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Posts Tagged ‘Guinea’

Vale woos Guinea with social projects

July 11, 2011 Comments off

“Vale’s finance chief said the Brazilian miner would invest in development programmes in Guinea in an attempt to safeguard a $2.5bn mining concession and avoid making a large pay-out to the African country’s new government. In spite of still being vulnerable to a review of mining licenses in Guinea, Guilherme Cavalcanti said that Vale could win the government’s approval for its Simandou iron ore project that it shares with rival Rio Tinto by paying for education and agriculture in the communities where it mines.

‘Our approach to Africa in Guinea is not to become only a mining extraction [company] but bring country co-operation,’ he said. ‘So, as we do in Mozambique, we can help people in agriculture, we can help in education, we can train local people … So it’s more an approach to communities as well, not only mining extraction.’

Rio Tinto only gained clear tenure in Guinea in April after promising the government $700m in cash as well as rights to take up to a 35 per cent stake in Simandou. Simandou, one of the highest-quality untapped iron ore resources in the world, has attracted the two largest iron ore miners to Guinea despite the country’s history of volatile dictatorship, weak rule of law, and recurring threats of licence renegotiations.”

Source: Financial Times, July 6 2011

Observations:

  • The Simandou deposit is divided into 4 blocks: Vale controls blocks 1 and 2 with the Benny Steinmetz Group (BSG) as minority shareholder; Rio Tinto controls blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou deposit, working together with Chalco. In an earlier stage Rio Tinto held title to the full deposit, but the Guinean government cancelled this deal.
  • In a review of mining licenses announced in March the Guinean government requires a minimum of 33% of ownership of strategic mining projects in the country to increase government control.
  • Rio Tinto struck a deal on the redistribution of ownership at the end of April, setting up a long term phased process of acquisition of ownership by the government. Furthermore the company agreed to a conditional one time $700mln payment to the government and promised to develop a railway to export the ore via a Guinean port.

Implications:

  • The social projects promised by Vale are a mere hygiene factor in the negotiations about transfer of ownership. The government will clearly expect any operating partner to take an active role in community development. However, Vale’s experience with large scale operations in developing areas in Brazil and Mozambique might help to gain trust.
  • Most likely Vale will agree on a conditional and phased deal similar to Rio Tinto’s agreement with the government. The agreement will be designed to make any payments or ownership deals conditional on crucial milestones and actions by the government. Vale will still need to decide on a way to export the ore, either negotiating to use the railway build by Rio Tinto, or setting up the infrastructure to export via Liberia.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Resource industry angry at tax increases

May 4, 2011 Comments off

“High commodity prices are triggering a fresh wave of resource nationalism around the world as governments impose higher taxes on oil and mining companies to extract a bigger share of the profits generated from mines and wells. ‘There has been a tendency to raise taxes and royalties when oil prices are high to grab a larger share of the economic rent from oil resources,’ said Amy Myers Jaffe, energy expert at Rice University. Today, with many governments struggling with budget deficits, the temptation to extract ‘an economic ransom’ from oil and mining companies is even higher.

Meanwhile in Australia, the government has tried and failed to implement a 40 per cent ‘resources super profits tax’ on metals, minerals, oil and gas. Julia Gillard, Mr Rudd’s successor, watered down the tax, days after taking office in June in face of strong opposition from miners. The tax rate will be lowered to 30 per cent and apply only to coal and iron ore. But Ms Gillard’s government still faces a battle to pass the tax into law. The main opposition parties argue the tax is too harsh while the Green party opposes it because it does not hit miners hard enough.”

Source: Financial Times, May 2 2011

Observations:

  • Many countries are looking to copy the Australian model of increasing taxes on profits above a threshold level for specific industries.
  • Many developing countries (e.g. Guinea; Mongolia) try to create a situation that gives them income from resource projects in the long term by demanding an equity stake in projects and trying to stimulate investments from foreign multinationals.

Implications:

  • The increase in tax rates and other creative ways governments use to gain part of the income of resource companies are driven by a combination of increasing resource supply insecurity and the troublesome financial position of many governments. Resource-rich countries need to find a balance between benefiting from the mined resources and maintaining an attractive investment climate for mining firms; something the initial plan for tax reform in Australia by mr. Rudd failed to do.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Rio Tinto signs agreement with Guinean government

April 25, 2011 Comments off

“Rio Tinto’s most troubled mining project appears poised for multibillion-dollar development after the company agreed to pay $700m to the government of Guinea and grant it a 35 per cent stake in its iron ore mine. The deal was reached on Friday ahead of plans by Guinea, a west African country rich in iron ore and bauxite, to review all mining licences as part of its push to secure bigger returns from its mineral wealth.

