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Transnet declares force majeure; Anglo lifts Minas Rio output forecast for FY'19

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Transnet declares force majeure; Anglo lifts Minas Rio output forecast for FY'19

TOP NEWS

Transnet says South African rail export line sabotaged

South Africa's Transnet resumed operations at one of two rail lines connecting mines to the Richards Bay coal export terminal, Reuters reported. The company declared force majeure on coal exports Dec. 21 after an investigation revealed that the recent train derailment happened after a rail line was severed using a blowtorch, BusinessDay Live reported. A rail link connecting mines to the Richards Bay export terminal in South Africa was blocked after 51 wagons of a 200-wagon carrying about 16,600 tonnes of coal derailed.

Anglo American lifts 2019 Minas Rio output forecast

Shortly after resuming operations, Anglo American PLC increased its 2019 production guidance for the Minas Rio iron ore operation in Brazil, after securing regulatory approval relating to the Step 3 license area. The company expects iron ore production at Minas Rio to reach between 18 million and 20 million wet tonnes, up from the previous guidance of between 16 million and 19 million wet tonnes.

Sibanye strike 'remains protected' after court decision, union says

A feud over the legality of a month-long strike at Sibanye Gold Ltd.'s operations in South Africa remains unresolved after a court decision to have an independent group assess the situation. The decision was a temporary victory for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union giving it legal legs to continue the strike that began Nov. 21.

DIVERSIFIED

* First Quantum Minerals Ltd. plans to cut 2,500 workers in Zambia in response to looming tax hikes, Reuters reported, citing the company. The miner is set to lay off 1,250 workers at the Trident-Sentinel copper mine, also known as Kalumbila, and the same number at the Kansanshi copper mine in the first quarter of 2019. The layoff plans come ahead of tax hikes set to take effect next year, with royalties climbing and new levies to be introduced.

* Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques expects slowness in asset sales in 2019 as the company nearly completes reshaping its core assets in iron ore, copper and aluminum, the Financial Times reported. The executive noted that the company would decide what to do with the US$3.5 billion of proceeds from the Grasberg deal before its annual results in February.

BASE METALS

* State-owned PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Persero), also known as Inalum, closed a US$3.85 billion deal to secure a 51.2% stake Freeport-McMoRan Inc. subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the giant Grasberg copper-gold mine in the country. Freeport received US$350 million for its 100% interest in PT Indocopper Investama, which owns 9.36% of project owner Freeport Indonesia, while Rio Tinto cashed out its 40% participating interest in Grasberg for US$3.5 billion.

* Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson said the company will build a copper smelter with a processing capacity of up to 2.6 million tonnes of copper ore as part of the new contract of PT Freeport Indonesia, Indonesia's Antara News Agency reported.

PRECIOUS METALS

* Gascoyne Resources Ltd. slashed the 2019 production guidance for its Dalgaranga gold project in Western Australia to 92,000 to 102,000 ounces at all-in sustaining costs of between A$1,220 and A$1,320 per ounce, compared to guidance in August of 105,000 to 115,000 ounces at AISC of A$1,200/oz to A$1,300/oz. The forecast production was impacted due to a reduction in mineral inventory of 22,000 ounces in the updated Gilbey's resource model. The company also secured a A$12 million loan from mining contractor NRW Holdings Ltd., effectively extending payment terms to about 75 days.

* Barrick Gold Corp. is laying off nearly 95 employees, over half of its workforce at the Toronto head office, ahead of the completion of its merger with Randgold Resources Ltd., Reuters wrote, citing the Globe and Mail. The move will affect the company's finance, capital allocation, communications and investor relations divisions. Long serving director Anthony Munk, son of Barrick founder Peter Munk, is also stepping down, the report added.

* Peru's environmental regulator OEFA ordered Gold Fields Ltd. to fix tailings water running off from the drainage system at its Cerro Corona gold mine in Cajamarca region. The company is required to implement a water monitoring system, install a water storage system, and repair the beds and banks of both the La Hierba stream and the Tingo Maygasbamba river, daily El Gestión reported.

* Westgold Resources Ltd. is buying Doray Minerals Ltd.'s Andy Well and Gnaweeda gold projects for A$9 million plus A$6 million in bonus milestone payments as part of its strategy in Western Australia's central Murchison region, which Managing Director Peter Cook says is one of Australia's biggest gold aggregation plays.

* FireFox Gold Corp. completed its previously announced C$2.1 million IPO, and its shares will start trading on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol FFOX, effective Dec. 27.

* Michael Fotios, former head of collapsed miner Eastern Goldfields Ltd., is facing jail time after changing his previous plea of not guilty to guilty to seven Commonwealth tax charges, The West Australian reported.

* Fitch Ratings upgraded Russian gold producer PJSC Polyus' long-term debt rating to BB with a stable outlook from BB-, citing its operational performance, lower debt burden and stronger cash generation.

* Goldcorp Inc. bought a 9.74% stake in Central Timmins Exploration Corp. for C$1 million and agreed to buy some of the junior's mineral claims for C$258,624.

