Archive | Australia/New Caledonia/Papua New Guinea Mining

Gold prices are trading near record highs, so why are Australia’s mineral explorers crying poor? – by Jarrod Lucas (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – November 6, 2019)

The movers and shakers in Australia’s mineral exploration industry could be channelling Tom Cruise’s character from the movie Jerry Maguire because they constantly seem to be shouting: “show me the money!” Known as the lifeblood of the mining industry, exploration is an expensive game which is as much a gamble as it is an investment.

There are never any guarantees a rich mineral deposit lies beneath the surface and for all the mining industry’s technological advances in recent decades, the best way to make new discoveries is by drilling into the earth. The pay-off can be big if a company strikes it lucky.

Case in point is one-time penny dreadful stock Sirius Resources, which was almost broke when it discovered the Nova nickel-copper deposit in Western Australia in 2012 before completing one of the great rags-to-riches stories in 2015 with Independence Group’s $1.8-billion takeover. Continue Reading →

Australia’s threat to outlaw mining protests highlights industry split – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – November 3, 2019)

LAUNCESTON, Australia (Reuters) – The boss of a major mining company last week made a plea to the industry to do more to win the hearts and minds of the broader public. A few days later the leader of the country hosting the bulk of his operations threatened to outlaw those opposed to mining.

What makes the situation more bizarre is that the threat against the right to protest was made by Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, a country with a long democratic tradition and a history of political tolerance.

Morrison, the leader of the conservative Liberal Party, told a meeting of a mining lobby group on Nov. 2 that there is a “new breed of radical activism” that didn’t permit the expression of alternative viewpoints. Continue Reading →

Not The Best Deal: Albemarle Pays $1.3 Billion For A Lithium Asset— And Closes It – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – November 1, 2019)

Too much lithium and not enough demand for the battery-making material have hit the Australian expansion plans of U.S.-based specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corporation which effectively acquired, and closed, a new mine on the same day.

The deal to buy a stake in the Wodgina lithium mine in Western Australia was first negotiated 12 months ago, a time when lithium prices were higher and demand for the electric vehicles which use it in their batteries was forecast to be stronger than it is.

Celebrations Turn Sour

Rather than celebrating the deal today turned into commiserations with the workforce sent home and the almost new mine put in mothballs. Continue Reading →

BHP’s Colombian coal takes on Australian miners in Asia market switch – by Peter Ker (Australian Financial Review – October 30, 2019)

The Colombian coal business owned by BHP, Glencore and Anglo American will switch focus from Europe to Asia, in a move that would put it head to head with Australian coal exporters.

Cerrejon president Guillermo Fonseca urged the Colombian government to consider cutting its tax take to make Cerrejon more competitive against Australian miners, who enjoy a shorter, and therefore, cheaper route to Asia.

”Europe (demand for coal) is declining and declining much faster than we expected, Asia is still growing and definitely that is where the market is going to be for the medium to long term,” he told The Australian Financial Review at Melbourne’s IMARC conference. Continue Reading →

The end of the ‘rarest diamonds in the world’ is at hand and jewellers are already feeling nostalgic – by Claire Ballentine (Bloomberg/Financial Post – October 24, 2019)

For 30 years, jeweller John Calleija has been purchasing rare gems from Rio Tinto Group’s Argyle mine in remote Western Australia, home to 90 per cent of the world’s prized pink diamonds.

On a recent rainy afternoon in New York’s Peninsula Hotel, the Australia-based Calleija studied some of the rarest pink and red stones through a magnifying glass as part of Rio Tinto’s annual pink diamonds tender, which held a total of 64 diamonds making up 56.28 carats. The intense quiet in the room was broken only by Calleija’s occasional murmurs of approval at the gems’ cut and clarity.

The stones themselves are always breathtaking, but this year’s tender also had a heightened sense of nostalgia. The Argyle mine is set to close at the end of next year, now that its supply of economically viable jewels has been exhausted. Continue Reading →

Chinese-owned nickel plant in PNG shut down after toxic slurry spill – by Bethanie Harriman (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – October 24, 2019)

Papua New Guinean authorities have shut down a Chinese-owned nickel processing plant for breaching safety and mining laws, after the operator spilled tens of thousands of litres of toxic slurry into a bay in August.

PNG’s Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) chose to take punitive action against the Ramu Nico plant, which is majority owned by the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), after it failed to fix problems the authority identified while investigating the spill.

These included incompetency among operators at the plant in PNG’s Madang province, problems with the spillage containment system, and inadequate equipment maintenance. Continue Reading →

Mining Giant Sends Shock Waves Through New Zealand’s Stock Market – by David Winning and Robb M. Stewart (Wall Street Journal – October 23, 2019)

The lights abruptly went out on New Zealand’s long-running stocks rally Wednesday. The reason: A global mining giant’s threat to pull the plug on the country’s biggest buyer of electricity.

The NZX-50 index had been among the world’s best-performing stock benchmarks this year, notching a 26% gain through Tuesday. But it fell 2.1%, close to a three-week low, after Rio Tinto PLC said its Tiwai Point smelter is unprofitable, citing high energy costs and historically low aluminum prices because of oversupply in the market.

The selloff illustrates how small stock markets can be especially vulnerable to big corporate decisions. Tiwai Point, which employs roughly 1,000 people and has been in operation for nearly half a century, is the single biggest user of electricity in New Zealand, where it accounts for roughly 14% of energy demand. Continue Reading →

Nickel Relives The Failed Attempt By The Hunt Brothers To Corner Silver – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – October 20, 2019)

Attempts to “corner” a metal market invariably end in tears, if not jail time, which is what happened with silver in 1980 and copper in 1995, so when the market in nickel “inverted” last week warnings were issued that an old game was being played in one of the new generation of battery metals.

