Raoghat mines in Bastar: Iron in their souls – by Paramita Ghosh (Hindustan Times – March 29, 2014)


Hills can be unkind, if you are climbing them, or even if you are trying to save them. They have no properly marked-out roads, the clock here is meaningless, but there is shade, and the trees here are everything. The trees point to the sky like compasses; they pelt down flowers, sour-sweet fruits; their leaves are eaten by cows and men; they house the gods, and gods here are like relatives – so why can’t the people keep them?

The nearby Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) iron-ore mine had led to massive deforestation in Dalli-Rajhara, destroyed fields of grain and corn, led to land seizure, so would its mine at Raoghat be any different? For over 10 years, Badri Gawde, 38, a social worker from Antagarh, a tribal-dominated no-frills town, 20 km from the Raoghat hills and 80 from Kanker city, had been asking himself this question. Lately, he had begun to ask it a little more insistently, holding public meetings, facilitating study trips for academics, tying-up with Chhattisgarh’s unruly bunch, the mine workers, and the state’s two-bit village officials, the sarpanches, and thinking himself up into a leader. Why not say he was a Maoist? And they did.

Gawde’s political pedigree is mixed. Ever since January 24, 2014, when he was picked up at Antagarh, and held in Raipur’s Central Jail under the draconian Public Security Act, he has become, like Lalgarh’s Chhattradhar Mahato, nobody’s man. Naresh Thakur, a Kanker Congress leader, admits Gawde was “with the party”, the state Congress chief, Bhupesh Baghel, said he was a BJP man.

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Japan’s Answer to Fukushima: Coal Power – by Mari Iwata (Wall Street Journal – March 27, 2014)


Many Nuclear Plants Are Too Expensive to Retrofit to Meet Tightened Safety Standards

TOKYO—Japan is turning into a rare bright spot in the world coal market, stepping up coal-fired power generation to replace nuclear plants that went offline after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Plans by Japanese companies to spend billions of dollars on new coal-fired plants offer a striking contrast with the U.S., which has effectively blocked new coal plants using existing technology over concerns about global warming. And they show how deeply Japan’s energy picture has changed since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.

On Thursday, Kyushu Electric Power Co. 9508.TO +0.32% said it would restart a long-frozen project to build a one-gigawatt coal-fired unit in southern Japan. Other utilities including Tokyo Electric Power Co. 9501.TO +1.75% have announced similar plans for more coal-fired power.

If the plans all come to fruition, Japan’s coal-fired power capacity would increase to around 47 gigawatts over the next decade or so, up 21% from the time right before the Fukushima accident.

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It Is Staggering How Much Australia’s Mining Boom Has Changed Perth And Its People – by Chris Pash (Business Insider Australia March 28, 2014)


Imagine this horror: your child has just reached dating age, and their first crush is on the son or daughter of someone you went out with in your youth, a relationship that ended disastrously.

It was once a common story in Perth, Western Australia, but less so now as the state continues to grow faster than any other in Australia, in both population and its economy.

That comfortable big-country-town feeling is fading, as fast as the red dust of the North West is being shifted to get at the valuable minerals beneath it.

The mining boom of the last decade has done many things for the state and for Australia, most notably being the economic factor that stopped Australia dipping into negative economic growth during the Global Financial Crisis. China is the biggest recipient of Australia’s exports. About half those exports are iron ore from Western Australia. Ten years ago, it was only 16%.

Back in the 1970s, about 1 million tonnes of iron ore was being shoveled from the ground each week. Now it’s about 1.5 million tonnes a day. Visitors from the east say the same things. “Great place, beautiful beaches, bloody expensive. You won’t believe what I paid for bacon and eggs. And the coffee at $5 is rubbish.”

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Coal Mines Face ‘Crunch Time’ as ARMS Mulls Closing Mine – by Jesse Riseborough (Bloomberg News – March 28, 2014)


A slump in coal prices to a four-year low means the biggest producers are facing tough decisions to shutter unprofitable mines, Asia Resource Minerals Plc (ARMS) Chief Executive Officer Nick von Schirnding said.

