Friday, April 29, 2022

What Is a New Moon?

Sky Archive / EarthSky 

It’s a new Moon! For astronomers, a new Moon means no Moon. For many cultures, however, the new Moon carries special meaning. Discover more about the new Moon.

What Is a New Moon?

A new Moon is essentially the opposite of a full Moon. During a full Moon, we see the side of the Moon that is being illuminated by the Sun, giving the Moon its bright, glowing appearance. During a new Moon, however, we see the side of the Moon that is not being illuminated by the Sun, which makes the Moon blend in with the dark night sky.

When the Moon is “new,” it’s located between the Earth and the Sun. In other words, the Moon is in line with the Sun, and the Sun and Earth are on opposite sides of the Moon. (Note that when the Moon is perfectly aligned in front of the Sun, it blocks out the Sun, giving us a solar eclipse.)

The new Moon marks the beginning of a lunar cycle. This means that there’s a new Moon about once a month, because the Moon takes about a month (29.5 days) to orbit Earth.

In fact, the word moon shares its origins with the Latin word metri, which means to measure, and mensis, which means month. The Moon is called the Moon because it is used to measure the months.

When Is the Next New Moon?

Check out our Moon Phase Calendar to find out when the next new Moon will occur.

When Does the New Moon Rise?

The new Moon always rises near sunrise! See our handy chart on “When Will the Moon Rise Tonight?”

As the new Moon crosses the sky during the day, rising and setting around the same time as the Sun, it’s lost in the solar glare. See when the Moon will rise and set in your area!

The new Moon is also lit up from behind, showing us its dark side. It’s doubly invisible. New Moons generally can’t be seen with the naked eye. 

A day or two after each month’s new Moon, a very slim crescent moon always becomes visible in the west after sunset. It may appear brighter than usual.

And seven days after the new Moon, the waxing Moon reaches it’s First Quarter stage when it’s 50% illuminated. Learn why we call it the Quarter Moon rather than the Half Moon

New Moon Folklore

Here at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the new Moon is strongly associated with Gardening by the Moon. According to this age-old practice, one should plant vegetables that bear crops above ground during the light, or waxing, of the Moon: from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full.

We also look to the Moon’s phases to determine many holidays based on the lunar calendar. For example, the date of Easter is determined by the Moon’s phase.

And, of course, many sky watchers look forward to the return of the Moon to the evening sky with the first sighting of the waxing crescent one or two days later. This very thin crescent is always low in evening twilight.

After the Moon’s absence for a few days, it’s kind of a lunar rebirth. Thus, many cultures revolved ceremonies around that first appearance of the new Moon. 

For Muslims, its sighting officially marks the beginning of each month. The next upcoming young Moon sighting will mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

April 30, 2022 / 4:30 PM Charleston, SC

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ukraine War: Russia cuts off gas to Bulgaria and Poland

Iron ore price up as China vows to support economy

 Iron ore price rebounds as China vows to support economy 

The iron ore price rebounded on Tuesday after China pledged more support to help revive an economy that’s been imperiled by an escalating virus outbreak.

Benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China rose as much as 1.3% to $138.32 per tonne, as China’s central bank vowed to increase monetary support to the real economy, especially for industries and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic, according to a statement on Tuesday.

That follows the People’s Bank of China’s decision Monday to cut the amount of money that banks need to have in reserve for their foreign currency holdings, an attempt to help limit the drop in the yuan.

On Monday, the metal price plunged nearly 9% on fears that the fast-spreading omicron strain of the covid-19 virus had taken hold in Beijing.

“Policy may be the salvation for China’s iron ore and base metal demand this year,” Vivek Dhar, commodities analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note.

“Policymakers are hoping for a soft landing, helping stabilize commodity demand in the property construction sector,” while infrastructure investment in the country is also expected to rise significantly this year, he added.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told a State Council meeting on Monday that the country should watch the economic impact from domestic and external factors that have exceeded expectations, and that policy measures need to be implemented in the first half to stabilize prices and economic fundamentals.

Benchmark iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, for September delivery, declined 2.5% to 809 yuan a tonne, extending losses to the third session.

Capital Economics said in a note on Friday that it expects infrastructure stimulus to “merely provide a floor under prices as the government appears willing to tolerate slower growth in 2022.”

The China Iron and Steel Association said on Monday the country’s first-quarter apparent steel consumption plunged 9.5% year-on-year, but sees demand recovering in the second half of the year.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Copper price crashes through $10,000 as hedge funds turn most bearish in two years

Copper price crashes through $10,000 as hedge funds turn most bearish in two years

During the height of the covid-19 pandemic, night view of Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, with few tourists. Nanjing Lu is the main shopping street of the city. By Leo Li. 

The copper price fell on Monday to the lowest in three months with mounting concern about the outlook for demand due both to spreading lockdowns in China and the continuing war in Ukraine.

Protests at two big copper mines in Peru knocked out a fifth of the country’s production capacity last week before the government imposed a state of emergency to regain control of the Cuajone mine.

However, the market focus is rapidly turning to the demand side of the copper equation, particularly in China, where lockdowns are already braking growth sharply in the world’s largest metals user.

Copper for delivery in July fell 3.7% from Friday’s settlement price, touching $4.43 per pound ($9,766 per tonne) midday Monday on the Comex market in New York, wiping out most of the metal’s gains for the year.

Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices

Fund managers have been increasing bearish bets on the CME copper contract over the last couple of weeks, Reuters columnist Andy Home reported.

Outright short positions stood at 45,012 contracts as of the close of business last Tuesday (April 19th), according to the latest Commitments of Traders Report.

Bears tip-toe back into copper market as demand fears grow.

“They crept past the 2021 peak of 44,978 contracts last week and bear positioning is now as large as it’s been since May 2020. There are still sufficiently significant long positions to keep the collective net speculative exposure marginally net long to the tune of 25,393,” wrote Andy Home.

