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.)

Canada makes a deal a day as mining M&A head towards $200 billion

The value of mergers and acquisitions in the mining sector more than doubled to $96.3 billion in the first six months of the year and could top $200 billion for the whole of 2011 says a new research report. Canadian companies – both as acquirers and as the targets of buyers – dominated corporate finance activity in the first half shaking on more than a deal a day and at 325 deals accounting for almost two-thirds of all the metals and minerals transactions carried out around the world.

India's illegal iron ore mining scandal grows, could bring down state government

Indian Express reports Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, currently holidaying in Mauritius, is among a slew of politicians, many of them from the BJP party, set to be named in a damning 8,000-page report on the illegal plunder of the Indian state’s iron ore resources over a decade. The report from the Lokayukta, an anti-corruption ombudsman organization, may lead to so called President's rule in Karnataka when a state legislature is dissolved or suspended and the state is placed under direct federal governance and is proving to be a huge embarrassment to the BJP leadership.

Grizzly adds to 2.4 million acres of land for Alberta potash project

Grizzly Discoveries Inc. announced on Monday it has applied for a new metallic and industrial mineral permit in Alberta along the Saskatchewan border covering approximately 4,672 hectares to add to its existing land holdings of more than 2.4 million acres for its Alberta Potash Project. Stocks in the micro-cap company was steady at 70c on Monday following the news and is worth more than double what it was at the start of 2011. Apart from potash Grizzly is exploring for gold and base metals in British Columbia and diamonds in Alberta.

Strikes hit BHP, Anglo, De Beers and Xstrata across three continents

Bloomberg reports BHP workers in Chile voted Sunday to extend their strike at the world’s largest copper mine. Stoppages at BHP’s Australian coal operations may resume this week. Thirty thousand South African coal mine workers including Anglo American and Xstrata employees walked off the job Sunday and may be joined by 160,000 gold industry workers. Strikes that started over the weekend are impacting output from mines of diamond giant De Beers. Workers are seeking a larger slice as global producers report record earnings: Melbourne-based BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, is expected to report full-year profits of $22.5 billion next month, almost double 2010’s net income. Xstrata may report record 2011 profit of $7.3 billion and Anglo American $7.4 billion, estimates show.

Investors pick up potash juniors as majors put up sold out signs

Stocks of Canadian potash juniors Allana, Passport and Western Potash all showed double digit gains for the week to Thursday as the heavyweight producers all announce significant contract price gains and their export arm appears to run out of inventories altogether. This after Bloomberg quoted the CEO of Mosaic as saying the Canpotex "cupboard is bare" and that the sensitive issue of fertilizer deliveries to India's 55 million farmers is not being discussed at the moment.

The world is entering a new age of iron

Two reports out on Thursday suggest that iron ore is far from being merely a relic of the industrial revolution and still plays a central role in the world economy and the commodities markets. Reuters reports top investment bank Goldman Sachs is preparing to enter the physical iron ore market and the FT says the so-called commodities bible – Cyclope’s World Commodity Yearbook – just published in English is a testament to how the pricing of iron ore from secretive negotiations and annual contracts to prices linked to the spot market constitutes a “true revolution”.

Bloomberg sacrifices 0.2% of his fortune to fight big coal

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has a personal fortune of some $18 billion joined with the environmental lobby group Sierra Club on Thursday in a $50 million, four-year plan to cut one-third of US coal-fired power plants. "If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal, " Bloomberg said. Rolling Stone reported that he was standing on a boat on the Potomac river not far from a 60-year old coal-fired power station to drive his message home.

SunCoke Energy prices IPO at $16/share, trades at $17 on opening day

SunCoke Energy, Inc. announced Thursday the pricing of the initial public offering of 11,600,000 shares of its common stock at a price of $16 per share. The shares began trading on Thursday, July 21, 2011, on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol, “SXC” and early on changed hands above $17.

Wafi-Golpu copper-gold resource now a billion tonnes

Harmony Gold Mining upgraded the resource estimate for its Wafi-Golpu project in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday increasing it by 57% to over 1 billion metric tons, making it one of the highest grade copper-gold porphyry systems in South East Asia. CEO Graham Briggs said it was a "game-changing asset" for the company and the latest drilling results bring the Wafi-Golpu deposits within sight of Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg mine across the border in West Papua, Indonesia, which was recently hit by strikes.

