Anglo American PLC increased its 2019 production guidance for the Minas Rio iron ore operation in Brazil after securing regulatory approval relating to the Step 3 license area. The company expects iron ore production at Minas Rio to reach between 18 million and 20 million wet tonnes, up from the previous guidance of between 16 million and 19 million wet tonnes. This came shortly after the company announced the resumption of operations at Minas Rio.
Indonesia closes US$3.85B Grasberg deal with Freeport-McMoRan, Rio Tinto
State-owned PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Persero), also known as Inalum, closed a US$3.85 billion deal to secure a 51.2% stake Freeport-McMoRan Inc. subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the giant Grasberg copper-gold mine in the country. Freeport received US$350 million for its 100% interest in PT Indocopper Investama, which owns 9.36% of project owner Freeport Indonesia, while Rio Tinto cashed out its 40% participating interest in Grasberg for US$3.5 billion.
Sibanye strike 'remains protected' after court decision, union says
A feud over the legality of a monthlong strike at Sibanye Gold Ltd.'s operations in South Africa remains unresolved after a court decision to have an independent group assess the situation. The decision was a temporary victory for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, or AMCU, giving it legal legs to continue the strike that began Nov. 21.
* First Quantum Minerals Ltd. plans to cut 2,500 workers in Zambia in response to looming tax hikes, Reuters reported, citing the company. The miner is set to lay off 1,250 workers at the Trident-Sentinel copper mine, also known as Kalumbila, and the same number at the Kansanshi copper mine in the first quarter of 2019. The layoff plans come ahead of tax hikes set to take effect next year, with royalties climbing and new levies to be introduced.
* Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques expects slowness in asset sales in 2019 as the company nearly completes reshaping its core assets in iron ore, copper and aluminum, the Financial Times reported. The executive noted that the company would decide what to do with the US$3.5 billion of proceeds from the Grasberg deal before its annual results in February.
* Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson said the company will build a copper smelter with a processing capacity of up to 2.6 million tonnes of copper ore as part of the new contract of PT Freeport Indonesia, Indonesia's Antara News Agency reported.
* TNT Mines Ltd. entered into an exclusive four-month binding deal to acquire the Pelley Ridge zinc project in Montana via the purchase of Metals of Americas LLC.
* Barrick Gold Corp. is laying off 95 employees, more than half of its workforce at the Toronto head office, as the miner expects to close its merger with Randgold Resources Ltd. on Jan. 1, 2019, Reuters reported, citing the Globe and Mail. Long-serving director Anthony Munk, son of Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk, is stepping down, the report added.
* Westgold Resources Ltd. agreed to buy Doray Minerals Ltd.'s Andy Well and Gnaweeda gold projects in Western Australia for up to A$15 million in cash and shares. The acquisition is another step toward total consolidation in the Central Murchison region by Westgold.
* Michael Fotios, former head of collapsed miner Eastern Goldfields Ltd., is facing jail time after changing his previous plea of not guilty to guilty to seven Commonwealth tax charges, The West Australian reported.
* Fitch Ratings upgraded Russian gold producer PJSC Polyus' long-term debt rating to BB with a stable outlook from BB-, citing its operational performance, lower debt burden and stronger cash generation.
* Goldcorp Inc. bought a 9.74% stake in Central Timmins Exploration Corp. for C$1 million and agreed to buy some of the junior's mineral claims for C$258,624.
* Thundelarra Ltd. completed the acquisition of the Abbotts gold project in Western Australia from Doray Minerals Ltd., which expands the scope of the former's Garden Gully project.
* Rescuers recovered bodies of nine workers that were trapped after a fire broke out at PJSC Uralkali's Solikamsk potash mine in Russia, Reuters reported, citing Russian news agencies. The fire has yet to be extinguished, the report added.
* A total of 13 miners were killed in an underground methane explosion at New World Resources PLC's CSM hard coal mine in the Czech Republic, Reuters reported.
* PJSC Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, or MMK, is set to invest approximately US$682 million in modernizing its coking production with the participation of Sinosteel Equipment & Engineering Co. Ltd., Interfax reported, citing the company.
