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Posts Tagged ‘strike’

Mining Week 46/’12: Lonmin vs. Xstrata & the CEO-carousel

November 10, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Lonmin raises equity to stay independent
    • Lonmin announced a $800m rights offering, in that way fending of the proposal by Xstrata to increase its stake in the troubled platinum miner to a majority share.
    • The strikes in South Africa, which escalated at Lonmin’s operations, have caused significant lost production and urgent financial issues for Lonmin.
    • Sources: Lonmin press release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • BHP starts search for new CEO
    • BHP Billiton has started the search for the successor of CEO Marius Kloppers. Apparently the company will not necessarily promote an insider to the top position.
    • With Mick Davis leaving Xstrata if/when the merger with Glencore is approved and Cynthia Carroll leaving AngloAmerican next year, 3 of the top CEOs in the mining industry will change.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; The Economist; Financial Times 2
  • India limits export of iron ore
    • Iron ore exports from the Indian state of Orissa will be limited strongly by new production quota for mines without processing facilities.
    • The government is trying to attract processing investment to prevent iron ore is only exported without significant benefit for the country. High export duties (raised to 30% early this year) and production quota are used to discourage exports from the world’s 3rd largest iron ore exporter.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Commodity Online; Steel Orbis

Trends & Implications:

  • Orissa’s attempts to curb exports don’t do much to stimulate local investment in processing capacity. India’s government announced a year ago that it would make it more attractive for companies to invest by setting up mining right and process plant permitting packages. With the current uncertainty about both global demand and India’s local demand outlook it is unlikely that large investments in additional processing capacity will be made in Orissa in the near future. As a result the will mainly slow down the local economy.
  • Almost a year ago, after the announcement of Ferreira as new CEO of Vale, this blog conducted a poll among its readers to find out which top company CEO was mostly to be replaced first. The results showed most trust in the future of Kloppers at BHP. A year later 3 out of 4 are on their way out, while most CFOs have been replaced over the past 2 years too. The high level of activity in replacing top executives indicates a change of mindset in the boards of these companies: shifting from a focus on growth and investment to a focus on operational excellence and payout. The new group of top executives will mainly need to show a track record of cost-control and willingness to make tough decisions on closure of mines.

Results of Dec-2011 Poll on thebusinessofmining.com

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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Mining Week 01/’12: New year – Same fear

January 7, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Alcoa cuts aluminium production in fear of lower demand
    • Alcoa announced shutdown of 532,000 tonnes of smelting capacity at the top of the cost curve to lower production costs and improve competitiveness. The 12% reduction of capacity mainly hits operations in the USA.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal; Alcoa news release
  • Potashcorp temporarily closes a third mine because of low demand
    • After recently temporarily closing down Lanigan and Rocanville mines, PotashCorp now decided to temporarily close Allan mine to because of lack of demand for fertilizer. The combined shutdown of the three mines results in approx. 1 million tonnes of potash, or some 10% of the company’s annual production.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; PotashCorp Q4 market analysis report; text
  • Unions in Canada and Zambia make their case for wage increases
    • A union representing copper mine workers in Zambia signaled the foreign miners will have to agree to higher salary increases than the average offer of 11% to prevent widespread strikes. At the same time Rio Tinto Alcan and Caterpillar are taking a strong position against unions in Canada by locking out union workers after expiry of the negotiation periods.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal on Zambia; Wall Street Journal on Canada

Trends & Implications:

    The mining industry for the last 2 years has been and continues to be gripped by 2 paradoxical fears:

  • The fear for slowing demand due to the lack of recovery after the financial crisis – With the financial crisis over 4 years old already the typical macro-economic cycle of 6-9 years has clearly been disrupted. Governments and companies are still operating in ‘crisis fighting’-mode because demand does not pick up like after a regular economic downturn. Large investments are still undertaken because the belief in the long term demand driven by population growth and growth of average GDP/capita is unchanged, but at the same time companies are trying to manage short term lack of demand by scaling down or temporarily closing operations.
  • The fear for strikes and civil unrest resulting from struggling individuals facing mining companies that continue to realize high profits – Despite the financial volatility the commodity prices generally have remained high, making mining companies among the few companies in the world that continue to generate high profits. With people around the world facing the economic crisis and feeling its impact, friction develops between the rich companies and the less well off workers and neighbours.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 43/’11: Uncertainty in Indonesia

October 23, 2011 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Freeport McMoran faces strikes in Indonesia
    • About half of the workers at Freeports’ Grasberg mine went on strike to demand higher pay, forcing the company to shut down operations. Several strikers have been killed by police and unknown gunmen in the past week.
    • Sources: FCX press release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • Rio Tinto sells aluminium, buys uranium
  • BHP shops for iron ore in Brazil
    • Junior miner Ferrous Resources, worth just over $3bln, is looking for a buyer. BHP Billiton and a Chinese company are talking with management to negotiate a price.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Fox Business

Trends & Implications:

  • Freeport’s social troubles in Indonesia are the latest labor issue in a rise of labor unrest in the latest year after years of relatively peace in the industry. The unrest mainly affects copper producers, which have seen profits rise with high copper prices, but did not want to increase worker’s compensation too much to secure long term competitiveness.
  • The large diversified miners are increasingly focusing their attention on a limited number of extremely large operations, divesting smaller operations. With the spending power of the ‘mining supermajors’ a divide seems to open between the few operators of the world’s key supply areas and the many operators of a range of smaller operations.
  • Rio Tinto might face challenges selling the unwanted aluminium assets in one package. Very few companies are able to do acquisitions worth over $7bln, and many of the companies that have the spending power might face antitrust limitations.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Strike Begins at Freeport Indonesia

September 16, 2011 Comments off

“Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s Indonesia unit suspended mining operations at its Grasberg mine in West Papua on Thursday, as workers started a strike that could last a month, a labor union spokesman said. ‘All of the mining operations, except for the public facilities, are shut down,’ Juli Parrorongan told Dow Jones Newswires in a text message. All workers at the mine are participating in the strike, which will last until Oct. 15 if the company refuses their demand for higher pay, Mr. Parrorongan said.

Freeport suspended operations during a weeklong strike at Grasberg in July and lost about 35 million pounds of copper and 60,000 ounces of gold output. ‘We are disappointed that union workers decided to implement an illegal work stoppage,’ PT Freeport Indonesia, which is 90.64% owned by Freeport-McMoRan, said in a statement. The company said that since July 20, it ‘has negotiated in a diligent good-faith manner’ with the union toward a collective labor agreement to cover 2011-13.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 15 2011

Observations:

  • Grasberg forecasted 2011 total mine sales of 1 billion pounds of copper and 1.3 million troy ounces of gold, representing approximately 3.1% of global copper production and 1.5% of global gold production.
  • Current negotiations started after an 8-day strike in July. Freeport offers a 22% wage increase over 2 years, but unions demand an increase of salaries by more than 100%.

Implications:

  • Copper price has been relatively stable for the year to date, but the news of the strike at Grasberg coincides with reports of falling production in Chile and increased buying by Chinese traders, potentially leading to a new price rally.
  • Several analysts still expect a modest global copper supply increase for the year. However, if strikes spread to other mines supply for the year might actually decrease for the first time in about a decade. Global production has almost doubled in the past 20 years, only experiencing a short stabilization in 2002-2003.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Antofagasta Raises Dividend

August 24, 2011 Comments off

“Chilean miner Antofagasta PLC on Tuesday doubled its interim dividend after reporting a 54% rise in first-half net profit due to higher average commodity prices and volumes. Chief Executive Marcelo Awad said the miner remains well positioned to deal with commodity-price volatility and relatively strong cost pressures given its low average net-cost position. …

