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No warning signs ahead of Vale dam burst; Albemarle confident on lithium demand


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No warning signs ahead of Vale dam burst; Albemarle confident on lithium demand


Vale report says deadly dam disaster caused by heavy rain, poor drainage

There were no "apparent signs of distress" ahead of the collapse of Vale SA's Feijao iron ore mine tailings dam in January, which killed more than 100 people, according to a report commissioned by the company. Dam failures are "rarely due to one cause," and the report cited several factors, including design, water management, high iron content of the tailings, and lack of internal drainage that led to a "persistently high water level" in the dam. The expert panel that conducted the investigation found that the failure and resulting flow slide was the result of flow liquefaction within the tailings in the dam.

Albemarle CEO upbeat on long-term lithium outlook

Albemarle Corp. CEO Luke Kissam said the company is expecting robust long-term demand for lithium despite the existing oversupply, Reuters reported. "We have enough lithium to satisfy demand for next 10 to 15 years," Kissam said. The report noted that the outlook comes following anxiety about Albemarle and its peers in recent months as the industry has produced far more lithium than electric vehicle manufacturers currently need.

Steelmakers thyssenkrupp, Voestalpine, Salzgitter fined €646M for price fixing

Steelmakers thyssenkrupp AG, Voestalpine AG and Salzgitter AG were fined a total of about €646 million as part of a settlement with German anti-cartel watchdog Bundeskartellamt over price fixing in the country's steel industry. The antitrust authority said that thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG, voestalpine Grobblech GmbH and Salzgitter's Ilsenburger Grobblech GmbH unit, as well as three unnamed individuals, colluded to fix prices and surcharges for quarto plates, a kind of steel used for construction, bridges, ships and pipelines.


* BHP Group will review its memberships in four industry associations that go against the mining giant's policies on climate change and energy, although it is not yet ready to withdraw as some shareholders had wished. BHP will evaluate its membership in the New South Wales Minerals Council by April 30, 2020, and in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Mining Association of Canada and the American Petroleum Institute by Aug. 31, 2020. The four groups had a combined six significant differences from BHP's pledge to cut emissions and support the Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to limit global temperature rise in the 21st century.

* Swiss mining and commodities giant Glencore PLC will join the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, an industry collaboration that uses blockchain technology to support responsible sourcing and production practices. Glencore said that its participation is expected to improve its transparency and supply chain traceability.


* Indonesia President Joko Widodo vowed to defend the government against a complaint filed by the European Union in the World Trade Organization over the country's planned ban on nickel ore exports, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Cabinet Secretariat. Widodo said the government would not backtrack on the export restriction.

* In a bid to boost its cash position, Dizon Copper-Silver Mines Inc.'s board put up for sale 20,534 square meters of land in the Philippines' Zambales province. It was previously being used for a copper concentrate storage facility and loading-out pier.


* Resolute Mining Ltd. launched a strategic review to assess options for Bibiani gold mine in Ghana, including recent expressions of acquisition interest from third parties. Acquired in 2014, Bibiani has on-site processing facilities for a 3 million tonne per annum mill and plant, as well as underground mining infrastructure. Resolute placed Bibiani on care and maintenance after acquiring it to flesh out plans to recommission it as a larger underground mine.

* One of Kalia Ltd.'s geologists died from injuries sustained in a fall during field work at the company's Mount Tore tenements in Papua New Guinea.

* Gateway Mining Ltd. secured additional prospective tenements covering 262 square kilometers to the north of Gidgee gold project in Western Australia through low-cost acquisition deals, a joint venture and new exploration license applications.

* West Africa-focused gold producer Avesoro Resources Inc. entered into another loan agreement with its 97.90%-owner, Avesoro Jersey Ltd., comprising a working capital facility of up to US$8.5 million to fulfill the company's near-term cash flow needs.

* PNX Metals Ltd. decided to prioritize near-term gold production from its Fountain Head project, part of the Hayes Creek project in Australia's Northern Territory, and has accelerated studies and approvals for development of a gold heap leach operation. Funds will be re-allocated from the broader Hayes Creek definitive feasibility study to accelerate activities at Fountain Head.

* Royalco Resources Ltd. said that an independent board committee recommended that shareholders accept Fitzroy River Corporation Ltd.'s proposed off-market takeover of shares it does not own.