“But bears have been conspicuous by their absence for many months in the copper market and their cautious re-appearance is telling.”

President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the goal of minimizing deaths from the virus in a speech last week while emphasizing the need to expand cooperation to ensure the economy’s recovery.

China’s zero tolerance approach to covid 19 has seen banks including UBS Group AG and Nomura Holdings slash their growth forecasts for the country as lockdowns weigh on economic activity.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

Why American Gas Stations Are Turning Into Supermarkets - Cheddar Explains

Monday, April 25, 2022

Glencore cobalt mine scrutinized as Congo revisits foreign deals

Glencore Cobalt Mine Scrutinized as Congo Revisits Foreign Deals

Mutanda copper mine. (Image: Fleurette Group) 

Democratic Republic of Congo added Glencore Plc’s giant Mutanda copper and cobalt operation to a list of projects that could face renegotiation, just as the key battery metals mine is in the process of restarting.

The move to probe Mutanda comes as Congo President Felix Tshisekedi increases his scrutiny of extractive deals made under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. Congo is examining copper and cobalt projects controlled by China Molybdenum Co. and China Railway Group, while the president’s advisers are also renegotiating the rights to multiple raw material permits and royalty streams controlled by Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler. 

“When you see what happened in this sector during the previous regime, it was scandalous in terms of concessions given to foreign companies,” Andre Wameso, the president’s deputy chief of staff for economic issues, said in an interview on Thursday in the capital Kinshasa.

Some of Mutanda’s permits expire next month, and Tshisekedi has used the renewal process to create an ad-hoc commission that will assess the project’s benefits for Congo, Wameso, said. 

Mutanda has not been formally notified in respect of any commission, a Glencore spokesman said by email Friday.

Glencore confirmed in December that it planned to reopen Mutanda, which was put on care and maintenance in 2019 after cobalt prices slumped. The operation will produce about 11,000 tons of cobalt a year between 2022 and 2025, with output over the full 20-year mine life expected to average about 76,000 tons copper and 21,000 tons cobalt, the commodity giant said.

A reopening of Mutanda comes amid renewed demand for battery metals from automakers as economies shift toward cleaner technologies that use electricity for energy. Cobalt and copper are key metals in that green transition.

Three of Mutanda’s four permits are set to expire in May, according to Congo’s mining cadastre.

“This is an opportunity for us to see very calmly how things have been done and if there are improvements in terms of rebalancing the partnership with Glencore,” he said. “We have nothing against Glencore,” Wameso said, adding that any rebalancing would be to ensure that the state’s “interests are preserved.”

Congo’s mining code stipulates that miners submit permit renewal applications solely through the cadastre and the mines ministry. Neither responded to requests for comment. The code also requires companies to cede 5% of their shares to the state at the time of renewal.

According to the code, the cadastre gives the permit-renewal dossier to the mines minister, who has 30 days to accept or reject it. If the minister says nothing, the permit then is considered accepted, presuming the cadastre has advised that it be accepted. 

After that the renewal must be registered by the cadastre.

Mutanda is following the process set out in Congo’s mining code in respect of its renewal, which it expects to be registered in the coming weeks, the Glencore spokesman said.

Mutanda produced a fifth of the world’s cobalt and nearly 200,000 tons of copper in 2018, its last year of full production. The company restarted processing stockpiles of oxide ore late last year while it explores the future mining of Mutanda’s sulphide resources, according to Glencore’s 2021 annual report.

Negotiations with China Moly over its Tenke mine are gridlocked over a dispute relating to different definitions for estimating the mineral reserves in the project, according to Wameso.

Congo believes the Chinese company has underreported its reserves, starving its minority partner, state-owned miner Gecamines, of contractual payments. Last month, the government said it was trying to resolve the dispute amicably and that Gecamines was suspending a court case against China Moly’s Tenke Fungurume Mining SA.

Wameso declined to comment on legal proceedings.

The two sides are engaging a third-party to conduct an assessment, said Vincent Zhou, a spokesman for China Moly, who added that Tenke Fungurume posted better-than-planned production results in the first quarter of 2022.

(By Michael J. Kavanagh, with assistance from Thomas Biesheuvel)

LyondellBasell to Shut Houston Refinery by 2024 

Rotterdam (the Netherlands)-headquartered LyondellBasell, a multinational chemical company, will permanently shut operation of its Houston crude oil refinery by the end of 2023, the company said in a statement.

The company did not cite any reason for the sudden closure decision of operations at the Houston refinery, but, experts believe, that the chemical maker did not have any option but to shut its refinery after two failed attempts to sell this facility in the last two years. The crude oil refinery is understood to be a high cost and low margin business.

“After thoroughly analyzing our options, we have determined that exiting the refining business by the end of next year is the best strategic and financial path forward for the company. These decisions are never easy and we understand this has a very real impact on our refinery employees, their families, and the community. We are committed to supporting our people through this transition,” said Ken Lane, interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LyondellBasell.

In the interim, the company will continue serving the fuels market, which is expected to remain strong in the near term, and consider potential transactions and alternatives for the site.

The Houston refinery which makes gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, will remain in operation and the company will continue to seek potential buyers along with other alternatives including partnerships with capital infusion in this roughly 700-acre site on the Houston Ship Channel. Earlier, the company took a US$ 264 million impairment charge as part of its decision to exit refining.

LyondellBasell has twice mounted efforts to sell the 268,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery but failed to conclude any deal or alliance due to the absence of any interested party.

While announcing the decision, Lane said, “Once the anchor of its supply chain as a regional chemical company, this refinery is no longer a fit with its global petrochemical product. Hence, it has decided to cease the operation of its Houston refinery no later than December 31, 2023.”

The CEO further added, ”While this was a difficult decision, our exit of the refining business advances the company’s decarbonization goals, and the site’s prime location gives us more options for advancing our future strategic objectives, including circularity.”

