Aluminum industry must think beyond cars for long-term growth, says demographer – by Ross Marowits (Canadian Business Magazine – June 3, 2014)

The Canadian Press – MONTREAL – A rapidly aging population means the aluminum industry needs to look beyond the high demand for lightweight cars if it wants to grow long into the future, a Canadian demographer said Tuesday.

University of Toronto economics professor David Foot told an aluminum conference that spending patterns will shift as people age, potentially impacting the long-term demand for the metal.

“When we get into our 60s and 70s, we drive our automobiles a little less, we fly a little less, so some of the current uses of aluminum which are great, are not going to be long-term growth prospects,” he said in an interview.

The aluminum sector foresees “game changing” demand from planes, trains and automobiles, which are increasingly using the metal to lower the weight and improve fuel efficiency and environmental emissions.

For instance, automaker giant Ford already plans on reducing the weight of its F-150 pickup truck by increasing the amount of aluminum used to 315 kilograms from 45 kilograms on current models.

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Rio Tinto leader Ray Ahmat cuts a trail for others – by Sarah-Jane Tasker (The Australian – May 31, 2014)

RAY Ahmat, the first local Aboriginal superintendent at Rio Tinto Alcan’s bauxite mine in Weipa, has outlined the opportunities to develop local talent after taking out a top award at an industry function.

Mr Ahmat received the Overall Indigenous Award at the Queensland Resources Council’s Indigenous Awards last night for his contribution as a role model in the state’s sector.

He leads a large operational team of more than 170 people at the mine, on the Western Cape of York Peninsula in Queensland, managing pre-mining and post-mining activities.

Mr Ahmat, born and bred in the region, said his parents were strong role models in his life. His father had worked at the mine for 32 years and his mother spent 28 years at the operation.

“I got to where I am to seeing what they did,” he said. Mr Ahmat, who is a Yupungathi traditional owner, joined the miner 15 years ago as a truck driver before moving up the chain to superintendent — a path he hopes he can encourage others in his community to follow.

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Jacynthe Côté exiting as head of Rio Tinto’s aluminum unit – by Bertrand Marotte (Globe and Mail – May 28, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

MONTREAL — Jacynthe Côté, Rio Tinto Ltd.’s head of aluminum operations, is stepping down. The Anglo-Australian global mining giant said on Tuesday that Ms. Côté is leaving Montreal-based Rio Tinto Alcan “for personal reasons to pursue other interests.”

She is being replaced by BP PLC veteran Alfredo Barrios, 48, the executive director and executive vice-president (downstream) at joint venture TNK-BP, one of Russia’s largest vertically integrated oil and gas companies. Ms. Côté was promoted to the job in 2009, two years after her predecessor – Richard Evans – presided over the huge $38-billion takeover of Alcan Inc. by Rio Tinto.

“Jacynthe has long been a key member of Rio Tinto’s leadership team and has enjoyed a successful career with Rio Tinto and Alcan spanning more than 25 years,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh.

“The ongoing improvement in the performance of the Aluminium business is testimony to her commitment to the business throughout her career.” Under Ms. Côté’s watch, aluminum prices fell dramatically, forcing significant cost-cutting measures and job cuts at head office and elsewhere.

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Côté’s exit leaves Rio Tinto at crossroads – by Sophie Cousineau (Globe and Mail – May 28, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

It is a bittersweet end to Jacynthe Côté’s distinguished 26-year career at Rio Tinto Alcan.

The Laval University-trained chemist who rose through the ranks at Alcan became head of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business in January, 2009, just as the financial crisis was ripping through the world economy. No other woman had accomplished such a feat in the company’s 112-year history.

On the day she was appointed, though, she announced the closing of the Beauharnois, Que., smelter she once directed, and that pretty much set the tone for her five-year term. As aluminium prices fell and Rio Tinto suffered from an acute case of buyer’s remorse over its $38.1-billion (U.S.) acquisition of Alcan – in cash no less – Ms. Côté closed smelters, laid off employees and turned every rock she set her eyes on to cut the producer’s costs.

