Blog Archives

Why Saskatchewan Works

Sun News’ “Byline” with Brian Lilley explains why Saskatchewan works.

Rock sorting just got easier – MineSense’s latest invention

30 Sep 2014
National Post – (Latest Edition)
By Peter Koven Financial Post
Rock sorting just got easier
Mining is risk averse, but innovation may change the game
There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate
The mining industry is not always synonymous with innovation. Extraction methods have been entrenched for decades, and many companies are happy to stick with the same mining and milling processes that are standard across the sector.
“There’s a monolithic barrier to anybody trying to do anything new because everybody’s the same and everybody thinks the same,” says Andrew Bamber, chief executive of MineSense Technologies Ltd.
Mr. Bamber, 43, believes there is an untapped billiondollar market for innovation and new technologies within the broader industry. With Vancouver-based MineSense’s latest invention, a unique orehandling technology for optimizing metal recovery, Mr. Bambler hopes to help prove his case.
The technology has nothing to do with finding new mines. It is about identifying valuable ore in existing mines that he believes companies are foolishly throwing away. Conversely, it is about making sure companies do not waste time and money processing low-quality ore.
When mining firms design their mine plans, they spend hours poring over the drill holes on a property and carefully assigning value to blocks of material in the ground.
Rock that gets assigned a high value goes to the mill for processing, and low-value material gets shipped to the waste pile.
Mr. Bamber says the mine plan is akin to a strawberry cake. “We know there’s strawberries in it, and we’ve got a rough idea where some are because two holes might hit a strawberry. And we extrapolate in between to say what the rest of the massive cake looks like to define the value.”
This is incredibly inefficient, he says. Drill holes can be spaced far apart, and he does not think they provide nearly enough insight on the ore. Moreover, materials can shift when companies are blasting to get the rock out of the ground, making the original model even more inaccurate.
To address this problem, MineSense has designed sensors that integrate right into mining shovels, scoops and belt conveyors. The sensors monitor the ore grades and alert companies about whether the rock should be sent to the mill or the waste pile. Essentially, the sensors are supposed to create certainty where many companies are making educated guesses.
According to MineSense’s projections, this technology could lead to cost reductions and production increases of 15% to 30% respectively, along with significantly less waste and lower energy costs.
If MineSense’s projections are accurate, it may seem absurd that no one has done this before. But that just underscores the lack of innovation in an industry where many companies are risk-averse and slow to adopt new technology, Mr. Bamber says.
“There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate,” he says.
Pilot trials quickly demonstrated the potential benefits of the technology to customers, Mr. Bamber says. One miner in Chile found the sensors could add hundreds of millions of dollars of value to its operation and increase the mine life.
The obvious customers for this technology are miners with low-grade, marginal projects or mines with short lives. A minor improvement in project economics could extend the life of the mine or even prevent it from closing.
When metal prices fall and miners find themselves with unprofitable operations, they usually do one of two things: cut costs aggressively or invest huge dollars in expansions to achieve economies of scale. Those are both very challenging and time-consuming options.
“We offer a third route … to put loss-making operations back into profit,” Mr. Bamber says.
If everything goes as planned, he is eyeing commercialization of the technology by the end of 2015. MineSense has a number of key milestones in its sights, including raising a fresh round of capital and finding a partner (likely an equipment manufacturer that actually builds shovels).
Mr. Bamber says a lot of mining companies, including some senior producers, are supportive of the technology because they see the potential. But one challenge in marketing it is that many companies in the mining space are so set in their ways that it can be difficult convincing them that a technology could make such a difference, he says.
On the other hand, he thinks there is a possible benefit in the fact that mines across the world are so similar in how they operate: If the technology produces good results at one mine, many others will be keen to adopt it.
Mr. Bamber founded MineSense in 2009 after working on its basic concepts as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. The company was incubated in a lab at UB C and operated out of an employee’s garage for a while. From those modest beginnings, it now has 20,000 square feet of industrial space in South Vancouver.
“Some companies in Silicon Valley actually rent garages, so they can say they went through a garage phase,” Mr. Bamber says with a laugh. “We have a genuine garage phase in our past.”

Grain prices down; potash, uranium up #uranium #potash

30 Sep 2014
The StarPhoenix
Grain prices down; potash, uranium up
Agricultural index down in August
Commodity prices are a mixed bag for Saskatchewan producers, with most agricultural commodity prices down in August, including wheat, canola and hogs, while other commodities like cattle, uranium and potash are showing signs of strength, according to a bank commodity report released Monday.
Scotiabank’s commodity price index report indicated its agricultural index was down 6.7 per cent in August over the previous month, mainly due to declines in grain and livestock prices. “The decline was led by barley, pushed lower by very low U.S. corn prices, a competing grain for livestock and poultry,” the Scotiabank report said.
The silver lining for Saskatchewan wheat producers is that some higher-grade crops left over from last year are fetching good prices because of the large, but relatively low-quality wheat harvest this year.
“While the world wheat crop is also expected to be a record this fall, crop quality will be poor in the United States, Russia, France and Ukraine, boosting premiums for high-protein bread wheat,” Scotiabank said. “Excessive moisture will also take a toll on Western Canada’s wheat quality, but carryover volumes of higher-wheat from 201314 will add to Prairie farm income this year.”
On the mineral side, potash prices were up slightly, while uranium prices have hit bottom and are moving upward, Scotiabank said.
Spot market potash prices were at US$310 per ton in August, up only slightly from the January low of US$295 for standard-grade potash. However, Uralkali, which caused potash prices to plummet when it left the Eastern European potash cartel BPC last July, has increased granular prices in Brazil and across Latin America to US$380 per ton.
Uralkali also intends to boost contract prices to China by 10 per cent in the first half of 2015. As a result, China will exercise its options on Canpotex volumes, eager to purchase more tonnage before prices move up.
Canpotex — the overseas sales agent of Potash Corp, Agrium and Mosaic — is effectively soldout over the balance of 2014, Scotiabank said.
Record deliveries
Global potash deliveries were at record levels in the first half of 2014 and will likely increase by eight per cent to nearly 59 million tons in 2014. Canpotex producers have the bulk of the surplus capacity available for world markets. As a result, Potash Corp is recalling staff at previously curtailed operations in its Canadian mines and will consider raising its production to 10.5 million to 11 million tons in 2015 from 9.2 million tons this year.
Patricia Mohr, Scotiabank’s commodity specialist, said Potash Corp hopes to increase production now in the expectation of higher prices later. “They would like to have the volume gains, rather than substantially higher prices.”
Spot uranium prices have also lifted decisively off a US$28.25 per pound low in June to US$36.50 in mid September.
“Improving market sentiment reflects prospects for two nuclear reactor re-starts in Japan, more active midterm utility demand and production deferrals and curtailments,” Scotiabank said.

Saskatchewan farmland prices up again

Farmland prices holding steady despite falling crop values

Eric Atkins

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 5:00 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 29 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

The value of agricultural land across Canada is generally holding up despite falling crop prices, regional flooding and a long winter that kept buyers at bay, a new report shows.

However, the study from real estate company Re/Max adds that price increases for most farmland are expected to slow this year, with the exception of Alberta, southwestern Ontario and parts of the Ottawa Valley.

In Alberta, bidding wars have helped drive up the price of farmland by as much as 20 per cent year over year to around $10,000 an acre in the southern part of the province. Even unproductive scrubland rose in value as city dwellers bought rural getaways.

“Western Canadian farmers and their families continue to display resilience, surefootedness and enduring optimism,” said Elton Ash, regional vice-president at Re/Max of Western Canada. “Intense demand and short supply in Alberta has caused bidding wars like we see in Canada’s hot housing markets.”

The picture was not as bright in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where flooding and a harsh winter hurt farm profits and kept per-acre values generally flat year over year. In Saskatchewan, prices increased from between $1,500 and $2,000 an acre in 2013 to between $1,800 and $2,200 in 2014. Manitoba saw its price range go from between $1,350 and $1,600 to $1,500 and $2,000.

The report said the most typical buyer of farmland anywhere was a farm family expanding their output by buying more land. Proximity to local processing facilities was also a big factor in purchases.

In Ontario, farmland north of the Greater Toronto Area slated for redevelopment has hit $54,000 an acre, double the value of producing land in the region. The southwest tip of the province, Chatham-Kent, saw prices increase by 40 per cent from 2013 to $25,000 an acre. The rise drove some families looking to expand their farms out of the region to find more affordable land, the report said.

In Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, the bulk of the buyers were wealthy city folk looking to start a hobby farm. These farms ranged in size from 15 to 50 acres and typically cost just under $1-million, slightly lower year over year. Farmers in this area are also having to go further afield to find affordable land to expand their operations.

British Columbia’s blueberry-growing region, the Fraser Valley outside Vancouver, is also drawing a lot of interest from buyers. In the wake of a good blueberry crop in 2014, prices for an acre of farmland rose modestly to as high of $63,000 an acre from $60,000 in 2013.

In Nova Scotia, a number of new vineyards help send up prices 25 per cent to as much as $10,000 an acre.

Miners victim of their own ‘over-promotion’

Miners victim of their own ‘over-promotion’

  • From: The Australian
  • September 29, 2014 12:00AM

RESOURCES companies should blame themselves and their history of over-promotion, rather than cooling commodity prices, for the steep downturn in mining stocks.

That’s the view of Bert Koth, the managing director in Australia for the $US7.9 billion-plus ($9bn) Denham Capital private equity group, who believes it will be some time before investors are again prepared to back the resources sector with the same gusto seen over much of the past decade.

Australia’s resources indices have fallen by almost 40 per cent since peaking in 2011 and equity funding in the sector has dried up, leaving smaller explorers battling to survive.

Speaking to The Australian, Mr Koth said blaming the funding crisis on falling commodity prices ignored the mistakes the industry had made during the boom.

“It’s not because China is growing a little bit slower, it’s not because there was or is a debt crisis in the US and Europe, to a significant degree it’s because the industry was over-promoted,” Mr Koth said. “When you set inflated expectations and they don’t come to fruition, people abandon the sector.”

Studies by Denham found that an investor backing every single initial public offering in the resources sector over the past five years would have lost more than 60 per cent of their money.

“In a city like Perth, where there’s a lot of punters, their portfolios are down 70 per cent. If you lose 70 per cent of your money on something, how long does it take before you invest again in the same thing with the same people? It might take a while.”

The continued plunge in the iron ore price this year meant the resources sector was at an “inflection point”, he said, where listed companies that were low on cash may finally go under.

“Everyone was hinging on the belief that in six months everything would be better. But with iron ore price forecasts down to $US70 to $US75 (a tonne), it’s going to depress the whole market confidence even further and undermine any residual optimism in the system,” he said.

The current malaise in the resources sector was likely to prevail for some time as demand gradually caught up with supply.

Mr Koth noted that about 95 per cent of new copper and iron ore supply on the drawing board around the world came from projects with a forecast capital expenditure of more than $1bn.

Around half of those $1bn-plus projects were in the hands of junior to mid-tier companies with little likelihood of securing funding, while the mining giants owning the balance would be very cautious about putting more money into new projects.

“Macroeconomically that’s going to mean eventually demand will meet supply,” Mr Koth said. “That’s not going to happen tomorrow, and I’d argue you’re talking multiple years rather than multiple months. So, I don’t see any swift recovery.”

The upside of a prolonged downturn in the resources sector would be some relief in operating and capital expenditure pressures across the industry.

Mr Koth said that of the more than 500 mining projects that Denham had looked at in recent years, only “a handful” made financial sense. He said there were opportunities for companies to reduce their cost bases in the current climate by addressing overstaffing, renegotiating rates with mining contractors and taking advantage of the new-found availability of geological staff. “Industry-wide I think there’s at least a 10 per cent opex and 20 per cent capex reduction potential in Australia,” he said.

Final text of Canada – EU trade deal released – link provided


INFOGRAPHIC: A year’s extraction of metal shown next to landmarks and cities

INFOGRAPHIC: A year’s extraction of metal shown next to landmarks and cities

September 25, 2014

In today’s very special feature, we have created a slideshow visualizing a year’s production of various metals next to famous landmarks in cities.

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801074″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Cities”
alt=”” width=”799″ height=”603″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801055″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Italy”
alt=”” width=”800″ height=”601″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801056″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Paris”
alt=”” width=”799″ height=”600″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801061″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic China”
alt=”” width=”801″ height=”605″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801053″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Alabama”
alt=”” width=”802″ height=”603″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801063″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic AU”
alt=”” width=”799″ height=”603″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801054″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Germany”
alt=”” width=”802″ height=”600″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801066″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Penn”
alt=”” width=”802″ height=”603″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

face=Helvetica><FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 10.5pt” color=#086b9b><FONT
style=”TEXT-DECORATION: none”><img class=”alignnone size-full
wp-image-801069″ title=”A years extraction InfoGraphic Texas”
alt=”” width=”802″ height=”603″/></FONT></FONT></FONT>

“One death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin

For thousands of years of development as a species, humans never really needed to understand the real meaning behind big, unreachable numbers such as billions or trillions. As a result, even today we have difficulty imaging what these seemingly abstract numbers represent.

This is why visualization can be such a powerful tool. Instead of dealing with zeroes, we get to actually see these large numbers applied in a way that we can relate to.

In the above slideshow visualization, we have taken the annual production of eight major commodities (platinum, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, copper, iron, and oil) and imagined that we could lump them together into a large 3d cube. Then, we put the cube within context of a visual scene that we can contrast them with. In this case, famous landmarks and cities.

Some cubes, such as platinum’s, are only the size of a Volkswagen. Others, such as oil, are kilometres on each side and span blocks of major cities.

We also calculated the value of each cube. Amazingly, all precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, palladium, etc.) do not even come close to comparing to the value of iron or oil. It goes to show how rare they are, but also that the size of their markets are sometimes not as massive as we think within the context of the bigger picture.

Jeff Desjardins



Released on September 25, 2014

Detailed report here Crop Report for September 16 to 22

Warm and relatively dry weather allowed harvest to significantly advance this past week, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s Weekly Crop Report.  Forty-three per cent of the crop is now in the bin and 37 per cent is swathed or ready to straight-cut.  The five-year average (2009-2013) for this time of year is 58 per cent combined and 25 per cent swathed or ready to straight-cut.
The southwestern region is the most advanced, where 54 per cent of the crop is now combined.  Forty-seven per cent is combined in the northwestern region; 46 per cent in the west-central region; 45 per cent in the northeastern region; 41 per cent in the southeastern region; and 28 per cent in the east-central region.
While overall yields are reported to be about average, they vary from region to region depending on field moisture and disease received throughout the year.  Average hard red spring wheat yields are reported as 39 bushels per acre, durum 37 bushels per acre, barley 58 bushels per acre, canola 32 bushels per acre and field peas 32 bushels per acre.
Quality remains a concern for many producers as moisture, disease and frost have damaged crops.  Strong winds and waterfowl also caused some damage this week.
Rainfall this week ranged from nil to 18 mm.  Topsoil moisture conditions on cropland are rated as 14 per cent surplus, 82 per cent adequate and four per cent short.  Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as seven per cent surplus, 87 per cent adequate and six per cent short.
Pasture conditions across the province are rated as 20 per cent excellent, 64 per cent good, 14 per cent fair and two per cent poor.  Ninety-six per cent of livestock producers have indicated that they have adequate supplies of water for their livestock.
Farmers are busy with harvest operations, aerating tough grain and hauling bales.
Follow the 2014 Crop Report on Twitter at @SKAgriculture.
For more information, contact:
Shannon Friesen Agriculture Moose Jaw Phone: 306-694-3592



Released on September 24, 2014


Today, Advanced Education Minister Kevin Doherty announced the proclamation of The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Act.  This Act provides the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) authority to operate as a polytechnic institution and officially change its name to Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
“This new Act marks a milestone in the history of SIAST and post-secondary education in the province,” Doherty said.  “SIAST has earned a reputation for delivering quality education while being responsive to the labour market needs of employers in Saskatchewan.  This evolution to Saskatchewan Polytechnic will create even more opportunities for students, resulting in a stronger economy and the continued growth of our province.”   The Act clarifies SIAST’s authority to undertake and support applied research, grant degrees in accordance with The Degree Authorization Act, and fundraise for property.
In addition, SIAST will now become a member of Polytechnics Canada along with ten other members that offer a broad range of educational experiences, including four-year bachelor degrees.   The Saskatchewan Plan for Growth includes a goal to add 60,000 workers by 2020.  The proclamation of this Act and creation of Saskatchewan Polytechnic will help to achieve this goal by providing increased applied training and education opportunities for post-secondary students in the province.   “Polytechnics are industry-responsive technical training enterprises that support economic growth through applied learning and applied research,” Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s president and CEO Dr. Larry Rosia said.  “The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Act better equips us to accomplish our strategic goals of maximizing student success and providing skilled graduates to meet labour market needs.”
SIAST is Saskatchewan’s largest post-secondary institution for technical education and skills training.  Approximately 93 per cent of SIAST graduates are employed after six months and 95 per cent of them find jobs in Saskatchewan.
About 26,000 students receive training annually in programs on campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert.
For more information, contact:
Rikki Bote Advanced Education Regina Phone: 306-787-4156

