Archive for August, 2012


Saturday, August 18th, 2012



MARIKANA, South Africa — President Jacob Zuma rushed home from a regional summit Friday and announced an official inquiry into a police killings of striking miners that left 34 dead and 78 wounded, an incident that police claimed was just self-defense despite video recordings suggesting the protesters were not attacking them but running from clouds of tear gas.

Wives of miners at the Lonmin platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg searched for loved ones missing from Thursday’s shooting and staged a protest, demanding to know why officers fired automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns at the strikers, many of whom had been armed with nothing but spears, machetes and clubs.

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“Police stop shooting our husbands and sons,” read a banner carried by the women on Friday. They kneeled before shotgun-toting police and sang a protest song, saying “What have we done?” in the Xhosa language.

At least 10 other people have been killed during the week-old strike, including two police officers battered to death by strikers and two mine security guards burned alive when strikers set their vehicle ablaze. Tensions remained high Friday among strikers, who are demanding monthly salary raises from $625 to $1,563.

“They can beat us, kill us and kick and trample on us under their feet, do whatever they want to do, we aren’t going to go back to work,” winch operator Makhosi Mbongane told The Associated Press. “If they employ other people they won’t be able to work either. We will stay here and kill them.”

South Africa faces myriad problems 18 years after white racist rule ended, including growing inequality between a white minority joined by a small black elite while most blacks endure high unemployment and inadequate housing, health care and education

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The shootings “awaken us to the reality of the time bomb that has stopped ticking — it has exploded,” The Sowetan newspaper said in a front-page editorial Friday. “Africans are pitted against each other… They are fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of the country.”

The shootings appalled the country, recalling images of white police firing at anti-apartheid protesters in the 1960s and 1970s, though in this case it was mostly black police firing at black mine workers.

Police said at a news conference that the shootings were in self-defense, noting that strikers possessed a pistol taken from one of the slain officers. But video footage indicates that police shot the miners moments after firing tear gas at the hill the strikers were occupying, causing them to flee.

National police Chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega said at news conference that Thursday was a dark day for South Africa and that it was no time for pointing fingers, even as people compared the shootings to apartheid-era state violence and political parties and labor unions demanded an investigation.

Zuma returned home from a summit in Mozambique and announced an official inquiry into the killings, which he called shocking and tragic. The president headed directly to the mine, 70 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, where his office said he would visit injured miners in the hospital.
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Lonmin PLC chairman Roger Phillimore issued a statement Friday saying the deaths were deeply regretted.

Research released by the Bench Marks Foundation, a non-governmental organization monitoring the practices of multinational mining corporations, found that Lonmin had a bad track record with high levels of fatalities and keeping workers in “very poor living conditions.” According to the report released Tuesday, workers often live in deteriorating shacks without electricity. Some children suffer from chronic illnesses due to sewage spills caused by broken drainage.

The mining company said earlier that it would withhold comment on the report until the conflict cooled down.

Shares in Lonmin PLC fell as much as 8 percent Friday. Since violence broke out last weekend at the Marikana mine, shares have fallen by as much as 20 percent, wiping some 390 million pounds ($610 million) off the company’s market value. The company, the world’s third-largest platinum miner, has also been hit by Thursday’s announcement that Chief Executive Ian Farmer is hospitalized with a serious illness.
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On Friday, police investigators and forensic experts combed the scene of the shooting, planting multicolored cones and numbered placards to mark evidence amid the dirt and bushes where the shooting took place. Police also searched the rocky outcropping where thousands of miners had gathered daily to strike.

The South Africa Police Service defended officers’ actions, saying in a statement that they were “viciously attacked by the (strikers), using a variety of weapons, including firearms. The police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defense, were forced to engage the group with force.”

People gathered at hospitals in the area, hoping to find missing family members among the wounded. At the scrubland scene of the killings, a woman carrying a baby on her back said she was looking for a missing miner.

“My husband left yesterday morning at 7 a.m. to come to the protest and he never came back,” said Nobantu Mkhuze.

While the initial walkout and protest focused on wages, violence has been fueled by the struggles between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers and the upstart and more radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
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NUM secretary-general Frans Baleni has said that some of his union members were on a hit list, including a shop steward killed Tuesday by strikers.

