Why Canada can, and must, pull off nation-building Energy East pipeline – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – August 2, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The $12-billion Energy East pipeline announced by TransCanada Corp. Thursday is the third nation-building project proposed by the Canadian energy industry in the past dozen or so years. The Mackenzie gas pipeline that would have opened and enriched the North failed, and the Northern Gateway oil pipeline to usher new trade with Asia is in trouble.

Many lessons were learned. Big losses were suffered. Changes were made. Today, Canada can and must pull off Energy East, which would truly make the country oil rich.

Started as an after-thought after the United States delayed approval of Keystone XL, the Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline promises the biggest benefits yet to Canadians from its energy patrimony, while ensuring the best environmental protection that can be had.

“This is a historic day for TransCanada and a historic day for our country,” said CEO Russ Girling said, comparing the project to other nation-building projects such as the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Trans-Canada Highway and the company’s own cross-country natural gas mainline, which will be the foundation of Energy East.

With the project gearing up to deliver up to 1.1 million barrels per day to refineries and export terminals in Quebec in late 2017 and New Brunswick in 2018, Alberta and Saskatchewan would get a new home for their growing production.

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The promise and the perils of a pipe to Saint John – by Shawn McCarthy and Jeffrey Jones (Globe and Mail – August 2, 2013)

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.

OTTAWA and CALGARY — TransCanada Corp. and Irving Oil Ltd. are joining forces to market Canada’s crude oil to the world, officially launching the proposed $12-billion Energy East pipeline and a $300-million deep-water marine terminal to be built off Saint John, N.B.

The Energy East pipeline, subject to regulatory approval, promises to unlock new markets for landlocked Western Canadian suppliers by giving them access to eastern refineries and global export markets through ports at Quebec City and Saint John.

TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said the company expanded its original plan to 1.1-million barrels per day of capacity – about a third of current Canadian oil production – after Irving Oil successfully promoted the ambitious export option to energy producers.

Echoing politicians backing the plan, Mr. Girling described Energy East – the largest project ever undertaken by TransCanada – in nation-building terms, comparing it to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway or the Trans-Canada Highway.

“Each of these enterprises required innovative thinking and a strong belief that building critical infrastructure ties our country together, making it stronger and more in control of our own destiny, and this is true of Energy East,” he said.

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The [British Columbia] New Prosperity battle begins again – by Gwen Preston (Northern Miner – July 31, 2013)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. 

WILLIAMS LAKE, BC — Two very different scenes played out on opposite sides of the building hosting the public hearing on the proposed New Prosperity mine in the hours before the hearing got started.

On one side, the City of Williams Lake put on a barbecue for project proponent Taseko Mines (TSX: TKO; NYSE-Arca: TGB). Wearing blue scarves to show their allegiance, supporters chatted with each other and the media about what the huge copper-gold mine would mean for the small town. Taseko executives, representatives from the city’s business community and employees from Taseko’s nearby Gibraltar mine spoke of cautious optimism, quiet but strong support, and crucial economic benefits.

In the park on the other side of the building, chiefs and members of a dozen First Nations drummed and sang before a roster of speakers railed against the proposed mine. They spoke of the irreparable devastation the mine would bring to an area heavy with spiritual and cultural significance. They spoke of poisoned salmon, displaced grizzlies, disrespect for established First Nations’ rights, even of “cultural genocide.”

Then the two sides met. Carrying placards with messages like: “Chilcotin gold is more valuable in the ground,” and “Our fish equal our wealth,” the anti-mine group slowly and deliberately made its way into the quiet auditorium.

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Gold’s slide takes $2.4-billion toll on Kinross – by Tim Kiladze (Globe and Mail – August 1, 2013)

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.

Kinross Gold Corp. announced a $2.4-billion impairment charge because of lower gold price assumptions and a previously announced loss on an Ecuadorian project that the miner abandoned a few months ago. The latest charge brings the company’s writedowns to $8-billion over the past year and a half, exceeding Kinross’s market capitalization of about $6.1-billion.

The company cancelled its next semi-annual dividend payment, and raised the possibility that it would scrap the dividend altogether, depending on factors such as market conditions and its balance sheet strength.

Kinross also said Wednesday that it would delay a decision on whether to proceed with the construction of a new mill that processes the ore it mines at its Tasiast project in West Africa. That decision follows a commitment made just three months ago to proceed with the next phase of its expansion.

Kinross’s woes are emblematic of a struggling industry hampered by a slew of multibillion-dollar writedowns, cost cuts and share price slumps. Kinross shares are now worth just $5.34 apiece, down 78 per cent from their post-crisis peak, while Barrick Gold Corp.’s have fallen to $17 each – a low that was, until very recently, last seen in 1992.

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Changing potash landscape a boon for China, India – by Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – August 1, 2013)

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.

China and India are poised to gain greater control over global potash pricing now that the oligopoly that controlled the majority of trade in the crop fertilizer, a key Canadian export, has been dismantled.

This week’s breakup of Belarus Potash Co. (BPC), a joint venture between Russia’s Uralkali and Belaruss’s Belaruskali, puts the world’s two most populous countries in a much stronger position after years of resistance to prices set by both BPC and Canada’s Canpotex Ltd.