Like Occupy, climate change a lost cause

  • 23 Sep 2014
  • National Post – (Latest Edition)
  • Financial Post

Like Occupy, climate change a lost cause


Keep the shares, daughter, he might say, and use the income to invest in renewables if you want and they are profitable.

Come to think of it, if oil money is so bad, why don’t today’s Rockefellers walk away from all of their personal wealth. The origins of that wealth, after all, is dirty oil. When does the taint of fabulous wealth from more than a century of carbon emissions cease to be a moral burden?

Welcome to the murky ideological world of climate change activism, a movement that this week appears to have been taken over by politically unemployed Occupy Wall Street activists. Instead of occupying the centre of world capitalism over inequality, a giant fizzle, the same crew of unions, leftists, religious groups and global economic reformers took to the streets of lower Manhattan Monday with the latest hashtag slogan: “#floodwallstreet Stop Capitalism! End the climate crisis!”

The #floodwallstreet march, on the heals of a giant climate rally in New York on Sunday, takes aim at the United Nations’ Climate Summit that opens Tuesday. Convened by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-moon, the summit is intended as a warm-up for attempts by the United Nations to secure agreement by 2015 on draconian fossil fuel cuts.

No such targets are likely under current global geo-political conditions, not to mention global economic conditions. National leaders from China, Canada and India are not attending. What the world wants is growth that won’t happen of policy makers adopt economic controls that try to reverse the growth miracle fossil fuels delivered to the world in the 145 years since John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil.

That leaves climate and other activists with few options beyond another attempt to create the appearance of a mass movement out of thin air and wild ideological claims.

One of the warm-up speakers for Monday’s #floodwallstreet rally at New York’s Battery Park was Naomi Klein, apparently using the Climate Summit circus as a promotional vehicle for her latest book, titled This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

She told interviewer for Vogue that “New York is going to be on fire when this book comes out.” Well, New York may be snarled in traffic, but not on fire, certainly not the kind of capitalist-destroying fire she wants to see.

Ms. Klein’s calls for radical reform of the world economy, her book filled with extreme positions on fossil fuels. “While not equivalent, the dependency of the U.S. Economy on slave labor … is certainly comparable to the modern global economy’s reliance on fossil fuel.” Such wild analogies may spark revolution for some, but for most citizens of the world they will land as extremist nonsense.

Even the Rockefeller Brothers divestment of fossil fuels investments is more bluster than real action. This particular Rockefeller fund (according to 2012 filings) had investments-assets of about US$750-million. Very little would appear to be in fossil fuel-related companies or funds. Prior to the crash, the funds had assets of US$950-million. Most of the Rockefeller Brothers’ money is investment funds and other pooled vehicles, making it impossible to determine whether the commitment to divest has any real meaning.

According the Global Divest-Invest’s web site, the fossil fuel divestment philanthropy movement has signed funds worth US$50-billion with intentions to get out of coal, oil and gas stocks. At that level, the divest movement’s share of total investment in the fossil industry would be too small to measure.

Meanwhile, the science of climate change is on shaky ground. Judith Curry, professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, writes in FP Comment that the idea that the science is settled is not true, regardless of the claims of Chief Hollywood Climate Scientist Leonardo DiCaprio, who stated “The debate is over. Climate change is happening now.”

Writes Ms. Curry: “Climate science is no more ‘settled’ than anthropogenic global warming is a ‘hoax’… the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified.”

Oversimplification has never troubled activists and politicians. At the UN Climate Summit, in the streets around New York and among activists everywhere, the economic and scientific issues will be exaggerated — as they were for the last anticapitalist crusade.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is dead, so the left is pinning its next hope on climate change — another lost cause.

%d bloggers like this: