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, Investment.com, Driving.ca, 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.)

Gem Diamonds to supply water to Kalahari bushmen fighting for residence rights in game reserve

London-listed Gem Diamonds said in a statement on Monday that it will drill four boreholes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in partnership with VOX United, a non-governmental organisation to provide the bushmen or Basarwa living in the reserve with water. The community is locked in a bitter battle with the Botswana government which accuses them of depleting the park's natural resources, while the Basarwa say that the government is violating their rights by trying to relocate them and that their impact on the environment is negligible.

Investors send Ringbolt Ventures 15% higher after it commences drilling at Lisbon Valley

Investors piled into Ringbolt Ventures on Tuesday after the company announced that it has commenced drilling on its Lisbon Valley Potash Project in the Paradox Basin in Utah. By mid-day the small-cap exploration company was trading up 15% on Toronto's venture exchange on above average volumes. Potash was first discovered in the Paradox Basin in an oil and gas well in 1924 and in 1962, Superior Oil Company drilled the first potash at the crest of the Lisbon Valley anticline. Since 1964, potash and by product salt have been produced from the nearby Cane Creek mine, now owned by Intrepid Potash.

Anglo-American lobbying flops as clamour intensifies for nationalization of South Africa’s mines

South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper reports attempts by mining giants AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American to sup with the leaders of the ANC Youth League and possibly sway them against nationalization have flopped. Both companies stand to lose substantial chunks of their assets if the league – kingmakers in the country's politics – succeeds in its push for state control of mines to become the policy of the ruling party. Amid a rebound in mining output calls are growing for majority government ownership of key industries – the union representing the vast majority of mine workers recently backed the country's Freedom Charter clause on nationalization.

The king of really big diamonds heads to China

The New York Times profiles Laurence Graff, whom the paper calls perhaps the biggest dealer in seriously big stones. In 2008, Graff Diamonds turned a pretax profit of $77 million on sales of $538 million, according to its chief financial officer, Nick Paine. In 2009, sales dropped to $432 million, and pretax profits to $62 million. Last year, sales were virtually flat, but pretax profits jumped to $86 million, mostly because of sales of smaller pieces with higher mark-ups. Which raises the question of how large his inventory of large stones has become.

More expensive lightbulbs, plasma TVs coming as China action doubles rare earth prices in two weeks

Prices of the certain rare earths used in energy saving lightbulbs, lasers, nuclear reactors, magnets and plasma televisions more than doubled in the past two weeks as China, responsible for upwards of 95% of world supply, further tightens control of mining, trading and exports, research house Industrial Minerals said over the weekend. China in recent months closed or consolidated more than 35 rare earth mines and cut export quotas sparking concerns in the US and other industrial nations about access to supplies and causing an exploration and mine development frenzy with over 250 projects on the go worldwide.

Athabasca Oil Sand Corp chances on hefty Leduc oil discovery

Potential joint-venture partners have been intrigued by a hefty oil discovery Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. made by way of happy accident. Athabasca has been approached by "several" parties keen to get in on its position in the Leduc carbonate, president and chief executive officer Sveinung Svarte told Canadian Business in an interview. Worth $6bn on the Toronto bourse Athabasca is trading down close to 20% from record highs hit in March this year when the Calgary-based company announced that it acquired more than 1.0 million acres of petroleum and natural gas rights in the Deep Basin areas of northwestern Alberta from crown sales and third-parties.

Potash stocks punished after US vote to end $6bn ethanol subsidies

Shares of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, are down just shy of 8% for the week after losing almost 2% in late trade on Friday despite being upgraded to a buy by analysts at TD Newcrest. Others in the sector fared even worse with newcomer Karnalyte Resources shedding 4.3% while heavyweights Mosaic and Agrium lost over 4.4% and 2.3% respectively after the US Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to eliminate some $6bn in annual subsidies for the country's ethanol industry.

Silver Sun Resources shares up 10% after buying California gold miner

Shares in junior precious metals miner Silver Sun Resources Corp. spiked 10% on Friday after becoming the sole owner of the Cherry Hill Mining Company, a fellow Californian gold miner. The Vancouver company's stock is up just short of 50% on the TSX-Venture exchange in 2011. Silver Sun is in the final stages of development of its gold project in Yreka, California and engaged in an on-going work programme in Mexico's prolific Zacatecas silver district and at a newly-acquired silver project Yoreme in Sonora state.

