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S&P shifts outlook on BHP Billiton to stable

TOP NEWS

S&P revises outlook on BHP Billiton to stable

S&P Global Ratings changed its outlook on BHP Billiton Group to stable from negative while affirming the mining giant's A/A-1 corporate credit ratings. The revision reflects the improvement in the rating agency's price assumptions for commodities, which are expected to strengthen the company's ability to generate cash flow compared to a year ago.

Colombia expedites Cerrejon mine expansion to hit 90-million-tonne coal output target

The Colombian government is in talks with stakeholders to resolve all issues blocking the expansion of the Anglo American Plc-operated Cerrejon coal project near the country's Caribbean coast after a court recently endorsed a decision to halt works to divert a river near the mine, Bloomberg News reported.

China Molybdenum to support BHR's purchase of Lundin's Tenke Fungurume stake

China Molybdenum Co. Ltd. signed a deal with Chinese private equity firm BHR to support the latter's acquisition of Lundin Mining Corp.'s 24% indirect stake in the Tenke Fungurume copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Reuters reported. The country's Mining Minister Martin Kabwelulu, meanwhile, confirmed that China Molybdenum secured the majority stake in Tenke after state-miner Gecamines SARL dropped its objections over the company's purchase of a 56% stake from Freeport-McMoRan Inc. for US$2.65 billion.

DIVERSIFIED

* Guinean President Alpha Conde claimed that Rio Tinto's termination of senior executive Alan Davies last year was because CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques wanted to settle scores and "get rid" of Davies, disputing the miner's statement that the sacking was due to a US$10.5 million payment made to French investment banker Francois de Combret in 2011, Bloomberg News wrote.

BASE METALS

* Vedanta Resources Plc Chairman Anil Agarwal said collaboration between his company's Hindustan Zinc Ltd. unit and Anglo American Plc would have been a "good match," admitting that he tried to engage with Anglo American in the first half of 2016 to discuss potential ideas, including a business combination, but Anglo American rebuffed the chairman's informal approach, Bloomberg News wrote.

* Yunnan Tin Co. Ltd. expects to swing to a net profit of between 76 million and 114 million Chinese yuan, or between 5.16 and 7.74 fen per share, in 2016, compared to a net loss of about 1.97 billion yuan, or 1.34 yuan per share, in 2015.

* TNG Ltd. is on track with its planned spinout of its noncore Australian base metal assets, with a listing on the ASX set for early in the second quarter.

* Authorities recovered the body of one of the seven miners who were trapped under a landslide in an underground copper mine in Peru last week, Reuters reported. Operations are ongoing to recover the remaining miners.

* Aston Bay Holdings Ltd. said BHP Billiton's BHP Billiton Ltd. unit intends to formally terminate an option agreement to earn a 75% interest in Aston Bay's Storm copper project in Nunavut in northern Canada.

* MMG Ltd. agreed with Dundas Mining Pty. Ltd. to extend the deadline for Dundas to complete the payment for the acquisition of MMG's Avebury nickel project in Tasmania, Australia, to March 31 after Dundas failed to pay the A$23.5 million balance by the initial deadline in December 2016.

* Australian Vanadium Ltd. has agreed to sell its precious and base metals rights on the Gabanintha project in Western Australia and its 100% equity in the Peak Hill project located in the Bryah Basin.

* ASX-listed Fitzroy River Corp. Ltd. extended its takeover offer for fellow-listed Royalco Resources Ltd. from the end of January to Feb. 13, Mining Weekly reported. The takeover offer is valued at about A$10.5 million.

* Pasinex Resources Ltd. completed the first sale of lead mineral product from its Pinargozu zinc mining operation in Turkey. The sale comprised a total of 392.9 dry tonnes at a provisional assay of 61.5% lead and 400 g/t of silver, at a provisional value of about US$1,250 per tonne.

PRECIOUS METALS

* Saudi Arabian Mining Co.'s net profit in full-year 2016 fell 33.8% year over year to 400.6 million riyals, or 34 halalas per share. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the company swung to a net profit of 15.7 million riyals, compared to a 5.7 million riyal net loss in the year-ago quarter.

* Columbus Gold Corp. secured an option from Seabridge Gold Inc. to fully acquire the latter's Castle gold project in Nevada.

* Miranda Gold Corp. signed letters of intent to acquire two significant district-scale epithermal vein systems in Colombia dubbed Mallama and San Lucas.

* Transatlantic Mining Corp. made the first shipment of 19.1 tonnes of low grade gold/silver concentrate to a third party for processing from its Alder Mountain gold operation in Montana.

* OceanaGold Corp. poured the first gold dore bars at its Haile gold mine in South Carolina, producing 445 ounces.

