Copper boom catching the eye of politicians
Copper producers awash with cash after a doubling of prices are entering the next phase of the cycle: increased fiscal pressure from their host nations, reports Bloomberg.
News this week from three of the top copper-producing nations show authorities are looking for a bigger share of the windfall. While that’s not unusual in periods of high prices, this time there’s the added incentive of finding ways to fund pandemic recovery, while talk of a new supercycle is also helping to ratchet up political rhetoric.
On Wednesday, Chile’s lower house approved a proposed royalty on copper in a move the industry says risks thwarting investment. On the same day, Bloomberg reported that the front-runner in Peru’s presidential race will for a tougher stance against mining companies to ensure more of the revenue generated by vast mineral wealth stays in state coffers. Hours earlier, the head of Zambia’s state-owned mining investments company was quoted as saying he wants a bigger slice of the revenues from copper operations.
“We could certainly see more examples of this in the coming months,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients.
While copper futures have retreated from the highest levels in almost a decade last month, they’re still almost 90% up from a year ago after Chinese factories bounced back quickly from the pandemic and producers endured disruptions. Now the prospect of a global recovery aided by vaccines and a wave of de-carbonizing pledges paint a rosy longer term picture for the metal used in everything from wiring and pipes to batteries and motors.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed by mining company stakeholders including unions and governments.
In Chile, where the pandemic was preceded by months of anti-government protests, consensus is building that highly profitable sectors such as mining should help finance the pandemic recovery and reduce economic inequalities.
In a country that accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s mined copper, opposition lawmakers want to introduce a 3% tax on copper and lithium produced by companies such as BHP Group and Albemarle Corp. to fund development projects, responding to the rising social and environmental standards of investors and supply chains.
“It’s part of what our country needs — greater economic and social justice and an end to privileges that big companies have had,” Christian Democrat Deputy Ivan Flores said.
In neighboring Peru, the second-biggest copper supplier, Yonhy Lescano said he wants to close tax loopholes and negotiate profit-sharing agreements with multinational companies. Lescano is leading in all major polls ahead of the highly competitive April 11 first round election. His comments will resonate with some isolated communities in the Peruvian highlands that have resisted mining.
In Zambia, ZCCM Investments Holdings Plc, which is finalizing the purchase of Glencore Plc’s Zambian copper unit, also wants larger shares in other companies that produce the metal in the southern African nation, Chief Executive Officer Mabvuto Chipata said in an interview.
Zambia has progressively increased royalties after long complaining that miners in the country seldom report profits and as a consequence pay little in tax. Now ZCCM-IH is seeking to further increase its share of revenues as Zambia prepares to hold general elections in August. Copperbelt Province, home to the mines of Glencore and other foreign companies, is a key political battleground.
To be sure, such initiatives may not see the light of day. As a presidential candidate, Peru’s Ollanta Humala rallied with local communities against foreign mining companies only to embrace the industry after he won office. In Chile, President Sebastian Pinera may veto the royalty bill or seek to block it through the country’s constitutional court.
Companies, via their industry associations, will also fight against changes in the rules of the game. Management teams and boards that have endured previous cycles will be keen to defend margins at a time when operating and building mines is getting trickier and pricier.
But the industry will have to walk a fine line given the rising scrutiny on environment, social and governance issues.
With companies stepping up to highlight their ESG efforts, “host countries may find that the miners might not be as passive this time round,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Grant Sporre said in an emailed response.
James Attwood, Bloomberg
AngloGold Ashanti establishes BG Umoja JV in Tanzania
AngloGold Ashanti, in line with it s strategy to ensure a sustainable contribution to the economies of host countries, has established the BG Umoja joint venture (JV), in Tanzania.
Awarded a $186m two-year mining contract for the Nyankanga and Geita Hill underground mining projects, the 80/20 joint venture is a partnership between Africa Underground Mining Services (AUMS) Tanzania, a subsidiary of Australia’s Perenti Group, and local drilling services and mining- supply company, Geofields Tanzania Limited.
The partnership is modelled on a similar underground mining joint venture at the Company’s Obuasi Redevelopment Project in Ghana between AUMS Ghana and Accra-based, wholly Ghanaian-owned Rocksure and will help build local specialised mining capacity.
“We’re working with our experienced mining contractors to assist in establishing local joint ventures for long-term transfer of sustainable skills, and to continue building on our sustainable local procurement programmes,” commented Sicelo Ntuli, AngloGold Ashanti’s Chief Operating Officer: Africa.
“AngloGold Ashanti is building sustainable local procurement programmes that will allow it to stimulate economic and social development at all of its operations, evidenced by the significant contribution Geita has made to the fiscus and people of Tanzania.”
AngloGold Ashanti’s annual expenditure with indigenous Tanzanian suppliers has almost tripled to $162mn since 2016. The company’s local team in Tanzania has set itself an ambitious target of 60% to 70% of all expenditures with indigenous Tanzanian companies, by 2025.
Scope 3 Emissions
In addition, AngloGold Ashanti’s Geita Gold Mine has awarded a two-year fuel transportation contract, worth approximately $10.8m a year, to two local contractors - one of which is originally from Geita. This is in line with the mine’s commitment to contribute to the economies of host communities. The Geita-based company was part of Geita Mine’s supply chain capacity building initiative for host community suppliers, a partnership between the Mine and the National Economic Empowerment Council.
To influence Scope 3 emissions, trucks are to be compliant with EURO IV emissions standards, tankers are to be made of an aluminium alloy material to reduce weight and the age of the fleet will be maintained at less than six years.
Diversity & Inclusion
The contractors already employ women fuel tanker drivers, fulfilling the Mine’s requirements for diversity and inclusion. The two contractors both own workshop facilities in Geita town and participate in social initiatives aimed at uplifting the lives of host community residents.
AngloGold Ashanti has been operating at Geita Gold Mine for more than 20 years, with the project initially a single pit mine, evolving now to a predominantly underground operation, employing 5,700 employees and contractors.
Earlier this year, the Government of Tanzania recognized AngloGold Ashanti’s contribution to the economy of the country, awarding it for its outstanding performance in a number of areas, including environmental and safety performance, corporate social investment, the best taxpayer in the mining sector, the runners up in local business content and overall best performer in the mining sector in Tanzania in 2019/2020.
Geita Gold Mine
Geita, one of AngloGold Ashanti’s flagship mines, is located in north-western Tanzania in the Lake Victoria goldfields of Mwanza region, about 120km from Mwanza and 4km west of the town of Geita. It has been in operation as a large-scale mine since 2000.