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Mining Week 13/’12: Diamonds are not forever, neither are iron ore chiefs

March 31, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Rio Tinto puts its diamond division up for sale
    • Rio Tinto started a ‘strategic review’ of its diamond business to explore divestment options for the 4 assets. The move comes only months after BHP Billiton announced it intends to sell its only diamond project.
    • Rio Tinto was seen as the most likely buyer of BHP’s Ekati project because of the close proximity to it’s Diavik operation.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • BHP Billiton iron ore president quits; replaced by insider
    • Ian Ashby, president of BHP Billiton’s iron ore division, announced he will step down in July. BHP will replace him with the head of the energy coal business: Jimmy Wilson.
    • The leadership change comes during an aggressive investment program to expand capacity of the Pilbara operations.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton press released; Wall Street Journal
  • Indian privatization of coal mines backfires
    • A leaked government report states that the Indian government missed out on $210bln by selling state owned coal assets to cheaply without having a proper auctioning mechanism in place.
    • The hedge fund TCI, which owns close to 2% of Coal India, has started a process to sue the management of Coal India for allowing too much government interference related to the sale of assets.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Times of India; Financial Times II

Trends & Implications:

  • In March of last year Rio Tinto was said to explore a partnership with Alrosa, the world’s second largest diamond miner. This cooperation never materialized, and it appears Rio Tinto’s management has decided the iron ore business does not fit in its strategy of running large scale operations of traded minerals. With the presence of DeBeers and Alrosa it is unlikely that a third player will be able to invest to buy both Rio Tinto’s and BHP Billiton’s operations.
  • India is one of the few mineral rich countries in the world that had to go through a large scale privatization program in the last years. Typically domestic investors who know the businesses and have access to influential officials manage to get good deals in buying assets (Russia is another good example). Often the real value of the formerly government owned assets only becomes apparent after a couple of years of operation in private hands.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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Mining Week 02/’12: Temporary & Permanent Cost Increases

January 14, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • ENRC settles Congo dispute with First Quantum
    • ENRC agreed to pay $1.25bln to First Quantum to settle the dispute over the Kolwezi Tailings project, the Frontier and Lonshi mines and related exploration interests in DRC. First Quantum was stripped of the rights to these projects by the government, after which ENRC came in and agreed to buy the rights from the government in a move widely criticized in the industry.
    • Sources: ENRC press release; Financial Times; First Quantum press release
  • Coal India agrees to salary costs hike of 25%
    • Coal India, by far the largest miner of energy coal in the country, has agree to a 25% permanent increase of wages. In august of last year the unions demanded a 100% increase to offset increased cost of living and reduce the increasing income gap between management and workers. Investment bankers at the time expected the company to agree to a 15-20% increase. The salary hike results in an increase of operating cost for the company by approx. 10%.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Economic Times
  • Weather in Australia and Brazil drives iron ore price up

    • The closure of the export facilities in Port Hedland because of cyclone Heidi and the cancellation of shipments from Brazil because of heavy rains results in supply pressure in the iron ore market. Heavy rains are expected to continue in the Pilbara region, which supplies close to 40% of seaborne iron ore in the world, in the short term.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Supply Chain Review; Wall Street Journal; Vale Press Release

Trends & Implications:

  • Extreme weather conditions have a big influence on bulk material supply chains in the short term, because stockpiling these materials in amounts large enough to last for several weeks is very costly and thus not a normal practice. Especially the steel industry is hit hard with both iron ore and metallurgical coal having to be shipped in from locations that are often hit by storms. Although the impact on spot prices in the short term can be large, the longer term impact on the miners is quite small. Most contracts allow for some flexibility in when exactly the ore is delivered. As long as the mining operations don’t have to stop, the ore will get to the steel manufacturers as some point.
  • The wage increase expected for Coal India is a good example of the very high cost inflation of mining in developing countries. Whereas the cost increase of contracted services and equipment leasing can be seen as (at least partly) a temporary phenomenon caused by high commodity prices, the cost increase because of increased labor and consumable costs in developing countries causes a more permanent shift of the global cost curves.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Coal India Plans JV With Indonesian Mining Company

September 28, 2011 Comments off

“Coal India Ltd. plans to ask the Indonesian government to allocate it a coal mine, and also seek approval to set up a joint venture with a state-run mining company there. Coal India will ask for the approvals at an October meeting of a coal working group set up by the two countries, Interim Chairman Nirmal Chandra Jha said recently.
He didn’t name the Indonesian company or specify the reserves of the mine that Coal India is targeting.

