Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Wednesday 10th August 2016
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    Oil and Gas

    Low oil prices drive up China's crude oil imports

    China's crude oil imports hit a record high in the first half of 2016 despite an economic slowdown, and analysts largely attributed the surge to low prices, not strategic maneuvering.

    The country imported 186.5 million tonnes of crude oil in the first half of the year, 23.15 million tonnes more than the same period last year, although imports in June slowed to 30.62 million tonnes from a peak of 32 million tonnes per month in March, April and May.

    "Enterprises increased crude oil imports in the first half year as they believe global oil prices have bottomed out," said Zhu Fang, deputy head of the information and market department of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation.

    The oil import jump was also strengthened by policy decisions, as China's top economic planner set a floor for domestic retail fuel prices in January, said Zhu.

    At the beginning of the year, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) declared that domestic retail prices should not be cut if global oil prices fell below 40 US dollars a barrel.

    The NDRC said the move was to buffer the negative effects of volatile fluctuations in international oil prices. Previously, it set a ceiling that domestic retail fuel prices would not rise if international oil prices rose above 130 US dollars per barrel.

    China also approved more private firms to work in the oil refinery business, which also increased oil imports, said an industry insider at PetroChina, China's biggest oil producer.

    So far, 15 enterprises have gained approval on crude oil imports, with their aggregate quota exceeding 60 million tonnes, according to the NDRC.

    NDRC official Zhao Gongzheng echoed Zhu's opinion, saying that it was the market, including low oil prices, that was causing the growth of crude oil imports.

    Zhao dismissed foreign media claims that China was taking advantage of low oil prices to build up its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR).

    "China's SPR has limited influence, so far, on global oil prices in light of its reserve ability and capacity," said Zhao, adding that it is a long process for China to expand its SPR.
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    Sinopec studying BP's terms for SECCO JV exit plan

    State-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) is currently discussing the conditions put forward by British oil and gas major BP plc for its planned exit from their SECCO petrochemicals joint venture, a Sinopec spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.

    Reuters earlier reported that BP has hired an investment bank to find buyers for its 50 percent stake in SECCO, a deal that could fetch up to $3 billion.

    The Sinopec spokesman said the company had not made a decision on whether to buy BP's stake.
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    Indonesia Weighs Iran’s Proposal for $8.4 Billion Oil Refinery

    Indonesia will study a proposal from Iran to build an oil refinery, along with bids from other countries, as it seeks to boost refining capacity to catch up with rising consumption.

    Iran proposed a plant with processing capacity of more than 100,000 barrels a day and pledged to provide the crude, IGN Wiratmaja Puja, director-general of oil and gas at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said in Jakarta on Tuesday. The project’s value is estimated at $8.4 billion and would be built over four or five years in Java, Iran’s state run news agency Mehr reported, citing Hassan Khosrojerdi, head of the joint Iran-Indonesia refinery’s board of directors.

    Indonesia, already the only OPEC member that’s a net oil buyer, may need to import half of its annual fuel needs even after increasing its refining capacity by 500,000 barrels a day in the next seven years, according to BMI Research. Iran is seeking to boost crude exports after international sanctions on its economy were eased in January.

    A feasibility study on the refinery’s economic justification is being conducted, a spokesman for Iran’s oil ministry said. The National Iranian Oil Co. has not signed any deals on the project, he said. Indonesia has made no decision on Iran’s proposal because it’s still preliminary, Puja said.

    Bontang Refinery

    Indonesia has also received proposals from China, Kuwait and Russia, Puja said. The ministry hasn’t come to any decisions on the bids. The government plans to offer the Bontang refinery in East Kalimantan to investors before other projects, he said.

    Indonesia’s refining capacity may grow 2 percent by 2025 while consumption surges 31 percent in the same period, according to BMI. The country, which reactivated its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries this year, produced 740,000 barrels a day of crude in July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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    Statoil submits Plan for Development and Operation of Utgard discovery in the North Sea

    Statoil and its partners have submitted the Plan for Development and Operation (PDO) and the Field Development Plan (FDP) for the Utgard gas and condensate discovery in the North Sea to Norwegian and UK authorities.

    Recoverable reserves are estimated at 56.4 million barrels of oil equivalent, whereas capital expenditures are projected at about NOK 3.5 billion.

    Discovered in 1982 Utgard (formerly Alfa Sentral) is located 21 kilometres from the Sleipner field. The discovery has been considered for development on several occasions in the past.

    'I am very pleased that we now can realise a commercial development of Utgard. This clearly demonstrates the effects of the improvement work that has taken place in the oil and gas industry in recent years,' says Torger Rød, Statoil's senior vice president for project development.

    Utgard straddles the UK-Norway median line, the majority of the reserves being located on the Norwegian side.

    'Utgard is the first Statoil development in many years producing resources across the median line, and we are pleased to have found good solutions that address considerations for good resource management on both sides. Good and efficient cooperation across the board, both in relation to partners and government authorities, has made this development possible,' Rød says.

    The Utgard development will include two wells in a standard subsea concept, with one drilling target on each side of the median line. All installations and infrastructure being located in the Norwegian sector, the UK well will be drilled from the subsea template on the Norwegian continental shelf. The distance from the subsea template to the median line is 450 metres.

    Gas and condensate will be piped through a new pipeline to the Sleipner field for processing and further transportation to the market. The Utgard gas has a high CO2 content, and will benefit from carbon cleaning and storage at Sleipner. Reuse of existing infrastructure is essential to the development of the Utgard discovery.

    The Utgard wells are scheduled to come on stream at the end of 2019 In the plateau phase the field will produce approximately some 7,000 Sm3 per day of oil equivalent.

    'Utgard provides new production which will be essential to further developing the Sleipner area, supporting the company's ambitious targets for future activity and value creation,' Rød says.
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    Sabine Pass Train 2 completion nears

    The Trains are in various stages of operation, construction, and development.

