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.)

One-two hit for oil sands producers

Canadian Natural Resources announced this week it is poised to restart its Horizon plant seven months after it went up in flames and aims to spend over $2 billion to more than double its capacity. The Horizon outage led to a shortage of syncrude – a light oil manufactured from bitumen – which helped Alberta's producers attract a premium of $18 above benchmark US oil prices. That nice little earner will now likely melt away and follows a Reuters poll that showed a majority of analysts and oil traders expect the spread between US and international crude prices to surpass $30 in the next year.

Navajo Nation and Peabody Energy settle $600 million lawsuit after 12 years

The Navajo Nation's allegations that a coal mining company conspired with others to cheat the tribe out of as much as $600 million in royalties was settled in federal court on Thursday. The tribe sued what is now Peabody Energy in 1999. The terms of the agreement are confidential. The US Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo in a similar lawsuit filed against the federal government. Peabody has operated through a business partnership with the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe for more than 40 years in Northeastern Arizona.

Northgate Minerals delivers bad news all round

Canada's Northgate Minerals reported a wider quarterly net loss of $13 million hit by lower production and higher costs, and it lowered its full-year production forecast. Revenue fell 45% to $67.4 million. In July, Northgate Minerals said it would buy Primero Mining to form a new mid-tier gold producer, which will have a combined market capitalization of approximately $1.2 billion and will tie together the San Dimas mine in Mexico; the Fosterville and Stawell gold mines in Australia; and the Young-Davidson gold development project in Ontario. Investors shrugged off the news and the Vancouver-based company's shares opened barely changed in Toronto at C$3.15 on Friday giving it a market valuation of some $920 million.

Russians hike potash prices for India 32% one day after Canpotex inks deal

Russia's Uralkali, who together with Belaruskali and North-American producers represented by Canpotex, control almost 60% of world production, said on Thursday its trading company raised prices for India by 32%. Uralkali's export arm will supply 1.2 million tonnes to India at $490/tonne (up from $370/tonne) through the end of March 2012. On Wednesday arduous negotiations between Canpotex and India ended in a two-step deal that increases the export price to $470/tonne for the fourth quarter and adding another $60/tonne next year. India has some 55 million small farmers and is the world's number one importer at over 6 million tonnes per year.

AngloGold says gold market is entering "a perfect storm"

AngloGold Ashanti reported record quarterly profits on Thursday of $342 million, up a whopping 68%, boosted by the precious metal's longest winning streak in almost a century. The world’s third-largest gold miner cut production guidance by over 4% and said it expected its cash costs to rise as much as $80/oz however. The Johannesburg-based company's CEO said the gold market is entering "a perfect storm" and that gold could “easily” break through $1,700 an ounce. December gold reversed its record setting pace by midday on Thursday to trade at $1,661.70 after touching $1,684.90 in early trade.

Rio Tinto investors wake up Thursday $10 billion poorer

Rio Tinto reported a surge in profits due to strong demand in Asia and higher metals prices on Thursday but shares in the company spiked lower in New York, opening down more than 7% and wiping more than $10 billion off the value of the globe's second largest miner. Net earnings for the first half year were $7.6bn, up 30% on the $5.8bn the firm made a year earlier. Commenting on the results chairman Jan du Plessis said the economic environment remains volatile but expected the Australia-based company continue to experience higher than average growth for the rest of the year. The company also said it was experiencing high cost inflation in some "mining hotspots" and cautioned that the strong Australian and Canadian dollar were impacting its profitability.

Gabriel Resources has $175 million war chest for ancient Roman gold mine

Gabriel Resources announced on Wednesday that it has accumulated over $175 million in cash and equivalents to move ahead its gold mining project in Transylvania in an area where tunnels used by Roman miners during the first century still exists. It has been more than a decade since Gabriel Resources first obtained the Rosia Montana concession, believed the be one of the richest in Europe, and the Canadian firm has faced protests since receiving an archaeological discharge certificate from Bucharest authorities in July. More recently the site was a Romanian state-owned open pit operation (pictured) and Gabriel Resources has set aside $35 million for what it calls "rescue archaeology" .

Antofagasta boosted by Esperanza, looking outside South America

Bloomberg reports Antofagasta Plc, the copper giant controlled by Chile’s Luksic family, on Wednesday said second-quarter output increased 17% boosted by additional ore from the Esperanza mine in Chile that began shipping at the start of the year. Antofagasta is actively diversifying outside of its home base and is awaiting the outcome of a joint bid for a mine in Pakistan that has the potential to add 200,000 tonnes of copper annually.

