Frik Els

Frik has worked as a financial journalist for 15 years covering a variety of industries for several publications including British Airways in-flight magazine, Business Insider,,, YCharts and Business in Vancouver.

Frik presented at the Global Mining Summit in Las Vegas, Resources Investment Conference in Vancouver, Mines & Money London 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.)

Tough talk about Oyu Tolgoi does nothing to staunch Ivanhoe bleeding

A statement put out by Ivanhoe Mines and partner Rio Tinto on Monday saying it has formally informed the Mongolian government it won't renegotiate the terms of the Oyu Tolgoi investment did not have the desired effect and the share was beaten down 6.6% on Monday. The counter’s losses began after rumours – now confirmed – surfaced that the Mongolian government is rethinking a 2009 deal that gave Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto a 66% stake in Oyu Tolgoi and that it now wants half of the $6 billion gold and copper project.

Potash Corp's market worth dropping $1 billion per day

The value of stock in Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, the world’s largest miner of the soil nutrient, are down more than 13% or $6 billion since Tuesday after losing 2.8% in afternoon trade on Monday on the back of plummeting corn prices in the US. The price per bushel of the largest US crop has declined 25% since June and farmers are now hard-pressed to slash input costs which means cutting back on fertilizer. Globally there is a similar trend and in India, the world's largest importer of potash, sales were down more than 50% over the monsoon planting season.

Gold bounces back after bear raid

December gold added $35 or 2.2% to trade at $1,657.10 an ounce in noon dealings in New York on Monday regaining a sliver of the ground lost during September, the worst month for the precious metal since the start of the 2008 recession. September was a particularly volatile period for gold. Early on the metal hit an intraday record of $1,923.10 only to shed 17% over the course of the month. Today's dealings are also in sharp contrast to a week ago: in Asian trade on Monday September 26 bullion plunged $130 within a few hours, a move which many gold bugs are now saying had nothing to do with fundamentals but was intended to send a message.

US now pays less than $70/barrel for Canada crude, the world's cheapest oil

The price of US crude oil crashed through the $80/barrel level on Friday afternoon bringing its losses to more than 10% in September and suffering its worst quarter since the 2008 recession. At the same time the discount on Western Canada Select widened to $10.50/barrel meaning oil sands producers now sell some of the cheapest fuel on the planet. The international benchmark for oil was pegged at over $102 on Friday. Canada exports 2 million barrels of oil per day and a lack of pipelines means all of it goes to the US Midwest, the pricing point for US crude.

PNG nickel mine ready to start dumping 200 million tonnes of waste in ocean

Despite a rancourous dispute with local landowners over compensation and infrastructure upgrades and an appeal against a Papua New Guinea High Court ruling approving the dumping, Australia's Highlands Pacific on Friday said it is confident it could power on its already built mine next year after the intervention of a provincial governor. The wrangling over the $1.5 billion Ramu nickel and cobalt mine that over its life will dump 100 million tonnes of waste 400m offshore comes as the new PNG's government moves to quell concerns about proposed changes to mining rights that would potentially force projects worth billions of dollars into renegotiation.

Loyal Silvercorp investors come out ahead after dark and stormy month

Shareholders who held onto their Silvercorp Metals stock during the rollercoaster ride that started on September 2 when the company had to disclose fraud allegations and a massive short position in its stock, had something to show for their loyalty on Friday. Silvercorp, China's biggest silver miner, is now worth more than it was before the scam was exposed. You had to have nerves of steel though – volumes sky-rocketed, intra-day swings reached 22% and at one point shell-shocked owners were down a net 30%. And what is most remarkable: Silvercorp's gains are into the teeth of a silver price that has dropped 27% and a sector slaughtered along with it.

A jaundiced view of the diamond market

One shouldn't compare pears and squares but there is no better indication that coloured diamonds are spearheading record auction prices than news that a yellow weighing slightly less than the 33-carat flawless D-colour Liz Taylor wore every day, is expected to fetch three time as much as the Hollywood legend's gem when it goes on sale next month.

Price of abundant rare earths could halve as hybrid-makers find alternatives

The price of the most abundant rare-earths are set to extend their decline from records this year as Japanese manufacturers, including Toyota the world’s top REE consumer, switch to recycled materials or eliminate the need for REEs altogether. Prices of certain elements such as cerium used to polish TV screens and lenses are already down 40% after months of break-neck price hikes while lanthanum which finds its way into nickel-metal hydride batteries has shown similar declines. However, the price of some REEs such as samarium used in jet fighter electrical systems are showing no signs of decline despite increasing 25-fold in just three years.