His company, Indonesia’s fifth-biggest exporter of the power-station fuel, is considering closing its largest pit where almost half its production last year was sourced. The world’s biggest exporters, Glencore Xstrata Plc, Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd., have either halted coal operations or shelved expansion plans amid the price decline.

“This is crunch time for our business and the coal industry,” Von Schirnding said today. “Our most challenged pit is Lati, and that we are looking at very, very carefully. Clearly if thermal-coal prices continue at this level for a significant time, we are, as others are, going to be very challenged.”

Prices last week dropped to about $73 a metric ton, the lowest since November 2009, amid a supply glut that’s projected by UBS AG to be the equivalent of 4 percent of annual seaborne trade this year. Asia Resource Minerals today reported a wider full-year underlying loss of $173 million after selling coal for 16 percent less than in 2012.

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Stars Aligned for Nickel Bull Market – by Tim Maverick (Wall Street Daily – March 27, 2014)


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have certainly stirred the pot in the energy market, as our Investment Director, Karim Rahemtulla, recently pointed out. And now, the ripples have spread far beyond the energy market to other commodity markets.

You see, the threat of Western sanctions against Russia has put renewed focus on a base metal that’s been in the doldrums for years… nickel.

That’s because the world’s largest producer of the metal, which is used to make stainless steel and nonferrous alloys, happens to be Mother Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (NILSY). NILSY mines a whopping 17% of the world’s nickel each year. Sanctions against such a huge source of nickel would indeed be a big deal, and share prices are reacting accordingly.

Nickel is suddenly in bull market mode, and prices recently hit their highest level since April at $16,230 per metric ton on the London Metals Exchange (LME). That represents a gain of more than 20% since nickel’s low on January 9, at $13,334 per ton, and meets the technical definition of a bull market.

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Ivanhoe PEA provides glimpse of SA’s potential platinum future – by Jeff Candy (Mineweb.com – March 28, 2014)


The miner is planning to have an 8 million t/y platinum operation up by 2024, at costs of under $500 an ounce excluding by-product credits.

GRONINGEN (MINEWEB) – Ivanhoe Mines’ preliminary economic assessment of its Platreef PGM project in South Africa is some welcome good news for a sector that has had more than its fair share of bad.

As the world’s three largest platinum miners continue to bleed in the wake of a strike that has cost them and their workers billions of rands, Ivanhoe’s PEA, released yesterday, confirms the size and scope of a project that not only has the benefit of significant base metal credits, but also ore veins that are wide enough to accommodate mechanised mining.

Driving home the difference between Platreef and its deep, thin-veined peers, CEO, Robert Friedland commented, “We’re looking forward to working with all of our stakeholders to advance the Platreef Project to production, to create valued and skilled jobs and to significantly contribute to the socio-economic development of the people of area communities who will have a voice in decision making and a direct share in our success through our responsively structured, broad-based, black economic empowerment partner.”

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China’s ‘airpocalypse’ good news for commodities – by Howard Winn (South China Morning Post – March 27, 2014)


The mining industry may be in the doldrums but Robert Friedland, the executive chairman and founder of Ivanhoe Mines, remains undaunted and sees commodity prices bouncing back in two or three years, as he told the Mines & Money conference in Hong Kong earlier this week.

We make no apologies for giving you yet more of him, as he tells the best stories in the sector. Of hard and soft rocks, mineral grades and so on, he gives you all that, but tells you why it is important, and where this stuff is being used.

Naturally he has an interest in telling these stories since Ivanhoe is developing some of the world’s most significant finds in copper, zinc and gold in Africa. His big themes this week include copper. So why zinc? The metal is now recognised, along with potash, as one of the most intense organic fertilisers.

Some 60 per cent of soils in China and India have been depleted of zinc. Agricultural productivity increases significantly when added to the land as fertiliser.

