Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Monday 20th April 2015
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MacroOil and GasAlternative EnergyUraniumAgricultureBase MetalsSteel, Iron Ore and Coal


China looks to boost lending

China's central bank says it will cut the level of funds that commercial banks must hold in reserve by one percentage point, the second such move this year to boost lending.

The move, effective on Monday, comes days after the world's second largest economy reported its worst quarterly growth figure for six years.

In a statement on its website, the People's Bank of China (PBoC) said the cut would "further enhance the ability of financial institutions to support restructuring".

The reduction in the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) - the amount of cash banks must keep on hand - follows a similar move in early February, which was the first across-the-board cut since May 2012.

Gross domestic product growth slowed to 7.0 per cent in the first quarter from 7.3 per cent in the final three months of last year, marking the worst result in six years.

Growth in industrial output and retail sales slowed in March, while the figure for fixed asset investment also weakened in the first three months of the year, raising expectations of more efforts to shore up the economy.
MGL: More stimulus

Is the plastics market picking up here?

Recovered plastic prices

Recovered plastic film prices

Virgin plastic prices

MGL: Recycle prices are firm, but virgin grades still show declines.Image title
Here's HDPE in Germany. Its a pickup, and it is actually somewhat larger than implied by the Oil price move, but it could be just beta on Oil. 

Not clear.

Renewable energy surge revives Europe's power trade

Renewable energy surge revives Europe's power trade

The rise of renewable energy is delivering a boost to Europe's declining power market as traders get busy in short term deals to juggle unpredictable supplies of wind and solar.

Exchanges show more trade as suppliers buy and sell power closer to when demand will appear, to meet their delivery obligations, because electricity cannot be stored effectively. New players are also attracted by lower capital requirements and risks.

"As the percentage of renewables generation increases, the need for short-term adjustments will grow, reflecting the limited precision of forecasts for wind and solar generation in comparison to schedules of conventional thermal plants," said Bonn-based independent energy consultant Thomas Niedrig.

"Over the last five years, (spot) volumes jumped by 25 percent, making the spot sector a growth star in difficult times," UK research company Prospex said in a study.

European power trading overall, still led by futures, was declining due to oversupply and the exit of many banks since 2012, it said.

Renewables capacity has increased dramatically in Europe as policymakers push for cleaner energy sources.

German government data shows renewables capacity almost quadrupled from 2003 to 2014 and renewables now account for 26 percent of total electricity generation.

Power market trading developed in the late 1990s, with a focus on forward contracts, driven by the need of generators to hedge future fuel price risks for their 24-hour output over months, quarters and calendar years.

Coal and gas plant operators can no longer plan their output years ahead, as they do not know how many hours they will end up operating in a market they share with rival renewables.

Exchanges, competing with brokerages and trading houses for business, have been particularly inventive in devising short-term contracts partly because their digital platforms can be easily adapted to offering new contracts for short periods, traders say.

A number of big trading houses already active in EPEX Spot's short term market, among them Geneva's Vitol SA, Noble Clean Fuels Ltd. and Total Gas & Power, signed up for it in 2015, it said.
MGL: We're now seeing more and more evidence of renewable dysfunction in Electricity grids. Whereas 5 years ago this was a theoretical problem, now we have storage issues in several markets:

~Hawaii: Local electric utility refused all permissions for further rooftop Solar until grid  stability was addressed. Resulted in a local political fracas lasting some 18months, then regulators ordered the utility to re-open applications for rooftop solar. No real resolution to the grid issue we can find.

~Japan: Southern island grid interconnect overwhelmed by large scale Solar utility electricity, local utility refuses all applications for new solar. Solar market in Japan collapses almost overnight. 

~EU: German renewable output periodically dumps surplus electricity in neighbouring country grids. Hungarian, Czech and Polish utilities install 'cut outs' on power infrastructure to prevent German offloaded excess destabilising the grid.

We've been seeing a modest uptick in utility orders for large scale Li-ion storage, but its hardly been an explosion of interest.Image title
Last year the EU Directorate General on Energy published an analysis of this problem, with the primary recommendation that EU policymakers improve and enable the large scale conversion of electricity into Hydrogen which could be added in bulk to the EU Natural Gas pipeline system. On their figures, such hydrogen storage was 10x cheaper in cost than any other existing technology.

Once the EU builds up some momentum on this solution, it will likely close the door to other technologies, and strategically radically improves the fuel cell route to electrification at all levels. It also enriches the Natural Gas energy content of the EU grid, thus reducing Natural Gas demand. 

Nothing we can trade on- yet. (Hydrogenics in Canada is the only quoted company we could find that appears to be a pure play on this technology, unfortunately its not, in our opinion, well patent protected, its more an engineering and chemistry problem than a technology problem)Image title


Oil and Gas

Saudi Exports From Jodi

Image title
MGL: We can tell the story of Saudi exports over the price crash:

Period prior to the crash: Saudi exports fall from 7.5mbpd to 6.6mbpd in Aug 2014.
Saudi then changed its policy and refused to balance the market.

From Aug 2014 to November of 2014: Export creep higher from 6.6mbpd to 7.3mbpd.

In December the price of Oil crashed below $60, and, briefly traded in the $40's.

Since then Saudi Exports have been lacked direction: 6.9, 7.4, 7.3.

It's thin data, and certainly nothing you could attach a statistically reasoned argument too, but it is consistent with a stated target of $60.

More to the point, it shows that Saudi still has sufficient spare capacity ( ~1mbpd,  include 800kbpd of product exports for the calculation) to strongly impose it's view of Oil on the markets. 

We also believe, on the basis of publicly disclosed contract information, the speeches of the CEO of ARAMCO, and the staff magazine, that Saudi is in the process of increasing its output by a further 1mbpd via a massive expansion of gas capacity.
This natural gas will replace domestically consumed Oil in electric power plant.

Between August and December Saudi exports of LPG surged 40%, which is strong evidence of increased mid stream gas handling capacity coming online. (Field gas->Midstream-> produces dry gas+ LPG) In January ARAMCO stopped publishing LPG exports, and worse, managed to expunge the Jodi record of LPG exports.  ARAMCO apparently, is not keen on tipping its hand to the market. 

The Saudi expansion thesis remains firmly intact. 


Anadarko selling Mozambique Gas?

MGL: This makes sense, Anadarko is an explorer, not a developer, and this project would weigh them down for decades. Exxon, now must be lead contender for the stake.  We would hazard a guess of $2-$4bn for the controlling stake, but it really is a guess! The geology is highly prospective, and there's some chance that underneath the gas there might be some Oil. 

India to invest more in Mozambique gas project

Three Indian companies, ONGC Videsh, Oil India have already invested $6 billion in a gas block, Rovuma Area 1 in offshore Mozambique, and further $6 billion will be invested in development of the block.  This is one of the largest investment of India in any single hydrocarbon asset abroad, the ministry said in a statement.

During the meetings, the two sides discussed all issues related to the existing investment as well as ways to expand the relationship in other areas of oil and gas. It was agreed that there is scope for expanding cooperation in several areas of mutual interest.

Currently ONGC Videsh, Oil India and Bharat Petroleum have a 30% interest in the block and will participate in the development of the proposed LNG project in Mozambique.
MGL: Is this a subtle indication that India is also looking at the Anadarko Mozambique sale?

Petrobras reports new Amazon basin discovery

Petrobras reports new Amazon basin discovery

Petrobras has discovered a new oil and gas accumulation in the Amazon basin, Block AM-T-84.

The discovery was made while drilling well 1-BRSA-1293-AM, informally known as Jusante do Anebá. The well reached a total depth of 2,040 m.

Preliminary well tests have confirmed the presence of light oil (API 47°) and gas in arenaceous reservoirs, extending from 1,350 m to 1,900 m deep.

Petrobras is the operator of the concession (60%), in partnership with Petrogal Brasil (40%).

The consortium will proceed with activities to evaluate the oil and gas bearing reservoirs, Petrobras said.
MGL: Petrogal is  a Galp controlled company with  Sinopec  in Brazil.

U.S. proposes higher royalty rates for drilling federal land

The U.S. government would get a larger share of oil and gas revenue from federal land under a proposal the Interior Department was due to announce on Friday.

The federal government is entitled to a 12.5 percent share of oil and gas sold from federal land, chiefly in Western states. The stake for offshore drilling is usually set at 18.75 percent.

Friday's move will open a months-long discussion with the energy industry, environmentalists and other stakeholders about how to set future royalty rates for onshore drilling, said a government official briefed on the proposal.
MGL: Aside from the obvious politics involved, here's the reality:

"The large majority of shale oil plays exist under nonfederal lands. Mapping of shale resources reveals that 93 percent of all onshore shale oil and mixed oil and gas plays are found under nonfederal lands. Even in the Rocky Mountain West, where more federal land is located, 89 percent of the shale oil and mixed oil and gas plays are under nonfederal lands."

Non issue, and distraction.

Oil slide slashes Q1 profit, not investment plans at Saudi's SABIC

Saudi Basic Industries Corp faces heavy pressure on its profits due to cheap oil but will keep investing globally to boost capacity in key areas, its acting chief executive said on Sunday after the company reported a 39 plunge in first-quarter profit.

SABIC, one of the world's largest petrochemicals groups and Saudi Arabia's biggest listed firm, said net profit sank to 3.93 billion riyals ($1.05 billion) in the three months to March 31 from 6.44 billion riyals a year earlier.

Its sales values were slashed by the plunge of oil prices, which has dragged down petrochemical product prices. Revenues in the first quarter shrank 28 percent from a year earlier and 18 percent from the previous quarter to 35.56 billion riyals.

Yousef Abdullah al-Benyan, who took over from longtime CEO Mohamed al-Mady in February, said the fall in oil and petrochemical product prices was "out of control", and that his company was continuing to look at its cost base with a view towards postponing non-vital spending.

But he also insisted SABIC would not cut back investments in strategic projects around the world, because it was looking ahead to an eventual upturn. He said areas of opportunity were chemicals in China, shale gas in North America, economic growth in Africa, and gross domestic product growth of about 4 percent expected in Saudi Arabia this year.

"We always don't change the key strategic projects, because we understand this is a cyclical market. We understand this is not going to stay forever, and we do not want to be left behind when the market bounces - we want to be the first player ready to enjoy the upcycle."

SABIC's first-quarter profit was actually higher than the average forecast of analysts polled by Reuters, who had predicted 3.50 billion riyals.

The company's shares soared their 10 percent daily limit on Sunday after the stock market regulator announced that it would open the bourse to direct foreign investment from June 15. As a top blue chip, SABIC is expected to attract a substantial chunk of the new foreign money.

Saudi Arabia, its state budget hit by low oil prices, has pushed ahead with some controversial economic reforms since King Salman took the throne in January. Some officials have suggested raising subsidised energy prices; a hike in ultra-low domestic prices of natural gas may also become possible at some stage.

Such reforms, if they went ahead, would probably hurt SABIC's bottom line. But Benyan said he did not expect any policy change that would hurt the petrochemical industry, which authorities had always supported.
MGL: 14x eps, 7.5x ev/ebidta and a 5% yield thats well covered by free cashflow.

Sabic is primarily a downstream chemical company with a touch of Urea, Aluminium, and Steel.Image title
The obvious point of comparison is Dow Chemical, with whom it has a number of large JV's.

SABIC enjoys fixed, low input costs and is thus almost direct play on plastic prices. Image title

Here's SABIC's 5 yr chart.

And here is Polythene futures from China:
Image title
Polythene prices are bouncing much more than Oil/Gas input prices. This is the first evidence we've seen that the global economy might be rebounding from the Oil shock.


US Oil and Natural Gas Rig Count Drops by 34 to 954

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by 34 this week to 954 amid depressed oil prices.

Houston-based Baker Hughes said Friday 734 rigs were seeking oil and 217 explored for natural gas. Three were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, 1,831 rigs were active.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas plummeted by 15 rigs; Oklahoma was down six; North Dakota lost five; Wyoming was down four; and California, Kansas and Pennsylvania each dropped two. Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio and Utah declined by one each.

Louisiana rose by 5 while New Mexico gained two. Colorado and West Virginia were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.#
MGL: Here's gas rigs making a RECORD low for 30 years:
Image title
Here's  Natural Gas which is close to making a 15 year low:Image title
Here's US Natural Gas production since 1980:Image title
Now here's a question to industry old hands: have you ever seen a bearish report on Natural Gas?

Productivity has smashed price in this industry. 

Why does this not happen in Oil?


Reliance warns on U.S. shale slowdown, refining lifts profit

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd warned investors to expect slower growth from its U.S. shale assets in the near term as a slump in oil prices prompts spending cuts.

However, the company posted better than expected fourth quarter profits on Friday, led by strong growth in margins at its core refining business.

Reliance, also dogged by falling production at its domestic oil and gas business, said it would focus on cutting costs in its shale operations in light of a "challenged" market outlook.

The prospect of another plunge in crude prices after two months of relative stability has prompted expectations that shale oil producers could go for another round of spending cuts.

Reliance has invested $8.1 billion in three shale joint-ventures in the United States. Shale represents just a fraction of Reliance's overall profit, but is an important part of the firm's upstream business which has struggled at home.

Investments to expand capacity at Reliance's core refining and petrochemicals businesses, however, helped the company post a 8.5 percent rise in consolidated net profit for the quarter ended March 31. Its financial year runs to the end of March.

The company's gross refining margin, or the profit it makes from each barrel of crude oil refined, hit an eight quarter high of $10.1 in the three months, compared with $9.3 in the same period a year earlier.

The refining business at Reliance, which operates the world's largest refinery, accounted for over 70 percent of the company's gross turnover in the year ended March 2015, dwarfing its activities in telecoms, retail and upstream oil and gas.
MGL: Does this give us insight into a further slowdown in capex at Pioneer? Pioneer's April presentation is notably dated, with many slides showing data from q4 2014.  EV is $28bn, standardised measure of reserve value is $7.8bn. So the market is implying $20bn of value to the resource. That's simply enormous given that we have no clear indication of whether the resource is economic at $60 Oil. 

Re-fracturing an area Schlumberger may share economics

The CEO of Schlumberger says his firm is willing to take on riskier contracts that base its pay on how much oil it help producers extract, at a time when competition for oil field work has become red in tooth and claw.

Under such contracts, Schlumberger would absorb the initial labor and technology costs and get paid back based on oil production. Its an arrangement that trades fixed service prices for upside linked to the output of a project. The model, Kibsgaard says, could work well for re-fracturing jobs — second rounds of hydraulic fracturing on an old well that has been fractured before. Hydraulic fracturing is the process of blasting water, chemicals and sand into a well to release oil and gas from shale rock.

The growing re-fracturing business is one that could boost Schlumberger’s bottom line at a time when tumbling oil prices have sent its first-quarter profits down 39 percent and producers are asking for deep price concessions.

“You’re talking billions in revenue opportunities over an extended period of time,” Kibsgaard said, adding that thousands of North American shale oil and gas wells could be ripe for a second wave of fracturing. “But I think the key is we are so confident in our ability to identify the right candidates and execute the work that we are prepared to take significant risk in terms of how we go about doing this work.”

The price concessions that Schlumberger and its rivals have had to make to help oil companies cope with low energy prices have hit the hydraulic fracturing business the hardest. But some of that pressure has been mitigated because oil companies are experimenting with new technologies like Schlumberger’s re-fracturing service, which, for example, doubled production from two wells in South Texas.

Still, Kibsgaard said, re-fracturing isn’t going to be big enough to fix the oil service industry’s biggest problem – a glut in equipment – even when oil prices rise again. He said he doesn’t expect the North American rig count to return to previous high levels seen during the shale oil boom, though it will land somewhere in between that and the lows of today.
MGL: Re-fracking oil wells is a big deal, its cheap and effective.

Here's the example they used from Whiting:
Image title

Here's one analysis of the impact across the industry:
Image title
Almost every big E&P operator is talking Re-frack with the service industry according to Halliburton. There's more than a few test programs out there, and some results are impressive.


Alternative Energy

Indonesian Govt to Increase Budget for Renewable Energy Development

Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources plans to propose allocation for the budget for new and renewable energy amounting to Rp10 trillion for next year.

Currently, budget for the sector only reaches Rp1 trillion.

Previously, President Joko Widodo has given his briefing that the 2016 State Budget must show the ‘change in the way the government sees problems’.

The minister also said that the increased budget would serve as the stimulus to develop and utilize new and renewable energy. The budget, he said, will be used for among others building the market so that the demand increases.

For the record, new and renewable energy will be the future of energy sources for Indonesia.

Therefore, the government pledged to boost diversification of energy from old energy (fossil) into new and renewable energy because so far, development for the infrastructure of renewable energy has not been prioritized in the development of national energy.

Sudirman also ensured that the government is committed to making renewable energy as the main source of energy. According to him, energy diversification is urgent because in the next 10 years, Indonesia is estimated to import oil and gas completely.
MGL: Indonesia joins the renewable frenzy in emerging.


Regulator says Areva nuclear reactor problems could be costly

Regulator says Areva nuclear reactor problems could be costly

Weak spots found in nuclear reactors designed by France's Areva are "very serious" and could prove costly to rectify, the head of France's nuclear regulator told a French newspaper.

Anomalies have been found in the bottom and lid of the reactor vessel which could reduce the resistance of the metal, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the ASN regulator, told daily Le Parisien.

"This is a serious, even very serious anomaly as it affects an absolutely crucial reactor component on which no risk of rupture can be taken," Chevet was quoted as saying.

The ASN said last week that Areva had found weak spots in the steel of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) it is building for utility EDF in Flamanville, France.

Chevet said that a similar Areva forging technique had been used for five other EPRs either planned or being built.

Two of these are in Taishan, China and another two set for Hinkley Point in England. Components have also been manufactured for one planned for Calvert Cliffs in the U.S. state of Maryland.

Areva was not immediately available to confirm whether the vessels for the Hinkley Point project -- for which a final investment decision has not yet been taken -- had already been manufactured.

Chevet said the installation of the reactor vessel in Flamanville is already largely completed. The vessel has been placed in its concrete base and welded to cooling circuits.

New tests on the vessel will be held in coming months and results are due in October.

Asked what would happen if these were negative, Chevet said: "Either EDF abandons the project or it takes out the vessel and starts building a new one ... this would be a very heavy operation in terms of cost and delay."

The Flamanville reactor is already years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget.

The EPR is a new-generation pressurised water reactor, built to resist the impact of a commercial airline crash. It has been widely criticised as too big and too expensive and Areva has been forced to book billions of euros in provisions due to cost overruns.

China has said it will not load fuel at the Taishan reactors until the reactor vessel issue has been fully resolved.
MGL: This is serious! At best, it implies delay, at worst it threatens Areva's financial health. Areva to avoid, and this is not an easy problem to rectify, it could take years. 

China gets fresh impetus for nuclear power

Nuclear power plans got a further boost in China after the government gave the final nod for the fifth and sixth units of the Fuqing nuclear power plant in southeastern coastal Fujian province.

This is the second time this year that the government is pressing ahead with the development of nuclear power projects, sending a strong signal that the nuclear sector will see lots of action.

Unit 5 and 6 of Fuqing nuclear power plant are a demonstration project that uses China's flagship nuclear reactor design, the Hualong One, known as the third-generation nuclear technology.

The nuclear industry has struggled for years to receive the necessary regulatory approvals to build new reactors, as China suspended approval for nuclear plants in order to revise its safety standards after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

However, it lifted the ban on new nuclear power stations at the end of 2012, and said it would only approve projects proposed for coastal areas within 2015.

The approval is in line with global energy trends and will help optimize the country's energy structure and build a diversified clean energy system.
MGL: Balances out the Areva bad news. 


U.S. regulators may recommend testing food for glyphosate residues

U.S. regulators may start testing food products for residues of the world's most widely used herbicide, the Environmental Protection Agency told Reuters on Friday, as public concern rises over possible links to disease.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, has come under intense scrutiny since a research unit of the World Health Organization reported last month it was classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

The herbicide is considered safe by the EPA, as well as many foreign regulatory agencies, including in the European Union.

Still, a number of companies, consumer groups and advocacy organizations have been sampling foods, as well as human urine and breast milk, to try to determine the pervasiveness of glyphosate residues.

Glyphosate is used on corn, soybeans, sugar beets and other crops genetically altered to withstand it. It is also used by farmers growing wheat and other crops. Its use has surged with the advancement of genetically engineered crops.

The U.S. government, which annually tests thousands of foods for pesticide residues, does not test for glyphosate, in part because it has been considered safe.

That could change, the EPA said in a statement Friday.

"Given increased public interest in glyphosate, EPA may recommend sampling for glyphosate in the future," the agency said in an email response to a Reuters inquiry.

Monsanto Co, the maker of Roundup, on April 1 posted a blog seeking to reassure consumers about glyphosate residues, saying trace amounts are safe. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MGL: We're picking up a surge in interest in Glyphosate side effects:

  • | Documents in Glyphosate - Environmental & Analytical JEAT an open access journal Teratogenic Effects ofGlyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from ...
  • herbicide glyphosate - By Dr.Tarakeshwar Senapati in Observation on the effects of glyphosate on fish.
  • Mini-review What have the mechanisms of resistance to ... White academia logo ... The three mechanisms of glyphosate resistance that have been elucidated are (1) target-site mutations, (2) gene ... First, the diversity ofglyphosate resistance mechanisms has helped further our understanding of the ...
  • Glyphosate is an antibiotic and Japanese knotweed is a ... This is a drop in the ocean compared with the global use of glyphosate. 2 Glyphosateis used to desiccate crops and those eating foods that are not organic are ...
  • glyphosate it binds minerals and cuts off the production of ... CONTACT INFORMATION [email protected] 1-310-398-4011GLYPHOSATE ROUNDUP READY BINDS, CHELATES, ZINC, MANGANESE, ...

    Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes ...                  ISSN 1099-4300 Review Glyphosate`s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut ...
  • Our view: it's over use. Just as antibiotics in small quantities are wonder-drugs, so systematic overusage of anti-biotics is creating an entire class of super-bugs which have been the leading cause of hospital deaths for some years.  Glyphosate may be the same, ie a wonder herbicide in small quantities, but an ecosystem poison in the kind of quantity we see used in modern agriculture.   Small note: the WHO report on carcinogenicity is likely actually a distraction from the main issue here. 
  • Here a linkage that also is receiving much attention:
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  • TOP

    Base Metals

    Oz Minerals boosts output at flagship mine, eyes offshore expansion

    Australian copper miner OZ Minerals plans to raise production at its only mine while it looks for ways to extend mine life beyond 2018, develop its other South Australian resources or make acquisitions.

    Following a strategy review under its new chief executive, Andrew Cole, the company said it may expand into other base metals or gold and look beyond Australia, targeting assets that are being put on the block by other miners.

    OZ Minerals said on Monday it plans to produce 110,000-120,000 tonnes of copper at its Prominent Hill mine in 2015, up from 92,615 tonnes last year, at a cost of 80-95 cents a pound as it looks to generate cash.

    That followed its strongest quarterly copper production in five years, with output of 31,160 tonnes.

    Cole has already cut around A$40 million in costs, by moving the company's headquarters to Adelaide from Melbourne to be closer to its assets, cutting exploration spending and tightening the mine's operations. It has also saved around A$8 million as diesel and power costs have dropped.

    The company earlier this year put on hold talks to line up a partner for its undeveloped Carrapateena project in South Australia, and said on Monday it would complete rail and metals processing studies to help make the project more attractive to potential partners.

    A pre-feasibility study last year outlined a plan to produce an average of 114,000 tonnes of copper and 117,000 ounces of gold a year at Carrapateena over 24 years, for a project with a net present value of A$1.1 billion.

    OZ Minerals, which in February did not pay a final dividend while it was carrying out its strategy review, said it now plans to pay out 20 percent of cash generated as dividends.
    MGL: OZ Minerals continues to unimpress. At 2.75x ev/ebitda the market is clearly shouting at management to 'give us back our money!!' Chart is forming a major low, like all the Coppers.

    Hudbay picks up fourth Manitoba mine

    Hudbay Minerals has purchased the idled Snow Lake project in Manitoba, adding to its stable of properties in the Canadian province of Manitoba.

    The mine's owner, QMX Gold Corporation announced on Friday it is selling the Snow Lake Project, which includes the Snow Lake mine and processing plant, to Hudbay for US$12.3 million in cash, plus a contingent payment of $5 million. The past-producing mine is currently on care and maintenance, having closed in 2005. It first opened as the Nor-Acme mine in 1949, closed in 1958, and was re-opened as the New Britannia mine in 1995. According to QMX, between 1995 and 2005,6.48 million tons were mined at an average grade 0.132 oz/ton for a total of 858,075 ounces.

    The company says it wants to focus on its two properties in Quebec, Lac Pelletier and Lac Herbin, the latter of which produced 610,000 gold ounces.

    "I'm very pleased to announce that Hudbay, a well-established Canadian mineral producer, will be acquiring the Snow Lake Project. We remain confident in the historic Snow Lake mine, but this transaction will now permit QMX Gold to move forward and focus on its assets in Quebec," said Brett New, president and CEO of QMX Gold.

    The acquisition means that Hudbay Minerals will now have four producing mines in Manitoba, assuming the Snow Lake project is restarted.
    MGL: Odd acquisition, until you consider that Hudbay owns a major ore treatment facility in Snow Lake, so it could be this orebody will be used to bulk up processing utilisation. 