Until now, the two groups controlled more than two-thirds of global potash sales. Saskatoon-based Canpotex is owned by Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, Agrium Inc. and Mosaic Co.

The new landscape is expected to lower potash prices, which would increase demand and crop yields, particularly in high-demand countries such as China, India and Brazil. That in turn could help contribute to lower global food prices, which economists say are falling on expanded crop planting.

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Down with [potash] cartels, comrade – by William Watson (National Post – August 1, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The hungry of the world, who clearly would benefit from a 25% lower price of a key fertilizer, shouldn’t count their cheaper meals before they’re grown

Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, Europe’s last remaining dictator, seems an unlikely devotee of Adam Smith. Yet his Decree Number 566 last December — decrees are a large part of his leadership style — is what so annoyed his Russian partners in the Eurasian half of the world potash cartel that they announced Tuesday they would be letting their exports rip, as they claim the Belarussians have already done in sales to China and India.

The other third of this Putin-Lukashenko troika is, ahem, us. We run the North American half of the cartel through Canpotex, the Saskatchewan potash export consortium formed in 1972, just about the time in fact that we were also putting together domestic cartels over milk, cheese, eggs and poultry. Trudeau times, recall, were managed-economy times.

The consensus view seems to be that this jolt of Smithian competition into the long-cartelized world market will bring potash prices down from above US$400/tonne to something more like US$300.

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Major new oil pipeline to Eastern Canada to get the go-ahead – by Shawn McCarthy and Jane Taber (Globe and Mail – August 1, 2013)

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.

OTTAWA AND HALIFAX — TransCanada Corp. is expected to announce Thursday that it will push ahead with a major oil pipeline linking Western Canada with refineries and export terminals in the east, marking a significant step forward for Canada’s goal to tap new export markets.

The Energy East pipeline would deliver some 850,000 barrels of crude a day from Western Canada to Quebec and New Brunswick, serving the three refineries in the two provinces. The project – labelled a “nation builder” by New Brunswick Premier David Alward – has been endorsed by provincial and federal politicians, though Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said last week her province would have to study the proposal once TransCanada releases its detailed plans.

The planned pipeline is a strategic bid to open up new export opportunities for Canadian energy producers eager to diversify their markets beyond the oil-glutted U.S. Midwest. Alberta oil production is surging, but the province faces serious hurdles with other projects aimed at expanding crude-export capacity.

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Oil sands crisis strategy a work in progress – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – August 1, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

More than two months after bitumen mixed with water started seeping from its Primrose oil sands project, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. mobilized Wednesday to deal with the real out-of-control gusher — misinformation.

After saying little publicly about the incident, involving seepages that started on May 20, Canadian Natural issued an early morning news release, held an analyst call and then interviews with the media to confirm the leaks have been contained and the spill is being cleaned up.

No one got hurt, the company said, but 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians were killed and that two beavers, two birds and two muskrats are being cared for prior to being returned to their natural environment. So far, 6,300 barrels of bitumen emulsion have been collected, while seepage from four locations has declined to fewer than 20 barrels per day.

Meanwhile, the company cut its forecast for 2014 production from the project to 100,000-110,000 barrels per day, about 10,000 b/d lower than targeted.

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Steelworkers pledge to fight for mine safety inquest (CBC News Sudbury – July 31, 2013)


Mining deaths are preventable, USW spokesperson says

The United Steelworkers Union says the premier has rejected its request for an inquiry into mine safety. The union started to push for an inquiry into mine safety after the deaths of two men at Vale’s Stobie mine in Sudbury in 2011, but the Ministry of Labour said it has already taken many steps to improve mine safety in the province.

Minister Yasir Naqvi said a council was struck in 2010 to make proactive suggestions on workplace safety — and one of its members is a mining subcontractor. “We should not be getting involved and engaged only after an unfortunate incident takes place,” he said.

“We need to make sure we are at the front end, making sure all the precautions are taking place, and everybody is trained.” As for safety measures, Naqvi pointed to the introduction of six new mining regulations in the past 10 years.

And there have been 10 mining safety blitzes since 2008, he said.

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Miners worry about environmental survey (CBC News Thunder Bay – July 31, 2013)


Mining industry stakeholders concerned the Lake Superior Binational Forum survey could hinder their plans

A group interested in preventing pollution in Lake Superior is asking the public what it thinks about mining activities — and some supporters of a proposed new mine in the area are worried about the impact the results of that survey might have.

Sponsored by the Lake Superior Binational Forum, the survey asks respondents to think about the environmental impact of mining activity around the lake. CBC News obtained an e-mail exchange among mining industry stakeholders that showed there is concern the survey could hinder their plans.

“Can you blast a new email out to your network, asking anyone with an interest in mining to complete the survey so that a balanced result occurs?” the email said. “We are reasonably certain this is a move by the bi-national forum to enter the results against Stillwater’s project in the panel proceedings this fall, in an overall effort to kill mining around Lake Superior.”

The general manager of a mining company with plans to build a mine north of Marathon, said he filled out the questionnaire because he wants the results to be balanced.