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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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Cliffs Natural Resources Booted From S&P 500, To Be Replaced By Essex Property Trust – by Maggie McGrath (Forbes Magazine – March 26, 2014)


Cliffs Natural Resources CLF +1.25% has had a rough go of it recently: after posting a 32.5% loss in 2013, the struggling iron ore producer has continued to take a beating in 2014 trading. And now, its near-24% year-to-date decline has not only secured its title as one of the worst performing S&P 500 stocks over the past 12 months, but it has also gotten Cliffs booted out of the S&P 500 and into the S&P midcap 400.

The S&P Dow Jones Indices announced Wednesday evening that effective April 1, Cliffs will no longer be a member of the S&P 500. In its place will be Essex Property Trust, a REIT that is currently a member of the S&P midcap 400. In addition to moving up to the S&P 500, Essex will also acquire BRE Properties in a deal that is expected to be completed after the markets close on April 1.

As BRE currently resides on the S&P 400, its departure leaves room on the midcap index for the Fei FEIC +3.63% Company, an Oregon-based supplier of scientific instruments that is currently listed on the S&P Smallcap 600.

“Cliffs Natural Resources and FEI have market capitalizations that are more representative of the mid-cap market space,” the S&P Dow Jones Indices said, explaining the switch.

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New Mexican miners commemorate “Salt of the Earth” – by Roberta Wood (People’s World – March 26, 2014)


GRANT COUNTY, N.M. – “Where is Anita Torrez?” growled the sheriff’s deputy at the young pregnant woman sitting at a table stuffing envelopes inside the union hall’s doorway.

“I really have no idea,” answered Anita Torrez with a good show of calm. The deputy had come on the sheriff’s orders to round up those on a “wanted list” of union wives. The frustrated deputy finally went on his way and the women laughed heartily. But it didn’t take away the fear.

More than 60 years later, Torrez is still iron-willed but soft-spoken, so she is reluctant to talk about herself and didn’t tell that story when she spoke on Mar. 15 at the University of Western New Mexico on a panel titled “From Women’s Auxiliary to Women of Steel.” But she did eagerly share it with family and comrades over a plate of carne asada, beans, rice, and plate-sized flour tortillas. The meal preceded the panel and was prepared by brothers from a steelworker local in nearby Tucson using a portable grill outside the same local hall where Torrez outwitted the sheriff’s deputy.

The confrontation took place in 1951 during a miners strike here. The strike was marked by government and company intimidation and violence and a new role for women. The story of the courage of the women led to the making of a unique movie, “Salt of the Earth” whose 60th anniversary was commemorated last weekend.

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Fear of deadly reprisal, hunger, in Rustenburg as SA platinum strike marches on – by Ayanda Mdluli (Mineweb.com – March 27, 2014)


Mineweb correspondents investigate conditions and perspectives in Rustenburg – the town at the heart of a strike in South Africa’s platinum sector.

RUSTENBURG (MINEWEB) – When workers sell their hard earned possessions to buy food in the platinum belt of Rustenburg for lack of earnings after nine weeks of a brutal strike one can conclude bread-and-butter politics truly have the region in its grip.

Many stores are shuttered, except pawn shops, which are overflowing with household items that have been sold for next to nothing. In Rustenburg homes, cooking pots once filled with solid chicken cuts now swim with chicken heads and feet instead.

“I would love to talk to you about what is going on but the problem is that I am just too hungry and I need to look for something to eat. The problem is here,” says a middle-aged man, pointing to his abdomen.

His point made, the man, who claims to be a worker in the Karee Mine at Lonmin in Marikana, Rustenburg, South Africa, walks slowly away down the dusty street.

