Canadian spies targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry: report – by The Associated Press (Globe and Mail – October 7, 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.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A Brazilian television report that aired Sunday night said Canadian spies targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry.

The report on Globo television was based on documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and was the latest showing that Latin America’s biggest country has been a target for U.S., British and now Canadian spy agencies.

The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry were targeted by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, to map the ministry’s communications, using a software program called Olympia. It didn’t indicate whether emails were read or phone calls were listened to.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper would neither confirm nor deny the allegations when asked to respond to the report late Sunday night. The “CSEC does not comment on its specific foreign intelligence activities or capabilities,” said Harper’s communications director Jason MacDonald.

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Calgary-based mining company suing Costa Rica for more than $1 billion – by Jeremy Hunka (Global News – October 4, 2013)

LA TIGRA, Costa Rica – A billion-dollar showdown is looming in Central America this week as a Calgary-based mining company announced it will sue the country of Costa Rica, infuriating residents who say their sovereignty is being taken away.

Infinito Gold was hoping to operate an open-pit gold mine in the Crucitas region of Costa Rica’s north. On its website, the company says it “…completed all the environmental, social and technical studies and obtained all approvals required under Costa Rican law to develop and operate the Las Crucitas Project.”

But the project was held up in court, and after irregularities were found in the approval process the mine’s approval was declared illegal. In 2011, Costa Rica banned all open-pit metal mining.

“It took a lot of effort,” says Otto Mendez, who fought against the mining project. “It took a lot of people and a lot of money.” But now, Infinito Gold says it will take the country of Costa Rica to international arbitration.

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Fickle nickel takes its toll on market darling Mirabela – by Sarah-Jane Tasker (The Australian – October 4, 2013)

MIRABELA Nickel once rode the commodities boom, hitting a share price peak of more than $7 in early 2008, but a perfect storm of low prices, debt, decreasing cash balances and a cancelled contract has seen the company join the ranks of the penny dreadfuls. Some 80 per cent has been wiped off the value of its share price in the last month alone — from an already low base.

This is a company that was valued by the market at about $800 million in 2008. Now? $14m. The price of a decent shack on Sydney’s waterfront.

Perth-based Mirabela this week became the latest high-profile casualty of a commodity that has been struggling more than most others.

Perth-based private equity firm Resource Capital Fund is Mirabela’s largest shareholder and is the hardest hit by the share price fall. The resources-focused fund stepped in to support the company last May, tipping in $20m at a share price of 40c, which at the time was at a 17.6 per cent premium to the junior’s share price. It also underwrote a $100m raising. The miner said at the time that the funds would strengthen its balance sheet.

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Iamgold CEO committed to low-grade gold – by Allison Martell (Reuters U.S. – October 3, 2013)

Oct 2 (Reuters) – Stephen Letwin is a man of conviction. The chief executive of mid-tier gold miner Iamgold Corp believes low-grade deposits are the future, whether the industry is ready or not.

With prices down and higher costs cutting into margins – already slim at many low-grade mines – explorers that once boasted about the size of their deposits are now wooing investors with tales of high-grade zones.

But Letwin, who was touting low-grade gold last year, before spot prices dropped more than 20 percent, sees no reason to change his tune. “I don’t care who you are – we are all migrating to lower grade,” he said in an interview. “It’s just a fact of life.”

Iamgold’s operations in Africa and South America have relatively low concentrations of gold. At the Rosebel mine in Suriname, for example, the reserve grade is one gram per tonne.

That is not far off the average reserve grades of the senior producers, but unlike some of those companies’ mines, Rosebel and Iamgold’s Essakane mine in Burkina Faso do not produce silver, copper or other valuable minerals that are often recovered with gold.

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Mexico’s mining tax causes concern – by Trish Saywell (Northern Miner September 30, 2013)

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

A proposed 7.5% mining tax on companies in Mexico and as much as 8% on those extracting precious metals is creating uncertainty in the industry about investing in a country that until now has been thought of as one of the world’s most attractive mining jurisdictions.

The mining tax — which some are describing as a royalty, and has yet to be passed into law — would be on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and is part of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s goal to reform the tax base in the country.

The original proposal in April had been a royalty of 5%, and many executives complain that every time the subject of a royalty is raised, the figure bandied about keeps getting higher.

“They’ve been talking about this for two years and they’ve had something like three different rates,” says John Gravelle, head of the mining group at PricewaterhouseCoopers in a telephone interview from Brazil. “Every time they make an announcement it’s a different rate, and every time it’s higher.”

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Mining in the Dominican Republic: Sickness and wealth (The Economist – September 21, 2013)

THE $4 billion that two Canadian companies, Barrick Gold and Goldcorp, have poured into developing Pueblo Viejo, a gold mine, since 2009 amounts to the largest single foreign investment in the history of the Dominican Republic. The companies say that the money has turned the polluted ruins of what was the state-owned Rosario mine, abandoned in 1999, into a “truly world-class” operation that should provide the country’s government with $10 billion over its 25-year life.

But the project has been controversial. Just weeks after the mining started in January, President Danilo Medina, who was elected last year, declared: “For every $100 of gold exports, Barrick will receive $97 and the Dominican people $3. That is simply unacceptable.” (In fact, Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation, or PVDC, the company operating the mine, is 60% owned by Barrick and 40% by Goldcorp.) Mr Medina demanded that the contract be renegotiated; otherwise, he said, he would raise taxes on the mine’s profits.

This month the two sides agreed to changes that have front-loaded tax payments and could see the government get an extra $1.3 billion in 2013-16 provided that the gold price rises and stays above $1,600 an ounce (it is now around $1,350). Gustavo Montalvo, Mr Medina’s chief of staff, tweeted: “Together we ensured that words like ‘national sovereignty’, ‘justice’ or ‘transparency’ were transformed into something more concrete.”

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As a Boom Slows, Peru Grows Uneasy – by William Neuman (New York Times – August 19, 2013)

LIMA, Peru — From his office window, Henrik Kristensen, the chief executive of the company that runs Peru’s main port, can still look out at rows of newly arrived, shiny Kia automobiles from South Korea and shipping containers stacked four high, full of imported items like television sets and brand-name clothing bound for the growing number of malls that serve this country’s burgeoning middle class.

“This is Peru,” he said. “When you go to the shopping malls they’re full of people, they’re full. That’s a good indicator that people are really spending money.”

Peru’s economy grew an average of 6.4 percent a year from 2002-12 after adjusting for inflation, according to government figures, a remarkable period of sustained expansion that has made it one of the world’s star economies.

But suddenly growth has slowed here, and just beyond the view from Mr. Kristensen’s window, under Lima’s perpetually gray winter sky, the reason becomes clear.

At Dock 5B, ships are loaded with Peru’s mining riches, including copper ore, lead and zinc — the raw materials that fueled the Peruvian boom with their rising prices in recent years.

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Low prices take toll on Cuban nickel revenues – by Marc Frank (Reuters U.S. – September 10, 2013)

HAVANA, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Cuban nickel industry revenues were well below expectations in the first six months of the year, mainly because of low international prices, official radio reported this week.

The provincial radio station of Eastern Holguin province, Radio Angulo, reporting on a visit to Moa municipality by provincial Communist Party leader Luis Torres Iribar, said the municipality’s exports were short 26 percent, or $90 million, for the period.

Cuba’s only two nickel plants, the Cubaniquel-owned Ernesto Che Guevara plant and the Pedro Soto Alba, a joint venture between Canadian mining company Sherritt International and Cubaniquel, are both located in Moa.

The report said that the Ernesto Che Guevara plant’s earnings were 15 percent below expectations, and the Pedro Soto Alba plant was down 25 percent, “mainly due to the low price of the mineral on the world market.” Cuba plans to produce around 62,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt in 2013, according to local and foreign company reports.