LyondellBasell’s Houston Refinery has the capacity to transform crude oil into transportation fuels and other products including lubricants chemical intermediates and petroleum coke. Circularity primarily means efforts by plastics manufacturers to increase spare finished plastics from landfills and return them to the supply chain for chemical plants.

Early this month, LyondellBasell announced the publication of its 2021 sustainability report titled ‘Future Focused’. The report fixes the company’s goal to produce 2 million metric tonnes of recycled and renewable-based polymers by 2030, 30 percent absolute emissions reduction from operations by the end of the current decade, 50 percent minimum of electricity procured from renewable sources by 2030, and achieve a ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions from operations by 2050.

“We are future-focused and we believe our goals for more circular and sustainable plastics and decarbonization are critical to the long-term success of LyondellBasell. They help create a better future for our employees and our communities, as well as advance our customers’ sustainability ambitions,” said Lane.

He further added, “A net-zero economy without plastic waste in the environment will require collaboration throughout the value chain and its key to securing society’s transition toward a more sustainable future.”

Head of Mexico City government compares lithium nationalization to that of oil 84 years ago

 Head of Mexico City government compares lithium nationalization to that of oil 84 years ago

Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the government of Mexico City. (Image by the CDMX government, Twitter). 

Following the nationalization of the lithium industry approved by the country’s Senate on April 21, Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the government of Mexico City, said during a public speech over the weekend that the decision is comparable to the nationalization of the oil industry approved during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, 84 years ago.

“What did President Lázaro Cárdenas do in 1938? He nationalized oil. For what? So that oil was used for the well-being of the Mexican people and so that foreign companies would not take it away,” Sheinbaum said. “Well, what President López Obrador did is similar to what General Lázaro Cárdenas did: he gave lithium back to Mexicans.”

The government official said that prior to the approval of the new law, lithium deposits could be privatized and that many foreign mining companies would take it and give very little in return. 

Sheinbaum also said that the opposition MPs who voted against the initiative betrayed their country, while those who voted for it are “nationalists committed to their country.”

The new law elevates lithium to the category of “strategic mineral,” declaring the exploration, exploitation, and use of lithium to be the exclusive right of the state. It also includes a clause allowing the state to take charge of “other minerals declared strategic” by Mexico.

Since the bill was passed, 90 days started running for the executive to create a new, decentralized body to deal with all lithium-related matters, which means that no new concessions, permits or contracts will be granted.

When announcing the approval, López Obrador said his administration will review all lithium contracts, which casts a shadow of doubt over projects already being developed in the country, including the one held by Bacanora Lithium (LON: BCN) in the country’s northwest.

Friday, April 22, 2022

U.S. refiners receiving last Russian oil cargoes before wind-down expires this week

A tanker loads its cargo from the Sakhalin-2 project in the port of Prigorodnoye, Russia, on Oct. 29, 2021.The Associated Press 

Nine tankers carrying Russian-origin crude and fuel oil have discharged in the United States in April, likely the last ones to deliver before a wind-down set by Washington expires this week, customs and tanker tracking data showed.

The United States last month set an April 22 ban on imports of Russian crude and refined products. The United States gave importers of Russian petroleum, liquefied natural gas and coal 45 days to take en route and under-contract cargoes.

Tanker Seamagic, which loaded fuel oil at Russia’s Taman port, discharged at Valero Energy’s St. Charles, Louisiana, refinery last week, the last of the nine tracked to discharge. The data does not include ship-to-ship transfers or Russian-origin oil loaded elsewhere.

Minerva Ellie, a vessel carrying high sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) and sold by Russia’s Rosneft, also discharged at Valero’s St. Charles facility, according to U.S. customs data. The cargo was chartered by commodities trader Vitol.

Vitol declined to comment on trading activity. Minerva Marine Inc, which manages Minerva Ellie, and Thenamaris (Ships Management), which manages Seamagic, also declined to comment. Valero did not immediately reply to a request for comments.

The United States imported 672,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Russian crude and refined products last year, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Of that, 30 per cent or 199,000 bpd was crude while 473,000 bpd was refined products.

This month, one crude and eight fuel oil tankers carrying about 6.3 million barrels that departed from Russia reached U.S. ports and lightening zones, according to the data.

A 2 million-barrel cargo of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) Blend and Urals crude that departed from Russia was received in Delaware, according to ship tracking data based on the chartering contract.

CPC Blend is composed of oil from Kazakhstan and often mixed with Russian oil and loaded at Russia’s Novorossiysk port on the Black Sea. The U.S. ban on Russian imports does not prohibit trading in CPC crude, but advises that the Russian origin crude should be segregated.

State of emergency in Peru as protests hit copper output

Peru says 50-day protest lifted at key copper mine

The vast Cuajone mine complex begins with a water supply at Lake Suche at 14,500 feet in the Andes and ends with a smelter on the South Pacific coast. (Image courtesy of Fluor. 

Peru has declared a state of emergency near Southern Copper Corp’s (NYSE: SCCO) Cuajone copper mine as protests have caused the Andean nation to halt 20% of its copper output.
Operations at Cuajone were suspended on March 15 after residents of a nearby community shut down water supply to the mine, demanding financial compensation and a share of future profits.
Unrest spread later to MMG’s giant Las Bambas mine, Peru’s fourth-largest copper mine and the world’s ninth-largest, which has been shut and reopened at least twice this year. The latest suspension was announced this week after residents of the nearby Fuerabamba community entered the mine and set up camp inside of it.

Glencore’s (LON: GLEN) Antapaccay, Peru’s sixth largest copper mine, has also been the target of demonstrators this week, according to local media.

Peru, the world’s second largest producer after Chile, is also a significant silver and zinc supplier.

The mines affected by this week’s protest produced almost 500,000 of copper combined in 2021, with Las Bambas churning out 300,000 tonnes of copper Cuajone another 170,000 tonnes.