Antofagasta expects global copper output to fall 500,000 tons short of demand this year and forecasts prices to average more than $4.20 a pound in the second half. This compares with $4 a pound in mid-August and a record average $4.26 a pound for a calendar half-year in the first half. Antofagasta reported an 84% rise in first-half earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, to $1.95 billion. Net profit rose 54% from a year earlier to $696.2 million, while the declared interim dividend rose to $0.08 a share from $0.04 a share in the same period a year ago.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, August 23 2011

Observations:

  • Antofagasta mainly operates in Chile. The key growth project is the ‘Esperanza’ project close to the operating ‘El Tesoro’ mine. Exploration in Peru, USA, Australia and Pakistan signals the ambition to expand internationally.
  • The company is controlled by the Luksic family, which holds approx. 65% of the shares.

Implications:

  • Antofagasta appears not to be affected by the strikes that stopped production in other mines in the region, signalling a good relationship of the management with the unions.
  • The payout ratio of 11% of profits is above expectations, but below the 35% benchmark the company adheres to. The management is either hoarding cash for a significant investment or is planning to announce a special dividend at the end of the year. Last year a special dividend of 100% was turned out at year end.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Chilean Copper-Mine Strike Continues

July 28, 2011 Comments off

“Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, declined the Chilean government’s offer of mediation in its labor conflict, Valor Futuro reported Tuesday, citing a company document. The sole union at the mine, representing 2,375 workers, went on strike late Thursday to protest what it says are unmet labor-contract terms.

‘We’ve received an invitation from the government to talk, and in this context we’ve given them our reasons for declining to participate at a negotiations table with union leaders while the illegal strike continues,’ reads the Escondida document as reported by Valor Futuro.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, July 26 2011

Observations:

  • Escondida (translated: ‘hidden’) is majority owned and operated by BHP Billiton. Unions demand higher bonuses, unmet housing benefits, the elimination of shifts lasting more than 12 hours, and protection for sick workers.
  • Daily lost output could add up to 3,000 tons. The company plays tough by refusing to continue negotiations as long as the strikes continue.

Implications:

  • The wave of new labor contracts reached for various copper mines in Chile through collective bargaining has gone relatively smooth so far. Leaders of Codelco have expressed fear that the conflict at Escondida could spread to other companies.
  • High commodity prices and increased resource nationalism have led to a surge in mine operation strikes in the last months: BHP’s Australian coal operations, South African coal mines, and Escondida being the most well-known. Companies try to maximize output and make record profits while prices are high, and in turn workers demand a larger part of this profit then originally agreed upon.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

BHP faces more industrial action at coal mines

June 27, 2011 Comments off

“BHP Billiton Ltd. is facing a third round of industrial action in Australia this week at its coking coal mines, further disrupting output from the world’s largest exporter of the steelmaking material.

Workers at seven mining sites owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance in Queensland state’s Bowen Basin won’t do any “non-rostered” overtime on June 30 and July 1, Stephen Smyth, a division president at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Queensland, said by telephone today.

Coal mine workers began their second round of strikes on June 24 and they’ll finish on June 29, said Smyth. BHP has been notified about the latest plan and further strikes are possible next week, he said.”

Source: Bloomberg, June 27 2011

Observations:

  • Over 3,000 workers at the BMA coal mines are campaigning for better contract rights for contracted workers and to retain the union’s power in recruiting decisions.
  • BMA is using a contract workforce to minimize loss of production caused by the strikes. Lost production could be up to 130Kt per day, or just over an average ship of export capacity.

Implications:

  • Negotiations are progressing slowly, and will continue to do so as long as production continues. If the unionized staff manages to convince the contract workers (roughly 50% of personnel) to lay down the work the pressure on BMA management would increase.
  • Various other miners in similar situations have shut down operations, fired the staff, and rehired the loyal staff members on own terms. BHP certainly will try to prevent this situation, as it would hurt the company’s reputation as a top employer.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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