Hexagon opens new mining headquarters in Tucson, Arizona

TUCSON, ARIZONA, JULY 12, 2018 – Hexagon‘s Mining division has opened its North American headquarters in the emerging technology hub of downtown Tucson, Arizona. The move from the city’s outskirts to the newly built and designed Hexagon building at City Park, 40 East Congress Street, heralds a new era for the company.

Not only does it solidify plans to add 120 jobs over the next five years, it thrusts the company into a thriving, pedestrian-friendly city center. Bike paths, the street car, hotels and recreation are all steps away. The five-storey building is both contemporary and sleek, including open floor plans, a rooftop patio, restaurants, and coffee shop. Wi-Fi and digital signage feature throughout Hexagon‘s top three floors, which comprise private offices, workspace banks, communal areas to meet and brainstorm, a 400-person auditorium and sound-proof rooms for solo work.

Hexagon brings the digital mine to visitors in its fifth-floor Experience Center, an interactive showcase of life-of-mine solutions. Augmented reality, virtual reality, and truck cabin simulation are just some of the Center’s features, which employ hands-on hardware and software to fully immerse visitors into the modern operation. The space includes a training center and event facility with full broadcast capabilities.

“Downtown Tucson is the ideal location for a North American headquarters of a global technology company,“ said Mining division President, Josh Weiss. “It’s highly attractive for millennial talent from universities and abroad. Better yet, as a training center for customers, this location allows us to fully expose the rich possibilities of a smarter, safer, fully connected mine.“

Tucson Mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, lauded Hexagon’s move: "Bringing a tech company headquarters to a new downtown building is a double win for Tucson," said Rothschild. "Hexagon will be part of Tucson's emerging downtown technology hub."

Today‘s move downtown coincides with the Mining division’s opening of a new state of the art production and research facility near Tucson Airport. The facility will enable Hexagon to expand production capacity, improve product quality and enhance research capabilities.

About Hexagon

Hexagon is a global leader in digital solutions that create Autonomous Connected Ecosystems (ACE), a state where data is connected seamlessly through the convergence of the physical world with the digital, and intelligence is built-in to all processes.

Hexagon’s industry-specific solutions leverage domain expertise in sensor technologies, software, and data orchestration to create Smart Digital Realities™ that improve productivity and quality across manufacturing, infrastructure, safety and mobility applications.

Hexagon’s Mining division solves surface and underground challenges with proven technologies for planning, operations, and safety.

Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has approximately 18,000 employees in 50 countries and net sales of approximately 3.5bn EUR. Learn more at hexagon.com and follow us @HexagonAB.

For further information
Neville Judd
Communications Director,
Hexagon Mining
+ 1.604.505.6154
[email protected]
@hexagonmining

Brazil changes rules – Mining investor big winners

Brazil has been one of the hardest hit countries since the natural resources boom ended. This resulted in Brazil falling into a very deep recession and foreign direct investment dropping by more than 75% from its peak. But the rules of the game changed in June, setting the stage to dramatically change investor outlook in its mining sector for a number of years ahead. This is after little changes in Brazil’s mining sector going back to 1967.

But before putting money to work in Brazil, most investors and speculators can think about a number of issues the country has faced since the commodities boom ended. For instance:

  • Foreign Direct Investment is down by more than 50% since the peak in 2011
  • Mining Disaster in 2015
  • Mining Bankruptcy: Luna Gold
  • Currency Heavily Depreciated
  • Increased Political Challenges over the past few years

These are all the hallmarks of wanting to shy away as an investor. In the short-term, we see these as only temporary, and more issues may continue to unfold because Brazil is primarily a natural resources country. Just like Canada, and Australia that are heavily influenced by the prices of oil, iron ore, and other natural resources. Brazil is no different, with iron ore, crude, soybeans, raw sugar and gold accounting for almost 30% of the country’s exports in 2016. (Source: MIT)

What Happened? The BIGGEST Change in Brazil’s Mining Sector in 50 Years

Brazil updated its mining code that has changed little since 1967, that will positively impact investors looking to invest in the sector.

“…allow for mining titles to be used as guarantees for financing, aimed at stimulating investment in the sector and to allow miners to continue exploring for minerals while production license applications are pending,” the Mines and Energy Ministry said.(Reuters)

Legal classifications for mining resources, which still use terms from a 1967 mining code, will come into line with global standards, and filings for permits will be more focused on economic feasibility, the two sources said. (Reuters)

President Temer signed the decrees on Tuesday, saying the economy needed a competitive, innovative and sustainable mining industry. "The mining code has been modernised and reflects the best international practices, as well as improving legal certainty," he said in a translated tweet, "which helps to attract more investments and jobs for our country." Mining Journal

What Does the New Rule Changes Open Up For Investors?

The decree would open up roughly 20,000 exploration areas where permit applications have stalled or been abandoned, one source said. Those blocks, which account for about a tenth of areas in Brazil with permits pending, would be subject to new auctions. (Reuters)

"Brazil is opening up its markets and there are many opportunities," Andre Clark, head of Siemens in Brazil.

Why Do the Policy Change?

"The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability," the Brazil ministry said in a statement.

“With this (decree), we will ensure our attractiveness to foreign capital,” the second source said. “There will be the legal security necessary for people to invest in Brazil.” (Reuters)

The Timing of The Policy Change

If we take into account a rotation from equities to commodities, then this is a huge positive policy change at the start of the commodities cycle. Brazil has the potential in the coming natural resource boom to be a big winner again for investors because it is setting policies in place to help the country grow again and attract investment. There are plenty of different commodities for investors to invest in Brazil. These new mining policies have a high probability of improving investor sentiment of Brazil. Government policies can pull or push away investment, and these new changes will pull in investment into Brazil, particularly as the commodity cycle unfolds. In turn, new job opportunities will open up in Brazil’s mining sector.

Bloomberg Interview with Mark Mobius – July 11, 2018

Host: “Do we know enough who the winners might be in your view?”

Mobius: “In our view, in terms of the emerging markets, some of the most interesting now because of their tremendous decline in the currencies and markets, would be Brazil.

Host: “Do you think we bottomed across emerging markets, just generally speaking from a sentiment play?”

Mobius: “I can’t say they bottomed. Emerging markets as you know are down about 20 something percent in general. Some markets are down more than that. I expect probably another 10%. As you know about a year ago, I said probably a 30% decline/correction. I think we will still achieve that. But now of course, now is the time to begin looking and locating those companies in emerging markets. The opportunities are going to get better. The currencies look very cheap as you know. The markets are down in many cases substantially. Places like Brazil, Argentina, these are really bombed out markets.”

Host: “Bombed out presents the opportunity of being greedy when others are fearful.”

Mobius: “That’s always been the case. The problem of course is putting money to work when markets are down substantially. One of the reasons of course, is that investors hold back. And therefore, we don’t have the cash to put money to in these markets. People are learning, there are a lot of investors that are willing to go into these bombed out markets.”

Wealthy Group and Strategic Investors that Added to Their Investments in Brazil in 2018:

In recent months there has been an increased activity of successful mining investors deploying capital into Brazil while gold price remains down. These are investors with a proven track record of creating wealth with a longer-term focus than just 3-6 months.

  1. Ross Beatty via Equinox
  2. Sprott and Lundin family in joint investment via Americano Mining
  3. Mitsui investing in Vale
    • Asked whether Mitsui could buy all of the shareholders’ stake if it were offered as a parcel, Takebe said: “I wouldn’t rule out possibility, but it’s unlikely that we would buy all the shares on sale.” Source: Reuters
  4. Anglo American
    • Anglo has confirmed to Reuters it had obtained permits covering almost 1.9 million hectares to explore in the Mato Grosso and Para states but said it was too soon to make claims about the project's viability.
    • Brazil's national mining agency director general Victor Bicca told the wire service it could be a "mega deposit" with similar mineral content to Chile. Source: Mining Journal
  5. Royal Gold investment to obtain royalty of Amarillo Gold (Source: Amarillo Gold)

There are a number of companies already invested in Brazil, and this new rule could entice them to further invest in the country with these new rule changes. They’ll be able to utilize their first mover advantage versus everyone else. Already registered companies, established teams, relationships, etc.

  1. Vale
  2. BHP Billiton Limited
  3. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.
  4. Kinross Gold Corporation
  5. Alcoa Inversiones España
  6. Hydro ASA
  7. ArcelorMittal
  8. Anglo American
  9. Yamana Gold, Inc.
  10. Novelis
  11. ThyssenKrupp CSA
  12. Sao Bento Mineracao
  13. Technip
  14. Goldmining
  15. Equinox Gold
  16. Americano Mining

Brazil is the #1 producer in niobium, 2nd largest producer of iron ore and manganese, as part of the almost 80 mineral commodities that Brazil produces. The big winners will be on gold and copper investment because there is more certainty with customers, and investors are more familiar with these commodities. Electric vehicles will create a new source of demand for copper, that no one truly knows the demand side.

Policy changes can dramatically positively or negatively impact investor sentiment. We think in Brazil’s case; these new mining updates positively improve investor sentiment over the coming years ahead. Will the currency and other issues probably come up in the meantime as the natural resources boom has yet to take hold? We think there’s a high probability chance. Smart money is already deploying capital in the country, and those investors that are willing to take a multi-year view on Brazil; mining in Brazil has the potential to eclipse what it did in the last cycle because of these new policy changes. Copper and gold projects will be some of the big winners, particularly as electric vehicle demand grows. Being greedy when others are fearful, puts Brazil near the top to consider for natural resource investors and investors looking for deep value opportunities.

Paul Farrugia, BCom. Paul is the President & CEO of First Macro Capital. He helps his readers identify mining stocks to hold for the long-term. He provides a checklist to find winning gold and silver mining producer stocks, including battery metals.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. It is not designed to meet your financial situation – we are not investment advisors, nor do we give personalized investment advice. The opinions expressed herein are those of the publisher and are subject to change without notice. It may become outdated, and there is no obligation to update any such information.

Investments recommended in our publications, blog posts, emails, online communications, or any online contents published by any party of First Macro Capital and its affiliated companies should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company in question. You should not make any decision based solely on what you read here.

