Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Monday 8th June 2015
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    China's May imports including oil and iron ore slide

    A bigger-than-expected slide in China's imports in May strengthened expectations more policy stimulus may be needed to avert a sharp slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

    point to a slackening domestic economy. Meanwhile, erratic global demand and a relatively strong yuan, also cast doubts over the government's ability to hit its full-year trade growth target of six percent.

    Annual exports in May fell 2.5 percent while imports tumbled 17.6 percent, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.

    "The data shows the Chinese economy is still in the process of seeking a bottom. We expect trade conditions to continue to be sluggish in the following 4-5 months, with more government policy rolling out to stabilise (the economy)," said Liu Yaxin, macro strategist at China Merchants Securities in Shenzhen.

    Liu added that Chinese companies were being outflanked in global markets due to a relatively strong yuan currency.

    China posted a near record trade surplus in May of $59.49 billion, but weak imports highlight slowing domestic consumption.

    In May, exports to the United States, China's top export market, rose 7.8 percent from a year earlier, while shipments to the European Union, the second largest market, dipped 6.9 percent, customs data showed.

    China's leading index on exports fell in May, the third straight month of decline, heralding "the relatively big pressure" on exports this year," customs said.

    Imports of oil and iron ore in May fell 11 percent from a year earlier, underscoring soft demand at home and oversupply. Bloated stocks could take months to draw down, prompting steel mills to pump up exports of steel even at weak prices.

    Overseas purchases dropped to 23.24 million metric tons in May, according to preliminary data released by the General Administration of Customs in Beijing on Monday. That’s the lowest level since February 2014 and equivalent to 5.5 million barrels a day, down from a record 7.4 million a day in April.

    China’s record appetite for crude had bolstered OPEC’s strategy of pumping into an oversupplied global market, and a slowdown in buying could worsen the glut. Purchases declined amid increased refinery maintenance and as port storage facilities filled up, according to ICIS China, a Shanghai-based commodities researcher. The U.S. imported about 6.9 million barrels a day in May, based on weekly data from the government.

    “The fall in single-month imports may be a result of peak refinery shutdown,” Amy Sun, an ICIS analyst, said by phone from Guangzhou. “Crude oil trading ports, especially Dalian, are also pretty full after the buying spree in April, leaving limited space for more stockpiles.”

    China’s top refiners shut a total of 882,000 barrels a day of processing capacity in May, the most this year, according to ICIS.

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    Oil and Gas

    OPEC agrees to keep pumping as global oil glut fears persists

    Oil group OPEC agreed to stick by its policy of unconstrained output for another six months on Friday, setting aside warnings of a second lurch lower in prices as some members such as Iran look to ramp up exports.

    Concluding a meeting with no apparent dissent, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had rolled over its current output ceiling, renewing support for the shock market treatment it doled out late last year when Saudi Arabia, the world's top supplier, said it would no longer cut output to keep prices high. The group will meet again on Dec. 4, Naimi said.

    With oil prices having rebounded by more than a third after hitting a six-year low of $45 a barrel in January, officials meeting in Vienna saw little reason to tinker with a strategy that seems to have resurrected moribund growth in world oil consumption and put a damper on the U.S. shale boom.

    Naimi, emerging from the talks, said he was happy with the decision. He told reporters ahead of the meeting that he was confident production from marginal fields would fall even at current prices.

    "The decision taken in November was the right one," United Arab Emirates energy minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said earlier, referring to OPEC's previous meeting. "It will take time for the markets to rebalance."

    Friday's decision defers discussion of several tricky questions set to arise in the coming months as members such as Iran and Libya prepare to reopen the taps after years of diminished production.

    Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh had promised to press the group for assurances that other members will give Tehran room to add as much as 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply once Western sanctions are eased. But most delegates had seen little reason for Tehran to pick a fight now.

    "When the production comes, this matter will settle itself," one OPEC delegate told Reuters. That may not occur until 2016, according to many analysts who question how quickly Tehran will win relief from sanctions and be allowed to sell more crude.

    Libya, still afflicted by a crippling civil war, hopes to double production to some 1 million bpd by September if key ports resume working, but past efforts have failed to deliver a sustained recovery in shipments.

