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.)

On China's rare earth black market prices are falling

Sinocast reports China's market for rare earths has begun to see negative effects of its crazy growth this year with an increasing number of downstream players finding it difficult to make deals despite price cuts. Prices of certain elements such as cerium used to polish TV screens and lenses are down 10% over the summer after months of break-neck price hikes. Reuters reports China is in the midst of a crackdown on illegal miners and processors and the busy black market trade that have sprung up, but has struggled to impose a REE production cap, with actual annual output exceeding official quotas by 40% to 50% since 2007.

China wants to keep rare mineral export restrictions

China said on Wednesday that it would appeal against a World Trade Organisation ruling that it illegally restricted exports of certain rare and speciality metals and minerals including bauxite, coking coal, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon metal, silicon carbide, yellow phosphorus and zinc. The United States, European Union and Mexico argued that the minerals are key inputs for numerous industries and any cut in supplies could lead to sharp spikes in world prices. The complainants fear a similar situation to rare earths where the price of certain elements have tripled thanks to export cuts and China's virtual monopoly on production.

Potash producers zone in on Amazon as investors pour $68 billion into Brazil mining

Potassio do Brasil, partly owned by Canadian merchant bank Forbes and Manhattan, is seeking to renew negotiations with Brazil's government over rights to a potash reserve in the Amazon currently held by state oil company Petrobras adjacent to what it called a 'world class' potash discovery last week. The Potassio do Brasil mine will take $4 billion to develop and follows news earlier this month from Toronto-listed Verde Potash which announced a 1.1 billion tonne resource at its Amazon Cerrado Verde project that is suitable for open pit mining. The discoveries come as Brazil readies a new mining royalty regime – in certain instances doubling the rate – which would be managed by government decree. Mining investment in the world's fifth largest economy is also predicted to accelerate to $68.5 billion through 2015.

New Prince Rupert BC potash terminal edges closer

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced on Monday it is conducting a comprehensive study, which is a type of environmental assessment, for the proposed Canpotex Potash Terminal Project located on Ridley Island, in the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The Agency is also making available $50,000 under its participant funding program to assist groups and individuals to take part in upcoming steps in the federal environmental assessment of this project. Construction is projected to start in 2013 and to be completed three years later.

Small Canadian miner's Tibetan plateau gold mine likely largest in Asia

China Daily reports local land and mineral resource officials in the Qinghai province estimate that the Dachang gold mine in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Yushu is likely to become one of the largest gold mines in Asia with 300 tonnes in proven reserves. The geological exploration was conducted jointly by Qinghai mining development bureau and TSX-listed Inter‐Citic Minerals with a total investment of $31.3 million. The project is at an elevation of approximately 4,500 meters and consists of five exploration licenses covering some 279 square kilometers. Tiny Inter-Citic says it allocated $6.3 million in exploration expenses for this year.

Implats may invest $10 billion in Zimbabwe – if it has control

Mining Review reports Impala Platinum ‒ the world’s second-largest producer of the precious metal ‒ may invest as much as $10 billion in Zimbabwe to expand production if the government backs down on its controversial indigenization policy. Earlier this month Zimbabwe's government gave foreign companies including miners and banks a 14-day ultimatum to submit plans on how they propose to transfer majority stakes to local owners or risk losing permits. Impala is already the biggest investor in Zimbabwe's mining sector.

Woulfe turns focus to re-opening largest gold mine in South Korea

Woulfe Mining announced Monday it is fast-tracking the evaluation of its Muguk gold project in South Korea, the largest gold mine in South Korea until its premature closure in 1997 due to low gold prices. The TSX-listed company says it is now able to focus on Muguk as its Sangdong tungsten-molybdenum project, is progressing at a rapid rate with production scheduled to commence in early 2012. The mine, believed to be one of the largest in the world, would produce about 4,000 tonnes of tungsten worth $180 million per year.

Ivanhoe up 23% in a week as Oyu Tolgoi news just gets better

Shares in Ivanhoe mines closed up just over 5% in Toronto on Monday outperforming the broader market and bringing the counter's gains to 23.2% over the last week. At a time when many miners across the developing world struggle to preserve their social licence, the impact of Ivanhoe's Oyu Tolgoi on the people of Mongolia stands in stark contrast: the mine will contribute a third of the country's GDP when it goes into full operation, will be mined until at least 2060 and increase the average earnings of Mongolians by 60% according to a new CNN report.

