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The world needs more carbon dioxide

Patrick Moore, co-founder and leader of Greenpeace for 15 years, is now an independent ecologist and environmentalist based in Vancouver, Canada.  In an opinion piece, published in The Australian of 24 November 2014, he discusses the influences of the climate debate on Australian politics and the impacts of changes in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide through time on biodiversity.

Moore is sceptical regarding the proposition that humans are the main cause of climate change, and that it will be catastrophic in the near future. “There is no scientific proof of this hypothesis, yet we are told “the debate is over”, the “science is settled”.” he states in the article.  He expresses skepticism regarding assertions that “the global climate with a computer model. The entire basis for the doomsday climate change scenario is the hypothesis that increased CO2 due to fossil fuel emissions will heat the Earth to unlivable temperatures”.

He also discussed the claim that “CO2 is a “toxic” “pollutant” that must be curtailed when in fact it is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, gas present at 400 parts per million of the global atmosphere and the most important food for life on earth” and proposes that “without CO2 above 150 parts per million, all plants would die”.

Follow this link to Moore’s article.

Geoscientist unemployment in Australia: Some improvement but still a struggle to find work

The results of the latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists show that while there has been some improvement in employment prospects, Australia’s geoscientists continue to struggle in response to a sustained downturn in employment prospects.

The Institute has also warned however, that only governments can take the action needed to break the current investment and job growth bottleneck which has created the ‘perfect storm’ for the exploration and mining sector of over-regulation and low commodity prices for Australia’s mineral resources.

The September 2014 survey attracted an excellent response.  In all, 954 geoscientists completed the survey – about one in eight geoscientists in Australia according to the most recent Australian census figures.

The unemployment rate amongst Australia’s geoscientists at the end of September 2014 was 13.5%, down from 15.4% in June 2014.  The underemployment rate in the latest survey amongst self-employed geoscientists was 15.4%, a slight increase over the rate of 15.0% recorded in June 2014 and continuing a trend evident since the end of 2013.

GeoUnemploymentSep2014

“Geoscientists in Australia continued to experience difficulty in obtaining and sustaining employment in the third quarter of 2014,” AIG President, Mr Wayne Spilsbury, said.  “In contrast to the sharp increase in employment following the global economic downturn in 2009, any recovery in employment within the geoscience profession has been much slower this time.”

A question was added to the June 2014 survey to assess the degree of underemployment being experienced by self-employed consultants and contractors.  Results showed that 41% of those responding as being underemployed, were achieving less than one tenth of their desired workload. A further 16% were achieving between one tenth and one quarter of their desired work.  In the latest September survey, these figures were 30% and 20% respectively – considered to represent a small sign of improvement in the sector despite the increase in the number of geoscientists reporting being underemployed overall.  “If we reclassify self-employed geoscientists achieving less than ten percent of their desired workload as essentially unemployed, the unemployment rate increases from 13.5% to 18% – almost one in five professional geoscientists”, Mr Spilsbury said.

In the latest survey, one third of unemployed and underemployed respondents had been without work for three months, a further 17% for between three and six months, 16% for between six and 12 months, and the remaining third for more than 12 months.

Three quarters of underemployed and underemployed geoscientists were not confident of returning to full time employment in their chosen field within 12 months.  One in 12 were seeking long-term employment outside the profession.

“Geoscientists in Australia continued to experience difficulty in obtaining and sustaining employment in the third quarter of 2014,” AIG President, Mr Wayne Spilsbury, said.  “In contrast to the sharp increase in employment following the global economic downturn in 2009, any recovery in employment within the geoscience profession has been much slower this time.”

A question was added to the June 2014 survey to assess the degree of underemployment being experienced by self-employed consultants and contractors.  Results showed that 41% of those responding as being underemployed, were achieving less than one tenth of their desired workload. A further 16% were achieving between one tenth and one quarter of their desired work.  In the latest September survey, these figures were 30% and 20% respectively – considered to represent a small sign of improvement in the sector despite the increase in the number of geoscientists reporting being underemployed overall.  “If we reclassify self-employed geoscientists achieving less than ten percent of their desired workload as essentially unemployed, the unemployment rate increases from 13.5% to 18% – almost one in five professional geoscientists”, Mr Spilsbury said.

The following table summarises the unemployment and underemployment rates observed for Western Australia and Queensland = Australia’s “mining states”.

StateUnempSep2014

An improvement in the unemployment rate was observed in every state except Queensland, where unemployment increased by almost six percent.  A modest decrease in the under-employment rate observed in Western Australia was not evident in other states.

Some 80% of respondents were in or seeking full-time employment, while 5% were in or seeking part-time work and 15% were self-employed.  Some 60% of respondents worked or are seeking work in mineral exploration, 16% in metalliferous mining, 7,7% in coal and petroleum exploration and production, and 6% in engineering geology and groundwater resource exploration and management.

