Newsletter 12-02-2024

Newsletter – 12.02.2024

12/02/24                                      WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
  • Rio Tinto wrangles investors over water contamination claims
  • Miners tackle hard conversations at Indaba
  • UK in talks with Hitachi over Welsh nuclear plant site, FT says
  • Billionaire Adani secures ore for $1.2 billion copper smelter
  • Wealthy Indonesians set to win no matter who becomes president
  • Seven people killed as landslide buries two buses in Philippines mining village
  • Far East Gold ready to embark on scout drilling at Woyla priority target Aloe Rek
  • New method could simplify detection of diamond deposits

Rio Tinto wrangles investors over water contamination claims

Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold-mine

Global mining giant Rio Tinto, which sparked outrage after destroying an ancient Indigenous site in Australia in 2020, faces new pressure from socially conscious investors and lenders, this time on water practices at two of its mines.

A group representing UK pension funds, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), has raised concerns about the company’s water management at its Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia and an ilmenite mine in Madagascar.

It’s a burr in the saddle for CEO Jakob Stausholm, who was brought in to restore the company’s social licence after it blew up an Aboriginal rock shelter at Juukan Gorge.

Questions around Rio Tinto’s environmental credentials could complicate its efforts to secure government approvals to build a lithium mine in Serbia and dig a giant copper mine in Arizona, both projects long delayed by local protests.

“Rio Tinto already has significant reputational risk stemming from Juukan Gorge, so its water challenges in Madagascar and Mongolia (as two pressing examples) pose a huge threat of further reputational damage,” LAPFF Chair Doug McMurdo told Reuters.

Given growing incidents of litigation around water management globally and tougher regulations coming into place, these challenges are also a highly financially material issue, he said.

Rio Tinto said it recognized the importance of water to its host communities and that it was “committed to driving effective water stewardship and enhanced transparency for stakeholders.”

Miners tackle hard conversations at Indaba

Mining continues to engage with the many difficult issues that affect the future of the industry and broader society, judging by the topics and turn-out at this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

“The event remains a forum for productive, if challenging, conversations,” said Andrew van Zyl, SRK Consulting managing director, South Africa.

“Many of these issues – from climate change and decarbonisation to the just energy transition – can be controversial; what is important, though, is that all stakeholders feel that they can participate in robust dialogue to find sustainable solutions.”

Van Zyl acknowledged that many of the sector’s responses to the challenges of today and tomorrow were “works in progress” but emphasized how constructively it had adapted in recent decades.

“Part of the value of the Mining Indaba is that it brings together leaders and role players at both a strategic and technical level,” he said. “This allows not only for ideas to be shared and developed, but for experts to find practical strategies for implementing solutions.”

The rapid pace of global changes was making these forums for knowledge sharing even more important, he noted, as decision makers in mining needed to factor in fast moving variables. This related as much to the political evolution of African countries as it did to technological advancements in the energy sector.

“It is more vital than ever that, as players in mining, we regularly and frequently update our world views with quality information – so that we retain a relevant opinion on future demands and opportunities,” said Van Zyl.

UK in talks with Hitachi over Welsh nuclear plant site, FT says

The UK government is holding early-stage talks to buy a site in Wales to build a nuclear power plant, a move aimed at reviving Britain’s ageing nuclear fleet, the Financial Times reported.

State-owned Great British Nuclear is said to be holding discussions with Hitachi Ltd. to buy a site in Wylfa in Anglesey, an island off north Wales, the FT said, citing confirmation from an unidentified minister. The government would then aim to find a new private investor to develop the site, the newspaper said.

Hitachi walked away from plans to build a new nuclear reactor at the Welsh site in January 2019 after failing to secure a financial agreement with the British government. The move ended up costing the company £2.1 billion ($2.7 billion), according to the newspaper.

The UK has huge nuclear power ambitions, but it’s struggling to get its program off the ground as construction is often prone to delays. The government is aiming for as much as 24 gigawatts of capacity by 2050 and will have to accelerate rapidly to achieve that.

Last month, Electricite de France SA said its nuclear project at Hinkley Point, the UK’s largest energy project, will cost as much as £10 billion extra to build and take several years longer than planned. The UK government also announced an additional £1.3 billion for the Sizewell C nuclear plant as it seeks to attract private capital.

Billionaire Adani secures ore for $1.2 billion copper smelter

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate has signed contracts to buy 1.6 million tons a year of copper concentrate for the world’s largest single-location smelter for the industrial metal.

The first 500,000 tons of capacity at the $1.2 billion facility in Mundra in the western state of Gujarat is set to start operations next month, according to Vinay Prakash, chief executive officer at Adani Natural Resources. This will be expanded to 1 million tons by March 2029 to cater for a forecast doubling of Indian copper demand by the end of the decade, he said in an interview.

Adani Enterprises Ltd., the port-to-power conglomerate’s flagship company, is seeking resource security in critical minerals and is resuming capital expenditure now that its shares have stabilized after a short-seller attack in January 2023. The smelter is starting up just as the global copper market experiences a collapse in the fees that processors charge miners because there’s not enough ore to go around.