    Construction on Trains 1 and 2 began in August 2012, and as of June 30, 2016, the overall project completion percentage for Trains 1 and 2 was approximately 99.4%, which is ahead of the contractual schedule. Train 1 achieved substantial completion in May 2016. Each Train is expected to achieve substantial completion upon the completion of construction, commissioning and the satisfaction of certain tests. The commissioning process on Train 2 has commenced, and based on the current construction schedule Cheniere Partners expects substantial completion of Train 2 to be achieved in late September 2016.

    Construction on Trains 3 and 4 began in May 2013, and as of June 30, 2016, the overall project completion percentage for Trains 3 and 4 was approximately 87.4%, which is ahead of the contractual schedule. Based on the current construction schedule, Cheniere Partners expects Trains 3 and 4 to reach substantial completion in 2017.

    Construction on Train 5 began in June 2015, and as of June 30, 2016, the overall project completion percentage for Train 5 was approximately 38.3%, which is ahead of the contractual schedule. Engineering, procurement, subcontract work and Bechtel direct hire construction were approximately 77.0%, 58.0%, 37.8% and 2.0% complete, respectively. Based on the current construction schedule, Cheniere Partners expects Train 5 to reach substantial completion in 2019.

    Train 6 is currently under development, with all necessary regulatory approvals in place. Cheniere Partners expects to make a final investment decision and commence construction on Train 6 upon, among other things, entering into an engineering, procurement, and construction contract, entering into acceptable commercial arrangements and obtaining adequate financing.
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    Japan’s spot LNG arrival price up in July

    The average price of spot LNG cargoes delivered into Japan in July rose 33 percent from June, according to the data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

    The average price of LNG cargoes delivered into Japan in July reached $6 per mmBtu on DES basis, as compared to $4.5 per mmBtu in June, the data showed.

    This represents a rise for the second straight month and it is the highest price since March this year.

    The average price of spot LNG cargoes contracted in July was at $5.80 per mmBtu, the highest since February this year.

    METI did not publish an average price of spot cargoes contracted in June as there were less than two trades.

    Only spot LNG cargoes are taken into account in this assessments, excluding short, medium and long-term contract cargoes, as well as those linked to a particular price index.
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    Why Iran’s Oil Exports To India May See a Steep Dive

    A 49 percent stake buy by Russia’s Rosneft in Indian Essar Oil will see the Indian company reduce its purchases of Iranian crude oil, according to Essar Oil’s chief executive, as quoted by Bloomberg.

    Essar Oil, India’s major refiner, is the biggest single importer of Iranian crude into the country at the moment. This, however, may be about to change, as Rosneft will want to take the lion’s share of supplies to Essar’s facilities.

    The deal was announced last month to be nearing completion, with the closing date set for October. As part of its, Rosneft will supply 10 million tons of crude annually to the Vadinar refinery, India’s second-largest, which constitutes half of its annual processing capacity. The supply agreement has a 10-year term.

    Recently Essar Oil said it will spend around US$179 million (at current exchange rates) on raising the profit margin of Vadinar by US$1.50 a barrel. The money will be spent on upgrades over the next two to three years.

    According to Bloomberg, Essar Oil purchased a daily average of 148,000 bpd from Iran over the first half if 2016, which constituted 40 percent of India’s total crude oil purchases from Iran. The amount also accounted for a third of the supplies directed to Vadinar. Iran’s overall oil exports to India shot up 63 percent in January-June, after the lifting of Western sanctions related to Tehran’s nuclear program.

    In separate news, Rosneft’s chief Igor Sechin said that the company will “work with Iran in all directions”, responding to questions about what particular projects in Iran Rosneft is interested in.

    The questions followed an announcement from President Putin that the Caspian region is a priority area for Russian oil and gas, and that Moscow was ready to discuss with Tehran a joint utilization of existing pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of Caspian hydrocarbons.
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    Venezuela, China join efforts to produce oil

    State-run oil companies of Venezuela and China are joining hands to boost oil output from the Orinoco oil belt in southeastern Venezuela, which boasts one of the world's largest oil reserves.

    The Venezuelan government is seeking to export up to 1 million barrels of oil a day to China. Venezuela's PDVSA and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) are working together on an expansion plan to raise the export from the current 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), turning the South American country into a reliable oil exporter.

    "We want to ensure a steady supply regardless of oil prices," Venezuela's Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino told Chinese media after a recent visit to the oil belt.

    The expansion plan involves improving infrastructure for the joint venture Sinovensa running in the oil belt between the two countries, in the hope of raising its oil output to 275,000 bpd from the current level of some 170,000 bpd.

    The two state-run oil companies are also planned to improve Venezuela's capacity for oil processing, by building a new dehydration and desalination plant and doubling the capacity of the Jose Processing Plant, based in the state of Anzoategui, to at least 330,000 bpd of extra-heavy crude oil in 2017.

    "We also have approved loans of $5 billion from the China Development Bank for other sides," including inputs in other joint ventures, said del Pino.

    Meanwhile, China and Venezuela are trying to make the transportation of crude oil from the Orinoco oil belt to China faster and more efficient.

    "Currently, a super oil tanker leaves Venezuela every three days for China and it takes 45 days to reach China. We will be able to shorten the voyage by traveling via the newly expanded Panama Canal," said del Pino.

    To this end, a new terminal for oil tankers will be built this year on the Araya peninsula in the state of Sucre.

    Furthermore, the southern Chinese city of Jieyang in Guangdong province is building an oil refinery aimed at processing up to 400,000 bpd of oil coming from Venezuela.
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    EIA sees smaller drop in U.S. 2016 crude output as drilling picks up

    The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday that it expects a smaller decline in U.S. crude oil production in 2016 than it forecast a month ago as an uptick in drilling will lead to more output later this year.

    The agency said 2016 crude production will fall by 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 8.73 million bpd, according to the EIA's short term energy outlook. Previously, it forecast a drop of 820,000 bpd to 8.61 million bpd.

    The decline in crude output comes amid a two-year rout in global oil markets on the back of lackluster demand and oversupply, effectively slashing benchmark prices by as much as 70 percent.

    "After a steep drop over the past year in U.S. oil production, a recent uptick in the number of rigs drilling for oil is expected to contribute to more steady monthly oil output starting this fall," EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said in a statement.