    "The markets are moving in OPEC's favour," said Dr. Gary Ross, executive chairman of PIRA Energy Group. "Prices are stimulating robust demand growth and slowing capex. This was the objective of the Saudi strategy and it's working."

    The U.S. tight oil industry has been more resilient than many had expected, with falling costs helping sustain the revolution and possibly setting up another downward spiral.
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    Kuwait vows 40% hike in production

    Kuwait wants 40% hike in oil and gas production by 2020

    Kuwait wants 40% hike in oil and gas production by 2020 thumbnail

    Kuwait’s oil minister has confirmed plans to hike hydrocarbon production to 4 million barrels per day, by 2020, almost 40 percent more than the current level. 

    “We have discovered new reserves… that contain both oil and gas. This will support Kuwait’s plans to increase its production levels to a stable level of 4 million barrels per day by 2020,” Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said during an OPEC seminar Thursday.

    Kuwait’s April production was 2.86 million barrels per day, according to the latest OPEC report.
    The minister said it was important to optimize the cooperation with foreign partners, including energy exporters, stressing that the country needs significant investment.

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is widely expected to maintain its production target of 30 million barrels a day at its June 5 meeting in Vienna, opting to maintain market share rather than cut production to boost prices.

    Crude oil prices have fallen to about half of their June 2014 peak, when Brent crude was trading at $115 per barrel. OPEC’s decision not to reduce output in November sent prices temporarily below $50 per barrel.

    In Friday morning trading, Brent crude was at $61.65 per barrel and WTI was down at $57.51.

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    Iraq capable of crude production of at least 6 million b/d by 2020: minister

    Iraq hopes to boost its crude exports to 3.3 million b/d by the end of this year, oil minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Friday, though Baghdad has revised down its 2020 crude production target from a previous 9 million b/d to around 6 million b/d.

    Speaking ahead of a meeting of OPEC ministers in Vienna, Abdul-Mahdi also said the Kurdistan region had yet to boost northern exports to the agreed level of 550,000 b/d in 2015.

    Last month, Iraq's crude exports averaged 3.145 million b/d, up 68,000 b/d from April, marking a record high for the second consecutive month.

    "I think we are approaching 3.2 [million b/d] and maybe by the end of the year we will hit 3.3 [million b/d]," Abdul-Mahdi said.

    Current Iraqi production is around 3.6 million b/d, according to the latest Platts' estimates.

    Asked if Iraq was still hoping to boost production to an ambitious 9 million b/d by 2020, Abdul-Mahdi said he thought that target was "exaggerated."

    "I think Iraq is capable of producing at least 6 [million b/d] by 2020. This is our scheduled planned target," he said.

    While the majority of the country's production comes from fields in Basra province in the far south, the largest increase in exports has come from northern Iraq.

    This followed a January budget agreement that brought some of the independent Kurdistan exports under federal control and allowed for export of previously stranded Kirkuk oil to reach Ceyhan as well.

    Under a temporary agreement from December, the KRG is expected to export 250,000 b/d of crude from its own fields in Kurdistan on behalf of Iraq's state-owned SOMO and 300,000 b/d from fields in the Iraq-controlled Kirkuk region via the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

    In return, the agreement confirmed that Baghdad would provide the KRG with 17% of the Iraqi national budget.
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    Iran hopes to begin Russia oil-for-goods exports this week

    Russia will begin importing Iranian oil under a long-heralded oil-for-goods barter arrangement in the coming week, Iran's oil minister was quoted as saying, more than a year after negotiations began.

    The Kremlin announced in April it had begun to implement the deal, in which Iran would export up to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to Russia in exchange for goods of an equivalent value, but traders said they saw no signs of it.

    "We agreed with (Russian Energy Minister) Alexander Novak in Vienna that Russia will buy less than 500,000 bpd from Iran in exchange for cash, and Iran will use this cash to buy Russian goods such as steel, wheat and oil products from Russia."

    Iran's oil exports have fallen by more than half to around 1.1 million bpd since 2012, when Western powers imposed sanctions aimed at curbing the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear programme.

    Iran and six countries, including Russia, reached an interim agreement in early April and are working towards a final deal by the end of this month that could see sanctions lifted.

