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US sanctions Iran's metal producers; NMDC to explore Bunder diamond deposits


US Treasury announces sanctions on Iran's metal producers after missile strikes

The U.S. followed through on its threat of fresh sanctions against Iran after military tensions between the two countries in recent days, targeting several Iranian government officials and the nation's metals industry and other economic sectors. The Treasury Department designated 17 Iranian metals producers and mining companies, along with three other entities based in China and the Seychelles which the agency believes are helping Tehran conduct trade in metals.

India's NMDC set to explore Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder diamond deposits

India's central state of Madhya Pradesh asked state-owned National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. to explore the Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder deposits, which could contain millions of carats of diamonds, Reuters reported, citing the Mineral Resource Department's principal secretary Neeraj Mandloi. Rio Tinto spent about US$90 million over 14 years on the Bunder project, with plans to invest up to US$500 million. However, the company pulled out due to legal battles with green activists and delays in acquiring environmental permits.

BHP, Fortescue tussle threatens WA government's Port Hedland housing buyback

The Western Australian government's deal to buy back houses in Port Hedland's West End affected by dust pollution from the iron ore port operations is under threat due to an ongoing tussle between BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., The Australian reported. The state government is planning to buy back 540 properties in the area for an estimated total cost of between A$150 million and A$350 million, which will be funded by the industry.


* Copper prices started 2020 on an upward trajectory, reflecting the U.S. and China's official plans to sign on Jan. 15 a long-sought trade agreement, which includes some trade relief and helps alleviate the trade tensions between the countries, S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals and Mining Research team reported. As a result, London Metal Exchange three-month copper prices have increased to average US$6,132/t so far in January from an average of US$6,103/t in December 2019.

* Base metals producer Central Asia Metals PLC exceeded its full-year copper production guidance for 2019 even as fourth-quarter output came in 6.7% lower than in the same period of 2018. Production of 3,138 tonnes in the final quarter from the company's flagship Kounrad Dump site in eastern Kazakhstan brought full-year copper output to 13,771 tonnes, ahead of guidance of 12,500 tonnes to 13,500 tonnes.

* The Federation of Indian Mineral Industries urged the Indian government to remove a 2.5% import duty on copper concentrates, citing the country's need to import the material due to lack of domestic supply, Mining Weekly reported.

* Nexa Resources SA agreed with Peru's government to sponsor pre-professional and professional programs for youth in the farming communities in Ica that will be affected by the company's Cerro Lindo zinc-lead-copper silver operation, reported, citing a statement by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

* Copper Mountain Mining Corp. expects copper output in 2020 of 86 million pounds to 96 million pounds, an up to 33% increase over the 72.0 million pounds produced in 2019. C1 cash costs in 2020 are expected between US$1.30 per pound and US$1.45 per pound.


* Mexico-based Fresnillo PLC is the world's leading primary silver miner and Mexico's largest gold producer, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals and Mining Research team. Fresnillo, formed from a spinoff of Industrias Peñoles SAB de CV's precious metals assets, budgeted US$160 million for exploration in 2019, down 20% from the US$200 million allocated in 2018. The lion's share of the 2019 budget was devoted to Mexico, with smaller amounts earmarked for Chile, Peru, Argentina and regional programs in Latin America.

* Sibanye Gold Ltd. which trades as Sibanye-Stillwater, exercised an option to subscribe for ordinary shares in DRDGold Ltd., increasing its shareholding from 38.05% to 50.1%, after its initial shareholding in the company increased 147% in value over the last 17 months. Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said that by securing the DRDGold stake, Sibanye is increasing value for stakeholders, adding that the DRDGold team has a proven track record in implementing the Far West Gold Recoveries project and reaching its 500,000-tonne-per-month planned phase one capacity.

* Caledonia Mining Corp. PLC achieved record quarterly gold production at its Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe in the fourth quarter of 2019 at 16,876 ounces, a 13% jump year over year. Full-year production totaled 55,182 ounces, beating the revised production guidance of 50,000 ounces to 53,000 ounces. Output in 2020 is expected from 53,000 ounces to 56,000 ounces.

* Researchers in Switzerland developed an 18-carat gold nugget using plastic instead of a metal alloy element, reported. The nugget weighs five to 10 times less than normal gold.

* Rating agency Moody's said Anglo American PLC's planned acquisition of London-listed Sirius Minerals PLC may increase the mining giant's financial risk profile for a number of years.

* St Barbara Ltd. completed its expenditure obligation under the first earn-in period pursuant to the Lake Wells gold project in Western Australia.

* The TSX will delist Lydian International Ltd.'s ordinary shares, effective at the close of market Feb. 5. The company said that it does not intend to appeal the decision or seek an alternative listing.


* Rio Tinto awarded a design and construction contract, valued at about A$400 million, for its Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 mine in Western Australia to MONDIUM Pty Ltd., a joint venture between Monadelphous Group Ltd. and Lycopodium Ltd. The work will start in the first quarter of 2020 and is expected to compete in 2021.