    Last week, U.S. drillers added oil rigs for a sixth consecutive week, according to a Baker Hughes report, as producers continued boosting spending on expectations for higher prices in the future. The rig count rose by 44 during July, the biggest monthly increase since April 2014.

    The EIA, however, expected a slightly bigger drop in crude production in 2017 - a decline of 420,000 bpd to 8.31 million bpd, compared with last month's forecast for a drop of 410,000 bpd to 8.2 million bpd.

    The EIA also left its 2016 U.S. oil demand growth forecast unchanged at 160,000 bpd. It lowered its 2017 U.S. oil demand growth forecast to 100,000 bpd from 120,000 bpd previously.

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    Surprise Natural Gas Drawdown Signals Higher Prices Ahead

    The U.S. electric power sector burned through a record amount of natural gas in recent weeks, a sign of the shifting power generation mix and also a signal that natural gas supplies could get tighter than many analysts had previously expected.

    The EIA reported a surprise drawdown in natural gas inventories for the week ending on August 3. The reduction of 6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) was the first summertime drawdown since 2006. Natural gas spot prices shot up following the data release on August 4, although they fell back again shortly after.

    Natural gas consumption patterns are much more seasonal than for oil. Demand tends to spike in the winter due to heating needs, and then drops substantially in the intervening months, particularly in the spring and fall. Between March/April and October/November, natural gas inventories build up as people need less heating, and that stockpiled gas is then used in the next winter.

    So it comes as a surprise that after a record buildup in inventories this past winter, the summer has seen a much lower-than-expected buildup in storage. And last week's drawdown, the first in over a decade during summertime, says quite a bit about the shifting energy landscape. The EIA says this is the result of two factors: higher consumption from electric power plants, and a drop off in production.

    The U.S. is and has been in the midst of an epochal transition from coal-fired electricity to natural gas and renewables, a switch that will take many more years to play out. But the effects are already showing up in the power generation mix. Utilities have rushed to build more natural gas power plants over the past decade, and now with so many online, demand for gas has climbed to new levels.

    Just a few weeks ago, on July 21, the U.S. burned through 40.9 billion cubic feet, the highest volume on record, according to the EIA. And in late July, the power burn exceeded 40 Bcf/d three times due to a hot weather. Nine of the ten highest power burn days on record took place last month, with the other one occurring in July 2015. Average consumption of 36.1 Bcf/d in July of this year was 2.7 Bcf/d higher than a year earlier, and 1.5 Bcf/d higher than the previous high reached in July 2012.

    The high rates of consumption from the electric power sector are contributing to tepid growth in inventories this summer. This comes on the heels of a massive buildup in inventories last winter, and heading into summer the expectation was that huge storage levels would keep natural gas prices at rock bottom levels, perhaps for years. But that doesn't look like it will come to pass.

    While high demand is keeping natural gas from being diverted into storage in large amounts, the other main reason that natural gas inventories are not building up as much as previously thought is because of a supply-side issue: natural gas production is actually falling after years of steady increases. Natural gas prices have traded below $3 per million Btu since the beginning of 2015. U.S. gas drillers continued to ratchet up production through 2015, however, creating this past winter's inventory glut. But the resulting downturn in prices has now made drilling unprofitable in many areas. On top of that, the oil price crash has ground oil drilling to a halt, which means that the natural gas produced in association with oil has also come to a standstill. The upshot is that natural gas production is now falling in the United States. The Marcellus Shale, the most prolific shale gas basin in the country, saw production peak in February at 18.5 Bcf/d. Since then output has declined 3 percent. In August, the EIA expects gas production from the Marcellus to fall by another 26 million cubic feet per day.

    Of course, this stuff is cyclical. The first summer drawdown in inventories in a decade means that natural gas markets are now tighter than many analysts thought only a few months ago. Falling production and rising demand could lead to steeper drawdowns in inventories this coming winter. The effect of that will be to push up spot prices, which could induce more drilling once again.
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    Permian Oil Drillers Dominate Rival U.S. Crude Explorers: Chart

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    Oil producers focused on the most-prolific U.S. oil field are outperforming more wide-ranging peers this year as the Permian -- a multi-layered stack of crude-soaked rocks beneath West Texas and New Mexico -- still turns a profit amid depressed oil markets. A bidding war has broken out among Permian explorers, driving up prices for drilling rights. In the latest deal, SM Energy Co. spent $980 million on Monday to buy access to almost 25,000 acres in the region, joining Diamondback Energy Inc., Callon Petroleum Co. and QEP Resources Inc. in expanding Permian portfolios.

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    EIA sees US gas output increase in late 2016, 2017; Q3 estimate lower

    Natural gas price increases and growing LNG exports should give a boost to natural gas marketed production in late 2016 and 2017, the US Energy Information Administration said Tuesday, even as it scaled back third-quarter production estimates.

    EIA's August Short-Term Energy Outlook said natural gas marketed production in May averaged 78.1 Bcf/d, down 2 Bcf/d from a record daily average production set in February, The agency lowered by 0.28 Bcf/d to 79.22 Bcf/d its natural gas marketed production estimate for the US in Q3 2016. Yet it forecast production should pick up in late 2016, and rise 0.6% in 2016 and 2.9% in 2017.

    In recent weeks, it said slightly tapering production and high use of natural gas for power generation contributed to gas injections falling short of average levels.

    "Natural gas inventories were drawn down in the last week in July for the first time in 10 years during the June-August period, when gas stocks normally increase," EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski. EIA said working gas inventories were 3.288 Tcf as of July 29, 6 Bcf below the previous week's levels.

    Nonetheless, with inventories at record levels because of last winter's warm weather, the winter season may still start over with record high gas in storage, EIA said. It forecast inventories at 4.042 Tcf at the end of October.

    Gas pipeline exports to Mexico are likely to rise by 0.7 Bcf/d in 2016 and 0.1 Bcf/d in 2017, it said, noting Mexico's power sector demand and flat production has led to growing demand this year.

    The agency saw LNG gross exports rising 0.5 Bcf/d on average in 2016, and it projected LNG exports would hit 1.3 Bcf/d in 2017. With the rise in gross exports, EIA expects the US to make the shift from being a net importer of natural gas of 2.6 Bcf/d in 2015 to having a small amount of net exports in Q2 2017.

