Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BC Iron to Cut Costs as Iron Ore Prices Tumble

BC Iron to Cut Costs as Iron Ore Prices Tumble

Australia's smaller iron ore miners are struggling to keep their heads above water as the price of the steel-making commodity hits a fresh post-global financial crisis low.

The price of Australia's biggest export fell more than two per cent to $US52.90 overnight following a four per cent fall the previous day.

Junior and mid-tier miners are having to reassess their costs as the world's biggest iron ore miners continue flooding the market despite a softening in Chinese demand.

Morgan Ball, the chief executive of junior Pilbara producer BC Iron, says his company is planning more cost reductions after recently meeting with Chinese steel mills.

"Clearly there is a significant supply influx still to come primarily out of Vale and Roy Hill in the short-term and that's why we're setting our business up for a couple of years, but we think we can operate through that," Mr Ball told AAP.

"We have more costs to take out of the business that will help us through this period."

Mr Ball said there were no plans to make further cuts to staff as he keeps a close eye on how many Chinese domestic mines re-open after winter.

Still, there could be some support for the iron ore price after China's central bank eased restrictions on down-payments for second homes and cut taxes to boost its housing market.

"It all helps," Mr Ball said.

"I think we'll see more of those kind of initiatives."

He added that mills and traders in China, India and Indonesia would prefer to deal with more than two or three companies.

Fortescue Metal's chairman Andrew Forrest last week called for a cap on iron ore production, sparking an investigation by the competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims will focus on cartel conduct in government procurement and in the commodities market, particularly iron ore in the year ahead.

"Mr Forrest has helpfully made that an important issue for us," Mr Sims told a business briefing in Perth.

"As someone who has been watching the mining industry for 40 years, I'm staggered that people don't realise that prices go up, people invest, production comes on, prices go down."

But he said it was hard to prove an attempt to illegally cap production.



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Friday, March 27, 2015

China’s Iron Ore Mines Keep Digging Despite Losses



About three-quarters of Chinese iron ore mines are in the red, according to remarks on Friday by Yang Jiasheng, chairman of the Metallurgical Mines Association of China, with operating rates as low as 20 per cent of capacity.

Shi Zhenglei, iron ore analyst at Mysteel, reckoned that about half of China’s estimated 1,500 iron mines would be forced to close this year, removing 20 to 30 per cent of national capacity. Many Chinese mines produce low grades of ore.

“Some miners will sell out, but the problem is that it will be hard to find buyers,” he said. “It is also difficult for state-owned companies to acquire small mines due to reasons pertaining to capital and local government.”

While many smaller, private iron ore miners may be willing to sell or at least mothball production, state-owned mines are locked into contracts with mills and may come under pressure to keep going.

Local governments also generally oppose closures that might raise local unemployment rolls. State-owned metals trader Minmetals, for example, has been unable to get permission to close a costly mine in northern China, in spite of the availability of cheaper imported ore.

“Many of the iron ore mines have signed contracts with steel factories,” said Wang Lin, analyst at Lange Steel Information Resource Center in Beijing. “Many are still operating because they want to make sure they have stable supplies for steel factories.”

The drop in prices has also hit higher-cost international miners including Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group, once hailed by the Chinese for its potential to break the market dominance of BHP Billiton and Rio. Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, Fortescue founder and chairman, this week called for a cap to help revive prices.

China’s flagship steel producer Baosteel has joined Rio Tinto in rejecting that suggestion.




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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Funnel-Web Spider Silver Bullion Coin 2015 Perth Mint


