Archive

Posts Tagged ‘union’

Mining Week 42/’12: South Africa strikes; Glenstrate voting scheme

October 8, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • South African strikes spread; workers fired
    • Illegal (wildcat) strikes in South Africa have spread to more or less all major miners in the country. Anglo American’s Kumba iron ore and platinum operations are faced with production disruptions, as are Xstrata, GoldFields, Anglogold, and most other major mining houses in the country.
    • South African strikes escalated when police shot down Lonmin strikers. After Lonmin agreed to a 22% wage increase workers in other companies demanded similar increases, bypassing the traditional unions. Several companies are trying to set up structured wage discussions to come to a collective agreement.
    • AngloAmerican’s Amplats decided to fire 12 thousand striking workers, which is a fifth of its total workforce.
    • Sources: Anglo American press releases1 2; Financial Times 2; wall Street Journal
  • Xstrata board recommends Glenstrata deal and complicates voting
    • Xstrata’s board of directors issues advice for the company shareholders to accept the merger proposal to form Glenstrata. The voting structure has been set up to assess support for a deal both with and without an extensive retention package for Xstrata’s top management.
    • Shareholders will vote first on the merger proposal both including and excluding the retention package, requiring a 75% majority excluding Glencore’s votes. Then the vote on the retention package will be done separately, requiring only a 50% majority of votes.
    • Sources: BusinessWeek; Financial Times

Trends & Implications:

  • The voting scheme is set up by Xstrata’s board to have a safety net for the deal in case the shareholders don’t accept the management retention package. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund is the largest shareholder that can vote on the merger deal; it has not voiced its opinion on the improved Glencore offer and on the management incentives, but insiders indicate the group considers retention of Xstrata’s officers a key priority. Key unknown in the voting mechanism is whether or not the results of the first two questions (on the merger) are made public before the 3rd vote on the retention scheme.
  • The unrest in South Africa is much wider than the mining industry, and as such requires solutions that are much broader than the industry. In the short term a large part of the workers might return to work with a significant increase in wages as demonstrated in the Lonmin case. However, as long as this increase does not span across the industry the workers that have not been given a raise will turn to strikes to stress their demands. The mining houses will have to work nationwide to find a sustainable solution for the industry, which is hard because South African miners operate on the high end of the global cost structure for many commodities. The task is even harder when taking in account that social unrest will continue as long as the issues in related and supplying industries continue.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Advertisements

Mining Week 34/’12: Lonmin labor dispute turns deadly

August 18, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Fights between police and striking Lonmin workers results in over 40 deaths
    • Over 40 miners and several police officers were killed in clashes with the police at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa, where workers had been on strike for about a week demanding wage increases.
    • Competing trade unions trying to ‘control’ the workforce are mentioned as part of the reason the conflicts turned into strikes and violence.
    • On August 16th, in the midst of the developments around the violence in South Africa, Lonmin’s CEO was diagnosed with serious illness and is temporarily replaced by the chairman of the board.
    • Sources: Lonmin press release; Mining Weekly; Wall Street Journal
  • Anglo American finalizes acquisition of 40% stake in De Beers
    • Anglo American paid $5.1bln for the 40% stake of De Beers previously owned by the Oppenheimer family. The company now owns 85% of the major diamond producer.
    • The deal was announced announced in November of last year; diamond prices have dropped significantly since that announcement.
    • Sources: Anglo press release; Financial Times

Trends & Implications:

  • The global platinum market is facing significant oversupply, keeping prices low and pushing platinum miners into the red. Lonmin is the highest cost producer among the major producers, putting it in a position in which is can’t keep workers satisfied without pay raises while it can not raise wages without making big losses. Anglo Platinum currently controls approx. 40% of global production in mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Various other miners have called on Anglo to cut production to make prices rise.
  • The social and political situation in South Africa is causing most international mining companies without strong ties to the country to think twice before investing in the country: high tax rates, active and unpredictable unions, political leaders calling for mine nationalization, and the startup of a ‘national mining company’ result in a very high country risk level.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining News 22/’12: Codelco CEO change; Australia recruits overseas

May 28, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Codelco’s CEO quits
    • Diego Hernandez, Codelco’s CEO, decided to quit prior to the end of his terms for personal reasons. Conflicts around the level of interference by the board in management of the government-controlled company are mentioned as the reason. CFO Thomas Keller will take over as CEO.
    • The change of CEO comes in a critical period for Codelco as it is in a legal battle with Anglo American about the ‘Sur’ project, in which Codelco claims to have the option to buy a larger part than Anglo wants to sell.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal; Reuters
  • Australia implements law to make hiring immigrant workers easier
    • Australia’s new Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) makes it possible to bring in foreign workers on fixed term contracts for projects with an investment of $2bln or higher and a peak workforce of over 1500 employees.
    • The EMA takes a project-wide labor agreement approach, making it possible to have subcontractors bring in people via the overarching project agreement.
    • Sources: Australian government; Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • GlenStrata focuses on retention of Xstrata executives
    • As part of the merger deal with Glencore the Xstrata shareholders will get to vote on a $78mln bonus for Mick Davis to stay on for another 3 years. Other executive directors will be offered retention bonuses too.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Reuters;

