The competition regulator has approved one of BlueScope Steel's planned takeovers of two local steel firms but raised concerns about the other one. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said ...
Chorus's claims it will be at risk of not meeting its ultra-fast broadband commitments if it's forced to cut its copper wire prices appears genuine, Communications Minister Amy Adams has been told. Ms Adams called on Ernst & Young to review Chorus' finances after it said a Commerce Commission ruling it should cut the access charge for its copper network would severely impact its ability to complete the ultra-fast broadband rollout. Some telecommunications providers have expressed doubts about Chorus' claim but Ms Adams says a verbal briefing she received from Ernst & Young suggested the claim was valid. "The preliminary conclusion from Ernst & Young is that copper price changes will have a significant impact on Chorus' financial position and that absent further action, Chorus is at risk of not meeting its UFB and RBI contractual commitments," she said.
Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange on Thursday: AGO - ATLAS IRON - up 8.5 cents, or 7.69 per cent, at $1.19 Pilbara iron ore miner Atlas Iron says it's close to finalising contracts for around ...
Police reinforcements are being sent to PNG's Northern Highlands after at least one person died in a confrontation with police at the Porgera gold mine in Enga province.The mine's operator, Barrick Niugini, says its staff requested police assistance to deal with a group of around 300 illegal miners on the site late Tuesday.PNG's Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Simon Kauba says at least one person was killed in the confrontation."There was this confrontation from the illegal miners...and so they were dispersing them, and in the process may have been hurt, and later we found out one or two other people died from the confrontation," he said.Porgera Joint Venture Executive General Manager Greg Walker says many of the details are unclear."What we know at the moment is during an incident...one person was injured and deceased - I'm not aware at this point of the cause of death," he said."There are rumours and speculation that a second person was injured but we have not been able to locate any person at this time."Barrick Niugini Limited, the Canadian company that owns the mine, says "no security staff were reported to have taken part in the incident resulting in the fatality".Greg Walker says mine security were in the area, but removing the trespassers was a police operation."There's often trespassers in the mine area, and at that point there were 300 aggressive trespassers - they come into the mine area seeking gold "We would regard them as illegal miners...the main concern that we have is that these people come into the active mining lease and they're interacting with heavy mine equipment [and] they're not fully aware of the hazards in the mining area."Mr Kauba says extra police were sent to the mine."[The] situation is not looking good but it is brought under control," he said."We are sending in extra reinforcements so that we can allow the normal situation to come back and also allow the mine to operate at the normal rate."Mr Walker says there have been tensions at the mine, but operations have resumed."There was a lot of protesting in the community - directed mainly at the police, but also directed at...Barrick personnel - yesterday was very tense and last night we suspended operations for the safety of our employees," he said."We suspended operations for 12 hours, operations commenced this morning...as per normal and it's very calm at the moment.The company says it is investigating the incident and its causes.Enga Province Governor Peter Ipatas says illegal mining is becoming an increasing problem at the site.
A worker has been crushed to death at a mine site in Western Australia's north. The incident happened about 9:30am on Wednesday at Newcrest's gold and copper mine at Telfer, near the tailings storage facility.The man was given first aid but he did not respond.He was employed at the mine by a contractor.Department of Mines and Petroleum spokesman Simon Ridge says investigations are underway."We've got inspectors who are on site now and they'll be doing a full and comprehensive investigation and a report in due course will be provided to the coroner," he said.Newcrest and the Department have expressed their sympathies for the worker's family, friends and colleagues.Newcrest says counselling services are available for its workers.It is the second mining death in Western Australia this year.In August, New Zealand electrician Kurt Williams was crushed to death during an accident at Fortescue Metal's Christmas Creek mine in the WA's Pilbara region.The incident occurred at one of the mine's iron ore crushing plants.Two months later a truck driver at the same mine had his leg amputated after a crash.The 42-year-old man was injured when his truck ran into the back of a parked dump truck at the mine.