    EIA lowered its gas consumption estimate in Q3 2016 by 0.19 Bcf/d to 68.85 Bcf/d, even as it anticipated increased demand for the year, mostly tied to power sector use.

    Demand for full-year 2016 is expected to average 76.3 Bcf/d, while full-year 2017 demand is estimated at 77.2 Bcf/d, compared with 75.3 Bcf/d in 2015, EIA said.

    "Despite the recent rise in natural gas prices, hot weather across the country is leading power plants to pull more natural gas from storage this summer, with the amount of electricity generated by natural gas to meet cooling demand reaching a record high in July," said Sieminski.

    Power sector use of gas is forecast to rise by 4.8% in 2016 before dropping by 1.7% in 2017, as rising gas prices push up the use of coal for electricity, EIA said. In 2016, EIA projects gas will supply 34.3% of power generation, while coal would make up a 30.3% share in 2016. But in 2017, the share powered by gas would fall to 33.3% while coal would rise 31.1%.

    Industrial sector demand for gas is projected rise by 2.5% in 2016 and by 1.1% in 2017, according to EIA.

    The agency raised its forecast for Q4 Henry Hub natural gas spot prices to $2.73/MMBtu, 13 cents above its July estimate, and it projected that prices would gradually rise through the forecast period and average $2.41/MMBtu in 2016 and $2.95/MMBtu in 2017.

    Prices averaged $2.82/MMBtu in July, up 24 cents from June levels, as warmer-than-normal weather pushed up power sector demand, it said.

    "Current options and futures prices imply that market participants place the lower and upper bounds for the 95% confidence interval for November 2016 contracts at $2.12/MMBtu and $4.28/MMBtu, respectively," EIA said.
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    Rumour: US Methanol Building 5 Methanol Plants in WV

    Methanol plants convert natural gas into methanol, used as a chemical feedstock (or raw material) to create other things, like gasoline, antifreeze and more. More commonly you may call it a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant.

    Methanol plants have the capacity to create a big demand for natural gas and sop up some of the oversupply we have in the Marcellus/Utica. In May we told you about Primus Green Energy’s plan to build a 160 metric tons per day (MT/day) methanol plant for Tauber Oil somewhere in the Marcellus.

    We have more exciting news. US Methanol, according to their website, is working on two Marcellus methanol plants, coming to West Virginia. One plant, called Liberty One, will produce 175,000 metrics tons per annum, or about 480 MT/day. Liberty Two will produce 150,000 MT/annum, or a about 410 MT/day.

    Here’s the really really exciting news. We’ve stumbled across a rumour that U.S. Methanol is actually planning to build five methanol plants total. According to the rumor, we know where the first two plants already announced (Liberty One and Two) will be built–AND we know which driller they’ve contracted with to supply the natgas for those plants.
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    Alternative Energy

    Forecasts for more solar and wind supply curb spot

    European prompt power prices fell on Tuesday on forecasts of higher solar and wind power output in Germany, more nuclear reactor capacity in France, and lower demand.

    "We're truly in the middle of the annual holidays while nuclear supply is up day-on-day," one trader said.

    German baseload power for Wednesday delivery was 1.95 euros lower at 27.25 euros ($30.21) per megawatt-hour (MWh) while the equivalent French contract was 1.7 euros lower at 27.4 euros.

    Weather patterns that drive output at wind and solar plants are currently very changeable, although broker Marex Spectron said in a note it was short-term bullish.

    Cold air was forecast to be arriving in the region during the next few days, cutting average temperatures quite significantly, which "could increase demand," it said.

    Thomson Reuters data showed that solar power output in Germany will likely rise to 7.2 gigawatts (GW) on Wednesday compared with 4.8 GW recorded on Tuesday.

    Wind supply would gain 1.1 GW to stand at 6.7 GW on Wednesday.

    Demand was forecast to fall by 0.2 GW in Germany and by 1 GW in France, the data showed.

    In the French nuclear sector, availability went up by 4.9 percentage points to 68.5 percent of the total.

    Forward power prices were boosted by firmer levels in the coal and gas forward markets.

    German baseload power for delivery next year, gained 55 cents to 27 euros/MWh.

    The equivalent French contract, which is less liquid, rose by 35 cents to 32.45 euros/MWh.

    Crude oil prices fell on continued worries of a global supply glut and profit-taking, which outweighed upward momentum from a possible meeting of oil producers to discuss supply.

    European coal for 2017 delivery jumped 4.6 percent to $59.4 a tonne, having recently lost sight of the $60 level.

    Front-year EU carbon allowances shed 2 percent to 4.85 euros a tonne.

    In eastern European power, the Czech year-ahead position rose 25 cents to 27.45 euros, while the day ahead lost 1.5 euros to 28.75 euros.
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    Wave and tidal energy taking “enormous strides” towards commercialisation

    There remains much to be positive about in both wave and tidal energy in Scotland.

    Both industries have taken enormous strides forward in the last 12 months, and we are now closer to commercialisation than ever before.

    Turning first to the tidal industry; progress on the MeyGen project – the world’s largest tidal stream development – continues apace in the Pentland Firth.

    At the time of writing, the first turbine to be installed at the site had just left the factory and was making its way to Nigg Energy Park, the project’s base for turbine assembly.

    The work at Global Energy’s Nigg base is just one of a series of contracts secured by the Scottish supply chain from the MeyGen project.

    Home-grown companies such as Thurso’s JGC Engineering, John Gunn and Sons and Leask Marine have also benefited from this world-leading development, variously working on cable installation and providing the steel structures for the underwater turbines.

    In Shetland, Scottish Renewables member Nova Innovation has already successfully deployed and operated two grid-connected tidal turbines, and is in the process of deploying another of the world’s first tidal arrays in the seas off the islands.

    Not content to stop at tidal turbines, the business is also developing energy storage solutions. Nova’s batteries enable tidal and other renewable technologies to be deployed on weak grids and generate off-grid, and are designed to optimise the technical and financial performance of the technologies with which they work.