Community conflicts with mining companies are nothing new in Peru, and some of the current unrest is more about protecting water supplies than securing a bigger share of the revenue miners obtain. 

Demonstrations in recent months have also targeted Hudbay Mineral’s (TSX, NYSE: HBM) Constancia and Antamina, Peru’s largest copper mine, which is co-owned by Glencore and BHP (ASX: BHP).

Having more than one major copper mine down at any one time is unusual, experts say, but can be explained by the fact that current mining protests are embedded in more generalized unrest over living costs that has inflamed an already tense political climate under President Pedro Castillo.

Since the former rural activist from a Marxist party took office, the number of social conflicts is up about 7%, official data proves. The worsening situation has deepened global concerns around a looming deficit of copper.

According to estimates from CRU Group, the copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to close what could be an annual shortage of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.

(With files from Bloomberg, Reuters)

Mexico nationalizes lithium mining

Mexico passes mining reform nationalizing lithium

Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (Image courtesy of Mexican President’s Office.)

Mexico has officially nationalized its lithium industry after the Senate approved by 87 votes in favour, 20 against and 16 abstentions the mining reform proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which gives the state exclusive rights over the battery metal.

The law, which came into force on Thursday, was approved in record time — only two days after introduced by López Obrador to Congress.
The bill elevates lithium to the category of “strategic mineral”, declaring the exploration, exploitation, and use of lithium to be the exclusive right of the state. It also includes a clause allowing the state to take charge of “other minerals declared strategic” by Mexico.

The executive has now 90 days to create a new, decentralized body to deal with all lithium-related matters.

Since taking power in 2018, López Obrador has fought to reverse resource reforms under previous governments, which opened up the oil and electricity sectors to private investment. He has pushed a resource exploitation model that gives priority to state-controlled companies.

The President said his administration will review all lithium contracts, which casts a shadow of doubt over projects already being developed in the country, including the one held by Bacanora Lithium (LON: BCN) in the country’s northwest. The company, owned by China’s Genfeng Lithium, owns the giant Sonora project, which is slated to produce 35,000 tonnes of the metal per year starting in 2023.

Mexico passes mining reform nationalizing lithium
Bacanora has been building a 35,000 tonnes per annum battery grade lithium operation in Mexico’s Sonora state. (Image courtesy of Bacanora Lithium.)

The law would likely bring trade tensions with the country’s northern neighbours as it is said to violate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Kenneth Smith Ramos, who headed technical negotiations for the now defunct North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), told local media that declaring lithium a strategic mineral is an issue as lithium was not designated as such when the three nations signed the accord.

The Mexican Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists said in a statement that “clays containing lithium have been located” in the country. “To the best of our knowledge, no country has produced and commercialized lithium from clays,” it added.

Most of the world’s current lithium output is locked away in long term deals as downstream chemicals producers, battery makers and electric vehicles makers are frantically trying to secure future supply.

Mexico’s reserves of the sought-after metal positions it in the 10th place among the world’s top producers, data from the US Geological Survey shows.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Fifth of Peru copper mining goes offline with more shutdowns likely

 Mining Boss Sees Fervor Calming With Peru Leftist to Take Office

Peru President /  Marxist Party - Pedro Castillo. (Image from Castillo’s Twitter profile) 

Sky-high metal prices and accelerating general inflation are fueling another up-tick in resource nationalism and social unrest in Peru, among the top suppliers of copper, zinc and silver.

As of Wednesday, about a fifth of the country’s copper output will be off-line as MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas mine joins Southern Copper Corp.’s Cuajone in succumbing to community protests. At the same time, unions in the mineral-rich Cusco region are staging strikes against rising prices, while residents near a Glencore Plc copper mine are preparing to resume protests.

To be sure, community conflicts are nothing new in Peru and some of the current unrest is more about protecting water supplies than grabbing a bigger share of the mineral spoils.

But having more than one major copper mine down at any one time is unusual, and this time round the mining protests are embedded in more generalized unrest over living costs that has inflamed an already tense political climate under President Pedro Castillo. Since the former rural activist from a Marxist party took office, the number of social conflicts is up about 7%.

With lawmakers discussing measures to appease the population’s pain from the fastest inflation in 24 years, politicians are looking to the mining industry to help foot the bill.

On Tuesday, Pedro Francke, a former Castillo finance minister and moderate left-winger, said more than a $1 billion could be added to state coffers with a modest hike to mining taxes. Others have tapped into the tensions to rekindle calls for more drastic measures. “The nationalization of strategic resources is the cornerstone of a country’s development,” Vladimir Cerron, founder of Castillo’s own party, wrote in a Twitter post.

The president, who has dodged two impeachment attempts since taking office in July, is being criticized by both the mining industry and some community groups.  

Southern Peru Chief Financial Officer Raul Jacob said this week that dialog at Cuajone hadn’t advanced much amid “certain passivity” by the government to resolve conflicts. 

The industry puts some of the blame for an up-tick in unrest on the administration’s prioritizing the right to protest over other concerns such as free transit. In isolated areas with poor services and infrastructure, mines can become de facto local governments and therefore an easy target for grievances.

But Castillo is having to walk a tight-rope. After softening his tone on resource nationalism to appease more moderate factions, he’s grappled to maintain support of his party’s more hardline factions and the rural voters who put him in power. 

Carlos Hanco, youth secretary of the National Coordinator of Gas Users in Cusco, is among leaders pushing for a review of contracts covering natural gas, minerals and water. His grievances are directed both at the government and legislators. 

“It is a demand for the Castillo government to fulfill the campaign promises,” Hanco said. “We also demand Congress stop being a coup plotter and work for the needs of the people.”

(By María Cervantes and James Attwood)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Gas station owner ‘on verge of tears’ after undercharging for fuel in Tennessee 

For a brief few hours, a convenience store in Tennessee was offering perhaps the lowest fuel prices of any gas station in the country — only the owner didn’t know it.