* China's exports of alumina fell about 37.9% to 285,696 tonnes in November, compared to 460,072 tonnes in October, Reuters reported, citing data released by the General Administration of Customs.
* Twenty Chinese aluminum producers plan to slash annual capacity by 800,000 tonnes in coming months amid low prices, Reuters wrote, citing an official of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association. Paul Adkins, managing director of aluminum consultancy AZ China, said the companies making the cuts hoped to generate replacement permits, allowing smelters to replace old facilities with more modern plants, implying the move would be a "net zero reduction," Reuters added. The industry association meeting had representatives from major industry players, including China Hongqiao Group Ltd., Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. , Xinfa Group Co. Ltd., Hangzhou Jinjiang Group and East Hope.
* BCI Minerals Ltd. completed the sale of the Kumina iron ore project to Mineral Resources Ltd. and received the first cash payment of A$27 million. Another two payments of A$4 million each are due upon first export of iron ore from Kumina and 12 months after the first export.
* Adani Mining Pty. Ltd. CEO Lucas Dow called on the Queensland, Australia, government to clarify the process and timeline for securing the remaining environmental approvals that would allow construction to start at Carmichael, Reuters wrote. The Queensland environment department said the company needs two more approvals: one for management plans concerning an endangered bird species and another to identify the source aquifer of groundwater in the area. "We have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to accommodate the state government's requirements and feedback within the pending management plans only to be told at the eleventh hour that [it] is not ready to endorse these plans," Dow was quoted as saying.
* Berkeley Energia Ltd. failed to secure a permit from the municipality of Retortillo in Spain to build the Salamanca open-cast uranium mine Reuters reported. According to the report, the municipality ruled that the company does not own the land required for the project, and has failed to present the relevant documentation.
* Neometals Ltd. agreed to sell its 13.8% stake in the Mount Marion lithium mine in Western Australia to project partners Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd. and Mineral Resources Ltd. for A$103.8 million in cash. Neometals also secured a binding life-of-mine off-take option for 57,000 tonnes per annum of the project's 6% spodumene concentrate production at market-linked prices starting in February 2020. With the deal expected to close at the start of February 2019, Neometals plans to set up a lithium chemical refinery but did not give a timeline. The divestment is intended to support its move to higher-value downstream operations.
* Lincoln Minerals Ltd. agreed to acquire four graphite- and base metals-prospective exploration licenses from Centrex Metals Ltd., South Australian Iron Ore Group Pty. Ltd., Wugang Australian Resources Investment Pty. Ltd. and WISCO Resource Group Corp. Ltd. The licenses in South Australia's Eyre Peninsula will increase the company's holding covering all mineral rights to 1,876 square kilometers, in a total tenement portfolio of 2,082 square kilometers.
* Metalicity Ltd. received proceeds from the recent sale of its Pilbara lithium project to Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA of US$$1 million, and a 1% net smelter royalty from all products. The company will use the proceeds to further exploration at its recently secured copper exploration projects in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
* A review of 1,597 companies listed on the Australia, London, New York and certain Canadian stock exchanges with comparable data shows the mining industry's aggregate cash holdings decreased 1.8% to US$45.16 billion at the end of the third quarter, from US$46.01 billion at the close of the second quarter, according to the Metals and Mining Research team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
* Mexico's undersecretary for mining, Francisco Quiroga, said the new government does not plan to enforce major changes to the mining sector, and only new permits will be required to secure approval from indigenous communities, Reuters reported. Quiroga said the government will not look for anomalies in the about 26,000 concessions already granted. Mexican Senator Angelica Garcia proposed a bill in November that would require mining companies to seek approval from indigenous communities before concessions are granted.
* ASX-listed gold explorer Soon Mining Ltd. said Ghana lifted a 23-month ban on small-scale mining, allowing compliant companies to resume operations with a focus on environmental sustainability.
* Primetech, formerly Kopex, and Przedsiębiorstwo Budowy Szybów, signed a conditional agreement to sell a 95.01% package of PBSz shares to Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa SA. PBSz specializes in mining services, such as shaft construction and drilling of underground tunnels, Puls Biznesu reported.
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