Australia has more than 40 species of funnel-web spider which fall into two genera: Hadronyche and Atrax. Australian funnel-web spiders are medium to large in size and vary from one centimeter to 5 centimeters in length.
The male funnel-web is more lightly built than the female. Both sexes have a body color that can vary from black to brown, but the hard carapace covering the front part of the body is always sparsely haired and glossy.
Not all species are known to be dangerous, but several are renowned for their highly toxic and fast-acting venom. Funnel-webs make their burrows in moist, cool, sheltered habitats—under rocks, in and under rotting logs, some in rough-barked trees (occasionally metres above ground). They are commonly found in suburban rockeries and shrubberies, rarely in lawns or other open terrain.
This 1oz silver bullion coin is issued as legal tender under the Australian Currency Act 1965.
MINTAGE: The Perth Mint will release no more than 1,000,000 of these coins worldwide in 2015.
REVERSE: The coin’s reverse features a large funnel-web spider, displaying its sprawled legs and hairy body. The design also includes the inscription AUSTRALIAN FUNNEL-WEB SPIDER, the 2015 year-date, the coin specifications, and The Perth Mint’s traditional ‘P’ mintmark.
OBVERSE: The coin’s obverse depicts the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the monetary denomination.
PACKAGING: These bullion coins are presented without capsules in protective tubes of 25 coins. There are 20 tubes to a box. Each tube is sealed with The Perth Mint’s tamper evident security seal.
Last year saw the debut of a new series of bullion coins from collector favourite, the Perth Mint. Released much earlier in the year that it’s usual triumvirate of semi-numismatic silver bullion coins (Koala, Kookaburra, Lunar), and with a considerably higher fixed mintage at one-million units, the first coin depicted one of Australians best-known threats to human life, the Saltwater Crocodile. It was a hit and the mint sold out in just a couple of months.
Fast forward to 2015 and yet another of Australia’s menagerie of psychotic killers gets its own coin, the Funnel-Web Spider. Growing up to 5cm in length (the spider, not the coin…), these quite beautiful creatures are capable of inflicting a particularly nasty bite, and doing it in your own garden. Nice. The fangs in particular are an arachnophobes worst nightmare, along with their ability to walk along the bottom of your water-filled swimming pool for a couple of days while still being able to attack you.
The coin follows last years quite closely in design concept, a clean representation of the animal on a clean background, with all the inscriptions in a bordered surround near the rim. The spider lends itself well to this style, and we think it’s actually a slight step up from last years design as the crocodile seems a difficult animal to get right on a coin, although Perth did a good job twelve months ago.
Available in 25-coin tubes, or in monster-boxes of 500, it’s a low-premium, good quality silver bullion coin of good design and restricted mintage. Only available in the one-ounce format, there were no proof, or other collector versions of the Saltwater crocodile released last year, so we wouldn’t expect any of this either. Seems like a bullion winner to us. At present we’ve only seen it up for bulk sale at Texas Precious Metals, a big Perth Mint bullion dealer in the US, but expect this to crop up in loads of places over the next week.
SPECIFICATIONS:
DENOMINATION$1 AUD
COMPOSITION0.999 SILVER
WEIGHT31.10 g
SIZE40.6 mm
FINISHBRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED
MINTAGE1,000,000
ARTISTALEYSHA HOWARTH / IAN RANK BROADLEY
BOX / COANO / NO

Monday, March 16, 2015

BHP Reveals Dividend and Debt Plan for South32

The new entity will also be given $US2.2 billion of BHP Billiton's debt, in keeping with the company's promise to ensure the new company begins its life with a small and manageable debt load. Photo: Reuters

The company that will be spun out of BHP Billiton later this year will return at least 40 per cent of its underlying earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends, according to information on the demerger revealed this morning.

Dubbed South32, the new entity will begin its life with about $US2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) of balance sheet items, in keeping with the company's promise to ensure the new company begins its life with a small and manageable debt load.


About $US1.5 billion of that will be closure and rehabilitation provisions, along with $US674 million of net debt.

Some of BHP's biggest shareholders had urged the miner to give South32 no more than $US1 billion of net debt, so the details announced today were welcomed by institutional investors.

Australian Foundation Investment Company is the eleventh biggest holder of BHP's Australian stock, and managing director Ross Barker praised the low debt levels.

"That is a good thing, those resources (bound for South32) are fairly volatile so you wouldn't want a large debt on a potentially volatile company," he said.

"We are encouraged to see a 40 per cent dividend payout policy too ... on top of the fact BHP will be keeping their progressive dividend."

BHP shares were 25 cents higher at $29.65 around midday.

The man who will serve as South32's first chief executive, Graham Kerr, said the low debt levels were very important given the current market conditions.

"One thing the market often underestimates is the impact and the risk that comes with leverage, we have really thought deeply about what the balance sheet of South32 should be and we think it is at the appropriate level to allow us to fulfill the strategic priorities we think are important," he said. 