Poor South Africans protest daily across the country for basic services like running water, housing and better health and education. Protests often turn violent, with people charging that leaders of the ruling African National Congress party have joined the white minority that continues to enrich itself while life becomes ever harder for the black majority.

The ANC’s youth wing argues that nationalization of the nation’s mines and farms is the only way to redress the evils of the apartheid past. Zuma’s government has played down those demands.

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Wednesday, August 15th, 2012


Burma [Myanmar]  is slowly but steadily starting to attract foreign investment, driven mainly by international resource firms eager to tap into the mineral-rich South East Asia’s country.
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After more than half a century of military ruling, Burma has started benefitting from the recent suspension of sanctions by Canada, the United States and the European Union. As a consequence, big players are rushing to establish a presence in the market as  the welcome mat is out.

Oil giants Total and Chevron are already in Burma, also known as Myanmar, as are companies from China, the country’s largest foreign investor. Coca-Cola and Pepsi have announced plans to re-enter the country, while General Electric has also shown interest in the nation.

Although undeveloped, the country is home for vast and untouched reserves of highly demanded minerals and metals, such as gold, tungsten, copper and even some oil. It is also known by its precious stones and lithium reserves.

Another advantage of the still impoverished nation is to be conveniently located between China and India, which are international economic growth’s engines and hungry consumers of raw materials.
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Gold rush anyone?

Mining experts say the lack of multinational mining firms active in Burma makes it an ideal playground for small-scale miners. And, according to Saturday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, gold is what the juniors are looking for.

One of those companies is Canadian exploration firm Northquest, which aims to lead the way once it is granted an exploration permit, which it submitted in June.

“There have been no big gold discoveries in this country, ever,” Jon North, chief executive and president of Northquest was quoted as saying.

However, the country’s strict regulations, including an export ban on raw ore and select mineral commodities such as gold and coal, combined with poor infrastructure, might force interested companies to adopt a “wait and see” approach, reports the Democratic Voice of Burma:

One of the major bones of contention involves the 30-70 profit sharing ratio, stipulated under the country’s 1994 mining law, between a foreign company and the Burmese government, which does not act as an equity partner but takes a hefty percentage of the total resource extracted on top of royalties and income tax.

Besides, Burma’s precious stones industry, particularly famous for its ruby, sapphire and jade production, is closed to foreign investment.

“The legal system is a mess (…) Corruption is still endemic, and little is being done to control it (…) Enter now, and risk running afoul of laws and entrenched customs. Stay away, and risk giving away first-mover advantage to your competition. The choice is yours,” writes The Nation’s columnist, Eric Rosenkranz.
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Despite the known risks, says Rosenkranz, multinationals are flooding into the country:

A hotel room cannot be had for love or money. A hotel that used to charge US$75 per night is now $150 and is over- booked. Everyone and his brother is queuing up for visas. People are deliberately flying from Phnom Penh to Yangon on Myanmar Air because it is the only flight where you can get a visa onboard.

Recent reports seem to indicate that junior mining exploration companies from Australia are to blame for the overblown prices.

According to Stephen Everett, chairman of Brisbane-based exploration company Global Resources Corp., small Aussie mining firms are in a good position to entry the Myanmar market, as they seem willing to operate in remote areas and have a strong reputation with respect to environmental and social responsibility.

Despite the enticing opportunities and the latest developments, only China, India and South Korea have invested in the country from the major economies. A situation that, judging by the enthusiastic reports on Burma’s mining outlook is about to change.
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Wednesday, August 15th, 2012


Burma, the south-east Asian country, officially titled the Republic of the Union of Myanmar hosts 7 regional dialects, has two major military conglomerates that dominate the economy and is rife with political turmoil.

In the 1990 general election the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, despite winning 59% of votes, was detained in her until home 2010.

Early in 2012 the National League for Democarcy (NLD), Suu Kyi`s opposition party, announced she had been elected into a lower house of the Burmese parliament; the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats in the lower house.

Investors have been eyeing the emerging energy, timber and mining possibilities in the region.  Exclusive Analysis has a few pointers for investors to look at before they leap.
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A Military State

Despite many countries, the United States included, opening up trade with Myanmar, there is considerable political concern over dealing with any military owned companies.

The US has barred all transactions with military companies, which is a major problem as economic transactions in the Asian region are dominated by the military based corporations Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Limited and the Myanmar Economic Corporation.