“The latest survey shows the first signs for almost a year of a possible improvement in selective employment opportunities,” Mr Spilsbury said.  “As the proportion of geoscientists working in mineral exploration and mining reflects the health of Australia’s exploration and mining industries, and a barometer for the overall outlook for resources, I hope that we are seeing, in this survey, the beginning of an upturn – but it is too early and too gradual to be confident that this is the case.  “The slow recovery from the downturn in 2012 and 2013 is something that we have not seen previously since AIG’s survey series commenced in 2009.  “We remain however in an environment where Australian-listed, junior exploration and mining companies are critically undercapitalised and finding it difficult to attract new investment – the fundamental driver of geoscientist employment rates. “The Federal Government’s promised Exploration Development Incentive is yet to be introduced and State Governments have yet to act to reduce compliance requirements that are choking a range of industries, all at a time when commodity prices are depressed creating a less than ideal investment climate.  “It is something akin to a perfect storm for exploration and mining, but one that governments can help to clear”.

Exploration Costs Should Fall – Macquarie

High commodity prices provide an incentive for exploration to increase supply. The 7-10-year lag in this process explains why booms tend a similar time. The rise in exploration spending drives up the cost of exploration inputs where their supply is relatively inelastic.

Engineers are an example, where real average salaries roughly doubled in the boom. Truck drivers in remote locations also received high real wages given the skills needed, but are now often replaced by software (‘driverless trucks’) as firms try to reduce costs.

01 Oil Price vs Capex

Oil and gas CAPEX rose with the commodity price as high prices incentivise new supply

02 Drilling Costs and Salaries

Rising exploration spend doubled the real cost of exploration inputs. We see some mean reversion.

Rising commodity prices (especially oil) creates a headwind to new supply as it increases the development and operating costs. MinEx Consulting research suggests cost over-runs were the key cause of delays for copper projects over the last two years. But as commodity prices fall, this should reduce capital and operating costs, which will be a tailwind for supply.

Cost over-runs a key delay to copper projects but this should ease as the cost of inputs falls again.

Cost over-runs a key delay to copper projects but this should ease as the cost of inputs falls again.

There is a view among some that declining grades and the need to drill in deeper and more remote and risky locations will increase finding costs over time. We disagree, as we see a cycle in finding costs that is driven by the underlying commodity price. As prices fall, we see lower exploration activity, reduced demand for exploration inputs, and a consequent decline in the per-unit cost of exploration. Managements will also focus on the more prospective areas, and use lower cost technologies, which also helps to reduce costs.

An examination of the discovery costs for an ounce of gold (below) show the cycle in costs over time. Discovery costs have been elevated in a period of high prices, but they also fell from much higher levels in the 1970s/80s and we see this happening again.

Like oil F&D, gold finding costs per ounce do not rise continuously. The gold price drives a cycle.

Like oil F&D, gold finding costs per ounce do not rise continuously. The gold price drives a cycle.

 

Macquarie Global Horizon, 10 November 2014

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The HyspecIQ project – Hyperspectral Satellite Informatics for More Efficient Exploration and Mining

The HyspecIQ project – Hyperspectral Satellite Informatics for More Efficient Exploration and Mining

The HyspecIQ project is the subject of AMIRA project P1147.  The principal researchers associated with the project, Joseph D. Fargnoli, Pamela Blake, Tom Cudahy and Adele Seymon, will present public lectures, supported by AIG, describing the project and progress to date in Perth and Brisbane during December.  Joseph D. Fargnoli is with HyspecIQ, Washington DC, USA.  Pamela Blake is with Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, California, USA.  Tom Cudahy is with the CSIRO Mineral Resources Flagship, Western Australia, and Adele Seymon represents AMIRA International, Melbourne.

The lectures will be in the form of “tag-team” talks that will cover the HyspecIQ system, application opportunities and the AMIRA project.

HyspecIQ is a global geoscience analytics and remote sensing informatics business which has contracted with Boeing to develop a constellation of hyperspectral imaging satellites to be launched from 2018.  The HyspecIQ system has two parts, namely: (i) satellite sensors with superior spatial, spectral and radiometric resolutions and high temporal frequency/coverage (initially a <3 day repeat), combined with (ii) “multi-modal interpretation” (MMI) processing capabilities that ingest these satellite data (as well as other geoscience spatial information) to generate highly specific (and accurate) information products.   Expedited digital information products will be delivered to clients within 24 hours from image capture.   The first two HySpecIQ satellites will measure over 220 spectral bands between 0.4 and 2.5 µm with a <5 m pixel and a signal-to-noise performance targeting NASA’s AVIRIS-NG .  Future HyspecIQ satellite systems will be designed to sense at mid-wave infrared, thermal infrared, LIDAR and/or SAR wavelengths, depending on resource industry requirements.

HyspecIQ aims to collaborate with a team of international researchers and the resources sector (private and public) through an AMIRA International project to design an optimum suite of business-critical information products across the mining cycle, from discovery to mine closure.  Potential issues include:  measurement of mineral alteration footprints like white mica Tschermak substitution, alunite K-Na chemistry, clinozoisite-epidote mineralogy and chlorite Mg number;  exploring in poorly accessible/or and data-poor regions;  exploring in deep regolith, snow, ice and/or vegetation cover; accurate characterisation of ore/waste in open pit mines and stockpiles during mining; tracking environmental impacts such as dust sources along mining infrastructure; rehabilitation progress of mining affected lands; and measurable indicators for mine closure criteria.

The presenters:

JFargnoli

Joseph D. Fargnoli SVP Products, HySpecIQ

Mr. Fargnoli serves as the senior Vice President for Products within HySpecIQ. In this role Joseph is responsible for ensuring that the design and development of information products will address the core business needs of the user community and in the development of the collection and processing technologies to effectively address customer mission requirements.

Joseph’s areas of technical expertise are in the design and development of remote sensing systems particularly with regards to the exploitation of hyperspectral and multispectral phenomenology and in the integration of hyperspectral and multispectral data with imagery and other forms of information from multiple modalities and sources. In particular, Joseph has expertise in the development of informatics solutions incorporating remotes sensing image science with modern analytic architectures and cloud based IT infrastructure.

Joseph holds a BS in Mathematics and MS degree in Electrical Engineering from The State University of New York, MS in Optics from the University of Rochester, an MS in Telecommunications and Computers from the George Washington University and is currently pursuing further advanced graduate studies in remote sensing informatics at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

 

Thomas Cudahy

Thomas Cudahy

Tom Cudahy has over 25 years of research experience with CSIRO developing capabilities that deliver mineral information to the resources community from drill core, field, airborne and space-borne systems that measure reflectance/emissivity.  Tom has led numerous national and international collaborative research projects (including the Western Australian Centre of Excellence for 3D Mineral Mapping) and been involved with many national and international aerospace technology development teams (including ASTER, Hyperion, SEBASS, HyMap, HISUI).  His vision is explorers and miners in Australia empowered with scalable, accurate, digital, 3D mineralogy.  His career highlights include: (i) 1st  civilian satellite hyperspectral SWIR mineral maps of the Earth (Hyperion at Mount Fitton, South Australia); (ii) 1st seamless digital maps of mineralogy from “fresh to space” (Rocklea Dome, Western Australia)); (iii) 1st continent-scale maps of SWIR and TIR mineralogy (Australian ASTER geosciences maps); (iv) plenary keynote at the 34IGC, Brisbane; (v) tens of thousands of airborne and satelite mineral mapping products of Australia generated by Dr Cudahy and his team downloaded by users from over 40 countries; and (vi) being awarded Australian Mining’s “2012 Explorer of the Year”.  Tom has a PhD from Curtin University (1999) and a BSc (Hons) from Macquarie University (1984).

 

Chinese Translation of the JORC Code

It was a great pleasure for me to have had the opportunity to represent the AIG at the launch of the Chinese Translation of the 2012 JORC Code at China Mining in Tianjin last month. As a former member of JORC and past Chairman of the WA Branch of the AIG, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, as I was on my way to Griffin Mining’s Caijiaying zinc-gold mine north of Beijing.

Peter Stoker (outgoing JORC Chairman) launches the Chinese translated version of the 2012 JORC Code

Peter Stoker (outgoing JORC Chairman) launches the Chinese translated version of the 2012 JORC Code

What is the significance of the Chinese translation of the JORC Code, and what does it mean for AIG Members?  It is my opinion that this well attended event held on the afternoon of 21st October at China Mining was a milestone event for Australian geoscientists. As it happened most of the members of the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO) also attended the launch and the Chairperson Edmundo Tulcanaza held a press conference just after the launch ceremony. To me this official launch marked a big step forward in diplomatic terms by putting the western codes, in particular the JORC Code, on the tip of people’s tongues in the mining industry in China. Of course it will take time before any official moves are likely to take place to officially adopt JORC Code style reporting for China; however the first big step would be for China to join the CRIRSCO family. With Mongolia having recently joined CRIRSCO and Russia being represented on CRIRSCO through NAEAN there may be some pressure to further re-assess China’s position.

Gerry Fahey meets Wang Jia Hua, Exec Vice President China Mining Association

Gerry Fahey meets Wang Jia Hua, Exec Vice President China Mining Association

I believe that great credit should be given to Peter Stoker and his colleague Zhu Yang Yang for taking the running in making this event happen. I would say that JORC has been to China what PERC has been to Russia; by gaining respect within the reporting communities of the respective countries (Stephen Henley did some great early work with the Russians and later with PERC, similarly Peter Stoker set in place the dialogue with the Chinese). Thanks also to Charles Qin, Xiao Zhenmin, Shaung Kui Ren and Bielin Shi (CSA Global) for their major help with the translation.

Wang Jia Hua (China Mining Association), Geoff Sharrock (President AusIMM), Gerry Fahey (AIG Representative)

Wang Jia Hua (China Mining Association), Geoff Sharrock (President AusIMM), Gerry Fahey (AIG Representative)

JORC hopes that this official Chinese translation of the 2012 JORC Code will enhance mutual understanding of the JORC Code (one of the CRIRSCO family of Reporting Codes and standards) and the Chinese reporting system. JORC and CRIRSCO are committed to providing encouragement and assistance for China to join CRIRSCO.

For more information and to access the Chinese translation of the JORC Code (2012 Edition), click here.

Gerry Fahey
Principal Mining Geologist, CSA Global