Last year, the unit’s underlying earnings, at $557-million, were 10 times higher than in 2012. Now that the worst of the mining downturn appears behind Rio Tinto, Ms. Côté is leaving the company’s aluminium unit to “pursue other interests.” However, her replacement by BP veteran Alfredo Barrios as chief executive comes at a time when Alcan’s future within Rio Tinto is clouded.

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Nickel, aluminium show signs of revival – by Peter Ker (Sydney Morning Herald – May 16, 2014)

They’ve been the dregs at the bottom of the diversified miners’ bottle for years, but nickel and aluminium are starting to show signs of life.

The two commodities have been bywords for poor performance over recent years, having dealt financial losses and multi-billion dollar impairments on their hapless owners at the big end of the mining industry.

But evolving attitudes in the developing world seem to be changing the rules of engagement in both industries, and tempting investors to think again. The nickel resurgence is more advanced and better understood.

Prices for the metal – used to create stainless steel – soared 56 per cent after January 10 when the Indonesian government placed a ban on certain raw metal exports.

The decision was designed to create jobs by forcing exporters to build processing plants on Indonesian soil, rather than exporting their raw ores overseas. As the world’s biggest nickel exporter, Indonesia’s removal from global trade has led to expectations of a shortage and price rises.

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Aluminium’s day dawns as iron ore dims – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – May 12, 2014)

Tinto’s much-maligned aluminium business could be a surprise saving grace for the miner as iron ore prices soften, with the company’s cost-cutting drive set to produce strong cashflows and boost the chance of big returns to shareholders.

The turnaround in aluminium, which Deutsche Bank is forecasting will contribute $US2 billion ($2.1bn) of annual free cashflow to Rio by 2017, comes as chief executive Sam Walsh predicts an end to the Chinese overcapacity that has hobbled the industry in recent years.

While there is no hope of recovering the $US25bn of value wiped from the aluminium unit’s book value since Rio paid $US40bn in cash for Alcan just before the global financial crisis, some investors are positioning themselves for a rebound.

“We have shareholders on our portfolio because they ­believe our aluminium business is going to be very prospective,” Mr Walsh told the company’s annual meeting in Melbourne last week. “That’s their call, but it is an indication that people ­expect there will be improvement in the business.”

Deutsche Bank analysts also sense a change.

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Vedanta shelves Odisha bauxite plan pending local approval – by Karen Rebelo (Reuters India – May 9, 2014)

REUTERS – Vedanta Resources Plc said on Friday it would not mine bauxite at a controversial project in Odisha until it can win over local communities opposed to its plan.

The Environment Ministry had already rejected Vedanta’s request to mine in the Niyamgiri hills of Odisha following persistent protests from local communities that consider the region sacred..

While Vedanta stopped short of saying it had abandoned the project, its decision to await the consent of local communities will require it to look elsewhere for the raw material to feed its alumina refinery in the same state.

Analysts said Vedanta’s announcement is an early hint of plans by Tom Albanese, the former Rio Tinto head who became Vedanta’s chief executive last month, to make the London-listed company a more attractive sell to international investors.

Vedanta, a company with a market capitalisation of $4.2 billion and base metal mines in several countries, relies on aluminium production – exclusively in India – for about 12 percent of its revenue.

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Bauxite: Will Australia fill Indonesia’s shoes? – by Oliver Probert (Australian Journal of Mining – May 07, 2014)

Indonesia’s move to ban the export of mineral ores has left analyst Wood Mackenzie asking the question: where will China look to satisfy its growing appetite for bauxite?

The analyst’s most recent forecasts indicate that global alumina refinery production will rise to almost 140mt by 2018, which means we’ll see bauxite demand rise by almost 80mt to 350mt. China is the main global player in the aluminium market. It represents 40% of global supply, and 60% of global demand for the metal.

