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Miners Reel From Increased Government Intervention In Major Projects

Mining Shovel

I find myself writing a lot about governments lately. With moves in the global legal and regulatory space seemingly coming fast and furious recently for resource companies.

And this week the action hit a frantic pace. With five big moves happening in mining policy, which all investors and project developers should be watching closely.

Let’s count ’em down.

The most high-profile news once again came in the Philippines. Where anti-mining policy from the new federal government hit further heights — when the mines minister effectively quashed one of the biggest copper-gold development projects on Earth.

That’s the Tampakan deposit. A 2.9 billion tonne orebody developed by Glencore, before that firm exited the project last year over regulatory frustrations.

And the news didn’t get any better this week for the now-local owners of Tampakan. When mines minister Gina Lopez publicly declared that she will not allow the deposit to be developed by open-pit methods. A move that likely precludes any kind of major operation here.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, the new government also stepped up moves against mining. Announcing that a total of seven mines have now been closed on environmental reviews — with a further 23 nickel mines now coming up for similar appraisal.

Nearby in Indonesia, things also got tense between miners and government. When federal officials offered Freeport-McMoRan a lowball $640 million for a 10.64 percent stake in the Grasberg mine.

Freeport is required to sell the stake to the government, but has said the interest is worth $1.7 billion. Setting up for some tense negotiations here going forward. Related: Oil Industry About To Be Burned Again By Fall In Oil Prices

Then we jump over to Chile. Where major gold producer Kinross Gold said this week it is shutting down its Maricunga mine — pending the outcome of a government review into water use at the mine. With federal officials here seeking to shut down water withdrawals at the operation, a move Kinross says would preclude mining.

Finally we end in Canada. Where a federal minister sided with regulators in the territory of Nunavut in denying a permit for Areva’s proposed Kiggavik uranium mine. A development the uranium major had been pushing — but which officials said cannot proceed because the company hasn’t specified a start date for the project.

Lots going on, lots to keep tabs on. Watch especially in the Philippines for further upward momentum in nickel prices if the above-mentioned reviews lead to more mine shutdowns.

Here’s to a state of caution.

By Dave Forest

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