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Strike-related losses at BHP Billiton's Escondida could reach over US$1B

TOP NEWS

Strike-related losses at BHP Billiton's Escondida could reach over US$1B

BHP Billiton Group is still reviewing the impact of a 44-day strike at its Escondida copper mine in Chile, Bloomberg News reported, citing Danny Malchuk, the company's president of operations for Minerals Americas. Escondida is taking the restart "calmly," as safety remains a priority for the mining major, he added. Meanwhile, Chilean copper agency Cochilco estimates that production losses at Escondida could total between 220,000 and 230,000 tonnes, reflecting losses of over US$1 billion at current prices.

Indonesia issues temporary copper export permit to Freeport unit

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. unit PT Freeport Indonesia was granted a temporary license by the Indonesian government, enabling the resumption of concentrate exports from its Grasberg copper mine, Bloomberg News reported. The permit is valid for eight months from February, when a special mining license was first offered. Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company will soon restart exports while continuing talks with the government to agree on a long-term solution.

Rio Tinto unit Kennecott Utah Copper reaches 5-year wage deal with 4 unions

Rio Tinto unit Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. reached a wage deal with the four unions that have been engaged in collective negotiations since late February. The five-year agreement, which ensures continued quality healthcare and retirement benefits as well as competitive wage increases every year, will take effect immediately.

BASE METALS

* The workers union at the Anglo American Plc- and Glencore Plc-owned Collahuasi copper joint venture in Chile voted to bring forward negotiations for a new collective agreement. However, both the union and the company officials declined to comment as to when the conversation would start, daily Diario Financiero wrote. The current labor contract expires in October.

* Meanwhile, Collahuasi CEO Jorge Gomez said the mine is expected to beat the 2016 production figure of 506,000 tonnes of copper this year, Reuters reported. Gomez added that if copper prices continued to rise, Collahuasi would consider restarting cathode production, which was halted in 2015.

* Anglo American could participate in the tender offer process for the Michiquillay copper-gold-silver project in northern Peru only if it meets the company's investment interests, country manager Luis Marchese told daily Gestión. The project remains on standby after it was returned to the Peruvian state by Anglo American in 2014.

* Separately, Anglo American may move forward with its Quellaveco copper-molybdenum project in Peru next year, subject to meeting a number of targets including keeping costs under control at existing operations, Metal Bulletin reported, citing Hennie Faul, CEO of the miner's copper business. Bloomberg News cited Faul as saying that Quellaveco would require between US$5 billion and US$6 billion in expenditure over four to five years, and the company is looking to share the burden. Faul added that the miner was receiving "a lot of interest" from potential partners, including Southern Copper Corp.

* Antofagasta Plc CEO Ivan Arriagada said he could not guarantee that the upcoming collective agreement negotiations with union workers at its 50%-owned Zaldivar copper mine in Chile, half-owned by Barrick Gold Corp., would not end in a strike, but insisted he was confident that the parties would reach a deal. Talks are set to begin in June, daily Diario Financiero reported.

* The torrential rains and floods that have blocked highways and mineral railways in Peru in the past few weeks have not affected zinc prices yet, Votorantim Metais Ltda. CEO Tito Martins said in a Bloomberg interview, cited by daily Gestion. However, production interruptions would eventually affect supply, Martins noted.

* Codelco CEO Nelson Pizarro said the state-owned miner intends to boost its productivity by 20% by 2020 and continues to be strongly committed to reducing costs, Metal Bulletin wrote.

PRECIOUS METALS

* Lundin Gold Inc. is looking for a 60:40 debt-equity structure to finance the development of its Fruta del Norte gold project in Ecuador, CEO Ron Hochstein told S&P Global Market Intelligence on the sidelines of the European Gold Forum in Zurich. "We hope to be able to have a significant proportion of the [60%] debt component of the financing in place by the end of Q3 this year," Hochstein said.

* Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. expects mine development at its Bonanza Ledge deposit within its Cariboo gold project in British Columbia to start immediately, after the company secured the approvals to begin developing and mining the deposit.

* RNI NL acquired the Chunderloo mining tenements, part of Westgold Resources Ltd.'s Central Murchison gold project in Western Australia, for 5 million of the company's shares.

* Operations were temporarily suspended at New Gold Inc.'s Peak gold-copper mine in New South Wales, Australia, following the death of a contract worker who reported feeling ill while working underground.

* Due to the potential risk of a strike at the milling operations amid a strategic review of alternatives, Platinum Group Metals Ltd. revised down production guidance at its Maseve platinum mine to 85,000 ounces of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, down from the previous forecast of 100,000 ounces, MiningMx reported.

BULK COMMODITIES

* Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. filed a lawsuit before a court in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, to revoke the appointment of Sérgio Leite as CEO of Usinas Siderúrgicas de Minas Gerais SA in replacement of Rômel Erwin de Souza, sources told daily Estado de Minas. Leite was the candidate of Ternium SA, one of Nippon's rivals in an ongoing fight for shareholder control over the Brazilian steelmaker.

* Bushveld Minerals Ltd. unit Lemur Holdings signed a memorandum of understanding with Sinohydro Corp. Ltd to jointly develop an initial 60 MW independent power producer coal power plant and a 200-kilometer transmission line in southern Madagascar. The coal fuel for the power station will be sourced from Lemur's coal mining permit area in Madagascar.

* Coal of Africa Ltd. entered into an agreement with Pan African Resources Plc for the acquisition of Pan African Resources Coal Holdings Pty. Ltd. for 275 million South African rand. The Pan African unit holds a 91% stake in Uitkomst Colliery Pty. Ltd.

* JSW Steel Ltd.'s crude steel output in the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2017 rose 28% year over year to 4.10 million tonnes, reflecting the company's highest-ever quarterly production.

* RBC Daily and Kommersant reported that on the eve of the visit of Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyeev to Moscow, the country's embassy in Russia announced the signing of a memorandum with Ural Mining & Metallurgical Co. for the development of the 3.5-billion-tonne Tebinbulak deposit of vanadium-containing titanomagnetite ores and the creation of steel production for a total of US$1.5 billion.

* Coal India Ltd.'s output grew 2.9% year over year to 554.13 million tonnes of coal in its fiscal year ended March 31. The company's offtake, meanwhile, saw a 1.6% increase to 543.16 million tonnes in fiscal 2017.

* The Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service dropped an investigation into Mechel PAO, PAO Severstal and Evraz Plc for allegedly pushing up steel prices, Mechel's press office told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Russian fertilizer PJSC Acron posted a 53% year over year jump in 2016 net profit to 25.53 billion rubles. Revenue, however, declined 3% on yearly basis to 89.36 billion rubles, while EBITDA fell 27% to 29.86 billion rubles.

* Australia's QCoal Pty Ltd. declared force majeure on two coal shipments due to the damaged rail links between the mines and the ports in Queensland, Australia, following Cyclone Debbie. The ships were due to be loaded this week.

* Warrior Met Coal LLC has set its IPO price at US$17 to US$19 per share in its 16.7-million-share listing. The proposed maximum aggregate offering price for Warrior's IPO is US$364.2 million.

SPECIALTY

* Firestone Diamonds Plc recovered a 110-carat gem-quality light yellow diamond, its largest diamond to date, during the ramp-up phase at its Liqhobong diamond mine in Lesotho.

* PJSC ALROSA sold 461,000 carats of diamonds worth US$12.9 million in an auction held in Russia. Indian and Chinese companies were the main buyers.

* The oval-shaped 59.6-carat diamond known as the Pink Star was sold for a record US$71.2 million in a Hong Kong auction to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, the Financial Times reported, citing Sotheby's.

* Dominion Diamond Corp., which put itself on the market after receiving a US$1.1 billion takeover offer from The Washington Companies, is seeking to land a deal with fellow Canadian diamond miners, Mining.com reported, citing an unnamed source.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* At the end of the first quarter, the metals and mining industry's 25 largest companies were worth an aggregate US$632 billion as of March 31 on the basis of market cap, an 8% increase over the end of the December 2016 quarter, when the same companies held a value of US$587.17 billion. The top five companies remain unchanged since the end of December, with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Glencore Plc, Vale SA and Coal India Ltd. maintaining their rankings.

* Speaking to a room full of C-suite executives heading American companies, President Donald Trump promised that a "very major haircut" is coming for the Dodd-Frank Act, the landmark legislation that has defined the postcrisis financial regulatory framework.

* Jeffrey Lacker, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, stepped down April 4 after revealing he had inappropriately disclosed confidential information about monetary policy.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7 a.m. London time, and scans news sources published in Chinese, English, Indonesian, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Ukrainian. Some external links may require a subscription.