First Macro Capital writers and publications do not take compensation in any form for covering those securities or commodities. First Macro Capital employees and agents of First Macro Capital and its affiliated companies own some of the stocks mentioned in this article, prior to the writing of this article.

How mining tycoons are trying to foil a big UK bribery probe

(Bloomberg) — It’s a faint echo of the defense being floated by targets of the Mueller probe in the U.S.—an unaccountable circle of bureaucrats manipulating the system to their own ends.

But in London, it’s the last ditch effort by a trio of Kazakh oligarchs to derail the U.K.’s biggest bribery investigation.

The mining tycoons behind Eurasian Natural Resources Corp., the former FTSE 100 company suspected of paying bribes to buy mines in Kazakhstan and Africa, say their own lawyer conspired with Britain’s top cop to incriminate them so he could fleece them for millions of pounds.

Even if they can’t convince a court of this hypothesis, the case will undoubtedly frustrate attempts to bring criminal charges against them and drag out proceedings for months, if not years.

“It’ll complicate the decision about what evidence is usable,” said Michael Levi, a criminal law professor at Cardiff University. “That might be the benefit of muddying the water. Anyone can do this if they have enough money. You need to have enough money, is the key.”"Anyone can do this if they have enough money. You need to have enough money, is the key.”

Since the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office started investigating ENRC in 2013, Alexander Machkevitch, Alijan Ibragimov, and Patokh Chodiev—often dubbed the Trio—have gone to great lengths to unwind ties to the City of London. Within months, the oligarchs from the former Soviet Union had delisted ENRC’s stock after suggestions of widespread corruption sent it crashing out of the FTSE 100.

“Ultimately, it should lead to the closure of the case. It’s really scandalous”

The Trio blame Neil Gerrard, a white collar London crime lawyer for Dechert LLP, for arousing the SFO’s suspicions. They’d hired him to conduct a private investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower and, according to court documents last month, say he blew it out of proportion, even plotting with the SFO to leak details to The Times newspaper so the watchdog would have an excuse to start its probe. Gerrard denies this ever happened.

“If you have senior figures at the SFO colluding with our own lawyers, this is a fundamental issue which goes to the heart of the legitimacy of the investigation,” ENRC’s general counsel Dmitry Egorov said in an interview in London. “Ultimately, it should lead to the closure of the case. It’s really scandalous.”

The charges are reminiscent of attempts by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, to undermine U.S. Special Council Robert Mueller’s case against him by pointing to media leaks his lawyers say have prejudiced his chances at a fair trial.

In its lawsuit, ENRC says Gerrard frequently flaunted his relationship with the SFO, which was considering him for its top job in 2011. The fraud investigator declined to comment on the lawsuit or status of its probe.

The miner’s lawyers are demanding the SFO disclose notebooks, emails, calendar entries and phone records. If they prove there was collusion, it could hypothetically pave the way for a judicial review to stop the watchdog’s probe on technical grounds.

While it seems like a stretch, it’s not entirely unprecedented. British-Iranian property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz won compensation and an apology from the SFO in 2012, after the body admitted it didn’t have a valid warrant when it raided the fraud suspects’ Mayfair residence. ENRC’s lawyers refer to the Tchenguiz case in their argument.

In another probe, oil-services company Unaoil Monaco SAM had proceedings delayed by challenging the legal basis for an SFO raid on its premises. A judge dismissed the claim last year.

“ENRC’s real complaint is that the defendants were too successful uncovering wrongdoing”“ENRC’s real complaint is that the defendants were too successful uncovering wrongdoing”

In a defense claim revealed last month, Gerrard and Dechert insist they didn’t betray their client. They say the SFO had plenty of ammunition without them, including 13 suspicious activity reports detailing possible corruption and sanctions breaches involving ENRC. The U.S. Justice Department was investigating an ENRC deal, too.

According to its claim, the law firm’s own digging uncovered “serious criminality” related to copper mines purchased in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. The court papers say ENRC paid Dan Gertler, a friend of Congo’s president, $40 million in cash, which a U.S. case later connected to corruption. Dechert also says it has proof the Trio pocketed $300 million from the sale of a Zambian copper mine to ENRC for more than it was worth. ENRC refute these allegations.

When Gerrard tried to convince ENRC managers, including former CEO Felix Vulis, to cooperate with the SFO, court papers say they lied, destroyed and hid evidence, and intimidated cooperators. “ENRC’s real complaint is that the defendants were too successful uncovering wrongdoing,” they said.

Proof of fraud isn’t necessarily relevant to the ENRC claim. It says Gerrard was hired in good faith in 2010 to independently investigate an anonymous tip that one of its businesses based in Kazakhstan had misused corporate property and given a local police chief’s son a $38,000 scholarship. But it wasn’t long before Gerrard was alleged to have put undue pressure on ENRC executives to expand his probe to Africa, “ballooning of the investigations beyond all proportion.”

According to his accusers, Gerrard became aggressive, pushing ENRC to take his findings to the SFO even though it wasn’t in their best interest. He then plotted with the SFO covertly to leak information that the watchdog could use to initiate its probe. ENRC claims it has a witness statement from the man who delivered a package to The Times on Gerrard’s behalf.

At about the time of the newspaper leak, Gerrard, they allege, told two security consultants over coffee at a brasserie on London’s Sloane Square he wanted to “screw” his Kazakh mining clients for millions of pounds. He denies uttering those words.

By the time the Trio fired Dechert in the spring of 2013, ENRC had paid 16 million pounds ($21 million) in legal fees—a sum ENRC is now suing to recover. It says Gerrard demonstrated “reckless disregard for his duties in order to grossly inflate the bills which Dechert charged ENRC.”

The Trio may well buy time with this case, but that doesn’t mean the SFO will walk away from more than five years of work, according to Polly Sprenger, a London-based lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman. Just last week U.K. prosecutors issued a warrant for the arrest of Benedikt Sobotka, the CEO of related company Eurasian Resources Group, after he failed to appear for questioning, although he isn’t a suspect.

“I would be troubled by the suggestion that the SFO would be intimidated by any attempt to shame it into backing off an investigation,” said Sprenger, a former SFO investigator. The watchdog “is aware of these things and is sufficiently protected against this.”

(By Franz Wild)

S. Africa unions decry fatalities as six die at copper mine

(Bloomberg) — South Africa’s mining industry is heading for the deadliest year since 2012 after six people died in an underground fire at Palabora Mining Co.’s copper operation.

Sunday’s accident brings the industry’s total to at least 54 and is the second-worst incident this year after seven people died at a Sibanye Gold Ltd. mine when an earth tremor cased a rockfall. The incident will be investigated by the Department of Mineral Resources, Minister Gwede Mantashe said.

“These deaths add to an already-high number of lost lives in the industry since the beginning of the year,” Mantashe said in an emailed statement.

South African mining fatalities increased last year for the first time in a decade and, six and a half months into 2018, the industry is on pace for the most deaths since the 112 reported in 2012. While the toll is still far below the 553 recorded in 1995, the trend poses questions about the future of mining in South Africa, as workers follow depleting orebodies deeper in a country that’s been mined commercially for over a century.

A focus on safety this year has mainly fallen on Sibanye, the nation’s biggest gold mining employer, whose operations account for 21 deaths so far. Sibanye, labor unions and the DMR last month pledged to form a plan of action to address health and safety.

“We want more accountability” and other measures in order to improve safety, Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union, said by phone Monday.“We want more accountability.”

Palabora Mining operates an underground mine that produces 80,000 metric tons of copper ore a year, according to the company’s website. It was sold by Rio Tinto Group and Anglo American Plc to a consortium of investors including Hebei Iron & Steel Group Mining Co., China’s largest steelmaker, in a deal concluded in 2013.

“We vehemently condemn this kind of incident,” the National Union of Mineworkers said Monday in an emailed statement. “We further urge the DMR, which is the regulator, to play its role in ensuring that mines are safe and put the safety of the mineworkers as a priority.”

(By Paul Burkhardt and Felix Njini)

African conglomerate Moti is open to $500m stake sale

(Bloomberg) — Sub-Saharan conglomerate Moti Group is considering selling a $500 million stake in the group that spans chrome-ore mining to aviation.

Chairman Zunaid Moti said he’d be willing to sell as much as 25 percent of the closely held company to the right partner, but ruled out any prospect of an initial public offering.

“At some stage we would look to partly monetize,” Moti said in an interview in London. “I want to take some money off the table and put it into other things. Now might be a good time.”

The Johannesburg-based company also offers security and transport services and has increased its exposure to Zimbabwe since former President Robert Mugabe was removed in November. His replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has said the country is “open for business” and that he’ll ease local ownership rules and re-engage lenders such as the International Monetary Fund.

Moti said earlier this year his company plans to spend $250 million in the next four years in the country.

“We would like to attract a high net worth who has a vision,” said Moti, who would also consider selling stakes in individual units such as the chrome business. “There has to be synergies with a new partner.”

Zimbabwe Chrome

Moti’s flagship operation is its African Chrome Fields Ltd. unit which mines the stainless steel ingredient in Zimbabwe. The company, which sells all its chrome ore to Glencore Plc, mines about 420,000 metric tons a year and could boost output to about 1 million tons by the end of 2019, the chairman said.

The company plans to increase production at its own alluvial mines, and is also looking to buy from artisanal miners locally. Moti has set up a training program for those small-scale miners, will provide them with safety equipment and will be able to pay them up to four times more than they currently get for selling hand-mined ore.

While artisanal production has a chequered reputation — often associated with child labor and environmental damage — various programs are being developed to help combat those issues. Diamond giant De Beers is starting a pilot program in Sierra Leone to trace the route from mine to consumer for what it calls ethically-sourced artisanal gems. Similar projects are being developed for commodities like cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(By Thomas Biesheuvel)

Cobalt — Production remains steady but supply security fears remain high

Global mined cobalt production showed a slight drop last year to 115,071 tonnes from 116,272 tonnes in 2016. The majority of cobalt supply is sourced from copper-cobalt operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the bulk of the remainder being attributed to nickel-cobalt operations worldwide.