Rare earths: China always one step ahead of the West

When news broke Thursday last week that China was raising REE export quotas for the second half of the year, ostensibly in reaction to a WTO ruling, it was greeted with some surprise and a measure of relief by the makers of anything from iPods to lasers to stealth helicopters. But as the implications of the announcement on future pricing of the 17 elements begin to sink in some analysts are pointing out that rather than easing the pressure on manufacturers who need rare earths, China's move was aimed at cutting off at the knees development of mining projects outside its borders.

Diamond workers strike adds to South Africa mining woes

Employees of diamond mining company De Beers are set to go on strike on Friday after wage talks broke down on Wednesday. The workers follow tens of thousands of others in South Africa's coal, metals and petroleum industries who have been on strike for weeks. The strikes come at a time when the country's mining output is slowing and new investment in the industry is drying up amid uncertainty about state ownership, taxation, an ever-changing regulatory environment and corruption. A recent ranking of top global mining investment destinations that puts Alberta at the top relegates South Africa to number 63 alongside Zimbabwe, Guatamala and Venezuela.

Coal mine construction near 11th century African city given green light

South Africa's Environmental Affairs department on Wednesday defended granting Coal of Africa approval to resume construction at the controversial Vele opencast project near Mapungubwe, saying science, not emotion, was behind the decision. Mapungubwe is a World Heritage site and home of the golden rhino figurine (pictured) that dates back to around 1000 AD when Southern Africa's earliest kingdom flourished. Construction of the mine were halted in August last year when it was discovered the Australian company did not comply with aspects of environmental management laws.

PGMs, nickel explorer ends dispute with Constance Lake First Nation

Thunder Bay-based Zenyatta Ventures has ended its dispute with Constance Lake First Nation after the leadership of the 1,470-strong community decided to no longer pursue a motion of injunction against the junior explorer in exchange for better co-operation and preferential job opportunities. Zenyatta can now advance its Albany project south of the so-called Ring of Fire in the James Bay lowlands where it is exploring for nickel and platinum group metals with a purported value in excess of $1 billion.

Protests after Canadian firm receives go-ahead to mine gold near ancient Roman site

Interfax reports a few dozen people protested Tuesday outside Romania's Culture Ministry in Bucharest against its approval of the archaeological discharge certificate for the Carnic Mountain, where extensive tunnels used by Roman miners during the rule of emperor Trajan (pictured) still exists. Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, controlled by Canada's Gabriel Resources which first obtained the concession in 1999, needed the permit for its project to establish an open-cast mine in the area believed to hold some 300 tonnes of gold, one of the largest deposits in Europe.

Closer scrutiny of Alberta oil sands pollution in the offing

Alberta should establish an independent agency to monitor the environmental impact and pollution from oil sands development, an independent panel told the provincial government in a report released Tuesday. The Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel was formed in January under pressure from environment groups when questions emerged over the quality and comprehensiveness of environmental reporting on the oil sands. Canada's oil sands also come under fire recently when it was revealed that the federal government deliberately excluded data indicating a 20% increase in pollution in a climate change report to the UN.

Oilsands Quest falls again after $60 million rights are offered at deep discount

Oilsands Quest stock was trading down around 15% in early afternoon trade on Tuesday after the company announced it was hoping to raise $60 million in a rights offer to advance its flagship Axe Lake oil sands project in Saskatchewan. The company is offering existing shareholders 300 million rights at a 40% discount to the share price last Friday, a day on which Oilsands Quest rocketed more 61% on 10-times usual volumes after Saskatchewan converted its Axe Lake permits to 15-year leases. The company has been forced to raise money and go it alone after a fruitless 11-month quest to find a strategic partner.

Portage Resources: Peru explorer that's not for the faint-hearted investor

When a 4.5% jump in stock price with 15 million shares changing hands on news of the acquisition of three new concessions is considered a dull trading day then you know you're dealing with a volatile stock. Portage Resources has gone from 2c to 65c a share in the matter of three months but the Peruvian explorer has certainly not been a one-way bet – the stock's 52-week high is $1.24. The company based in Miraflores, Lima (pictured) has been snapping up silver properties in Peru, but after announcing silver reserves worth $2.3 billion at one of them the stock has been unstoppable.