    In Orkney, the 200MW Brims Tidal Array is a joint venture between OpenHydro and SSE which will be built off the south coast of the island of Hoy, in some of the strongest tides in the UK.

    That project submitted an application for consent earlier this summer (June), marking a significant milestone for another commercial-scale tidal stream development in Scottish waters.

    Having moved their operational base from the Isle of Wight to Orkney, Sustainable Marine Energy announced its plans to deploy a 240kW second-generation PLAT-O platform at the European Marine Energy Centre, with production also taking place in Scotland.

    SME’s existing investors have been joined by the German Tidal Turbine Manufacturer SCHOTTEL HYDRO, with Scottish Enterprise increasing its investment to provide the funding required to take the development of PLAT-O through the next phase, as well as proving the commercial viability of community-scale arrays.

    In wave energy, Wave Energy Scotland is now already advancing towards its third round of developments. The organisation is already supporting 17 power take-off projects and eight novel wave energy converters, with a further four projects underway in related research fields.

    Beneficiaries of that funding include AWS Ocean Energy, who’ll use almost £285,000 to improve the performance of the Archimedes Waveswing; and Checkmate Seaenergy, whose Anaconda device uses water pressure to generate electricity.

    Scottish Renewables member Albatern received almost £260,000 from Wave Energy Scotland to continue development of its WaveNET array system, and has big plans for the already-proven design.

    The first WaveNET array was deployed off the Isle of Muck with Marine Harvest (Scotland) in 2014. The array was made of three 7.5kW Squid wave energy converters, and provided power to Marine Harvest’s Am Maol salmon farming site.

    Today the company is working on scaling-up the size of the Squid – to around 75kW per unit – meaning it would be possible to deploy arrays of 10MW and above.

    Those plans received a boost in April (2016) when it was announced the project would receive Scottish Government WATERS funding of £1.8 million.

    These developments aside, however, the industry is also facing challenges.

    Along with many other renewable energy technologies, questions remain around funding regimes, particularly around the details of forthcoming allocation rounds which provide access to the Contracts for Difference mechanism.

    And with so much positive support from Europe, June’s Brexit vote clearly provides another challenge to an industry already wrestling with policy and funding issues at a UK level.

    This issue – and many others – will be debated at Scottish Renewables’ annual Marine Conference in Inverness on September 13.

    Building on the success of the International Conference on Ocean Energy, which saw thousands of delegates from all over the world visit Edinburgh for the sector’s most important international conference in February (2016), our event will debate the opportunities and challenges currently facing the wave and tidal industries while exploring the cutting edge initiatives in Scotland that are propelling the industry forward.

    Among other topics, we will examine Wave Energy Scotland’s work to accelerate the development of wave energy technology, and what issues they will tackle moving forward, as well as how tidal developers are mitigating construction risks as we build the first tidal arrays.

    Speakers will include Artemis Intelligent Power’s Jamie Taylor, who will discuss how Wave Energy Scotland is streamlining the sector’s technical development, and Andrew Scott, CEO of Orkney-based Scotrenewables Tidal Power, who’ll talk about Optimising Tidal Technology to deliver best returns.

    Delegates will also hear from industry leaders on their priorities for the year ahead, as well as enjoying networking at an informal dinner.

    Students from the University of the Highlands and the Islands’ Marine Energy Research Innovation and Knowledge Accelerator project will host a breakfast before the programme proper kicks off.
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    SunPower expects to post a loss in 2016, cuts revenue forecast

    SunPower Corp, the No. 2 U.S. solar panel maker, said on Tuesday it now expects to report a loss in 2016 and cut its adjusted revenue forecast, sending its shares plummeting as much as 31 percent in after-hours trading.

    SunPower also said it would cut about 1,200 jobs, or about 15 percent of its workforce, as its realigns its power plant business and manufacturing operations.

    The company, majority owned by French energy giant Total SA (TOTF.PA), said it now expects to post a loss of $25 million to$175 million. It had earlier forecast to at least break even or a profit of up to $50 million.

    SunPower cut its full-year revenue forecast to $3 billion to$3.2 billion from $3.2 billion to $3.4 billion and said it expects to deploy fewer projects and modules in terms of gigawatts.

    The company develops and sells large-scale solar projects and provides related services in its power plant business. Revenue in the business tumbled 12.6 percent to $144.9 million in the second quarter.

    The business was hit after U.S. lawmakers late last year extended federal tax credits, which boost residential and commercial solar installations, beyond 2016. That reduced customers' urgency to complete new projects this year, SunPower said.

    Prices of power purchase agreements have also trended lower due to increasing competition, especially from Chinese solar companies. The prices may not drop any lower but may not trend higher either, Chief Executive Tom Werner told Reuters.

    "I'd be surprised if it went any lower ... I don't think there will be a significant uptick but I think it will rationalize and stabilize over few quarters," said Werner.

    He also said that he would reduce his cash salary and bonus to $1 for the rest of 2016.

    The company expects the realignment and job cuts to result in restructuring charges of $30 million to $45 million, mostly in the current quarter.

    SunPower also said it will reduced its remaining minority stake in a solar project in California to 8point3 Energy Partners LP (CAFD.O), a joint venture between SunPower and First Solar (FSLR.O).

    SunPower's quarterly net loss attributable to shareholders was $70 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with a profit of $6.5 million, or 4 cents per share, a year earlier.

    Excluding items, it lost 22 cents per share. Adjusted revenue rose 6.7 percent to $401.8 million.

    Analysts had expected a loss of 24 cents per share and revenue of $345.08 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
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    Italy's Enel to accelerate hydroelectric projects in Brazil

    Enel Green Power, controlled by Italy's Enel, plans to accelerate by one year the beginning of operations at three hydroelectric projects requiring investments of 1 billion reais ($316 million) in Brazil's Mato Grosso state, the company told Reuters on Tuesday.
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    China to UK: 'golden' ties at crucial juncture over nuclear delay

    China has cautioned Britain against closing the door to Chinese money and said relations were at a crucial juncture after Prime Minister Theresa May delayed signing off on a $24 billion nuclear power project.