The reduction in supply in 2017 was driven in large part by the loss of production from Lubumbashi Slag Hill, resulting in an overall reduction in output from the DRC. Supply risks are associated with the dominance of the DRC in cobalt supply, however these risks must be managed as there is no region that can match output from the DRC. We expect mined cobalt supply to increase at a CAGR of 12% to 2021 with the majority of the growth from formal mining operations in the DRC.

Production from up-coming significant cobalt supplier Kamoto (Glencore PLC) had not restarted during 2017. While copper production began slightly ahead of schedule at the end of 2017, cobalt supply started in Q1 2018, with the cobalt circuit beginning production in the final month of the quarter.

Lubumbashi Slag Hill ceased production during 2017 following a dispute between Groupe Forrest International, Gecamines and Shamrock Global Inc. The dispute resulted in the Group Forrest-owned Groupement du Terril de Lubumbashi, or GTL, losing access to feed for its pyrometallurgy plant, which has a capacity to produce up to 5,500 tonnes of cobalt. The dispute threatened to halt cobalt supply from the operation until the 2020s. In May this year, however, Gecamines and GTL agreed a settlement whereby GTL transfers full ownership of the pyrometallurgy plant to Gecamines. GTL also agreed to undertake required repairs to the plants furnace. With repairs required for the furnace — production from the operation is not expected to resume until 2019.

Etoile, owned by Shalina Resources Ltd, produced 5,000 tonnes of cobalt and is increasing its output of cobalt significantly in 2018. Shalina subsidiary Chemaf SPRL (Shalina) will also be introducing a new source of cobalt through a Solvent Extraction – Electrowinning, or SX-EW, plant at Mutoshi producing up to 16,000 tonnes of cobalt.

Vale's Voisey's Bay showed a significant increase in cobalt production as processed cobalt grades and recoveries increased. Vale also announced a cobalt-steaming agreement with Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. and Cobalt 27 Capital Corp., providing Vale an upfront US$690 million. Subsequent to its streaming announcement, Vale also announced that the previously postponed plan to expand the Voisey's Bay operation with an underground mine had now been approved. This provides a significant source of cobalt from outside the DRC beyond 2021, with the mine life potentially extending into the 2030s. Mine life potentially extending into the 2030s.

Cobalt supply risks

The DRC is currently the source of over 60% of global mined supply of cobalt. The Herfindahl-Hirschmann Index (HHI) is used to indicate the amount of competition amongst companies in an industry. We have applied this methodology to determine how concentrated the cobalt market is in terms of mined and refined supply by geographic region.

The HHI value indicates that the mined supply of cobalt has been concentrated since 2009 (a value over 0.25 indicates a concentrated market) and this is only going to increase with new production coming online in 2018-2020. However, since 2016 the country has being experiencing increasing political and social unrest in response to Presidents Joseph Kaliba's refusal to step down from office, in addition to inter-ethnic hostility. While this unrest has not had a significant effect on the historically restive Lualaba and Haut-Katanga provinces hosting the Roan copper-cobalt belt, there has being lingering concern that the violence and disturbance could spread throughout the country. The elections have been scheduled for December 2018.

However, aside from the social risks surrounding the elections, companies are seeing the risks of operating within the DRC realized with the revision of the Mining Code. Amongst the controversial features of the code are the increase in royalties of base and precious metals from 2.0-2.5% to 3.5%, the introduction of a royalty for "strategic minerals" of 10% (cobalt has been designated as a strategic mineral), and a super profits tax. However one of the biggest factors rattling miner's confidence is that existing stability clauses, protecting them from changes for 10 years, are being ignored.

The risk of cobalt being supplied from child labor in artisanal mining has been a widely publicized risk since early 2016. Artisanal mining in general is widespread in the DRC for numerous commodities. We’ve estimated that the proportion of artisanal cobalt from the DRC has been relatively high in recent years — up to 21%. However with the ramp-up of large scale industrial mining we expect the proportion of artisanal sourced cobalt to reduce relative to the total. There are contradicting indicators for the outlook on artisanal cobalt production. One being the increased demand and value of cobalt, and the other being international pressure to prove that cobalt being used in products is ethically sourced.

With this in mind, the DRC government is intending to use the experience it gained tackling child labor in the diamond industry and apply these learnings to the copper-cobalt industries. A program used in the diamond industry to move artisanal mining operations to small scale industrial co-operatives may be used.

Although the DRC government claims that child labor has been eliminated from copper-cobalt mining, end-use manufacturers are putting in place assurances to guarantee that "their" cobalt is ethically sourced. This includes attempts to acquire cobalt directly from a miner and utilizing blockchain technology to provide a secure chain of custody record. However these attempts would surely be undermined by the fact that the majority of cobalt — particularly for the battery industry — is purchased, mixed and processed by Chinese refiners. This makes tracking artisanal cobalt more difficult. It should be noted, however, that while artisanal mining is not an insignificant source of cobalt, the vast majority of cobalt is sourced from multinational commercial mining.

Even if the controllable risks are managed effectively, and assuming the upcoming elections run without disruption and dispute, the fact that such a large proportion of cobalt production is sourced from one geographic region still gives cause for concern that supply could be disrupted through non-controllable events, such as natural disasters, or regional disruption that could affect supply lines.Such a large proportion of cobalt production is sourced from one geographic region still gives cause for concern.

This is also true for the supply of refined cobalt, where China is the dominant supplier. China's policies are encouraging investment in the electric vehicle (EV) sector, not only in the design and manufacture of EVs but also in the development and manufacture of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries and their constituents. With a HHI value of over 0.37 the geographic supply of refined cobalt is very concentrated. China has been the largest supplier of refined cobalt since 2004, and has increased its market share almost continuously since. Chinese capacity was increased by over 50% in 2017, from 45,000 tonnes to over 69,000 tonnes. With this increase, China now supplies the majority of refined cobalt globally.

Significant upcoming projects

The supply of cobalt is set to increase significantly over the next five years. Growth is expected in the copper-cobalt sector in the DRC, with some significant producers expecting to come online and some existing suppliers increasing their output. A large proportion of existing and new copper production in the DRC utilize SX-EW. Copper is produced as cathodes, and cobalt is precipitated from the solution as cobalt hydroxide.

Kamoto (Glencore)

The Kamoto project ceased operation in 2015 as a new processing system was put in place, Whole Ore Leach, and the operation focused on waste development in preparation for restart. The cobalt production has restarted this year towards the end of the first quarter. The reported production for the month of March was over 500 tonnes. When at capacity, the operation will supply over 30,000 t/y of cobalt, which represents over 25% of 2017 global production. Cobalt production from this operation is in the form of cobalt hydroxide.

Metalkol RTR (Eurasian Resources Group)

The Metalkol RTR, Roan Tailings Retreatment, project is located outside Kolwezi in the DRC. The operation will process tailings dumped from mining activities in the 1950s. Metalkol will produce about 300,000 t/y of copper as well as 20,000 t/y of cobalt. Processing will be via SX-EW, and this will produce cobalt in the form of cobalt hydroxide.

Mutoshi (Shalina Resources)

The Mutoshi project is owned by Shalina Resources subsidiary, Chemaf. Located outside Kolwezi, the project is under construction and is expected to enter production in 2019. The operation will utilize SXEW processing and has reported that the plant will produce up to 16,000 t/y of cobalt contained in hydroxide.

Musonoi (Jinchuan)

Jinchuans Musonoi project will be an underground mine, once again, outside Kolwezi. Copper-cobalt production from Musonoi may be in the form of a bulk concentrate for export, or the concentrate may be calcined to feed an SX-EW plant. If exported as a concentrate, cobalt metal will be produced at a refinery. If processed through an SX-EW plant, cobalt hydroxide will be the end product to be exported. The operation could produce between 7,500 and 10,000 t/y of cobalt.

Non DRC supply

With the rapid increase in the cobalt price over the past two years, and the increased global demand from EVs, there has been intensified focus on cobalt exploration worldwide. Data for 2017 showed that cobalt had the largest increase in budget exploration expenditure both in the DRC and elsewhere. In addition to the increased focus on exploration, there are a number of promising projects with the potential to enter production in the short term.

Idaho (eCobalt Solutions)

The Idaho cobalt-copper-gold project is located in the U.S. and aims to supply the local industrial market. The mine is expected to produce about 1,500 t/y of cobalt as cobalt sulfate. The operation will be an underground mine producing cobalt, with copper and gold as by products. Much of the copper production will also be in sulfate form, with the main end use being in agriculture. A premium is expected to be received for the sulfate product, however there has been little indication that sulfates are actually commanding a premium in the market place. The project is expected to enter production in 2019/2020.

Nico (Fortune Minerals)

The Nico cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project is based in the North West Territory of Canada. The project requires that an all-season road be built from a main highway to the nearby community to allow for the transport of concentrates from the mine — the company has approvals in place to build a spur road from the mine to link with to the all-season road. The initial intention was to transport concentrates from the mine to a new processing plant in Saskatchewan to produce cobalt sulfate, however in light of significant interest by global mining and refining companies in purchasing concentrate direct from the mine, the company is also now considering deferring the construction of the refinery, reducing development capital expenditure by about 50%. The project is expected to produce about 1,700 t/y of cobalt when it enters production, potentially in 2020/2021

CleanTeQ Sunrise (CleanTeQ)

Formally called the Syerston project, this project is a potential producer of nickel and cobalt sulfates. A definitive feasibility study is expected this month which will include a significant increase in refinery capacity, potentially increasing production to 7,000 t/y. The project is located in New South Wales in Australia and is projected to begin operation in 2020/2021.

Metal, Hydroxide or Sulfates?

As the metallurgy of cobalt projects around the word differ from the DRC, the form of cobalt being produced is inevitably varied. Traditional sulfide projects generally sell concentrates to smelters and refiners producing metal, nickel-cobalt laterite operations utilizing high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) generally produce either cobalt hydroxide or carbonate, again frequently further refined to metal. However, some of the newer projects producing cobalt outside the DRC are intending to produce a cobalt sulfate.

While all the cobalt products can be processed for the manufacture of the cobalt chemicals used in batteries — cobalt metal needs the most processing, requiring both mechanical breaking down of briquettes or broken cathodes into powder and chemical conversion to the required cobalt chemicals. Cobalt hydroxide is already in a chemical salt form and can relatively easily be converted to other chemicals.

