UPDATE 4-Potash sector rocked as Uralkali quits cartel; price slump seen – by Polina Devitt and Natalia Shurmina (Reuters India – July 30, 2013)


MOSCOW, July 30 (Reuters) – Russia’s Uralkali has dismantled the world’s largest potash cartel in a move that it expects to slash prices by 25 percent, heralding a reshaped industry and pummelling shares of companies that produce the key fertiliser ingredient.

The break-up of the Belarus Potash Company (BPC), a joint venture with Belarussian partner Belaruskali, could cause a price war and leaves North America’s Canpotex as the dominant potash export venture.

It could also lead to cancellations of projects by rivals as the industry weighs the effect of lower prices, but may feed through to better deals for farmers and ultimately consumers. U.S.-listed shares of the Canpotex owners – Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, Mosaic Co and Agrium Inc – plummetted, cutting their market value by nearly $15 billion.

BPC and Canpotex had accounted for 70 percent of global trade in potash, and the duopoly had set identical prices in key markets such as China and India.

“In the last few years, BPC and Canpotex … succeeded by raising potash prices much above their production cost,” a senior official at a major Indian potash firm said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Read more

Emerging economies: When giants slow down (The Economist – July 27, 2013)


The most dramatic, and disruptive, period of emerging-market growth the world has ever seen is coming to its close

THIS year will be the first in which emerging markets account for more than half of world GDP on the basis of purchasing power, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 1990 they accounted for less than a third of a much smaller total. From 2003 to 2011 the share of world output provided by the emerging economies grew at more than a percentage point a year (see chart 1). The remarkably rapid growth the world has seen in these two decades marks the biggest economic transformation in modern history. Its like will probably never be seen again.

According to a recent study by Arvind Subramanian and Martin Kessler, of the Peterson Institute, a think-tank, from 1960 to the late 1990s just 30% of countries in the developing world for which figures are available managed to increase their output per person faster than America did, thus achieving what is called “catch-up growth”. That catching up was somewhat lackadaisical: the gap closed at just 1.5% a year. From the late 1990s, however, the tables were turned. The researchers found 73% of developing countries managing to outpace America, and doing so on average by 3.3% a year. Some of this was due to slower growth in America; most was not.

The most impressive growth was in four of the biggest emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China, which Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, acronymed into the BRICs in 2001. These economies have grown in different ways and for different reasons. But their size marked them out as special—on purchasing-power terms they were the only $1 trillion economies outside the OECD, a rich world club—and so did their growth rates (see chart 2). Mr O’Neill reckoned they would, over a decade, become front-rank economies even when measured at market exchange rates, and he was right. Today they are four of the largest ten national economies in the world.

Read more

Emerging economies: The Great Deceleration (The Economist – July 27, 2013)


The emerging-market slowdown is not the beginning of a bust. But it is a turning-point for the world economy

WHEN a champion sprinter falls short of his best speeds, it takes a while to determine whether he is temporarily on poor form or has permanently lost his edge. The same is true with emerging markets, the world economy’s 21st-century sprinters. After a decade of surging growth, in which they led a global boom and then helped pull the world economy forwards in the face of the financial crisis, the emerging giants have slowed sharply.

China will be lucky if it manages to hit its official target of 7.5% growth in 2013, a far cry from the double-digit rates that the country had come to expect in the 2000s. Growth in India (around 5%), Brazil and Russia (around 2.5%) is barely half what it was at the height of the boom. Collectively, emerging markets may (just) match last year’s pace of 5%. That sounds fast compared with the sluggish rich world, but it is the slowest emerging-economy expansion in a decade, barring 2009 when the rich world slumped.

This marks the end of the dramatic first phase of the emerging-market era, which saw such economies jump from 38% of world output to 50% (measured at purchasing-power parity, or PPP) over the past decade. Over the next ten years emerging economies will still rise, but more gradually. The immediate effect of this deceleration should be manageable. But the longer-term impact on the world economy will be profound.

In the past, periods of emerging-market boom have tended to be followed by busts (which helps explain why so few poor countries have become rich ones).

Read more

The tycoon, the dictator’s wife and the $2.5bn Guinea mining deal – by Ian Cobain and Afua Hirsch (The Guardian – July 30, 2013)


FBI investigating Beny Steinmetz’s company BSGR after lucrative deal to extract iron ore from Simandou mountain range

Conakry, Guinea – In Conakry, a gleaming hotel looms over the filth of the city. Behind it a small coastal cove acts like a floating rubbish dump, collecting brightly coloured detritus from the murky Atlantic and distributing it in piles in stubbly black rock pools on the beach. A group of gangly young men sit by an abandoned fishing boat, looking despondently out to sea.