The economy is not the only thing heavily influenced by the military.  Burmese constitution ensures that the military is guaranteed at least 25% of all parliamentary seats.  In the past, in opposition of the Burmese state has led to

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Ethnic Separations

Though the last census was run in 1983 by a military junta, it is estimated that Burma is home to over 130 different ethnic groups.  These groups, however small, are represented in part by ethnicity-based parties.  So, even though the Bamar, Shan and Kayin are the three dominant ethnicities, any planning and negotiating would likely be done on state and local levels.

Violence Between Sects

Instability is still a major concern within the country.  One of the most notable areas of investor interest, a gas field located in the Rakhine state worth billions of dollars, has been hit with a curfew in an attempt to stem the violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities.

Obviously any widespread violence or humanitarian problems results in a severing of investor confidence – at the moment nearby Bangleadesh is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees due to the widespread violence in the region.

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Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Christoffel Wise mining magnate of South Africa is alleged to owe the South African government $250,000,000 in back taxes

Mining entrepreneur and South Africa’s third wealthiest man , billionaire Christoffel Wiese, is said to owe the country’s revenue agency (Sars) an estimated $250 million (R$2 billion) in unpaid taxes.
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Wiese, who sits on numerous corporate boards and also has investments in gold and diamond mining companies, told the Sunday Times on Sunday that he is not hiding from Sars.

“Do you think that for 50 years Sars has not been aware of my existence? I’m not hiding anywhere, so if you think I owe you money, send me the bill,” the newspaper quoted him saying.

The 71-year-old also holds stakes in real estate firms and is involved in a private equity firm with investments in jeweller Fabergé.

Wiese owns vast properties, among them a private game reserve in the Kalahari and the prized Lourensford wine farm, a 300-year-old estate by the Helderberg mountains in the Western Cape.

The Sars assessment for Wiese, reports, is the largest in South African history and it would make him the largest individual tax offender in the country.

The investigation into Wiese was reportedly triggered when British custom officials stopped Wiese at the London airport en route to Luxembourg in 2009, seizing over 1 million dollars (about £700,000) he was carrying in cash.

He said at the moment the money came from diamond deals and had been in a safety deposit box in London for years.

Wiese got the full sum back recently, following a legal process and, according to his lawyer, represents less than two weeks’ income for his client.

Image: Wiese in an interview with German television

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Friday, August 3rd, 2012


PNG has ranked as the 11th gold producer in the world over the past few years with almost all of the exploration carried on within the country being for gold and copper. All the mining activity that has been undertaken since 1970 has produced approximately 1100 t of gold, producing 68.1 t of gold in 2003 compared to 63.1 t in 2002.
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Papua New Guinea’s largest gold producer, the Porgera mine, is situated in the Enga Province in the highlands of PNG. The Porgera Joint Venture comprising Placer Dome (75%), DRDGold Ltd (20%) and the remainder is split between the Porgera landowners and the Enga provincial government. In 2003 13.94 Mt of ore was mined from underground and open-pit operations. Approximately 5.66 Mt of ore averaging 5.34 g/t Au was milled, with an average recovery of 87.5%. During 2003, the mine produced 851,920 oz of gold at an average cash operating cost of US$256/oz and a total cost of US$301/oz. Total proven and probable mineral reserves at the end of 2003 were 48.85 Mt, averaging 3.4 g/t Au, equating to 5.4 Moz of contained gold. This gives a projected operational life of nine years.
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The Ok Tedi Mine is situated at Mount Fubilan in the Star Mountains in western PNG, close to the Indonesian border. Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. (OTML) is owned by BHP Billiton (52%), Inmet Mining Corp. (18%) and the PNG government (30%). OTML has been at the focus of several tailings pollution claims and as a result, BHP Billiton is reviewing its position in OTML and is to relinquish its interest in Ok Tedi, with this interest being placed into a trust. Inmet Mining and the PNG Government are to retain their respective interests in the facility. Of the government’s 30%, 2.5% is allocated to mine landowners. OTML is one of PNG’s largest export earners, contributing about 20% to PNG’s exports each year. Ore resources are estimated at 344 Mt grading at 0.88% copper and 0.92 g/t gold. Approximately 10,954 kg of gold were produced for the nine months to the end of September 30, 2004.