The proposed Indonesian venture will come after a brief overseas pause for Coal India, the world’s largest producer of the fossil fuel. The company has halted its overseas acquisition plans due to delays in getting government approvals. The coal ministry last year told Coal India to invest only in listed overseas companies after allegations of corruption rocked the federal government. Coal India has so far succeeded in getting allocation of only two blocks in Mozambique.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 21 2011

Observations:

  • Indian power utilities imported about 42 million tonnes of Indonesian thermal coal last year. Coal fired powerplants produce over half of the country’s electricity. Various Indonesian coal miners are already tied up with Indian financial partners (e.g. Bumi & Tata).
  • Indonesia is working on a ban of exports of coal with low calorific value (<5100kcal/kg), which would threaten part of the thermal coal exports from the country.
  • Indonesia’s energy coal products exports to China has increased by over 25% per year for the past 5 years.

Implications:

  • The Indian government actively tries to reduce secure reliable access to coal via both Coal India and targeted acquisitions by ICVL. As increase of domestic production is slow the government might try to lure foreign miners into operating assets in India to boost productivity.
  • Increased Indian investment interest in Indonesia will pressure the Indonesian government to speed up the regulatory processes around the new Mining Law and the proposed environmental taxes. The new law was introduced over 2 years ago, but implementation regulations are still not fully worked out.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

India in race to snap up coal assets

June 7, 2011 Comments off

“From the mining belts of Queensland, Australia, to East Kalimantan in Indonesia, Indian companies are racing to secure coal assets across the globe. Last year, Indian companies overtook those from China, Korea and Japan as the biggest Asian buyers of overseas coal assets. They were following their US counterparts in trying either to increase their exposure to coal at a time of high commodity prices or lock in fuel supplies for industries such as steelmaking.

Unable to guarantee access to supplies at home because of a mixture of bureaucracy, corruption, logistical and environmental issues, many Indian groups have been aggressively trying to buy assets in Indonesia and Australia. India signed $2.4bn of deals out of a global total of $16bn last year, according to Wood Mackenzie, the consultancy. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s coal association has said it expects India to surpass Japan as the leading buyer of the country’s coal.”

Source: Financial Times, June 6 2011

Observations:

  • According to Ernst & Young’s analysis of M&A in the mining industry over 2010 India has risen to the 7th place worldwide with $5.5bln overall acquisitions in the industry. A large part of India’s acquisitions are aimed at coal mines and transportation infrastructure.
  • Most Indian acquirers of coal assets are private utility-linked companies, which are mainly interested in thermal or energy coal assets.

Implications:

  • The gold-rush mentality of many new players and the resulting high premiums paid for coal assets will help the industry in India consolidate, as the more sophisticated players will soon outperform the players that pay too much for access to resources.
  • The Indian government is trying to mobilize state controlled companies to participate in the bidding for overseas coal assets. The creation of the ICVL consortium and the IPO of Coal India are aimed to create more coordination in government efforts.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Coal India in Talks to Buy Stake in Indonesian Mines

May 27, 2011 Comments off

“Coal India, the world’s largest coal producer, may submit a final bid by the end of June to buy a stake in Indonesia’s PT Golden Energy Mines, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said. The state-run coal monopoly is currently doing due diligence of Golden Energy, said the person who declined to be named. Coal India brought out its initial public offer last year. ‘It is not a controlling stake,’ the person said, and didn’t provide more details. He said Coal India is yet to decide on a valuation for the stake it plans to purchase as a proposal is yet to be placed before the company’s board. ‘There are various proposals in countries like Indonesia, Australia, U.S., which Coal India keeps on evaluating,’ the person said.

