Alumina price up
   

China's spot alumina prices rose 2 percent in March due to expectations that domestic production will fall in the second half of the year, prompting aluminium smelters to look for imports & traders sources at smelters said. China is the world's top producer of aluminium and alumina. Alumina is used for the production of the metal and more than a third of the country's alumina production is made from imported bauxite, the ore. The country's bauxite imports rose 51.8 percent on the year to 7.78 million tonnes in the first two months of this year, of which nearly 80 percent came from Indonesia. But Indonesia plans to ban some mines from exporting unprocessed minerals after May 6 this year, part of a wider ban for more unprocessed metals in 2014. Smelters paid about 2,650 yuan ($420) a tonne for spot alumina in China, compared to below 2,600 yuan last month, traders and sources at smelters said. Top alumina producer Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd has kept its spot prices since November at 2,800 yuan. Traders are speculating that Indonesia's bauxite exports will fall. That has been driving up domestic alumina prices, a trading manager at a large aluminium smelter said. He added that domestic alumina prices and the costs of imports were about the same to smelters currently, but smelters preferred to import because they could easily obtain letters of credit (LC) which can be used as short-term loans. Smelters pay for the LCs in three to six months, enough time for them to make aluminium and sell the metal in the domestic market. Imports should stay at high levels from March to June, the manager said, adding that port alumina stocks in China had been rising in recent weeks. China's alumina imports rose 27.4 percent year-on-year to 722,586 tonnes in the first two months of this year, already 38 percent of the imports in 2011. Domestic alumina production rose 10.7 percent in the year to 5.882 million tonnes in January-February. Spot Australian alumina traded at $315-$320 a tonne on a free-on-board basis versus $305-$310 in January. A purchasing manager at a large alumina refinery in China said the firm had imported more than 2 million tonnes of bauxite from Indonesia per month so far this year and its suppliers in Indonesia did not know whether their exports would be banned in May. Heng Kun, senior metals analyst at Essence Securities, said Chinese bauxite importers would look for other suppliers if Indonesia's exports fell, pushing up their import costs and domestic alumina prices in the long term.

  Nalco's aluminium output down
   

The public sector aluminium major, National Aluminium Co Ltd (Nalco) has reported 6.98 per cent decline in production dragged by higher raw material costs due to a coal shortage and weak overseas prices. The India's third-largest producer of aluminium produced 413,000 tonnes of aluminium in the last fiscal year that ended on March 31, from 444,000 tonnes in 2010-11. "Besides coal shortage, the dwindling LME prices of the metal, forced the company to cut down its production of the metal to some extent,” the company said in a statement. Nalco also said its cast metal sales in 2011-12 slumped to 415,916 tonnes, against 438,952 tonnes in the previous year. The company said it produced a record 5 million tonnes of bauxite in 2011-12 against the previous best of 4.88 million tonnes achieved in 2009-10. Besides, Nalco's alumina refinery produced 1.69 million tonnes of alumina hydrate in 2011-12, its highest ever, against the previous best of 1.59 million tonnes in 2009-10.

  Goldman raises copper price outlook
   

Goldman Sachs said it had raised its three-month copper price outlook due to ongoing supply woes and expectations of a rebound in Chinese activity in the second half of this year. The investment bank said copper supplies continue to underperform as the Chilean output had the second lowest annualised February outturn in a decade, even though the year-on-year output growth was 6.5 percent. Chile produces a third of the world's copper. Goldman lifted its three-month copper price forecast to $9,000 per tonne from $8,400 per tonne earlier. "We expect a substantial fall in Chinese copper imports in March/April, owing to a tightening in the world ex-China and domestic de-stocking," Goldman analyst Max Layton said in a note. The bank upped its three-month zinc price outlook to $2,200 a tonne from $2,100 a tonne, and aluminium to $2,400 per tonne from $2,300 per tonne. Goldman, however, did not change its three-month nickel price forecast. "We have been bearish on the outlook for nickel prices since the beginning of this year, and our base case is that nickel will continue to be the relative underperformer in the base metals complex in 2012, based on our 46,000t surplus forecast" Goldman said.