    But the two sides still disagree on several issues, and Tehran has been working in parallel to develop what its leaders call a 'resistance economy' that can survive under sanctions.

    Sources told Reuters more than a year ago that Iran was working on the barter deal with Russia, which they said could be worth up to $20 billion.

    Russia also lifted a self-imposed ban on selling the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran shortly after the interim nuclear agreement, a move criticised by Western powers.
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    Gazprom Neft to export 2.7 mln t of oil to Asia in 2015

    Russia's Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of gas producer Gazprom, plans to ship 2.7 million tonnes of oil (54,000 barrels per day) to Asia this year, with around a third to China, company executives said on Friday.

    Anatoly Cherner, deputy chief executive, also said shipments to China would be settled in the yuan currency, a practice that began last year.

    Russian companies and banks, especially those under Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's role in Ukraine such as Gazprom Neft, are trying to limit transactions in U.S. dollars.

    Alexander Dyukov, Gazprom Neft's chief executive officer, said the company used most of its yuan revenue for settlements with Chinese contractors.

    "We are paying in yuan for machinery which we are getting from Chinese equipment producers. There may be some conversion (of yuan to other currencies) but in general yuan is being used to pay our contractors," Dyukov said.

    The company, Russia's fourth biggest oil producer, started to use the yuan as a settlement currency for exports of crude oil and oil products with China last year.

    Gazprom Neft's spokeswoman said pricing was still U.S. dollar-based. Gazprom Neft shipped around 1 million tonnes of oil to Asia last year, including China.
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    IEA doubts near-term Africa LNG hopes

    No new LNG projects will come online in Africa before 2020 due to falling commodity prices and competition from Australia and the US, where construction has already begun on facilities that will add significant volumes of gas to the market, according to researchers with the International Energy Agency (IEA).
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    Aphrodite gas discovery declared commercial

    Cyprus government has welcomed Noble Energy’s declaration of commerciality of the “Aphrodite” natural gas offshore field.

    Noble Energy operates a license for the exploration of hydrocarbons in Block 12 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Other partners are Delek Drilling Limited Partnership and Avner Oil Exploration Limited Partnership.

    The declaration of commerciality confirms the existence of substantial recoverable natural gas reserves in exploration Block 12 of Cyprus’ EEZ.

    According to the government, the declaration constitutes a significant milestone to Cyprus’ transition from the hydrocarbons exploration phase to that of exploitation.

    The submission to the Cypriot Government of a Development and Production Plan for the “Aphrodite” field will follow.

    The Development and Production Plan is expected to include the Licensees’ proposal with regard to the method and the timeline for development and production, as well as the planning for the sales and marketing of the hydrocarbons produced. The Plan is subject to final approval by the Government of Cyprus.

    If and when an agreement is reached and the Plan is approved, the Council of Ministers will be called upon to grant the Licensees the relevant Exploitation License.
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    Conoco stops its shale gas exploration in Poland

    ConocoPhillips, the U.S. energy company, is withdrawing from shale gas exploration in Poland as it has not encountered commercial volumes of the gas, the company said on Friday.

    ConocoPhillips said its subsidiary Lane Energy Poland has invested around $220 million in Poland since 2009. It drilled seven wells over its three Western Baltic concessions.

    "Unfortunately, commercial volumes of natural gas were not encountered," Tim Wallace, ConocoPhillips country manager in Poland, was quoted as saing in a statement.

    ConocoPhillips was the last major oil company looking for shale gas in Poland, after Chevron withdrawal at the start of this year.
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    US rig count continues steady but shrinking decline

    The US drilling rig count dropped 7 units during the week ended June 5 to settle at 868 rigs working, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc.

    For the second straight week, the decline represents the second-smallest of the now 26-week slump, during which time the count has lost 1,052 units. Compared with this week a year ago, the count is down 992 units.

    During the week, oil-directed rigs dropped 4 units to 642, down 967 from a recent peak on Oct. 10, 2014, and 894 year-over-year. Gas-directed rigs dropped 3 units to 57.