Cobalt sulfates are the most ideal form for battery manufacturers, requiring the least amount of processing prior to fabrication of the battery cathode. While production of cobalt sulfates would be possible at mine site processing plants in the DRC, the product is hygroscopic and so will absorb water from the atmosphere, making transport over long distances difficult. The areas where sulfate production is considered, however, are in North America and Australia, which are closer to their battery manufacture end markets, Asia and North America, than the DRC.

Future supply

As evidenced by the significant upcoming projects, cobalt supply will increase significantly over the five years from 2017 with a CAGR of over 12% to 2021. Much of the upcoming supply is being sourced from the DRC, which holds the largest reserves by a large margin.

There is very little likelihood that the DRC will cease to be the most important source of cobalt globally. Indeed, there is significant scope for production to be ramped up in the DRC, and with responsible management of the resource by government, producers and traders, this could be very beneficial for the local community.

The DRC alone has the ability to produce cobalt at the forecast 2018 levels every year for over 30 years with its current reserves. However the longer term outlook for cobalt supplies remaining dependent on the DRC is even starker when including the country's resource base — which could possibly be converted to reserves under the correct market conditions. The DRC alone contains about 50% of both global reserves and resources. The remaining 50% of reserves and resources are geographically diverse, with no region in a position to replace production if supply is disrupted from the DRC.

Current battery technology is being developed to minimize its cobalt content, and future, cobalt-free technologies are expected to be developed over the next 10 years. While supply risks to cobalt continue to be a hazard to industry, there is significant upside to production that can be realized before supply risks becoming constrained in the short or medium term. The risks being realized to cobalt supply remain political and social in nature, and these are risks that can be managed over time.

McEwen Mining reports Q2 2018 production results

TORONTO, Jul 16, 2018 – McEwen Mining Inc. (NYSE: MUX) (TSX: MUX) reports consolidated production for Q2 2018 of 36,959 gold ounces and 772,432 silver ounces, or 47,258 gold equivalent ounces(1)(“GEOs”), using a 75:1 gold to silver ratio.

Consolidated Production Summary

Q2 ‘18 Q1 ‘18 Q4 ‘17 Q3 ‘17 Q2 ‘17

Gold ounces 36,959 35,069 48,609 19,051 22,191

Silver ounces 772,432 695,651 926,739 749,749 779,487

GEOs 47,258 44,344 60,965 29,047 32,584

Highlights of the second quarter from our four mines including our newest mine in Nevada, which is under construction, are as follows:

Gold Bar Mine, USA (100%)

Construction activities at Gold Bar focused on the heap leach pad, and installation of the crushing and process facility. All major equipment and bulk materials are either on site or purchased. Engineering for the project is complete and approximately 90% of contracts are awarded. Construction is advancing on schedule for completion by the end of 2018, targeting production in Q1 2019. During the first three years of operation beginning with 2019, Gold Bar is projected to produce 55,000, 74,000 and 68,000 ounces of gold respectively.

Black Fox Mine, Canada (100%)

Black Fox produced 14,055 GEOs, in line with our full year production guidance for 2018 of 48,000 GEOs. A $15 million exploration program is ongoing across the Black Fox Complex, drilling results and other developments will be released quarterly, with the next update planned in the coming weeks.

El Gallo Mine, Mexico (100%)

El Gallo produced 10,808 GEOs, in line with our budget and full year production guidance for 2018 of 32,000 GEOs. By the end of Q2, mining and crushing activities ceased and contractor equipment has been demobilized from the mine site. Closure, reclamation and residual heap leach activities are ongoing and will continue for several years.

A new Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) study on the potential restart of production from the El Gallo Complex at some point in the future was published on July 9, 2018. The proposed development plan evaluated in the PEA is called Project Fenix. The key outcomes of Project Fenix include an average annual production rate of 47,000 ounces gold equivalent (AuEq), a 12-year mine life, low initial capital cost of $41 million for Phase 1 and $30 million for Phase 2, and pay-back period of 4.1 years. At current gold and silver prices the after-tax internal rate of return (IRR) is 28%, and the net present value (NPV) at a 5% discount rate is $60 million.

Capital cost estimates for Project Fenix are to a level of accuracy that is consistent with a PEA technical report. During the next 14 months we will continue to review mineral processing, mine sequencing, material transportation and tailings storage options; and the flow sheet will be optimized by undertaking trade-off studies, updating cost models and additional metallurgical testwork.

The PEA is available for review on our website and SEDAR (http://www.sedar.com).

San José Mine, Argentina (49%(2))

Our attributable production from San José was 12,139 gold ounces and 769,197 silver ounces, for a total of 22,395 GEOs. Production is on-track to achieve our full year guidance for 2018 of 91,000 GEOs. We received approximately $2.4 million in dividends from our interest in San José during Q2.

First Quarter Financial Results

Operating costs for the quarter ended June 30, 2018 will be released with our 10-Q Quarterly Financial Statements in early August. As of July 9, 2018 we are debt-free with liquid assets of approximately $30 million.

About McEwen Mining

McEwen’s goal is to qualify for inclusion in the S&P 500 Index by creating a profitable gold and silver producer. McEwen’s principal assets consist of: the San José mine in Santa Cruz, Argentina (49% interest); the El Gallo Gold mine in Mexico; the Black Fox mine in Timmins, Canada; the Gold Bar mine in Nevada that is currently under construction; and the large Los Azules copper project in Argentina that is advancing towards permitting.

McEwen has a total of 337 million shares outstanding. Rob McEwen, Chairman and Chief Owner, owns 24% of the shares.

Four miners killed in Georgia in coal mine accident, officials say

TBILISI, July 16 (Reuters) – Four miners were killed and six injured on Monday when the roof of a coal mine in western Georgia collapsed, the country's interior ministry said.

The accident occurred at the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli, 200 kilometres (124 miles) west of the capital, Tbilisi, the ministry said in a statement.

It added that the accident had been caused by a pressure bump – an explosion caused by thermal pressure. Four men were transferred to a hospital.

The government will close the mine until an investigation is complete and it gets the conclusions of international experts.

Sixteen miners have died at the mine in different accidents since 2011. The last similar accident occurred in April this year, when six miners were killed and three were injured.

"The state can't allow putting lives and health of its own citizens under threat and therefore we had decided to close the mine," the government said in a statement.

The mine is operated by Saknakhshiri, a Georgian company.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Larry King)

Top-grade iron ore may spike to $100

(Bloomberg) — High-grade iron ore may spike to $100 a metric ton as China intensifies a clampdown on pollution by restraining industrial activity, adding further momentum to a trend that’s reshaped the global market in recent years and driven buyers in Asia’s top economy seek out better-quality material.

After sinking in March, top-quality ore with 65 percent iron content gained every month, hitting $91 a ton on Friday, and keeping it in positive territory this year even as global trade frictions mounted, according to Mysteel.com. In contrast, benchmark 62 percent ore has flat-lined in the $60s, and is down 14 percent. The divergence has exploded the gap between the two.

 

“Short-term spikes to this level are entirely possible in response to Chinese production and policy announcements,” said Paul Gray, vice president for iron ore markets at Wood Mackenzie Ltd., referring to the $100 mark for top-grade prices. While WoodMac’s view is that high-quality ore won’t trade in three figures on a sustainable basis, spreads are expected to remain wide.

In a market characterized by extraordinary quantity — global iron ore shipments top 1.6 billion tons a year — the sustained push for quality among buyers stands to benefit top miners Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd. in Australia, as well as Brazil’s Vale SA as it brings on new high-grade deposits. After imposing unprecedented curbs on mills last winter, China is ratcheting up the pressure, expanding the area that will be affected by production restrictions and cutting capacity in Tangshan, a key steel-making hub.

“There’s been some structural shift that seems to be a preference for higher grade,” according to Iron Ore Research Pty Director Philip Kirchlechner, who said costlier coking coal and elevated mill margins were also driving the trend. “The premiums, they will not be reduced: I will expect the premiums for high-grade ore to be around the current levels and not decline.”

At WoodMac, Gray expects the spread between high-grade ore and benchmark material to average 26 percent during the Chinese winter, slightly higher than last time around. “Our-longer term view is for the spread between 62 percent and 65 percent to narrow slightly as Chinese steel margins contract,” he said.

Using higher-content ore — and supplies with lower levels of impurities, especially alumina — enables mills to produce more steel while cutting back on pollutants. Policy makers in China are stepping up their environmental push, and this month announced a three-year masterplan to intensify that push.Produce more steel while cutting back on pollutants.

The resilience of iron ore compared with other commodities was in view on Monday as copper, nickel and zinc lost ground in London as trade concerns mounted, while SGX AsiaClear iron ore futures rose. The benchmark SGX iron contract was 0.3 percent higher at $63.65 a ton, up for the fifth day in six.

Austalia’s View

The rising importance of quality has been flagged by Australia, the top iron ore shipper. Earlier this month, the Department of Industry, Innovation & Science said while spreads may narrow as steel production ramps up in China, that they won’t snap back to historical levels given the “ongoing government push to improve air quality through increasingly stringent air pollution policies.”

S&P Global Ratings made a similar point, but focused on the cheaper end of the market. The penalty for low-grade material, with less than 62 percent iron content and higher impurities “could stay elevated for some time, because China’s focus on combating pollution will favor higher-grade ore,” it said.

Benchmark iron ore is likely to break above $70 a ton in the fourth quarter when winter steel-curtailment measures take effect, according to Citigroup Inc. Increasingly strict emission standards and improved margins will boost demand for high-quality bulk commodities, including iron ore, the bank said in a note.

There are voices of caution, including from CRU Group, which highlighted prospects for rising high-grade ore supply, including production from Vale’s S11D in the Amazon. It also pointed to the expectation that after last winter’s curbs in China, mills will be better prepared this time around.

“The high-grade premium is driven by margins for Chinese steelmakers and coking coal prices, and we are expecting both of these to fall,” said CRU’s Erik Hedborg. “There is more high-grade supply on the way, with Vale’s S11D increasing production,” as well as from Canadian projects, he said.

