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.)

Saskatchewan's crude hopes dashed as Oil Sands Quest takes a beating

Proving that nothing is a sure bet – not even the development of prime bitumen fields – Oilsands Quest on Tuesday suffered a second day of heavy losses, dropping 10% shortly after the open. The losses come after the company said it will ask for more cash from investors because its almost one-year long global quest to find a heavyweight partner has come up empty handed. It is also bad news for Saskatchewan’s oil sands aspirations as Oilsands Quest was hoping to build the province’s first thermal mine but does not have the wherewithal to go it alone.

Great Panther Silver stock recovers early losses after silver output falls

Shares in Vancouver-based Great Panther Silver recovered early losses to trade in positive territory by midday Tuesday after the company reported disappointing silver output at its two 100%-owned silver and gold mines in Mexico. The counter opened down more than 3% before turning positive after announcing a 6% drop in silver production as a result of falling grades and unsold inventories at its Guanajuato operation which the company ascribes to an oversupply of concentrate on the world market. Silver Panther is still up 35% over the month after investors picked up the stock following record first quarter earnings.

Anfield Nickel shares close to year-high after positive Guatemala project study

Shares in Anfield Nickel's jumped more than 4% to within striking distance of a year-high on Friday after the company released the results of its economic assessment of the Mayaniquel project in Guatemala. Anfield said the project may generate approximately 700 permanent jobs and 800 direct jobs during the three year construction period and potentially $1.8 billion in taxes and government royalties payable to the Guatemalan government.

Pipeline delays cost oil sands producers $33m per day in lost revenue

The price oil sands producers can charge fell to $96/barrel on Friday while global crude prices remained firmly around the $118/barrel level as Canadian supplies swamp the US. Canada exports two million barrels of crude to the US per day of which 1.5m come from oil sands meaning Alberta's bitumen mines are losing out on a possible $33m in revenues each and every day. Building new pipelines would remove the glut but it’s almost three years since TransCanada first applied to extend its Keystone pipeline and Enbridge’s project to pipe crude to the west coast for export to Asia will languish for another 18 months in a review process. All this while US need for crude continues to seep away and Chinese demand grows at double digit rates.

Investors pile back into rare earth stocks

Stocks in heavyweight rare earth miners soared on Thursday with Molycorp adding 2.5% after trading up over 4% earlier and Lynas Corp wiping out losses it suffered on delays at its Malaysian refinery, gaining 4% on huge volumes. REE stocks are usually volatile but investors digested a lot of news this week: first there was the discovery of massive marine rare earth deposits which was quickly followed by deep scepticism, then the WTO ruled China’s export restrictions violate trade rules and now some analysts believe of the 150 listed REE projects only five will ever enter production.

Zimbabwe may sue De Beers over 'looting' of diamond fields under international ban

Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper reported on Thursday the Harare government is investigating De Beers over claims it smuggled out gems worth "hundreds of millions of dollars" from the controversial Chiadzwa fields. De Beers spent eight years exploring the fields, but later claimed it had failed to find any meaningful deposits according to Zimabwe's deputy mines minister. Diamonds were found by villagers in Chiadzwa in 2006, leading to a frenzied diamond rush that was eventually crushed by the army. Zimbabwe's diamonds are the subject of an international ban although most industry watchers believe it is being widely flouted.

Mineworkers around the globe unite for higher wages

Unrest and strikes in Indonesia, Chile, Australia and Africa, a shortage of skilled workers in North America and rising labour costs all over the globe are quickly becoming the most serious downsides of a mining boom that started almost a decade ago. While a historically high overall jobless rate is masking spiking wages in the resources sector in the US, workers in emerging markets are shutting down operations of mining companies deemed not to be sharing record profits fairly.

Outlook for copper murky at best

Copper prices fell on Wednesday after China raised interest rates and Portugal’s debt joined the junk ranks but the longer term outlook for the metal remains murky. Arguments on both sides make sense: Bulls point to labour unrest at Freeport and Codelco and the vagueries of weather while the more bearish highlight Japanese smelter outages and Chinese destocking.

Arab League injection earns Texas miner $107m windfall

After an initial 5% jump, shares in Arabian American Development Co was flat at midday on Wednesday on four times usual volumes following news of a $37m injection into the Texas-based company's Saudi mine by a fund controlled by the League of Arab States. Shareholders in the 44-year old Nasdaq-listed company saw the value of their investment rise a cool $107m as a result of the transaction. The gold, silver and copper mine in a Yemen border province is the only non-government mine in the Saudi kingdom and is scheduled to begin production early next year.