    In China's sternest warning to date over May's surprise decision to review the building of Britain's first nuclear plant in decades, Beijing's ambassador to London said that Britain could face power shortages unless May approved the Franco-Chinese deal.

    "The China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more," Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Financial Times.

    "I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British government will continue to support Hinkley Point — and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly."

    The comments signal deep frustration in Beijing at May's move to delay, her most striking corporate intervention since winning power in the political turmoil which followed Britain's June 23 referendum to leave the European Union.

    Her decision indicates a much more cautious view of Chinese investment and a willingness to take a tough line with EU allies such as French President Francois Hollande.

    Cast as the jewel illustrating a new "Golden Era" of relations between China and Britain, the Hinkley financing deal was signed in Downing Street during a state visit to Britain by President Xi Jinping last year.


    Under plans drawn up by former Prime Minister David Cameron, French utility EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corp would fund the cost of building two Areva European Pressurized Water Reactors at the Hinkley C nuclear plant in Somerset, in southern England.


    › Britain defends decision to review $24 billion nuclear plant

    Britain has committed to pay a minimum price for the power generated by the plant for 35 years, though critics said London had agreed to pay far too much.

    Hinkley is seen as the front runner to closer ties with China on nuclear issues, paving the way for tens of billions of dollars of investment and another two nuclear power plants with Chinese involvement.

    Cameron raised some eyebrows with allies by pitching Britain as the pre-eminent gateway to the West for investment from China and made London the biggest international trading center for offshore yuan outside China.

    Britain is currently discussing an agreement for landmark financial services links, including a London-Shanghai stock connection.

    In the comment published in the Financial Times on Tuesday, China's ambassador said Hinkley was not "some whimsical idea or rushed decision" and pointedly said that Chinese investment had flowed because both countries "respected and trusted each other".

    "If Britain’s openness is a condition for bilateral co-operation, then mutual trust is the very foundation on which this is built," said Liu.

    Once Britain exits from the EU, London would need to clinch a new trade deal with China, whose $11.3 trillion economy is currently more than four times as big as Britain's at $2.4 trillion.

    Liu said Chinese companies had invested more in the United Kingdom than in Germany, France and Italy combined over the past five years.


    Since May won the top job, Britain has repeatedly said that it values its relationship with China and that it was natural for the incoming government to want to look at the plans in detail.

    "This decision is about a huge infrastructure project and it's right that the new government carefully considers it," a government spokesman said.

    "We co-operate with China on a broad range of areas from the global economy to international issues and we will continue to seek a strong relationship with China."

    But Nick Timothy, May's influential joint chief of staff, also said last year that security experts were worried the state-owned Chinese group would have access to computer systems that could allow it to shut down Britain's energy production.

    "Rational concerns about national security are being swept to one side because of the desperate desire for Chinese trade and investment," Timothy wrote in October 2015 in a column for a conservative news and comment website.

    China was buying British silence on human rights, Timothy said, and stated that British security services thought China's spies were working against UK interests.

    "No amount of trade and investment should justify allowing a hostile state easy access to the country’s critical national infrastructure," he said.

    A final decision on Hinkley is due in September.
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    Farm tech investment drops off after record year

    Investor backing for agriculture technology startups cooled in the first half of 2016 after record global investment last year, according to industry data released on Monday.

    Funding from venture capitalists and others totaled $1.8 billion through the first six months of the year, down 20 percent from a year earlier, while the number of deals rose 7 percent to 307, ag investment platform AgFunder said.

    The pullback was in line with the broader venture capital market, it said.

    The decline also comes as weak grain prices put pressure on farmers' incomes and corporate profits.

    Investment slipped in the drones and robotics and food e-commerce categories, while soil and crop technology experienced an uptick.

    The dip in ag-tech financing follows 2015's record-high $4.6 billion investment, according to Ag Funder. The industry wants to use sophisticated tools such as seed traits, drones and weather sensors to drive yields and profits higher.

    "It's an area we're keenly interested in," said Matt Bell, principal of Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, whose investments include Harvest Automation, a company that makes mobile robots for tree nurseries.

    Near Kitscoty, Alberta, farmers may do double-takes later this year as Brian Headon's self-driving tractor plows his corn fields with the driver's seat empty.

    Headon will spend C$250,000 retrofitting his tractor with a motor system made by Autonomous Tractor Corp (ATC) that will allow it to drive by itself, using a global positioning system.

    "To not even have an operator in there almost makes me more comfortable," said Headon, who is also a Western Canada distributor for ATC. "Because I've taken away the human aspect."

    The need for safeguards is an obstacle to widespread adoption of self-driving tractors, said Matt Rushing, vice president of product management at AGCO Corp.

    "As we start to take the operators off these machines, you're going to have questions about, 'Can the machines go rogue?'" Rushing said.

    California-based Blue River Technology expects "smarter" machines to catch on steadily.

    Farmers use its "See & Spray" technology on 10 percent of U.S. lettuce fields, said Ben Chostner, vice president of business development at Blue River, whose investors include Monsanto Co and Syngenta AG.

    The box-shaped robot, pulled behind a conventional tractor, pinpoints weeds to douse with a lethal chemical.

    "People have been dreaming of Jetsons-like futures since the '50s," Chostner said. "The technology is really starting to emerge."

    Attached Files
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    Precious Metals

    Marathon Gold Deposit Grows Larger With New Drill Results

    Marathon Deposit Grows Larger With New Drill Results: 2.11 g/t Au (Cut) Over 68.3 Meters (TT) and 1.33 g/t Over 48.8 Meters (TT)

    Marathon Gold Corporation  is pleased to announce continued positive results from its latest drilling at the Marathon Deposit, Valentine Gold Camp. New drill holes MA-16-107 and MA-16-11 have both intercepted very wide intervals of good-grade gold mineralization for up to 80 meters down-dip of previous drilling on the Marathon Deposit. These new drill holes further confirm the continuity of the 50-100 meter wide (TT) mineralized corridor of the Marathon Deposit that is currently open along strike and extends to depth for more than 250 meters. Previously reported drill holes MA-16-101 and extended drill holes MA-15-032, MA-15-039 and MA-15-047 also intersected similar wide intervals of higher grade gold at depth. Shallower drilling intercepted significant mineralization up to 250 meters southwest of the current Marathon resource pit shell and in the hanging wall of the deposit.