RBC Capital Markets analyst Chris Drew said the total liabilities were "in line" with the guidance from BHP.

"It is a very manageable balance sheet. The targeted payout ratio of 40 per cent is also within the range the market was anticipating," he said.

BHP's net debt will reduce slightly as a result, and BHP chairman Jac Nasser urged shareholders to vote in favour of the demerger in May.

"Having assessed a number of alternatives, the BHP Billiton board considers the demerger to be the preferred approach to achieving simplification of our portfolio and maximising shareholder value. The board unanimously recommends that shareholders vote in favour of the demerger," he said in a statement.

BHP was unable to confirm how the new company would manage its franking credit balance, saying only that South32 would distribute its dividends with the "maximum practicable franking credits".

South32 is expected to list on the ASX, the London Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange before the end of the financial year, and BHP has hinted it will be primed to pursue investment and acquisition opportunities almost immediately.

The new company will start life with a $US1.5 billion revolving syndicated bank facility to ensure liquidity.

When asked about what sort of new investments South32 would be interested in, Mr Kerr said the company had to crawl before it walk, and walk before it could run.

The 11 operating assets bound for South 32 include the coal mines of Illawarra and South Africa, the manganese assets strewn across the southern hemisphere, the Cerro Matoso nickel mine in Colombia, the aluminium division and the Cannington silver, lead and zinc mine in Queensland. 

BHP estimates those assets would have generated a combined $US8.3 billion of revenue in the 2014 financial year, and would have been cash generative over the past three years.

RBC speculated recently that the demerger was a good idea, but was increasingly poorly-timed given the price collapse in some of BHP's major commodities.

But BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said on Tuesday that productivity measures were more important during times of weak commodity prices.

"I can't think of a better time to do this transaction," he said.


In a recent interview, Colonial First State Global Asset Management resources portfolio manager Todd Warren said he believed the demerger still made sense despite the fall in commodity prices.

"The South32 business is much more non-OECD in its concentration and certainly does require a greater percentage of management time, so from that perspective only you can argue its a positive for BHP to simplify its business to more simple businesses to manage," he said.

Shareholders will get a chance to vote on the demerger plan on May 6.

The demerger will require $US738 million of one-off costs, such as stamp duty and fees to investment bankers such as Goldman Sachs, but Mr Mackenzie said that was "good value for money from a superb cast of advisors" whose efforts had been "herculean".

The likes of KPMG, Grant Samuel, Herbert Smith Freehills and Ernst & Young also played advisory roles on the mammoth demerger task.

In documents published today, BHP said those one-off costs would be paid back very quickly.

"We expect the value of the cost savings arising from portfolio simplification alone to more than offset the demerger's one-off transaction costs," the company said.

Beyond the demerger, BHP has today revealed a plan to cut its pre-tax cost base by a further $US100 million, with 90 per cent of the task to be complete by June 30, 2017.

European Central Bank says Recovery Underway, is Opportunity to Fix Euro's Troubleo


A sustained economic recovery is finally arriving in the 19-country eurozone, European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said Monday - a recovery he says must be used to complete the euro currency union and fix its problems for good.

Draghi said in a speech at a financial forum in Frankfurt that "most indicators suggest a sustained recovery is taking hold" as consumers and businesses grow more confident and banks become more willing to lend.

The head of the chief monetary authority for the shared currency said the upturn was helped by cheaper oil prices and by the central bank's stimulus policies.

The ECB has cut its benchmark interest rate to near zero at 0.05 per cent and launched large-scale purchases of government and corporate bonds with newly printed money to lower longer-term borrowing costs and raise inflation from worrisome low levels. It says it will purchase 60 billion euros a month through September 2016 for a total of at least 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in added monetary stimulus.

Draghi said Monday that member countries should use the breathing space given them by the central bank's stimulus efforts. He said they need to pass tough structural reforms that would make their economies more business-friendly so they can grow and prosper - and to enshrine supervision of such policies at the EU level. The 16-year-old currency union is still struggling to overcome troubles with too much government and bank debt that led to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus and Spain needing bailout loans from the other countries. Despite two bailouts, Greece is trying to avoid a debt default that could see it leave the euro. Eurozone unemployment remains high at 11.2 per cent and prices are falling at a 0.3 per cent annual rate.