Allana Potash stays positive in Danakil Depression

Up 103% since the start of the year stock in Allana Potash Corp, advancing a project in Ethiopia was trading steady on Thursday after the company announced it had intersected strong potash mineralization in an area not previously drilled at its 160 square km Dallol project in Ethopia. Listed on the TSX-Venture exchange Allana's East Africa project has the backing of the World Bank and most the latest announcement comes on the heels of a string of discoveries at its land position in Dalol, part of the Danakil Depression (pictured).

Ivanhoe chief says Oyu Tolgoi should be worth $30 billion

Speaking at the Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie Australia, Robert Friedland, executive chairman of Ivanhoe mines made big claims for the new mine his company is constructing in Mongolia together with major shareholder Rio Tinto. Oyu Tolgoi is now one third complete and according to Friedland would have a life of more than a century. The mine is on track to produce more than 1.2 billion pounds of copper and 650,000 ounces of gold each year. Oyu Tolgoi will also help turn Mongolia into the world's fastest-growing economy with staggering GDP growth of 35%. Just to make sure no-one has any misconceptions of the grand scale of the project Friedland boasted that Oyu Tolgoi has 14,200 builders, easily overshadowing the largest construction project in the US, the new World Trade Center with only 2,300. And just to top things off he said Ivanhoe is worth at least double the $15.6 billion valuation the market is affording it at the moment.

One tree-sitter arrested at ex-Massey mine

One protesters associated with the Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival Campaign has been arrested after climbing down from a tree platform he has been occupying at Coal River Mountain West Virginia since July 20. Becks Kolins (pictured on the left) was arrested by state police. Kolins and Catherine-Ann MacDougal climbed the trees to protest operations at the Bee Tree surface mine owned by Alpha Natural Resources, the company that bought Massey Energy following a deadly blast at one of its coal mines. McDougal says she's staying put.

Google says Australia's internet is worth as much as its iron ore – they may want to check with Gina Rinehart first

The internet is fast growing into one of the Australia's strongest economic drivers, with a new report commissioned by search giant Google showing it had contributed more than $50 billion towards the country's gross domestic product last year. That sum equates to 3.6% of the economy, putting it on par with the economic value of iron ore exports according to the survey. While impressive, the figure is still dwarfed by the sums involved in iron ore mining in Australia and elsewhere, something Gina Rinehart can attest to. Rinehart, 57, is set to become the world richest person as her wholly-owned mines go into production in a couple of years, netting her a tidy $10 billion in annual profits.

Gold soars above $1,660, stocks nosedive as US economy chokes

December gold futures traded at another record high hitting $1,664.50 in after hours trade on Tuesday on news that US consumers spent less in June, the first decline in more than two years. On top of that personal incomes gained only slightly and most consumers were using that money to pay off debt. Some 70% of the US economy is reliant on consumer spending therefore any belt-tightening has ripple effects across the globe. The Dow Jones blue-chip index ended down more than 2% or 266 points extending its losing streak into an eighth day – the worst performance since October 2008.

Mesa Exploration shares jump after Utah grants new lease

Vancouver's Mesa Exploration said on Tuesday that Utah state officials granted the company a 640-acre potash lease, sending its stock up 6.5% by the close of trade. Mesa announced the lease will be incorporated into its Whipsaw potash project in Grand County that now totals 18,608 acres or 29 square miles and where thick potash beds have been intersected in gas wells at depths between 3,300 and 4,200 feet.

Sono Resources make final cash payment for the copper, silver licenses in Botswana

Canada's Sono Resources Inc announced on Tuesday that the final $100,000 cash payment for the year has been made and that Sono will now issue the vendors 6,500,000 common shares from treasury thus finalizing its purchase of 95 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of Bonnyridge (Pty) Ltd., which is the legal and beneficial owner of three mineral license blocks located in Northwestern Botswana.

Silver Falcon stock jumps 24%, pours first gold from War Eagle Mountain in over 100 years

Silver Falcon Mining announced on Tuesday it had cast 17 troy ounces at War Eagle Mountain, making it the first report of precious metal smelting in over 100 years at the historic Idaho site. Stock in the tiny company rose as much as 24% on triple the usual volumes on the news bringing its gains for the year to over 72%. Silver Falcon said it will now switch focus from processing the old tailings and commence with exploration activities now that weather inaccessibility is no longer a problem.

Strike shuts down Canada-owned gold mine in Suriname

Suriname's only commercial gold mine, the Rosebel Gold Mine which is majority owned by Canada's Iamgold, has been shut down by a strike by 1,100 workers protesting new longer shift hours. Rosebel is located some 118 kilometers south of Paramaribo (pictured), the capital of the South American nation. The mine produced 395,000 ounces in 2010 at cash cost of $484 per ounce. While Rosebel is the country's only commercially operated mine, there are believed to be thousands of small scale miners operating in the tiny, impoverished country.

South Africa mine nationalization 'closest since end of apartheid'

Businessweek quotes a confidential report prepared for South Africa's mining CEOs as saying South Africa’s ruling party is closer to some form of nationalization than at any other time since the end of apartheid. A government takeover of mines could choke investments in a country with metal and mineral reserves estimated at 2.5 trillion and lead to a collapse of the currency, the rand. Firebrand Julius Malema (pictured), the leader of the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress which often acts as kingmaker in the country’s politics, is spearheading the campaign to seize mines, farms and banks. Malema is never far from headlines in the country with racially charged comments but now an anti-corruption police unit is probing a trust fund owned by him allegedly being used to funnel payments in exchange for securing government tenders.

African Minerals jumps 7% after $1.5 billion China injection

African Minerals Ltd., closed up 7.1% in London on Monday after completing an investment accord with Shandong Iron & Steel Group Co bringing the counter's gains for the year to 57% and giving it a market capitalization of some $3.6 billion. Shandong will invest $1.5 billion for a 25% stake in African Minerals' massive the Tonkolili iron-ore project in Sierra Leone. Phase I of the project will cost $1.2bn and includes railway and port reconstruction in the war torn country while phase II and III will add another $8 billion to the bill. Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest nations, is attracting increasing investments in its natural resources which also include diamonds and bauxite.

Korea inks lithium deal with Bolivia to mine world's largest salt flats

The Korea Herald reports a Korean consortium forged an agreement with Bolivia’s state-run miner Comibol over the weekend to manufacture lithium-ion battery parts, boosting Korea’s bid to tap the largest lithium deposits in the world. A research project involving extracting lithium will begin next month at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni – an 11,000 square kilometers salt flat (pictured) – with plans for constructing lithium-carbonate processing facilities. The soft, silver-white metal is widely used in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops and electric cars and the price has been steadily increasing prompting talk of a Opec-style cartel to control production and prices among South American nations that together control 85% of the world's resources.

Gold shrugs US debt deal, approaches record levels after dismal economic figures

Gold futures lost over $16 early on Monday after US lawmakers and the Obama administration reached an 11th-hour agreement on raising the federal debt ceiling, but quickly pared the losses after data showed manufacturing activity at its lowest level in two years in the US and shrinking factory output in China. December gold initially retreated from the record settlement of $1,631.20 an ounce on Friday, trading as low as $1,608.20 before jumping back to within striking distance of record levels at the same time New York stock markets suffered a 200-point reversal, turning triple digit gains into a sharp sell-off spooked by the economic data.

Peru's Portage Resources rewards speculators with 10:1 split, stock's rollercoaster ride gathers pace

In late morning trade shares in Miraflores-based Portage Resources had gained more than 12% after announcing a 10:1 future stock split that would, after cancellation of some of the shares held by its CEO, bring the total number in issue to a whopping 4.45 billion. When reported on Portage Resources a fortnight ago the counter had gone from 2c to 65c a share in the matter of three months. The explorer has been snapping up properties in Peru hitting pay-dirt with reserves of 58 million ounces of silver at one of them. Portage is a prime example of how volatile stocks in juniors miner can be: its 52-week high is $1.24 and despite Monday's 12% jump to 32c, the stock is worth half of what it was just five trading days ago.

Scorpio Mining down 4% after disappointing results

Toronto-listed Scorpio Mining Corp reported a quarterly profit helped by production ramp-up at its Nuestra Señora mine in Mexico, but missed market estimates compiled by Reuters, sending its shares to close just under 4% down. Vancouver-based Scorpio reported a net income of C$3.3 million and strong cash flow from operating activities in Q2 2011 of $11,9 million as recovered silver equivalent ounces reached 1,548,174, an increase of 79% from 2010 and contained metals produced in concentrates jumped 92% to of 734,558 ounces.

Zimbabwe's diamonds 'can become a curse'

The Zimbabwe Independent quotes finance minister Tendai Biti (pictured) on Friday as saying the reality of Zimbabwe's situation is that there is no connection between Zimbabwe’s income from diamonds, its output and international prices adding the country's resources are in danger of turning into curse rather than a blessing. Zimbabwe exported 716 958,50 carats from its alluvial diamond mines but only $103,9 million of diamond export shipments was accounted for in the first half of the year. The military seized control of the rich diamond fields in Chiadzwa in 2006 and most observers believe an international ban on these gems are being widely flouted.

Zimbabwe keen to reopen asbestos mine

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe Finance Ministers said on Friday the re-opening of the Shabani Mine is a critical imperative for the economy calling it is a tragedy that nearby town of Zvishavane is increasingly becoming a ghost town, with upstream and downstream industries which depend on asbestos mining having collapsed. Biti was presenting his mid-term fiscal review where he predicted the country's mining sector as a whole growing by 34%, buoyed by firming international mineral prices, improved power supply arrangements and output growth.