Saturday, May 30, 2009

Maraging Steel For Iran

May 30, 2009: Iran is building dozens of long range ballistic missiles each year, and is only able to do so by obtaining, despite UN and U.S. embargos, crucial raw materials and components. In the last year, Iranian attempts to smuggle several key missile components were aborted by U.S. and European investigations. These involved attempts to obtain nearly a hundred tons of metals that Iran could not produce itself (specialized aluminum alloys, tungsten-copper plates, tungsten metal powder and maraging steel) as well as hundreds of electronic components essential for missile control and guidance systems. Chinese firms supply some of these items, as well as help in buying and moving exotic materials from firms outside China, and getting the stuff to Iran. The U.S. has had success recently finding, and punishing (with huge fines), U.S., European and Chinese banks that secretly helped Iran carry out these illegal transactions. These efforts aren't stopping Iranian missile building, but are slowing it down, and making it a lot more expensive.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Positive project economics for Hazelwood Resources' Big Hill Deposit at current tungsten prices

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hazelwood Resources (ASX: HAZ) has indicated that early project parameters and forecast profit margins are robust for its 100% owned Big Hill Tungsten Deposit in Western Australia as it advances through a pre-feasibility study for the production tungsten concentrate. The PFS is expected to be completed around September 2009.

If mined. the deposit could produce 2-3% of the world's primary mined tungsten. Hazelwood has conducted focused drilling and metallurgical testwork programs at the Big Hill Tungsten Deposit.

A preliminary pit optimisation study shows the project can provide strong operating margins, even at today's relatively low tungsten price, with a five year mine life, with low strip ratios and demonstrated favourable metallurgy.

Low cash operating costs are indicated.  Hazelwood recently announced a high quality Mineral Resource for the Big Hill Tungsten Deposit which is based on recent intensive drilling and 70% of the resource is within 100 metres of the surface. Only one third of the strike extent of the deposit has been resource
drilled. A brief drilling program will commence shortly to upgrade the Mineral Resource, which in turn is likely to increase the operational life to around 7 years.

The pre-feasibility study (PFS) is progressing according to schedule, following a recent successful placement to raise $3 million. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Investigator reveals Iran's chilling shopping list for banned technology

Philip Sherwell in New York

May 26, 2009

A SENIOR US financial investigator has disclosed Iran's detailed shopping list for nuclear technology and missile parts after uncovering a vast procurement network for materials related to weapons of mass destruction.

Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney, provided a chillingly detailed account of how Iran was using a complex web of illicit overseas financial operations to skirt sanctions and buy banned equipment. Some of the materials that have already been obtained are believed to be central to Iran's attempts to build missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

Iran successfully test-fired a sophisticated medium-range missile last week, thought to have been developed with the kind of technology traced by Mr Morgenthau's investigators.

The missile could deliver warheads to Israel and Europe or target Western forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Iranian nuclear scientists are working to develop longer-range missiles which could reach Western Europe.

The items identified in the investigation included 15,000 kilograms of specialised aluminium alloy, used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods, which are favoured for their superior strength.

Mr Morgenthau's office consulted weapons experts from the CIA, private institutions and universities about what it had uncovered. All of them were "shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying", he told a hearing of the US Senate foreign relations committee.

Mr Morgenthau told US senators there was little time left to halt Tehran's atomic weapons program. "It's late in the game and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran from developing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons," he told a recent Senate hearing. He described Iran's quest as "deadly serious". More...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Iran's nuclear weapons program six months away from completion. Having acquired tungsten-copper plates; tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders; and tungsten metal powder,

Iran's Shopping List is exposed

By Philip Sherwell in New York

Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney who is heading a long-term investigation into the Islamic regime's complex web of illicit overseas financial operations, told US senators there was little time left to halt Tehran's atomic weapons programme.

His warning is all the more sobering as Iran last week successfully test-fired a sophisticated medium-range missile that could strike Israel, central Europe and Western forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan with warheads.

"It's late in the game and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran from developing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons," Mr Morgenthau told a recent Senate hearing. He described Iran's quest as "deadly serious".

His unit's findings also highlight the risks facing President Barack Obama as he hopes to forge improved diplomatic relations with Tehran at the same time as Iran presses ahead with a nuclear programme.

Mr Obama issued a timetable for future talks with Iran for the first time last week, telling the visiting Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Tehran was making "a good faith effort to resolve differences".

But some senior figures in Israel are now increasingly convinced that the Obama administration believes that a nuclear-armed Iran is inevitable.

