new post: Shock and ore

If you’re looking for an overview of Chinese mining activities in Greenland thorough enough to talk your fellow dinner-party guests into submission, then I know where you can procure one. The University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog has just posted such an overview, titled “Shock and ore“, in which I go over the mining ventures with some degree of Chinese participation, with an emphasis on General Nice, the new owner of the Isua mine.

Eritrean mining official visits Sichuan Road & Bridge

Alem Kibreab, an high-ranking official from Eritrea’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, paid Sichuan Road and Bridge Group a visit last month. SRBG, though primarily builders of roads and bridges, as their name suggests, also have an interest in mining, specifically in Eritrea, a country where they have been active for quite a few years now.

A year ago, they signed an agreement to look for gold and other metals, and now they are talking about a second exploration project with copper as the main ore. SRBG’s is not the first Chinese mining venture in Eritrea: SFECO‘s gold project is much better known.

This blog doesn’t quite have an Eritrean focus. I often talk about SRBG because, in their capacity as bridge builders, they are building the steelwork for Hålogaland bridge in Norway, the first work of Arctic transportation infrastructure with Chinese involvement that I’m aware of.

Jiangxi Nonferrous Exploration Bureau: copper, zinc in Greenland, tantalum, niobium in Ethiopia

The Jiangxi Daily (江西日报) carried a puff piece last week devoted to the aforementioned Bureau (江西有色地质勘查局), who have been exploring for copper, zinc and lead at Jiangxi Copper’s Wegener Halvø site, near Ittoqqortoormiit in eastern Greenland since 2011. The article also mentions the Bureau’s activities in tantalium and niobium exploration, both domestically and in Shakiso, Ethiopia, where a company from Jiangxi (or a duplet of closely connected companies, viz. King-Tan/Kingtai/Jingtai 江西景泰钽业有限公司 and ZCXC/Zhicheng 江西智诚新材料科技有限公司) has been active for some time.

There is both tantalum and niobium in Greenland, e.g. at Ram Resources‘ Motzfeldt Sø project in the south, at NunaMinerals’ Qeqertaasaq rare earth + Nb project near Nuuk, where Korean state-owned miner KORES (한국광물자원공사) has already shown interest, and in Kap Simpson, in an area where Czech company CGRG holds an exploration license, just across from Jiangxi Copper’s Wegener Halvø project. China has a high demand for tantalum and niobium, and Chinese companies have been acquiring stakes in Ta/Nb mines abroad, so it would make sense for them to look for it in Greenland as well.

I’ve written about Jiangxi Copper’s Greenland project, in a longish article last year, then in an update two months ago.

Minmetals finally gets Las Bambas

China’s state-owned Minmetals has finally bought the Las Bambas copper mine in Peru for just short of $6bn. The asset, that could become the world’s third copper mine in a couple of years, had to be sold to get Chinese regulatory approval for Glencore’s takeover of Xstrata, Las Bambas’ owner up to now. There had been talk at some point of an almost unheard-of competition for the mine between Minmetals, Chinalco and even Jiangxi Copper, but the issue was resolved within Chinese state structures and only Minmetals was left to bid unopposed.

Greenland’s deputy foreign minister in China

Greenland’s deputy FM Kai Holm Andersen and Denmark’s Arctic ambassador are ending a three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai “to explore possibilities for more cooperation with China”. Mr Andersen made all the right sounds about cooperation in all sort of areas, from culture and education to the presumably more pressing investment in natural resources, between two peoples with “the same ethnic roots“.

Mr Andersen isn’t featured often enough in Chinese media to have a stable Chinese name yet. There’s still some hesitation between Antusheng 安徒生 (as in Hans Christian Andersen) and Andesen 安德森 (as in Chris Andersen).

He mentioned talks with two Chinese mining companies, one of them a copper miner from Jiangxi. Assuming he means Jiangxi Copper, the talking has been going on since 2009 and actual exploration activities started almost three years ago.

update on Jiangxi Copper’s Greenland project

The latest newsletter from the Danish and Greenlandic geological survey (GEUS) informs that the exploration license for Jiangxi Copper’s Wegener Halvø site, near Carlsberg Fjord on Greenland’s eastern coast, has been renewed.

Public information about this project typically doesn’t mention Jiangxi Copper by name. In the present case, the 2007 license is said to have been renewed by China-Nordic Mining Ltd (中國北歐礦業有限公司), a Hong Kong company established in 2011, i.e. four years after getting their Greenland license. The license had originally been awarded to London-based Nordic Mining Ltd, which had no known Chinese participation until one of its directors travelled to China in 2009 in search of potential investors. The project attracted enough attention for an influential government think tank to actively tout it to state-owned companies as relevant to the country’s search for natural resources abroad. The involvement of a large company such as Jiangxi Copper was initially not openly publicised: Chinese press enquiries about the background of Jiangxi Zhongrun, at one time a vehicle of Chinese participation in the Carlsberg project, were rejected as veering into the “extremely sensitive“; an interview request from Greenlandic journalists was refused outright. Jiangxi Copper’s participation, talked about since 2009, was reported by Chinese government sources in 2011, then in Greenland some time later (notably after minister Jens-Erik Kierkegaard‘s visit to Jiangxi last November).

On a month-old Greenland government page, the current license holder for the project, HK-based China-Nordic Mining, appears with a C/O address at Jiangxi Zhongrun in Nanchang, the provincial capital. Little has been made known about this Zhongrun: it has been called a “well-known real estate company”, a “private company”, a “genuine” mining company; at any rate, contact data provided for some of these companies point to Wang Suji 王苏吉, a Jiangxi businessman with various interests which indeed include real estate. Mr Wang has of late become a shareholder in Nordic Mining, the British company originally awarded the license (I wrote about the people behind Nordic Mining in my article on the Carlsberg project last year).