The European Commission said Wednesday that Russian gas giant Gazprom has offered to settle an anti-trust probe which has caused tensions between the EU and Moscow. At a meeting with senior company officials, "Gazprom expressed its willingness to explore the possibility of a commitment-based solution to ... competition concerns," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said. Gazprom will present "draft proposals in writing in the coming days, which the Commission will assess," Almunia said in a brief statement. The Commission formally opened its probe in September last year on concerns Gazprom "might be hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets."
Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange at close on Wednesday: AGO - ATLAS IRON - up 8.5 cents, or 7.69 per cent, at $1.19 Pilbara iron ore miner Atlas Iron says it's close to finalising contracts ...
OPEC agreed on Wednesday to hold its crude production ceiling at 30 million barrels per day despite oversupply concerns and competition from cheaper shale oil. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps out about one third of the world's oil, failed again to decide on a new secretary-general amid group tensions, instead keeping Libya's Abdullah El-Badri as its administrative head for 2014. And Libya, where output of crude oil has fallen sharply on unrest in the country, will assume the cartel's rotating presidency for next year, OPEC added in a communique. The cartel, which could see higher production from its members Iran, Iraq and Libya in coming months, nevertheless faces competition from non-OPEC producers of shale oil.
OPEC has agreed to maintain its oil production ceiling at 30 million barrels per day, Iran's oil minister said on Wednesday. "Thirty million barrels per day is the approved total output for OPEC for 2014," Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told journalists in Vienna. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries also failed to decide on a new secretary-general, agreeing instead to keep Libya's Abdullah El-Badri as its administrative head. "We extend the mandate of Mr. El-Badri for one year," Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi said after the meeting of OPEC's 12 members.
Gold Coast City Mayor Tom Tate has rejected suggestions there is a potential conflict of interest over a proposed high rise development in Surfers Paradise.A former political rival and councillor, Susie Douglas, says the future of land that Councillor Tate owns in Surfers Paradise should not be decided while he is mayor.Councillor Tate and his business partner bought the Surfers Paradise Bowling Club's greens for $770,000 in 2007.Last month, Councillor Tate absented himself from a council vote on the company's application to build a 52-storey apartment building on the site.Councillor Tate says he has not spoken to any councillors or council staff about the property and his actions may encourage other people to invest in the city."I'm one citizen of the Gold Coast who's willing to roll up the sleeve and have a go. To have a mayor out there to create local jobs and putting money where my mouth is in our city," he said."I think that will lead the way to other people willing to have a go at it."However Ms Douglas, who unsuccessfully contested the mayoralty in 2012 and is now the executive director of the Palmer United Party in Queensland, says it is a difficult situation for councillors.
OPEC was expected to stick by its oil output limit at a meeting here on Wednesday, even as Iraq and Iran eye higher crude exports amid slashed Libyan production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries does not see a need to alter the cartel's crude production ceiling of 30 million barrels per day, member nations led by the world's biggest oil producer Saudi Arabia said in Vienna ahead of the meeting. Pumping about one third of the world's crude, OPEC will decide also on whether to replace Abdullah El-Badri as secretary general. "We know demand is good, economic growth is good, supply is good," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters at OPEC headquarters in the Austrian capital.
OPEC is set to stick to its oil output limit at a meeting on Wednesday, even as Iraq and Iran eye higher crude exports amid slashed Libyan production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries does not see a need to alter the cartel's crude production ceiling of 30 million barrels per day (bpd), member nations led by the world's biggest oil producer Saudi Arabia have said in Vienna ahead of the meeting. Oil market analysts are meanwhile not expecting any surprises on output Wednesday at the headquarters of OPEC, whose dozen member nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America together produce about one-third of the world's crude. "It is unlikely that OPEC will adjust its official notional production ceiling as it is unlikely that either Iran and Iraq can contribute incrementally in any significant manner to the cartel's supply next year," Harry Tchilinguirian, BNP Paribas' global head of commodity markets strategy, told AFP.