Vale and other multinational miners active in Guinea now have a precedent for their negotiations with the government. Vale, the Brazilian company that is the biggest iron ore miner, paid $2.5bn for a stake in a Guinean deposit last year. Rio’s deal allows Guinea to move towards a 35 per cent stake in Simandou, the iron ore deposit – located in a remote corner of the country – that is thought to be one of the world’s best untapped lodes of the ore.”

Source: Financial Times, April 23 2011

Observations:

  • Last month Guinea announced a review of mining licenses, including the demand to get minority stakes in all major mining projects in the country.
  • Rio Tinto controls blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou deposit, with Brazil’s Vale controlling blocks 1 and 2. First shipment of iron ore by Rio Tinto is expected by mid-2015.

Implications:

  • The agreement of Rio Tinto to construct a railway through is a major blow for the government of Liberia, which hoped to convince the miners to export the ore with a shorter route via Liberia. The decision on the export route will further trigger challenging negotiations with Vale about using the same infrastructure to export ore from the area.
  • The 35% government stake can be build up over time, with the final 10% to be bought at market value in 15-20 years time. Tax rate is set at 30% after the first 8 years, with additional 3.5% royalties. The $700mln payment is only made conditional on granting the concession and approving the Rio Tinto / Chalco joint venture. Based on these conditions it appears Guinea intends to be a friendly host to international mining companies in the long term, but requires strict payment and infrastructure development contribution in the short term.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Guinea to review mining licenses

March 7, 2011 Comments off

“Guinea is planning a comprehensive review of its mining licences that could disrupt a $1.35bn iron ore agreement between China’s Chinalco and Rio Tinto, a $2.5bn iron ore acquisition by Brazil’s Vale, and a slew of smaller mining deals in the mineral-rich west African state.

All mining companies in Guinea will have to submit to higher standards of transparency in order to invest, as will the countries from which they originate, according to a joint statement from Alpha Conde, Guinea’s new president, and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who advised him.

‘All contracts will be reviewed and reworked by the beginning of the second half of this year,’ said a senior official from Guinea’s ministry of mines at a conference in Paris on Thursday. ‘The government will become a minority shareholder in all mining contracts.'”

Source: Financial Times, March 7 2011

Observations:

  • According to the new licensing structure all foreign investors and their host countries will need to subscribe to the WorldBank’s EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Furthermore the government will request minority ownership of all projects.
  • The most important mining project in the country is the iron ore complex around Simandou and Kalia. Rio Tinto and Chinalco, Vale, and Bellzone and CIF hold licenses to various blocks of the complex, from which production should start within 2 years.

Implications:

  • China and Chinese companies, as brought in by Bellzone and Bellzone, don’t subscribe to the EITI yet. This could lead to significant development delays and/or break-up of consortia. It is unlikely that the government will push the large foreign investors out of the projects, as they need the foreign money to get the projects going.
  • In the Economist’s country operational risk benchmark, Guinea ranks 149th out of 149 countries, tied with Iraq. The 10 risk categories included in the benchmark are: security; political stability; government effectiveness; legal and regulatory; macroeconomic; foreign trade and payments; financial; tax policy; labour market; and infrastructure. Next to the changing regulatory environment the infrastructure risk is important for Simandou’s projects, as Guinea and Liberia are fighting over the port to be used for shipping the ore and the way the ore should be transported to the port.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Guinea: Mining Fight Shows Pressure on Multinationals

January 28, 2011 Comments off

“Alpha Condé, the new president of Guinea, pledges to do what none of his predecessors have: Harness vast iron-ore reserves contained in the Simandou mountain chain to give the West African country one of the continent’s most prosperous economies.

To succeed where others have failed, Mr. Condé is revisiting an existing Simandou mining contract with Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, as well as other pacts signed by his predecessors. Foreign investors, no matter how big, will have to follow rules or leave Guinea, he says.