Trends & Implications:

  • Australia’s EMA will mainly be used for low skilled construction workers. The shortage of highly skilled planning and engineering employees is unlikely to be resolved as those contracts are typically not fixed-term and not project-specific. The Australian government expects it needs to add 89 thousand short-term workers in the next years. Still the unions, which are very powerful in Australia’s resources sector, are complaining about the Agreement, saying that bringing in workers for overseas will hurt the domestic labor market. A key issue in the flexibility of this market is that many workers are available in the East coast region, but most of the work is available in the remote areas on the West coast.
  • As ‘deal-friendly’ investors have built up a share ownership that makes it likely that Xstrata’s shareholders will vote in favor of the merger with Glencore in the currently proposed 2.8x share proportion, the focus of management activity shifts back to regulatory issues and planning for post-merger activities. A key issue in th successful integration of the companies will be to join the corporate cultures of the trader and the miner. The retention efforts will likely go further than just executive leadership, targeting several hundreds of top management. At the same time the company will have to work on retaining the top traders and top management from Glencore’s side.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 09/’12: Focus back to operational challenges

March 4, 2012 1 comment

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Rio Tinto invests over $0.5bln on driverless trains
    • Rio Tinto announced a large investment in its ‘Mine of the Future’ program to make the first of its approx. 150 trains on the Pilbara iron ore network driverless by 2014. The program will cost the company over $500mln, though it remains unclear what part of that amount is ‘research’ and what part is plain ‘hardware’.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Financial Times; Sydney Morning Herald on union reaction
  • Kazakhmys sees costs rise faster than revenues
    • Kazakhmys, the Kazakh copper miner, posted flat profits as growth was offset by cost increase of over 20%, mainly due to skyrocketing labour costs in the country’s resource market. The company also made bullish statements about growth of the copper demand in China.
    • Sources: Company overview; Financial Times; Reuters

Trends & Implications:

  • Driverless trains are only one step in the larger automation effort for which Rio Tinto is the technology leader. Other areas of research are improving exploration performance and increasing recovery, especially from underground mines. A lot of the automation work focuses on the iron ore operations in Northern Australia. These operations have the scale to enable large savings by automation, and they struggle continuously with finding sufficient skilled employees at acceptable costs.
  • Whether or not Rio Tinto’s role as the ‘technology leader‘ is a smart strategy is debatable: one might argue that begin a ‘smart follower‘, and thus not paying for the disappointments any large-scale research program holds, is more cost-effective. However, Rio Tinto has taken the approach that any research that can pay for itself in the long term is worth doing. Clearly the company will try to protect its findings as much as possible, but other companies will certainly start using its innovations in some way, reducing demand for skilled labor in remote positions and improving recovery potential.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Vale Reaches Pact With Mine Workers

September 30, 2011 Comments off

“Brazilian mining company Vale SA said Thursday it struck a two-year collective labor accord with all of the country’s mining workers’ unions. The accord will give Vale employees an 8.6% pay rise effective November and a further 8% pay increase in November 2012, Vale said in a statement. In addition, the employees will get a bonus each year of 1,400 Brazilian reais ($744.68), the company said.

Also, employees who stay in their posts during the next two years will gain a special one-off bonus equivalent to 1.7 times their monthly salary under the agreement. This is designed to keep employees from leaving Vale to join rival iron-ore producers in Brazil, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled manpower in the mining and metals industry.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 22 2011

Observations:

  • Out of 71 thousand of Vale’s employees (Dec 31 2010) approx. 60 thousand work in Brazil.
  • The agreement holds the middle between Vale’s initial 7.5%/y offer and the union’s ‘15%/y plus bonuses’ demands. In previous years Vale gave a 7% increase annually. Inflation rate in Brazil has been around 5-6% over the past years.

Implications:

  • Creative bonus systems will become a more important part of the mining remuneration policies because skilled resources and talent are becoming increasingly scarce in the mining industry.
  • Brazil’s National Mining Plan foresees growth of the domestic iron ore production of 58% from 2011 to 2015. Current high ore prices will help to finance aggressive expansion, but the legislative processes around development and the shortage of workers form two important obstacles to realize this objective.

©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

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

%d bloggers like this: