SYDNEY–BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) signaled it would try to limit annual spending to US$15 billion, highlighting a newly found commitment to thrift in the face of weaker commodity prices.
For the world’s largest mining company, this expenditure goal represents a deep cut on the US$21.7 billion it spent last financial year on projects from huge iron-ore deposits in Australia’s arid Pilbara region to deep-sea oil-and-gas fields in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Melbourne-based BHP isn’t alone in tapering spending plans. Companies across the resources spectrum have been tightening the purse strings amid a sharp fall in the value of commodities like coal and gold as China’s economy cools. Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) recently unveiled plans for a marked cut in spending in the years’ ahead as it focuses on reducing a hefty debt pile accumulated in a massive expansion of its own operations.
BHP has already made swingeing cuts to expenditure in the current fiscal period to June 30, 2014, and is likely to report further reductions in subsequent years as it aims to be “more clever with capital,” Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie told an investor briefing in Houston. Read the rest of this entry »
Time is running out for manufacturers to begin reporting on the presence of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their supply chains.
Beginning May 31, 2014, publicly traded companies will be required to declare to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission whether or not their products or components contain tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold — dubbed “3TG” materials — from mines in the DRC that are engaged in human rights abuses.
The requirement was included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama in July of 2010. It has taken nearly four years, however, for the SEC to gather public comments and clarify the rule. And the May 31 deadline is just the beginning of a two-year phase-in.
Nevertheless, many businesses have been dragging their feet on preparations for complying. According to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC in the spring of 2013, at least a third of executives were still unsure as to whether it applied to their operations. Read the rest of this entry »
It would be quite an understatement to say that the Ring of Fire mineral project in northern Ontario is the most significant economic development opportunity for Ontario First Nations the province has ever seen.
The huge chromite mining project, whose importance federal cabinet minister Tony Clement likened to the Alberta’s oilsands, would bring between $60 billion and $120 billion in economic benefits to Ontario, and particularly some of the poorest areas of the province. Clement called it a “once-in-a-life” opportunity to generate long-term prosperity for not only for the First Nations, but the province and the nation. The file has now passed to Clement’s colleague, Minister of State Greg Rickford.
“It has the potential to transform what was hitherto a very poor, underdeveloped area of Ontario and give people who live there, particularly First Nations people, a chance for a decent life,” Clement said in a media interview.
That is why Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is calling for federal government help to pay for the infrastructure to get the project off the ground. Read the rest of this entry »
TORONTO – So, you say you’re seeing a light at the end of the long, dark gas plant tunnel? I have bad news. It’s an Ontario Northland ghost train coming at you. And it’s burning your dollars just as fast as the gas plants did. Shutting down the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) is turning into the next $1-billion boondoggle.
In its 2012 budget, then-finance minister Dwight Duncan announced the government would sell off ONTC — shutting down a northern Ontario transportation lifeline. At the time, the government said they’d save nearly $266 million over the next three years. Provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk released her annual report Tuesday.
Turns out that we were being — how shall I put it — oh, railroaded. Like a scene from an old movie, taxpayers were tied to the tracks and run over by a slow-moving train. It’s not going to save any money. In fact, we’re going to be on the hook for some rich buyout packages.
“The known costs may be as high as $820 million, and recouping this amount by the government no longer paying the ONTC the normal annual operating and capital subsidies it has been providing could well take a decade or longer,” the report says. Read the rest of this entry »
The last time a massive report dropped to detail just how copper-nickel mining could be done on the Iron Range in accordance with strict state and federal environmental laws and standards, it got blasted.
The last time a massive report dropped to detail just how copper-nickel mining could be done on the Iron Range in accordance with strict state and federal environmental laws and standards, it got blasted. The largest environmental agency in the land, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, led the way, saying PolyMet’s plans for a type of mining with a less-than-stellar track record could lead to “adverse environmental impacts” on Northeastern Minnesota. Others weren’t as kind with their language or criticism.
So what was called a “Draft Environmental Impact Statement,” or DEIS, went back for more work, more thought, and better, safer plans — just as it should have. The lengthy environmental-review process was working and working well, helping to ensure, in the end, a project that’s safe, lawful and sensitive to the environment and an industry with hundreds of good-paying jobs and a multibillion-dollar boon for our region.