  Romanian Alro plans new aluminum mill to supply increasing US demand for wire
   

Romanian aluminum producer Alro owned by Vimetco plans to add a new mill to increase capacity for aluminum wire production in response to higher demand on the US market. Even so, Alro expects a drop in the total aluminum production in 2012 due to a shortage in energy supply and foresees lower operational revenues down 11% to some USD 639 million. Its profit expectations are also lower down 5% on 2011 to some USD 71.4 million. Alro's wire production should be up 17.8% to some 87,000 tonnes this year.The company said that estimations for 2012 are based on the entry into production of a Properzi mill to increase wire production, given the higher demand from Europe and the US as the wire is the most profitable product made by the Primary Aluminum Division. Overall, Alro expects its aluminum production to fall by 4.4% this year, to some 249,000 tonnes. This will be mainly triggered by the lack of energy as its main supplier Hidroelectrica reduced energy deliveries in October last year due to the drought. To compensate for the lack of energy, Alro plans to introduce some 7,000 tonnes of aluminum waste into the production cycle this year hoping to use some 60,000 tonnes of waste a year by 2016. Alro's investment budget for this year is at USD 25 million, USD 15.4 million of which will be dedicated to the Division of Recast Aluminum. Alro made a EUR 52.9 million profit in 2011 up from EUR 37.9 million the year before due to favorable market conditions in the first nine months of the year and despite a drop in revenues caused by lower aluminum prices and higher electricity costs in the last three months of the year. The producer added EUR 100 million to its turnover last year reaching EUR 528 million. Mr Marian Nastase VP of the board with Alro Slatina said that “The structure of our costs, as well as significant investments allowed us to improve results when the international aluminum market went up, but also stay profitable when unpredictable external factors impacted our activity.”

  Renco to get Glencore fund to open zinc smelters
   

Glencore International Plc and Renco Group Inc. plan to lend Renco's bankrupt Peru unit $200 million in a bid to reopen a shuttered zinc smelter by May 1. Creditors including Glencore, Trafigura Beheer BV and Pan American Silver Corp. will vote April 9 on a debt restructuring for the La Oroya smelter, closed three years ago, Doe Run Peru vice president Jose Mogrovejo said. Congress is also expected next month to approve an extension for Doe Run's $163 million environmental cleanup plan. This is the best plan there is to make operations viable, Mogrovejo said from Lima. Doe Run shut its smelter and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 after metals prices plunged and suppliers including Cia. de Minas Buenaventura SAA refused to sell it raw materials. The government canceled the concession for South America¿s only poly-metallic smelter in 2010 after the company failed to reach an accord with creditors. Doe Run is seeking talks with the government to halt arbitration against Peru initiated in the U.S. last year, Mogrovejo said.

  Batch homogenizing plant for Hammerer Aluminium (HAI)
   

Hammerer Aluminium Industries (HAI), Austria, has placed an order with Hertwich Engineering, Austria, for the supply of a batch homogenizing furnace for their existing cast house. The new homogenizing plant is already the second of its kind supplied by Hertwich Engineering to HAI. The furnace is designed for extra-long holding times to process a range of special alloys, which are a growing segment in HAI's production. Billet diameters range from 153 to 381 mm. Billet length is 7 m, the furnace capacity 43 t. commissioning is scheduled for April 2012. Hertwich Engineering belongs to the Business Unit SMS Meer.

  Dubai commodities bourse plans trading platform for copper futures
   

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre is planning to launch a copper futures trading platform on the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange in the near future. Mr Ahmad Bin Sulayem DGCX's chairman and head of DMCC said, “You are likely to see copper futures on DGCX in near future. Copper futures were one of the first projects that came up when the exchange was established. The trading platform was set up in 2005 and belongs to the DMCC.” He said that when we developed the exchange we were bombarded with so many projects and copper was one of the first. This is the right time and what is needed and required by our members. Mr Bin Sulayem said, "We're not looking for the DGCX to have 200 products but we're focusing a bit more on volume. It's not really more about the products than the volume it brings to the exchange." Among a panel of experts DMCC also announced the inaugural Dubai Precious Metals Conference on April 29th and 30th 2012. The conference will discuss the marketing, trade, finance and technology trends in the global precious metals market and will additionally focus on white metals such as silver and platinium. Mr Gerhard Shubert head of Precious Metals at Emirates NBD said that last year, 18.5% of physical gold movements went through Dubai. He predicted a similar pattern of 18.5% to 20% of global gold trade to pass through Dubai in 2012. The biggest taker of gold is India with 950 tonnes. Dubai plays a major role as a supplier and gateway to India. He said that in terms of prices, gold may reach the USD 2,000 mark between the third and Q4 of this year if it ends at USD 1,600 by the end of the Q2.