BULK COMMODITIES

* New Hope Corp. Ltd. secured federal government approval for the expansion of its New Acland coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The government granted the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act approval for the mine's revised stage 3 continuation project, but the company still needs a number of state government permits before its board can consider a final investment decision.

* Todd Corp. Ltd. is poised to ink an agreement with Western Australia's government, which will pave the way for the A$5 billion Balla Balla project in the Pilbara region, The West Australian reported. The project is expected to create more than 3,000 jobs during the construction phase, while 9,000 jobs would be created during production.

* PAO Severstal's crude steel production increased 2% to 11.6 million tonnes and hot metal production rose 1% to 9.3 million tonnes in full-year 2016, compared to the previous year. Sales for consolidated steel products and Russian Steel products each declined 1% year over year to about 10.7 million tonnes.

* China Shenhua Energy Co. Ltd.'s coal output in 2016 rose 3.2% year over year to 289.8 million tonnes, while coal sales increased 6.6% to 394.9 million tonnes.

* Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd.'s production of salable coal reached approximately 16.4 million tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2016, reflecting a year-over-year increase of 5.2%. Meanwhile, sales volume of salable coal in the period declined 7.04% to 22.2 million tonnes.

* Hesteel Co. Ltd.'s net profit attributable to shareholders is expected to range between 1.50 billion and 1.60 billion Chinese yuan for full-year 2016, representing an increase of between 161.57% and 179.01% from the 573.5 million yuan posted a year ago.

* Gansu Jiu Steel Group Hongxing Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. expects to swing to a net profit of about 78 million Chinese yuan in full-year 2016, from a net loss of 7.36 billion yuan posted a year ago, due to a rebound in steel prices and reduced operational costs in 2016.

* China's CITIC Ltd. has not been able to get key government approvals to expand the footprint of its US$10 billion Sino-Iron mine in Western Australia, as Mineralogy Pty. Ltd.'s Clive Palmer refuses to endorse the planned expansion, The Australian reported.

* Cline Group LLC's Canada-based Donkin underground coal mine will start operation before the end of January and is aimed at producing mostly metallurgical coal, along with a smaller amount of steam coal, Coal Age reported.

* Japan is threatening to take India to the World Trade Organization over steel safeguard duties and minimum import prices that slashed Japanese steel exports to India over the past year, Reuters reported. The country is also concerned by the U.S. potentially taking protectionist steps under the incoming Trump administration.

* A U.S. federal appeals court upheld former Massey Energy Co. CEO Donald Blankenship's conviction for conspiracy and one-year prison sentence relating to the 2010 explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that killed 29 workers, Reuters said in a news brief.

* Davenport Resources Ltd. traded as low as 20% below its IPO price of 20 Australian cents on its first day on the ASX. However, the Australian potash explorer recovered most of its losses, closing 2.5% lower at 19.5 cents on Jan. 20.

* China's coal production inched up 1% over the previous month to 311 million tonnes in December 2016, representing its highest level in a year, Reuters reported, citing the National Bureau of Statistics.

* On the back of strong results during the last three months of 2016, Polish Mining Group reduced its expected losses of more than 362 million zlotys to 326 million zlotys, Puls Biznesu reported, citing Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Poland's deputy minister of energy.

SPECIALTY

* S&P Global Ratings placed its ratings on Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corp., including its BBB+ long-term debt rating, on CreditWatch with negative implications. The rating agency said it expects lower earnings and core credit ratios in 2016 from the company than previously estimated, as a result of Cameco's recently announced earnings guidance.

* Codelco opened a process to select partners to jointly develop two lithium projects in Chile's Atacama region, Metal Bulletin reported.

* Mustang Resources Ltd. sent its first commercial batch of rubies to U.S. service providers and customers, comprising 6,221 carats including two rare 24-carat stones.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* The mining companies with the 20 largest exploration budgets in 2016 allocated a total of US$2.16 billion for exploration during the year, accounting for 31% of the US$6.89 billion worldwide exploration total. As part of the 27th edition of S&P Global Market Intelligence's "Corporate Exploration Strategies" study, a corporate exploration profile of each of these larger players is available in the SNL company briefing books.

* Africa remains one of the the world's top mining hot spots, accounting for 13% of the global exploration budget in 2016 with a budget of US$916 billion. However, the 2016 budget was 24% lower than in 2015, nudging the region to fourth place worldwide from third place in 2015. Out of Africa's 34 countries, only the Democratic Republic of Congo received budgets of more than US$100 million last year.

* The developing countries that rely heavily on mining are expected to be hit the hardest by automation in the mining industry, with as much as a 4% decline in national GDP, The Guardian wrote, citing a recent study on the impact of automation in the mining sector.

S&P Global Ratings and SNL Metals & Mining are owned by S&P Global Inc.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7 a.m. Hong Kong time, and scans news sources published in Chinese, English, Indonesian, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Ukrainian. Some external links may require a subscription.