternoon price of $15.74 .

As promised Peru's leftist Humala strong arms miners into forking over profits

Reuters reports Peru's mining firms have agreed to pay higher royalties in an overhaul of the current system, sources on both sides of negotiations between companies and leftist President Ollanta Humala's government said on Tuesday. Under the new system, companies would pay royalties based on their operating profits, not sales and will be be similar to the system used in Chile. The new royalties rates still need to be defined, but they would likely be higher than the current rates of 1% – 3% charged on sales. The initiative comes as mining companies in Peru plan to invest $42.5 billion over the next decade, mainly in copper and gold projects. Peru is the world's largest miner of silver and the second-largest miner of copper.

Rio Tinto strikes it rich – at the box office

The world's number two miner provided funding and logistical support as far back as March 2010 for Red Dog, a movie about a kelpie roaming the mining towns of the Pilbara region and now finds itself one of the principal investors in Australia's number one hit movie of the year. There is a statue in the cattle dog's memory in Dampier, which is one of the towns in the 1970s to which he often returned in the region where most of Australia's iron ore is mined today. Iron ore exports alone contribute some 3.6% or $50 billion to Australia's economy.

Royal Bafokeng plans $1.4 billion platinum expansion

Bloomberg reports the proposed expansion by South Africa's Royal Bafokeng Platinum follows an increase in demand for platinum which has gained 19% in the past 12 months to $1,818/oz. Steve Phiri, RB Platinum CEO said demand is likely to exceed supply in the next three years, while a shortage of palladium, typically mined along with platinum, may rise to 1 million ounces in 2014. South Africa produces more than three-quarters of global supply.

Gold futures back to within striking distance of $1,800/oz as Paulson holds, Soros sells

Gold for December delivery traded at $1,789.60 in after hours trade on Tuesday after earlier achieving a new record closing price of $1,785 per ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The previous closing record was $1,784.30 last week Wednesday when gold futures contracts hit an all-time intra-day high above $1,800. Reuters reported earlier on Tuesday the largest gold fund players including hedge fund titan John Paulson stuck with their bullion bets in the second quarter, opting not to follow George Soros who further reduced his gold ETF holdings.

BHP profit to top $2.5 million per hour

The market is expecting BHP Billiton to post record-setting annual profits of $US22.1 billion next week on revenues forecast to be a staggering $71.9 billion. BHP investors, whose stock has hardly moved in a year despite stellar growth rates at the Melbourne-based company, would want to hear if another share buyback will follow the $10 billion round completed in June and any update on its purchase of Petrohawk. The world's biggest miner has a history dating back 150 years and its operations span the globe from potash in Canada (pictured) and coal in South Africa to nickel in Australia and copper in Chile.

Barrick shrugs downgrade, but foray into copper weighs on prospects

Barrick Gold Corp. closed down slightly and outperformed a weak broader market on Tuesday despite a downgrade from CIBC World Markets, which is advising investors to remain cautious as the miner diversifies into copper. Barrick is up some 12% this summer, tracking bullion's spectacular rise, but investors have not welcomed its move into base metals. In April it outbid a Chinese company for Equinox in a $7.7 billion deal, its first real foray outside gold. The global growth outlook has clouded considerably since then and copper – a good indicator of economic activity – is trading at 9-month lows.

Alberta analeptic: oil erases a week's losses and syncrude premium widens unexpectedly

Crude oil jumped to the highest level in more than a week on Monday after positive news about Japan signalled the global economy may not be in such dire straits as previously thought, the dollar slumped and fresh data showed China's reliance on foreign oil – now at over 55% – is increasing at a rapid pace. US crude in the form of West Texas Intermediate rose 3% to just shy of $88 per barrel and the discount to international prices narrowed slightly. The price for Canadian synthetic crude – a light oil manufactured from oil sands – topped $102 as the premium it attracts widened to over $15 despite a looming end to shortages.

Potash Corp. leads fertilizer stocks on rampage

A string of positive developments have lit a fire under North American potash stocks with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan leading the charge. The industry bellwether has made investors almost $5 billion richer since Tuesday after an Indian bid for Belarus's state-owned producer valued that company at close to $30 billion. The news came after the EU's largest player said its profits could jump 40% over the next six months and disappointing corn harvests in the US boosted demand for the soil nutrient. Potash Corp. dragged higher the whole sector which also saw the listing of a potash from waste firm on Monday.

Gold snaps two-day losing streak

Gold for December delivery rebounded Monday, finishing up $15.40 or almost 1% at $1,758 an ounce, after losing more than $40 over the past two trading days. Gold futures hit highs just above the $1,800 level last week and is up more than 24% for the year. Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the US dropping the gold standard which pegged the conversion rate for one ounce at $35. Most analysts do not expect demand for gold as a hedge against inflation to diminish and speculations that the US Fed will undertake a third round of monetary easing are mounting.

Potash from waste producer makes Canada market debut

Shares in Organic Potash Corporation commenced trading on the Canadian National Stock Exchange on Monday under the symbol "GOP". Organic Potash Corporation's focus is on the production of potash from the ash of agricultural waste – specifically cocoa husks – at a facility being constructed in Ghana with a 40,000 tonnes annual capacity.

India fails to enter brave new world of iron ore trading

India’s iron ore exports could halve over the next five years as the country feeds the expansion of its steel industry and resource nationalism becomes a big driver of policy in Delhi. Lower shipments from India, which exports almost half the 200 million tonnes it produces, should help bolster prices that have more than tripled in three years before massive Australian projects come on stream around 2014. The global trade in iron ore which not long ago featured antiquated annual contracts and secretive pricing has been transformed and Singapore will this week launch the first global iron ore futures contract.

40 years after dropping gold standard bugs feel vindicated but some fear party is over

Spot gold dropped one percent on Friday in Asian trade, extending losses from a fall of 1.6% in the previous session as risk appetite revived after reassuring US jobs data soothed anxious investors, but bullion remains poised for its best week since February 2009. CNBC reports as gold futures briefled topped a record $1,800 traders that are long gold began to get nervous that they were behind a trade that may not have any potential new buyers left. Reuters reports the surging price of gold is a vindication for the world's gold bugs 40 years after US President Nixon announced the abandonment of the gold standard – the anniversary is on Monday.

Molycorp sells 50 times more rare earth oxides

Rare earths miner Molycorp on Thursday swung into profit in the second quarter as it ramped up production at Mountain Pass, California, once the world's largest supplier of the sought-after elements used in anything from iPods to stealth helicopters. Net income came to $48.8 million compared with a loss of $23.3 million a year ago. Revenue came in just shy of $100 million, compared with only $1.9 million a year ago. Commenting on the results the company said global demand for rare-earth elements remains "very high" and supply outside China, which controls more than 95% of world output, is tight.

Odds against oil sands projects rapidly stacking up

Recent developments are rapidly stacking the odds against Alberta oil sands: the oil price has fallen 20% in one month, the gap between US crude and world prices hit a record on Wednesday above $24, the premium syncrude enjoyed in recent months is melting away and Canadian heavy oil's discount to US crude has widened to $15. The question now is how many of the $100 billion of oil sands projects in various stages of development will be completed or run at a profit when Canadian crude only attracts $60-$70 a barrel and could go lower. Sky-rocketing labour and equipment costs and a rising loonie could well turn out to be the proverbial last straw.

Innovative documentary shows zinc mining town being 'erased'

The Web documentary "Welcome to Pine Point" by combining video, photographs, text, music and narration and then blurring the boundaries among them, pushes storytelling and documentary filmmaking into new territory. "Welcome to Pine Point" is the story of a small lead and zinc mining town in Canada's Northwest Territories that physically disappeared from the map after the mines closed in 1988. The first buildings were erected in 1952 and at its peak it had 1,200 inhabitants.

Revett reports record second quarter earnings

Revett Minerals announced on Thursday record quarterly revenues of $18.8 million, a 102% increase compared to the same period last year. The Company also increased its cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of the second quarter to $14.7 million from $8.8 million at the beginning of the year. For the three months ended June 30, 2011 the Company had net income of $7.9 million or $0.23 per share. These record results are due to higher metal prices, significantly improved metal grades, and higher metallurgical and operating efficiencies.

Imperial, Exxon oil sands equipment run off Idaho, Montana roads

Imperial Oil  and Exxon Mobil Corp  said on Monday they have revised plans to ship massive pieces of oil sands equipment on US highways through Idaho and Montana after legal challenges and protests forced delays. The two companies have spent months battling conservationists and residents along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers in an attempt to move the two-lane-wide 'megaloads'. They will now try to dismantle the shipments and move them in smaller loads on bigger highways at a cost of some $70 million and the possibility of further delays for their $11 billion Kearl oil sands project.

Labrador Iron Ore Royalty split staples hardly moved by steep net income drop

Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Corporation, owners of a 15% stake in the Iron Ore Company of Canada, said it earned second-quarter net income of $48.2 million or 75 cents per unit from its investment, down from $69.3 million or $1.08 per unit in the same 2010 period. The company's stapled units started trading on a 2:1 split basis on the Toronto Stock Exchange on June 28, 2011 and lost 10c to close at $32.01 in Toronto on Wednesday. Investors have put a value of $4.1 billion on the company.

Allana Potash names new chair, applying for Toronto main board

Allana Potash said on Wednesday it has appointed Mark Stauffer, previously president of the Potash and Phosphate Institute of Canada, as chairman and is applying to move its listing to the Toronto main board. Up 80% since the start of the year stock in Allana, advancing a project in Ethiopia was trading steady on Wednesday amid the market turmoil. The company has announced a string of discoveries at its 160 square km Dallol project in Ethopia in recent months.

This German copper-moly miner gives a dram – 15 billion to be exact

Radio Free Europe reports an increase in world prices for base metals has made a 60-year old German-owned mining company the largest corporate taxpayer in Armenia. Data from the positively Soviet-sound State Revenue Committee released on Tuesday show the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine paying more than 15 billion drams ($41 million) in various taxes and duties in the first half of this year, compared to just 5.5 billion drams the same period last year.

Copper price: 500,000 tonnes of lost production to offset dropping demand

Despite a report on Wednesday showing a surge in July, China's copper imports were still down 22% in the first seven months, suggesting slowing demand in the world's top copper consumer is adding to concerns that shaky western economies will knock prices further. However, according to a new study by Canaccord the copper mining industry is operating under 'a high degree of stress' and called robust copper prices the 'new normal' thanks to supply shortages. More than 500,000 tonnes of production have been lost this year due to weather delays, poor deposit grades, worker strikes and mill problems, mostly in Chile, the world's number one producer.

Potash terminal star performer for Vancouver port

The North Shore news reports shipments of potash out of North Vancouver's Neptune Terminals rose 37% in the first six months of this year, compared to a mere 1% gain for overall tonnage handled by Port Metro Vancouver over last year. The increase, which brings the terminal's total to 3.8 million tonnes, was spurred by robust potash demand in Asia. Last year's total also marked a substantial jump from the previous year, when total tonnage rose 143%.