  Energy shortage to hit Uzbek aluminium companies
   

The end of Uzbek natural gas supplies to neighbour Tajikistan threatens to further weaken the poorest former Soviet economy as key aluminium and cement firms grapple to adapt. A planned output hike at aluminium company TALCO, the country's top export revenue earner, may have to be shelved while Tajik Cement is weighing a switch to domestically produced coal, industry officials said. "Natural gas supplies via the pipeline from Uzbekistan were halted at 00:00 on April 1," an official from state gas transport firm TajikTransGas said. The move had been flagged earlier by Uzbekistan, Tajikistan's sole supplier of natural gas, as it switches its export focus to growing demand in China. "Gas will be delivered (to China) in line with a contract signed by companies Uztransgaz and PetroChina International Company Limited in 2011," Uztransgaz head Shokir Faizullayev was quoted as saying. Mountainous Tajikistan, poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics, continues to suffer frequent power blackouts 20 years after independence. In the capital Dushanbe, only an upmarket residential area populated mainly by state officials has enjoyed natural gas supplies. Now even top industrial users such as TALCO, Central Asia's largest producer of primary aluminium and the source of more than half of Tajikistan's export revenues, will have to do without. "Complete absence of natural gas supplies during a long period will force TALCO to give up its plans of output recovery," a source close to TALCO management said. TALCO had hoped to increase output to 332,500 tonnes of the metal this year after an overhaul cut last year's production by 20.4 percent to 277,584 tonnes. State-run Tajik Cement was also hit by the halt in Uzbek gas supplies. It produces cement used in the construction of the Rogun hydroelectric plant. Construction of Tajikistan's Rogun hydroelectric plant has long been a source of tension with its stronger and more populous neighbour. Uzbekistan says that the power station could disrupt water supplies downstream and harm its agricultural production. Some analysts saw political overtones in Uzbekistan's decision to cut power needed by the largest cement firm involved in the project and said matters could escalate further.