One customer, Henry DeHart of Chattanooga, knew something was wrong when, after putting 12 gallons of premium gas in the tank of his car, the pump’s digital readout displayed a surprising total: $5.64.

And the price per gallon? Just 45 cents.

With the average cost for a gallon of gas hovering well over $4 — and the price of premium gas in Tennessee at $4.64 a gallon — the deep discount would have been welcome if it wasn’t so clearly a mistake, DeHart said in an April 14 Facebook post.

DeHart went inside to explain the situation to the gas station owner, he said.

A language barrier caused confusion at first, so DeHart asked the owner for his receipt. The dollars and cents on the slip of paper spelled out the problem clearly, and the owner couldn’t hide his pain.

“He ran back around the counter [and] started poking at his screen and then turned green. Nobody had told him in the last 5 hours,” DeHart said.

“There’s no telling how much money he lost today. He was on the verge of tears,” he said.

Gas station owners make a slim profit on gasoline sales, usually about 10 to 15 cents on the gallon, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. And rising prices hurt their bottom line, as customers become less likely to buy snacks and drinks or other in-store items, which are more profitable than gasoline.

“What I find most frustrating about this is that this man … with the guts to own a small business would get screwed over by people for half of [the] day,” DeHart said.

“How many people this morning thought, it’s my lucky day, while this man was getting taken to the cleaners?” he added.

Not everyone was happy that DeHart had brought their “lucky day” to an end, he said. A man in line behind him made that clear, DeHart said.

“I get it, times are tough and gas is expensive, but NOTHING in this world is free,” DeHart said. “Someone is ultimately always footing the bill.”

DeHart said he paid what he should have owed.

It wasn’t enough to cover the owner’s losses, but “he had already taken such a beating” that it seemed like the right thing to do, DeHart said.-

Mexico’s lower house backs lithium nationalization plans

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador 

Bacanora Lithium says Sonora project is so-far safe from Mexico planned reforms. (Image courtesy of Bacanora Lithium.)

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said on Tuesday that all lithium contracts would be reviewed, partially contradicting previous comments in which he promised not touch licenses already granted to private companies, provided exploration work has already begun and all license requirements have been met.

López Obrador’s comments come after the country’s lower house of Congress passed an amendment to mining legislation that paves the way for the state to nationalize the country’s lithium reserves.

López Obrador moved on Monday to introduce the proposal to nationalize the country’s lithium directly to Congress, using a presidential prerogative to send a limited number of bills directly to the floor, bypassing the involvement of committees.

“I make a respectful call to the legislators so that … we protect lithium and lay out the structure for a company, such as CFE, that will handle everything related to lithium, backed by the support of research facilities in the country and the experience learned from other countries,” he said in a press conference.

The bill was approved on Monday by the lower house, only 24 hours after the same lawmakers had rejected the controversial reform of the energy sector.

The proposed law, now in the hands of the Senate, bans all private participation in the exploration and mining of lithium, which elevates to the category of “strategic mineral”.

The initiative has triggered worries among companies that already have lithium concessions in Mexico, including the one held by Bacanora Lithium (LON: BCN) in the country’s northwest. The company, owned by China’s Genfeng Lithium, is developing the giant Sonora project, which is slated to produce 35,000 tonnes of the metal per year starting in 2023.

Trade worries

The proposed law has also driven trade concerns, as it would violate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Kenneth Smith Ramos, who headed technical negotiations for the now defunct North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), told local media.

Smith said declaring lithium a strategic mineral, like certain radioactive minerals, either directly or indirectly, would breach the terms of the USMA as the battery metal was not listed as a strategic mineral when signed.

Most of the world’s current lithium output is locked away in long term deals as downstream chemicals producers, battery makers and electric vehicles makers are frantically trying to secure future supply.

Mexico’s reserves of the sought-after metal could position it among the world’s top producers if extracted, data from the US Geological Survey shows.

In terms of reserves, Bolivia ranks first with 21 million tonnes, followed by Argentina (19 million tonnes) and Chile (9.8 million). Mexico holds 1.7 million tonnes of lithium reserves.

Biden restores stricter environmental review of big projects 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is restoring federal regulations that require rigorous environmental review of major infrastructure projects such as highways, pipelines and oil wells — including likely impacts on climate change and nearby communities. The longstanding reviews were scaled back by the Trump administration in a bid to fast-track projects and create jobs.

A rule finalized Tuesday will restore key provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law designed to ensure community safeguards during reviews for a wide range of federal proposals, including roads, bridges and energy projects authorized in the $1 trillion infrastructure law Biden signed last fall, the White House said.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality said the new rule, which takes effect in late May, should resolve challenges created by the Trump-era policy and restore public confidence during environmental reviews.

“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”

Former President Donald Trump overhauled the environmental reviews in 2020 in a bid to accelerate projects he said would boost the economy and provide jobs.

Trump made slashing government regulations a hallmark of his presidency. He and his administration frequently expressed frustration at rules they said unnecessarily slowed approval for interstate oil and gas pipelines and other big projects. The rule change imposed in 2020 restricted the timelines for environmental reviews and public comment and allowed federal officials to disregard a project’s role in cumulative effects, such as climate change.

The new rule comes as the Supreme Court reinstated a separate Trump-era rule that curtails the power of states and Native American tribes to block pipelines and other energy projects that can pollute rivers, streams and other waterways.

In a decision that split the court 5-4 earlier this month, the justices agreed to halt a lower court judge’s order throwing out the Trump rule. The decision does not interfere with the Biden administration’s plan to rewrite the Environmental Protection Agency rule. Work on a revision has begun, but the administration has said a final rule is not expected until next spring. The Trump-era rule will remain in effect in the meantime.

Contrary to frequent assertions by Trump and others in his administration, Mallory said a more rigorous environmental review will actually speed up completion of major projects, since they will be more likely to withstand a legal challenge by environmental groups or states. Many Trump-era environmental decisions were reversed or delayed by courts after findings they did not undergo sufficient analysis.