    Highlights (true thickness):

    Drill holes MA-16-107 and MA-16-111 intercepted very wide intervals of good grade gold mineralization up to 80 meters down-dip of previously drilling in the Marathon Deposit. Best intercepts included 2.11 g/t Au (cut) over 68.3 meters with 10.64 g/t (cut) over 3.3 meters, 4.29 g/t over 2.0 meters, 12.92 g/t Au (cut) over 2.0 meters, 5.19 g/t Au over 2.0 meters, 6.56 g/t Au over 2.6 meters and 8.84 g/t Au over 2.6 meters in MA-16-107, and 1.33 g/t Au over 48.8 meters with 5.23 g/t Au over 1.3 meters, 10.03 g/t Au over 0.7 meters and 4.62 g/t Au over 3.9 meters in MA-16-111.
    The recently drilled deeper drill holes through the central portion of the Marathon Deposit (i.e.: MA-16-101, MA-16-107, MA-16-111 and extended drill holes MA-15-032, MA-15-039 and MA-16-047) now define a more than 200 meters long subvertical mineralized corridor up to 50 to 100 meters wide that extends to depth beyond 250 meters. The mineralized corridor of the Marathon Deposit remains open along strike and to depth.
    Significant near-surface mineralization was also encountered in step-out drill hole MA-16-106 with 2.44 g/t Au over 3.5 meters and in hanging wall drill hole MA-16-109 with 6.74 g/t Au over 1.8 meters, 1.05 g/t Au over 2.4 meters and 1.01 g/t Au over 1.8 meters.
    The total strike length of the alteration and mineralized corridor, including the spring 2015 Marathon Deposit resource pit shell, now extends for at least 1.6 kilometers (Figure 1). The highest priority drilling at the Marathon Deposit continues to focus on expanding the open pit resource shell to the southwest along strike of the current Marathon Deposit resource pit shell as well as northwest into the hanging wall of the deposit.
    Metallurgical work is continuing on schedule with encouraging preliminary results both in the floatation and the column testing for heap leach viability at both the Leprechaun and Marathon Deposits.
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    Hindustan Zinc to double silver output to catch solar wave

    Hindustan Zinc Ltd, a subsidiary of billionaire Anil Agarwal's mining conglomerate Vedanta Ltd, aims to double silver output in five years due to rising prices and increased demand from solar panel makers.

    The group plans to produce 500 tonnes of silver this fiscal year and double that to 1,000 tonnes by fiscal 2022, Chief Executive Sunil Duggal told Reuters on Tuesday.

    Due to an increased demand from investors, who look at gold and silver as safe investments, international silver prices have risen 42 percent to $19.70 an ounce since the start of the year.

    Silver has also been boosted by increased demand from solar panel manufacturing and Hindustan Zinc, India's biggest producer of lead, zinc and silver, has increased its focus on the commodity to cash in on an expected increase in Indian demand, especially for industrial use, Duggal said.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has set a target of producing 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2022 and is incentivising companies to produce solar panels.

    "There are opportunities opening up for silver demand in India and a major among them is solar panel manufacturing. We want to increase our output to 1000 tonnes to meet a substantial part of the demand," he said.

    Analysts say about 40 tonnes of silver is required to produce panels that would generate 1 GW of solar power.

    Duggal said the company plans to ramp up output from its mines in the western state of Rajasthan and boost silver recoveries from its zinc and lead smelters.

    "So far we do not recover any silver from zinc. We are investing 1.5 billion Indian rupees ($22.4 million) to increase recovery of silver form our smelters," he added.

    The company aims to increase its overall silver recovery from mines and smelters from 60 percent now to 65 percent by March 2017 and 85-90 percent by March 2022.
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    Base Metals

    China's end-July bonded copper inventories surge 3.4% to 600,000 mt

    Refined copper inventories at China's bonded warehouses totaled 600,000 mt at the end of July, up 3.4% from a month earlier, amid higher copper imports in the past seven months, brokerage Huatai Futures said in a commodity report Tuesday.

    China imported 3.09 million mt of refined copper and copper products in the first seven months of this year, up 19.5% year on year, figures from the General Administration of Customs showed.

    The current slack traditional copper buying season in mainland China results in continued weak demand in the domestic spot market, state-owned metals consultancy Beijing Antaike said in its copper sector report Tuesday.

    Spot copper supply was ample Tuesday, with suppliers active but forced to cut premiums to boost sales, the agency said.

    Bonded cargoes are used as collateral for seeking funds from financial institutions for financing needs, according to Huatai Futures.

    Bonded copper is copper that has been approved by customs to enter China, without paying tax, and is stored, processed and re-exported, according to the General Administration of Customs.

    Bonded warehouses in China are located in Shanghai, East China, as well as Guangdong Province in southern China.
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    Indonesian ministry recommends renewing Freeport export permit

    Bambang Gatot, the ministry's director general of coal and minerals, did not explain why the recommendation was for a shorter period.

    "The export volume (in the recommendation) is 1.4-million tonnes, as they requested .. but they might not be able to sell that much," Gatot told reporters, adding that all shipments are subject to a 5% export tax.

    A Freeport spokesman said he had not yet been informed of the ministry's recommendation.

    Freeport, which produces about 220 000 t/d of copper ore, still has to take the recommendation to Indonesia's trade ministry to get the permit.

    Typically once the trade ministry receives a recommendation from the mining ministry, the renewal of an export permit would be a formality.

    Freeport's previous permit expired on Monday.

    Last February, shipments from Freeport's giant Grasbergcopper mine were halted for nearly two weeks before the government approved the now expired permit.

    The Indonesian government announced in early 2014 that allcopper concentrate shipments would be banned from January 2017, as part of efforts to transform the nation from being a supplier of raw materials into a producer of finished goods.
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    Aluminium pricefixing claims rejected by U.S. appeals court

    A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of nationwide antitrust litigation accusing banks and commodity companies of conspiring to drive up aluminium prices by reducing supply, forcing them to overpay.