  Vedanta raises offer for residual stake in Balco, Hindustan Zinc
   

Anil Agarwal's Vedanta Group has offered Rs 17,000 crore ($3.4 billion) to buy the government's remaining stakes in Hindustan Zinc Ltd and Bharat Aluminium Co, a ministry official said. A panel of bureaucrats from ministries, including law, corporate affairs, finance and mining, met recently and decided to seek the advice of a group of ministers on the proposal, Vishwapati Trivedi, secretary at the ministry of mines, told reporters in New Delhi. Buying the stakes will give Vedanta's Mumbai-based unit Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. control over a combined 964,000 tonnes of annual zinc and lead-producing capacity and full ownership of a two million tonne-a-year bauxite mine. The government is seeking to narrow fiscal deficit through steps including asset sales and capping of expenses. “This will be positive for Sterlite,” Rakesh Arora, head of research at Macquarie Capital Securities (India) Pvt, said in Mumbai. He has an outperform recommendation on Sterlite and expects the shares to rally 59 percent in 12 months. “The cash that Sterlite will spend will come back in the form of surplus from Hindustan Zinc.” The zinc maker has cash and equivalents of $3.35 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Pavan Kaushik, spokesman at Hindustan Zinc, declined to comment. Senjam Raj Sekhar, a spokesman at Vedanta Resources Plc, didn't respond to two calls made to his mobile phone and a text message seeking comments. Vedanta offered Rs 15,000 crore for one company and Rs 2,000 crore for the other, Trivedi said, without identifying them. The government's 29.5 per cent stake in Hindustan Zinc is valued at Rs 16,200 crore at the current share price. Hindustan Zinc fell 0.2 per cent to Rs 130 at 9.19 am in Mumbai trading, giving it a market value of $10.8 billion. Sterlite gained 0.3 per cent to Rs 115.80. Sterlite, the nation's biggest copper producer, owns 64.9 percent of Hindustan Zinc. The company may complete the transaction this year, Agarwal said on February 25. It bought 51 per cent of Bharat Aluminium, which owns the bauxite mine, in 2001 and a majority stake in Hindustan Zinc a year later. Lack of full control at Hindustan Zinc has undermined decision-making at Vedanta. In 2010, Vedanta's plan to buy Anglo American Plc's Skorpion zinc mine in Namibia through Hindustan Zinc failed after the Indian government didn't ratify the deal. Vedanta completed the purchase through Sterlite. Agarwal is combining the group's publicly traded Indian units into a new company after an $8.67 billion purchase of oil producer Cairn India Ltd, Vedanta said February 25. Sesa Goa Ltd, India's largest iron-ore exporter, will absorb Sterlite in an all-share deal. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd and Madras Aluminium Co will also be merged into the new company, Sesa Sterlite. Vedanta plans to transfer debt of $5.9 billion to Sesa Sterlite, reducing outstanding loans by 61 percent to $3.8 billion and cutting debt-service costs by $300 million for the year ending March 31, 2013, the company said. India's budget deficit may widen to 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product in the year ending March, compared with a target of 4.6 per cent. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee aims to cut the shortfall to 5.1 per cent of GDP in the next financial year.

  Copper may advance as economist project firm US employment
   

Copper may rise in London before reports projected to indicate a firm job market in the US the world's second biggest consumer of the metal. A survey of economists showed that figures probably will show first time claims for jobless benefits reached 4 year low last week. A report tomorrow may show payrolls increased by more than 200,000 workers for a fourth month. Mr Tobias Merath head of commodity research at Credit Suisse Group said that “There is a significant probability that industrial metals will rebound soon. US nonfarm payrolls could be a trigger for this.” Copper for three month delivery added 0.2% to USD 8,364 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange after sliding the most since January 4th 2012. May delivery metal rose 0.1% to USD 3.796 per pound on the Comex in New York. Mr Daniel Briesemann analyst of Commerzbank AG said that markets reopened in China, the world's largest copper consumer, after closing for a holiday for the prior three sessions. Economic figures next week should provide information about the extent to which the Chinese central bank could implement further measures to loosen monetary policy. Mr Dariusz Kowalczyk, a Hong Kong based strategist at Credit Agricole CIB said that China is almost guaranteed to cut either interest rates or reserve requirement ratios for banks in April.

  Five percent world nickel producers lossmaking : Norilsk
   

Global average nickel prices this year will be slightly less than $20,000 per tonne, which is almost equal to the average level for the first quarter, Norilsk Nickel's head of marketing Viktor Sprogis said at the Reuters Mining and Metals Summit. There is no reason to believe that the average price will go below these average levels significantly. The Arctic miner, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, added that at current prices below $18,000 per tonne some 5 percent of global production is unprofitable. About 8 percent of global capacity is at risk. Norilsk's operations in Australia and Africa are profitable but are at risk, too. Production in Russia is far from risk areas. Benchmark nickel futures on the London Metal Exchange (LME) have fallen 6.6 percent since the beginning of the year and fetched $17,474 per tonne recently. Nickel, a stainless steel component, and lead, which is down 3 percent on the quarter, are on track to become the biggest losers on the London Metals Exchange (LME) for the first quarter. Nick Moore, an analyst at RBS, said that he expects a 50,000 tonne surplus in 2012 after LME inventories of nickel rose sharply to stand at eight-week's worth of consumption. The global nickel market had a supply surplus of 17,000 tonnes last year, the Lisbon-based International Nickel Study Group (INSG) believes. Sprogis said he expected the level of nickel premiums on the spot market to decline by 20-25 percent in 2012 from 2011 level. Norilsk, controlled by mining tycoon Vladimir Potanin's Interros consortium, is responsible for about 20 percent of world nickel output and about 2 percent of copper, but is hoping to increase its share of the copper market. Norilsk expects the average copper prices in 2012 to amount to about 8,000 per tonne. Three-month copper on the London Metals Exchange was trading at around $8,330 per tonne. Current premiums for copper products, which are not traded on LME and make up the vast bulk of Norilsk's exports, are lower than those for LME-traded copper. This year Norilsk expects to decide on potential investments into technology changes required to list its cathode copper on the LME, but Sprogis said he saw no serious reason to do it now. Sprogis saw average palladium prices in 2012 around $780 per ounce, while platinum will reach about $1,600 per ounce, despite a surplus of production on the market.

