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US sanctions Iran's metal producers; NMDC to explore Bunder diamond deposits


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US sanctions Iran's metal producers; NMDC to explore Bunder diamond deposits


US Treasury announces sanctions on Iran's metal producers after missile strikes

The U.S. followed through on its threat of fresh sanctions against Iran after military tensions between the two countries in recent days, targeting several Iranian government officials and the nation's metals industry and other economic sectors. The U.S. Treasury Department designated 17 Iranian metals producers and mining companies, along with three other entities based in China and the Seychelles, which the agency believes are helping Tehran conduct trade in metals.

India's NMDC set to explore Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder diamond deposits

India's central state of Madhya Pradesh asked state-owned National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. to explore the Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder deposits, which could contain millions of carats of diamonds, Reuters reported, citing the Mineral Resource Department's principal secretary, Neeraj Mandloi. Rio Tinto spent about US$90 million over 14 years on the Bunder project and had planned to invest up to US$500 million. However, the company pulled out due to legal battles with green activists and delays in acquiring environmental permits.

BHP, Fortescue tussle threatens Western Australia's Port Hedland housing buyback

The Western Australian government's deal to buy back houses in Port Hedland's West End that are affected by dust pollution from the iron ore port operations is under threat due to an ongoing fight between BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., The Australian reported. The state government is planning to buy back 540 properties in the area for an estimated total cost of between A$150 million and A$350 million, which will be funded by the industry.


* Copper prices started 2020 on an upward trajectory, reflecting the U.S. and China's official plans to sign a long-sought trade agreement Jan. 15, which includes some trade relief and helps alleviate the trade tensions between the countries, S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals and Mining Research team reported. As a result, London Metal Exchange three-month copper prices have increased to average US$6,132/t so far in January from an average of US$6,103/t in December 2019.

* Nexa Resources SA agreed with Peru's government to sponsor preprofessional and professional programs for youth in the farming communities in Ica that will be affected by the company's Cerro Lindo zinc-lead-copper silver operation, reported, citing a statement by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

* Vancouver, British Columbia-based Copper Mountain Mining Corp. expects copper output in 2020 of 86 million to 96 million pounds, up to a 33% increase over the 72.0 million pounds produced in 2019. C1 cash costs in 2020 are expected at between US$1.30 per pound and US$1.45 per pound.

* London-listed NQ Minerals PLC achieved record production of 8,160 tonnes of lead concentrate and 4,904 tonnes of zinc concentrate at its Hellyer mine in Tasmania, Australia, in the fourth quarter of 2019. This compares to 6,656 tonnes of lead concentrate and 4,904 tonnes of zinc concentrate produced in the third quarter.

* Vedanta Ltd. suspended production at the Deeps Shaft, part of its Black Mountain lead-zinc operation in South Africa, following the death of a mining operator due to a fall-of-ground-incident, Mining Weekly reported.


* Mexico-based Fresnillo PLC is the world's leading primary silver miner and Mexico's largest gold producer, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals and Mining Research team. Fresnillo, formed from a spinoff of Industrias Peñoles SAB de CV's precious metals assets, budgeted US$160 million for exploration in 2019, down 20% from the US$200 million allocated in 2018. The lion's share of the 2019 budget was devoted to Mexico, with smaller amounts earmarked for Chile, Peru, Argentina and regional programs in Latin America.

* Caledonia Mining Corp. PLC achieved record quarterly gold production of 16,876 ounces at its Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe in the fourth quarter of 2019, a 13% jump year over year. Full-year production totaled 55,182 ounces, beating revised production guidance of 50,000 to 53,000 ounces. Output in 2020 is expected to be 53,000 to 56,000 ounces.

* Australian gold producer Resolute Mining Ltd. reported output of 384,731 ounces of gold for 2019, missing the annual production guidance of 400,000 ounces. All-in sustaining cost was pegged at US$1,090 per ounce, compared with 2019 guidance of US$1,020/oz. The company said unscheduled repairs at the Syama gold mine in Mali in the December 2019 quarter weighed on production. Resolute set a 2020 gold output target of 500,000 ounces at all-in sustaining costs of US$980/oz.

* Researchers in Switzerland developed an 18-carat gold nugget element using plastic instead of a metal alloy element, reported.

* St Barbara Ltd. completed its expenditure obligation under the first earn-in period pursuant to the Lake Wells gold project in Western Australia.

* The Toronto Stock Exchange will delist Lydian International Ltd.'s ordinary shares, effective at market close Feb. 5. The company said it will not appeal the decision or seek an alternative listing.


* German conglomerate thyssenkrupp AG is boosting efforts to sell its industrial solutions segment. Chinese state-owned companies are expected to bid for the unit, Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The factory-building business has been one of the worst performers in the company's portfolio, according to the report.

* Hindalco Industries Ltd. aluminum unit Novelis Inc. intends to offer US$1.6 billion of its senior notes in a private offering. Proceeds will be used to refinance Novelis' 6.25% senior notes due 2024, to fund a portion of the acquisition price for Ohio-based aluminum-maker Aleris Corp., and for general corporate purposes.

* Meanwhile, thyssenkrupp is exploring a possible steel merger with German steelmaker Salzgitter AG, Reuters reported, citing magazine Der Spiegel. Thyssenkrupp CEO Martina Merz and Salzgitter counterpart Heinz Joerg Fuhrmann will meet soon to discuss the matter, which has surfaced regularly in recent years, the report said.

* Tata Steel Ltd.'s Tata Steel Netherlands Holdings BV refinanced its bank debt, raising term loan facilities amounting to €1.75 billion from 19 banks.

* A unit of Australian engineering group Monadelphous Group Ltd. won a A$400 million contract to carry out engineering, design, procurement and site construction work for Rio Tinto's Western Turner Syncline phase two iron ore project in Western Australia. Work will start in the first quarter and is expected to be complete in 2021.

* Indian state-owned miner National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. seeks to increase its annual iron ore output to 48 million tonnes by its fiscal 2021 on the back of expected sales and higher prices due to a supply shortage, Argus Media reported.

* Top Chinese potash producer Qinghai Salt Lake Potash Co. Ltd. expects a full-year 2019 net loss of 43.2 billion Chinese yuan to 47.2 billion yuan, from 3.45 billion yuan in the previous year, Reuters reported, citing an exchange filing. The decline was blamed on the company's bankruptcy reorganization process. This would be Qinghai's third straight annual net loss, which may prompt the Shenzhen Stock Exchange to delist the company, Reuters added.

* Siemens AG will continue to provide signaling systems to Adani Enterprises Ltd.'s Carmichael coal project in Queensland, Australia, despite protests from anti-coal activists. "Keeping our promises is Siemens' highest priority … In this case, there is a legally binding and enforceable fiduciary responsibility to carry out this train signaling contract," Siemens President and CEO Jose Kaeser said in a statement.

* Ferrexpo PLC's total pellet production in the fourth quarter of 2019 increased 3.5% over the third quarter to 2.6 million tonnes. Full-year production in 2019 slid 0.8% to 10.5 Mt, in line with revised guidance of between 10.4 Mt and 10.6 Mt.

* Australia-based White Energy Co. Ltd. is seeking about US$153 million from Indonesia's PT Bayan Resources Tbk. in its dispute over the KSC coal joint venture in Indonesia. The Singapore International Commercial Court will determine the final amount of damages payable in proceedings set for Sept. 21-30.

* Coronado Global Resources Inc. suspended its operations at its Curragh coal mine in Queensland, Australia, following the accidental death of an employee of Thiess Pty. Ltd. at the site. The operations will remain suspended pending a permit from investigators to resume.

* Chinese coal producer Shandong Energy Group Co. Ltd. launched a bond offering of 2 billion Chinese yuan to repay its bank loans and for general working capital.

* Dutch insurer Aegon NV will no longer invest in companies that own more than 10 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generation capacity or produce more than 20 million tonnes of thermal coal annually. Aegon said it has already dropped companies that derive more than 30% of their revenues from the exploration, mining and refining of thermal coal.

* International Millennium Mining Corp. terminated its merger and reverse takeover agreement with Phoenix Capital Enterprises Ltd., which included fully acquiring Tengri Coal and Energy Pte. Ltd. in exchange for newly issued common shares of International Millennium Mining.


* Russian diamond producer PJSC Alrosa posted an 11% yearly increase in December 2019 diamond sales to US$363.8 million, bringing its total for 2019 to US$3.34 billion, dropping from US$4.51 billion in 2018. "Cutters and retailers entered 2019 with large stocks of goods, but their expectations of strong demand did not match the reality. Along with a number of other factors, this triggered a massive destocking while also hitting the demand for rough diamonds," deputy CEO Evgeny Agureev said.

* Australia's Takeovers Panel ordered a stay on the suspension of Energy Resources of Australia Ltd.'s A$476 million renounceable entitlement offer while it reviews Rio Tinto's appeal on the matter. The panel earlier flagged that the offering may hurt minority shareholders and result in a possible takeover by Rio Tinto.

* Base Resources Ltd. increased its fiscal year 2020 production guidance for rutile to between 75,000 and 81,000 tonnes, for ilmenite to between 335,000 and 355,000 tonnes, and for zircon to between 29,000 and 32,000 tonnes.

* Image Resources NL produced 270,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate from the Boonanarring mineral sands in Western Australia in full year 2019, within the company's twice-increased guidance of between 260,000 and 280,000 tonnes. The company updated its production forecast for full year 2020 to between 300,000 and 330,000 tonnes from the previous estimate of between 280,000 and 300,000 tonnes.

* Athabasca Minerals Inc. will not exercise its buyout options for the remaining 50.8% and 50.4% stakes in the Montney and the Duvernay in-basin sand projects in Canada, respectively, due to current market conditions and "competitive pricing considerations."

* Several sectors in Bolivia rejected the appointment of Juan Carlos Zuleta as the new executive manager of the state-owned Bolivian Lithium deposits, Prensa Latina reported.


* Apple Inc. developed a robot that extracts 14 minerals from iPhones for recycling, part of the tech giant's efforts to become a "closed-loop" manufacturer that does not depend on the mining industry, Reuters reported. The Daisy robot can reportedly break apart 200 iPhones per hour. The company acknowledged that new mines are still needed to meet the rising demand for electronics, according to the report.

* Brazil's government told European diplomats that it is pursuing its plans to allow mining on tribal lands, according to Mining and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, who said "significant leadership" from native communities had asked for the opportunity to mine on their own properties, Reuters reported.

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