    BHP Billiton shuts oven at Colombia ferronickel plant, cutting output

    BHP Billiton has shut an oven at its Cerro Matoso ferronickel plant in Colombia after equipment damage, cutting output by as much as three quarters, the president of the union representing the plant's workers told Reuters on Friday. 

    Damage to a crane stopped production of one of two ovens at the world's sixth-largest ferronickel producer on Thursday afternoon, union leader Domingo Hernandez said. 

    The second oven on site is producing at half its capacity, he said. It was not initially clear whether that was linked to Thursday's incident. "The cables that suspend the container [from the crane]broke, which caused damage to the equipment and as they can't feed the oven without the crane, the oven is out of operation," Hernandez told Reuters, referring to the first oven. 

    Neither Cerro Matoso, nor parent company BHP Billiton were immediately available to comment. The operation, located in northern Cordoba province, produced over 41 000 t last year.
    MGL: Small hit on Nickel supply. But does it impact Canacol's lucrative gas supply contract with BHP?

    Europe aluminium alloy prices firm further on strong demand

    Market prices for 226, Europe's key grade of aluminum alloy, have continued to firm this week as demand remains exceptionally strong.

    Buyers have had difficulty in sourcing enough metal during the first half of the year as demand for auto parts from the car industry has risen significantly so far in 2015.

    One key German auto producer was estimated to have raised its alloy requirements by 20% between Q1 and Q2, according to 226 producers. While other luxury German car brands are also enjoying strong domestic and export sales this year, boosted by the weaker euro.

    Meanwhile, car makers in Italy, Spain, and to a lesser extent France, have seen a huge recovery in production and sales since the end of 2014 and this has also raised demand for alloy in markets that have struggled to recover from the recent recession.
    MGL: Strong demand!! Be still my heart, we've not seen those words for years. It's in Aluminium too.

    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    Coal tariff cut could force mining firms to slash prices up to RMB60 per ton

    Chinese authorities' decision to cut power tariffs by RMB0.02 ($0.003) per kilowatt hour to reflect falling coal prices this month could force miners to cut their prices by as much as RMB60 (US$9.68) per ton, South China Morning Post reported, citing a statement from Jiang Zhimin, vice president of the China National Coal Association.

        "There will be no change to the short-term business environment for coal, and it could even continue to decline in 2015," Jiang said told an industry meeting in comments published on the association's website.
    MGL: All through the coal bear market, which has now been ongoing for some years, we've nothing but bullish industry commentary. This is the first time we can recall a major industry figure 'throwing in the towel'.

    At last we're seeing some signs of capitulation in the resource space.

    Maules Creek drives Whitehaven output

    The continuing ramp-up of the Maules Creek coal mine, in New South Wales, has assisted in coal miner Whitehaven Coal reporting a 160% increase in run-of-mine (RoM) production during the March quarter. The New South Wales-focused company on Friday announced that RoM production for the three months to March had reached 4.7-million tonnes of coal, up from the 1.8-million tonnes reported in the previous corresponding period. 

    Saleable coal production increased by 85% on the previous comparable period, to 4.1-million tonnes. Whitehaven pointed out that its Narrabri mine established another quarterly RoM production record, with the mine producing 2.18-million tonnes of RoM coal, and 1.79-million tonnes of saleable coal. 

    Production from the Tarrawonga mine remained stable, with 534 000 t of RoM coal produced and 465 000 t of saleable coal, while the Rocglen mine produced 207 t of RoM coal and 235 t of saleable coal. The Werris Creek operation also performed strongly during the quarter, with RoM production up by 28%, to 661 000 t and saleable coal production up 10% to 662 000 t. 

    Meanwhile, construction of the Maules Creek operation was about 93% complete, and Whitehaven said on Friday that the project was likely to be declared commercial from the beginning of July this year. Pre-commercial RoM coal production from the Maules Creek mine reached 1.11-million tonnes during the quarter, while saleable coal production reached 986 000 t. This was compared with the RoM and saleable production of 94 000 t and 54 000 t, respectively, produced during the December quarter of 2014. 

    Whitehaven on Friday reported that coal sales for the quarter increased by 64% on the previous corresponding period, to 3.7-million tonnes, establishing a new quarterly record.
    MGL: Whitehaven continues to grind out its long expansion in coking output, and into a full on bear market. Stock has a major base on the chart, but we're scratching our heads as to how to bull coking coal with China in reverse on steel production.
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