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Rio Tinto, China Baowu mull JV extension; 45-day strike ends at South Deep mine

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Rio Tinto, China Baowu mull JV extension; 45-day strike ends at South Deep mine

TOP NEWS

Rio Tinto and China Baowu to mull iron ore JV extension

Rio Tinto and China Baowu Steel Group Corp. Ltd. agreed to discuss extending the Bao-HI iron ore joint venture in Western Australia's Pilbara region, which covers the Eastern Range mine and Western Range project. A pre-feasibility study started by Rio Tinto over the Western Range project is expected to complete by the end of 2019. The joint venture has achieved sales of over 180 million tonnes since its creation in 2002.

Gold Fields reaches deal to end 45-day strike at South Deep gold mine

Gold Fields Ltd. agreed with the National Union of Mineworkers to end a 45-day strike at its South Deep gold mine in South Africa. The company will proceed with the planned retrenchment of 1,082 employees, and offer portable skills training. Production at South Deep is expected to gradually ramp up, with the mine to run production over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Mitsubishi selling stakes in Australian coal mines for A$750M

Mitsubishi Corp. is selling its 31.4% interest in the Clermont coal mine in Queensland, Australia, and 10% interest in the Ulan coal mine in New South Wales for A$750 million. The Australian assets, held by wholly owned Mitsubishi unit Mitsubishi Development Pty. Ltd, are being divested as the company looks to "optimize its asset portfolio."

BASE METALS

* Orion Minerals Ltd.'s scoping study for its Prieska zinc-copper project in South Africa outlined a net present value, discounted at 12.5%, of between A$400 million and A$440 million, a 38% internal rate of return, and a three-year payback period.

* Polymetal International PLC completed the previously announced non-cash exchange of its Tarutin copper-gold property in Russia for 85% of the East Tarutin copper-gold property in Kazakhstan from Russian Copper Co. Polymetal plans to resume exploration at East Tarutin and complete a JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate by the end of 2019.

* Heron Resources Ltd. kicked off commissioning activities at its Woodlawn zinc-copper project in New South Wales, Australia, which is the last major construction step prior to production activities. First production is scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.

* Andromeda Metals Ltd. entered a binding earn-in and joint venture agreement with Environmental Metals Recovery Pty. Ltd. to advance the in-situ recovery at the company's Moonta copper-gold project in South Australia. The Moonta ISR joint venture covers only the northern part of the Moonta tenement.

* Red Rock Resources PLC and joint venture partner Gécamines SA set up a local company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Musonoi Mining SA, which will be owned 50.1% by the company. The joint venture will focus on exploitation of copper-cobalt tailings and dumps near Kolwezi.

* Glencore PLC's Katanga Mining Ltd. confirmed it will pay C$30 million to settle the Ontario Securities Commission's probe into the company's business dealings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Aristotelis Mistakidis, Glencore's head of copper trading, was slapped with a C$2.5 million fine and a four-year director ban in Ontario, while Katanga CEO Johnny Blizzard, who will resign within 30 days, received a C$400,000 fine and a two-year ban.

* PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Persero) aims to close this week its US$3.85 billion acquisition of a 51% stake in the Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia, Reuters reported.

* Aqua Metals Inc. is nearing completion of the first phase of its two-phase capital improvement program, and started processing a portion of hard metallic lead into lead ingots.

PRECIOUS METALS

* Pretium Resources Inc. closed its previously announced US$480 million debt facility with The Bank of Nova Scotia, Societe Generale and ING Capital LLC. The loan will refinance its existing construction credit facility for the Brucejack gold mine in British Columbia.

* A preliminary economic assessment on Erdene Resource Development Corp.'s Khundii gold project in Mongolia defined an after-tax net present value, discounted at 5%, of US$99 million, with a 56% internal rate of return and a two-year payback period.

* Scotgold Resources Ltd. unit SGZ Cononish Ltd. is set to start development activities at its Cononish gold-silver project in the U.K. First gold production is scheduled for the end of 2019.

* Sibanye Gold Ltd. and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union headed to labor court Dec. 18 to fight over the legality of a nearly month-long strike. The court's ruling is set to decide whether AMCU has the legal right to strike and, by extension, if Sibanye Gold can impose a wage agreement on all workers.

* Nigeria's first gold refinery, owned by local firm Kian Smith Trade & Co., is expected to more than triple its capacity within five years after commencing production in June, Reuters reported, citing company Vice Chairman Nere Teriba.

* Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. commenced mine development work at the Platreef platinum project in South Africa.

* Monarques Gold Corp. consolidated the land surrounding its Wasamac gold project in Quebec through an exchange of mineral claims with Globex Mining Enterprises Inc.

BULK COMMODITIES

* IRC Ltd. secured a US$240 million facility with Gazprombank to refinance the finance facility for its K&S iron ore project in Russia with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. Meanwhile, Petropavlovsk PLC agreed to defer the demand for repayment of a bridge loan of about US$30 million until Feb. 20, 2019, and granted a new temporary loan of about US$27 million to IRC.