Mr Morgenthau's investigation has brought to light a multi-billion-dollar scam under which Iran channelled funds through Western financial institutions to buy banned dual-use materials for its nuclear and missile programmes. Lloyds TSB has already agreed to pay a fine and forfeiture of $350 million (£220 million) for its role in helping to disguise transactions.

The investigation has revealed that the Iranians were negotiating to buy 400 gyrometers, 600 accelerometers and 100 pieces of the metal tantalum - crucial technology for building accurate long-range missiles that could deliver nuclear payloads.

Mr Morgenthau's unit, which has prosecuted several major US white-collar criminal cases, also established that LIMMT, a Chinese company that has long been a major supplier of banned weapons material to Iran, had shipped a long list of weapons-related materials to Iran after skirting international financial sanctions.

The items included 15,000 kgs of specialised aluminium alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1,700 kgs of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines; more than 30,000 kgs of tungsten-copper plates; 200 tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders; 19,000 kgs of tungsten metal powder and 24,500 kgs of maraging steel rods, which are favoured for their superior strength.

"It's the usual list of items that Iran needs for its missile and weapons programmes," said John Pike, director of, a private security research group. "Whether it's dual use or not is irrelevant. The Iranians are acquiring a glass half-full. They can use that stuff for what they want when they get it."

Mr Morgenthau's office has issued a 118-count indictment against LIMMT and its owner Li Fang Wei for allegedly misusing New York banks via front companies and supplying illicit missile and nuclear technology to Iran. But there are believed to be other targets of the "broad and ongoing" investigation.

His office consulted weapons experts from the CIA, private institutions and universities about what it had uncovered. They were "shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying", he told a hearing of the Senate foreign relations committee.

Those findings were backed up by a staff report by the same committee.

It concluded that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade material to make a bomb within six months and that the regime was operating a "a broad network of front organisations" to purchase weapons material.

Nicholas Burns, the former top American diplomat on Iran, gave a blunt assessment of Iran's motives at the hearing. "I do see the Iranians as a real threat to our country," he said. "There is no question they are seeking a nuclear weapons capability. No one doubts that. They are the principal funder of most of the Middle East terrorist groups that are shooting at us, shooting at the Israelis and the moderate Palestinians.

"And they are influential in Iraq and Afghanistan and sometimes in ways that are very negative to US interests."

The US, Israel, Britain and other Western European nations believe that Iran is secretly developing atomic weapons but Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is for civilian energy purposes.

The regime has recently been focusing on developing reliable medium and long-range missiles as last week's successful test-fire and the deals uncovered by Mr Morgenthau confirm.

The successful launch of the Sejil-2 rocket, which has an estimated 1,200 mile range and a new navigation system and sophisticated sensors, was further sign of its growing missile capacity, weapons experts said.

Iran is moving away from the liquid-fuelled Shahab-3 obtained from North Korea using Pakistani technology, to solid fuel rockets as they are easier to store, move, hide and assemble - and thus harder for Israel or others to target if they launched air strikes.

Mr Netanyahu reiterated Israel's concerns that Iran would soon cross the "no return" threshold for nuclear weapon know-how in his talks with President Obama in Washington. But there is a growing suspicion in Israel that the White House now believes that a nuclear-armed Tehran is inevitable and is preparing policy for dealing with that reality.

"The Americans are in a state of mind according to which Iran has already gone nuclear," Dr Mordechai Kedar, a 25-year veteran of Israeli military intelligence now based at Bar-Ilan's Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post. "Obama has given up."

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said: "Even at the official level, [US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton is on record as saying that the chances of success for negotiations with Iran are very small. If you're going into negotiations which you say ahead of time will likely fail, you're giving the sense that you might not be doing everything possible [to stop the Iranian nuclear programme].

"The US administration is projecting some kind of sense that they're not taking these negotiations seriously enough. If they just go through the motions, but they don't believe talks will succeed, that is worrisome," she said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New nickel-tungsten alloy offers alternative to chrome

Anne Trafton, News Office
May 19, 2009

Ever since the 1940s, chrome has been used to add a protective coating and shiny luster to a wide range of metal products, from bathroom fixtures to car bumpers.

Chrome adds beauty and durability, but those features come at a heavy cost. Though it's cheap to produce and harmless to consumers, the industrial process to create it is dangerous for workers and pollutes the environment.

"People have been trying to replace it for a very long time," says Christopher Schuh, MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering. "The problem is that it's the only plated metal coating that has all of these properties -- hardness, long-lasting shine and corrosion protection."

