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Rio Tinto completes US$1.5B buyback, launches US$1.93B on-market buyback

TOP NEWS

Rio Tinto completes US$1.5B buyback, launches US$1.93B on-market buyback

Rio Tinto completed a US$1.5 billion buyback of Rio Tinto plc shares, comprising the US$500 million and US$1 billion on-market share buyback programs launched Feb. 8 and Aug. 2 respectively. The mining major will also undertake a further US$1.93 billion on-market buyback of shares, to be finalized by Dec. 31, 2018.

Tata Steel looks to borrow US$5.1B to refinance debt

Tata Steel Ltd. is looking to secure funding equivalent to US$5.1 billion via a loan facility and a euro-denominated bond issue in a bid to refinance its debt, Bloomberg News reported, citing "people familiar with the matter." The company is planning a US$2.15 billion, six-year syndicated facility to refinance loans of its units, TS Global Holdings Pte. and NatSteel Asia Pte.

Jiangxi Copper still operating normally despite orders to stop

Operations at Jiangxi Copper Co. Ltd. are normal despite the company receiving a halt order from the government, Metal Bulletin wrote. Bloomberg News previously reported, citing a company official, that Jiangxi Copper will stop all production in its home province for at least a week following a government order to help fight pollution in the area.

DIVERSIFIED

* China's NCCL Natural Resources Investment Fund agreed to acquire Louis Dreyfus Co. BV's metals trading unit Dreyfus Co. Metals BV, with the deal expected to close in the first half of 2018. NCCL Natural Resources is owned by units of China Molybdenum Co. Ltd. and New China Capital International Management Ltd.

BASE METALS

* Nautilus Minerals Inc. said that Chairman Russell Debney resigned from the company, as well as from its subsidiaries' boards. The troubled company reiterated its need for more funding to execute plans for the seafloor production system at its Solwara 1 project, saying talks with various parties continue, although are taking longer than expected.

* Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Co. Ltd. set the 2018 benchmark to treat and refine Freeport-McMoRan Inc.'s ore at US$82.25 per tonne and 8.225 cents per pound, respectively, down 11% from 2017 benchmarks, a source in Tongling Nonferrous told Reuters.

* RTG Mining Inc. noted that the Bougainville executive council denied an extension to Bougainville Copper Ltd.'s expired exploration license EL 1, which covers the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea. Bougainville Copper, meanwhile, said that it has not received a formal notification from the Autonomous Bougainville Government; however, its shares fell over 16% in Dec. 27 trading on the ASX.

PRECIOUS METALS

* Centerra Gold Inc. reported the temporary suspension of mill processing at its Mount Milligan copper-gold mine in British Columbia, expecting a partial resumption by the end of January next year. It was forced to suspend milling due to lack of water resources and full milling operations are expected to restart after the spring melt in 2018.

* Trek Mining Inc., NewCastle Gold Ltd. and Anfield Gold Corp. completed their business combination to create Equinox Gold Corp., which started trading on the TSX Venture Exchange and on the OTC in the U.S. Equinox completed the sale of Mayaniquel SA to International Nickel Supply SA, receiving the remaining US$12.5 million in cash, while also closing the sale of Chapleau Resources Ltd. and its Coringa gold project to Serabi Gold PLC.

* Ximen Mining Corp. intends to consolidate its common shares on the basis of 5 pre-consolidation shares for 1 post-consolidation share. It will also conduct a rights offering to fund exploration at its Brett gold project in British Columbia after the share consolidation.

* WPG Resources Ltd. entered a A$20 million secured debt facility with Byrnecut Group, the mining contractor at the Challenger gold mine. The loans will provide the necessary funding to continue operations at the South Australian mine.

* Kin Mining NL finalized a US$27 million senior secured credit facility with Sprott Private Resource Lending LP for the construction of the company's Leonora gold project in Western Australia. The project is forecast to start production in the second half of 2018.

* Gascoyne Resources Ltd. closed a A$60 million loan facility with National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The company has drawn A$20 million from the facility to fund development costs as it advances its Dalgaranga gold project in Western Australia to production, with the first pour scheduled for late in the second quarter of 2018.

* Gold prices rose to more than a three-week high on Dec. 26, backed by a weaker dollar, while palladium hit its highest since February 2001, Reuters reported.

BULK COMMODITIES

* Westmoreland Coal Co. received federal approval to expand its Rosebud coal mine in the Powder River Basin, Montana, by 60 million tons, a move that will add 19 years of life and 10.5 square miles to the existing mine. The Rosebud mine produced 2.5 million tons of coal in the most recent quarter, down from 2.7 million tons in the same period last year.

* China Hanking Holdings Ltd. expects to record a net profit for the year ending Dec. 31, compared to a year-ago loss, based on a preliminary assessment. The swing was attributed to gains of 760 million Chinese yuan from the sale of its unit Hanking Australia Pty. Ltd. A year-over-year surge in iron ore concentrate price, and the start of nickel sales, also helped drive the revenue increase.

* Coal exports across the globe increased 1.9% in 2016 to 1.33 billion tonnes, including a 1.5% increase in steam coal exports to 1.01 billion tonnes, and a 3.4% increase in coking coal exports to 314.1 million tonnes, according to a report from the International Energy Agency. Mining News wrote that coal demand is expected to remain stable during 2017 and 2022 and is estimated to reach 5.5 billion tonnes coal equivalent by 2022, the same average as the previous five years.

* Reward Minerals Ltd. submitted the environmental review document for the Lake Disappointment sulfate of potash project to Western Australia's Environmental Protection Authority. The complete assessment and consultation process for the project may continue throughout 2018 before arriving at a ministerial decision.

* American Pacific Borate & Lithium Ltd.'s initial boric acid scoping study for its wholly-owned Fort Cady borate-lithium project in Southern California estimated a posttax, unlevered net present value, discounted at 10%, of US$687.9 million and a 39% internal rate of return. The scoping study targeted steady state production of 246,000 tonnes per annum of boric acid and 54,000 tonnes per annum of sulfate of potash.

* Chinese officials in northern Shandong province used fabricated data to help aluminum and steel producers escape mandatory production cuts, Reuters reported, citing the state-run China Youth Daily. "Local official[s] have covered up for aluminum producers, leading them to build up their capacity," the publication wrote, citing a letter from a Ministry of Environmental Protection inspection team.

* Ncondezi Energy Ltd. extended the date for finalizing the joint development agreement for the integrated 300-MW power and coal mine project in Mozambique to July 31, 2018, from April 30, 2018. Meanwhile, the submission date for binding engineering, procurement, and construction and operations and maintenance contracts was extended to Feb. 28, 2018, from Dec. 31, 2017.

* Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd. and its domestic subsidiaries entered into coal contracts for 2018 to supply an aggregate of 37.5 million tonnes of the material. The settlement price will be determined through negotiation between the parties in each transaction.

* China did not import iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea in November, amid the latest sanctions imposed by the UN against Pyongyang, Reuters wrote, citing customs data.

* China has pushed coal producers to boost their high-grade coal supply to lock in fuel for the winter, Reuters reported, citing a statement made by the country's National Development and Reform Commission.

* Five miners were killed after an 800-meter tunnel collapsed at a coal mine in Afghanistan's Samangan province, Mining.com reported. Four people were rescued after the accident but one worker remains missing, the Associated Press reported, citing local authorities.

* Tigers Realm Coal Ltd.'s Russian subsidiary entered into an agreement with Sberbank to secure a loan of 600 million Russian rubles. The company will use the proceeds for operational purposes and CapEx prior to next revenue from sales, expected in July 2018.

* Russia's Mechel PAO leased 18 BelAZ mining trucks as part of a 2.8-billion-ruble deal with State Transport Leasing Co. The new trucks are part of the company's technical revamping program for its mining division.

SPECIALTY

* Syrah Resources Ltd. achieved first production of bagged salable fines graphite from the Balama project in Mozambique, after completing commissioning of coarse flake and fine flake circuits. The company is now focusing on the optimization of the process plant and the ramp-up of production at Balama.

* PJSC Alrosa plans to hold 30 international auctions for the sale of special-sized natural rough diamonds, weighing 10.8 carats and above, in 2018. Five of the auctions will be held in the first quarter next year.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* The total value of merger deals in Canada declined 11% to US$243.5 billion through Dec. 26 in 2017, compared to US$272.3 billion of deals in 2016, mainly due to a 25% drop in energy deals, Bloomberg News reported. JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s senior country officer in Canada, David Rawlings, expects mergers to decline even further in 2018.

* Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines issued a new decree that regulates the environmental impact of exploration activities in the country. The decree established that exploration activities from geological studies and rock sampling to drilling probes would not require special permits, provided they comply with environmental protection standards, mining magazine Latinominería reported.

* According to an ICRA report, global nonferrous metal prices will remain buoyant over the next three months on the back of widening supply gaps as a result of production delays across aluminum, copper and zinc, Press Trust of India wrote.

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