* Mechel PAO bought 150 new railcars between November and December for 467 million Russian rubles. The company plans to acquire about another 1,000 open-top railcars in 2019 to transport coal.

* Cauldron Energy Ltd. terminated the farm-in agreement allowing Oceltip Metals Pty Ltd. to earn up to a 60% interest in the Yanrey North tenements adjacent to the former's Yanrey uranium project in Western Australia. Cauldron said that Oceltip failed to complete its due diligence in time.

* Vedomosti and RBC Daily reported that prices for steel and raw materials for its production will fall in the next five years amid the introduction of new global capacities, according to a report from rating agency ACRA.

* Jupiter Mines Ltd. intends to distribute about 1 billion South African rand in dividends for fiscal 2019, subject to the Tshipi manganese project in South Africa performing on plan and manganese price holding over January and February 2019.

* Scheduled production halts at K+S AG's Werra potash plant in Germany were shortened due to recent rainfall that improved the water level on the Werra river. Stoppages will only occur from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, with full production to resume at the plant's three sites starting Dec. 27.

* PJSC Novolipetsk Steel will invest up to 34 billion Russian rubles to reconstruct a blast furnace at its Lipetsk site, which should increase its capacity by 8% to 3.4 million tonnes of pig iron per year.

* PJSC PhosAgro expects its 2019 capital expenditures to amount to 34 billion Russian rubles, excluding capitalized repairs. PhosAgro will keep capex at roughly this year's level of 32 billion to 33 billion rubles in the next two or three years.

* Thiess Pty. Ltd. secured a A$150 million contract extension to continue providing mining services at the Caval Ridge coal mine, a 50-50 joint venture of BHP Group Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corp. in Queensland, Australia.

* China banned 11 steel mills from operating and warned 17 others if they fail to fix the environmental, safety and other breaches highlighted by the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Reuters reported. Guangdong Century Tsingshan Nickel Industry Co. and Xuzhou Dongya Iron and Steel are among those banned, while Jiangsu Shagang Group Co. Ltd. is one of the companies that will get a deadline to remedy violations.

* Japan expects its crude steel output in the year starting April 2019 to rise slightly due to local firm infrastructure demand, Reuters reported, citing the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.

SPECIALTY

* Australian Vanadium Ltd. recommended to advance the Gabanintha vanadium project in Western Australia into a definitive feasibility study, after a pre-feasibility study outlined an ungeared posttax net present value, discounted at 8%, of US$1.41 billion and a 47.5% internal rate of return, based on a steady vanadium pentoxide price of US$20 per pound over the operation's initial 17-year mine life. Total capital expenditure was estimated at US$354 million.

* Gem Diamonds Ltd. recovered a high quality 101-carat and a 71-carat white type IIa diamond from the Letseng mine in Lesotho. The Letšeng mine has produced 14 diamonds of more than 100 carats this year.

* Denison Mines Corp. approved a C$10.3 million budget for 2019 to advance its flagship Wheeler River uranium project in northern Saskatchewan. The fund will be used to commence pilot plant testing and exploration activities.

* Northern Cobalt Ltd. staked 48 mineral claims over the Snettisham vanadium project in south-western Alaska. As the project was not under any existing mineral claim, the company was able to acquire a 100% interest by pegging the ground and issuing 500,000 ordinary shares to Fireant Resources Pty. Ltd. as consideration for services in introducing the tenure to the company.

* Kidman Resources Ltd. entered a nonbinding memorandum of understanding for the supply of 12,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per annum to LG Chem Ltd. for 10 years.

* Gemfields Group Ltd. generated revenue of US$55.3 million from a recent auction in Singapore of rough rubies, selling 655,623 of the 685,363 carats offered.

* Portugal anticipates in 2019 the launch of a tender for lithium exploration licences, Reuters reported, citing secretary of state for energy Joao Galamba. As part of the tender process, the government will also look at investment commitments for a local lithium processing unit, which would be a first in Europe.

* Amulet Diamond Corp. will not exercise its option to acquire Firestone Diamonds PLC's assets in Botswana, which include the latter's interest in the BK11 diamond mine.

* Graphite-focused DNI Metals Inc. signed a letter of intent with a private company to develop the former's black shales vanadium-polymetallic deposit in Alberta.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* A joint investigation by National Public Radio and PBS Frontline identified over 2,000 cases of advanced black lung disease in coal miners between 2011 to 2016 in five Appalachian states in the U.S., compared to just 99 cases of the disease reported nationwide by a federal monitoring program.

* Although financings by junior and intermediate companies continue to disappoint, an uptick in new initial resources and positive project milestones in November may be an indication that the sustained strength in drilling activity this year may be paying off, according to the Metals and Mining Research team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* The Australian Labor Party is pushing for a ban on mining camp arrangements in Western Australia that involve fly-in, fly-out workers sharing rooms between swings and shifts, The West Australian reported.

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