Sherritt International has said it expects the Pedro Soto Alba plant to produce 38,000 tonnes, similar to 2012. An Ernesto Che Guevara manager said earlier this year the plant would produce 23,700 tonnes.

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Mining companies balk at Mexico’s proposed royalty plan – by Gabriel Stargardter (Reuters U.S. – September 10, 2013)

MEXICO CITY – (Reuters) – Mining companies have threatened to cut investment in Mexico after the government proposed a 7.5 percent mining royalty, arguing that lower metal prices, rising running costs and higher taxes reduce the country’s investment allure.

The royalty proposal was part of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s plan to bolster Mexico’s feeble tax haul, a reform which focuses on reaping more income tax from higher earners, closing corporate loopholes and widening the tax base.

In April, Mexico’s lower house of Congress approved a new percent royalty to redistribute miners’ profits to the states and municipalities where they mine. The bill was originally due for a Senate vote in coming months.

However, lawmakers later decided to fold it into Pena Nieto’s fiscal reform, which has upped the stakes, proposing a royalty of 7.5 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). It would rise to as much as 8 percent for gold, silver and platinum miners.

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Standing up to big gold – by Roxana Olivera (United Church Observer – June 2013)

A fight pitting Indigenous Peruvians against a multinational mining company highlights the real cost of the global boom in precious metals

n July 3, 2012, Peruvian police opened fire on a public demonstration in the Andean town of Celendin, killing four protesters. José Sánchez was shot in the throat; Eleuterio García in the chest; Faustino Silva in the head. César Medina — the youngest among the dead at only 16 years old — was also shot in the head. Dozens more were seriously injured, and several arrested without cause. They were among 3,000 people rallying against the Minas Conga, a proposed gold mine that threatens to contaminate their community’s water supply.

The government immediately called a state of emergency in Celendin and two other provinces, suspending civil liberties and mobilizing riot police and soldiers to the region. But the very next morning, police and soldiers again fired at unarmed anti-Conga demonstrators in the nearby town of Bambamarca, this time killing Joselito Vásquez, 26, and injuring and arresting several others.

News of the violence sparked indignation in Peru and abroad. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with a host of other human rights groups, condemned the brutality, calling for a thorough investigation.

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Uruguay Prepares for Iron Rush – by Inés Acosta (Inter Press Service – August 26, 2013)

The legal framework for large-scale mining is being prepared in Uruguay, a country where mining has never played an important role in the economy but which could become the world’s eighth largest producer of iron ore.

MONTEVIDEO, Aug 26 2013 (IPS) – A bill that would regulate large-scale mining operations is making its way through Uruguay’s two houses of parliament, despite a lack of political consensus and vocal opposition from environmental organisations and other sectors of civil society.

The proposed legislation, submitted by the executive branch and backed by the ruling Frente Amplio (FA) or Broad Front coalition, declares that large-scale mining would serve the “public interest”. But critics charge that the bill was drafted to serve the interests of the Aratirí project planned by the Indian mining group Zamin Ferrous, aimed at the production of 18 million tons of iron ore annually, with a promised investment of three billion dollars.

Opposition to these plans by environmentalists, farmers and other residents of the areas that would be affected by the mining operations is becoming increasingly louder. In the last demonstration against large-scale mining in Uruguay, held on May 10, more than 10,000 participants marched down 18 de Julio Avenue, the main thoroughfare in downtown Montevideo.

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Anti-mining protests biggest hurdle for Peru’s mining growth – S&P – by Dorothy Kosich ( – August 29, 2013)

Peru’s mining sector may be booming, but the country need political stability to support long-term mining growth, Standard & Poor’s advises.

RENO (MINEWEB) – Of all the challenges facing Peru’s mining sector, Standard & Poor’s considers anti-mining protests the main constraint on its expansion “because if protests become more widespread, other mining projects could be delayed or scrapped entirely.”