But in the gleaming, chandelier-lit hotel lobby it is easy to forget the scenery outside. Here, European, Australian and Brazilian mining executives, in jeans and suit jackets, sip rosé as they check emails. African businessmen huddle in groups, discussing shareholdings and the possibility of chartering planes to reach remote sites.

Businessmen think nothing of hiring private aircraft to reach Guinea’s abundant reserves of diamonds, gold, uranium, aluminium ore and bauxite, because the returns are unparalleled. The country is an almost textbook example of what some refer to as the “paradox of plenty”: it sits atop some of the most significant untapped mineral reserves in the world while its people live in squalor, without clean water, electricity, education or infrastructure.

Read more

Mines on public land add $21bn to U.S. economy – DOI – by Dorothy Kosich (Mineweb.com – July 30, 2013)


As the manager of one-fifth of the U.S. landmass and 1.7 billion acres offshore, the U.S. Department of the Interior has resources to help the country produce more fossil fuels at home.

RENO (MINEWEB) – The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) estimated Monday that federal public lands contributed $371 billion to the U.S. economy last year including $21 billion in hardrock mineral sales and employment of 111,000 persons.

At the end of FY2012, there were 406,140 active mining claims on public land, with about half of these claims located in Nevada.

“Most of the value associated with locatable mineral production is attributed to gold which is produced in significant quantities on public land,” said the report, The U.S. Department of the Interior Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2012. It is estimated that more than 3 million ounces of gold was produced from federal lands with the average price of gold in 2012 at $1,700 per ounce.

Domestic gold production last year was estimated to be 230 metric tons, down from 234 metric tons produced in 2011. The value of the U.S. gold mine production was about $12.6 billion, up from $71.8 billion in 2011, according to the Department of Interior.

Read more

COLUMN-Pain of drop in China coal imports isn’t evenly shared – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – July 29, 2013)


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

LAUNCESTON, Australia, July 29 (Reuters) – The sharp drop in China’s coal imports in June helped to finally bring growth in imports closer to that for power output and was validation of the view that inbound cargoes had been unsustainably high.

While a pullback in imports had been expected for several months, the breakdown of the customs data shows the pain hasn’t been evenly spread amongst China’s major suppliers. Total imports in June were 18.037 million tonnes, down 22 percent from May and 19.6 percent from the same month a year earlier.

This was enough to drag the year-to-date growth in coal imports down to 13.9 percent in June from May’s 22.3 percent. The rate is also less than half the 28.7 percent jump in imports achieved in 2012 over 2011.

Part of the reason imports had been strong in the first five months of 2013 was that prices were competitive with domestic producers. Falling domestic prices as demand for power generation eased caught up with imports in June. But it’s not necessarily the higher-cost suppliers that are being squeezed out of the market.

Read more

Barrick Goes Worst to First on Bets Gold Bottomed: Canada Credit – by Ari Altstedter (Bloomberg News – July 29, 2013)


Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), the largest miner of the metal, has gone from the worst performer to the best among Canadian firms with U.S. dollar bonds, on bets gold prices have bottomed out after the biggest drop in 90 years.

Barrick bonds returned an average 3.2 percent this month, the most among the 50 largest issuers tracked by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. Corporate & Yankees Canadian Issuers Index. Barrick’s 5.25 percent notes due in April 2042 rose 5.1 percent in July, the biggest advance in the index. Last month the company’s debt was the biggest loser among the largest issuers on the index with a 10 percent decline, the data show.

Gold miners, including Goldcorp Inc. (G), the world’s biggest by market value, have announced at least $15 billion of writedowns in the past two months after the precious metal’s steepest quarterly drop in London trading in more than nine decades. The metal’s price has risen from almost a three-year low at the end of June, when Barrick announced it may write down as much as $5.5 billion.

“I think there’s a good chance we bottomed out,” said Scott MacDonald, who helps manage $600 million as head of research at MC Asset Management Holdings LLC in Stamford Connecticut. “You had a bubble in prices. You burst the bubble. Prices became more reasonable, and investors now feel the water is OK to go back in.”

