Australian tycoon Rinehart wants to end family feud to focus on business – by James Regan (Reuters India – October 1, 2013)

SYDNEY, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart, one of the world’s richest women, wants to relinquish control over a $4 billion family trust, after several years of legal wrangling with her children over who gets what and when.

Lawyers for Rinehart, 59, told a court that the legal battle with two of her four children, which has been played out in public and captivated Australia, had placed huge pressure on their client but was now “effectively over”.

Bruce McClintock, one of Rinehart’s lawyers, said the two-year legal fight between the tycoon and her children, John Hancock and Bianca Hope Rinehart, had created “untenable risk” of damage to Hancock Prospecting Group, the mining company established by her late father and the source of her wealth.

“The increased demands on her time in dealing with the … plaintiff’s issues has taken valuable time away from her responsibilities,” he told the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Hancock Prospecting is in the midst of funding negotiations to develop a $10-billion dollar iron ore project in Australia. Rinehart nor her children attended the hearing.

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Silicosis claims and the gold mines: To settle or not? – by Sarah Evans (Mail and Guardian – October 1, 2013) [South Africa]

A recent settlement between miners and Anglo American could be a precedent as the gold industry prepares for a looming silicosis class action suit.

Despite being a landmark case, the confidential nature of a recent settlement between Anglo American and silicosis sufferers means there is little legal precedent for future cases, at least in terms of financial compensation.

But the agreement has other implications: as the number of silicosis damages claims against the gold mining industry piles up, and in the face of a looming class action suit, out-of-court settlements could become the norm as mining companies try to avoid bank-breaking court rulings.

In the weeks to follow, the high court in Johannesburg will decide whether to collate three class action claims against 30 of South Africa’s gold mines.

This comes on the back of a landmark settlement between Anglo American and 23 silicosis sufferers, seven of whom died waiting for the case to be finalised. Their claim was instituted in 2004 and was due to go to arbitration in 2014.

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Why Miners Walked Away From the Planet’s Richest Undeveloped Gold Deposit – by Brad Wieners (Bloomberg Business Week – September 27, 2013)

Before pulling out of the Pebble Mine project last week, Anglo American (AAUKY), one of the world’s biggest mining companies, had invested six years and at least $541 million—in a partnership with Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals (NAK)—to develop the site in southwestern Alaska. Wait, pause on that number for a sec: $541 million.

That’s right, the London-based multinational and its U.S. subsidiary (AA Pebble) just forfeited a return on more than half a billion dollars of its shareholders’ money. By the end of its 60-day withdrawal from the project (mid-November), that figure will probably end up closer to $580 million. Anglo American has also indicated it will write down a $300 million loss (misreported as a “penalty” elsewhere) to remove the proposed mine as an asset from its books.

Although a far smaller player, Northern Dynasty will soon own 100 percent of the project, thought to be worth $300 billion or more, and vows to carry on. Having completed more than a million feet of exploratory, diamond-core drilling in 1,200 holes, the former partners also amassed a 27,000-page study of the terrain, but had not begun the formal permitting process. In fact, Northern Dynasty has plowed $180 million into Pebble since it first secured the rights to the region in 2001.

Huge mining consortiums frequently seed nine-figure projects, but $760 million-plus is still a large sum, so why did Anglo American bail now?

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Newmont bids for Las Bambas to beef up copper assets – CEO Goldberg – by Dorothy Kosich ( – October 1, 2013)

Newmont, which began as a copper-gold miner in the early 1900s, is seeking to increase its copper mining operations as “pure gold plays” appear to be losing favor with investors.

RENO (MINEWEB) – In seeking to increase its copper holdings, Newmont Mining is apparently returning to its historic copper roots under the leadership of new CEO Gary Goldberg, a former copper mining executive for Kennecott Utah and Rio Tinto.

In an interview with the Financial Times published Monday, Goldberg said the company had expressed interest in the hotly sought after Las Bambas copper project in Peru. Mineweb was told of Newmont’s potential Las Bambas acquisition by a former top Newmont executive at last week’s Denver Gold Forum in Denver.