Environmental groups hailed the rule change, which they said restores bedrock environmental protections under NEPA, a 1970 law that requires the government to accept public comments and take environmental, economic and health impacts into consideration before approving any major project.

“NEPA plays a critical role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe, and Donald Trump’s attempts to weaken NEPA were clearly nothing more than a handout to corporate polluters,″ said Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club’s national director of policy, advocacy and legal affairs.

Environmental groups and African American, Latino and tribal activists had protested the Trump-era rule change, saying it would worsen pollution in areas already reeling from oil refineries, chemical plants and other hazardous sites. The Biden administration has made addressing such environmental justice issues a key priority.

“Communities of color, especially, have relied on NEPA to make sure their voices are heard in decisions that have a profound impact on their health and their well-being,” said Rosalie Winn, a senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, which challenged the Trump-era rule.

The White House action “reestablishes essential NEPA safeguards and ensures they will continue to protect people and communities today and in future generations,‴ she said.

Business groups and Republican lawmakers criticized the rule change, saying it would slow down major infrastructure developments.

“Important projects that address critical issues like improving access to public transit, adding more clean energy to the grid and expanding broadband access are languishing due to continued delays and that must change,″ said Chad Whiteman, vice president for environment and regulatory affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the White House action would “weaponize NEPA” by making it harder to navigate and more bureaucratic.

“At a time when we should be coalescing around bipartisan ways to lower gas prices, tame skyrocketing inflation and fix the supply chain crisis, President Biden is unfortunately reinstating archaic NEPA regulations that will only result in delays and red tape and feed activist litigation,″ he said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Top 50 mining companies power through covid adding $1 trillion in value

Extreme volatility on metal and mining markets continued into 2022 amid historically low stockpiles of metal on global exchanges, but for most sectors the risks remained on the upside.

Copper prices again entered record territory, iron ore prices climbed to $150 a tonne after dipping to double digits late last year, and industrial metals including nickel, tin and zinc shot up.

The Ukraine war lit a fire under an already hot potash market, coal and uranium benefitted from the ongoing worldwide energy crunch, lithium soared and cobalt bolted.   Gold pierced $2,000 but couldn’t hold it and palladium hit a record only to pull back sharply.

Rising tide 

Investors made the most of the turmoil with the MINING.COM TOP 50* ranking of the world’s most valuable miners jumping by $335 billion in Q1, extending a trend that has seen valuations balloon nearly 150% since the lows of March-April 2020. 

From just over $700 billion at the depth of pandemic slump, the globe’s 50 most valuable mining companies now have a combined worth of $1.75 trillion, handily beating the previous record valuation set mid-2021.  

The index received a boost from the merger, closed in February, of constituents Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake Gold that created a $30 billion-plus company, but valuations moved sharply higher across the board. 

At the end of Q1 2020 a valuation of just over $3 billion secured a company a spot in the ranking while today, number 50 on the list, lithium and iron ore newcomer Mineral Resources, is valued at $8.5 billion. 

The mid-tier has also been swelling – a year ago 17 companies enjoyed a market valuation above $20 billion. Now investors have pushed 30 miners above that mark.  

Many of the counters – including big names such as Glencore, Anglo American and Newmont Goldcorp – are also trading close to 52-week highs. 

Rouble trouble 

The bottom did not fall out for Russia-based miners and, much like the rouble and the Moscow Stock Exchange, the country’s top companies have proved resilient. 

Were it not for the fact that Alrosa dropped out of the top 50 after its valuation slid to $8.2 billion, Russia’s combined representation in the ranking would’ve decreased by only 12%. 

Norilsk is placed outside the top 10 for the first time, but that is more of a function of soaring valuations among its peers – the nickel, palladium and copper producer only fell 16% in USD terms since the start of the year. 

The dollar market cap of Polyus has in fact climbed in 2022 – no doubt boosted by its significance as rouble hedge on the MCX.   

$100 billon club 

The Big 3 – BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale – dragged down the index last year, losing a combined $56 billion due to a pullback in iron ore prices and a cooling copper market in the latter part of 2021. 

But the first three months of 2022 saw combined gains just shy of $100 billion for the $100 billion market cap club. 

BHP peaked at a valuation of $206 billion mid-2021 and for a time was worth more than the oil major Shell, making it the most valuable stock on the LSE and marking a symbolic shift in the global resources sector.  On the ASX, the world’s number one miner is closing in on all-time highs after dropping its dual listing structure.

Rio Tinto’s USD market cap has grown 22% year to date, rebuilding after the reputational damage it suffered last year while Vale has come roaring back in 2022 topping $100 billion again after a 46% gain in US dollar terms on the Bovespa. 

After spending time outside the top 10 not that long ago, Glencore’s been thoroughly rerated and this week regained its 2011 IPO price in London for the first time. Unlike its peers, Glencore has not abandoned coal mining amid a spike in prices, and its trading arm is benefiting from sky high prices for energy

At the same time Anglo American, which six short years was in danger of suffocating under a pile of debt, is trading at all-time highs.  In January 2016 the market value of the company with a history going back more than a hundred years on the South African gold and diamond fields, fell to below $5 billion. Now it’s above $70 billion.  

Lively lithium

After quintupling in little over a year, some sanity may be returning to lithium prices and with it valuations of stocks in the sector. 

Ganfeng Lithium is included in the top 50 ranking for the first time as the Chinese battery manufacturer moves aggressively upstream making no less than nine investments in mines and projects over the past few years. Ganfeng’s long term goal is output of 600ktpa LCE or 20% of the market from spodumene, brine and clay sources. (See Notes below table for more on inclusion criteria.)

Nevertheless, the volatile stock has lost a fifth of its value so far this year, and has nearly halved from its peak in Hong Kong in August last year as early backers take profits.  