Zimbabwe mining sector in $1bn deal with development banks

The Zimbabwe mining industry is expected to conclude a US$1 billion revolving facility at a number of African development banks to recapitalize mining firms as it emerges from a decade of hyperinflation, international sanctions and political turmoil that all but ground the sector to a halt. The mining industry, rich in precious metals and diamonds, made up roughly 20% of Zimbabwe's GDP and at $1.7bn 65% of all exports last year according to government statistics. This figure is set to increase dramatically particularly if the country receives approval to restart diamond exports currently under an international ban.

$20bn Belaruskali takeover to form world's largest potash producer collapses

Russian news agencies report Uralkali, Russia's largest potash miner, is not planning to buy Belaruskali, a major Uralkali shareholder said on Friday. Last week it was speculated that the cash-strapped ex-Soviet republic Belarus is negotiating the sale of its most prized asset under the terms of a bail-out loan agreed with Russia. Responsible for one-third of the worlds potash fertiliser production, Belaruskali could have been worth as much as $20bn and a merger with Uralkali owned by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov would have created a group with annual production of 21m tonnes, dwarfing current number one Canada’s Potash Corp's 12m tonnes/year.

Alcyone pours first silver from Twin Hills, hopes to produce 2m oz/year at a cost of $15/oz

Australian junior miner Alcyone Resources has poured its first silver bullion from its 100%-owned Texas silver and polymetallic project in Queensland it acquired 18 months ago, after starting in early April this year to re-irrigate the existing silver-rich heaps at the Twin Hills mine. Alcyone says its forecast cash operating cost is around A$15/ounce which provides strong margins with the silver price hovering above A$30/ounce. It expects to start full-scale operations by the September 2011 quarter at an initial annualised rate of 1.5-2.0m ounces. The ASX-listed penny stock is up some 120% so far this year.

US coal ash industry sees $110bn and 300,000 jobs lost if new environment rules implemented

A report released this week suggests that US federal regulation of coal combustion residuals, or coal ash, currently being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency would result in as many as 316,000 lost jobs and as much as $110bn in lost economic activity over a 20-year period. Power-generating coal is coming under fire from many quarters including Australia where a proposed carbon tax in 2012 could see coal mining profits fall and lead to thousands of job losses. This despite a new report showing that worldwide coal consumption is at its highest relative to other sources in 40 years.

Investors are finally seeing value in deal-hungry super-profitable Brazilian giant Vale

With a new government-backed CEO, a capex budget and acquisition war chest that dwarfs others, record net profits, a very generous dividend policy, strong fundamentals in its core business, aggressive expansion into high-growth areas and regions – notably potash and Africa – and a stock that looks downright cheap next to its peers, what is not to like about Vale? After slumping to an 8-month low less than a month ago it now seems investors are finally beginning to warm to the the diversified Brazilian miner. In the month since Murilo Ferreira has been head, the planet's third most valuable mining company has risen against the other supermajors and outperformed the broader market by 7%.

Russia muscles in on Zimbabwe's $5bn diamond stockpile

SW Radio Africa news reports India has raised concerns as Russia is set to join China in moves to control diamond mining in Zimbabwe, with the Federation’s state diamond group Gokhran seeking a license to mine at the controversial Chiadzwa fields. China already has two companies operating there in partnership with Zimbabwe’s state diamond firm. Zimbabwe is set to become the world's leading producer, with an expected volume of 40m carats per year worth some $2bn annually from the rich deposits in Chiadzwa and Marange. The troubled country, emerging from years of hyperinflation and political turmoil, is however barred from selling diamonds because of alleged human rights violations and has built up a stockpile worth $4bn–$5bn.

Lithium One commences pumping tests at Sal de Vida lithium-potash brine project

Lithium One Inc. announced on Wednesday the commencement of a pumping test program at its flagship Sal de Vida lithium-potash brine project in Argentina (pictured), one of the largest and the highest-grade lithium and potash brine projects in the world. The TSX Venture-listed company traded little changed on the news and like shares in other juniors in the sector is very volatile. Lithium One is down over 10% so far this year and has not been able to reach the record high it hit back in August 2009 when the Argentina project was first acquired.

Vaaldiam stock near all time low after loss more than triples and Brazil mine ops suspended

Vaaldiam Mining net loss more than tripled in the first quarter to $7.6m after suspending operations at the Duas Barras diamond mine in Brazil. By close of trade on Wednesday shares in the company had fallen 21%, close to an all-time low leaving it with a market capitalization of a paltry $12m, a far cry from the $150m-plus valuation it commanded a decade ago. Vaaldiam said it will now focus on the development of the Brauna mine in Brazil after it paid $6.5m to increase its stake in the project to 51% in March. It has two other diamond mines in the country that are on care and maintenance.

Vale aims to spend over $12bn in Africa

Brazilian miner Vale SA plans to spend over $12 billion on investments in Africa over the next five years, a mining conference heard on Wednesday. Brazilian companies, like their Chinese counterparts, are keen on African resources to fuel their growth and the sum involved underscores the continent's growing importance as an investment destination.

Mechel drops 4% after halting operations at Siberian mine

Shares of giant Russian steel and coking coal producer Mechel OAO fell over 4% in midday trade in New York on Wednesday on news it has halted operations at its Sibirginskaya mine due to high gas levels in a mined-out area. Mining works at the site were halted and all miners returned to the surface.

Great Panther Silver stock on a tear after blow-out quarter

Shares in Vancouver-based Great Panther Silver on Wednesday continued to soar after the company reported record revenues and profits a day earlier. Shortly before the close the company which owns 100% of two silver mines in Mexico was up 8.5% in a broadly weaker market and on a tough day for other silver counters. Tuesday's results showed net income up $6m to $7m for the first quarter and a 95% increase in revenues to $15.5m. The company listed in February this year and raised $24.2m in April in a closed equity offering. A day before the results announcement investor site Motley Fool said the counter was "poised to pop."

Gold to hit $5,000 as production and new discoveries continue to dwindle

Buying in China and India, central banks increasing reserves and particularly dwindling gold production could potentially drive the gold price to US$5,000/oz says a new report by investment bank Standard Chartered. The report, which studied 375 mines around the world, also shows that while exploration budgets have steadily risen since 2002 (with the exception of 2009) in response to rising prices, the rate of new gold discoveries have continued to decline.

Coal now accounts for 30% of global energy use, highest since 1970

According to the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy coal consumption grew by 7.6% in 2010, the fastest global growth since 2003. Coal now accounts for 29.6% of global energy consumption, up from 25.6% 10 years ago and the highest since 1970. Chinese consumption grew by over 10% and China last year consumed nearly half of the world’s coal. In contrast just 1.8% of global energy consumption comes from renewable sources such as hydroelectricity, biofuels, wind and nuclear power stations. The comparative figure a decade ago was 0.6%.

Astra plans Frankfurt listing, inks Nigerian deal

Diversified Australian miner Astra Mining announced on Wednesday plans to list on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange before the end of August after two days earlier inking a deal to enter the Nigerian market and further expand its global presence. Deal-hungry Astra Mining’s global portfolio includes gold and tin interests in south east Asia and southern India, coal mines in Australia, iron ore in India, manganese in Africa and the commercialisation of a new high-strength steel technology from a base in Hungary.

Rare Element Resources jumps after 20% Bear Lodge deposits increase

Rare Element Resources stock jumped 9% in after hours trade in New York after a new estimate for the amount of rare earth materials at its Bear Lodge project in Wyoming showed a 20% jump. The gains were on top of a 7% jump during regular hours for the volatile stock which is still trading down almost 40% from record highs hit in January. The company also sees significant potential for further expansion of all deposits.

Queensland coalminers on strike for the first time in a decade

More than 400 workers at Melbourne-based BHP Billiton coking coalmines began strikes on Tuesday for the first time in a decade, disrupting production from the world’s largest exporter and adding to the woes of an industry already hard hit by summer floods. Analysts believe the industrial action, added to the 15% cut in annual production caused by monsoon rains and a cyclone, will support rampant prices for steel-making coal which hit an all-time high in April of $330 per tonne.

WPG Resources receives go-ahead to mine Peculiar Knob

WPG Resources announced on Tuesday it has reached a major milestone for the development of its flagship Peculiar Knob (pictured) iron ore mine south east of Coober Pedy in South Australia, after receiving government approval. WPG also said that the company expects that the Mining and Rehabilitation Program for Peculiar Knob will be approved during July. Forecast production at 3.3 million tonnes annually destined for the Asian market is set to commence in late 2011, with sales in the June quarter 2012. Shares in the company jumped 3% amid a flat broader Australian market.