New $2.6 billion market for platinum and palladium

According to a new report by GIA the global market for heavy-duty diesel (HDD) catalysts is forecast to reach $2.6 billion by the year 2017, spurred by rigorous emission control regulations for heavy-duty on-road and off-road vehicles across the world. Catalysts with a high palladium content are fast replacing platinum catalysts in gasoline exhaust systems, while demand for platinum increased due to its increasing usage in catalysts for diesel exhaust systems.

Official oil sands pipeline approval a step closer

Confirming details leaked to the Washington Post on Wednesday the US State Department said on Friday a proposed $7 billion extension of the Keystone pipeline to US Gulf Coast refineries would not likely boost the amount of crude produced from Alberta's oil sands, suggesting it would have limited impact on the environment. A final decision on the controversial pipeline could come as soon as the end of the year. The news comes as demonstrators in front of the White House continue being arrested in efforts to convince President Barack Obama of Keystone XL’s dangers. The price Canada can charge for crude exports to the US is falling further behind the international benchmark because of a glut in the Midwest and some hedge funds have started to bet that the spread could go as high as $50/barrel leaving Alberta producers millions of dollars out of pocket per day.

Cameco kicks off uranium consolidation with $527 million cash buyout of Hathor

In a sign that consolidation in the uranium sector is gathering pace, world number one uranium producer Cameco announced on Friday it is extending a $527 million cash offer to shareholders of Hathor Exploration, after talks with the board of the junior explorer failed to result in a deal.

Oilsands Quest forced to extend begging bowl to battered investors once again

Oilsands Quest stock was trading below the rights offer price of 20c at the open on Friday after announcing it was extending a rights offer to advance its Axe Lake oil sands project in Saskatchewan a second time. The company is attempting to raise $60 million after it was forced to go it alone following a fruitless 11-month quest to find a partner or buyer.

50,000 Chileans battle police against billionaire president

Reuters reports 50,000 protesters battled police in Chile's capital on Thursday, the second day of a two-day strike against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera. A recent poll put the right-wing leader's approval rating at only 26%, below even that of dictator General Pinochet, who ruled the country for 17 years from 1973. The protests follows recent strikes in the copper sector over pay and a campaign against a massive coal mine on an island in Patagonia amid accusations that billionaire Pinera’s shareholding in the developer, Copec, constitutes a serious conflict of interest.

Iron ore price scales $180/tonne to within reach of record highs

FT reports iron ore prices hit a three-month high above $180 a tonne on Thursday as supply outages and strong demand from China underpinned the steelmaking commodity. Started in 2008, derivatives trading in iron ore is up fourfold this year after setting a record in July, but he world’s top three miners – BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto – control nearly 70% of the 1 billion tonne annual seaborne trade and dominate price talks. BHP this week announced record profits on back of earnings from iron ore, its biggest division, which jumped 122% to $13.3 billion and CEO Marius Kloppers said unlike the situation in coal, global iron ore supplies are being 'overestimated'.

Over the counter trade in Russia values Alrosa at $8.6 billion

Interfax reports Russia state-owned diamond miner Alrosa is up 22% on the country's trading board for unlisted stocks since it was first quoted there on July 18. The price of US$31,495 per share, implies a market value of $8.6 billion. Alrosa accounts for around 25% of world output and for the full year sales of $4.7 billion is expected. The secretive firm has been feeding the market more information recently in anticipation of a 2012 public offering that seeks to raise up to $3 billion.

The secrets of diamond mining are forever

24/7 Wall St says the global diamond mining industry may be one of the world’s best-kept secrets and diamond mining is not unlike the oil business, where about 100 massive fields supply about half the world’s oil.

Gold extends sharp losses as exchanges drive out speculators

Gold for December delivery fell more than $50 to $1,710 an ounce in afternoon trade in London on Thursday, bring its losses since the record high of Monday to 10%, the worst slump since March 2008. On Wednesday, the Chicago stock exchange operator CME followed a move by the Shanghai Gold Exchange by increasing the margin requirement as a way to “ensure adequate collateral coverage.” The minimum cash deposit to borrow from brokers to trade gold futures will rise 27% to $9,450 per 100-ounce contract at the end of today. Silver slumped as much as 35% in London in about three weeks from its April 25 record of $49.79 an ounce after CME announced margin increases.