Newmont Founder, William Boyce Thompson, accumulated a large fortune by buying undervalued copper and gold claims through Newmont Mining. By the 1940s Newmont would become one of the world’s largest copper producers, eventually becoming a major shareholder in Magma Copper, which would be acquired by Australian uber miner BHP in the mid-1990s. By the 1960s, the company’s Carlin Trend discovered in northeastern Nevada would issue a new era for Newmont as a gold producer.

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U.S. Coal Companies Scale Back Export Goals – by Clifford Krauss (New York Times – September 13, 2013)

HOUSTON — The ailing American coal industry, which has pinned its hopes on exports to counter a declining market at home, is scaling back its ambitions as demand from abroad starts to ebb as well.

Just south of here, New Elk Coal terminated its lease late last month at the Port of Corpus Christi, where it had hoped to export coal to Brazil, Europe and Asia. Two days later, when the federal government tried to auction off a two-square-mile tract of land in Wyoming’s Powder River basin, a region once poised to grow with exports to Asia, not a single coal company made a bid.

They were the latest signs that a global coal glut and price slump, along with persistent environmental opposition, are reducing the likelihood that additional exports could shield the industry from slipping domestic demand caused by cheap natural gas and mounting regulations.

United States coal exports this year are expected to decline by roughly 5 percent from last year’s record exports of 125 million tons, and many experts predict the decline will quicken next year. At the beginning of 2012, the coal industry had plans to expand port capacity by an additional 185 million tons. But those hopes have faded this year.

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Germany’s Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex – by Melissa Eddy and Stanley Reed (New York Times – September 18, 2013)

BERLIN — It is an audacious undertaking with wide and deep support in Germany: shut down the nation’s nuclear power plants, wean the country from coal and promote a wholesale shift to renewable energy sources.

But the plan, backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and opposition parties alike, is running into problems in execution that are forcing Germans to come face to face with the costs and complexities of sticking to their principles.

German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.

Newly constructed offshore wind farms churn unconnected to an energy grid still in need of expansion. And despite all the costs, carbon emissions actually rose last year as reserve coal-burning plants were fired up to close gaps in energy supplies.

A new phrase, “energy poverty,” has entered the lexicon. “Often, I don’t go into my living room in order to save electricity,” said Olaf Taeuber, 55, who manages a fleet of vehicles for a social services provider in Berlin. “You feel the pain in your pocketbook.”

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Analysis: For the next round of gold deals, small is beautiful – by Allison Martell (Reuters U.S. – September 28, 2013)

DENVER – (Reuters) – Gold miners may be tempted back into the takeover game by lower prices and the need to replace reserves, but they are likely to shy away from flashy mega-projects that require big capital expenditures.

Mining deals have slowed to a crawl, thanks to a volatile market and pressure from investors still angry about the steep premiums paid during boom times. The pause can’t last forever, but the excesses of the last cycle will cast a long shadow. “Everyone is really gun-shy of the high capex projects,” said Randy Smallwood, chief executive of Silver Wheaton Corp (SLW.TO), which provides miners with cash to finance mine construction in exchange for the right to buy future silver production at a set price.

Smallwood said projects that use relatively low-cost heap leaching could be more attractive than those with mills. In a heap leach, ore is crushed, stacked and irrigated with chemicals that separate out the valuable metals.

Across the industry, executives have vowed to chase profits rather than production, which often means focusing on higher-grade ore. But projects that require significant capital spending may take years to break even, a risky proposition when commodity prices or tax regimes are volatile.

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Blood diamonds and do-gooders – by Dustin Benton (New Statesman – September 26, 2013)

Tim Worstall on conflict minerals – good economics, bad politics.

Earlier this week, Global Witness, the organisation behind restrictions on blood diamonds, called for an EU law to restrict the use of conflict minerals. This would match a US law, called the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to trace the origin of certain metals through their supply chain to ensure they don’t come from known conflict zones.

To be clear, conflict minerals are both horrible and, unfortunately, in most of our electronics. Few would defend them, but the call for a new law was immediately met by criticism. “There are times when the actions of do-gooders makes [sic] me want to kneel down and weep bitter tears of pain,” exclaimed Tim Worstall in Forbes, who wrote a riposte to the call for the new law.

This isn’t because Worstall supports conflict minerals – he doesn’t – but because he thinks that we can prevent conflict minerals from being used for 300-400 times less money. Fundamentally, this is a debate about how best to create supply chain transparency, an essential component of resource resilience.

In essence, Worstall’s solution is to regulate smelters rather than manufacturers. Because the mineral ores used to create metals have a unique “fingerprint”, they can be tested prior to smelting to ensure the fingerprint doesn’t match that of mines from known conflict areas.

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Beneficiation lip service as hands-on-hips South Africa watches China usurp global ferrochrome edge – by Martin Creamer ( – September 27, 2013)

South Africa preaches beneficiation but it is certainly not practising it in the chrome mining space. Instead, with its hands on its hips, it is watching the Chinese ascend to the top spot in ferrochrome, which forms the beneficiation baseline of the chrome-mining value chain.

South Africa has a mature chrome value chain, the 2010 socioeconomic benefits of which were 200 000 jobs and a contribution of R42-billion to this country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, South African ferrochrome’s rapidly declining market share is putting 60 000 to 80 000 of those jobs at risk, along with more than half of that GDP contribution.

Driving this home last week was the MetalBulletin Event’s chromite and ferrochrome conferences in Johannesburg. Instead of at least maintaining the credence it constantly gives to local value addition, it is watching ferrochrome exports decline and raw chrome exports soar.

For decades, South Africans have been urging miners to refrain from exporting raw ore and to add value to it before it leaves the country.

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Norilsk Sees Nickel Surplus Shrinking Next Year on Idled Plants – by Yuliya Fedorinova & Marina Sysoyeva (Bloomberg News – September 27, 2013)

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of the metal, urged producers to start idling unprofitable operations to fight a surplus that has damped prices and caused losses.

Consecutive quarters of losses should push companies to cut output, which may narrow the nickel surplus 30 percent to 70,000 metric tons in 2014 from 100,000 tons this year, according to Anton Berlin, marketing director at ZAO NormetImpex, a unit of Norilsk Nickel.

Nickel, used in stainless steel, tumbled into a bear market in May and is set for a third yearly loss, as demand waned and China increased output of a substitute derived from lower-grade ores. Additions to Chinese nickel pig iron capacity outstrip closures, creating a third consecutive annual surplus in 2013, according to a Deutsche Bank AG report in August.

“Unfortunately, we don’t see significant changes on the nickel market yet compared with what we had at the start of the year,” Berlin said in an interview Sept. 25. “From 35 to 40 percent of producers are still loss-making and the gap between supply and demand remains high.” Nickel traded at about $13,887 a ton on the London Metal Exchange by 10:35 a.m. local time, down 19 percent this year, making it the worst performing industrial metal.

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Chinese Steelmaker Considers Canadian Iron-Ore Deal – by Alistair MacDonald Nisha Gopalan and Gillian Tan (Wall Street Journal – September 26, 2013)

Wuhan Iron & Steel Is Possible Bidder for Rio Tinto Assets

Wuhan Iron & Steel (Group) Corp. is in a thinning field of bidders for Rio Tinto RIO.LN -2.80% PLC’s Canadian iron-ore assets, raising the possibility it would be the first Chinese state-owned firm to make a large Canadian acquisition since a controversial oil-sands deal last year.

The Chinese steel giant is looking to buy, potentially with partners, the 59% stake in Iron Ore Co. of Canada that Rio Tinto put up for sale in March, according to people familiar with the matter. Wuhan’s interest underscores China’s continued appetite for metal assets, including iron ore, around the world.

In Canada, such a deal would be the first test of new rules Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government applied to state-owned bidders in the wake of Cnooc Ltd.’s 0883.HK +1.52% $15.1 billion takeover of Canadian oil-sands operator Nexen Inc. Though Canada approved the Cnooc-Nexen tie-up, it effectively blocked state-owned companies from acquiring oil-sands assets in the future, and signaled that attempts by state-owned firms to seek control of other Canadian assets would face higher scrutiny.

