After about a decade of high metal prices, giant projects and major takeover, miners around the globe had to tighten their belts in 2013 as the cycle turned against them.
While hardly any company escape the effects of the slowdown, Canadian miners stood out because, on top of the financial woes common to the industry, they faced political and environmental difficulties that hit them especially hard.
Gold giant Barrick (TSX, NYSE: ABX) was one of the largest companies to have serious troubles this year. After months of declining gold prices, a second-quarter loss of $8.6 billion and project write-downs of over $13 billion so far in 2013, Barrick’s stock is trading around the $19 mark, making it one of the worst performers in the sector this year. The company has slashed its dividend by 75% and has vowed to cut costs by selling non-core assets and reducing its workforce.
The Toronto-based company was also forced to suspend nearly all of the work at its massive $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama project straddling the Chile-Argentina border.
In Romania, Gabriel Resources (TSX: GBU) faced a substantial setback at its Rosia Montana project, after a draft bill that would have allowed the Canadian miner to proceed with what would be one of Europe's largest gold mining projects, was rejected by a Romanian parliamentary commission.
Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) has been under pressure all year long over its flagship Kumtor mine, in the Kyrgyz Republic. Not only it faced massive and at times violent protests from locals demanding the mine’s nationalization and more social benefits, but local authorities also made Centerra’s future in the country quite uncertain. Early this month, the country’s environmental protection and forestry office filed an ecology damage suit against the miner, which may force it to pay US$300 million in fines.
Only this week, the company shared some good news, saying it had inked a draft agreement with the Kyrgyz Republic over a joint venture to run Kumtor. The deal still needs approval from Parliament.
Canada, one of the world’s largest centres for mining finance, saw its traditionally buoyant junior companies, struggle more than ever, with analysts predicting that most of them were to disappear by year-end.
According to FT.com (subs required), up until the end of November, 62 companies had listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange or its junior counterpart, the TSX venture exchange (TSX-V), compared with 129 at the same time last year and over 200 in both 2009 and 2010.
In the last two years, the nearly 1,600 mining companies listed in Canada have seen their combined stock market value fall almost 50%, and new mining listings in Canada continue to plunge, FT said.