Impala Platinum earnings leap 41% but Zimbabwe concerns linger

South Africa's Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats) said on Thursday that its headline earnings for the 2011 financial year rose 41% as it reaped the benefit of rising prices. The world's second-largest producer of the metal also said Thursday that it expects output in 2012 to be steady or slightly lower on the year and that costs will likely rise. Implats accounts for close to 30% of global supply of the precious metal sometimes referred to as white gold, used in vehicle emission systems to reduce pollution and for the manufacture of jewellery. Prices for platinum climbed throughout the year from just over US$1,500 per ounce to end at about US$1,800 per ounce.

Paladin secures US uranium contracts for 'low to mid-$60s'

Australia's Paladin Energy has signed three new uranium sale agreements with US customers for output from the stage 3 expansion of the Langer Heinrich mine in the Namib desert (pictured).

Gold heading for one of the worst trading days ever – drops $105

Spot gold dropped $105 an ounce, or 5.66%, to $1,753.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange in early afternoon trade on Wednesday, as investors booked profits and over disappointment about the precious metal's failure to breach $1,900. Losses over two trading days now top $120 – gold last hit a settlement record on Monday, when it finished at $1,891.90 an ounce. Gold has gained almost 25% from lows in early July and many analysts are holding to forecasts of $2,000 an ounce in the near term, but some producers have sounded caution.

Record profit means BHP still has $60 billion left for expansion after Petrohawk deal

BHP Billiton reported record annual results and beat analyst estimates in the process, after prices of copper, iron ore and coal reached all-time highs because of demand from China. Profit at the world's biggest miner surged 86% for the 12 months $23.6 billion, a full $1.4 billion ahead of expectations, on the back of earnings from iron ore, its biggest division, which jumped 122% to $13.3 billion.

Mountain Province breaks off third party talks for $600 million Gahcho Kué project

Mountain Province Diamonds said on Wednesday it is breaking off talks with unspecified parties that showed an interest in the company and is instead focusing on advancing its Gahcho Kué project and to arrange its share of the financing which amounts to some $600 million. Shares in the little-traded company jumped almost 8% on the news.

Derivatives traders dive into iron ore market as prices triple

New York brokerage GFI's announcement on Tuesday that it now offers on-screen iron ore swap trading is the latest indication that the economics of the world's foremost dry bulk commodity are being changed fundamentally. Started in 2008, derivatives trading in iron ore is up fourfold this year after setting a record in July as investment banks enter the massive market in numbers. The world's top three miners – BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto – control nearly 70% of the 1 billion tonne annual seaborne trade and dominate price talks. The benchmark China import price for iron ore has tripled since late 2008 to $177 a tonne.

Canada crude to fall further behind global oil as Horizon syncrude restarts

Canadian Natural Resources said on Tuesday its Horizon oil sands operation has resumed production after a seven month gap caused by a fire. The Calgary-based company said expects to reach full capacity of 110,000 barrels per day of syncrude – a light oil manufactured from bitumen – by next week. The Horizon outage led to a shortage of syncrude which helped Alberta’s producers attract a premium of $18 above benchmark US oil. That premium is now shrinking and is set to return to normal levels of a slight discount. Last week the spread between US crude and North Sea Brent reached a record margin of $26 a barrel. Western Canada Select in turn trades at $13 a barrel below US levels which on Tuesday was $84 a barrel.

Gold beaten back from highs

Gold futures dropped for the first time in more than a week on Tuesday as global equity markets posted gains, buoyed by better-than-expected data from China. Gold for December delivery fell $19.80 or 1% to $1,873.50 an ounce at the start of trade in New York's Comex. On Monday the December contract rose $39.70, or 2.1%, Monday to settle at $1,891.90. Bullion is up 16% in August, heading for its best monthly performance since September 1999. Silver for December delivery in New York declined 1% to $42.94 an ounce after earlier touching $44.295, the highest price since May 3. It’s up 39% this year.