    By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said so-called commercial end users and consumer end users lacked standing to sue because their alleged antitrust injuries were too far removed from the alleged misconduct.

    The plaintiffs had accused Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the mining company Glencore Plc, and various commodity trading, metals mining and metals warehousing companies of having colluded from 2009 to 2012 to rig prices by hoarding inventory.

    This allegedly caused big delays to fill orders, leading to higher storage costs at warehouses in the Detroit area and elsewhere, which in turn inflated aluminium prices and the cost of producing cabinets, flashlights, strollers and other goods.

    Regulators in the United States and Europe have also examined aluminium price-fixing allegations.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants did not immediate respond to requests for comment.

    Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs said the plaintiffs "did not (and could not) suffer antitrust injury" because they neither participated in a market affected by anticompetitive conduct, nor showed that their injuries were "inextricably intertwined" with injuries that the defendants intended to inflict.

    Jacobs said the plaintiffs did not claim to store aluminium or buy aluminium stored with the defendants, or trade aluminium futures contracts with the defendants, or allege that aluminium they bought underlay the defendants' futures trades.

    "The injury Consumers and Commercials claim was suffered down the distribution chain of a separate market, and was a purely incidental byproduct of the alleged scheme," he wrote.

    Claims alleging violations of state consumer protection and unfair trade laws were also dismissed.

    The decision upheld August 2014 rulings by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan.

    She allowed so-called "first-level" metals purchasers to pursue their own antitrust claims in a separate ruling the following March.

    The case is In re: Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 14-3574 and 14-3581.

    Attached Files
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    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    China July coke exports surge 50.7pct on year

    China exported 1.1 million tonnes of coke and semi-coke in July, surging 50.7% from the year prior and up 44.7% from June, showed data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on August 8.

    The value of coke exports stood at 982.41 million yuan ($147.6 million) in the month, falling 17.8% from the previous year. That translated to an average price of 893.15 yuan/t, up 132.69 yuan/t from June.

    Over January-July, the country's exports of coke and semi-coke increased 10.8% on year to 5.85 million tonnes, with value over the period dropping 17.8% on year to 5.5 billion yuan.
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    Iron-ore giants reject proposed A$7.2bn iron-ore mining tax hike

    The world’s two largest mining companies rejected a proposed A$7.2-billion ($5.5-billion) tax increase on their Western Australian iron-ore operations, saying it’s likely to put jobs and competitiveness at risk.

    Brendon Grylls announced the tax proposal after being appointed the new leader of the state’s Nationals party on Tuesday. The plan to raise the production rental cost on  Rio Tinto and rival BHP Billiton to A$5 a metric ton from 25 Australian cents would be a pillar of the Nationals campaign for the 2017 state election, according to a statement.

    “The Nationals WA believe that the state and taxpayers have facilitated a huge expansion of the iron-ore industry at great cost to our state budget and the big miners are not paying their fair share,” Grylls said in the statement. “These two miners have made almost $140-billion since 2010, and Western Australia has facilitated that.”

    The Nationals are the smaller party in the ruling coalition in the state under Premier Colin Barnett of the larger Liberal party. Grylls has met with Barnett to discuss the policy, according to the statement. The hike would add A$7.2-billion to the state’s budget across its forward estimates and bring it back into surplus, the party said.

    The proposal isn’t “supported by business and was unlikely to proceed given it would need the support of the Nationals’ alliance partners,” Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia’s CEO Deidre Willmott said Tuesday in a statement.

    Royalty income, Western Australia’s third-largest source of revenue after taxes and federal government grants, is forecast to decline 8% to about A$3.8-billion this fiscal year, mainly as a result of lower iron-ore prices, the state government said in May.

    “There are no grounds for a new mining tax in Western Australia and it should not be adopted as Nationals policy,”London-based Rio said in an e-mailed statement. “An ill-conceived tax grab will place these local jobs and the growth of Rio Tinto’s iron-ore business at risk.”

    Rio and BHP, together the second- and third-largest iron ore exporters in the world, have expanded aggressively in Western Australia, spending billions on new mines, ports and rail operations to tap surging demand from China. After climbing to a record of almost $200 a ton in 2011, the price of the steel making raw material plunged to near $60 a ton thanks to a deepening glut as producers expanded.

    “We do not understand why a proposal that is so discriminatory and uneconomic would be targeted at two companies,” BHP said in an e-mailed statement. Producers are operating in “an international market and we have to be able to compete or will lose market share,” the Melbourne-based producer said. Australia is the top iron ore exporter, ahead of Brazil.

    Rio produced a total of 310-million tons of iron-ore in the state last year and paid about $3.3 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia, including $1.2-billion to Western Australia’s state government, according to filings. The exporter employs about 12 000 people in the state, with the majority at its giant mining complex in the north western Pilbara region. The jobs rely on a “stable and competitive taxation environment,” Rio said.

    BHP, with mining operations, two port facilities and about 1 000 km of railroad in the Pilbara, had output of 257-million tons, including products for joint-venture partners, from the state in the 12 months to June 30. The producer has paid about A$65-billion in taxes and royalties in Australia over the past 10 years, including A$10.6-billion in royalties to the Western Australian government, BHP said in the statement.
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    Ontario Steel bids for U.S. Steel Canada

    Ontario Steel Investment Ltd, a group that includes shareholders of Essar Global, said on Tuesday that it had submitted an offer for the purchase of U.S. Steel Canada, which has been in creditor protection since 2014.

    The offer includes the assumption of C$954 million ($725 million) in liabilities under U.S. Steel Canada's pension plan and a commitment to provide C$25 million toward post-employment benefits for U.S. Steel Canada's past and present staff.ns in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ontario.

    Ontario Steel said it remained in active discussions with the USW regarding its offer and looked forward to continuing discussions with the province of Ontario.

    U.S. Steel Canada is a former unit of United States Steel Corp

    The United Steelworkers (USW) union had criticized U.S. Steel for its decision to eliminate Essar Global as a potential buyer of U.S. Steel Canada's operatiof 18 months of discussions with all of the key stakeholders to find the best outcome for the business," it said.
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