Albemarle has also been cut down from its high reached in November last year when the company was valued at $34 billion, but rival SQM has staged a massive comeback following a slump at the end of last year. 

Ever volatile Tianqi Lithium falls 13 places to no. 31 in the ranking after losing 24% year to date to a dollar value of $18.7 billion for the Shenzen-listed stock. Tianqi briefly fell out of the ranking altogether two years ago.  

Mineral Resources sneaks in at no. 50, bringing the number of lithium focused stocks in the ranking to five with a combined value of more than $100 billion. 

Nuclear option

Thanks to a rally a decade in the making since the Fukushima disaster,  uranium stocks rejoined the top 50 ranking for the first time in many years in 2021. 

Mineral Resources just edged out Kazatomprom for the final spot in the Q1 snapshot although there is little to separate the companies’ valuation on any given trading day. 

The uranium producer, which has expanded its listings well beyond Almaty over the last couple of years, joins Fresnillo, Alrosa and KGHM among big names just outside the top 50. 

Canadian uranium producer Cameco rejoins the ranking at no. 43 from 51st at the end of last year as predicted. The Saskatoon-based company has poured cold water on punters talking up the uranium market, but it did not halt the counter’s nearly 100% surge over the past year.

Gold holds

Denver-based Royal Gold enters the top 50 for the first time, swelling the ranks of precious metals royalty and streaming companies to three. Royal Gold just pipped Perth-based gold producer Northern Star, which has been bubbling under the ranking for years, missing out on inclusion mostly due to timing.

Gold mining companies have been underperforming relative to the bullion price for more than a decade but precious metals share of value in the top 50 has been remarkably stable at just under a fifth of the index despite the gyrations of the gold price.  

The exception was March 2020, when the sector represented 26% of the overall value after a heavy sell-off of industrial metals and mineral producers at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Click on table below for full-size image:


Source: MINING.COM, Miningintelligence, Morningstar, GoogleFinance, company reports. Trading data from primary-listed exchange where applicable, currency cross-rates Apr 7, 2022. 

Percentage change based on US$ market cap difference, not share price change in local currency.

Market capitalization calculated at primary exchange, where applicable, from total shares outstanding, not only free-floating shares.

As with any ranking, criteria for inclusion are contentious issues. We decided to exclude unlisted and state-owned enterprises at the outset due to a lack of information. That, of course, excludes giants like Chile’s Codelco, Uzbekistan’s Navoi Mining, which owns the world’s largest gold mine, Eurochem, a major potash firm, Singapore-based trader Trafigura,  and a number of entities in China and developing countries around the world.

Another central criterion was the depth of involvement in the industry before an enterprise can rightfully be called a mining company.

For instance, should smelter companies or commodity traders that own minority stakes in mining assets be included, especially if these investments have no operational component or warrant a seat on the board?

This is a common structure in Asia and excluding these types of companies removed well-known names like Japan’s Marubeni and Mitsui, Korea Zinc and Chile’s Copec. 

Levels of operational or strategic involvement and size of shareholding was another central consideration. Do streaming and royalty companies that receive metals from mining operations without shareholding qualify or are they just specialised financing vehicles? We included Franco Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals.

Lithium and battery metals also pose a problem due to the booming market for electric vehicles and a trend towards vertical integration by battery manufacturers and mid-stream chemical companies.  Battery producer and refiner Ganfeng Lithium, for example, is included because it has moved aggressively downstream through acquisitions and joint ventures.   

Vertically integrated concerns like Alcoa and energy companies such as Shenhua Energy where power, ports and railways make up a large portion of revenues pose a problem as do diversified companies such as Anglo American with separately listed majority-owned subsidiaries. We’ve included Angloplat in the ranking as well as Kumba Iron Ore.

Many steelmakers own and often operate iron ore and other metal mines, but in the interest of balance and diversity we excluded the steel industry, and with that many companies that have substantial mining assets including giants like ArcelorMittal, Magnitogorsk, Ternium, Baosteel and many others.

Head office refers to operational headquarters wherever applicable, for example BHP and Rio Tinto are shown as Melbourne, Australia but Antofagasta is the exception that proves the rule. We consider the company’s HQ to be in London, where it has been listed since the late 1800s.

Please let us know of any errors, omissions, deletions or additions to the ranking or suggest a different methodology.

Gold price hits 5-week high as war, inflation continue to boost safe havens 

The gold price climbed to a five-week high on Monday as the war in Europe, elevated inflation and the risk of a US recession further bolstered demand for the safe haven asset.

Spot gold advanced 0.7% to $1,988.15 per ounce by noon ET, closing in on the $2,000 level last seen in early March. US gold futures rose 0.8% to trade at $1,991.00 per ounce in New York.

[Click here for an interactive chart of gold prices]

After capping a second weekly gain, bullion climbed as much as 1% earlier in the day following price increases in both oil and natural gas.

The possibility of a de facto European Union embargo on Russian gas and the threat of some curbs on crude in Europe’s next sanctions package have lifted both commodities, adding to the already elevated raw material prices around the globe. This in turn has driven up demand for gold as a hedge against accelerating inflation.

“The little step-up in tension due the Russia-Ukraine war with inflationary pressures across the board boosts safe-haven demand for gold,” David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures, told Reuters.

Concerns over the economic hit from covid-led restrictions in China also supported gold prices, Meger added.

Gold’s advance came despite a jump in benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields to the highest since December 2018 and a stronger dollar, both of which usually dull the appetite for gold among overseas buyers.

“Gold is being reinforced by elevated inflation and heightened geopolitical risk,” said Kelvin Wong, an analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, in a Bloomberg note.

Prices rising above the key medium-term technical resistance level of $1,975 is “likely to have attracted momentum-based traders back into the bullish camp,” Wong said.

