Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rare earth element Indium reported in Bisbee mine tailings

The rare earth element Indium, used in photovoltaic solar panels, has been found in the mine tailings from  Bisbee, according to Alan Koenig, a USGS geologist in charge of a project to re-examine thousands of samples from major mineral deposits collected over the last 150 years, in hopes of finding minerals that were overlooked when the main targets of gold, copper, silver, etc were recovered.    Koenig is quoted in an interview posted on Yahoo Finance's Australia website.

AZGS Bulletin 194, "Metallic Mineral Districts and Production in Arizona," reports that the Warren mining district produced 355 million pounds of zinc, so having Indium in waste there makes sense, according to Nyal Niemuth, chief of our Economic Geology Section and former Chief Engineer of the AZ Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources. [Right, Lavender Pit, Bisbee]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lawsuit filed against Rosemont mine aquifer protection permit

Last Thursday was the deadline for cooperating agencies to submit their comments to the Forest Service on the Final EIS for the proposed Rosemont copper mine south of Tucson.

On Friday, a group of organizations and individuals filed suit against the Arizona Water Quality Appeals Board to overturn their upholding of the Aquifer Protection Permit issued to Augusta Resources for the mine.  The group wants the WQAB decision reversed and the permit application sent back to the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality to be reconsidered using criteria the mine opponents say should have been used.  [Right, geologic cross section through proposed mine site.  Credit, Rosemont Copper]

Rosemont's been riding a wave of positive developments this summer with an Administrative Law Judge's upholding of the Aquifer Protection Permit followed by the WQAB decision, the release of the Final EIS, and last week's announcement that nearly $1 billion in financing has been secured to construct the mine.

There is widespread expectation that mine opponents will be filing numerous lawsuits to try to prevent or at least delay mine construction from beginning in 2014.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Can Bisbee mine tours be kept open?

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold is working with local officials on ways to keep the Queen Mine in Bisbee open for public tours.  The company recently announced plans to not renew a lease on the mine due to concerns over radon levels and stability of the underground tunnels.  But the mine is a significant tourism attraction in the area, drawing an estimated 40,000 visitors a year.  [Right, photo credit, "Vision and Enterprise: Exploring the History of Phelps Dodge Corporation," by Carlos A. Schwantes.   Posted on Arizona Experience]

The radon levels reported do not appear to be a problem for occasional visitors, but tour guides and  other staff who spend extensive time in the mine could be at risk. However, the usual solution to increased radon levels is to provide greater ventilation and dilute any radon-bearing air.

Some of the news coverage of the story:

Our role in digitizing the Earth

The cover for the September issue of EARTH magazine proclaims "Geoscience Embraces BIG DATA" with a feature article inside on "Digitizing Earth" [right].

AZGS is showcased for our roles in the DOE-funded National Geothermal Data System ("One of the most successful programs to date...") and the NSF EarthCube initiative.

We are managing the largest of the four NGDS projects on behalf of the Association of American State Geologists, where we have set up distributed data nodes in most of the Geological Surveys across the country with data coming into this federated system from all 50 states.   We have over 5 million records online currently and expect that number to increase dramatically by year end.

The EarthCube program is envisioned as transforming the way geosciences are practiced,  using computer and information sciences to create a cyber-infrastructure.   AZGS is managing the EarthCube Governance Framework, the website, and leading the community engagement effort.

We just held a two-day workshop here in Tucson at the wonderful Hacienda del Sol resort, where about 30 leaders in the geosciences (Earth, atmosphere, oceans, and polar) and computer sciences gathered to share results of workshops they have organized over the past  9 months in their disciplines to consider their needs and requirements in cyberinfrastructure.

My conclusion is that there is broad consensus on what the different scientific communities want, and a lot of commonalities about the design concepts and functionalities.  This augurs well for the plans we are formulating to organize the communities and seek consensus on governance and system architecture.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arizona potash companies say "don't panic"

Like it says on the back cover of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," don't panic!  The apparent collapse of the BPC potash cartel and the resulting dramatic fall of world potash prices has sent the commodities markets into massive uncertainty and raised questions about the financing and viability of proposed potash projects worldwide.

