new article: a General Nice backgrounder

While no one seems to be expecting to see much actual mining at the Isua project in Greenland any time soon, I thought its new Chinese owner, General Nice (俊安集团), was worth a closer look, since so little has been written about the company. So I’ve put together a ‘backgrounder’ with highlights from my recent, and not so recent, research on General Nice for everyone to enjoy. Admittedly Isua, an asset which, by all accounts, its new owner plans to simply sit on for the time being, isn’t the hottest topic in the grand scheme of things, but I think the story makes up for that medium-to-low hotness with a flashback to the Shanxi coal rush, with its polluted skies and wild bribing, and a showdown with the ousted ruler of Burkina Faso. Go read the whole thing (still being edited but already up) and confound your fellow dinner-party guests with more General Nice trivia than a barrel of General Nice wine can wash down.

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.

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.

no competition between SOEs for Las Bambas

The much anticipated showdown between the Chinese state’s copper giants bidding for Glencore Xstrata’s Las Bambas site in Peru won’t be happening after all. Or the competition did take place, but in the form of lobbying within state structures. Unnamed sources quoted by Reuters say Chinalco, one of the two top contenders, will not bid for the project, leaving Minmetals as the front runner, presumably with the blessing of the National Development and Reform Commission. Jiangxi Copper, written about in this blog mostly because of their pioneering activities in Greenland, were at some point also said to be bidding for the Peruvian mine, but now it looks like competition between state-owned companies will be prevented. Talk has emerged today of a possible non-Chinese bid, by a group including Newmont and Canada’s Teck Resources. The asset is being sold at all in order for Chinese regulators to approve the takeover of Xstrata by Glencore.

Chinalco, Minmetals bid for Peru copper mine

Peru’s minister of mines Jorge Merino, in China for a few days, is to meet with Chinalco and Minmetals officials. Both companies are bidding to buy Glencore’s Las Bambas copper mine. A third state-owned metals giant, Jiangxi Copper, had also shown interest, though it’s less clear if it’s still being considered. The minister will still meet with them anyway, perhaps to talk about their other activities in the country. Remarkably enough, at least two state-owned Chinese companies are competing for a project, which isn’t often the case.

Glencore has been told by Chinese regulators to dispose of Las Bambas, worth perhaps almost $6bn, as a condition for their approval of the takeover of Xstrata. All three companies already have operations in Peru.

I wrote a few months ago about Jiangxi Copper’s interest in a Greenland mine, a project that isn’t making much news at the moment.