Read more

Mugabe wants mining indigenisation without compensation – by Tawanda Karombo (South Africa Business Day – July 29, 2013)


HARARE — Indications that Zimbabwe’s contentious indigenisation policy will be changed to rule out compensation for expropriated stakes in mining companies have been buttressed by President Robert Mugabe during a campaign rally in the capital ahead of the country’s elections on Wednesday.

The empowerment policy, first promulgated in 2007 and forcibly implemented in the past two years, seeks to transfer majority control in foreign mining groups to black Zimbabwean groups.

However, where foreign mining companies would have received compensation for the 51% shares ceded to black Zimbabwean groups, they will now receive no monetary compensation, Mr Mugabe has said.

Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Aquarius Platinum are the major mining houses in the industry in Zimbabwe, which is home to the world’s second-largest platinum reserves. The country also has vast deposits of other minerals such as gold, nickel, diamonds and coal, which are being exploited by foreign companies that include New Dawn Mining, Mzi Khumalo’s Metallon Gold and Caledonia Mining Corporation.

Read more

What If We Never Run Out of Oil? – by Charles C. Mann (The Atlantic Magazine – May 2013)


New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare.

As the great research ship Chikyu left Shimizu in January to mine the explosive ice beneath the Philippine Sea, chances are good that not one of the scientists aboard realized they might be closing the door on Winston Churchill’s world. Their lack of knowledge is unsurprising; beyond the ranks of petroleum-industry historians, Churchill’s outsize role in the history of energy is insufficiently appreciated.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911. With characteristic vigor and verve, he set about modernizing the Royal Navy, jewel of the empire. The revamped fleet, he proclaimed, should be fueled with oil, rather than coal—a decision that continues to reverberate in the present. Burning a pound of fuel oil produces about twice as much energy as burning a pound of coal. Because of this greater energy density, oil could push ships faster and farther than coal could.

Churchill’s proposal led to emphatic dispute. The United Kingdom had lots of coal but next to no oil. At the time, the United States produced almost two-thirds of the world’s petroleum; Russia produced another fifth. Both were allies of Great Britain. Nonetheless, Whitehall was uneasy about the prospect of the Navy’s falling under the thumb of foreign entities, even if friendly.

Read more

UPDATE: Rio Tinto Seeks $820 Million From Mine Sale – by Robb M. Stewart (Wall Street Journal – July 29, 2013)


MELBOURNE–Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) agreed to sell its majority stake in an Australian copper-and-gold mine to China Molybdenum Co. (3993.HK) for US$820 million, the U.K. company’s latest step to reduce debt amid shaky demand for commodities.

The world’s second-biggest mining company by sales said it had reached a binding agreement to sell its 80% stake in the Northparkes mine to the Chinese company, which produces molybdenum and tungsten, ingredients used in steelmaking. Sumitomo Corp. (8053.TO) units that hold the remaining 20% of the mine have the right to match the offer, and the deal is subject to Australian regulatory approval. A spokeswoman for Japan’s Sumitomo declined to comment on the company’s intentions.

Rio Tinto acquired Northparkes in 2000 after a hard-fought battle with Anglo American PLC (AAL.LN) to acquire the mine’s operator, North Ltd., for 3.5 billion Australian dollars (US$3.2 billion).

China Molybdenum, which is in a trading halt, hasn’t said why it is seeking to buy Northparkes, from which copper concentrate is mainly sold to Japan, China and India. Two shareholders that together own 69% of the Chinese company have given binding support to the deal, Rio said Monday.

Read more

Good money in mining – by Hanim Adnan and Choong En Han (Malaysia Star – July 27, 2013)


MINING in Malaysia is not the big business it used to be. Tin mining tycoons are now corporate folklore, no thanks to the collapse of the global tin market in 1985.

The industry was then overshadowed by industrialisation and the oil palm industry. Its glorious past is manifested by the oil and gas industry which is the multi-billion ringgit industry it deserves to be due to planning and the work undertaken by Petroliam Nasional Bhd.

Apart from oil and gas, minerals are being mined by small-time miners in a rather ambiguous manner in most mineral-rich states. But that is about to change. The sector is now focusing on large-scale mining of major minerals such as gold, iron ore and coal. It’s no longer the domain of tin.

Last year, iron ore topped other major minerals in terms of production with 10.7 million tonnes mined valued at RM2.02bil. That is followed by gold with 4.6 million gm (RM700.8mil), coal at 2.95 million tonnes (RM442.2mil) and tin-in-concentrate at 3.66 million tonnes (RM236.5mil) respectively.