What the frack? Analysts cool towards BHP's shale gas purchase

BHP Billiton's friendly $12 billion takeover of the US gas company Petrohawk is the group's largest in six years, and its most ambitious foray into the controversial business of shale gas extraction through a process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. While the transaction is a coup for Petrohawk – its shares duly rose 65% to match the takeover price – analysts are skeptical about the prospects of BHP Billiton, the world's most valuable miner, making a success of the deal considering its poor track record with acquisitions, its relatively limited experience in the fracking business, environmental concerns and warnings that it is again buying at the top of the cycle.

Swatch CEO: 'Bring us a diamond mine'

"As the fifth-biggest consumer of diamonds, a stake in a diamond mine would be interesting," the CEO of Swatch Group, Nick Hayek told the Finanz und Wirtschaft newspaper on Saturday. The world's largest watchmaker, which apart from cheap and cheerful Swatches, also owns luxury brands Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte (pictured), Omega and Tiffany & Co, said demand for watches studded with diamonds has increased explosively and the desired quality are only available in small quantities. According to IDEX research global polished diamond prices rose sharply during the second half of June, and are showing no signs of a pull-back.

23 dead as rescue work ends in flooded China coal mine

Rescue work in a flooded coal mine in Guizhou Province has been terminated, 14 days after a flood trapped 23 workers underground. The rescue work in Niupeng Mine, located in Pingtang County, was halted at 4 p.m. Saturday. The miners were very unlikely to be alive, according to an assessment by rescue experts. Twenty one workers remain missing while two bodies have been retrieved from the mine. The area where the miners are believed to be has been completely submerged. While 406,000-cubic meters of water had been pumped out during the past 14 days, flood water was still pouring into the pit.

Tribal clashes halt transport from historic Pakistan coal fields

After rejecting a deal reached by fellow tribesmen, hundreds of Marri tribesmen backed by their chief blocked transportation of coal from Chamalang in Balochistan Pakistan to other parts of the country on Saturday. The blockade follows weeks of deadly skirmishes for control of the coal fields that hold recoverable reserves more than 500 million tonnes. The high-quality Chamalang coal mines were first discoverd in 1885 (see historic map) when the country was under British rule and a 30-year bloody war between the Pashtoon Luni and Marri tribes over the recoverable reserves were ended only after the Pakistan Army intervened in 2006 and mining could restart. The latest dispute is between the Marri leader who signed the peace treaty with the Luni and the leader of the separatist movement in Balochistan.

Australia's WPG fast-tracks Buzzard to operate parallel to Peculiar Knob

Australian iron ore developer WPG Resources said on Friday it will bring forward its Buzzard direct shipping ore project at Hawks Nest in South Australia. Drilling at the site has already commenced so that the mine can operate in parallel to its flaghship Peculiar Knob project (pictured) growing output to 5 mtpa. WPG stock received a lift on the news and ended Friday's trading in Sydney up more than 4%, bringing its gains for the year to 24%.

Report: threat of army takeover looms large in Zimbabwe

Neighbour South Africa's influential Business Day reports as Zimbabwe’s shaky unity government inches ahead with extensive electoral reforms ahead of fresh elections now expected next year, the prospect of the country’s army seizing power looms large. In recent weeks, the military’s top brass has taken on a visible role in the country’s political affairs and has been brazenly opposed to security sector reforms. The military seized control of Zimbabwe's rich diamond fields in Chiadzwa in 2006 and most observers believe an international ban on these gems are being widely flouted.

REE stocks fall back to earth as China raises export quotas

After surging last week, industry bellwether Molycorp led a slide in rare earth mining stocks with a 5% drop by early afternoon on Thursday on news China is raising REE export quotas for the second half of the year in reaction to a WTO ruling. The exact impact of the decision is not yet clear: the new quotas only bring 2011 exports in line with last year prompting the EU to call it "highly disappointing." And fresh data from Lynas Corporation, world no. 2 outside China, show the price of a basket of eight REEs jumping 140% in just over two months.

Bear Creek bounces after taking legal action against Peru

Shares in Canada’s Bear Creek Mining Corporation bounced by over 4% at the open on Wednesday after the company announced it was launching legal action against the Peruvian government to regain its license for a mining concession in the south of the country. Peru cancelled Bear Creek’s licence in late June after protests against the Santa Ana Silver project resulted in five people being killed by police at an international airport 160km away from the site. Bear Creek’s injunction comes weeks ahead of the swearing in of the South American nation’s new leftwing president Ollanta Humala (pictured).