Effect of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, was weighing on the market a week ago. And investors were further unsettled by military action in Libya and worsening unrest in Bahrain. The FTSE 100 ended down by around 80 points at 5,718.13.

Precious metals also weakened. Gold fell to US$1,419.3 per ounce while silver fell to US$35.26 per ounce. Platinum slipped to US$1,723.5 per ounce and palladium fell to US$716 per ounce. Base metals recovered some of the ground lost in last week’s heavy falls, as some commentators suggested that demand might surge once reconstruction in Japan gets underway in earnest. Copper rebounded sharply to US$9,525 per tonne, or US$4.32 per pound. Nickel recovered to US$26,200 per tonne, and zinc climbed to US$2,330 per tonne.

It was a mixed week for London’s mining majors. Rio Tinto closed 1.3 per cent higher at 4,016p and Xstrata climbed 2.4 per cent to 1,383p. But BHP Billiton closed 0.5 per cent lower at 2,305p and Anglo American slipped 2.9 per cent to close at 3,037p.

The real damage was done in the uranium sector. Several governments have indicated that they will re-think their nuclear policies, most crucially, perhaps, China. Having soared to 300p just days earlier on news of a potential Chinese takeover, Kalahari Minerals slumped 23.5 per cent to 228p. VANE Minerals slipped 16.3 per cent to 2.62p. And Forte Energy fell 19.6 per cent to 5.43p even as it announced assay results from a further 17 holes drilled at the A238 uranium prospect in Mauritania. Once the current 1,500 metre diamond drilling programme is complete at A238, Forte is hoping to deliver a maiden resource estimate for the prospect.

In gold, it was a mixed picture. Allied Gold confirmed a 271,000 ounce increase in mineral resources at the Botlu deposit at its Simberi gold mine in Papua New Guinea. The company also confirmed that it had suffered no impact from the Japanese tsunami. As a result the shares climbed 3.7 per cent to 39.67p.

But shares in Australia-focused gold developer GGG Resources declined by nine per cent to 35.39p after it launched an all-paper offer for Auzex Resources, its partner in the Bullabulling gold project in Western Australia. Securing full control of Bullabulling would enable GGG to accelerate the project. We’ll be hearing more on the potential advantages of consolidating ownership of Bullabulling from GGG chief Jeff Malaihollo next week.

Elsewhere, Avocet Mining released further significant results from follow-up drilling at the Koul├ękoun gold deposit in Guinea. This has a current resource of 666,500 ounces. Drilling is expected to continue until late April with an updated resource expected by mid-year. The shares closed 1.5 per cent lower at 226p.

And Argentina and Chile-focused Mariana Resources slipped 12.6 per cent to 31.25p after it started a 4,000-metre drilling programme at the Sierra Blanca silver-gold project in the Deseado Massif gold district in southern Argentina. Mariana chief John Sutcliffe will be passing through London within the next few weeks so, so interested parties should watch for more detailed commentary around then, as he meets and greets with press and investors.

Elsewhere in South America, Orosur Mining slipped 3.4 per cent to 63.75p after it agreed a US$5.5 million line of credit facility to fund the purchase of equipment for its Arenal Deeps project in Uruguay.

In precious metals, Jubilee Platinum secured a £15 million standby equity distribution agreement to allow it to acquire chrome and platinum properties hosting ore suitable for use in the company’s ConRoast process. The company’s operations are currently focussed in South Africa, although it also has assets in other countries. The shares closed 7.1 per cent lower at 26.23p.

West Africa-focused Stellar Diamonds closed flat at 8.13p after it reported encouraging diamond grades from initial bulk sampling at its Bouro kimberlite dyke project in Guinea. This has already been the subject of significant artisanal mining down to a depth of 17 metres. The first sample returned 565 carats at a grade of 243 carats per hundred tonnes.

In base metals, Central Asia Metals confirmed that its 10,000 tonnes per annum Kounrad copper cathode plant in Kazakhstan is still on schedule for start-up in late 2011. The company also said that capital costs remain in line with the US$46.9 million budget. The shares closed 2.8 per cent lower at 86.5p.

Sticking with copper, Rambler Metals and Mining climbed 6.5 per cent to 40.48p after it received final construction approval from the provincial government in Newfoundland for its Ming copper-gold mine. This was one of the trigger points agreed in the earlier financing deal concluded with Sandstorm Gold, which immediately approved and released the final US$6 million tranche of the cash required to complete the mine. Ming should now be in production later this year.

Following a strategic review of exploration on its Spanish projects, Ormonde Mining has decided to concentrate on potential tungsten-gold satellites for its flagship Barruecopardo tungsten project. The company’s other, gold-only projects will go into a new joint venture with an old friend of Ormonde’s, Aurum Mining. Ormonde’s shares closed 4.7 per cent lower at 10p, while Aurum’s shares slipped 16.1 per cent to close at 4.83p.

Sub-sea miner Nautilus Minerals closed 8.5 per cent lower at 162p as the government of Papua New Guinea confirmed it is to take up its option to acquire a 30 per cent stake in the Solwara 1 project in the Bismarck Sea. The government will contribute funds to the project in proportion to its interest, including its share of costs incurred to date.

Finally, in the most bizarre news of the week, EMED Mining revealed that four workers at its Rio Tinto project in Spain had descended into the project’s underground shafts to protest against the glacially slow progress of the government's permitting of the mine. The workers’ action helped lift the shares 9.4 per cent to 16p.


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