Draghi said that "a nascent recovery provides us with a window of opportunity, with the conditions to press ahead with reforms that will make the euro area less fragile and vulnerable to shocks."

Eurozone countries must make their economies more productive and "stand on their own two feet" because the eurozone doesn't provide for budget transfers from richer countries - the way U.S. states that suffer recessions can depend on tax transfers through the federal government.

The way to do that was to create new EU institutions in which countries would share sovereignty over their economic policies instead of leaving the responsibility at the national level. Draghi said any such institution would need strengthened democratic oversight and accountability to voters.

He didn't give a detailed picture of what such an institution would look like. The current EU-level reviews of national economic imbalances such as excessive labour costs and trade surpluses "has so far not gained much traction in national decision-making processes."

Draghi praised recent efforts by Spain and Portugal to lower labour costs to businesses - for instance by decentralizing wage negotiations in Spain - had helped those countries begin to recover.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BHP Defends Iron Strategy as Good for Australia Amid Surplus





BHP Defends Iron Strategy as Good for Australia Amid Surplus




BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, defended its strategy of boosting iron ore supplies at a time of falling prices, saying a focus on raising output and efficiency was aiding Australia’s competitiveness.



Production from its operations in Western Australia was a record 124 million metric tons in the first half, and may reach 245 million tons in the 2015 financial year, BHP said in a statement on Tuesday as Jimmy Wilson, head of its iron ore business, addressed a conference in Perth. The company is on track to achieve unit cash costs below $20 a ton, BHP said.



“With this strategy, we are maintaining Australia’s competitive position in the global market and providing the revenue, royalties, employment and innovation that is so important for this country’s future,” said Wilson.



Iron ore sank 47 percent in 2014 and extended losses this year as surging low-cost supplies from BHP, Rio Tinto Group and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Australia’s top producers, outpaced demand growth, spurring a surplus just as China slowed. The slump hurt government revenues in Australia, the world’s biggest shipper, while squeezing smaller producers. Iron ore may find a floor at about $50 a ton, Citigroup Inc. told the conference.



“We have no major projects in execution and our growth pathway will be achieved by continuing to make our existing infrastructure more productive,” said Wilson. BHP anticipated the increased supply of seaborne ore and approved the last of its major capital investments in the Pilbara in 2011, it said.




Lower Prices

Ore with 62 percent content at Qingdao fell 1.5 percent to $58.58 a dry ton on Monday, declining for a fifth day, according to data from Metal Bulletin Ltd. That’s the lowest price since at least May 2008, when Metal Bulletin started compiling weekly prices. The commodity is 18 percent lower this year.

“Is there any chance the major producers will reassess and downgrade their plans, given where the price is? We think not,” Laura Brooks, a senior consultant at CRU Group, told the conference. “One reason for this is that competitive pressure is driving producers to seek cost reductions, and volume is critical if unit costs are to be cut.”

Rio Chief Executive Officer Sam Walsh said last month that if his company reduced output, forfeited supply would be made up by higher-cost competitors, adding that producers made decisions independently. The London-based company, which mines in the ore-rich Pilbara region, is on track to deliver 330 million tons of output by 2015 and 350 million tons by 2017, Iron Ore Chief Executive Andrew Harding said at the at conference.



Rio’s View

“The broader Pilbara shows that from January 2011 to December 2014 inclusive, 248 million new tons entered the market from Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and FMG,” Harding said. Of that increase, “Rio Tinto accounted for 63 million tons, or 25 percent. As you know, some would like you to believe that Rio Tinto has had the largest volume increase in that time. But as you can see, this is simply not the case.”

The global surplus will surge to 437 million tons in 2018 from 184 million tons this year, Morgan Stanley said on Feb. 22. Global seaborne supply is projected to increase 4.6 percent in 2015, topping the 3 percent growth in demand, according to the bank, which sees iron ore averaging $79 a ton this year.

