Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
Grupo Mexico’s Chief Financial Officer Daniel Muniz and Vice President of International Relations Juan Rebolledo sat down with Reuters during the Third Latin America Investment Summit to talk about the company’s struggle with blokades and strikes, which have hurt production at its key Cananea pit, and their hopes for a quick solution.
They also share their long-term expectations that prices of the red metal should stay high, betting global inventories will remain tight.
With commodity prices soaring, who shuts down an exploration operation? Canadian uranium producer Denison Mines did, and CEO Peter Farmer explains why.
God had a sense of humour in putting gold reserves in risky places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Russia, AngloGold CEO Bobby Godsell told Reuters journalists in London. “We go there because God has got a sense of humour. He puts gold in difficult places — not places like Switzerland or Singapore. Do remember that gold is a precious metal because it’s scarce. This is one of the reasons it’s never been a major monetary instrument,” Godsell said.
United Company RUSAL, the world’s biggest primary aluminium producer, might build a nuclear-fuelled smelter with future state nuclear corporation Rosatom, UC RUSAL’s corporate strategy chief Artem Volynets told Reuters journalists in London. UC RUSAL wants to become an energy as well as a metals company and aims to meet as much of its own energy needs as possible, Volynets said. ”One of the advantages of nuclear power stations is you can put them anywhere,” he said. “If we’re going to do anything with Rosatom it would make sense to put it together with a power station near the coast. But it’s too early to say.”
Cameco CEO Jerry Grandey explains why taking a hardline approach to governments about natural resource contracts signed before the commodity boom is a dead end.
What’s the driving factor behind steel prices? Inventories, pure and simple, says Craig Bouchard, president of privately held steel services company Esmark. His young company plans to forge a new path in the sector by cutting inventory levels and chopping delivery times. Controlling inventories — which led the company to launch its successful proxy battle for Wheeling-Pittsburgh — and cutting delivery times to as little as 48 hours are at the core of Esmark’s strategy. If Esmark can do that, Bouchard told Reuters in New York, ”every material customer in the service center market will want to do business with us.”
Better to acquire or dig your own mine? Silver miner Coeur D’Alene CEO Dennis Wheeler explains how the Idaho based company views the playing field. The company has bid $1.1 billion to buy the Palmarejo silver project in Chihuahua, Mexico, which would add 90 million ounces to the company’s portfolio, but the number of viable assets on the market looks sparse.
Steel is no longer strategic for Europe despite the EU having its origins as the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s, UBS banker Laurent Charbonnier told Reuters journalists in London. “Before, you know, you had the argument of defence, armours battles, whatever. That’s gone,” said Charbonnier, who is in charge of the bank’s steel, paper and packaging deals in Europe. Charbonnier said deals such as Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal’s acquisition of Luxembourg-based Arcelor could no longer be prevented on the excuse that the sector was strategic or that such a deal would result in mass job cuts such as were seen in the 1980s. ”The pain is behind us,” he said. “It’s not about shutting down plants or anything like that any more. The job cuts have already happened.” Ian Christmas, the chairman of steel industry association IISI, said the sector employed only 10 percent of the people it did 20 or 30 years ago in Europe and North America and now employed about 2.5-3 million worldwide, at least half of those in China.
There’s no reason why private equity shouldn’t play a bigger role in mining, which in any case isn’t all high-risk, the CEO of Russia-focused miner Aricom told Reuters journalists in London. “There has been a lot of private mining companies for some while,” Jay Hambro said. “The risks that private equity holders may take, or their risk appetite, would be larger than the public equity market.”
Jay Hambro, who is the son of gold miner Peter Hambro, said that in any case the exploratory work Aricom does at iron ore deposits in the Russian far east is far less risky than what some other miners do. “What we’re doing is large-scale dirt-moving and then passing a magnet over the top of it. It’s not very complicated. If you are mining 5 kilometres down in a narrow-vein gold deposit in South Africa with a workforce which is a third HIV-positive, your risks are very different.”
Mining companies flush with cash from a commodities boom could emerge as the driving force in consolidation of the metals industry — not the metals companies themselves — Ian Christmas, secretary general of the IISI steel industry association, told Reuters journalists in London. “I’m not surprised that CVRD bought Inco last year. They had the cash. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find the mining companies as the successful purchasers of Alcoa,” he said. Alcoa has made a $28 billion hostile bid for Canadian rival Alcan in what could be a defensive move to avoid being bought itself, while Brazilian mining group CVRD bought Canadian nickel miner Inco last year in a deal worth a total of $17.6 billion.