In Guinea, the Simandou contracts are just some of several that are under review in disputes with companies from Russia, China and the U.S. And the outcome of the Simandou dispute is likely to rattle at least one powerful international investor: either Rio Tinto or rival Vale SA of Brazil. Aluminum Corporation of China also has a dog in the fight.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, January 27 2011

Observations:

  • Rio Tinto has teamed up with Chinalco to develop its part of the Simandou deposit (although it is still unclear which part it is exactly entitled to). The Chinese pay $1.35bln for infrastructure development, giving it the right to buy the ore from Rio Tinto.
  • The Guinean government is keeping a close watch on the development plans, pressuring the companies to file plans and start investments, threatening to revoke licenses granted in earlier stages.

Implications:

  • The export of the Simandou iron ore is an interesting case of shared responsibility of corporates and government in infrastructure development. The shortest route to the sea would be a direct link through Liberia, but the infrastructure development to ship the ore through a Guinean port is one of the main benefits the Guinean government could achieve from the involvement of the foreign companies. The government will therefore have to find a balance in pressuring the companies to invest and investing itself to convince the companies to skip the Liberia-alternative.
  • Vale smartly managed its transaction of BSG’s share of the Simandou asset by making 80% of the $2.5bln payment conditional on achievement of specific milestones, limiting the country risk it is exposed to. These types of conditional deals are likely to be the way to move forward in order to limit risk in many countries that are struggling to become more stable and attract investment.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Severstal plans London gold listing

September 23, 2010 Comments off

“Severstal, the Russian steel company, is preparing to list its gold division in London this year in a deal expected to value the business at about $4bn, several people close to the company have confirmed.
Severstal – majority owned by Alexei Mordashov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister – plans to retain a stake of 65-70 per cent in the new company.

Nomura analysts this week valued Severstal’s gold division at $3.6bn. One banker involved in the transaction said the valuation was likely to hit $4bn or possibly $5bn as details about the assets and the company’s growth plans were disclosed to the market.”

Source: Financial Times, September 21, 2010

Observations:

  • Severstal has invested heavily in expanding the gold business through M&A and organic growth in the last years, growing into the second largest Russian gold miner (behind Polyus Gold) at 670 thousand ounces annual output.
  • Over 50% of the total exploration expenses in the mining industry are for gold exploration. This surge in exploration has resulted in a long list of deposits that might be developed profitably across the world.

Implications:

  • Severstal is developing projects in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Kazakhstan. The money raised with the IPO may be used to fund these developments, raising the output of the company. However, a major part of the money might be used by the steel division of the company to improve operating performance in steel making, which has been a loss making activity in 2009.
  • The spin-off of the gold division is a logical move of the company at the current demand for gold, which has driven gold prices to stable levels above $1000. Up to a few years ago, most gold mines were using long term gold prices of $300 in the feasibility analysis of mining projects. However, projects are started now that require prices above $600 to be feasible. The Financial Times provides a good overview of the development of gold prices in an interactive graph.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Disquiet over ENRC’s purchase of Congo assets

September 7, 2010 Comments off

“Anger is growing among London’s investor community over the decision by a FTSE 100 miner to buy a disputed copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Eurasian Natural Resources Corp, the London-listed Kazakh miner, last week bought a majority stake in a collection of Congo mining assets that includes the controversial Kolwezi project.

First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian copper miner, is fighting what it sees as the Congo government’s expropriation of Kolwezi and other assets. First Quantum and its partners spent $700m developing Kolwezi until September 2009, when a government prosecutor shut down the project citing contract violations. “

Source: Financial Times, September 3, 2010

Observations:

  • ENRC paid $175mln for a controlling stake of the asset that has been partly developed by Quantum Minerals. The government of Congo seized the asset after Quantum invested $700mln. The company and the government disagreed on the rights given to the company for prospecting and/or mineral extraction.
  • ENRC is strongly integrating vertically, buying mining assets around the world. The potential IPO of Zamin would make the ENRC benefit from the capital this would free up to develop the Bamin iron ore deposit in Brazil, one of the most important projects.

Implications:

  • Though the Kolwezi asset is a financially attractive asset many miners refrained from bidding as the government’s action against Quantum was regarded to violate the business code. Many miners will have been afraid of similar future action of the government in case they would buy the asset.
  • This year the government of Guinea decided to take part of the rights to the Simandou deposit away from Rio Tinto, saying the company did not honor the investment agreements made earlier. Redistribution of these rights have not yet led to a reaction in the mining industry that would hurt the reputation of a future owner of the rights.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com