    Land rigs declined 7 units to 837, down 960 year-over-year. Representing its smallest decline of the year, rigs engaged inhorizontal drilling edged down a unit to 673, down 699 from a recent peak on Nov. 21, 2014, and 577 year-over-year. Rigs drilling directionally jumped 6 units to 96.

    Offshore rigs dropped 2 units to 27, down by more than half since the beginning of the year and year-over-year. Rigs drilling in inland waters doubled to 4.

    After jumping 26 units last week, Canada’s rig count added 18 more to reach a total of 116, down 98 year-over-year. The rise was again boosted by a 15-unit jump in oil-directed rigs to 59. Gas-directed rigs gained 3 units to 57.

    The average Canadian rig count for May was 80, down 10 from April and 82 from May 2014. All units laid down were on land.

    A 5-unit loss to 364 in Texas represented the largest of the major oil- and gas-producing states. That downward movement was carried by a 7-unit drop in the Eagle Ford to 103. The state is now down 542 units since a recent peak on Nov. 21, 2014 and 532 units year-over-year. The Permian, however, edged up a unit to 233.

    New Mexico and Colorado each lost 2 units to 46 and 39, respectively. North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Arkansas each edged down a unit to respective totals of 76, 46, 22, and 5. Arkansas’ total is its lowest in a decade.

    Unchanged from a week ago were Oklahoma at 106, Wyoming at 22, Alaska at 10, and Utah at 7.
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    Thousands fill downtown St. Paul to rally against proposed Sandpiper pipeline

    Thousands of activists filled along the state capitol lawn to rally against pipeline and fossil fuel infrastructure projects that would accelerate development of the tar sands oil fields in Canada.

    Regulators approved a certificate of need Friday for the Sandpiper from North Dakota's Bakken Oil fields to Superior, Wisc.

    The hot topic was what else flows south, in this case, out of North Dakota andCanada.

    Activists came to St. Paul from across the Midwest for one giant mega rally to oppose oil drilling and the tar sand fields of Canada, which they all say are doing a lot of damage.

    Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge argued that Sandpiper is necessary to move the growing supply of North Dakota crude safely and efficiently market.

    There's so much oil being found to the north, which is going to keep this as a hot topic for a while.

    “Bringing in really toxic oil is a little bit suicidal it's kind of scary.” Susu Jeffrey said.

    The Sandpiper Pipeline being approved was only step one, the commission voted that the 610 mile pipeline is needed and in the public interest, the next step is to figure out where it should run, which could take a while.
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    Alternative Energy

    Yingli Green revenue rises on strong solar module demand

    Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd reported an 8.5 percent rise in first-quarter revenue, helped by strong demand for its solar panels.

    The company, which last month raised "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue as a "going concern" due to indebtedness, said total revenue rose to $468.7 million in the quarter from $432.2 million a year earlier.

    The company, which has not reported a profit in the last 14 quarters, said total module shipments rose to 754.2 megawatts (MW) from 630.8 MW.

    Net loss attributable to Yingli widened to $58.6 million in the first quarter ended March 31, from $55 million a year earlier as cost of revenue rose more than 10 percent.
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    JA Solar CEO offers to take company private

    Chinese solar panel maker JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd has received a takeover offer from Chief Executive Baofang Jin that values that company at about $489 million.

    The cash offer of $9.69 per American depositary share represents a 20 percent premium to the JA Solar's Thursday closing.

    The stock was trading at $9.27 before the bell on Friday.

    The deal value is based on the number of JA Solar's outstanding ADRs as of March 30.

    Jin, who currently owns about 15.6 percent of the company's shares, said he intends to finance the acquisition with a combination of debt and equity capital.

    Jin's offer comes after Yingli Green Energy warned of potential solvency issues last month and later reassured the market on its debt repayment plans.

    Chinese solar companies have been hurt due to anti-dumping import duties imposed by the United States and Europe on solar panels.

    JA Solar said it intends to form a special committee of independent directors to consider the proposal.

    JA Solar's profit more than halved in the first quarter, and the company forecast second-quarter cell and panel shipments of 680-720 MW, below the 681.5 MW shipped in the first quarter.

    Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is the U.S. legal counsel for Jin.
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    Thai Superblock to invest $884 mln in 2015 on expanding solar farm business

    Thai Superblock to invest $884 mln in 2015 on expanding solar farm business

    Thailand's electricity distributor Superblock PCL said on Monday it planned to invest 30 billion baht ($884.43 million) in 2015 on expanding solar farm business both at home and overseas.

    The company is in talks with a potential partner in Japan to invest in a 300-megawatt solar power project and is seeking approval for the project, it said in a statement.
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    India's solar power at 4,000 MW and Rajasthan in the lead

    Business Standard reported that India’s solar installed capacity has crossed the 4,000 MW mark. With close to 1.128 MW of projects, Rajasthan has taken the lead ahead of all other states. It has elbowed out Gujarat, which has 957 MW of solar power projects, from the top-slot for the first time. Following closely behind are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

    Apart from the regular solar power-rich states, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and newly formed Telangana have now joined the solar bandwagon.

    By December, an additional 1.7 GW is likely to be added, said a study by Bridge to India, a leading consultancy firm monitoring foreign investment in Indian renewable energy space. The report said, with 2.7 GW of expected capacity addition in 2015, India might surpass Germany and secure a position in the global top 5, for new-yearly capacity addition.
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    Precious Metals

    OceanaGold gains fourth NZ mine as Newmont formalises pact to sell

    US gold producer Newmont Mining has formalised a $106-million deal that has increased Australasia-focused OceanaGold's operating mines in New Zealand to four. 

    The Waihi gold mine is about 150 km south-east of Auckland on the Oceania-nation’s North Island and will expand OceanaGold's output by about 100 000 oz/y.

    “The sale of Waihi further strengthens Newmont’s balance sheet and improves our financial flexibility as we continue to sell select assets for cash at fair value,” Newmont executive VP for strategic development Randy Engel noted in a statement on Friday. 

    Both companies’ boards had accepted the deal, which, subject to satisfying conditions precedent and regulatory approval, was expected to close in the third quarter. OceanaGold was paying for the transaction with about $60-million cash on hand, as at the end of the third quarter, and had drawn about $77.8-million from its recently increased $225-million revolving credit facility. 

    Triple-listed OceanaGold had for decades owned and operated New Zealand's largest gold mine, the Macraes openpit, as well as the Frasers underground and the Reefton openpit mines, located on the pristine South Island of the country.

    Under the terms of the deal, the price would include a $5-million contingency payment and a 1% net smelter royalty on a recent discovery north of Waihi’s current operations. OceanaGold acquired the entire mine's openpit and underground mining assets and liabilities, including all social, environmental and employee obligations. 

    Having been mined from 1988 and adding underground operations since 2005, the Waihi gold mine had ore reserves of about two-million tonnes, grading 5.25 g/t for about 360 000 oz of gold. The mine produced 132 000 oz of gold last year at all-in-sustaining costs of between $760/oz and $820/oz.
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    Base Metals

    Alaska judge refuses EPA request to throw out Pebble mine lawsuit

    A federal judge has rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's request to dismiss a lawsuit by the Pebble Limited Partnership mining company that accuses the agency of acting improperly in trying to block a large copper and gold project.

    The ruling made on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Russel Holland allowed part of the company's lawsuit to go forward alleging the EPA violated transparency requirements as it considered the proposed mine.

    The ruling sets the stage for a prolonged legal battle between the EPA and Pebble, which is seeking to build a multibillion-dollar open-pit mine that would produce significant amounts of copper and gold for decades to come.

    The Pebble Limited Partnership said in federal court the EPA formed three advisory committees and then failed to adhere to specific transparency requirements under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

    Pebble said the committees are part of a predetermined effort to kill one of the world's largest copper projects, located some 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Anchorage near the headwaters of the world's largest salmon fishery.

    Those committees influenced the outcome of a watershed report that ultimately placed additional restrictions on the company's efforts to obtain permits, Pebble said.

    "We are convinced the EPA has pursued a biased process against our project that then drove their actions toward a predetermined outcome," Pebble Chief Executive Officer Tom Collier said in a statement.

    The appalling answer can be found in a 138-page briefing paper Pebble Limited Partners filed last year with its lawsuit against the EPA in the U.S. District Court of Alaska.