There’s a floor for prices at about $50 a ton, Citigroup Iron Ore & Steel Head Mark Lyons said at the conference. At current prices, an estimated 38 percent of global output isn’t generating cash, according to CRU

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Leaellynasaura 2015 1oz Australian Age Of Dinosaurs Silver Proof Coloured Coin


The Leaellynasaura is the third coin in this exciting five-coin series which features Australian dinosaurs that existed during the Cretaceous Period between 112 and 102 million years ago.
PROOF QUALITY 99.9% PURE SILVER
The coin is struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver in proof quality.
UNIQUE COLOURED DINOSAUR DESIGN
The coin’s reverse depicts the Australian dinosaur Leaellynasaura amicagraphica set against a starlit prehistoric scene. The inscription LEAELLYNASAURA, the coin’s weight and purity, and The Perth Mint’s ‘P’ mintmark are also incorporated into the design.
AUSTRALIAN LEGAL TENDER
Issued as legal tender under the Australian Currency Act 1965, the coin’s obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the 2015 year-date, and the monetary denomination.
LIMITED MINTAGE
The Perth Mint will release no more than 5,000 of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Series – Leaellynasaura 2015 1oz Silver Proof Coloured Coin.
PRESENTATION PACKAGING AND NUMBERED CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY
The coin is housed in a classic display case within an illustrated shipper, and is accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.
FIVE-COIN PLASTIC DISPLAY BOX
A superb way to protect and present all five coins in their illustrated shippers, this series display box comprises an easy-to-assemble polypropylene charcoal tray and a transparent sleeve, and is complimentary with the delivery of the third coin release when purchased as a subscription.
  • Third Release in Series
  • Proof Quality 99.9% Pure Silver
  • Unique Coloured Dinosaur Design
  • Australian Legal Tender
  • Limited Mintage – 5,000
  • Presentation Packaging
  • Numbered Certificate of Authenticity
Leaellynasaura-2015-1oz-Australian-Age-Of-Dinosaurs-Silver-Proof-Coloured-Coin-box
 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS:
Silver Content (Troy oz)1
Monetary Denomination (AUD)1.00
Fineness (% purity)99.9
Minimum Gross Weight (g)31.135
Maximum Diameter (mm)40.60
Maximum Thickness (mm)4.00
Maximum Mintage5,000
DesignerTom Vaughan

Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater Silver Coin Crater Meteorites Series $1

Silver coin Crater Meteorites series $1 Antique finish 2015 Wavy Ultra High Relief with Real Meteorite Stone 1 oz

Wolfe Creek Crater is a well-preserved meteorite impact crater (astrobleme) in Western Australia. It is accessed via the Tanami Road 150 km (93 mi) south of the town of Halls Creek. The crater is central to the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater National Park.

The crater averages about 875 metres in diameter, 60 metres from rim to present crater floor and it is estimated that the meteorite that formed it had a mass of about 50,000 tonnes, while the age is estimated to be less than 300,000 years (Pleistocene). Small numbers of iron meteorites have been found in the vicinity of the crater, as well as larger so-called 'shale-balls', rounded objects made of iron oxide, some weighing as much as 250 kg.

It was brought to the attention of scientists after being spotted during an aerial survey in 1947, investigated on the ground two months later, and reported in publication in 1949.The European name for the crater comes from a nearby creek, which was in turn named after Robert Wolfe (early reports misspell the name as Wolf Creek), a prospector and storekeeper during the gold rush that established the town of Halls Creek

The crater was featured in the 2005 horror film Wolf Creek, and the sequel in 2013, Wolf Creek 2.

It was the setting for Arthur Upfield's 1962 novel The Will of the Tribe.

The Wolfe Creek crater has considerable claim to be the second most 'obvious' (i.e. relatively undeformed by erosion) meteorite crater known on Earth, after the famous Barringer Crater in Arizona.

The crater is mentioned in the children's science fiction book Alienology that says (in its universe) that a space craft crashed there.



Niue Island WOLFE CREEK METEORITE CRATER



Specifications


MetalSilver
Mintage666
Fineness (% purity)99.9
Content (Troy OZ)1 oz
Denomination (NZD)$1
Weight (g)31.10
Diameter (mm)38.61
Year of Issue2015
CountryNiue Island
EdgeSmooth
QualityAntique finish
Exterior DecorationWavy Ultra High Relief; Real meteorite inlay
Package type includesLuxury themed wooden box
Certificate of AuthenticityYes
High Quality VIDEOAvailable below for viewing