For Iron Ore Research’s Kirchlechner, a former marketing head at Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the shift will continue to favor better quality material. “If you ask me if you prefer to be a high-grade or low-grade producer, I’d probably say that I’ll be happy if I was a high-grade producer.”

(By Krystal Chia)

India's growing cement industry: Ramco Cement Limited orders three LOESCHE vertical roller mills for its cement plants

Dusseldorf, 03 July 2018 – Since 1995, the Indian cement manufacturer, Ramco Cement Limited, has been successfully counting on well-proven LOESCHE mill technology.

One of the successful LOESCHE mills for the grinding of clinker and slag in Africa

The Ramco Cement Limited (RCL), India, is again relying on well-proven LOESCHE mills for three of its cement plants for the grinding of clinker and/or slag. For each cement plant, one vertical roller mill type LM 41.2+2 CS with two grinding rollers and two support rollers with a power range of 3000 kW and a capacity of 130 t/h has been ordered to grind the Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC). One of the two VRMs is to be implemented in Kolaghat, West Bengal (Northeast India, approx. 50 km from Calcutta), where RCL is currently increasing the annual tonnage of its grinding plant by 0.95 – 2 million. Here, clinker, slag, gypsum and fly ash from the material starting point for the end product.

The second of these mills will be used in the grinding plant in Gobburupalam in Visakhapatnam, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India. LOESCHE could now sell this mill type in India for the first time.

RCL has also purchased a third VRM type LM 46.2+2 CS with a capacity of 3.750 kW for its newly-constructed 900,000 annual tonnage cement plant in Haridaspur, Odisha in South east India. This mill grinds PPC with a throughput of 165 t/h. Mill fans, bag-type filters and further auxiliary equipment also belongs to the delivery, which will be carried out in approximately six months.

RCL has already successfully implemented a LOESCHE mill of this type in Haridaspur. Since 1995, Ramco Cement Limited has relied on well-proven LOESCHE mill technology. Not least because of the long-standing, reliable supplier relationship between LOESCHE and RCL, which followed the former Madras Cements Ltd, did LOESCHE receive this contract.

Under the lead of Madras Cements Ltd., a total of eleven LOESCHE mills have been implemented for the grinding of cement raw material, clinker brick, slag and coal for the cement plants Alathiyur I and II, Jayanthipuran and Ariyalur.

The Indian cement sector is considered an industry for the future due to the country's increasing construction activity and growth of an impressive 8 percent in the years 2014 to 2016. RCL's annual cement production amounts to around 14.45 million tonnes. RCL is part of the well-known conglomerate Ramco Group, the second-biggest industrial group in India, who, alongside the cement industry, is also active in the business area, wind energy, cotton, fiber composites, synthetic yarns and research & development.

On the move at SRK

13 July 2018 – Johannesburg: Leading global firm of engineers and scientists SRK Consulting has made a number of directorship and partnership appointments to its Global Board and its South African leadership.

At global level, South African partner Marcin Wertz has been appointed as a Director on the SRK Global Board. A mining engineer with over 31 years of experience, Wertz’s expertise includes the reviewing of mining methods, underground layouts and production scheduling for a range of underground hard rock mining conditions. He also conducts reserve audits, with an emphasis on the conversion of mineral resources to reserves. An important aspect of his work has been in the evaluation of underground operations, including issues of productivity; he also co-ordinates multi-disciplinary teams in conducting mining studies, from scoping and full feasibility studies to bankable standard.

Marcin Wertz – Partner and Director of SRK Consulting SA and SRK Global Board Member. Photography by Jeremy Glyn For SRK in May 2017.

Closer to home, SRK Consulting (South Africa) has appointed Cape Town-based partner Chris Dalgliesh as a Director. With 25 years of experience across a range of sectors in Africa and South America, Dalgliesh directs, manages and reviews environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) – focusing on ensuring compliance with Equator Principles and IFC Performance Standards. He works with clients to identify solutions to environmental challenges early in the project cycle – bringing insights from his economics background to highlight financial and social constraints.

Chris Dalgliesh – Cape Town Director of SRK Consulting SA.

SRK Consulting (South Africa) has also appointed one new Partner and three Associate Partners. The new Partner is Wouter Jordaan, who joined SRK in 2003 and is a Principal Environmental Scientist in the SRK Durban office and a Director in SRK’s DRC practice. His core roles are developing new business in East Africa and the DRC. He specialises in environmental due diligence, audits, environmental and social impact assessment, closure planning, sustainability standard implementation and geospatial analysis. He has extensive experience with greenfield and brownfield industrial developments across commodities and has been involved with various large‑scale linear infrastructure projects mainly related to power generation and electrification.

Wouter Jordaan – Partner SRK Consulting SA.

The three new Associate Partners are Steve Bartels, Lindsay Linzer and Sue Reuther. Bartels, a principal technologist in the SRK Johannesburg office, specialises in various aspects of civil engineering and has been with SRK since 2011. His work has included: road and rail design, construction, maintenance and rehabilitation; concrete technology; labour-intensive construction; structural steel fabrication; and tender process forensic audits. Among his recent southern African projects have been railway construction, lined stockpile storage facilities and project management.

Steve Bartels – Associate Partner SRK Consulting SA.

Linzer has 23 years’ combined experience in the processing and interpretation of seismic waves, and is a Principal Geophysicist in SRK’s Johannesburg office. She has a particular interest in mining seismology and has projects in the gold and platinum mining districts in South Africa and more recently, Sweden.  Among her specialist skills are determining seismic source mechanisms and forward modelling of elastic waves for different environments. She has applied state-of-the-art seismic reflection interpretation technology to extract information vital to shaft sinking, optimal borehole siting and mine planning.

Lindsay Linzer – Associate Partner SRK Consulting SA.

Reuther, a Principal Environmental Consultant in SRK’s Cape Town office, joined SRK in 2005 and has a combined 15 years of experience in environmental assessment and has practiced as an environmental consultant since 2005, after two years in finance. Besides managing environmental impact assessments and environmental and social due diligence reviews against IFC standards, she also undertakes specialist socio-economic and resource economic impact assessments. She has worked in a range of sectors, including mining, infrastructure, coastal developments, renewable and conventional power generation, aquaculture and oil and gas, across Africa and beyond.

Sue Reuther – Associate Partner and Principal Environmental Consultant in SRK’s Cape Town office.

DLA Piper Casablanca advises on acquisition of Moroccan Salts Ltd by Emmerson Plc

13 July 2018 – DLA Piper in Casablanca has assisted Moroccan Salts Limited (MSL) in its reverse takeover acquisition by Emmerson Plc, paving the way to its listing in the London Stock Exchange.

Emmerson acquired the entire share capital and voting rights of MSL for a total price of GBP 10 million, satisfied by the issuance of 333.3 new ordinary shares of a nominal value of GBP 0.03. The oversubscribed placing raised GBP 6 million.

Having entered into an agreement with MSL in October to acquire the company, the completion of the transaction means Emmerson now owns a 100% interest in the Khemisset Potash Project in Morocco.

The funds raised will allow Emmerson to continue the development of the Khemisset potash project.

In accordance with the requirements of the London Stock Exchange, the Casablanca team's services included a detailed review of MSL's Moroccan subsidiaries and the project's mining titles. The finalized review cleared the way for the reverse takeover and subsequent relisting of Emmerson Plc.

The DLA Piper team was led by counsel Peter Finan and partner Saad El Mernissi (both Finance, Projects & Restructuring group) and Associate Marie-Michele Banzio (Corporate group).

Christophe Bachelet, Country Managing Partner in Casablanca, commented "We are delighted to have played a part in facilitating such a positive outcome for our client. This was an important transaction for our office in Casablanca, and is further evidence of the confidence shown by international investors in the Kingdom of Morocco."

Robert Wrixon, Executive Director of Emmerson Plc said: "We've been very impressed by DLA Piper's work on this transaction, allowing for a smooth and timely completion to this transaction. With global demand for potash increasing, Morocco provides us with a stable and attractive environment to develop our operations and to benefit from its easy access to major markets".

For further information about the organization and services, visit www.dlapiper.com.

Copper trains ransacked by ‘Moles’ in full-moon desert heists

On nights lit by a full moon, thieves leap from trucks onto trains as they roll through Chile’s Atacama Desert, before throwing 80-kilo (180-pound) slabs of copper to the ground and disappearing into the dark.

It’s a tactic known as “the cat” and the robbers are “moles” because no one knows where they come from or where they hide their loot. What’s worse for the mines that dot the desert, the robberies are becoming more common and more audacious.

About 40 incidents were reported in the first half of this year, according to the prosecutor’s office in Antofagasta, up from just six in all of 2014. The thefts started to increase late 2017 as copper rose to the highest in more than two years. While prices have slumped in the past month, the thieves seem immune to the trade-war turmoil that’s rattling metal markets.

"Specialized gangs assaulting moving convoys has become common," Valeria Ibarra, Antofagasta’s regional coordinator of public safety, said by telephone on Thursday. "These are professionals. If they see that one company is taking security measures, they’ll just move on to the next one."

The sheets of stolen copper cathode are taken to illegal yards and sold as scrap at a 30 percent discount to market prices, Ibarra said.

In June, thieves stole 2.5 metric tons of the metal, worth more than $15,000 on the London Metals Exchange, from a moving train. Operators only noticed when they saw the dust the gang’s vehicles left behind as they escaped through the desert, according to local newspaper Mercurio de Calama.

The Victims

A common target for the thieves is Antofagasta Plc’s logistics unit Grupo FCAB, which owns and operates about 700 kilometers (430 miles) of railway lines used to transport cathode and semi-processed copper known as concentrate from mines to ports.

State-owned Codelco has also reported thefts, according to a statement by the prosecutor’s office in Antofagasta. Codelco didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Spence and Escondida copper mines, Antofagasta’s Zaldivar, Mantos Copper SA’s Mantos Blancos and Yamana Gold Inc.’s El Penon have all reported smaller robberies, prosecutors said.

“To avoid the frequency of these robberies and to protect workers, the company has strengthened its controls and preventive measures,” FCAB said in an emailed response to questions.