    The secret behind the EPA’s pre-emptive strike against Pebble Limited Partners was a three-pronged cabal–lavishly funded by left-leaning environmental groups–of environmentalist coalitions, anti-mining scientists and anti-mining assessment consultants who were secretly given illegal access to and power over EPA strategy and decision-making, according to the Pebble group’s brief.

    Big Green’s devastating, years-long anti-Pebble campaign was the second-most-expensive environmentalist assault ever, right behind the ongoing war of climate alarmists against climate skeptics. Green forces assumed Pebble was dead.

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    Mt Polley could re-open by July: mines minister

    Workers at the Mount Polley mine in central British Columbia could be back on the job as early as July 1st, which should come as a relief to nearly 400 employees who have been off work since a tailings breach last summer shut down the copper-gold operation.

    That is according to Bill Bennett, B.C. mines minister, who told the Vancouver Sun on Friday that Imperial Metals (TSX:III), the mine owner and operator, has provided all the information needed for the province to issue a mining permit needed for a restart.

    The Sun quotes the minister saying that the company has spent nearly $70 million on cleaning up the damage caused after the collapse of a tailings impoundment last August sent millions of cubic metres of water and silt into local waterways.

    Imperial applied for a restricted operational permit in January that would allow it to start up the mill and process ore at about half the normal rate. The company was also asking permission to deposit a maximum 4 million tonnes of tailings into the Springer Pit, so as not to include the use of the tailings storage facility to impound tailings from the operation.

    If approved, the mine would be allowed to operate through most of 2015.

    The tailings breach was a major black eye for the mining industry in B.C. and the provincial government, which faced criticism over perceived lack of oversight in the monitoring of tailings ponds. In March the province drafted a fresh set of rules, developed in collaboration between the ministries of environment and mines, ordering mining companies to consider the possibility of a tailings disaster and to evaluate the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of an accident.

    The new requirements apply to all mining companies with applications under environmental assessment and are an interim measure while the Ministry of Mines completes a review of current mining regulations.

    Last month, a new report found a number of changes in the local ecosystem caused by the massive spill.
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    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    China coal imports slump further in May as policies bite

    China's coal imports slumped 41 percent in May from a year earlier to 14.25 million tonnes and were down sharply on April despite industry expectations of a pick-up in seasonal demand, data showed on Monday.

    Total imports in the first five months of the year reached 83.26 million tonnes, down 38.2 percent compared with the previous year, according to preliminary data from China's General Administration of Customs.

    May's imports were down 28.6 percent on April, according to the data, while Reuters calculations showed that imports were down 40.6 percent compared to May 2014.

    Imports normally improve over summer, but analysts said any upturn would be limited despite relatively low inventory levels at thermal power plants, with hydropower likely to meet a large share of the increase in power demand.

    "Imports are constantly decreasing compared to last year due to new policies, and the use of new (renewable) energy," said Zheng Nan, an analyst with China's Shenyin Wanguo Securities.

    The import data includes lower-grade lignite, a type of coal with lower heating value that is largely supplied by Indonesia.

    In previous summers, southern coastal power plants would often turn to foreign markets because of severe transportation bottlenecks, but weaker demand and improved rail capacity means that is unlikely to be a factor this year.

    With domestic coal consumption expected to fall around 5 percent this year as a result of the slowing economy, China has been trying to prop up prices by tackling oversupply.

    It has urged big domestic producers to cut output and tightened quality inspections at ports with the aim of limiting low-grade foreign supplies.
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    Indonesia to push consolidation of coal mining sector, review licences

    Indonesia will push for consolidation in its mining sector while coal prices are low and may soon revoke more than 4,000 licences that have caused problems, mining and energy minister Sudirman Said said on Monday.

    Indonesia is the world's top exporter of thermal coal but wants to keep more of the power station fuel to feed its ballooning domestic power demands.

    "We will install a good system for licensing," the minister told a coal industry conference in Bali, noting that Indonesia had issued around 10,100 of the newer mining licences known as IUPs.

    "We enjoyed huge profits that were abnormal. Abnormal money drives abnormal behaviour," Said said, referring to the commodity boom. Sanctions could be imposed where rules have been infringed, he said.