  Land allotment puts Odisha govt in quandary
   

The state government found itself in a quandary in the assembly over alleged irregularities in leasing out of land to industries as the Opposition created a ruckus on the matter, accusing the government of land grabbing from innocent people, reports said. The Opposition also attacked the government for considerable shrinkage in cultivable area in the state in the past five years owing to increasing diversion of land for non-farm activities. Area under cultivation in the state has dipped by 117,000 hectares during 2005-10 as land put to non-agricultural use rose by 299,000 hectares in the same period, according to the latest report (civil) of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year ended March 31, 2011.Opposition Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan said, “The government has handed over 50276.88 acres of land including 33355.12 acres of acquired private land to 107 companies for setting up of industries in 16 districts.” He took swipe at the government for misusing emergency provisions under Land Acquisition Act-1894 to acquire land for six industrial promoters. "This government is exploiting innocent land owners and virtually grabbing land from them at the behest of industries”, he alleged. "The CAG also states the then Kalahandi collector had issued an order to bar sale of land in 18 villages under Kalahandi district. The order was meant to facilitate land acquisition for Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL). The question arises as to how can the government issue such a ban. This is illegal and unconstitutional”, Harichandan said.

  Mitsui Mining to raise capacity
   

Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Japan's largest zinc smelter, plans to increase production by 21 percent in the April-to September period after its Hachinohe smelter came back online. Output will rise to 111,200 metric tonnes in the six months to Sept. 30 from 92,000 tonnes in the same period a year earlier, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. Mitsui Mining also plans to produce 31,400 tonnes of refined lead, up 21 percent from 26,000 tonnes a year earlier, it said. The company attributed the increases to a resumption of operations in June at its smelter in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan, after a halt because of last year's quake and tsunami. The Hachinohe plant has a capacity of 112,000 tonnes a year. Mitsui Mining also runs the Kamioka smelter in Gifu prefecture and the Hikoshima smelter in Yamaguchi prefecture. Kamioka has annual capacity of 67,000 tonnes of zinc a year and Hikoshima produces 74,000 tonnes.

  China issues 25,000 tonnes of rare earths output quota to Baotou
   

The local resources ministry said in a statement that China has issued a rare earths production quota to Inner Mongolia. According to a statement by the local branch of China Ministry of Land Resources the quota for production of 25,000 tonnes has been allocated entirely to Baotou Steel Group. The group is the parent of Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech, China top producer of rare-earth minerals. Both are headquartered in Inner Mongolia. China has resolved to crack down on illegal private production and streamline its chaotic rare earth sector by encouraging consolidation. It imposed a national output cap of 93,800 tonnes for 2011. China which produces about 95% of global rare earth supplies has imposed an export quota of 30,184 tonnes this year almost flat from last year.