A combination of high operating costs and the low fees means smelters and refiners globally may be forced to curtail production, Prakash said. “Our plant will be a low-cost producer with higher metal recovery and this will help us to remain competitive in the market.”

Wealthy Indonesians set to win no matter who becomes president

A group of powerful Indonesian oligarchs gathered at a cafe in Jakarta last month in a show of support for Prabowo Subianto, underlining why the ex-general may be third time lucky in the upcoming presidential election.

“We are small in number, yes,” coal billionaire Garibaldi Thohir told the room in a widely publicized video of the event. But “in this room maybe one third of Indonesia’s economy is here.”

Their support is a big change from five years ago, when Thohir’s brother — sitting cabinet minister Erick Thohir — led President Joko Widodo’s campaign to beat Prabowo for a second time. Jokowi, as the incumbent is popularly known, can’t run for a third term and has implicitly backed Prabowo by having his 36-year-old son join the ticket as vice president.

Yet the band of American-educated businessmen gathered in the cafe are just as key to victory when 205 million Indonesians elect Jokowi’s successor on Feb. 14.

Prabowo, a former son-in-law of the late dictator Suharto, sang along to Creedence Clearwater Revival during the meeting as he expressed his gratitude for their support.

“I get it now why I lost the presidential election twice,” said Prabowo, who was once banned from entering the US over suspected rights abuses. “Back then, I was not invited here.”

The remarks underscore the sway Indonesia’s ruling class of tycoons and politicians still have in choosing the country’s leaders, nearly three decades since the country embraced democracy.

While Suharto’s ouster in 1998 ushered in an era of reform, politics remain dominated by the factions that made fortunes during his three-decade rule. Their influence over the economy and politics ensured policies that enlarged their wealth from land and the exploitation of the nation’s vast natural resources.

Seven people killed as landslide buries two buses in Philippines mining village

Employees at a mining company had been waiting to return home when a landslide struck their vehicles - it is the latest incident in the Philippines following a long spell of extreme weather.

At least seven people have been killed and 48 others are missing after a landslide buried two buses carrying passengers in the southern Philippines.

The incident on Tuesday happened close to a gold mining site in the mountain area of Masara, situated in the town of Maco in Davao de Oro province.

Among the missing were 27 miners who had been waiting in two buses to begin their journey home when the landslide buried both vehicles, Davao de Oro provincial spokesperson Edward Macapili said.

Officials said workers were being collected in four 60-seater buses along with a jeep, which had a capacity for 36 passengers.

The vehicles had been picking up employees of Apex Mining - one bus had already left the scene to begin its journey at the time of the disaster, they added.

Several miners jumped out of bus windows to escape the landslide.

The search for survivors resumed on Wednesday after it was suspended overnight due to fears of more landslides, officials said.

More than 750 families have been moved to evacuation centres.

Far East Gold ready to embark on scout drilling at Woyla priority target Aloe Rek

Far East Gold Ltd (ASX:FEG, OTC:FEGDF) is set to embark on a new phase of scout drilling at its Woyla Copper-Gold Project in Indonesia, with a focus on the Victory vein within the high-priority Aloe Rek prospect

These activities follow the company's extended resource delineation campaign at Rek Rinti and are bolstered by some handy historical results from earlier campaigns at Aloe Rek by companies such as Newcrest and Barrick.

The company has deployed a drill rig for a 1,500-metre diamond drill program across nine holes, aimed at exploring the Victory vein over a 500-metre strike length to a depth of some 120 metres.

This exploration effort seeks to unlock the potential of the Aloe Rek area, which is 1.5 kilometres south of the Aloe Eumpeuk prospect, the site of some historical high-grade gold and silver findings.

New method could simplify detection of diamond deposits

A diamond sticking out of a piece of kimberlite rock.

Geologists from ETH Zurich and the University of Melbourne have established a link between diamond occurrence and the mineral olivine.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists explain that their method will simplify the detection of diamond deposits. The process relies on the chemical composition of kimberlites, which occur only on very old continental blocks that have remained geologically unchanged for billions of years, predominantly in Canada, South America, central and southern Africa, Australia and Siberia.

According to the study’s lead author, Andrea Giuliani, olivine is a mineral that makes up around half of kimberlite rock and consists of varying proportions of magnesium and iron. The more iron olivine contains, the less magnesium it has and vice versa.

“In rock samples where the olivine was very rich in iron, there were no diamonds or only very few,” Giuliani, who has been studying the formation and occurrence of the gemstones since 2015, said in a media statement. “We started to collect more samples and data, and we always got the same result.”

His investigations ultimately confirmed that olivine’s iron-to-magnesium ratio is directly related to the diamond content of the kimberlite. Giuliani and his team took these findings back to De Beers, who had provided them with the kimberlite samples. The company was interested and provided the scientific study with financial support and asked the researchers not to publish the results for the time being.


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