With China’s alumina refinery production forecast to rise by almost 17mtpa by 2018 and a further 40mt by 2030, Wood Mackenzie estimates the Asian giant will consume as much as 240mt of bauxite by 2030.

Until recently, Indonesia was the main supplier of bauxite to China, accounting for around 65% of overall supply last year. But in an attempt to create jobs by encouraging producers to build refineries on mainland Indonesia, the government enforced a ban on mineral ore exports in January.

The ban has created a significant supply gap for China to fill, and while swollen stockpiles and source diversification will soften the blow in the short to medium term, Wood Mackenzie believes the ban could be transformative to the global bauxite market in the longer term.

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Patchy Power Challenges Indonesia Minerals Goal: Southeast Asia – by Fitri Wulandari and Eko Listiyorini (Bloomberg News – May 07, 2014)

The challenge of supplying power across an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is complicating Indonesia’s goal of getting more out of its scattered mineral resources.

While almost 80 percent of Indonesia’s electricity capacity is in the islands of Java and Bali, the majority of its most abundant minerals such as bauxite and nickel are found in provinces including Sulawesi, Halmahera and Kalimantan. That’s testing PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara, the state utility, which received requests from 25 companies to supply new mineral-processing plants with power as of last month.

“The problem is smelters are often located in remote areas where power stations and infrastructure are lacking,” Jarman, the director general of electricity at the energy and mineral ministry, said in an interview in Jakarta.

Indonesia, the biggest producer of mined nickel, banned mineral ore exports in January to boost investment in the smelters and refineries needed to process raw materials locally into higher-value commodities. By 2030, the plants needed to turn the nation’s ore into metals will require additional power equivalent to 13 percent of current capacity, putting a strain on the electricity network in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

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Indonesia’s gamble on ore export ban starts to hit home – by Ben Bland (Financial Times – May 7, 2014)

Ketapang, West Kalimantan – Two hundred huge hauling trucks used to hurtle down the 34km dirt road from Harita’s Air Upas mine to its river port every day, shipping bauxite for China’s resource-hungry aluminium industry.

But work at the sprawling site in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, and dozens like it across Indonesia ground to a halt in January after the government defied lobbying from this powerful industry by implementing a long-planned ban on the export of unprocessed

The move is designed to promote investment in costly domestic processing facilities, but critics, such as the World Bank, say it has damaged investor confidence and is threatening the state finances.

Economic growth fell to its slowest pace in five years in the first quarter as tens of thousands of workers were made redundant and mineral exports, which reached $11bn last year, were halted.

Harita, a family-owned conglomerate, and its contractors laid off nearly 5,000 workers in this poor, remote region where mining has been a key driver of employment since much of the remaining rainforest was obliterated by illegal logging a decade ago.

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COLUMN-Indonesia to make it even harder for foreign miners – by Clyde Russell (Reuters India – April 23, 2014)

Clyde Russell is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own.

LAUNCESTON, Australia, April 23 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s decision to start cancelling investment treaties with 62 countries has passed with little comment, but the move may have a greater impact than the recent banning of mineral ore exports.

Indonesia last month kick-started the process of terminating all of its bilateral treaties by notifying the Netherlands that its agreement to protect and promote investment would end in 2015, and signalling that the others would end as soon as possible.

The agreements, which are common between states, protect the rights of investors in each other’s country, and typically include clauses about fair treatment, no expropriation and guarantees that profits can be repatriated.

Most importantly for many investors in countries like Indonesia, with its patchy record on legal certainty, is the right of appeal to the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Among the countries that have treaties with Indonesia are major foreign investors including China, India, Australia, Britain, Singapore and Russia. However, the United States and Japan are among nations that don’t have agreements.

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UPDATE 1-BHP Billiton weighs spin-off of unloved assets – by Sonali Paul (Reuters U.K. – April 1, 2014)

MELBOURNE, April 1 (Reuters) – BHP Billiton is weighing a range of options to simplify its portfolio of assets, including a possible spin-off of unwanted businesses such as aluminium and nickel into a separate company, the top global miner said on Tuesday.