Robbers are getting more creative and more violent, Ibarra said.

A new method is known as "the anchor." When trains slow down in steeper areas, gangs hook a mooring line to a pile of cathodes and throw an anchor onto the railway lines. As the train advances, the pile weighing about 350 kilos (772 pounds) is dragged off the wagon and quickly picked it up by trucks.

Thursday Mystery

On Wednesday, Antofagasta’s regional government set up a permanent working group that includes the police, the government, FCAB, and mining companies to address the issue and coordinate surveillance and investigations.

One of their first tasks will be to solve a mystery — why so many of the robberies happen on Thursdays. Government officials are wondering if it coincides with a change in shifts, or if it has to do with the proximity to the weekend.

"The most worrying thing is the integrity of workers and security guards because criminals are acting with more violence and aggressiveness," Ibarra said. "We need to take action before its too late."

Written by Laura Millan Lombrana. Edited by James Attwood and Philip Sanders.

Africa's richest man signs $650 mln Afreximbank loan for oil refinery

Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, has signed a $650 million loan facility with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) for his oil refinery project in Nigeria.

The seven-year term loan would attract a moratorium of five years, according to facility terms read out during the signing.

Cairo-based Africa's trade bank also signed a $750 million facility with Nigeria's development bank, the Bank of Industry.

Reuters witnessed the signing of both loans on Saturday.

Dangote Group Executive Director Devakumar Edwin told Reuters last week that the oil refinery would cost around $10 billion and should be completed by December 2019.

He said the company would borrow $3.3 billion for the project, arranged by Standard Chartered Bank. The remainder will be funded by equity and through export agencies.

Dangote built his fortune on cement and now has interests in flour milling, agriculture and real estate. He is building the world's largest single oil refinery and also expanding into fertiliser, aiming to address long-standing problems in Nigeria's energy markets.

The refinery and petrochemical complex is located on 25,000 hectares of swampy land with a jetty to ferry products by sea within Nigeria and abroad including an undersea pipeline to transport gas. It would account for half of Dangote's sprawling assets when it is finished next year.

Dangote intends to process different grades of crude to meet local demand for refined petroleum products and also target export markets abroad.

Afreximbank, celebrating its 25 years of operation this year, aims to foster intra-African trade through the creation of a payment platform to ease settlement and currency risks.

Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Mark Potter and Stephen Powell.

Landslide at Myanmar jade mine kills at least 15, injures 45: official

A landslide killed at least 15 people in northern Myanmar on Saturday, with 45 others injured after the latest disaster in the Hpakant jade mining region, a local official said.

Miners searching for the precious mineral were buried by muddy earth from a slope that collapsed, said Kyaw Swar Aung, the administrator of Hpakant, in the northern Kachin state.

The search in the area of Lone Khin was called off for the day after 15 bodies were pulled from the mud and 45 injured people were taken to a nearby hospital, he told Reuters by phone.

“We stopped the search at 5:30pm and will continue tomorrow,” he said, adding that authorities had appealed to people in the area to report anyone still missing.

He said the affected miners were not working for a company. Informal jade scavengers, or hand-pickers, are frequently caught up in landslides in the poorly regulated mining area.

In May, at least 14 miners were killed in a similar collapse in the same area, and more than 100 people were killed in a landslide in Hpakant in 2015.

Han Thar, secretary for the ruling National League for Democracy party in Hpakant, spoke to Reuters from just above where the landslide had occurred, and said more people may still be buried in the rubble.

“There might have been about 100 people,” he said. “When the land fell into a pond, the workers in the water were buried by soil.”

Environmental advocacy group Global Witness put the value of jade production in Myanmar at around $31 billion in 2014. Experts say most of the stones are smuggled to China.

Reporting by Shoon Naing; Editing by Simon Lewis and Stephen Powell.

Pain for aluminium shorts as LME gets squeezed again: Andy Home

Opinion piece by Andy Home for Reuters.

Aluminium hasn't escaped the broader industrial metals rout.

The London Metal Exchange (LME) aluminium price has on Friday morning touched $2,021.50 per tonne, its lowest level since April.

The "Russian Premium", which resulted from the April 6 imposition of U.S. sanctions on Oleg Deripaska and his Russian aluminium empire Rusal, has been fully unwound.

The market is expecting sanctions to be lifted but aluminium's slide is also part of a broader metals retreat as macro concerns trump micro narratives.

That LME price, however, is for metal in three months time, a quirk of the London market that sets the global price benchmark.

Right now aluminium traders have much more pressing concerns in the form of a ferocious squeeze on the fast approaching July prompt date.

This is a market that is no stranger to sharp contractions in LME time spreads, but these squeezes are becoming both more frequent and more violent.

The obvious explanation is that curve tightness reflects low LME stocks, which have fallen to pre-financial crisis levels.

But is it now starting to tell us something more about what is happening to the massive off-market stocks that have been a feature of the market ever since 2008-2009?

Graphic on LME aluminium stocks and cash-to-three-months spread: https://tmsnrt.rs/2NKdv50

DOMINANT LONG PUNISHES SHORTS

Next week is the LME's "third-Wednesday" prime prompt date for July. It's another quirk of this exchange that the clear-out of positions will actually take place on Monday.

If you are short aluminium and want to stay that way, you have to roll the position forward. It's either that, buy back the position or, if you have it, deliver physical metal into an LME warehouse to settle the position.

To roll to next month, August, will currently cost you $68 per tonne .

Someone is holding a big long position on Monday. The LME's daily positioning reports <0#LME-FBR> show one entity with a position greater than 40 percent of market open interest, something in excess of 300,000 tonnes.

Unsurprisingly given the financial pain of rolling, one or several shorts have opted to deliver metal into the LME warehouse system. Just over 80,000 tonnes have been put on LME warrant in the last three weeks, including another 11,675 tonnes on Thursday.

Others are re-warranting metal that had been waiting physical load-out. There were 7,950 tonnes of such "reverse cancellations" at the Spanish port of Bilbao on Thursday as well.

LME stocks have stopped falling for now, but at a current 1.145 million tonnes they have returned to where they were before the Global Financial Crisis.

Strip out the metal awaiting load-out and "live" LME tonnage available for contract settlement stands at just 970,725 tonnes.

SHADOW STOCKS

Of course everyone knows there is more metal sitting "out there" somewhere in the shadows beyond the exchange's statistical light.

That's why the LME aluminium contract has been prone to sporadic gyrations in the time-spreads in recent years.

Most of that hidden inventory, and for that matter a good deal of the LME inventory, is being financed by traders and banks. Financiers lock in a spread that makes physically holding the metal profitable, which means buying nearby and selling forward.

The short legs of those deals have come in for repeated targeting, causing sharp contractions in the spreads.

But the spread pain seems to becoming hard-wired into the LME contract.

The benchmark cash-to-three-months spread has just hit the $50 backwardation level for the third time this year. The cash premium had only been that high once in the previous decade, namely December 2012.

The inference is that this increasingly frequent tightness is starting to reflect something more than the machinations of the LME paper market.

The existence of those huge "shadow stocks" has made it impossible to read LME stock movements as an indicator of underlying market dynamics.

Storage dynamics have determined LME stock movements as financiers cut the cost of their trade by chasing the cheapest storage options, which usually means not in an LME-registered shed.

The disappearance of much of the LME stock is down to such warehousing differentials, particularly after the exchange forced its warehouse operators to load out faster.

At times of spreads crisis, some of it reappears, as is happening now.

GROWING DEFICIT, FALLING STOCKS

But underlying all this coming and going in the LME system has been a steady drawdown in the "shadow" stockpile, according to research house CRU.

CRU estimates that unreported stocks outside of China fell by 800,000 tonnes in the second quarter of this year.

Things are complicated by the Rusal sanctions so there was also a 150,000-200,000 tonne stock build in Russia itself.

But it was another quarter of inventory draw. "Shadow stocks" have fallen steadily from 10 million tonnes at the start of 2016 to just over six million tonnes at the end of the second quarter, according to CRU.

And they will continue sliding as the world moves into a period of extended supply-demand deficit, which CRU pegs at 1.6 million tonnes this year.

The shortfall will largely manifest itself outside of China, the world's largest producer, which is expected to remain a broadly balanced market.

China's natural surplus will continue flowing into the rest of the world in the form of semi-manufactured products ("semis").

Such exports are on the rise. Total aluminium exports of 510,000 tonnes in June were the second highest ever. Remove the alloy that China exports and implied semis exports were around 462,000 tonnes, bringing year-to-date growth to 15 percent.

The irony is that it's China's over-production and exports that have roiled the rest of the world, first and foremost the United States, which has responded by putting 10 percent tariffs on imports from just about everyone.

However, the rest of the world now relies on China's exports to mitigate its own growing deficit.

LME shorts, on the other hand, need aluminium in deliverable commodity form, not after first-stage fabrication.

China has a lot of that as well but it's trapped behind a 15 percent export tax.

And if CRU are right, the dark pool of the right sort of aluminium is shrinking all the time.

There could be yet for more pain for any remaining shorts on the LME's July date. We'll see.

But it's looking increasingly certain we're going to see more of these LME squeezes going forwards. On current trend, they're only going to get more severe.

Editing by David Evans.

Trade war sends commodities to biggest drop in 5 months

(Bloomberg) — The brewing trade war between China and the U.S. is claiming commodity markets as one of its first victims.

The Bloomberg Commodities Index, a measure of 26 raw materials, lost 2.7 percent this week, the most since February. The losses stand out in a week when other risk assets, like emerging-market stocks, were in the green.

Soybeans have been hardest hit, with pricing falling to the lowest in almost a decade as China’s duties on U.S. supplies took effect. Metal and energy markets were also caught by fears that the trade spat will set off a global economic slowdown. Earlier this week, copper prices sank to almost a one-year low.

China, the biggest consumer of everything from copper to coal, has warned that the proliferation of tariffs could cause a global recession.

Economy Week: Trade War Sparks Mounting Concerns of Growth Risks

"We have so many shorts in the market that there is a real possibility of a squeeze occurring next week,” said Oliver Nugent, a commodities strategist at ING Bank NV.

