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


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


Rio Tinto and China Baowu to discuss extending iron ore joint venture

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 on the Western Range project is expected to be complete by the end of 2019. The joint venture has sold 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.

Albemarle pegs Wodgina lithium JV plant cost at US$1.6B

Mineral Resources Ltd. joint venture partner Albemarle Corp. pegged the estimated cost of their processing plant at the Wodgina lithium mine in Western Australia at US$1.6 billion, The West Australian reported. Mineral Resources has not reported a cost estimate for the plant but had implied it may build an operation of a similar size for between US$900 million and US$1.2 billion. Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said the plant design Mineral Resources explored "wasn't going to be efficient from an operating standpoint." The plant is expected to begin production in 2022. The companies recently signed a binding agreement for Albemarle to purchase a 50% stake in the project for US$1.15 billion.


* Indonesian miner PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Persero) plans to resolve environmental and other issues to close a US$3.85 billion deal this week to acquire 51.23% control of Freeport-McMoRan Inc.'s local unit, PT Freeport Indonesia, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Inalum proposed to sell a 10% stake in PT Freeport Indonesia for US$819 million to the Papua province and Mimika regency, where Freeport's Grasberg copper mine is situated, Inalum CEO Budi Gunadi Sadikin told Reuters.

* Freeport-McMoRan has to pay Indonesia the equivalent of about US$32 million in royalties for using over 4,000 hectares of protected forest without a permit, as revealed in a 2017 state audit of operations at the Grasberg copper mine, Reuters reported, citing Indonesia's Supreme Audit Agency. Additionally, the report said the company is under investigation for starting underground mining without a permit, causing damage worth an estimated US$13.3 billion due to tailings from the mine. Freeport has denied the claims.

* 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 noncash 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, the last major construction step prior to production activities. First production is scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.

* Andromeda Metals Ltd. entered into a binding earn-in and joint venture agreement with Environmental Metals Recovery Pty. Ltd. to advance 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 exploiting copper-cobalt tailings and dumps near Kolwezi.

* Glencore PLC's Katanga Mining Ltd. revealed 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, received 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.

* Pacific Empire Minerals Corp. entered into an option agreement with a group of vendors and subsequently consolidated over 90 square kilometers in the Babine copper-gold district in British Columbia. The amalgamated Paragon project combines the company's Wasp property, the recently optioned Nilkitkwa property and prospective ground staked by the company.

* 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.


* 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.

* Ramelius Resources Ltd. declared its improved 13.4-cent-per-share takeover offer for Explaurum Ltd. unconditional.

* 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 monthlong strike. The court's ruling is set to decide whether the union has the legal right to strike and, by extension, if Sibanye Gold can impose a wage agreement on all workers.

* Intrepid Mines Ltd. fulfilled the defeating conditions of an off-market takeover bid for AIC Resources Ltd.

* Jiulian Resources Inc. secured a five-year permit from the British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to set up to 60 drill sites and four kilometers of exploration trail for core drilling on its Big Kidd gold-copper property, reported. It plans to start drilling in January 2019.

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

* Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. started 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 a mineral claims exchange with Globex Mining Enterprises Inc.


* Thyssenkrupp AG will appoint former Evonik Industries AG CFO Wolfgang Colberg to its supervisory board, effective Feb. 1, 2019. Incoming board member Martina Merz will be proposed as chair of the supervisory board.

* Coking coal and coke futures in China fell as steel producers continued to seek lower raw material prices as their profit margins have shrunk due to sizable steel supply already in the market, which was tied to the government nixing its blanket production cuts for the winter, Reuters wrote. The Chinese government allowed cities and provinces to implement their own production cuts based on the level of emissions.

* 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 repayment of a bridge loan of about US$30 million until Feb. 20, 2019, and granted IRC a new temporary loan of about US$27 million.

* 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 Oceltip failed to complete its due diligence in time.

* Vedomosti and RBC Daily reported that prices for steel and the 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 the 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. 24-26, and full production will resume at the plant's three sites 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.

* 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.


* Australian Vanadium Ltd. recommended advancing the Gabanintha vanadium project in Western Australia to 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 Letseng mine has produced 14 diamonds of over 100 carats this year.

* Northern Cobalt Ltd. staked 48 mineral claims over the Snettisham vanadium project in southwestern 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 introducing the tenure to the company.

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

* Portugal anticipates launching a tender for lithium exploration licenses in 2019, 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.


* 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 could 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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