But the heads of Passport Potash and Prospect Global Resources, two companies actively exploring Arizona's Holbrook basin, say it's too early to write off projects such as theirs, with low capitalization costs, established infrastructure, a stable political and economic environment, and ready access to major markets.

Passport Chairman David Salisbury said in an interview with Potash Investing News that the world still needs to fill an estimated 15 million tonne per year global need for potash from new and expanded mines, “But in all cases it will be the lowest cost producers that are going to be able to survive in that market.”

The Arizona Journal quotes Damon Barber, CEO of PGR, "Based on our recent pre-feasibility study, our Holbrook project is designed to produce 1.4 million tons per year and has the lowest estimated capital cost per ton of production of any greenfield project.”

Friday, August 09, 2013

Banks sign billion-dollar financing deal for Rosemont Copper mine

 Augusta Resources has signed an agreement with a group of 12 financial institutions that will provide over a billion dollars to fund construction of the company's Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, according to an announcement made by Jamie Sturgess with Rosemont to the Arizona Mining Alliance today in Tucson.  [Right, location map of proposed mine site.  Credit, USFS]

A news release from Augusta explains the details:

Augusta Resource Corporation is pleased to announce that its wholly owned subsidiary, Rosemont Copper Company, together with its joint venture partners, LG International Corp. and Korea Resources Corporation (together with Augusta, the "Sponsors") have executed a project financing mandate letter (the "Mandate Letter") with a syndicate of twelve international financial institutions (the "Mandated Lead Arrangers" or "MLAs").

The Mandate Letter sets out an exclusive arrangement with the MLAs describing the activities needed to arrange a limited recourse loan facility for the construction of the Company's Rosemont Copper Project ("Rosemont") in Arizona.  The proposed senior secured loan is expected to provide all of the debt required for Rosemont, including a cost overrun component.  The Mandate Letter sets forth the required steps, including agreement on final terms and conditions and requisite documentation for the loan, completion of due diligence, and procurement of credit approvals, as well as time frames for completing these steps.  The Mandate Letter also specifies the roles and responsibilities of the MLAs, appoints certain MLAs to agent roles and stipulates certain fees payable to the MLAs and agents. 

The twelve MLAs who have signed the Mandate Letter include: BNP Paribas, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Export Development Canada, Export-Import Bank of Korea (Financial Advisory and Structuring Department), ING Capital LLC, KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH, Korea Development Bank, Korea Finance Corporation, Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, and Mizuho Bank, Ltd.

The MLAs are being advised by Shearman & Sterling LLP (Lenders' Counsel), DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, P.C. (Lenders' Arizona Counsel), and SRK Consulting (U.S.), Inc. (Lenders' Independent Engineer). 

The Sponsors are being advised by Endeavour Financial International Corporation (Financial Advisor), Allen & Overy LLP (Project Finance Counsel), Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP (Corporate Counsel to the Company), and Fennemore Craig, P.C. (Sponsors' Arizona Counsel).

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Havasu Canyon back in operation after flood damages water system

News reports last week about flooding in Havasu Canyon sounded dire with water supplies to Supai Village knocked out.   But news coming out of the remote area that has no road access to the outside world is that the flood was relatively minor and just hit a couple of sensitive spots. Our contacts report no major damage. Their water line broke but is now fixed. They said their sewer line across the river backed up but was not broken. 

They are pretty much back to normal it seems, and are celebrating their annual Peach Festival for four days this coming weekend. All housing and camping areas will be flooded with about 1,000+ Native Americans from all over Arizona and the Southwest. It will be quite an event.  [Right, mule pack train in Supai Village.  Mail and supplies to the village have to come by mule or helicopter. My photo]

AZGS geologist Brian Gootee will be heading down the canyon shortly to assess stability of trails and the slopes below tribal cemeteries that were damaged in previous floods, and offer advice on additional work to be done.