He said the trade dispute, and ensuing losses in commodities, are likely to remain until after the U.S. midterm elections in November. “We don’t think Trump necessarily has the incentive to dial back,” he said.“We don’t think Trump necessarily has the incentive to dial back.”

Traders are also closely studying data from China for evidence of a slowdown. On Friday, reports showed weaker-than-expected growth in imports, and indicators of investment, factory output and retail sales growth all slowed in May.

"Chinese import data wasn’t particularly positive, so there are all these concerns about the second half," said Alastair Munro, an analyst at Marex Spectron. “If the trade-tariff war continues to escalate, then obviously it’s not going to help.”

The main market movers include:

Copper

Often regarded as an economic bellwether, the metal has taken a beating in the past month. Prices are poised for a fifth weekly loss, the longest such slump since 2015.

Traders will be watching today’s U.S. commitment of traders report for signs that speculators are continuing to cut their positions. Last week, the net-long position was the least bullish in three months.

Oil

Futures in New York have plunged 4.2 percent to $70.70 a barrel this week. Short-term bearish signals for oil prices on the supply side include Libya restarting a key oil field that had been shut since February, tempering the International Energy Agency’s warning that spare capacity may be stretched to the limit.

Soybeans

Soybean prices lost 6.5 percent this week. China’s imports of the oilseed are likely to decline for the first time in 15 years.

Mining stocks

The Bloomberg World Mining Index is poised for a fifth straight weekly loss. Glencore Plc, the world’s biggest commodities trader, lost 4.7 percent.

(By Lucca de Paoli)

Copper trains ransacked by ‘moles’ in full-moon desert heists

(Bloomberg) — On nights lit by a full moon, thieves leap from trucks onto trains as they roll through Chile’s Atacama Desert, before throwing 80-kilo (180-pound) slabs of copper to the ground and disappearing into the dark.

It’s a tactic known as “the cat” and the robbers are “moles” because no one knows where they come from or where they hide their loot. What’s worse for the mines that dot the desert, the robberies are becoming more common and more audacious.

About 40 incidents were reported in the first half of this year, according to the prosecutor’s office in Antofagasta, up from just six in all of 2014. The thefts started to increase late 2017 as copper rose to the highest in more than two years. While prices have slumped in the past month, the thieves seem immune to the trade-war turmoil that’s rattling metal markets.

"Specialized gangs assaulting moving convoys has become common," Valeria Ibarra, Antofagasta’s regional coordinator of public safety, said by telephone on Thursday. "These are professionals. If they see that one company is taking security measures, they’ll just move on to the next one."

The sheets of stolen copper cathode are taken to illegal yards and sold as scrap at a 30 percent discount to market prices, Ibarra said.

In June, thieves stole 2.5 metric tons of the metal, worth more than $15,000 on the London Metals Exchange, from a moving train. Operators only noticed when they saw the dust the gang’s vehicles left behind as they escaped through the desert, according to local newspaper Mercurio de Calama.

The victims

A common target for the thieves is Antofagasta Plc’s logistics unit Grupo FCAB, which owns and operates about 700 kilometers (430 miles) of railway lines used to transport cathode and semi-processed copper known as concentrate from mines to ports.

State-owned Codelco has also reported thefts, according to a statement by the prosecutor’s office in Antofagasta. Codelco didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Spence and Escondida copper mines, Antofagasta’s Zaldivar, Mantos Copper SA’s Mantos Blancos and Yamana Gold Inc.’s El Penon have all reported smaller robberies, prosecutors said.

“To avoid the frequency of these robberies and to protect workers, the company has strengthened its controls and preventive measures,” FCAB said in an emailed response to questions.

Robbers are getting more creative and more violent, Ibarra said.Robbers are getting more creative and more violent.

A new method is known as "the anchor." When trains slow down in steeper areas, gangs hook a mooring line to a pile of cathodes and throw an anchor onto the railway lines. As the train advances, the pile weighing about 350 kilos (772 pounds) is dragged off the wagon and quickly picked it up by trucks.

Thursday mystery

On Wednesday, Antofagasta’s regional government set up a permanent working group that includes the police, the government, FCAB and mining companies to address the issue and coordinate surveillance and investigations.

One of their first tasks will be to solve a mystery — why so many of the robberies happen on Thursdays. Government officials are wondering if it coincides with a change in shifts, or if it has to do with the proximity to the weekend.

"The most worrying thing is the integrity of workers and security guards because criminals are acting with more violence and aggressiveness," Ibarra said. "We need to take action before its too late."

(By Laura Millan Lombrana)

Asia Gold-Buying picks up in India on low prices

MUMBAI/BENGALURU, July 13 (Reuters) – Demand for physical gold in India picked up this week as prices fell to a five-month low, but buyers in other major centres in Asia awaited a bigger correction before placing orders, traders and analysts said.

"In last few days the rupee and international prices are moving in favour of buyers. Jewellers are placing orders," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private gold-importing bank.

The rupee rose to its highest in a fortnight on Friday, rebounding from last month's record low.

In the Indian market, gold futures were trading around 30,096 rupees per 10 grams, after falling to 30,072 rupees earlier in the day, the lowest level since Feb. 14.

Dealers in India were charging a premium of up to $1.5 an ounce over official domestic prices this week, unchanged from the last week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.

"Prices have come down but the correction is not attracting investment demand. Prices need to fall to 28,000 rupees to bring back investors," said Bachhraj Bamalwa, a bullion dealer based in the eastern city of Kolkata."Prices need to fall to 28,000 rupees to bring back investors."

India's gold imports fell for a sixth month in June to 44 tonnes as a drop in the rupee to record lows lifted local prices to a near 21-month high, curtailing demand.

Imports in July could rise to 60 tonnes if prices remain at current levels, the dealer at the private bank said.

In top consumer China, premiums of $1-$4 an ounce were being charged over the international benchmark versus $2-$5 an ounce last week.

"The weak yuan is affecting demand … Other investment areas are more favourable than gold, especially amidst a trend of higher interest rates," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

Premiums in Hong Kong were between 60 cents and $1.30, mostly unchanged from last week.

In Singapore, premiums were quoted between 80 cents and $1.50, compared with 50 cents-$1 last week.

"Suppliers are trying to compensate for the low volumes by increasing their premium," said Joshua Rotbart, managing partner at J. Rotbart & Co in Hong Kong.

Spot gold prices were down 1 percent so far this week.

"Physical markets in Asia have been a little underwhelming … There was a bit of buying action below $1,250 but that hasn't maintained," said Cameron Alexander, an analyst with Thomson Reuters-owned metals consultancy GFMS.

"Investors may be looking for another leg down which is still surprising given that we have seen the (Sino-U.S.) trade war only ramping up."

In Tokyo, premiums were unchanged at around 50 cents.

(By Rajendra Jadhav and Apeksha Nair; Additional reporting by Arpan Varghese; Writing by Nallur Sethuraman; Editing by Sunil Nair)

Qteq expansion lands contract and saves jobs

Off the back of its recent acquisition of Perth-based subsurface data logging company Surtech Systems, METS company Qteq has already won the first of many expected contracts to provide borehole data using new innovative measurement sensors and systems.

The contract for environmental logging in the Northern Territory, will use Qteq’s patented BMR (Borehole Magnetic Resonance) technology to provide real-time accurate measurement of the aquifer. This, combined with Surtech’s portfolio, will allow clients to make informed subsurface decisions.

The completed acquisitions of Surtech Systems and directional drilling and MWD company WellServ, means Qteq clients now have access to industry-leading systems to collect accurate data on the composition and behaviour of subsurface rocks.

Qteq Chief Business Development Manager Stuart McCulloch said the acquisitions, which will be re-branded as Qteq Measurement Systems, had also saved 22 regional jobs.

“These acquisitions will provide our customers with an integrated product offering for all geotechnical borehole logging requirements, especially in and around the groundwater and minerals market segment,” Mr McCulloch said.

“As a result of these acquisitions, Qteq expects to revolutionise the georesources market by offering the most innovative subsurface services and technology in Australia.”

Qteq Chief Technology Officer Dr Tim Hopper said the two acquisitions expanded the company’s operational footprint and market adoption of BMR, Spectroscopy and LWD (Logging-While-Drilling) services that are currently being developed.

“We now have a platform for commercialising a range of new technologies in our R&D pipeline,” Dr Hopper said.

“In addition, it’s an exciting time for our Australian employees who will have greater access to cross-product training courses and increased career development opportunities.

“Qteq has grown from 40 employees, since launching in August 2017, to more than 117 today, and has managed explosive growth in demand for our services.

“We are an example of a thriving Australian company, more than 90 per cent owned by our Australian staff and management, that creates new opportunities through developing and applying technology.”

BHP makes contract offer to union at Escondida mine in Chile

SANTIAGO, July 11 (Reuters) – BHP Billiton Plc handed in a proposal for a new labor contract to the union at its Escondida copper mine in Chile that includes a salary readjustment linked to inflation and a $23,000 bonus per worker, the company said on Wednesday.

The offer falls short of fulfilling some of the demands laid out by the union previously.

In its proposal in early June, the union asked for a bonus equal to 4 percent of profits in 2017, or up to almost about $40,000 per worker. It also demanded a 5 percent increase in salaries.

The company said that its offer, which hinges on the new contract being signed this month, also increases payment of a bonus for exceptional performance and benefits on education, health care and retirement.

"We hope our workers value the effort the company is making to deliver this offer, which is sustainable," said Patricio Vilaplana, vice president of corporate affairs at Escondida.

The union declined to provide immediate comment on what it thought of the proposal.

Labor talks at Escondida are in the final stretch before a 30-month contract expires at the end of July.

The closely watched talks come little more than one year after failure to reach a labor deal at the sprawling deposit led to a 44-day strike that jolted the global copper market.

(Reporting By Antonio de la Jara, Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Freeport to cede control of Indonesian copper mine in $3.9 bn deal

JAKARTA/TORONTO, July 12 (Reuters) – Freeport-McMoRan Inc said on Thursday it will sell a majority stake in the world's second-biggest copper mine to the Indonesian government, seemingly ending a long-running dispute via a series of complex deals worth $3.85 billion.