Until now, that is. Schuh and his collaborators have developed a new nickel-tungsten alloy that is not only safer than chrome but also more durable. The new coating, which is now being tested on the bumpers of a truck fleet, could also replace chrome in faucet fixtures and engine parts, among other applications.

Chromium risks

Manufacturers have long had a love/hate relationship with chromium plating, which is a $20 billion industry.

Electroplating, the technique used to coat metal objects with chrome, involves running a current through a liquid bath of chromium ions, which deposits a thin layer of chrome on the surface of an object placed in the bath.

The ions, known as hexavalent chromium, are carcinogenic if inhaled, and contact with the liquid can be fatal. Hexavalent chromium can pollute groundwater, and some of the original Superfund cleanup sites involved hexavalent chromium pollution. "It's an environmental nightmare," says Schuh.

Manufacturers have put up with the mess and the safety hazards, which require strict handling precautions, because of chrome's unique properties.

Chrome's hardness -- it is considerably harder than steel -- comes from its nanocrystalline structure. Schuh and his group set out to duplicate that structure with a material that could be easily and safely electroplated.

They started with nanocrystalline nickel, but nickel on its own, though very hard when first plated, loses its hardness as the crystals gradually expand from nanoscale to microscale. Using computer models developed to predict material properties, Schuh settled on a nickel-tungsten alloy that is environmentally friendly and proved to be even more durable than chrome.

Nickel-tungsten alloys

Schuh's team has shown that nickel-tungsten alloys remain stable indefinitely at room temperature and are highly resistant to decomposition when heated. They can also be made harder and longer lasting than chrome.

In addition, the electroplating process is more efficient than that for chrome, because multiple layers can be applied in one step, which could save money for manufacturers.

"Not only do you get rid of the environmental baggage but you make a better product as well," says Schuh.

Schuh and his colleagues have described the new process in several journal articles published over the past few years, and Schuh recently gave an overview of the technology in the spring 2009 Wulff Lecture, sponsored by MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The technology could be used to coat other products including shock absorbers and print rolls. Recent tests showed that print rolls coated with the new alloy lasted 10 times longer than their chrome-plated counterparts.

Another field of potential applications is electronics, particularly connectors for portable electronics (the jacks where power cords, headphones and other accessories are plugged in). Those connectors are now coated with a layer of gold, which must be thick to help prevent the corrosion of an inner layer of brass. Layering the nickel-tungsten alloy between the gold and brass layers could reduce corrosion and offer significant savings for electronics manufacturers by allowing them to use thinner layers of gold.

Schuh's collaborators on the new metal coating technology include Andrew Detor, a recent PhD graduate in materials science and engineering, and Alan Lund, a former MIT postdoctoral researcher and the current chief technology officer at Xtalic Corporation of Marlborough, Mass., which has commercialized the nickel-tungsten plating process.

Wesgo Metals develops new drill bit manufacturing process


FAIRFIELD, New Jersey -- Wesgo Metals has developed a manufacturing process for the production of high-strength, high-purity alloys for drill bits.

The stringent process control allows for highly controlled purity and consistent braze temperatures, resulting in alloys that exhibit high tolerance and a more reliable drill bit, as required for brazing Polycrystalline diamond cutters (PDC) to Tungsten, the company says. Wesgo is able to tool and stamp in-house, as well as offer materials in ductile foil form.

U.S. companies selling products using tungsten, to disclose the country of origin of the materials to the SEC.

Lifting the 'Resource Curse'
Marina Litvinsky

Four new countries have joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global effort to set concrete standards for the transparent management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining sectors.

Albania, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Zambia joined the list of 26 candidate countries now implementing the EITI process, the EITI board announced Monday in Washington.

"The EITI gives governments and citizens a sorely-needed blueprint for legitimate dialogue about the management of natural resources," said Karin Lissakers, director of the non-profit Revenue Watch Institute.

"Without a healthy conversation between civil society and policymakers, the countries richest in oil and mineral wealth remain the most vulnerable to all forms of economic, political, and social exploitation and unrest," she said.

The EITI board held a series of meetings with diverse stakeholders in Washington last week, hosted by the bank. The bank has been a supporter of EITI since it was put forward in 2002.

"I am encouraged that more countries from Africa and other regions of the world are joining the EITI process and recognising the benefits of greater transparency in the extractive industries sector," said Somit Varma, World Bank director for oil, gas, and mining.

"It is, however, only when countries take full ownership of this voluntary initiative that it can succeed. The World Bank is committed to supporting governments in this effort," he said.

It was also announced that three new countries would become donors to support EITI implementation through the bank.

Ten donor countries and the European Commission currently provide funding to the World Bank-administered EITI Multi-donor Trust Fund (MDTF), which provides technical assistance for implementation - Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Britain and the European Commission.

Finland just joined as a donor country, and the U.S. and Switzerland will be joining the donor group soon.

An important theme at the series of meetings was planning for EITI validation, the oversight mechanism for country implementation. Twenty-one of the EITI candidate countries are facing a deadline in March 2010 to complete EITI validation.

Through EITI, countries bring together companies, civil society and government representatives to monitor and account for payments being made to governments by extractives companies operating in their country.

Countries that have met all of the reporting and operational indicators set out under the EITI guidelines and completed a rigorous validation process are then considered to be EITI compliant, establishing that a country's revenue reporting standards in its extractive sector have achieved a greater level of transparency.

In February, oil-rich Azerbaijan was named the first EITI compliant country.

"It is impressive to see all the efforts in EITI implementing countries to prepare for validation and meet the EITI standard. The international community recognises such efforts and supports these governments and their stakeholders in their implementation of the EITI," said Dr Peter Eigen, EITI board chairman.

According to the bank, 3.5 billion people live in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals.

For some time now Africa's natural resource abundance has caused it to suffer from what many call the "resource curse". The exportation of these resources has contributed to widespread poverty, corruption, conflict and environmental degradation across the country.

In 2000, the situation in Africa was brought to light when the U.N. General Assembly recognised that "conflict diamonds" are a crucial factor in prolonging brutal wars in parts of Africa. In Angola and Sierra Leone, conflict diamonds fund the purchase of arms and other illegal activities by rebel groups.

Likewise, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), armed groups profit from the sale of the "conflict minerals" tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, which are used in electronics around the world, by forcibly controlling the mines and exacting bribes, or taxes, from transporters, local and international buyers, and border controls.

Members of the EITI see it as a way for their countries to attract much-needed foreign investment, which has dwindled in the recent economic downturn.

"Mining companies are indispensable partners in development," said Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone, at a recent groundbreaking ceremony of the African Minerals Company, Ltd.

"The partnership between them and the government works best in an atmosphere of trust and integrity," he said. "That is why my government took the decision to increase transparency in the exploitation of our mineral resources through our membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the recent review of mineral rights."

However, some caution that if citizens are to truly benefit from their countries' resources, all participants in their extraction and sale must agree to full disclosure and accountability.

"Joining the EITI is a first step, and one that sends a strong signal of government's commitment to transparency," said Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, Africa regional vice president of the bank, in an editorial for The Independent.

"Going further, if citizens are to reap the benefits from mining revenues, transparency is needed throughout the entire resource stream, from how contracts are awarded and monitored, to how taxes and royalties are collected, to how investment choices are made and executed," she said.

Earlier this month, in an effort to stem the flow of money from mineral mines fueling the DRC's brutal civil war, the U.S. Senate announced new bipartisan legislation that would force U.S. companies to track and disclose the country of origin of minerals used in common electronic products.

The Congo Conflict Minerals Act that would require U.S. companies selling products using tin, tantalum or tungsten, to disclose the country of origin of the materials to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The legislation would also require the State Department to closely monitor the financing of armed groups in mineral-rich areas of eastern Congo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

China to cap output of mineral resources in 2009

May 11, 2009 (China Knowledge) - China's Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) announced in an online statement published on Wednesday that it would put a ceiling on the output of mineral resources such as tungsten, antimony and rare earth metals this year for the protection and reasonable use of these minerals amid the weak demand.

The nation's output of tungsten ore concentrate (that is, ore with tungsten trioxide content above 65%) will be restricted to 68,555 tons in 2009, while that of antimony ore will be limited to 90,180 tons this year, according to the statement.

The ministry it will also impose a ceiling of 82,320 tons on rare earth ore.

China, the largest antimony producer in the world, boasts 40.5% of the world's proven tungsten reserves and 52 million tons of proven rare earth reserves, which represents approximately 58% of the world's total.

The MLR said that it would cease accepting license applications for the mining of these resources until Jun. 30, 2010.

The ministry said it would strictly enforce the new restrictions, and that those who go against the rules will be penalized.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Metallica lifts stake in Queensland Ores, improves funding proposal

8th May 2009
JOHANNESBURG ( – ASX-listed Metallica Minerals had improved its funding proposal for takeover target Queensland Ores, and raised its stake in the tungsten and molybdenum producer.

The company said on Friday that it planned to waive the minimum acceptance conditions, which would have seen Metallica acquire a minimum of 90% of Queensland Ores shares on issue and would have prohibited other shareholders to hold more than 10% interest in Queensland Ores, if it received acceptances during the offer period which took its relevant interest to at least 40% of all shares.

This new offer was down from the 50,1% minimum acceptance conditions proposed during April of this year. Read more...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

China puts ceiling on 2009 output of tungsten, antimony, rare earth

   BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) -- China said Thursday it would impose a ceiling on the output of mineral resources like tungsten, antimony and rare earth in 2009 amid shrinking demand.

    The move is aimed to protect China's reserves of these minerals, the Ministry of Land and Resources said in an online statement.

    The country's tungsten ore concentrate output is limited to 68,555 tonnes this year; rare earth ore to 82,320 tonnes, and antimony ore to 90,180 tonnes, said the ministry.

    These quotas on output were based on decreasing demand across the world as a result of the ongoing global financial crisis, said the ministry.

    The ministry said it would also not take any license applications before June 30, 2010 for exploring the three resources.

    China holds 40.5 percent of the world's proven tungsten reserves, and is the world's biggest antimony producer. The nation has a proven rare earth reserve of 52 million tonnes, or about 58 percent of the world's total.

    The country started to cap the annual output of tungsten in 2002 and that of rare earth in 2006. It is the first time such restrictions have been placed on antimony.

    The ceiling on tungsten ore concentrates (with tungsten trioxide content above 65 percent) last year was 66,850 tonnes, and that on rare earth ore at 87,620 tonnes.

    The ministry said such caps are intended to stabilize global demand and supply of these products and ensure their sustainable use.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

American prosecutors have indicted a Chinese citizen for shipping tungsten, used for making rocket components, to Iran.

May 2, 2009: American prosecutors have indicted a Chinese citizen for running a missile component related smuggling operation. The defendant shipped critical metals, like tungsten, used for making rocket components, to Iran. The defendant mislabeled scrap metal as stuff that was legal to sell to Iran. The U.S. is uncovering more of these Iranian smuggling operations, partly because more pressure is being brought on banks to report suspected cases of illegal arms (and weapons components) trading. The Chinese firms used American banks to create false company accounts, in order to hide the metal shipments from UN and U.S. officials enforcing the embargo.

Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy), Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment. This is a risky business, and American and European prisons are full of Iranians, and other nationals, who tried, and often failed, to procure forbidden goods. The smuggling operations are currently under more scrutiny, and attack, because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians simply offer more money, and more smugglers step up to keep the goodies coming.

Friday, May 1, 2009

China Has Made An Inroad Into Australia That, If Successful, Will Give It Overwhelming Control of The World's Supply Of Rare Earth Elements For A Long Time To Come.

China today produces at least 95% of the world's supply of rare earth elements from its domestic mines primarily in Inner Mongolia.China today produces at least 95% of the world's supply of rare earth elements from its domestic mines primarily in Inner Mongolia.   At the beginning of 2008 two very large Australian REE mines were well on the way to coming into production. Either one of them would eventually have been the largest single-point mine for REEs in the world. One of the Australian companies was also beginning construction of a REE refinery in Malaysia, which would have been the largest in the world outside of China. Control of the shares of both of the Australian companies is now coming into hands of state owned aggressive Chinese mining and trading entities. It has been predicted that Chinese domestic demand for REEs will exceed its domestic production in the next 2-4 years. That is precisely how long it will take for the two Australian mines and the Malaysian refinery to be brought into production.   Three significant REE mining possibilities, only, now remain out of Chinese control.

[...] Today's announcement that Lynas will receive funding and Chinese bank guarantees for A$515 million enabled  through a purchase of 51% of its shares by CNMC, China Nonferrous Mining Company, a state owned entity that already owns shares in other non-Chinese producers of strategic and critical metals, such as Canada's North American Tungsten, is a dramatic reinforcement of China's strategy to insure that its domestic supplies of REEs are not interrupted by its domestic demand exceeding its domestic production.

Foolish Western financiers and industrialists who ignore the significance of these moves are under the illusion that the object of the Chinese state-owned entities in purchasing non Chinese sources of natural resources is to make money in the free market. In fact the object of these moves is, as i said above, to insure against supply interruption. If and only if there are surpluses of the metals produced will Chinese shareholders vote to sell them into the open market.[...] Read more...