Nearly three years later, another massive report has dropped, an updated report, this one called a “Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or SDEIS. Read the rest of this entry »
TIMMINS – Last week’s Northern Leaders’ summit which brought together First Nations, ministers and Northern leaders from across the entire region to exchange on issues, was another good step forward for the North. My congratulations to the Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors’ Association, FONOM President Mayor Spacek, along with the province for bringing the group together. Hopefully there is more to come.
It was good to get past the proverbial “hand in the face” approach we’ve been getting from the province up to now, to actually engaging in the intelligent dialogue and issues themselves. It was evident that while there remains diversity in opinion and needs, Northern Leaders are coming together in unity to represent our region together which can only be a good thing.
What continues to concern me is that the major issues remain unresolved. For example: The ONTC passenger rail has been completely divested and the government made it clear they will not bring back passenger rail as they believe standing room only buses are good enough for Northern families, medical patients and students; parks remain closed and will going forward; the provincial caribou policy that sees recovering caribou where they don’t exist at the expense of Northern families and entire town’s remains as it was two years ago despite scientists, environmentalists and mayors coming together to offer a better option; Read the rest of this entry »
Ministers’ decision to stop $2.5-billion project failed test of ‘procedural fairness,’ judge says
VANCOUVER — Prospects for a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine in northern B.C. improved this week after a B.C. Supreme Court justice turfed a previous decision by two senior provincial government ministers to reject the project.
Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. asked the B.C. Supreme Court in April to overturn Environment Minister Terry Lake and Energy, Mines and Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman’s rejection last September of its $2.5-billion mining project, located 65 km north of Smithers at Morrison Lake. In a decision released Monday, Justice Kenneth Affleck set aside the ministers’ decision, raising the possibility the mine could yet proceed.
“(The) ministers’ decision refusing to issue the certificate failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness,” wrote Affleck in his decision, which awarded costs to the company. Read the rest of this entry »
The costs associated with selling off the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission could be more than $820 million, something the provincial government was unaware of when it announced plans to divest itself of the Crown agency.
In a report released Tuesday, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk confirmed that the costs and liabilities associated with divestment far outweigh the projected savings of $265.9 million over three years. And she said the province did not clearly or fairly communicate the full impact of selling off the ONTC.
“The government made the divestment announcement before doing a comprehensive business-case analysis,” Lysyk said, in a release after tabling the report. “As a result, the government did not initially have an accurate picture of the possible costs and impacts of the ONTC divestment.”
Lysyk said the estimated known costs and liabilities could be as high as $820 million and that the price could soar even higher when coupled with as-yet-unknown costs of environmental clean-up of ONTC properties and the duty to consult with aboriginal peoples. Read the rest of this entry »
When Justin Trudeau said he admired China more than any other foreign country “because of their basic dictatorship,” it was a shock and a reminder that most Canadians know nothing of Trudeau’s policy beliefs.
By praising China’s government — specifically its dictatorship, not its people or its history or culture — Trudeau showed how outside the mainstream he is, and how cavalier when it comes to human rights. Trudeau lacks his father’s intellectual curiosity or accomplishment, but he seems to have inherited his father’s worst trait — an affection for totalitarian strongmen from Moscow to Beijing to Havana.
But Justin Trudeau made a second comment that received less attention. China’s “basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say we need to go green, we need to start, you know, investing in solar.” To Trudeau, China’s brutality is offset by the fact that they are “investing in solar.” As in solar panels.
Pierre Trudeau passed away in 2000, so this solar idea isn’t likely something Justin got from him. More likely it’s from Trudeau’s surrogate father — his campaign strategist, chief organizer and policy guru, Gerald Butts. Butts is Trudeau’s age, but much more grown up. And he’s an environmental extremist. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill 70 adpopted with support of the Liberals and CAQ
QUEBEC — The Coalition Avenir Québec and Quebec Liberals backed the Parti Québécois government Monday night, with only Quebec solidaire opposed, to adopt Bill 70, the first major change in the province’s Mining Act in almost a century.
Martine Ouellet, Quebec’s natural resources minister, said the bill struck a balance between the claims of the mining industry, environmentalists, communities affected by mining and native people.
But Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, warned the bill could face a court challenge because it ignores the ancestral rights of Quebec aboriginals. The assembly was summoned Monday for an “extraordinary session” to fast-track adoption of Bill 70.
The issue of aboriginal rights was the major disagreement between Ouellet and the opposition Liberals and Québec solidaire, who opposed her rush to legislate. Ouellet said she has listened and a new chapter in Bill 70 calls for consultations with native communities on mining projects. Read the rest of this entry »
PIKEVILLE — Leaders grappling with a painful downturn in coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky got a primer Monday on how another state dealt with a similar collapse in its mining region.
The situation 30 years ago in the iron-ore belt in northeastern Minnesota was dire. Mining jobs dropped by more than 60 percent in 18 months and people started moving out, at times stopping by the bank on the way out of town to drop off keys to houses and cars they couldn’t pay for, said Joe Sertich, a former community-college president in the region known as the Iron Range.
The Eastern Kentucky coalfield has been similarly battered by layoffs. The coal industry has cut 6,000 jobs since mid-2011, with some counties losing more than half the jobs that were once the bulwark of their economy.
Sertich spoke Monday at a daylong summit in Pikeville called Shaping Our Appalachia Region, or SOAR. U.S. Rep Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, set up the summit to generate ideas to diversify the economy of Eastern Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »
Amanda Lang looks at ways the financial system is rigged in some people’s favour
Every day, trillions of dollars are exchanged by buyers and sellers on trading floors across the world. The places where that happens are colloquially known by the faceless moniker of “the markets” but every time somebody buys a barrel of oil, a shipment of potash, a Royal Bank share or a Japanese yen, there’s a real person behind that transaction.
Historically, the system works because people have confidence in the rules and believe they are treated the same as anybody else. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the stories of powerful people cheating the system for their own gain. As the bad apples add up, it gets harder and harder to ignore a troubling realization — “everything is rigged.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Globe and Mailis Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.
The battle over uranium mining in northern Quebec is heating up again. Strateco Resources Inc. petitioned a Quebec court on Dec. 5, seeking to force the province’s environmental minister to allow underground uranium exploration at the company’s Matoush project, located in the Otish mountains 200 kilometres northeast of Mistissini.
Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment, Wildlife and Parks had denied Strateco’s permit on Nov. 7 after the local Mistissini Cree community refused to consent to uranium development near its hunting grounds and trap lines.
“Many Cree work in the mining industry; we are not anti-development,” said Cree Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. “But uranium is a special case. The tailings will remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. It is a burden for future generations that we are not prepared to assume.” Read the rest of this entry »
MONTREAL – Revenu-Québec is seeking prison sentences and fines totalling $750-million for Kitco Metals Inc. founder Bart Kitner and directors with several other gold trading firms following one of the biggest tax fraud investigations in provincial history.
Quebec’s revenue department on Monday said it filed a total of 1,920 charges against Kitco and 11 other companies as well as their directors and an accountant implicated in an alleged fraud scheme linked to gold processing. Some 120 charges were filed against Kitco and another 120 against Mr. Kitner involving total fines of $454.6-million.
“This is an investigation that’s lasted several years and the evidence is significant,” said Revenu-Québec spokesman Stéphane Dion. “Without a doubt, it’s one of the largest investigations we’ve ever done.”
The total amount allegedly derailed by all 12 companies charged was $350-million over a two year period ending in 2010, Mr. Dion said. The ministry claims Kitco specifically made false statements and tried to obtain tax rebates to which it wasn’t entitled. The amount related to Kitco was not made public. Read the rest of this entry »
The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
“Poor man’s gold” was the worst of the metals bunch in 2013 — and next year still a question mark for precious metals, says PWC annual report.
There’s a silver lining to the beating gold took this year: sidekick silver suffered the worst slump of any other metal in 2013. “Silver has had a terrible year,” says PwC Canada’s year-end mining report Metals Mired in Global Uncertainty.
Known as “poor man’s gold”, the lower-profile metal – used in everything from the auto industry to electronics and jewelry – has tumbled 40 per cent compared to a 30 per cent price drop in bullion, notes the annual study released Monday.
Silver started 2013 trading at $32 per ounce but sank to a low of $18.60 by mid-year. That’s a complete reversal from 2012, when silver was the best-performing metal overall, ranging in price between $26 and $37. Read the rest of this entry »