The agreement, which could still collapse, will see Freeport give up majority control but remain the operator of the Grasberg mine, located in the country's eastern province of Papua, as Jakarta seeks to gain greater control over its mineral wealth.

Freeport accepted far less than it could have gotten for its majority Grasberg stake, highlighting the company's desire to end an acrimonious chapter that had weighed on its shares for more than six years. The company risked getting nothing had the case moved to arbitration.

Shares of Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport were down slightly in Thursday afternoon trading.

"Freeport left money on the table to get this deal done," Freeport Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said on a conference call with investors after a signing ceremony in Jakarta. "It's a new day for Freeport, and a new day for our working with the government."

It was not immediately clear if the agreement would be binding. While Freeport and Rio both said the agreement was non-binding, Jakarta said it was a binding deal.

The transactions will be completed this month, said State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno.

The deal is critical for the massive investment needed to develop underground mines at Grasberg.

The deal could be a boon for Freeport's stock, which has fallen behind peers. Most analysts believe the stock should trade about 14 percent above current levels, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"Just to have clarity is critically important because for many investors, Freeport has been uninvestable because of the uncertainty around Grasberg," Jefferies mining analyst Christopher LaFemina said in an interview.

Under the agreement, Indonesian state-owned miner PT Inalum plans to acquire the Indonesian unit of Rio Tinto , which holds a 40 percent participating interest in Grasberg, for $3.5 billion.

That interest would then be transferred to Freeport's local unit, PT Freeport Indonesia, and converted into a 40 percent equity holding in the unit via a rights issuance that would then be given to Inalum.

A subsequent purchase of the share of Grasberg held by Freeport unit PT Indocopper Investama, valued at $350 million, would give Indonesia a total holding of 51.38 percent in Freeport Indonesia.

Estimates on the value of that stake vary. Jefferies values it at $800 million, while some estimates are lower.

Freeport, which will hold about 49 percent of Grasberg when the agreement is set, has also agreed to build a smelter in Indonesia within five years of the deal being signed, Adkerson said.

The two sides had agreed in principle last August to a deal. Thursday's agreement hammers out most of the specifics.

Rio for its part said it hoped for binding agreements by the end of the year, adding in a statement "there is no certainty that a transaction will be completed."

Royalties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo praised the agreement as "a leap forward."

"We have to have a larger amount of income from tax, royalties, dividends … so the value of our mining sector can benefit everybody," Widodo said at the ceremony.

Sealing a deal to get a majority stake for Indonesia in Grasberg is a priority for Widodo, who is widely expected to seek a second term in office in presidential elections next year.

The deal is also critical for the massive investment needed to develop underground mines at Grasberg as the current open-pit operation is phased out this year.

Still, planned agreements on how Freeport will manage mine operations with Inalum as the majority shareholder also need to be resolved.

Adkerson, Freeport's CEO since 2003, said that under the agreement Freeport alone will have authority to manage mine operations, but Inalum will work as an equal partner at the board level.

Inalum wants Freeport to "take the lead," he said, because Grasberg is "the most complicated mine in the world to operate." The high-altitude mine operates in an extremely rugged and remote area of New Guinea surrounded by jungle.

Efforts to finalise a deal have been complicated by concerns over the environmental impact of the project, in particular its handling of mine waste or tailings.

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya must still issue a recommendation to Freeport Indonesia before the miner can secure the rights to Grasberg up to 2041.

(By Wilda Asmarini, Bernadette Christina Munthe and Susan Taylor)

Panasonic plans to halve cobalt content of car batteries in 2-3 years

TOKYO, July 12 (Reuters) – Panasonic Corp plans to halve the cobalt content of its mass-produced automotive batteries "in two to three years", an executive at the Japanese conglomerate said on Thursday, as battery makers look to reduce costs.

"At the research and development level, we've already achieved such batteries," Yoshio Ito, the chief of Panasonic's automotive business, said at a media roundtable.

"But we need to go through various evaluation processes" before mass-producing them, he said.

Panasonic, the exclusive battery cell supplier for Tesla Inc's current production models, previously said it was aiming to develop cobalt-free batteries, but did not give a specific time frame.

Panasonic has already significantly reduced cobalt content, to about 10 percent in its nickel-cobalt-aluminium cathode chemistry.

Battery makers have been scrambling to reduce cobalt content in lithium-ion batteries as prices of the rarer mineral have multiplied in recent years, and the spread of electric vehicles (EVs) is widely expected to result in cobalt shortages.

This week, the chief executive of U.S. partner Tesla, Elon Musk, sealed a deal with Chinese authorities to build an auto plant in Shanghai, its first factory outside the United States, that would double the size of the EV maker's global manufacturing.

Asked about joining Tesla in producing automotive batteries in China, Ito said the Japanese company "has not received any official request" from the EV maker, but that it "would consider the possibility if requested".

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Get reel quality with new SR-Express spring cable reels from Powermite

Powermite, South Africa’s industry-leading supplier of electrical and mechanical equipment for moving machinery, has boosted its superior quality, rugged and reliable cable reeling systems with the introduction of the new SR-Express range from Conductix Wampfler.

Powermite holds exclusive Southern African distribution rights for Conductix-Wampfler. “We understand the paramount importance of product quality for customers and end-users because this is fundamental to product reliability which in turn leads to high machine and plant uptime, productivity and profitability,” says Rolf Lung, Managing Director of Powermite, a Hudaco group company. “It is therefore our responsibility to supply products of uncompromising quality that will perform reliably over a long life cycle for lowest total operational and ownership cost. Consequently, we align ourselves only with companies like Conductix-Wampfler, a global designer and manufacturer renowned for its world-class quality, state-of-the-art, customised cable reels for the bulk materials handling industry.”

Spring cable reels are the culmination of Conductix-Wampfler’s over 100 years of experience in electrification systems and demonstrate the company’s know-how and expertise in the manufacture of world-class energy and data supply solutions for mobile industrial machines. The new SR-Express SR10-SR60 range is a selection of spring cable reels from Conductix-Wampfler’s global SR range and is a tailored response to customers’ expectations.

Combining the best qualities of the company’s cable reels, the SR-Express range has been engineered to meet the energy and data supply needs of moving machinery that requires energy and data transmission systems including  overhead bridge cranes, gantries, mobile tables, aerial ladders and lifts, elevators and elevated work platforms. The SR-Express is supplied with the cable already installed and connected to the slip rings so that it is ready for use to keep downtime to a minimum.

Quality and reliability is part of the DNA of the SR-Express components; from the cables and cable drum to the slip rings, springs and mounting flange, all components are manufactured from the best and most durable materials to ensure operational efficiency over a long life cycle.

The halogen-free PUR (polyurethane) cables, specifically designed for reeling applications, provide excellent wear resistance and high flexibility. The drum body and flanks of the cable drum are manufactured from robust zinc-plated steel. The flank edge has been designed to optimise cable arrangement during winding and to ensure safety for the user.  With winding diameters ranging from 170mm to 400mm, the cable drum is fitted with sealed ball bearings and is lubricated for life.

The USR heat-resistant slip rings are part of a new European range and feature a new design that both facilitates and reduces maintenance.  The slip rings are located in an ABS-PC techno-polymere housing outside the cable drum for optimal access to connection. This impact-resistant slip ring housing is protected from dust and moisture ingress and is equipped with captive screws and a breather to prevent condensation.

Arranged in series or parallel, the springs are manufactured from high-performance textured steel and are lubricated with corrosion-resistant grease and individually encapsulated in a cassette. The patented spring cassette ensures safe and easy manipulation including replacement or reversal of winding direction.

The mounting flange, manufactured from cast aluminium alloy or cast iron, has been specially designed for quick, easy and safe installation of the reel on the spring reel shaft.

Customers and end-users have a choice of three bracket options – fixed bracket, fixed bracket and roller guide arm (available on all models) as well as fixed bracket and roller guide arm and swivel bracket (for SR10 to SR50 models).

With an IP65 rating, the rugged and versatile SR-Express range is suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications, performing optimally in extremely stringent conditions and an ambient temperature range of -20°C up to +60°C for the standard E0 environmental specification and as low as -40°C for the E1 specification. An E3 option for severe conditions will be introduced at a later stage. The spring cable reels are protected against dust and water ingress and are able to withstand an impact of 20 joules.

With over 40 years of experience, Powermite is perfectly positioned to offer a complete solution for moving machinery in bulk materials handling applications including cable festoon systems, festoon hardware and accessories such as cable guiding, anchoring and damping devices, junction, roller and connection boxes as well as cable connectors, organisers and clamps. Motor-driven, level wind and manual reels as well as cables, hoses and accessories for reeling systems complete the turnkey offering from Powermite’s materials handling division. All products are supported by excellent service and after-sales service delivered by a team of highly-trained, qualified technicians based at Powermite’s countrywide branch network.

SR-Express spring cable reels from Powermite are IP65 rated to meet energy and data supply needs of moving machinery

Transfluid officially announces the acquisition of Bellmarine

With an ever-increasing focus on green propulsion technologies two well known companies have combined forces. Both share an optimistic vision for sustainable propulsion for marine applications and its future developments. Their newly combined synergies provide unique hybrid and electrical marine propulsion products for the most demanding applications.

To expand and develop its range of electric propulsion products Transfluid has acquired 100% of the shares in IDTechnology B.V., the owner of the well-known Bellmarine brand. This strategic move provides Transfluid a broad array of solutions that satisfies most needs for electric and hybrid powertrains for the boating and vessel market.

Headquartered in Gallarate Italy and with subsidiaries located around the world Transfluid has been a market leader for power transmission equipment for more than 60 years. Recently Transfluid developed a comprehensive range of hybrid and electric propulsion systems and started the design and production of permanent magnet electric machines, a critical component in electric propulsion.

The Bellmarine brand is the leader of electric propulsion in the Netherlands and is well established in the European market. The joining of the two companies enables Transfluid to offer electric and hybrid solutions suitable for all kinds of marine, inland water, and off-shore applications as well as a range of propulsion power that is unique to the world.

Bellmarine will continue to operate from The Netherlands maintaining its own distinct brand identity. Marien Schoonen, the founder of Bellmarine, will remain with the company focusing on sales and product development.