Global Times: Greenland doesn’t buy ‘China threat’ theories

Yesterday’s Chinese edition the Global Times (环球时报) carried an article signed by their special envoy to Greenland Liu Zhonghua 刘仲华 that included interviews with Aleqa Hammond and Sara Olsvig.

The piece, entitled “No market for ‘China threat theories’ in Greenland”, goes to considerable lengths to emphasise the island welcomes investment from everywhere, in particular from China, and that fears of China’s intentions come from outside, specifically from English-language media. Liu refers to exaggerated reports about possible future Chinese involvement in the Isua iron project, and quotes Ms Hammond’s description of the situation.

Remarkably enough, the article calls Ms Hammond Greenland’s ‘Prime Minister’ and totally ignores what’s been going on in Greenlandic politics in the last few weeks. There’s also nothing about the fact that London Mining’s Isua project faces a rather uncertain future after the company went into administration.

The Global Times‘ envoy dates his insights about Greenland to a “recent” visit to that island. He interviewed Aleqa as recently as June 20. Unless he’s been to Nuuk again since then, that means material from that interview has taken four months to surface (to be fair, some already appeared on the People’s Daily on October 10).

There’s also no mention of Chinese interest in Greenland mining, which includes Jiangxi Copper’s exploration activities and China Nonferrous’ interest in rare earth projects.

Opposition leader Sara Olsvig is quoted about the deep impression a 2012 trip to China, that included visits to Tibetan areas in Qinghai, left her. She also “learned a lot from China’s political development”. A more global assessment of Ms Olvig’s interest in Chinese issues might have benefited from a word or two about her 2011 meeting with the prime minister of Tibet‘s government in exile.

More on the Global Times‘ style, with links to discussion elsewhere, in my previous post on one of their articles.

Norway oil piques CNOOC’s curiosity

CNOOC’s subsidiary Nexen has inquired about the price of seismic 2D data for Barents sea sectors to be licensed in 2016, says Bloomberg. The data are being sold by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv already calls this China ‘hunting for Norwegian oil’.

Another CNOOC subsidiary, COSL or China Oilfield Services (中海油服), has been operating rigs in Norway for quite some time. A $150m lawsuit their brought against Statoil, which I wrote about one year ago, was settled last June for less than half that money.

Meanwhile in Iceland, CNOOC’s partner Eykon are saying they might start acquiring seismic data next summer in the sector they own a license for, in the Jan Mayen area.

Last year I wrote a background article on CNOOC in Iceland and elsewhere. By not reading it, you’re missing out on plenty of CNOOC trivia you could enliven dinner parties with this weekend.

Minmetals eyes Greek rare earths

Rare earth elements were talked about during a meeting between Greek PM Antonis Samaras and Li Keqiang 李克强 last week in Milan (Η Καθημερινή). Official Chinese accounts of the meeting seem to make no mention of rare earths or any other mining.

In early September, a Chinese delegation that included Minmetals assistant president Wang Jionghui 王炯辉 visited Greece to discuss cooperation in rare earth exploration. During the visit, Greek environment and energy minister Yannis Maniatis Γιάννης Μανιάτης emphasised the potential of rare earth deposits in Greece, one of a handful of European countries with significant REE reserves. (The others are the Nordic countries, where interest in REE is increasing. An example: Tasman’s Norra Kärr project in southern Sweden.)

Minmetals (五矿) is one of the six fortunate conglomerates the Chinese rare earth industry is being consolidated into.

China has a near-monopoly on rare earth production worldwide, but that is not preventing Chinese companies from starting to look at REE deposits abroad with interest, in places like Australia, South Africa and Vietnam. And Greenland, of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past.

paging Mr Huang

Officials from the local governments behind GáF ehf., a company created to purchase some Icelandic land and lease it to Huang Nubo, would like to know if he’s still interested in it (RÚV). If he’s not, the indebted company doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

They might just go and ask him. I don’t know if he has talked about Iceland in the last few months, but in the past he has been quite outspoken on what he sees as a lack of professionalism and respect towards foreign investors from the Icelandic authorities, while always adding he wants to go on with the project as soon as he’s allowed to.

CNOOC in Iceland: 2D measurements to start next year

Representatives from Chinese oil major CNOOC 中海油 met yesterday with their Jan Mayen license partners, Eykon Energy from Iceland and Petoro, owned by the Norwegian state. Talking to Icelandic TV station Stöð 2, Gunnlaugur Jónsson from Eykon described plans to begin two-dimensional data acquisition by next summer, then three-dimensional measurements two years after that. Drilling platforms could be seen in the area between 2019 and 2021, he added.

Everyone at the meeting was smiling broadly, despite the fact that falling oil prices have been making Arctic oil exploration projects less attractive. Asked about that, Gunnlaugur said he didn’t perceive a diminished enthusiasm.

My blog hosts a long-ish background article about CNOOC and their activities in Iceland. Occasional updates about the Jan Mayen (Drekasvæði) project pop up in it from time to time.

Huang Nubo’s Icelandic landlord-to-be’s numbers in red

Things aren’t going terribly well for GÁF ehf., the company established by a few northern Icelandic municipalities to buy 300 km2 of land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum and lease it to Chinese poet-magnate Huang Nubo. Huang has said he’ll be waiting for a government decision regarding changes in the legal framework for foreign investments. The current legislation is rather restrictive: as a non-EEA entity, Huang’s company is not allowed to buy land in Iceland, and even the maximum duration of a lease would be limited.

Meanwhile, GáF has $76k in debts and local politicians are starting to question the point of staying in a company whose raison d’être looks more and more abstract (Austurfrétt, RÚV).

Huang Nubo responds from within fine-dodger blacklist: those absurd, shifting regulations

“In 2004, we were near a water reservoir outside Hongcun and saw the surroundings were so good that we should make them into a hotel resort.” Everyone at the moment seemed delighted that Zhongkun 中坤 chairman Huang Nubo 黄怒波 fancied the place so much, and the local authorities promptly provided all the approvals to let Zhongkun build a tourist resort there. They started building it, but then a drought came and the reservoir (Lake Qishu 奇墅 in Yi 黟 county, Anhui) was declared a source of drinking water, which implied construction couldn’t proceed on its shores without additional environmental permits. “That would bring a lot of trouble. Just as if we’d already got our marriage certificate and children had been born, and then you suddenly took the certificate away or announced it’s invalid. Tell me, should I go and sue the government?” The new people at the local government are also quite worried about the issue and are trying to think up a way out. Such constant changes to regulations are just “too absurd”.

Huang Nubo was referring, during an interview with Phoenix Finance (凤凰财经), to media reports about the Hongcun resort, which as of last month seemed to be defying a government order to stop operation and construction issued in January. The story first appeared on China Business Journal (中国经营报) in early September, and reached the Nordic news through an article by Ægir Þór Eysteinsson published last week on Icelandic online weekly Kjarninn, a rare case of Nordic media drawing on Chinese-language sources. Since then, it has also spread to Norwegian media, interested in Huang following his purchase of a 100 ha property in Lyngen.

Government sources interviewed for the Chinese article seem to justify Huang’s complaints. The rediscovery of lake Qishu as an important water source in need of environmental protection seems to have happened only in 2009, well after Huang’s project had been approved. Huang is at any rate not alone in noting the unpredicability and fuzziness of Chinese regulations, especially at the local level. Since the tourist resort is already partially in operation, the plan seems to be to pump away any waste it generates so it doesn’t go into the lake, rather than closing it permanently.

Huang doesn’t have anything too specific to say about some other issues, arguably more serious, reported by China Business Journal (and also reflected in the Icelandic and Norwegian articles): that a Zhongkun group company misused misused funds from an ICBC loan, resulting in an investigation by the Huangshan branch of the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC, 中国银行业监督管理委员会). There’s also the allegation that the company’s worth was grossly overreported in order to apply for bank loans. In the Phoenix interview, Huang admits that the CBRC investigation exists, but doesn’t have much to comment beyond assuring that all the funds meant for the Hongcun investment were indeed invested there.

Finally, we have the headline-worthy fact that Huang Nubo and Zhongkun have made it into what I’m calling a ‘fine-dodger blacklist’, and which a loosely Peking University-affiliated legal database more colourfully translates as the “List of Dishonest Persons subject to Enforcement” (失信被执行人名单). The list, published by the Supreme People’s Court since last year, includes people and companies that have failed to honour effective verdicts and Zhongkun and Huang are indeed in it since late July. I found them yesterday on page 2900-something, and today they might have sunk a bit deeper since entries are seemingly added at a rate of over a dozen a day.

Huang’s inclusion in The List is prominently mentioned by the Chinese and Nordic articles, but it had already been making the rounds on the Chinese Internet since at least August.

I often write about Huang Nubo, everybody’s favourite poet-tycoon-mountaineer.