* Antler Gold Inc. inked an agreement to acquire a 75% interest in a private firm that owns exclusive exploration license 5455 in Namibia, measuring 32.7 square kilometers. The area surrounding the license hosts two gold mines, Navachab and Otjikoto, in the Damara Supergroup, and Osino Resources Corp.'s Karibib gold project and several other smaller deposits.

* The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy approved amendments to the mining and air use permits for Aquila Resources Inc.'s Back Forty gold project to align them with the project design outlined in the August 2018 open pit feasibility study as well as in its wetlands permit issued in June 2018.


* Norwegian aluminum producer Norsk Hydro ASA signed a US$1.6 billion revolving multicurrency credit facility with the margin linked to the company's emissions reduction target. The facility, available for general corporate purposes, has a five-year tenor with two one-year extension options. It replaces the company's undrawn US$1.7 billion facility signed in 2013.

* Marubeni Corp. agreed to acquire shares in Canada-based Alliance Magnesium Inc., which plans to build a C$100 million magnesium ingot commercial plant in Quebec, with Marubeni's investment at C$16.7 million. Construction will start in 2020, with first production expected in the same year.

* Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker Nucor Corp. flagged a sharp drop in fourth-quarter EPS due to low prices, year-end seasonality and a planned outage that impacted the performance of its three segments. The company said Dec. 12 that it expects its fourth-quarter EPS to be between 25 U.S. cents and 30 cents, down from US$2.07 in the year-ago period and 90 cents in the third quarter.

* Cargill sold its first cargo of iron ore to a Chinese steel mill via a cloud-based electronic trading platform this week as part of a move to streamline the transaction process, the trading house told S&P Global Platts.

* After Chinese steelmakers broadly saw their earnings plunge in the third quarter, analysts noted some recent changes in the demand picture, expecting a recovery in companies' earnings for the fourth quarter amid improving steel margins.

* Government consultancy China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute is expecting the country's crude steel output in 2020 to fall to 981 million tonnes from a record high in 2019, estimated at 988 Mt, Reuters reported. Demand for crude steel is expected to drop by 0.6% in 2020 from 886 million tonnes this year.

* TNG Ltd. signed a binding term sheet to sell 100% of the iron products that will be produced at its Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project in Australia's Northern Territory to Indian mining conglomerate Vimson Group. The company intends to annually produce about 500,000 tonnes of iron oxide fines from its planned TIVAN processing facility.

* Base Resources Ltd.'s definitive feasibility study for its Toliara heavy mineral sands project in Madagascar outlined a post-tax net present value, discounted at 10%, of US$652 million, a 21.4% internal rate of return, and a 4.25-year payback period. Managing Director Tim Carstens said that the company will focus on concluding off-take and funding arrangements ahead of a final investment decision planned for September 2020.

* Kommersant reported that Estonia-registered NT Marine Co. received permission to supply over 600,000 tonnes of coking and steam coal from Russia to Ukraine in December.


* Albemarle Corp. forecast a 2024 revenue range of US$4.4 billion to US$5.0 billion. The company said it sees significant growth potential driven by increasing sales of electric vehicles.

* PJSC Alrosa's supervisory board approved the disposal of the company's 99.75% stake in nonstate pension fund JSC Almaznaya Osen to a professional financial company. The Russian diamond producer said the deal is aimed at accelerating the development of the fund, which counts current and retired Alrosa employees among its clients.

* RareX Ltd. submitted a tenement application in Western Australia for exploration license E38/3455, to be known as the Weld North project, which will complement its Cummins Range rare earths project. The company said that it plans to conduct reconnaissance mapping work before starting exploration. RareX expects the application to be granted in early to mid-2020.

* Northern Minerals Ltd. shed two Chinese directors in the past two months amid revelations that China has increased rare earth oxide exports, while western countries scramble to secure their own supply chains. CEO George Bauk said at the New World Metals Conference in Perth, Australia, that his company had been criticized for having so many Chinese directors on its board, as well as too much Chinese investment. Investment banker Xiaohua Liu left Northern Minerals' board in October after only being appointed in May. Congyan Xue, whose experience is in Chinese fundraising, corporate advisory and M&A, also left in November after being appointed to the board in April. Both are Beijing-based.

S&P Global Platts and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.

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