(With files from Bloomberg and Reuters)

Natural gas pipeline future in doubt after SCOTUS rejection 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a St. Louis-based natural gas company's appeal of a lower court's decision that could close a pipeline that runs through parts of Illinois and Missouri.

The court rejected Spire Inc.'s appeal without comment. Spire President Scott Smith pledged to continue fighting to keep the 65-mile (105-kilometer) pipeline up and running.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted approval for the pipeline in 2018 and it became fully operational in 2019. The Spire STL Pipeline connects with another pipeline in western Illinois and carries natural gas to the St. Louis region, where Spire serves around 650,000 customers.

The Environmental Defense Fund sued in 2020, raising concerns that the pipeline was approved without adequate review. In June, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that FERC had not adequately demonstrated a need for the project, vacating approval of the pipeline.

EDF attorney Erin Murphy said in a statement Monday that the lower court ruling found “serious flaws” in FERC’s approval, “including failing to assess the harms to ratepayers and landowners.”

As the case played out in court, FERC last year issued a temporary certificate allowing the pipeline to remain operational. The temporary order continues to stand while the agency considers Spire's appeal to FERC seeking new approval of the pipeline.

“We are confident that when people have an opportunity to review the proven benefits of the STL Pipeline, they will agree that there is a critical need to keep this infrastructure fully operational to ensure continued access to reliable, affordable energy for families and businesses in the greater St. Louis region,” Smith said in a statement.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Japan to Release 6 Million Barrels of Oil from Private Reserves as Part of IEA-Led Action 

The industry ministry said on Friday it will release 6 million barrels of oil from privately held reserves as part of its contribution to a second round of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) coordinated release to calm crude oil prices.

Japan will release the petroleum, equivalent to about three days of domestic consumption, by allowing local refiners to lower their mandatory stockpile level in private reserves by three days, to 63 days of domestic demand, from April 16 and Oct. 8.

Japan said earlier this month it would release a record 15 million barrels of oil from national reserves as part of a second round of the coordinated release led by the IEA.

The remaining 9 million barrels of oil will be released from state petroleum reserves, with details such as the method to be used and timing to be decided later, an official at the ministry said.

Japan held around 470 million barrels of petroleum reserves at the end of January, or 236 days of domestic consumption, comprising state reserves, private reserves held by local refiners’ tanks and a joint crude oil storage plan with producing countries.

Earlier this month, IEA states agreed to tap 60 million barrels of oil from storage, on top of a 180 million-barrel release announced by Washington in late March aimed at cooling prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wind passed coal, nuclear power in US for first time on record

Wind turbines in the U.S. produced more electricity than coal or nuclear plants on March 29 for the first time on record, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Thursday. That made wind the second-biggest source of electricity that day, behind only natural gas and narrowly ahead of nuclear. 

Wind farm capacity has increased rapidly in the U.S. over the past 15 years and is widely seen as an important weapon in the push to decarbonize the power grid and the fight against climate change.
However, due to the natural variation in wind speeds leading to different amounts of power generation, the EIA doesn’t expect wind to surpass coal or nuclear for an entire month in 2022 or 2023.

The EIA data go back to 2018 and don’t include Alaska or Hawaii.

(By Josh Saul)

Chile heads towards two “lost decades” of copper output growth

 Chile heads towards two "lost decades" of copper output growth 

Chile’s crown as the world’s largest producer of copper is at risk as the country’s output continues to be lower than expected despite the billions of dollars invested in new projects in the past 18 years, BMO’s Colin Hamilton warned on Thursday.

The commodities analyst noted he had received several questions over the past week about the weakness in Chilean copper output year-to-date, as first quarter production reports from many of the companies with operations in the South American country have started coming out.

Chile’s January copper production spooked investors, as it fell 7.5% from the same month in 2021 to 425,700 tonnes — the lowest in 11 years.

Lower ore quality, water scarcity and other transitory near-term issues were the reasons given by state Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilco) for the sharp drop. For Hamilton, however, the production decline is far from being an unusual occurrence.

BMO estimates the country’s 2022 copper production is on track to being lower than in 2004, when the nation churned out slightly over 5.4 million tonnes of the metal, equivalent to 37% of the world’s production.

(Graphic courtesy of BMO Capital Markets.)

“Following the steady ramp-up in the 1990s and early 2000s, output levels have stagnated, with the projections of 6 million tonnes per year-plus of output never coming to pass,” Hamilton wrote.

Diego Hernández, president of Chile’s National Mining Society (Sonami), remains optimistic. The former chief executive of state-owned Codelco and Antofagasta Plc (LON:AAL) has said he expects the nation’s output to rise in 2023, as Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A | TECK.B) (NYSE: TECK) brings the expansion of its Quebrtada Blanca mine on stream in the second half of this year.

There’s a dearth of other major developments in the pipeline, Hernández said in March, adding that once there is greater legal and regulatory certainty, investment should pick up.

Old mines

Chile’s output issues are not just a matter of investment in the new projects and expansion, but rather a consequence of aging existing assets, Hamilton said.

“Most notably, SX-EW [cathode copper] production in Chile continues to trend inexorably lower, and is now ~500kt below peak levels seen over a decade ago,” the analyst wrote.

“Rather than the short-term production issues, the potential for Chile’s output to keep undershooting expectations is more important from an investment thesis standpoint,” he added.

Copper futures on the Comex in New York have been trading at a premium to those on the London Metal Exchange in recent weeks, attracting more copper cathode, especially from South America.

(Graphic courtesy of BMO Capital Markets.)

US imports of cathode from Chile climbed 37% in the first three months of this year from the prior quarter, according to data from S&P Global.

Chile’s constituent assembly is proposing a series of changes to the Constitution to replace a market-centric one that dates to the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. 

Those modifications could affect miners as it may open the door to nationalizing some of the world’s biggest copper and lithium assets.

Politicians are also fine-tuning a new mining royalty bill, which will raise tariffs on firms based on gross sales and profitability.