Canada precious metal stocks on rampage led by silver

Canada's biggest precious metals stocks were up an average 5.5% in late afternoon trade on Tuesday led by Endeavour Silver and Silvercorp Metals which both added around 12%. First Majestic Silver was up 9% and Silver Wheaton 6%. The index with an average market capitalization of US$7.7bn was outperforming a lacklustre broader market with bellwethers Barrick and Goldcorp also making substantial gains. Weak economic news from Europe, lingering concerns about the Greek debt crisis and media reports that China may raise interest rates have lured investors back to precious metals.

Thawing Arctic now home to one-fifth of recoverable oil deposits

A new report by Global Data on the top 2011 oil and gas investment destinations claims as much as 22% of the world's undiscovered and technically recoverable oil and gas could lie within Arctic territories. Oil and mineral wealth coupled with the opening of new shipping routes are transforming cities and towns in the region. Apart from the Arctic and Canada's oil sands where new projects could up current production of 1.7m bpd by another 2.7m bpd, new discoveries in Ghana, Uganda and other parts of Africa which remain largely unexplored are also attracting billions in investment from foreign oil and gas companies.

Tanzania to mine in game reserve

The Sowetan reports Tanzania will begin uranium mining in its southern Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s second-largest wildlife sanctuary and a Unesco heritage site (pictured), the energy minister said Tuesday. Australia’s Mantra Resources will start mining in late 2012 in the southern part of the 54,600-square kilometre park estimated to have 53.9 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits which is worth some $2.9bn at current market prices. The minister claimed that mining would only involve about 1% of the park's overall area and that income accrued from mining would help fund upkeep of the park, but environmentalists have slammed the plan.

Argentina considers OPEC-like deal for lithium

Agence France Presse reports Argentina is promoting the idea of an OPEC-like cartel for itself, Bolivia and Chile – which together control 85% of the world's reserves of lithium – to manage prices and limit overproduction. A ton of lithium, worth around $2,500 in 2004, now sells for more than $6,000 and its greatest use is expected to be in electric vehicles: if electric cars achieve a 5% penetration rate by 2020, 60,000 tons of lithium will be needed to fill the demand according to one analyst but recycling would reduce demand for virgin materials.

Platmin mining operations still shut after labour disruptions, several arrests made

South Africa's Pilanesberg Platinum mining operations remain halted more than a week after employees of a contractor disrupted operations through intimidation of supervisors, industrial action and damage to property and equipment. The company said in a statement released on Monday its concentrator has operated at full capacity throughout and produced a record amount of metal in June. Platmin has lost a tenth of its value on the Toronto bourse since halting operations and is down more than 40% over the last twelve months. The mid-tier producer has a market capitalization of some $510m.

Madagascar Oil and Total drop Africa's biggest oil sands project

Madagascar Oil's annual report released on Thursday shows the company is scuttling its project with French giant Total to develop a 1.2bn barrel oil sand deposit on the island after three years of extensive work. The Bemolanga bitumen deposit adjacent the Tsingy de Bemaraha nature reserve (pictured) was first drilled in the late 1800s and would have cost upwards of $8bn to bring into operation. Madagascar Oil has been through a torrid six months – after raising $80m in its debut on the London AIM market in December the stock was suspended in March after the company declared a force majeure over threats of expropriation by the Malagasy governments of its other oil field Tsimororo. When it resumed trading this week the stock promptly lost 50% and has not recovered since.

Gold begins July with a drop through $1,500

MarketWatch reports gold futures lost ground in electronic trading Friday as the dollar strengthened against major rivals. Gold for August delivery declined $16.70, or 1.1%, to $1,486.10 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. A stronger greenback tends to discourage investment in dollar-priced commodities such as gold. The precious metal was also pushed lower as some uncertainty about the euro zone’s debt problems lifted. Despite the recent weakness, gold prices remain over 5% higher this year. Silver followed gold lower Friday, dropping close to 3%.

Timmins Gold earns $84m at San Francisco Gold in first year

Timmins Gold Corp. reported an annual net profit of $11.5m for 2011, the first year of commercial operations of its San Francisco gold project in Mexico. The nine cent a share profit on revenues of $84.3m reported Thursday compared with a net loss of $8.6m last year when the company's income was zero. The company expects to average annual gold production of approximately 100,000 ounces at base case life of mine cash costs of US$489 per ounce. Timmins moved to the Toronto main board in March where it is worth some $137m.

Classic takeover battle as Brazil and China giants vie for African miner

The stock of cobalt and copper miner Metorex is up by a third this year following Brazilian giant Vale's $1.1bn bid for the mid-tier producer. With reports surfacing that Jinchuan, China's biggest nickel miner, is readying a competing offer shareholders of the Johannesburg-based company look set to extract further value ahead of a vote on July 22. Metorex has aggressive expansion plans for its central and Southern African projects and aims to more than double its current annual copper output of around 50,000 tonnes. It's a far cry from the situation in 2009 when the company was fighting for survival amid serious cost overruns in the Congo.

Uranium outlook brightens as biggest producer eyes acquisitions and new nuclear programs announced

Two reports out on Thursday suggest better times ahead for the uranium mining industry. The Globe and Mail quotes Tim Gitzel the new chief executive of Cameco Corp. – the world’s largest producer – who is taking the job on Friday as saying the current slump in uranium prices is a chance for the company to take another look at acquisitions. The Financial Post reports that RBC Capital Markets believe uranium price weakness will be shortlived and that China, India and South Korea are maintaining their nuclear build plans while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Vietnam have all announced new nuclear plans.

Government urges Tanzanite mine to double wages to $215/month

The Dar es Salaam Citizen reports Tanzanite One Mining, the dominant miner of the rare gemstone only found in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, has been ordered to increase the minimum wage for its employees from Sh180,000 to Sh350,000 per month (roughly US$215) as directed by the government. London-listed Tanzanite One has returned to profitability as prices for the gems which usually follow that of rough diamonds improve post-recession and is embarking on an expansion strategy, acquiring an Australian sapphire project earlier in June and reshuffling its board.

Canada oil sands now worth more than coal, crude and gas combined

The value of Canada's oilsands grew by 2,220% to $441bn from $19bn between 1990 and 2009, according to a Statistics Canada study released on Tuesday. That put the value of crude bitumen from the oilsands higher than the value of coal, crude oil and natural gas combined. In 1990, oil sands reserves under active development amounted to around 500m cubic metres; by 2008, they had increased eight-fold to 4,300m cubic metres, thanks to improvements in extraction technology, new discoveries and an increase in the global demand for crude oil.

Saccharum Energy buying Argentina potash exploration assets

Alberta's Saccharum Energy Corp, an investment company focused on the resource sector announced on Tuesday that it has entered into an earn-in agreement with Marifil Mines Ltd to acquire up to a 70% interest in certain of Marifil's Argentinean potash properties. Trading in Saccharum's shares has been suspended on the TSX Venture exchange pending approval of this transaction. The capital pool company is up more than six-fold since listing at the beginning of last year.

World number two potash producer says prices may reach $600/tonne by end of year

Reuters quotes the chief executive of Russian potash producer Uralkali telling an investment conference in Moscow on Tuesday that spot potash prices could reach $600 per tonne by the end of the year. Uralkali also said it was considering entering into a transaction with Belaruskali, contradicting a Belarus deputy prime minister who earlier said the $20bn state-owned company was not for sale. A Belaruskali-Uralkali merger would create a group with annual production of 21m tonnes, dwarfing current number one Canada’s Potash Corp.

GeoMega says drill results confirm Montviel as world class neodymium resource

Montreal-based GeoMega announced the results from its Phase I diamond drilling program conducted on the Montviel property in Abitibi, Québec and said these latest results confirm that it is one of the world's most significantknown deposits of neodymium that can be developed quickly given the excellent local infrastructure such as road access, nearby hydroelectric services and rail.

Chinese miners plunge as reverse-listing contagion spreads

Iron, zinc and coal miner China Natural Resources shed 20% of its value on the Nasdaq stock exchange in morning trade on Monday in the absence of any fresh news about its operations while China Shen Zou Mining lost over 8%, the worst performers in the sector. Investors are continuing to worry about the soundness of Chinese companies that came to the US market through so-called reverse listings with the value of the 98 companies declining sharply in recent weeks as creative accounting and other irregularities are uncovered at firms engaging in operations as diverse as software and timber.