BULK COMMODITIES

* Whitehaven Coal Ltd. will "vigorously defend" a claim brought on by former mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, who alleged a breach of contract by the company over a 2012 deal. Tinkler filed the claim in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Australia on behalf of himself and a number of parties who received milestone shares in Whitehaven in May 2012.

* Gulf Manganese Corp. Ltd. and Mighty River International Ltd. agreed to settle all their outstanding claims and dismiss a legal action. Mighty River started proceedings in November 2017 against Gulf Manganese in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, alleging that the latter failed to meet its obligations under an October 2013 agreement.

* Rescuers recovered bodies of nine workers that were trapped after a fire broke out at PJSC Uralkali's Solikamsk potash mine in Russia, Reuters reported, citing Russian news agencies. The fire has yet to be extinguished, the report added.

* PJSC Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, or MMK, is set to invest approximately US$682 million in modernizing its coking production with the participation of Sinosteel Equipment & Engineering Co. Ltd., Interfax reported, citing the company.

* China's exports of alumina fell about 37.9% to 285,696 tonnes in November, compared to 460,072 tonnes in October, Reuters reported, citing data released by the General Administration of Customs.

* Twenty Chinese aluminum producers plan to slash annual capacity by 800,000 tonnes in coming months amid low prices, Reuters wrote, citing an official of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association. Paul Adkins, managing director of aluminum consultancy AZ China, said the companies making the cuts hoped to generate replacement permits, allowing smelters to replace old facilities with more modern plants, implying the move would be a "net zero reduction," Reuters added. The industry association meeting had representatives from major industry players, including China Hongqiao Group Ltd., Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. , Xinfa Group Co. Ltd., Hangzhou Jinjiang Group and East Hope.

* Adani Mining Pty. Ltd. CEO Lucas Dow called on the Queensland, Australia, government to clarify the process and timeline for securing the remaining environmental approvals that would allow construction to start at Carmichael, Reuters wrote. The Queensland environment department said the company needs two more approvals: one for management plans concerning an endangered bird species and another to identify the source aquifer of groundwater in the area. "We have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to accommodate the state government's requirements and feedback within the pending management plans only to be told at the eleventh hour that [it] is not ready to endorse these plans," Dow was quoted as saying.

SPECIALTY

* China Minmetals Corp. subsidiary China Metallurgical Group Corp. launched the initial phase of a new energy battery project in China's Tangshan city, which will annually produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel-cobalt-manganese hydroxides, and 20 tonnes of high-purity scandium oxide, Reuters reported. The products are in demand from the new energy vehicles, energy storage and power generation sectors. The project will cost over 4 billion Chinese yuan across two phases, targeting annual production of 60,000 tonnes of nickel-cobalt-manganese hydroxides and 40 tonnes of scandium oxide after the second phase.

* Speciality Metals International Ltd. is in advanced negotiations with Cronimet Holding GmbH for a conditional participation for the staged development of the former's Mount Carbine tungsten project in Queensland, Australia, allowing for the purchase of the Mount Carbine quarry and mining leases through alternative financial instruments.

* Peninsula Energy Ltd. signed a new five-year agreement for toll milling uranium-rich resin from its Lance projects in Wyoming, with its existing toll milling service provider Uranium One Americas Inc. The agreement will take effect Jan. 1, 2019, and can be extended for further five years.

* VRX Silica Ltd. lodged an application for its first silica sand mining lease at its Arrowsmith North prospect, part of the Arrowsmith silica sand project in Western Australia. A drilling program to increase resources and improve classification is expected to complete in the March quarter of 2019.

* Berkeley Energia Ltd. failed to secure a permit from the municipality of Retortillo in Spain to build the Salamanca open-cast uranium mine, Reuters reported. According to the report, the municipality ruled that the company does not own the land required for the project, and has failed to present the relevant documentation.

* Metalicity Ltd. received proceeds from the recent sale of its Pilbara lithium project to Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA of US$$1 million, and a 1% net smelter royalty from all products. The company will use the proceeds to further exploration at its recently secured copper exploration projects in Western Australia's Pilbara region.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* A report by the Peruvian central bank indicated that social conflicts are the leading reason behind delays to operations at mining projects, accounting for 21% of the total, El Comercio reported. This is followed by issues with projects' technical feasibility at 20%, limited access to capital causing 19% of delays, while bureaucratic red tape was responsible 18% of the time. Only five of 26 mining projects that were being explored seven years ago and passed through the environmental permitting were now operational, according to the report.

* A review of 1,597 companies listed on the Australia, London, New York and certain Canadian stock exchanges with comparable data shows the mining industry's aggregate cash holdings decreased 1.8% to US$45.16 billion at the end of the third quarter, from US$46.01 billion at the close of the second quarter, according to the Metals and Mining Research team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* ASX-listed gold explorer Soon Mining Ltd. said Ghana lifted a 23-month ban on small-scale mining, allowing compliant companies to resume operations with a focus on environmental sustainability.

* Primetech, formerly Kopex, and Przedsiębiorstwo Budowy Szybów, signed a conditional agreement to sell a 95.01% package of PBSz shares to Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa SA. PBSz specializes in mining services, such as shaft construction and drilling of underground tunnels, Puls Biznesu reported.

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