  World oldest copper mine passes 50000 ton mark
   

The World's longest producing copper mine at Skouriotissa marked the production of 50,000 tonnes of copper. Mr Sophoclis Aletraris agriculture minister of Cyprus said, “Due to its rich copper resources, Cyprus gained an important place in history from around 2000 BC and developed economically, commercially, socially and culturally.” He said that copper mining constituted one of the biggest industries on the island and is solely owned managed and run by a Cypriot company. Skouriotissa copper mine in the Nicosia area, is owned by Hellenic Copper Mines Ltd and is the only metal producing company in Cyprus involved in copper production. Copper was used for the first time on the island in the Chalcolithic Age from 4000BC to 2500BC which has since been known for its copper resources. The discovery of rich copper bearing ores on the north slope of the Troodos mountains led to the mining of Cyprus' rich mineral resources in the Bronze Age at sites such as Ambelikou Aletri. Mr Aletraris that with todays prices the export of copper brings in tens of millions of euros annually significantly contributing to the country's economy. Also the work that it offers to people that come mainly from rural regions during a period where unemployment is on the rise, cannot go unnoticed. In 1996 the company revived the mine at Skouriotissa and implemented, for the first time in Europe, the practice of hydrometallurgy which is a method for obtaining metals from their ores. Mr Aletraris said that hydrometallurgy allows for the exploitation of low-grade ores, which was not economically viable using traditional methods, as well as being a lot greener. The ministry will continue to support the company's policy to expand with the creation of a second metal mining centre at Apliki.

  Chile sees copper prices up in H2 2012
   

Chile sees copper prices rising slightly in the H2 of 2012 as demand from top consumer China remains robust while supplies stay tight with mines working at full capacity and a lack of new projects. Mr Andres Mac Lean CEO of Cochilco said that while the global copper market registered a slight surplus of 69,100 tonnes last year. Mining challenges will trigger a 200,000 tonne deficit this year, pressuring copper prices to average USD 3.85 per pound. Mr Mac Lean said that a cut to China's 2012 official economic growth forecast to 7.5% isn't worrying top copper producer Chile as the Asian giant's voracious metals demand should remain solid, the United States is recovering and Europe's debt crisis has somewhat eased. He said that demand continues to be firm continues to grow and supply is consistent but we think it won't catch up with demand this year, so we're still projecting a small deficit.
Copper prices were little changed accumulating 10% increase this quarter as signs of physical tightness helped to underpin prices of the metal even as doubts over demand in China lingered. In New York, the May COMEX contract rose 0.40 cent to settle at USD 3.7965 per lb. Mr Mac Lean said that booming emerging nations' need for the industrial metal, loose monetary policy in developed countries and high operating costs should keep prices from significantly falling. He said that there could be some sag but long term prices will never be below USD 2.3 per pound because realistically the industry couldn't operate. Market volatility had dissipated somewhat. We're living a period of slight tranquility following the European debt crisis. Two months ago I was a lot more uncertain.

  Race on to dig more zinc mines even as glut persists
   

zinc miners are betting that a long running global supply glut of the metal used in steel making will turn into a deficit over the next 5 years as old mines run dry, sparking massive investment in new projects. From Australia to Africa to the European Union, mining firms are laying the groundwork to dig up an additional 1 million tonnes plus of zinc annually, nearly one tenth of world consumption and more than is parked in London Metal Exchange warehouses already overflowing with unsold metal. Zinc could be in deficit by 2017 if not earlier, experts say as consumption rises in China, steel manufacturing picks up in Europe and North America and most importantly several super deposits run dry, forcing buyers to dip into swollen producer and exchange stockpiles. With zinc supplies heading for a deficit, Goldman Sachs expects zinc prices to gain around 15% by mid 2014. Mr Andrew Michelmore chief executive of Minmetals Resources said, “While prices are not very good at the moment in zinc, that tightness of supply going forward will drive much better prices.” Mr Scott Lowe MD of Blackthorn Resources said, “The turnaround is more about a shortfall in supply than it is about the growth in demand that is occurring. We think we're on the cusp of a good thing.” Hopes for a deficit in zinc stocks MZN-STOCKS continue a near uninterrupted climb since 2007. The International Lead and Zinc Study Group said that the global surplus ballooned 36% to 353,000 tonnes in 2011. Mr Stephen Briggs metals analyst of BNP Paribas said, "To us, what is remarkable is not how poorly zinc has performed in the last 3 years but rather how well, given how dreadful its fundamentals have been." With demand expected to rise, Belgium based Nyrstar the world's biggest producer of zinc metal derived from ore concentrate, plans to boost output from its own mines by as much as 70% this year. The 2012 mining production target includes 50,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate from Finnish miner Talvivaara which has a supply agreement with Nyrstar. Glencore International and Blackthorn will start shipments of zinc concentrate in the Q3 from the Perkoa mine under construction in Burkina Faso, rapidly building to an annual rate of 90,000 tonnes contained metal. London listed Vedanta Resources in 2010 bought AngloAmerican's zinc interests for USD 1.34 billion and has been touted as a potential buyer of more mines as sector heavyweights vie for more market share.

  Weststar Resources options Axe copper property to Xstrata
   

Weststar Resources Corporation announced that it has entered into an option agreement with Xstrata Copper Canada and Bearclaw Capital Corporation dated March 21st 2012. The Company and Bearclaw are parties to JV in which they hold the beneficial interest in 25 mineral claims located in British Columbia, Canada, known as the Axe Property with the Company holding a 70% interest and Bearclaw holding a 30% interest. The Axe Property is an advanced stage project with known porphyry copper mineralization which has been the subject of numerous drill programs since the 1960s. The Axe Property consists of 25 mineral claims located in the Similkameen Mining Division, 20 kilometers north of Princeton, British Columbia. The Axe Property was acquired in the 1960s by Adonis Mines Limited which commenced exploration for porphyry copper style of mineralization.
Major exploration programs were completed by Adonis, Amax Exploration Inc and Cominco Limited during the 1970s and early 1980s. In total, 185 holes, comprising some 14,000 meters were drilled during this period. Amax provided the initial historic resource estimate in 1971, followed by estimates of Adonis in 1972 and 1973. The main area of the Axe Property has been continuously held under title since 1967. A fourteen hole diamond drill program was completed by Weststar in 2006 and 2007 totaling 3,401 meters. Mr Mitchell Adam president of Weststar Resources said that "We as a Company feel this is an excellent opportunity to advance the Axe Property and could unlock the value of the Axe Property for the benefit of our shareholders. To have a company of Xstrata's caliber spend up to $18 million on the Axe Property is a major milestone for the project. Additionally, we are of the opinion it is a great vote of confidence in the British Columbia copper mining industry.”

  Hindustan Copper plans to raise USD 250 million from overseas
   

Hindustan Copper is planning to raise USD 250 million in the current quarter through overseas borrowings to part finance its expansion activities. A senior company official said that we are looking to raise USD 250 million through external commercial borrowings route and have initiated discussions. This should get completed by the end of this quarter. The company which has projected a production of 3.45 million tonnes of copper in 2011 to 2012 has set an ambitious target of producing 12.41 MT of red metal by 2016 to 2017. The company is currently sitting at cash reserves of about INR 550 crore and is on the disinvestment radar of the government in the current fiscal. The official said that for us, ECB is an attractive route to raise the funds and given the company's credentials there will not be any issue in raising the money. The money will be invested on our expansion activities which are planned to be funded through debt and internal reserves. As per its expansion plan, Hindustan Copper will be investing over INR 3,000 crore on eight projects across the country to increase its production. The plan envisages expansion of Hindustan Copper's largest mine, Malanjkhand open cast mine in Madhya Pradesh to 5 MT from current production of about 2 MT. Malanjkhand open cast mine, which is single largest copper deposit in the country with extractable reserves of 141 MT will also be converted into underground copper mine and total expansion cost is estimated at about INR 1,700 crore. Besides, the company also has plans to expand its Khetri, Kolihan and Surda mines, re open Rakha and Kendadih mines and develop new mines, Banwas and Chapri Sidheswar. The official said that the company is yet to hear anything on its proposed share sale from Disinvestment Department. The plan was shelved earlier due to volatile market conditions although the company had filed its draft red herring prospectus for a follow on public offer.

  Romania cancels copper mine sale to Canada firm
   

Romania cancelled the sale of its biggest copper mining company Cupru Min to Canada's Roman Copper because it could not obtain financial and environmental commitments. Mr Lucian Bode Minister of Economy, Trade and Business Environment of Romania said that “None of the three important requirements asked by the Romanian state were met by Roman Copper which led us not to sign the privatization contract for Cupru Min.” Among the requirements was the obligation for Roman Copper to deposit EUR 32.7 million as a guarantee that it will respect its environmental obligations. The Canadian company was also asked to pay the promised price for Cupru Min within 30 days after getting the required legal permits. Canadian firm Roman Copper had won the auction for Cupru Min at the end of March by proposing USD 266 million. The company was created last year by Toronto based investment bank, Bayfront Capital Partners. Cupru Min operates the Rosia Poieni mine, in central Romania which holds reserves estimated at nearly 1 million tonnes of copper among the biggest in Europe worth USD 8.3 billion. The starting price in the open outcry auction had been set at USD 79.5 million.

  Zhongse Hainan nonferrous metal to start building tin coated sheet project
   

Chinese steelmaker Zhongse Hainan Nonferrous Metal Company has announced that it will start construction work on its new tin coated steel sheet project in the first half year of the current year. After commissioning, the annual output value of the project which targets an output capacity of 200,000 tonnes per year is expected to be CNY 1.5 billion. Zhongse Hainan Nonferrous Metal's tin coated sheet output totaled 230,000 tonnes in 2011 with a value of CNY 1.98 billion.

  Indonesia eyes 25pct mining export tax in 2012
   

Indonesia plans to impose 25% export tax on coal and base metals this year jumping to 50% in 2013 as the major producer of raw materials looks to boost domestic investment and take a bigger slice of mining profits. If imposed, the tax would add to a raft of regulations announced this year that have caused confusion in Indonesia's mining sector and worried foreign investors. It would hit the profits of both national and foreign owned companies and could also raise costs for importers. India, a major buyer of Indonesian coal, said it would raise concerns about the proposed tax with Jakarta. Late last year, the world's top thermal coal and refined tin exporter outlined plans to introduce export taxes on metals and minerals, aiming to encourage downstream investment in the mining sector. Talks on the export tax were put on hold last week however, with both the industry minister and energy and mineral resources minister due to discuss the plans but details are emerging from talks within government departments. Mr Anshari Bukhari Industry Ministry Secretary General said that it is hoped that introducing an export tax will prevent a deluge of mineral and metal ore shipments as producer's ramp up ahead of a planned 2014 ban. We should actually impose the export tax early this year, so that the current export rush can be avoided. In 2013 we plan to increase the export tax to 50%." Mr Rozik Soetjipto CEO at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's Indonesian unit said, “I haven't heard anything about this. I'm not sure whether it is true from the minister of mines there is no indication of such a kind of tax. There is some suggestion from certain parties but I don't know exactly how it will go.”

  Workers strike at RUSAL alumina refinery in Guinea
   

Employees at UC RUSAL's Friguia alumina refinery in Guinea have gone on strike, paralysing operations there but the company said production losses would be insignificant. Mr Kabinet Barry spokesman for the worker's union said that their demands included a minimum wage of USD 400 per month and the payment of the employee's medical costs. Two RUSAL employees said that the strike had shut down operations at the 630,000 tonnes per year plant the only refinery in Guinea, the world's No 1 exporter of bauxite. A RUSAL statement sent to Reuters confirmed the strike at Friguia but said it was illegal. The Company undertakes all necessary actions to end the strike as soon as possible. It is expected that the possible production losses will be insignificant and will not impact RUSAL's general operational results.

  Zambia to phase out mining license suspension
   

Zambia, Africa's top copper producer, plans to phase out a suspension on the issuance of new mine licences that the new government of President Michael Sata imposed in October to root out corruption. Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma said the issuance of all "non-mining rights" such as prospecting would resume with immediate effect as well as those for small-scale and artisinal mining, with the ban remaining on new permits for larger mining operations and mineral processing. Yaluma said those who applied for mining rights before the suspension and are in possession of valid offer letters and those who did not collect their offer letters were invited to collect them and pay the prescribed fees by May 1. "Beginning April 2, receipt of applications for renewal of prospecting licence, small-scale mining licence, small-scale gemstone licence and artisans mining rights ... will start," he said. The ministry of mines would start receiving applications for the transfer of mining rights on April 16 and those for mining rights and mineral processing on June 4, he said.