Nevertheless, S&P Credit Analysts Diego Campo, Francisco Serra and Richard A. Francis feel “Peru’s mining sector is poised for significant growth, thanks to its large and high-quality metals reserves, reasonable tax regime, regulations that promote private investment, attractive power costs, and a long track record of mining activity. Plus, the country has fostered the development of ancillary-services suppliers and qualified manpower.”

“We expect investment in the energy and mining sectors will continue at a steady, rapid pace through the 2016 national elections, supporting future economic growth,” the analysts forecast in note published Wednesday. “Moreover, fiscal revenues from the mining sector, along with implementation of the new fiscal rule, should help Peru’s fiscal accounts and continue to reduce the government’s debt burden.”

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Commentary: Guatemalans’ lawsuit against Hudbay in Canada – by Christina Hall and Kevin MacNeill(Northern Miner – August 27, 2013)

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

On July 22, 2013, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in Choc v. Hudbay Minerals Inc. that three separate lawsuits brought by indigenous Guatemalans against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals and other defendants, can go forward in Canada.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuits allege that between 2007 and 2009, security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiaries — who were allegedly under the control and supervision of Hudbay, the parent company — committed various human rights abuses. These include the alleged gang rape of 11 Guatemalan women, the beating and shooting death of a respected Guatemalan indigenous leader who had been an outspoken critic of mining practices, and the shooting of another Guatemalan man in an unprovoked attack which left the man paralyzed.

All of these abuses are alleged to have been committed by security personnel at Hudbay’s Fenix mining project, a proposed open-pit nickel mining operation located on Lake Izabal in northeastern Guatemala. According to the pleadings in the lawsuit, Hudbay and the other the defendants asserted that they had a valid legal right to this land, while indigenous communities claimed that the Mayan Q’eqchi’ were the rightful owners of the lands, which they considered to be their ancestral homeland.

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Canadian mining executive freed by Colombian rebels – by Nadja Drost (Globe and Mail -August 28, 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.

SEGOVIA, COLOMBIA — After 221 days of captivity at the hands of Colombian rebels, Canadian mining executive Gernot Wober is free.

He was handed over Tuesday in an isolated clearing in northern Colombia by rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) to a Red Cross delegation and whisked away by helicopter and then plane to Bogota. “He looks good. He’s suffered a lot, but he’s very excited about his liberty,” said Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve, a member of the delegation.

Mr. Wober, vice-president of exploration for Canadian junior mining company Braeval Mining Corporation, was a bargaining chip in a long-standing battle over mining rights between Colombia’s leftist guerillas and its government. Now, his release could have implications for future peace in a country racked by 50 years of violent armed conflict, by opening the door to allow the ELN, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, to the negotiating table.

The Canadian went from being a pawn in the conflict over resources to a possible lynchpin in negotiating peace with one of Latin America’s oldest rebel groups.

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Miners Buying Hugo Boss Perfume as Chile’s Copper Booms – by Matt Craze & Javiera Quiroga (Bloomberg News – August 20, 2013) 

Since starting work at the Esperanza copper mine in northern Chile two years ago, Erick Moreno has tripled his salary and is preparing to buy his first home. The pay, he says, is so good that he’d never take a job elsewhere.

“I am going to die in this industry, I don’t see myself anywhere else,” Moreno said by phone from Antofagasta, a city on the edge of the mineral-rich Atacama desert. “When you start working in a mine, everything changes and in a very little period of time.”

While Moreno, 27, completed his engineering course at Antofagasta University, he says many fellow students dropped out to start work at the mines without graduating. Most of them already own their homes and drive sports cars, while many older miners have five or more houses, some far from the mines that litter the northern desert, he said.

Spending by high-earning miners is spreading through the economy, fueling a consumer boom and driving unemployment to its lowest since 1973. The nation, squeezed between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, has become the wealthiest in Latin America, according to the International Monetary Fund, with gross domestic product per capita rising to about $16,300 this year from $4,780 ten years ago. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim last month congratulated the country on earning “high-income” status.

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