Britain has formally backed BP's effort to overturn a US ban on the oil giant from government contracts due to the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It also warned that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban on the company creates "harmful regulatory uncertainty" that might discourage other companies from cooperating with regulators. In addition, the government said, the EPA ban "risks creating a powerful disincentive to cooperation in times of crisis." BP has paid billions of dollars in fines and compensation over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which left 11 people dead and sent millions of barrels of oil churning into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gold Coast Mayor has been accused of a conflict of interest over the sale of a prime piece of Surfers Paradise real estate to a development company.The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has agreed in principle to sell a block of land on the site of the former Surfers Paradise bowls club for $1 million to a development company part-owned by Mayor Tom Tate.The company is involved in a contentious project to turn the bowling greens into a $300 million, 52-storey apartment tower.The project also needs a block of land presently owned by the Gold Coast City council, and Mr Tate's opponent in last year's mayoral election is urging councillors not to sell."I don't think while the mayor is there anything should be done," former councillor Susie Douglas said."I think it's very important that public interest is put before his."Controversial background to dealThe project has a long history of controversy.In 2005, the Surfers Paradise Bowls Club was in deep financial trouble, planning to sell its greens to a developer and relocate.But a company fronted by Mr Tate's business partner, Kelvin Gersbach, convinced the bowlers to stay put."Someone had come along and rescued the bowls club, that's what we heard," Ms Douglas said."And they were going to take it over and give it a face lift, and bring in the corporate sector." The bowls club merged with the nearby Chamber of Commerce, but the much hoped for financial turnaround never happened."The so-called opportunity from the Gold Coast Commerce Club to bring in hundreds of members just didn't materialise," former member Ken Jamieson said.What he and many other bowlers did not know at the time was that the club's managing committee had agreed to give the company owned by Mr Tate and Kelvin Gersbach, Crestden Limited, an option to buy the bowling greens if things did not work out.That is exactly what happened in 2007."The secretary divulged it to us after a game of bowls one day, actually, and it was just greeted with stunned disbelief," Mr Jamieson said.But what really annoyed many club members was the price Crestden paid forÂ the land, which was not only next to the centre of Surfers Paradise it also had no building height restrictions.The club committee had previously corresponded with two developers who mentioned figures of more than $7 million.Mr Tate's company got the land for just over a tenth of that price - $770,000.Step-by-step process of acquiring valuable landThe usually media-friendly Mr Tate refused to talk the 7.30 program. Instead his office referred us to John Porter - the lawyer of his business partner, Kelvin Gersbach.Mr Porter argues the $770,000 sale price was based on an official valuation, and questions the earlier multi-million-dollar figures."It's quite a common ploy for developers to float a number that looks really attractive and then when you actually get the people committed to the thought of selling it they find a reason to ratchet down the price," he said.Three years after purchasing the greens, a new controversy erupted when Crestden shut down the bowling club.Mr Porter says Crestden - which had bought the clubhouse in 2006 for $1.43 million and was charging the club rent - was losing up to $40,000 a month."I think that Mr Gersbach and his partner got sick and tired of subsidising continuing losses," he said.But Mr Jamieson suspects it was all a set-up."Each step they made was made with the object of getting hold of the valuable land," he said.This is denied by Mr Porter, but critics of the mayor say they have evidence.Ms Douglas says Mr Tate talked about developing the site three years before the club shut down.She says she attended a council meeting in 2007 in which property financier City Pacific put forward a casino development proposal that included the bowling greens."I don't recall there being any discussion about the actual bowling people, but I do recall this was a site they wanted to do extraordinary things with," she said.Mr Porter says Mr Tate was probably freelancing."I think Mr Tate is a man with flair and imagination and I thinkÂ that initiative to includeÂ [the] bowls club land as part of that proposal perhaps, unilaterally, I think Mr Tate probably got a little bit carried away," he said.Mayor's supporters claim he has done 'nothing wrong'Despite suggesting he would pull out of the bowls club investment during last year's mayoral elections, Mr Tate's company has since lodged a development application for a 52-storey apartment tower on the site.This was approved by the Gold Coast City Council last month, with Mr Tate absenting himself from the vote.Former councillor and real estate developer Max Christmas says Mr Tate has done nothing wrong."I take my hat off to developers to have a go, and that's what the mayor's doing, I think," he said.When asked if it is acceptable for an elected mayor to be involved in such a high profile private development, he said: "Of course it is.""Developer-builder and banker-type people make the Gold Coast, because that's the business we're in here - we're a developing city," he said.But Ms Douglas finds the whole project disturbing."[Mr Tate] does have a conflict, the councillors are feeling compromised, I'm sure," she said."They're in the planning committee and they're looking at a situation where they're going to make the mayor very, very wealthy."
A leading business group is hopeful that tax benefits aimed at small firms and tied to Labor's mining tax will be retained in the May budget. Those to be ditched include a loss carry-back initiative, which allows business to offset losses to get a refund on previous tax paid, while returning the instant asset write-off for small business to $1000 from $6500. But a Senate inquiry report into the repeal legislation supported revisiting taxation issues affecting small business "once the budget returns to strong surplus". Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said he had warned the previous government that linking small business tax measures to a badly-designed mining tax could short change small business.
Iran will "immediately" export more crude oil once sanctions are lifted in the wake of the international deal to roll back its nuclear programme, the country's oil minister said Tuesday. "Immediately we can" return to full export capacity of four million barrels per day, Iran Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told reporters ahead of OPEC's meeting on oil production in Vienna on Wednesday. World powers -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany known as the P5+1 -- last month reached a historic deal with Iran on its disputed nuclear programme. Pending negotiations for a broader agreement, the Islamic state agreed to freeze parts of its programme in exchange for an estimated $7.0 billion of relief from crippling sanctions.
Recent petroleum finds in Kenya's arid and under-developed north have caused excitement, but even if commercial production goes ahead, major challenges remain. Kenya will need to invest in human resources, manage often unrealistic expectations and beef up infrastructure, preferably in conjunction with its neighbours, experts say. But in recent years Tullow Oil of Ireland has struck oil in the east, first in Uganda, where confirmed reserves of 1.7 billion barrels are located, and now, they hope, in Kenya. "Companies have passed commercial thresholds," in Kenya, said Mwendia Nyaga, an independent consultant.
A new iron ore project on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula is set to proceed following final state government approvals. IronClad Mining Ltd said the government's approval of a common-user export facility at Lucky Bay would allow its Wilcherry Hill mine to proceed. "This is a significant milestone in the history of this company," IronClad Mining managing director Robert Mencel said in a statement on Tuesday. SA Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis said with $22 million to be invested in the Wilcherry mine and $7 million on the new port, the developments would create jobs in the region.
A company given state development approval for a mining export facility on eastern Eyre Peninsula in South Australia says it hopes to start exports next year.IronClad Mining plans to ship iron ore from Lucky Bay near Cowell from its Wilcherry Hill mine near Kimba.The ore will be taken on barges to ships offshore. IronClad managing director Robert Mencel says the port also could cater for exports other than minerals."It suits itself to a whole range of commodities, both minerals and other commodities, for example our crane and our dumb barge will only be used approximately 30 per cent of the time and so subject to other approvals there's no reason why other parties can't come and talk to us about using those facilities when we're not using them," he said. Some shack owners at Lucky Bay have environmental worries.But Mr Mencel says safeguards will include an acoustic mound to help shield residents from noise."I can assure you that we have done extensive environmental studies, we have been vetted by both the federal and local government, by the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) and have come out thumbs-up - there are no environmental issues there," he said.
The Australian share market is trading slightly lower ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) monthly interest rate decision. Invast Securities chief market analyst Peter Esho said a lower gold price was weighing upon the resources sector and the major banks were flat to negative. The RBA monthly interest rate decision is due to be released at 1430 AEDT. On the local bourse at 1200 AEDT, among the banks, Westpac was down 31 cents at $32.29, Commonwealth Bank had dropped 40 cents to 76.45, ANZ had retreated 17 cents to $31.68, but National Australia Bank had gained seven cents to $34.38.
Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange at noon on Tuesday: FMG - FORTESCUE METALS GROUP - up 0.5 cents, or 0.09 per cent, at $5.575 Fortescue Metals Group says it's in a position to comfortably ...
Fortescue Metals Group says it's in a position to comfortably repay debt without having to do joint ventures or sell assets as the price of iron ore remains strong. Chief executive Nev Power said Fortescue's decision to use debt to fund its rapid expansion had been vindicated as the Kings mine began producing iron ore two weeks ago. "We're going to come out of this with one hundred per cent ownership of all our projects," Mr Power told reporters during a tour of the company's Solomon operations on Monday. "Compare that to the other companies who are all in a joint venture of some form or another because of funding deals that have been done."
Saudi Arabia is satisfied with current crude prices as well as global supply and demand levels, its oil minister said Monday, indicating OPEC will freeze its output ceiling. "The market is in the best position it can be," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters in Vienna ahead of a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Wednesday to decide on production. "Demand is great, economic growth is improving," said Naimi, who represents the world's biggest producer of crude oil. OPEC's dozen member nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America together produce about one-third of the world's crude and have an output ceiling of 30 million barrels per day -- slightly above current production.
Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on Monday slashed gas prices for Armenia during a visit to the Caucasus nation as police detained over 100 people protesting the Armenian government's decision to sign up to a Moscow-led customs union. Putin announced he would axe duties on natural resources heading to Armenia and pledged to sell arms to the ex-Soviet state at a reduced rate as Armenia readies to join the Kremlin's custom union. "Russia will do everything it can to help Armenia complete all the procedures for joining the customs union," Putin said.
The Chinese steelmaker Citic Pacific has finally exported its first shipment of iron ore from its $8 billion project in WA's Pilbara.Its Sino Iron mine, south west of Karratha, is about $6 billion over budget and four years behind schedule, and has been beset by technical and operational issues.It is the largest magnetite iron ore project in Australia, and involves taking low-grade magnetite ore and turning it into a high iron content concentrate.The first shipment of 40,000 tonnes of magnetite concentrate was shipped today from the port Citic built at Cape Preston.The WA Premier Colin Barnett attended the loading with Citic's chairman Chang Zhenming and other company representatives.Mr Chang says Sino Iron represents China's biggest ever investment in Australia.Palmer challenging royalty payments and port controlCitic Pacific paid billionaire Clive Palmer $415 million for the rights to mine in 2006.The shipment is expected to infuriate Mr Palmer who is locked in legal battles with the company over royalty payments and control of the port.Citic has been stockpiling ore at the port since starting production in July but has not been able to export it because of a running dispute with Mr Palmer's Mineralogy company over responsibility for maritime security at the facility. The Federal Government granted Mineralogy the right to operate the port in January.
Gold miners in Australia have reacted to weaker prices by producing more of the precious metal for a second successive quarter. Gold producers were targetting higher grades since gold prices fell earlier this year to protect margins, said Dr Sandra Close, a director with mining consultants Surbiton Associates. During a decade-long period of rising gold prices between 2001 and 2011, gold producers had reduced ore grades leading to higher cash costs, she said. The price of gold fell from $US1,580 a ounce to $US1,190 during the June quarter, and has remained in a narrow range since.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets this week to decide on the cartel's oil output against a backdrop of slowing crude demand and unrest in member nation Libya. OPEC is seen sitting tight, with its dozen members largely appearing satisfied by current market prices for crude, as Brent wins strong support from rising unrest in Libya that has slashed the country's output. Weighing on prices is a reduction in tensions over Iran following the OPEC member's recent deal with world powers to allow tighter oversight of its nuclear programme in exchange for modest sanctions relief. New York crude in particular is being hit by rising US oil inventories.
Steel manufacturing giant ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel & Sumimoto Metal said in a statement they agreed to buy a US steel plant owned by German firm ThyssenKrupp for $1.55 billion. The agreement is for a 50-50 joint venture partnership between the Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal and Japanese titan Nippon Steel, the former company said in a statement Friday. The ThyssenKrupp plant in question is located in Calvert, in the southern US state of Alabama, and has a total capacity of 5.3 million tonnes of steel destined mainly for auto manufacturing and construction. ArcelorMittal and the Japanese steel giant already jointly produce steel in the state of Indiana.
A leading heavy metals expert has revealed a mine on Tasmania's west-coast is operating on an environmental licence that does not meet national recommendations.The Chinese-owned MMG Mine at Rosebery has been at the centre of controversy with some residents linking its emissions with cases of heavy metal poisoning. Macquarie University lead expert Mark Taylor has told 7:30 Tasmania the mine is operating on outdated environmental practices that do not meet national recommendations."The standard that they are using is the standard that was reduced by a factor of 10 in America," he said.The national recommendation in Australia is 0.5 micrograms of lead per cubic metre of air, but Mr Taylor says the Rosebery mine is omitting three times that amount.
Mining giant Rio Tinto will spend $400 million to expand its Pilbara iron ore production capacity to 360 million tonnes per annum. Mine production capacity will increase by more than 60 million tonnes a year between 2014 and 2017. The rapid expansion is expected to be achieved through boosted production at existing mines, productivity gains and the development of the Silvergrass mine. Rio plans to reach a run-rate capacity of 290 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) by the end of the first half of 2014 after completing the first phase of its expanded port rail and mine operations.
Brazil awarded 72 onshore natural gas and shale gas exploration blocks Thursday in a controversial auction marked by complaints from environmentalists about a lack of regulation. The National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, said in a statement that the auction generated $72 million in revenue, awarding 72 of the 240 concessions on offer. An ANP spokeswoman said four of the 11 foreign companies that took part in the auction were awarded blocks: France's GDF Suez, Colombia's Petrominerales, Panama's Trayectoria Oil & Gas and GeoPark from Bermudas. ANP head Magda Chambriard stressed that the licensing round aimed to "sow the culture" of natural gas drilling in Brazil.
Brazil began auctioning off 240 onshore blocks for gas exploration in a dozen states on Thursday amid complaints from environmentalists about a lack of regulation. Taking part in the two-day sale are 10 Brazilian companies and a slew of foreign contenders, national petroleum agency ANP said. The international bidders include France's GDF and Total, El Paso from the United States, Canada's Gran Tierra, Spain's Repsol, Germany's RWE, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Portugal's Petrogal, Colombia's Petrominerales, Panama's Trayectoria Oil and Gas an Geopark from Bermuda. The licensing round involves blocks covering 168,348 square kilometers in the states of Amazonas, Acre, Tocantins, Alagoas, Sergipe, Piaui, Mato Grosso, Goias, Bahia, Maranhao, Parana and Sao Paulo.
Junior utility group Australian Power & Gas (APG) has become the third utility to be hit with fines in excess of $1 million for aggressive door-to-door selling. Major utility AGL Energy will foot the bill however, having acquired the company and its 354,000 customers several months ago for $100 million. The Federal Court ordered the $1.1 million fine on Thursday, declaring that APG had broken Australian consumer law. The action is one of five being taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after what it says are large volumes of complaints about unfair tactics and harassment that targets vulnerable customers.