“We continue to actively study the next phase of simplification, including structural options, but will only pursue options that maximise value for BHP Billiton shareholders,” the company said in a statement.

Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie has said over the past year that the company plans to focus on its large iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum businesses, while selling off smaller, less profitable operations.

The company’s statement on Tuesday came shortly after The Australian Financial Review newspaper reported that BHP was considering spinning off non-core assets into a separate company, offering shares to existing shareholders.

BHP shares rose as much as 2.2 percent to a three-week high after the report. They last traded up 1.7 percent at A$37.10 in a weaker broader market. Spinning off a company with non-core assets would allow BHP to pare down at a time when it may be difficult to find buyers willing to pay a good price. It could also help flush out a buyer.

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COLUMN-Indonesia nickel, bauxite ban yet to hit China – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – March 27, 2014)

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.)

(Reuters) – Indonesia’s ban on exporting unprocessed nickel and bauxite has been in force for more than two months, but the impact has yet to fully show up in Chinese imports.

China’s trade data for February shows nickel ore imports from Indonesia were about 3.1 million tonnes, down only 2.5 percent from the same month a year earlier.

Indonesia’s ban on exporting unprocessed minerals took effect on Jan. 12, and while there have been some moves to relax restrictions on copper and other ores, the total ban on nickel and bauxite remains.

Nonetheless, Indonesia’s share of China’s total nickel imports in February was 87 percent, showing the world’s biggest buyer of commodities hasn’t made a marked shift as yet to alternative suppliers.

In the first two months of the year China imported 9.2 million tonnes of nickel ore from Indonesia, a 29.1 percent jump over the same period in 2013.

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INSIGHT-Russia’s leading role in the Indonesian mining revolution – by Randy Fabi and Fergus Jensen (Reuters U.S. – March 23, 2014)

JAKARTA, March 24 (Reuters) – Russia’s two metal giants have emerged as big winners from Indonesia’s new mining law, after leading a drive to get Jakarta to stick to its controversial mineral ore export ban in the face of opposition from miners and Asian buyers.

In its six-month lobbying campaign last year, United Company Rusal and Norilsk Nickel delivered a blunt message to Indonesian officials: We will only invest billions of dollars in smelters if you ban bauxite and nickel ore exports.

The effort seemed to have paid off, despite a denial by Indonesia that it was influenced. When the law came into effect this year, Indonesia enforced a water-tight export ban for only two major minerals – nickel ore and bauxite.

The halting of $3 billion of annual nickel ore and bauxite exports has already lifted the price of nickel and helped support aluminium, boosting the fortunes of Rusal and Norilsk, the world’s top aluminium and nickel producers, respectively.

At the same time, it has strengthened the case for the pair to invest billions of dollars in Indonesia to build smelters to replace costly capacity in Russia, a key part of a recovery plan for struggling Rusal and in line with Indonesia’s own aims to earn more from its minerals resources.

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Activists allowed to reappeal Rio Tinto’s Kitimat smelter permit – by Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail – March 14, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VICTORIA — The B.C. Supreme Court has granted environmental activists a chance to overturn the environmental permit for the $3.3-billion upgrade of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Kitimat.

Last April, the provincial Ministry of Environment authorized Rio Tinto to increase sulphur dioxide emissions, paving the way for the massive modernization and expansion project. There are more than 2,400 construction workers on site, and the project is already over budget.

The opponents, including two environmental organizations as well as a handful of local citizens, want Rio Tinto to install sulphur dioxide scrubbers, which could add more than $150-million to the upgrade. The process removes sulphur dioxide from the stacks.

Two environmental groups, along with residents of both Terrace and Kitimat, sought to appeal the permit, saying the smelter upgrade would threaten human health and the environment in the Kitimat-Terrace airshed.

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