* India's largest iron ore producer National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. is planning to produce 48 million tonnes in fiscal 2020 to 2021, beginning April 1, as the state-owned company expects higher demand, Argus Media reported. The report noted that domestic iron ore prices hiked by 8% to 30% in January as mills and pellet producers stock up in anticipation of tightening in supplies after March, when several private mining firms' leases are set to expire. The company produced a total of 22 million tonnes of iron ore during fiscal 2019 to 2020.

* Ferrexpo PLC's total pellet production in the fourth quarter of 2019 increased 3.5% over the third quarter to 2.63 million tonnes. Full-year production in 2019, however, slid 0.8% to 10.25 Mt, while sales grew to about 10.30 Mt from 10.23 Mt in 2018.

* White Energy Co. Ltd. unit BCBC Singapore Pte. Ltd. filed an amended statement of claim against PT Bayan Resources Tbk. in the dispute over the KSC coal joint venture in Indonesia. The unit is claiming about US$99 million in wasted expenditure and the loss of the chance to expand the joint venture capacity to at least 3 million tonnes per annum, which was expected to generate profits of about US$54 million.

* Coronado Global Resources Inc. suspended its operations at its Curragh coal mine in Queensland, Australia, following the accidental death of an employee of Thiess Pty. Ltd. at the site. The operations will remain suspended pending permit from investigators to resume.

* GCM Resources PLC agreed to a three-month extension for the memorandum of understanding to jointly develop the Phulbari coal project in Bangladesh in partnership with China Nonferrous Metal Industry's Foreign Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. and Power Construction Corporation of China Ltd.

* Germany-based thyssenkrupp AG is boosting efforts to sell off its Industrial Solutions segment, with Chinese state-owned companies expected to bid for the unit, Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The factory-building business has been one of the worst performers in the company's portfolio, according to the report.

* Tata Steel Ltd.'s Indian steel production totaled 4.46 million tons in the third quarter of its fiscal 2020, rising from 4.38 million tons year over year. Sales increased yearly to 4.84 million tons from 3.89 million tons and grew 17% quarterly from 4.13 million tons. The company expects Indian steel prices to improve with strong retail demand and ongoing restocking demand from dealers.

* Separately, Tata Steel's Tata Steel Netherlands Holdings BV refinanced its bank debt, raising term loan facilities amounting to €1.75 billion from 19 banks.

* Chinese coal producer Shandong Energy Group Co. Ltd. launched a bond offering of 2 billion Chinese yuan to repay its bank loans and for general working capital.

* Siemens AG will pursue the provision of signaling systems to Adani Enterprises Ltd.'s Carmichael coal project in Queensland, Australia, despite protests from anti-coal activists. "Keeping our promises is Siemens' highest priority… In this case, there is a legally binding and enforceable fiduciary responsibility to carry out this train signaling contract," Siemens President and CEO Jose Kaeser said in a statement.

* Polish coking coal producer Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa SA plans to spend 700 million Polish zlotys from its contingency fund to expand its capacity and bankroll other investments, Reuters reported, citing CEO Wlodzimierz Herezniak. The company reportedly earmarked 2 billion zlotys for investments this year.

* International Millennium Mining Corp. terminated its merger and reverse takeover agreement with Phoenix Capital Enterprises Ltd., which included wholly acquiring Tengri Coal and Energy Pte. Ltd. in exchange for newly issued common shares of International Millennium Mining.

* Norsk Hydro ASA forecast a sale of between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes of its Circal-branded aluminum in 2021, Reuters reported, quoting Hydro's Extruded Solutions head Egil Hogna.

* Civil unrest looms as miners in Goa lost their jobs and have been strapped for cash for almost two years due to the shutting down of an iron mine in Goa, India, Sunday Guardian Live reported.


* Base Resources Ltd. increased its fiscal year 2020 production guidance for rutile to between 75,000 and 81,000 tonnes, for ilmenite to between 335,000 and 355,000 tonnes, and for zircon to between 29,000 and 32,000 tonnes.

* In full-year 2019, Image Resources NL produced 270,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate from the Boonanarring mineral sands in Western Australia, within the company's twice-increased guidance of between 260,000 and 280,000 tonnes. The company updated its production forecast for full-year 2020 to between 300,000 and 330,000 tonnes, from the previous estimate of between 280,000 and 300,000 tonnes.

* EcoGraf Ltd. contracted GR Engineering Services Ltd. for the development of a 20,000-tonne per annum battery graphite facility in Western Australia.

* Several sectors in Bolivia rejected the appointment of Juan Carlos Zuleta as the new executive manager of the state-owned Bolivian Lithium deposits, Prensa Latina reported.


* Data analytics firm GlobalData said 61% of mine sites it surveyed made investments in mine communication systems in 2019, up from 55% in 2018, Mining Weekly reported. Their investments included private long-term evolution networks or 5G wireless technology. The survey involved 179 respondents from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, the report said.

* Brazil's government told European diplomats that it is pursuing its plans to allow mining on tribal lands, according to Mining and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, noting that "significant leadership" from native communities had requested for the opportunity to mine on their own properties, Reuters reported.

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