Here comes Keystone XXL

Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge on Thursday announced a proposed new 800 kilometre (500 mile) pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma – the pricing point for US crude – to the Gulf of Mexico. The Wrangler Pipeline would have the capacity to carry up to 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Although the glut at Cushing has eased this year it is the main factor behind US crude trading near a record discount of $25/barrel to the international Brent benchmark. Canadian heavy oil from the oil sands – all of which goes to the US – sells for $10+ less than US crude, meaning oil sands developers have to deal with an effective oil price of $60-$70 a barrel. Unlike the controversial Keystone XL, Wrangler does not cross international boundaries and won't have to be approved by US president Barack Obama.

BCGold Corp. drops 10% after private placement falls way short of expectations

Vancouver-based gold and copper explorer BCGold Corp. dropped 10% or 1c on the Toronto venture board after announcing that it closed the second tranche of its private placement for a total just shy of $1.6 million. In a sign that raising money is much harder now than just three months ago, the number falls far short of the $2.4 million the tiny firm was hoping for when it announced the non-brokered private placement in July. The firm hasn't struggled to find investors in the past – sector giant Kinross holds 8% while institutions have secured more than a fifth of the company. The stock is down from an all-time high of 80c hit in January of 2007.

BHP and Rio's output plans for Pilbara reach staggering 750 million Mtpa

Mining Weekly reports mining giant BHP Billiton unveiled plans on Wednesday to increase its iron-ore production in the Pilbara region – the heart of Australia's iron ore mining – to 450-million tons a year by adding infrastructure and building new mines. BHP's current iron-ore production capacity is 155 million tons a year in the Pilbara, while rival Rio Tinto’s capacity is 225 million tons a year. Rio Tinto announced a fortnight ago that it wants to grow output to 333 million tonnes by 2015.

Big 3 see no China weakness – iron ore imports could climb 60% to 1 billion tonnes

Speaking to reporters at an industry conference in Qingdao China, the world's largest iron ore miners said on Wednesday they have seen no weakness in demand from China. Forecasts for China's imports by 2015 now top 1 billion tonnes – up more than 60% from 2010 – due to the relatively high cost and the low quality of its domestic supplies. Firm demand from China's construction sector and a drop off in India's exports have been behind the strength in spot iron ore prices which, at above $170 a tonne, have trebled from late 2008. The big three – BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto – control nearly 70% of the annual iron ore seaborne trade and dominate price talks.

Brazil must choose between potash and oil

Vale announced this week it is investing $15 billion to expand fertilizer production joining a Canadian merchant bank promoting a $4 billion potash project in the Amazon basin. There's just one problem: the land is owned by Brazil's state oil company Petrobras and they've also found oil there.

Nobel peace prize winners won't give Keystone a chance

TransCanada’s bid to build the Keystone XL pipeline is facing growing high-profile opposition, drawing fire from the Dalai Lama (pictured), Archbishop Desmond Tutu and seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates on Wednesday who are following in the footsteps of a raft of Hollywood celebrities and green activists. The laureates, only one of whom is North American, insist the project will "endanger the entire planet" and urged US President Barack Obama not to approve construction of the $7 billion, 3,190km Keystone XL pipeline that could carry up to 700,000 barrels per day of Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast and ensure a better price for Canadian crude, which trades at a discount of more than $20/barrel to international prices.

Stillwater withdraws offer after 'dramatic deterioration' on capital markets

Stillwater Mining Company on Monday became one of the first miners to find funding drying up following the punishment meted out to precious metals recently, when it announced after market close that it is withdrawing its proposed offering of senior notes due to the "dramatic deterioration of the capital markets during the past week." Stillwater said it still has enough funds for the $165 million net cash portion of the Peregrine transaction. The counter shed just over 1% of its value on the NYSE on Monday on a generally positive day for the markets, but is down 35% since last Monday. Stillwater is the only US producer of palladium and platinum and is the largest primary producer of platinum group metals outside of South Africa and Russia. Platinum was trading at $1,565/oz on Monday, down from a year-high of $1,916/oz.

Spooked investors dump Ivanhoe despite reassurances – shares crash 21%

A statement put out by Ivanhoe Mines on Monday telling investors that its Oyu Tolgoi project remains on track and pooh-poohing rumours about the Mongolian government reneging on the deal that Ivanhoe and partner Rio Tinto spent five years negotiating did little to ease the fears of investors. By lunchtime Ivanhoe had plummeted more than 21.3%, crashing through the $10 billion market valuation level and taking the week's losses to 33%, with the number of shares changing hands already exceeding the daily average. Ivanhoe also appeared to have patched things up with Rio Tinto on Monday after it said last week it's unhappy that the world's number two miner told investors about possible delays to the mega-project.

Australia coal industry says tax compensation would only delay mine closures by a year

The Blue Mountains Gazette reports the Australian Coal Association says $1.3 billion in proposed government compensation would delay by only one year the premature closure of four of the 21 mines that an industry survey found were under threat from the government's carbon tax. On top of the carbon tax set to kick in mid-2012, Australian miners also have to contend with the new minerals resource rent tax set at an effective 22.5% rate on the so-called super-profits of the extractive industries.

Gold hammered again despite talk of $2.5 trillion Europe bailout

Gold for December delivery dropped $40, or 2.5%, to just under the $1,600 an ounce level in midday trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday, but had recovered from sharp losses which saw the metal reach a low of $1,535 shortly after the open. Talk that a bailout for the Eurozone could top 2 trillion euros failed to boost the demand for gold as an inflation hedge. Gold has now declined more than $300 since setting an intraday record of $1,923.10/oz in the second week of September, but is well clear of its year low of just under $1,300/oz and most analysts remain positive about gold's long term trend.

British Telecom won't dig up its copper cables worth $77 billion, not yet anyway

British Telecom on Friday had to talk down the value of its 75 million miles of copper cables criss-crossing the United Kingdom after an analyst at investment bank Investec calculated that the scrap value of the copper is £50 billion ($77 billion) at today's prices – almost $50 billion more than BT's market cap.

London Metal Exchange could sell out

Bloomberg reports the London Metal Exchange which handles some 80% of global trade in industrial metals futures, told members it may get a takeover offer after multiple approaches from potential bidders. The 134-year-old exchange is owned by the trading houses and banks like Barclays and JP Morgan that trade on the market which keeps fees low. Despite talk of an $1.2 billion offer as far back as 2008, it is unclear how receptive they would be to selling out after a senior executive of the exchange told Reuters in March it had no plans to change its independent status despite increasing competition, particularly in Asia.

US court throws out potash price-fixing lawsuit

CTV reports a US federal appeals court threw out an antitrust class-action lawsuit accusing seven companies of engaging in a global conspiracy to raise the price of potash since 2003 on the grounds that it could not rule on the alleged wrongful conduct on markets in India, China and Brazil. The defendants included Agrium, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, Mosaic Co., and four companies that conduct mining operations in Russia and Belarus: Uralkali, Silvinit, Belarusian Potash and International Potash. Together the groups produce some 70% of the world's potash.

Silvercorp escapes silver meltdown after finding someone to sue

After a three-week hunt Canada's Silvercorp Metals on Friday found the alleged short-sellers behind an effort to drive down the company’s stock price. The company is suing two New York-based websites – and – for spreading false information. While Silvercorp was trading down 1.4% in early afternoon trade losses among silver heavyweights were much deeper with bellwether Silver Wheaton skidding 11% as the precious metal plummeted 17.7% to barely above $30/oz. Silvercorp is up 0.6% over the last two trading days against the S&P TSX index which has bled 7%. It was the worst trading day for silver in decades.

Panicked traders send gold, silver and copper into 'downward spiral'

December gold suffered another day of steep losses, dropping $82 an ounce, or 4.7%, to $1,659.50 in New York in noon trade on Friday, as investors were forced to raise cash to cover losses suffered on global stock markets this week. Copper extended its sharp declines on the London Metal Exchange falling as much as 7.3% to $7,115.75 a metric ton. Prices declined for a sixth day in a row losing 14% this week and have now slumped 26% from the record high of $10,190 set in February. Silver was hardest hit on Friday, plummeting 11.2% to $32.48. One metals analyst summed up the day this way: “We’re in a downward spiral, and no one knows when it’s going to end."

Day of carnage on oil market brings Suncor 2011 losses to $20 billion

Weak manufacturing data from China and a US economy deemed to have "significant downside risk," saw benchmark North American crude futures drop more than $5 to just above $80 a barrel, bringing the discount to international oil prices to more than $25. The biggest oil sands player, Suncor Energy (TSE.SU), tumbled 6.8% to C$26.21 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, bringing its year to date losses to more than 30%. Canadian heavy oil – all of which goes to the US – sells for $15 less than US crude, meaning oil sands developers have to deal with an effective oil price of $60-$70 a barrel that puts at risk many of the $100 billion of projects on the go in Alberta.

Central African Republic diamond war death toll climbs

AFP reports a recent outbreak of fighting between rival armed groups in the Central African Republic – one of the poorest countries in the world – vying for control over diamond mines left 43 dead, an army source said Thursday. The toll originally stood at 30 following week-long clashes in the central town of Bria which erupted on September 11. Officials said the clashes are between the Ronga and the Goula, two rival ethnic groups who have feuded over the region's diamond mines for years.