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Congo’s mining tax increase plan rattles investors – by Peter Jones (Reuters U.S. – March 26, 2014)


GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 26 (Reuters) – D emocratic Republic of Congo aims to double tax revenues from minerals but investors warned that an overhaul of the mining code could remove incentives to invest there.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo told a mining conference in the eastern city of Goma that the government intends to increase tax revenues from mining to 25 percent of the national budget by 2016, from 14.5 percent at present.

“Exploitation of natural resources is key to our ambition of becoming an emerging market country by 2030,” he said.

Congo produced a record 943,000 tons of copper last year, making it Africa’s largest producer and driving economic growth of 8.5 percent. Mismanagement, corruption and two decades of violence in eastern Congo have hampered development of other minerals, including diamonds, gold, cassiterite and coltan. Mining executives warned the government’s ongoing revision of the 2002 mining code risked deterring much-needed investment.

“We need a mining code that is sufficiently incentivising,” said Louis Watum, general manager of Randgold’s giant Kibali mine in Congo’s remote northeastern Orientale Province, which poured its first gold in September.

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Jim O’Neill: BRICs, MINTs strong despite emerging market wobbles – by Tim Cocks (Reuters India – March 25, 2014)


LAGOS – (Reuters) – The large, fast-growing emerging market countries dubbed the BRICs and MINTs are still likely to be the most promising investment destinations over the next decade, despite emerging market turbulence, Jim O’Neill, who coined the terms, said.

Former Goldman Sachs economist O’Neill came up with the name BRIC in 2001 to group Brazil, Russia, India and China as countries whose growth will shape the world economy in the coming decades.

This year, in a series on BBC radio, he championed the MINT group of countries, similarly blessed with fast economic growth and large, young populations – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey – as the next economic giants after the BRICs.

“The BRIC and the MINT countries, if I’m right, over the next decade will … shape the world economy’s development,” O’Neill told Reuters on Tuesday on the sidelines of an Africa Finance Corporation conference in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos. “And if that’s the case, they will be the most successful places in terms of investments too.”

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A mining policy for the future – by Hal Quinn (Milwaukee – Wisconsin Journal Sentinel – March 24, 2014)


Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association, the national trade association for America’s mining industry.

Ted Doheny, CEO of Milwaukee-based Joy Global Inc., recently alerted the nation that the minerals of tomorrow will be tougher to obtain than they have been in the past. If anyone would know, it would be the chief executive of a leading manufacturer of mechanized mining equipment used around the world. Doheny’s peers in numerous industries that depend upon those metals and minerals are also listening.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that more than 70% of the chief executives in auto, high-tech and other key industries fear future mineral supply scarcity. Increasing resource nationalism among mineral-rich nations such as China, Indonesia and South Africa — keen to ensure supplies for their own national industries — make these concerns a more imminent reality.

Unstable mineral and metal supply chains could threaten the tremendous economic jolt Wisconsin manufacturers such as Joy Global have provided the state in recent years. Local manufacturing firms are largely responsible for the significant job growth and economic opportunities that have abounded in Wisconsin since the recession and have helped to grow jobs in the state’s private sector at its fastest rate since 1994.

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Child miners pay the price in Burkina Faso’s gold rush – by Joris Fioriti (AFP – March 26, 2014)


Perched on the edge of a mine shaft, Joel Sawadogo, 13, readies the fragile plastic lamp strapped to his forehead with an elastic band as he prepares to lower himself into the darkness.

He is one of hundreds of children and young people working at the Nobsin mines, about an hour’s drive from Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, who every day risk their lives in the search for gold in the impoverished west African nation.

Child mining has become a growing problem in Burkina Faso, where 60 percent of the population is under 25. A mining boom in recent years has made the country Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer, where exports of the yellow metal account for almost a fifth of economic output.

Joel, who started working at the mines two years ago, makes a meagre income from the backbreaking work. Sometimes it’s 5,000 CFA francs (7.6 euros, $10.5), on a good day twice that, but often nothing at all. “Down there, it’s really damp,” he said, scratching a filthy arm. He hopes one day to find “less painful work” but “mostly, I think about what I could earn”.

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