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Will silicosis be SA gold’s next big trial? – by Geoff Candy ( – September 26, 2013)

Wage negotiations may have concluded but South Africa’s gold sector still faces a number of challenges, not least of which is a looming class action suit.

GRONINGEN (MINEWEB) – Having only barely dispensed with the plummeting gold price, increasingly demanding shareholders and some of the tensest wage negotiations in memory, the South Africa’s gold producers were probably hoping for a little respite. But, instead, find themselves staring at the looming presence of a silicosis class action suit that seems to be growing inexorably larger with each passing month.

Right now, there are three separate class action matters pending against the country’s gold miners but, the three teams of lawyers have just applied to the courts to consolidate these various claims into a single one that will be defended by 31 companies, which include all of the country’s gold miners and their various operating entities as well as Anglo American South Africa and African Rainbow Minerals, who no longer operate gold mines but did so when some of the claimants contracted the lung disease in question.

It should be noted that Anglo American SA announced yesterday it has just settled 23 silicosis claims brought against it for an undisclosed sum and no admission of liability.

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REUTERS SUMMIT/-Polish entrepreneurs come of age with global acquisitions – by Christian Lowe and Marcin Goclowski (Reuters India – September 27, 2013)

WARSAW, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Polish companies are buying into foreign markets long dominated by Western multinationals, driven by growth at home and a hunger to prove they are no longer Europe’s poor relations.

Twenty-four years after Communist rule ended in Poland, its companies now have the scale, knowledge and self-belief to expand abroad, chief executives and government officials said at a Reuters Eastern Europe Investment Summit this week.

“We are building our economic power as a country,” said Zbigniew Jagiello, chief executive of PKO BP, Poland’s biggest bank. “I hope that … before 2025 we’ll see a Polish company which will be a multinational, known worldwide.”

Two or three years ago Polish firms had almost no significant presence abroad. Executives from Canadian firm Quadra FNX recalled that when Polish copper miner KGHM approached them about a takeover, they had never heard of the Polish firm and doubted they were serious. Since then, there has been a run of foreign acquisitions, and there are more on the way.

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South Africa, Sweden to bolster mining relations – by Chantelle Kotze ( – September 26, 2013)

JOHANNESBURG ( – While there are differences between the mining industries in South Africa and Sweden, mining forms the backbone of both countries’ economies and, therefore, knowledge-sharing in this field can be of great importance in terms of developing a better understanding of safety, skills and sustainability challenges in their respective mining environments.

This was highlighted by Ambassador of Sweden to South Africa Anders Hagelberg, at the Safety, Skills and Sustainability in Mining conference, in Johannesburg, on Thursday. The conference focused on how the efforts to improve safety, develop skills, facilitate longevity and sustainability, as well as increase profitability and efficiency in the mining sector.

It aimed to foster profitable and sustainable business, lower accident rates, better occupational health, lower environmental impact, positive social impact and technology, leadership and methodology sharing between the two countries.

The conference also marked the establishment of the Swedish–Southern African Mining Initiative, which aims to create a platform for knowledge sharing and networking between Swedish and South African mining role-players.

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The floodgates open: Anglo-American settles mineworkers’ silicosis claims – by Rebecca Davis (Daily Maverick/South Africa – September 26, 2013)

On Wednesday it was announced that Anglo-American South Africa would pay 23 former mineworkers undisclosed amounts to settle claims brought against the company after the workers contracted silicosis. The mining house remains adamant that this is not an admission of liability. But lawyers for the mineworkers are hopeful that the settlement may pave the way for payouts for silicosis victims across the industry.

Silicosis is a lung disorder caused by inhaling bits of silica, a mineral found in sand and rocks, over an extended period of time. Silica dust particles can make tiny cuts on the lungs, creating scar tissue which makes it more difficult to breathe. It’s a progressive condition, and sometimes it can come on up to ten years after exposure to silica. People who are most at risk for developing the condition are those who work with sand, rock or quartz, in industries like construction, demolition, or mining.

The South African government has recognised the problem of silicosis and committed to “significantly” reducing its prevalence by 2015 and eliminating it entirely by 2030. It’s a particular public health issue in South Africa because exposure to silica dust increases the risk of TB.

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