Coal India, which contributes to more than 80% of the country’s coal needs, faces several obstacles in augmenting its output such as delays in environment clearances. To meet rising demand from consumers, mainly in the power sector, the company has been scouting for mining assets overseas. More than half of India’s power-generation capacity of 174.36 gigawatts is based on thermal coal. The country aims to add 163 GW of capacity in the decade through March 2017 and a major portion of the new capacity would also be dependent on fossil fuel. India, the world’s second-fastest growing economy in the world, faces shortage of coal as environmental concerns have delayed approvals for local mining, hurting production. The country is facing a shortage of 142 million tons of coal for the current year. Local production of coal is expected to be 554 million tons against demand for 696 million tons, according to government estimates.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, May 26 2011

Observations:

  • The rumors about a potential acquisition by Coal India were spread around the time of announcement of quarterly results. The company posted net income for the quarter of over $900mln.
  • A small part of the company was sold in an IPO last year, providing several billions of dollars to be used in overseas acquisitions and domestic expansion to fuel Indian demand for thermal coal. The government projects a shortfall over the next year of approx. 140mln tons, roughly a third of the total Coal India production for the year.

Implications:

  • Stepping up mine production in India is mainly hindered by slow environmental permitting processes. Part of the problem lies with the government’s inefficiency in running the permitting process, the other part of the problem lies with Coal India and other miners in the country that have not yet adapted to the increasing stringency of regulation.
  • Indonesia is growing into an important coal supplier to both India and China. The acquisition of Vallar of a series of assets and participations to form Bumi plc is just one example of the rising importance of the country. However, just as in India the environmental and social regulations in Indonesia are being strengthened, which might slow down the development of coal production in the country.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

The Most Influential People in Mining 2010

December 30, 2010 4 comments

2010 has been an exciting year for the mining industry. The Australian Super Profits Tax debate came to a climax; the iron ore pricing mechanisms was changed to a system related to the spot market after 40 years of benchmark pricing; the Western Australian Iron Ore Joint Venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton was cancelled; BHP attempted to acquire PotashCorp; 33 Chilean miners were at the center point of global media attention when they were rescued after 68 days underground. Who have been the world’s most influential people in the mining industry this year?

The Business of Mining.com gives a top 25. Based on a combination of metrics on ‘Opinion Impact’ (both public opinion and boardroom opinion) and ‘Decision Impact’ (both for 2010 and for the future). The list features a combination of industry leaders, politicians, journalists, advisors and regulators. 24 men; 1 woman. 5 Australians; 4 South Africans; 3 Chinese, 3 Americans; 2 Indians; 2 Canadians; 2 Brits; 1 Guinean; 1 Kazakh; 1 Mongolian; 1 Brazilian. The figure below gives an overview of the 25 most influential people in mining in 2010.

(Blue dots: industry leaders; green dots: journalists; orange dots: advisors; red dots: politicians; black dots: regulators)

1. Marius Kloppers – CEO BHP Billiton

Heads the world’s largest mining company. Tried to add potash to the portfolio of the company by (unsuccessfully) offering $39bln for PotashCorp of Saskatchewan. Earlier in the year not only played an active role in the debate about the Australian super profits tax, but also in the attempt to form a Joint Venture for iron ore export from Western Australia. Is furthermore seen as one of the key drivers behind the change of the iron ore pricing scheme.

2. Tom Albanese – CEO Rio Tinto

Heads the world’s third largest mining company. Worked with Kloppers on the Pilbara iron ore JV, the new pricing mechanism for iron ore, and the lobbying against the super profits tax as proposed by Kevin Rudd. Used 2010 to restructure the capital structure of his company and to strengthen the ties with Chinese industry and government via various deals with Chinalco.

3. Roger Agnelli – CEO Vale

Heads the world’s second largest mining company and largest iron ore producer. Less well-known in the west than Kloppers and Albanese, but certainly a powerful leader in the mining industry. Secured development opportunities in Guinea and in potash production expansions while carefully building relationships with the Brazilian government and the new president: Dilma Rousseff.

4. Tony Clement – Industry Minister Canada

The man that killed BHP Billiton’s hopes of acquiring PotashCorp by imposing unacceptable conditions in order to secure the deal’s ‘benefit for Canada’.

5. Cynthia Carroll – CEO Anglo American

The only women in the list, heading the fourth largest diversified miner in the world. Led the company back to profits after a dramatic 2009. Was appointed chairman of related Anglo Platinum this year and holds directorships of De Beers and BP. Furthermore plays a role in the debates about the future of the industry at the World Economic Forum.

6. Graeme Samuel – Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Head of the regulating body that was the key obstacle for the Joint Venture between BHP Billiton and Anglo American to export iron ore from Western Australia as the JV would have given the two companies a position that would threaten global competition.

7. Michael (Mick) Davis – CEO Xstrata

Heads the world’s fifth largest diversified mining company, build rapidly by acquisitions under the helm of Davis. Proposed a merger with Anglo American in 2009, and continues to look for expansion options. Plays an important role in the debate around a potential merger of Xstrata with trading house Glencore, the company’s largest stakeholder.

8. Kevin Rudd – Former Prime Minister Australia

The brain behind the Australian super profits tax, designed to skim the ‘excessive profits’ of mining firms. The public debate around the tax was one of the reasons Rudd was not re-elected. Although not in the office anymore, the idea of the super profits tax was implemented by the new government in an adjusted form.

9. Julia Gillard – Prime Minister Australia

Benefited from the drop in popularity of Kevin Rudd to take over the position of Prime Minister of Australia. Did involve the miners in redesigning the law into the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), eliminating its major shortcomings. However, the new law, which will become active in 2011, will drastically increase profits for the mining operations in Australia, forcing many mining firms to re-evaluate investments.

10. Jacques Nasser – Chairman of BHP Billiton

The man behind the scenes at BHP Billiton. Worked with Kloppers on all major events this year, including the super profits tax, the Pilbara JV, and the PotashCorp offer. Appointed former British Minister Shriti Vadera on the company’s board and prepared the decision to restart high dividend payments to shareholders.

11. Xiong Weiping – President Chinalco

12. Anil Agarwal – Executive Chairman Vedanta Resources

13. Partha Bhattacharyya – Chairman Coal India

14. Ivan Glasenberg – CEO Glencore

15. Mahmoud Thiam – Minister of Mines and Geology Guinea

16. Sukhbaatar Batbold – Prime Minister Mongolia

17. Brad Wall – Prime Minister Saskatchewan

18. Xi Jinping – Trade Minister China

19. Vladimir Kim – Chairman Kazakhmys

20. Duncan Sloan – Global Mining Lead Accenture

21. Mike Elliott – Global Mining & Metals Lead Ernst & Young

22. William MacNamara – Mining Analyst Financial Times

23. Robert Friedland – Founder Ivanhoe Mines

24. John Chadwick – Editor International Mining

25. Chen Yan – Governor China Development Bank

 

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

India Coal JV May Bid for Riversdale Mining

December 15, 2010 Comments off

“India’s steel ministry asked a joint venture of five state-run companies to consider bidding for Riversdale Mining Ltd., in what could further intensify a battle for the Australian coal miner.

Acquiring Riversdale, which has 13 billion tons in coking and thermal coal reserves in its Benga and Zambeze projects in the southern African country of Mozambique, will help the Indian companies secure coal supplies to power an expanding economy. Riversdale said earlier this month it is in talks with Rio Tinto PLC about a 3.55 billion Australian-dollar ($3.53 billion) takeover, but Rio Tinto has yet to submit a formal offer.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, December 14 2010

Observations:

  • Riversdale, listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, is active in coal mining in South Africa and Mozambique. Earlier this month plans of Rio Tinto to offer a small premium for Riversdale become public, while rumors exist that Vale, Tata and NMDC would be interested in acquiring the assets in Mozambique.
  • The Indian coal mining companies that might get involved in bidding for the assets are Coal India, International Coal Ventures Ltd. (ICVL), NTPC, NMDC, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam and Tata, which owns a strategic stake in Riversdale already.

Implications:

  • A joint bid of state controlled companies from India would be one of the first signs of the Indian government pursuing the same strategy as China in securing access to resources abroad. Like China, India has a strong domestic coals supply which is not able to keep up with growing demand.
  • A number of large resources companies have grown in India; Tata Steel, ArcelorMittal, Reliance & Vedanta being the most well-known. However, most of these companies are not state controlled and have positioned their official headquarters in Europe. With the IPO of Coal India and consolidation of other companies the Indian domestic industry gets ready to become active internationally.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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