Read more

Rio Tinto-Lundin mark Eagle Mine purchase – by John Pepin (The Mining Journal – July 26, 2013)


Ceremony at Humboldt Mill finalizes transfer

HUMBOLDT – With the sounds of heavy construction equipment rumbling and beeping in the background, about 200 invited guests attended a ceremony in Humboldt Township Thursday commemorating Rio Tinto’s “handing over” the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill to new Toronto-based owner Lundin Mining Corp.

The ceremony was held under a tent at the mill, in a parking lot outside the local administrative offices for the Eagle Mine project. The crowd included employees and local officials and residents who have supported the Eagle Mine project.

Past Eagle Mine President Adam Burley – who is leaving Marquette County for a new Rio Tinto post in Salt Lake City – presented Lundin officials with a piece of polished ore from the mine, symbolizing the ownership transfer.

“The main message I want to get across is one of thanks and appreciation for the (Eagle) team support and the community support over these years and I also want to get across a message of pride,” Burley said. “Rio Tinto is proud of what we’ve achieved at Eagle. We do think we’ve raised the benchmark on industry standards and urge the community to share in that pride because they are the ones that have shaped the direction to a very large extent.”

Read more

Is return of metal mining threat to regional economy? – by Stephen Anderson (Houghton Mining Gazette – July 26, 2013)


HOUGHTON – A recent study, which is part of a larger local education campaign, has concluded that a return to metal ore mining and processing would damage the western Upper Peninsula’s economy.

Dr. Thomas Power of the University of Montana Economics Department, through his organization Power Consulting, Inc., recently completed his 109-page report, “The Economic Impacts of Renewed Copper Mining in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” Power was contracted in September to do the report by Friends of the Land of Keweenaw.

The study recommends that future economic development in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties continue to focus on “economic gardening” – a term coined by the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance describing a focus on nurturing existing businesses and supporting new start-ups – and the protection and enhancement of a “quality of life” amenity-based economy that has emerged over the last 40 years.

The report, which can be found in its entirety at folkminingeducation.info, summarized the following findings in its executive summary: There are significant costs associated with mining activities that tend to offset the positive impacts of the high pay associated with mining jobs.

Read more

BHP and Rio fork out $3.7 billion for water in Chile – by Brian Robins (The Age – July 26, 2013)


BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are being forced to spend $US3.4 billion ($3.67 billion) on a water plant at their copper project in Chile, at a time when mining companies globally are curtailling capital spending.

The two miners will lose access to most of their water supply at the Escondida project, the world’s largest copper mine, in 2017.

BHP’s share of the new round of investment is estimated at $US1.97 billion and Rio’s at $US1.03 billion. Construction on the planned desalination plant is to start immediately, with completion planned for 2017.

The partners are in the middle of a $US4.5 billion round of spending which is to be completed next year, primarily on a new ore concentrator at the project, together with ancillary upgrades.

When completed, these upgrades will enable the production of more than 1.3 million tonnes of copper a year from 2015.
When the partners in Escondida disclosed the $US4.5 billion upgrade early last year, they signalled this was the first in a series of programs that could substantially expand capacity at the mine.

Read more

Gold on Earth formed in collision of exotic stars – by Dan Vergan (U.S.A. Today – July 17, 2013)


There’s gold in them thar neutron stars! That’s right, astronomers claim Earth’s gold, the stuff of wedding bands and pricey speaker wires, originated in cataclysmic collisions of exotic stars. The gold glinting on your wedding band was likely born in a cataclysmic merger of two exceedingly exotic stars, astronomers report Wednesday.

Dying stars billions of years ago cooked up most of the lighter elements in the universe, the oxygen in the air and calcium of our bones, and blasted it across the cosmos in their final explosive moments. We are stardust, as the singer Joni Mitchell put it.

But some of the heaviest atoms, including gold, defied this explanation, requiring an even more exotic origin.

A team led by Harvard astronomer Edo Berger now reports that gold is likely created as an aftereffect of the collision of two “neutron” stars. Neutron stars are themselves the collapsed remains of imploded stars, incredibly dense stellar objects that weigh at least 1.4 times as much as the sun but which are thought to be less than 10 miles wide.

While ordinary stars explode about once every century in our galaxy, Berger says, explosive collisions of two neutron stars happen only about once every 10,000 years. And it appears they spew out gold and other heavy elements in the week after their merger.

Read more