    The review will only apply to the IUPs. Larger, older-generation firms with so-called Contracts of Work such as Bumi Resources and Berau Coal Energy will be unaffected.

    "This is the perfect time to consolidate," Said said, referring to depressed coal prices. "We will create opportunities for players who are serious, who want to invest and who always comply with government rules."

    According to the energy ministry, there were around 960 coal firms at production stage in Indonesia. Around 900 of these are IUP permit holders that contribute about 80 million tonnes, or approximately 20 percent of Indonesia's total production.

    "This month we will decide whether their permits will be revoked," Coal Enterprise Director Adhi Wibowo said, referring to the 40 percent of IUPs with problems such as overlapping permits and unpaid royalties.

    This year the mining ministry plans to hand over licensing to the investment coordinating board (BKPM), he said.

    The government of President Joko Widodo plans to build 35 gigawatts of new power stations by the end of the decade and a further 35 gigawatts by 2025, although critics say the ambitious target is unlikely to be met.

    The plans could increase coal consumption from around 90 million tonnes a year at present to 250 million tonnes, Said said, including by pushing coal miners to build power stations. "(We) will reach a new balance. The domestic market will be strong while the rest we can play with on the export market, but that won't be the dominant market."

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    Russia's VTB says reaches preliminary deal with indebted miner Mechel

    Russian lender VTB has reached a preliminary agreement with mining company Mechel on restructuring its debt and is ready to postpone some of the company's debt repayments until 2018-2019, Chief Executive Andrey Kostin said on Friday.

    Mechel, controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin, has been discussing a debt restructuring with its main lenders, including VTB, Sberbank and Gazprombank.

    The indebted miner, which employs 72,000 people, borrowed heavily before Russia's economic downturn, deepened by Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a collapse in global oil prices, the country's main export commodity.

    "In principle, we have agreed on initial plans with Mechel," Kostin told reporters at a banking conference in Russia's second city of St Petersburg. "They are that (Mechel) will restructure the amortisation of its main debt in 2015-2016 and we will postpone (payment obligations) until 2018-2019."

    Mechel will be required to meet a number of conditions, including payment of around 4 billion roubles ($71.4 million) in debt arrears and providing additional collateral and guarantees, Kostin said.

    "If Mechel meets these conditions, we plan to sign an agreement on debt restructuring by the end of June or early July," Kostin said. "If not, then we will return to the legal action that we have postponed but not cancelled."
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    India imposes anti-dumping duty on some steel from China, others

    India's finance ministry has imposed anti-dumping duties ranging from $180 to $316 per tonne for some industrial-grade stainless steel imported from China, Malaysia and South Korea in a bid to stem surging imports and protect the domestic industry.

    The move comes after India's trade ministry said in March the domestic industry was suffering "material injury due to such dumped imports" and that a definitive measure was required to stop it.

    The anti-dumping duties will be effective for a period of five years, the finance ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

    "It's a welcome move and a necessary one to save the domestic industry which (is) at the suffering end," said N.C. Mathur, president of the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association.

    India consumes about 1 million tonne of this type of stainless steel and more than 40 percent of that is imported, mainly from China.

    Steelmakers from Asia to Europe are facing increasing pressure from a rise in cheap imports as Russia and Ukraine, armed with weaker currencies, join China in pushing surplus output on to world markets.

    Many steel companies in India, such as Tata Steel, JSW Steel and Kalyani Steels, have seen profits come under pressure.
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    Russia's MMK says Q1 sales reach $1.5 bln, down 19.6 pct y/y

    Russian steel producer MMK said on Monday first quarter revenue had fallen 19.6 percent year-on-year to $1.5 billion largely because of the rouble devaluation, and that net profit reached $196 million.

    The company, controlled by businessman Viktor Rashnikov, said its EBIDTA - earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation - had risen by 60 percent year on year to $470 million.

    In a statement, MMK said it expected a fall in sales in the second quarter due to an earlier than usual restocking by metal traders and a deceleration of business activity in the construction sector.

    But this would be compensated by recovering domestic prices, maximum capacity utilisation in key production facilities and a decrease in the company's expenses, it said.
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