The term inverted essentially means that the short-term price of a product, whether a metal or a government bond, rises above the long-term price, which is unnatural and a sign of trouble ahead. An inverted bond yield can be interpreted as a recession pointer.

Three Brothers And A Silver Plan

Silver had its crisis when three brothers who were heirs to the Hunt Oil fortune acquired, or attempted to acquire, one-third of the global supply of the metal. Continue Reading →

China starts new $10b Oakajee iron ore push – by Peter Ker (Australian Financial Review – October 21, 2019)

A Chinese state-owned entity will seek to revive a $9.7 billion mining rail and port project in Western Australia, in a move that could unlock the nation’s next iron ore export province.

Sinosteel has acquired Japanese giant Mitsubishi’s interests in the long-stalled Oakajee Port and Rail project, in a deal that comes in the strongest year for iron ore prices since 2014.

The acquisition effectively resolves a dispute over port tariffs that was the major wrecker of attempts to develop Oakajee during the heady peaks of the iron ore boom in 2011, and when combined with Sinosteel’s existing assets nearby, make the Chinese company the dominant force in the mid-west region of WA. Continue Reading →

Adani awards QLD business $100m rail construction contract (Australian Mining – October 21, 2019)


Adani has handed out a $100 million rail contract to Australian-operated Martinus Rail, which will deliver the work out of Rockhampton, Queensland.

This is the latest in the more than $450 million worth of contracts awarded for the Carmichael coal and rail project. A majority of these have been given to regional Queensland areas.

Martinus Rail will be based in Rockhampton, where Adani has also opened a business centre. Martinus Rail managing director Treaven Martinus said the company was keen to ensure regional communities saw the benefits of the significant contract. Continue Reading →

U.S. edges China out of race to fund Bougainville independence vote – by Jonathan Barrett (Reuters U.S. – October 16, 2019)

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The United States and its Pacific allies have plugged a funding gap that endangered next month’s independence referendum in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) region of Bougainville, a strategic move that also sidelined China, two sources told Reuters.

Western nations are looking to rein in China’s influence in the increasingly contested Pacific, where it has recently drawn away two of Taiwan’s allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, triggering a strong rebuke from the United States.

The vote in PNG’s autonomous region of Bougainville, formerly the site of a bloody civil conflict, will run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, and could trigger separation negotiations to create a new nation in the strategic waters of the Pacific. Continue Reading →

Lithium at Two-Year Low Hobbles U.S. Bid to Loosen China’s Grip on Market – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – October 10, 2019)

The lowest lithium prices in over two years are hampering a handful of miners that want to challenge China’s dominance in the market.

China controls most of the processing that makes the mineral usable in rechargeable batteries, leaving American vehicle makers vulnerable to supply disruptions if trade tensions escalate. With automakers from Tesla Inc. to General Motors Co. aiming to manufacture more electric cars at home, small companies are seeking to build the first U.S. lithium mines in decades as a step toward forming a local supply chain.

However, financing mines is proving a challenge after a rush of Australian supply dragged down prices by a third from a record in mid-2018. Companies also face stricter environmental rules and regulatory hurdles in the U.S., which currently accounts for just 1.2% of global lithium production. Continue Reading →

EXPLAINER-How do miners dispose of their waste in the sea? – by Melainie Burton (Reuters U.S. – October 11, 2019)

MELBOURNE, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Sea disposal of mining waste could spread as Indonesia weighs adopting the technique for new nickel projects, as Papua New Guinea is doing for a gold mine proposed by Australia’s Newcrest Mining.

The management of mining waste has drawn attention since two dam disasters in Brazil, and after red mud spilled into Papua New Guinea’s Basamuk Bay from Ramu Nickel’s operations in August.

An expert in chemical contamination has called test results from the Ramu Nickel spill “alarming,” media said this week. That spill resulted from an operational failure, however, rather than an issue with tailings management. Continue Reading →

China And The U.S. Fight Over Australian Rare Earths – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – October 9, 2019)

The U.S. hunt for future supplies of rare earths and other critical minerals has led Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to Australia this week where he might not get the reception he was expecting.

China is not only well entrenched in the Australian mining industry but an academic paper released to coincide with Ross’s visit suggest that China could be a more reliable source of project development capital for new mining projects.

Published by the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney the paper’s theme was whether there was scope for government intervention in rare earths, an industry dominated by China but important to many countries because rare earth elements have unique properties. Continue Reading →

[Copper Mining] THE BOUGAINVILLE REFERENDUM AND BEYOND – by Ben Bohane (Lowyu Institute – October 8, 2019)


Australia has a long history and a complicated relationship with Bougainville, an island group to the east of the PNG mainland that was administered by Australia as part of Papua New Guinea for 60 years between 1915 and 1975.

On 23 November 2019, its 300 000 people will commence voting in an independence referendum, and a clear majority is expected to vote for independence from Papua New Guinea. The Bougainville Peace Agreement requires PNG and Bougainville to negotiate an outcome after the conclusion of the referendum, and Canberra has indicated that it will respect any settlement reached between them. James Marape, the new PNG prime minister, has expressed a clear preference for an autonomous, not independent, Bougainville.

With geostrategic rivalry growing across the Pacific, Australia will need to step up its engagement and consider further policy approaches to Bougainville if it wishes to remain a trusted peace and security broker in Melanesia. If the people of Bougainville vote for independence and are unable to reach agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea, the Bougainville issue may precipitate another regional crisis. Continue Reading →