Last week a good week for commodities and miners, as ongoing concerns over unrest in the Middle East combined with inflation fears3 to push precious metals higher, while the growing signs of U.S. economic recovery pushed the possibility of industrial commodities.

Gold climbed to US$1,429.7 per ounce but was outperformed by silver’s 6.6 per cent ascent to US$35.49 per ounce. Platinum climbed two per cent to US$1,844.8 per ounce and palladium firmed 4.5 per cent to US$812.6 per ounce. Copper reversed recent declines to climb to US$9,980 per tonne, or US$4.53 per pound. Nickel resumed its strong recent run to close at US$28,910 per tonne while zinc also closed higher at US$2,513 per tonne.

With all having now reported their results, the majors were quiet on the news front. Even so, they were all better off on the back of strengthening commodities prices. Rio Tinto closed 1.9 per cent higher at 4,347p, BHP Billiton climbed 2.5 per cent to 2,493p, and Anglo American climbed 1.3 per cent to 3,350p. Xstrata returned the strongest performance, climbing 4.5 per cent to 1,445p, as the market mulls possible combinations with Glencore.

On the second tier, Kazakhmys closed 2.9 per cent higher at 1,473p as it delivered a reasonably positive set of production numbers for 2010. With over half of last year’s copper sales going to China, the group continues to pursue a secondary listing in Hong Kong.

And shares in precious metals miner Fresnillo rose two per cent to 1,608p, as it announced record attributable silver and gold production. The company’s total resource base also increased, by over 15 per cent, and Fresnillo remains on track to produce 65 million ounces of silver and over 400,000 ounces of gold annually by 2018. The shares closed two per cent higher at 1,608p.

Amongst smaller producing miners, Allied Gold announced that it has started commissioning its Gold Ridge project in the Solomon Islands. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 ounces per year and first gold production is expected imminently. The shares climbed 7.7 per cent to 46p.

There were also updates from several gold exploration projects. Chaarat Gold closed 2.9 per cent higher at 54p as it announced good drill results from its project in Kyrgyzstan. Last year the company boosted its resource base to 4.406 million ounces of gold, but work is ongoing.

And Minera IRL was also better off, up 16.8 per cent to 101p, as it announced encouraging assay results from nine drill holes at its Escondido project in Patagonia. Elsewhere in Argentina, scout drilling by Mariana Resources has revealed a new epithermal gold zone at its flagship Las Calandrias gold-silver project in the Santa Cruz region of southern Argentina. Mariana's shares climbed 3.7 per cent to 42p.

In Africa, Avocet Mining announced very encouraging results from drilling at the Kodiéran prospect in north-eastern Guinea. The company also received US$100 million in escrow as the second tranche of the US$200 million consideration owing for the sale of its Asian mines. The shares climbed 15.8 per cent to 251p.

Elsewhere, Nyota Minerals has completed its preliminary economic assessment of the potential of its Tulu Kapi gold project in Ethiopia. The company also upgraded 707,000 ounces of gold resource from the inferred to the indicated category. However, analysts weren’t all convinced by the project economics, and the shares fell 16.5 per cent to 17.75p.

Also in Ethiopia, Stratex International announced the discovery of epithermal gold mineralisation at the newly-acquired, 299 square kilometre Blackrock exploration licence in the northern Afar region. The company will now attempt to fast-track prospects through to drill-ready status by the end of the year. The shares closed 4.7 per cent lower at 7.5p

In gemstones, TanzaniteOne climbed 9.4 per cent to 12.85p after it recovered an exceptional 12,100 carat tanzanite stone from its mine in Tanzania. This stone is the third largest high quality gemstone ever discovered in the tanzanite mine’s 10 year operating history.

Sticking with Africa, African Aura Mining announced further details of its proposed separation into two companies. These will be called, Afferro Mining and Aureus Mining. Afferro will concentrate on iron ore, while Aureus will develop the gold portfolio. The arrangement is expected to become effective on 13 April and African Aura shares climbed 4.2 per cent to 286p in anticipation.

Meanwhile, Guinea-focused Bellzone Mining closed 8.8 per cent higher at 83.5p after it raised US$233 million through the issue of new shares at 80p. The new money will fund its share of the costs of developing the Forécariah iron ore project. China International Fund put up US$100 million, while an oversubscribed institutional placing raised a further US$133 million. First production is anticipated in the first half of next year.

And still in Africa, Baobab Resources leapt 35.4 per cent to 33p as it confirmed further positive drilling results from its Tete iron, vanadium and titanium project in Mozambique. The company expects to announce further results over the next two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Rambler Metals & Mining announced a 21 per cent increase to its resource base at the Ming copper-gold mine in Newfoundland. With mineralised zones still open in multiple directions, scope remains for further increases to the resource. The shares edged higher to 42p.

Further south, Horizonte announced a maiden resource for its Araguaia project in north-central Brazil, amounting to 76.6 million tonnes at 1.35% nickel and 0.06% cobalt. Infill drilling is ongoing, as the company continues to work towards its 100 million tonne target. The shares closed marginally higher at 24.3p.

It was a bad week for Indonesia-focused coal miner Churchill Mining. After a brief suspension, its shares crashed 70 per cent to 26.5p after it announced that a ruling from the State Administrative Tribunal in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, could lead to the cancellation of the company’s East Kutai coal project licences. The company is contesting the decision and evaluating its options for appeal.

Finally, Alexander Mining announced positive results from the deployment of its proprietary AmmLeach process on the Torlon Hill zinc-lead-silver deposit in Guatemala, which is owned by Firestone Ventures. Alexander and Firestone will seek further opportunities to cooperate, using AmmLeach on Firestone’s zinc oxide projects in Guatemala and Nevada. Alexander's shares closed 10 per cent lower at 13.5p.


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