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Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) has developed the Panguna mine that has limited work carried out on it due to civil unrest in the province. Rio Tinto is a major shareholder of the BCL (54%) and intends disposing of its stake in the company. The deposit has a life of mine of some 20 years and has a capacity to produce 180 000t of copper and 480 000 oz gold per year. This development marked one of the first major investments in PNG, and was at one stage one of the world’s largest copper – gold mines.

The Lihir Mine was commissioned in 1997 and has an expected life of 37 years, with the intial 15 years based on the high grade open pit operation, with the remaining 22 on working low grade stockpiles. Gold production for 2003 was 17,131 kg compared to 18,761 kg in 2002. A 6 MW geothermal power station was commis- sioned during the year. A 30 MW geothermal power station is expected to be operational by mid-2005. At the end of 2003, measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources, inclusive of ore reserves, were 442.5 Mt, at 3.14 g/t Au, for 44.7 Moz of contained gold.
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Placer Dome also a major interest (80%) in the Misima Mine, located on Misima Island in the Milne Bay Province, eastern PNG. Similar to that of Lihir, Misima has a high grade open pit operation, which is to be followed by the processing of low grade stockpiled material. During 2003, Misima treated 5.59 Mt of stockpiled low-grade ore averaging 0.74 g/t Au and 7.5 g/t Ag. Misima mine has closed down, and decommissioning and rehabilitation are under way.

The Tolukuma Mine is situated in the remote Central Province in the Owen Stanley Mountains and is owned and operated by DRDGold Ltd of South Africa. Tolukuma is a high grade – low tonnage mine with plans to increase production to over 120 000 oz each following a resource upgrade. However, the operation has also been dogged with environmental problems, with a minor cyanide spill from one of its helicopter deliveries. In 2003 production totalled 81,074 oz (2,522 kg) of gold and 177,246 oz (5,513 kg) of silver, at a cost of S$279/oz Au

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Highlands Pacific, also active in developing the nearby Ramu lateritic Ni-Co deposit are also embarking on a feasibility study over the high grade Kainantu gold project in PNG. Initial estimates have calculated a resource of 807 000t grading at 28 g/t gold. The PNG awarded Highlands Pacific a Mining Lease and construction that could start as soon as late 2002.

Although PNG has numerous copper and gold projects that are undergoing feasibility studies, future mine developments will have to take a more integrated approach in addressing the social and environmental impact of mining in PNG.
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Friday, August 3rd, 2012


Nautilus Minerals (TSX/AIM:NUS) opened in positive territory on the TSX on Thursday, but shed 4.4% in London after the embattled seabed mining company released its unaudited consolidated financial results for the second quarter ended June 30.
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The company initiated a legal battle on June 1 over a marine copper-gold-silver project off the Papua New Guinea coast in the Bismarck Sea, which saw its value on the Toronto market more than halved.

The Toronto-based company said in the Q2 report it continues to engage the government of PNG in legal proceedings held in Sydney Australia over ownership and funding for its Solwara 1 project which is now just over half built.

Nautilus said it has completed its Bismarck exploration program and signed an offtake agreement for Solwara 1 with a Chinese concern during the quarter, but that it has run into trouble with its German partners building a surface vessel for the operation which would lead to delays.
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“On June 1, 2012 Nautilus announced that Harren & Partner advised that it will no longer be able to contribute the full amount of the equity to the Vessel JV contemplated by the Agreement signed by the parties in April 2011. The change in Harren & Partner‟s position, linked to a tightening of banking rules in the current European crisis and the depressed shipping market, may delay the finalisation of the terms of the third party funding and result in a consequential delay to the program for the vessel build.”

The undersea mine was initially slated to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The company said it now has $87.1 million in cash and cash equivalents as at June 30, 2012 and yesterday   the firm announced it is raising $34 million through a private placement to continue to build its Seafloor Production System.
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The offer is priced at $0.90 per share compared to a year-low for the company on the TSX of $0.92.

The price convinced major shareholders of the $214 million market cap company to support the offer – Oman’s MB Holdings will increase its stake to just under 17% and get a seat on the board, Metalloinvest holds at 21% while Anglo American has subscribed for 4.4 million shares to maintain its interest at 11%. Other large shareholders will take up the remaining 5 million shares of the total 37.7 million to be issued.
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