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Russia’s potash breakup a ‘game-changer’ for Canadian industry – by Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – July 31, 2013)

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.

The dramatic breakup of the world’s largest potash oligopoly promises to reshape the industry and send prices tumbling, threatening the profit-making power of the marketing group that sells Saskatchewan potash to global customers.

Russia’s Uralkali said it is walking away from its Belarus Potash Company (BPC) joint venture with partner Belaruskali in order to sell potash on its own to hungry markets in China and India. The move is expected to shatter the industry’s supply-demand picture and spur a global potash price war.

It’s also a serious blow for Canpotex Ltd., the potash marketing group made up of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., Mosaic Co. and Agrium Inc. The shares of all three companies were hit hard; combined, they lost nearly $9-billion in stock-market value. Potash Corp., one of Canada’s biggest mining companies, fell 16 per cent to $32.66. Analysts warn Canpotex’s pricing leverage could soon disappear, clobbering profits for each public company.

“This is a game-changer,” said John Chu, an analyst at Alta-Corp. Capital Inc.

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English hamlet becomes unlikely hub for global fracking debate – by Paul Waldie (Globe and Mail – July 31, 2013)

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.

BALCOMBE, ENGLAND — With its million-pound homes and leafy estates, the village of Balcombe hardly looks like a hotbed of environmental activism. But this community of fewer than 2,000 has suddenly become the latest epicentre of the global debate over fracking.

For the past week, Balcombe villagers have been waging war with Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., Britain’s largest shale player, which is about to start test drilling in the area, hoping to extract oil from shale rock. Houses have been plastered with “Frack Off” signs, and dozens of people have lined the gates to the site, chanting, singing and trying to stop trucks from going in. Nearly two dozen people have been arrested.

The “Battle for Balcombe” has become a rallying cry for opponents of fracking everywhere as activists, celebrities and media have descended on the village, a short train ride south of London. Arrivals of serial, experienced veterans of the G20 demonstrations and the Occupy camp outside St. Paul’s have turned this town into an eco-cause celebre.

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Canadian mining industry embraces transparency initiative – by Drew Hasselback (National Post – July31, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

A new form of transparency is coming to the Canadian mining industry, and it will be compulsory. The industry is offering broad support to an initiative called Publish What You Pay, and it’s bound to become mandatory now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that Canada will align its mining rules with similar transparency initiatives that have been passed in the United States and the European Union.

The concept is simple. Canadian companies will be required to disclose the amounts resource companies pay to any level of government, anywhere in the world. Industry broadly supports the idea in the hope that it will level the playing field in dealing with different governments around the world. There’s also a belief that transparency will reduce or eliminate opportunities for corruption, and enable local communities to see whether mining is benefiting them.

“What the Canadian government is attempting to do is encourage good disclosure globally of what is paid to governments,” says Sander Grieve, head of the mining practice at Bennett Jones LLP in Toronto.

“The driving theory behind it is to ensure that where ever you have material expenditures, there’s transparency so citizens can see where this money is going,” adds Sarah Powell, a partner with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP in Toronto.

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Will three be the charm? Quebec makes third attempt to amend mining law – by Drew Hasselback (National Post – July 31, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

This fall, Quebec’s legislature will consider several proposed amendments to the province’s Mining Act. The question is whether these changes will permanently impact the province’s reputation as a mining friendly jurisdiction.

That stature is already wavering. Each year the Fraser Institute ranks global mining jurisdictions based on their friendliness to investors. This year the province ranked 11th — a fairly strong showing, given that the 2013 survey covers 96 jurisdictions. But for the first time in years, the province didn’t make the top 10. Back in 2010 and 2009, it was even in first place.

“La Belle Province is no longer the belle of the ball it once was among mining jurisdictions,” says Tom Provost, a lawyer in the Montreal office of McMillan LLP.

“Even if it’s trying to do the right thing, the government is unfortunately sending mixed signals about whether Quebec is a mining friendly jurisdiction,” adds Frank Mariage, a lawyer in the Montreal office of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. “Quebec’s ranking on the Fraser Institute list of mining friendly jurisdictions has gone down.”

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Saskatchewan economy can weather potash storm – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – July 31, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

CALGARY – Saskatchewan will feel the impact of a global potash price war triggered by Russia, but the blow will be lessened by industry efficiencies and continuing growth in other sectors such as oil and uranium. “We remain extraordinarily bullish,” Kent Windsor-Smith, executive director of the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.

“We don’t foresee anything slowing us in 2013. We are expecting to see a modest slowdown in the growth rate in 2014, but that was probably in the cards already and it related to the fact that a number of these capital projects are winding down and moving toward completion.”

Saskatchewan’s potash sector, which produces about a third of the world’s supply of the crop nutrient, spent heavily in recent years to modernize operations and reduce costs, making it well-positioned to weather pricing pressures, he said, while “producers in other parts of the planet may not be as cost competitive.”

Meanwhile, the province’s diversified economy, which has been growing at a blistering pace, will continue to be supported by spending in oil and uranium, and a stable agriculture base.

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