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Friday, March 25, 2011

Iron ore exports via Australia’s Port Hedland down 16 percent in Feb from Jan

Fri, 25March 2011 17:42:44 (GMT+2)

In February this year, iron ore shipments from Australia's Port Hedland decreased 1.45 percent year on year and were down 16.19 percent month on month, totaling 12.85 million metric tons, according to Port Hedland Port Authority.

According to the released information, iron ore shipments made from Port Hedland to China amounted to 9.03 million metric tons in February, increasing by 3.54 percent year on year and down 9.37 percent as compared to January. In February, iron ore exports to China accounted for 70.3 percent of total iron ore exports from Port Hedland, compared to 67 percent in February 2010.

South Korea was the second largest export destination for iron ore shipments from Port Hedland in February, with shipments totaling 1.53 million metric tons - up 10.52 percent year on year and down by 5.67 percent over January. Japan imported 1.47 million metric tons of iron ore from Port Hedland in February, decreasing by 24 percent year on year and down 48 percent month on month.

Port Hedland handles production from mines owned by BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron in the iron ore-rich Pilbara region of Western Australia. (steelorbis)

China says finds high radiation on two Japanese travellers

Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:27am GMT

BEIJING, March 25 (Reuters) - China said on Friday that two Japanese travellers who arrived in east China by air were found to have radiation levels "seriously exceeding limits" when they entered the country on Wednesday.

"Tests showed that the two travelers seriously exceeded the limit," the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said, referring to radiation levels.

The agency's statement said the two travellers were given medical treatment and presented no radiation risk to others.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Chris Buckley, Reuters)

Portuguese debt rating downgraded by Fitch

Fri,Mar25, 2011 11:24:53

LISBON, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Fitch credit rating agency Thursday downgraded Portuguese debt to A- from A+, saying risks to the country's economy rose after the parliament failed to pass an austerity measure and the prime minister stepped down.

According to the rating agency, Portugal can no longer afford to maintain market access to refinance its sovereign debt this year. The Portuguese banks will face a peak in their refinancing needs of about 45 billion U.S. dollars in April.

Wednesday's decision at the parliament has led to a record high of the Portuguese yield. The interest rate of Portuguese 5-year bonds climbed to 8.339 percent in the secondary market Thursday, and 10-year bonds rose to 7.695 percent, reaching a record high since the country entered the eurozone.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned Wednesday night after the country's parliament voted against his new round of austerity measures aimed at reducing a high budget deficit to avoid a bailout.

The Portuguese government announced a series of adjustment measures during the past year to underline its commitment to reducing its budget deficit from 7.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 4.6 percent in 2011.


41 killed, 48 injured in Myanmar quake so far: state TV

Fri Mar25, 2011 13:20:15

YANGON, March 25 (Xinhua) -- A total of 41 people have so far been killed with 48 injured in a strong quake that struck Myanmar' s northeastern Shan state Thursday night, the state TV reported in a breaking news Friday.

A total of 244 houses, 14 monasteries and 9 government department buildings were destroyed, the report said.

Relief measures are being taken by the state with rescue team rushing to the scene, the report added.

A strong earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale jolted Loimwe, 56 kilometers southeast of Kengtung in northeastern Myanmar on Thursday night at 20:29:30 hours local time (13:69 GMT).

The quake's epicenter was about 10 kilometers underground and in the hills of Myanmar bordering Thailand and Laos.

The quake was followed by six after-shocks until Friday morning. Editor: Zhang Xiang, Xinhua

Iron Ore-Spot prices tick up on slow Chinese buying

Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:25am GMT

* Chinese mills restock on iron ore at slow pace
* Shanghai rebar futures steady
* BHP details $9.5 bln iron ore, coal expansion plan

By Manolo Serapio Jr

SINGAPORE, March 25 (Reuters) - Spot iron ore prices edged up on Friday as some Chinese mills restocked the steelmaking ingredient, but purchases were far from brisk given lacklustre steel prices.

Steelmakers in China, the world's biggest steel market, had slowed iron ore purchases after aggressive stockpiling early this year lifted prices to record highs in mid-February.

Iron ore prices have lost around 13 percent since hitting those peaks last month.

"Chinese mills have kept production at a high level and they've run down on iron ore inventories quite dramatically to the point where they now have to come back to the market and buy," said Graeme Train, commodity analyst at Macquarie Securities in Shanghai.

"The problem is that mills don't want to commit to a large amount of tonnage when steel prices are not performing very well, so it seems like you've hit a bit of stabilisation and it's a bit tricky for prices to fall because mills have to buy."

The most active October contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was steady at 4,716 yuan a tonne by the midday break.

The contract is down 0.8 percent on week, having fallen to four-month lows on Tuesday.

Offers for Indian ore with 63.5 percent iron content improved to $171-$173 a tonne, including freight, on Friday, said Chinese consultancy Mysteel, from $170-$172 for most of this week.

The Steel Index's 62 percent iron ore benchmark .IO62-CNI=SI rose 0.5 percent to $166.40 a tonne on Thursday, while other indexes were steady.

Platts 62 percent index IODBZ00-PLT stood at $168.50, unchanged for a fifth straight session, and Metal Bulletin's 62 percent index .IO62-CNO=MB was nearly flat at $164.92.


Iron ore prices are likely to stabilise at current levels unless Chinese steel demand picks up strongly, analysts said, while market players assess the impact on steel demand from a reconstruction in disaster-hit Japan.

Japan's steel mills were largely unscathed after the ferocious March 11 earthquake and tsunami and production disruptions would likely mean a total volume loss of 10 million tonnes for 2011, said Colin Liang, analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

That represents 9 percent of the 109.6 million tonnes of crude steel Japan made last year. Japan is the world's second-largest steel producer after China.

"Iron ore prices should be going up. Steel demand seems fine, it's not exciting but not collapsing either and production is at a reasonably high level," said Macquarie's Train.

"But because credit is a bit of an issue, people are not forward ordering a lot of material, they're not willing to build up their own inventory and that's taken some of the urgency out of purchasing and as a result you're just not seeing any real movement in prices at the moment," he added.

China has been tightening monetary policy and restricting credit to cool growth.

Further gains in iron ore forward swaps <0#sgxios:> suggested some players remain upbeat, with all 24 contracts through February 2013 edging up, and big gains seen for the nearby second-quarter period.

In industry news, BHP Billiton , the world's No. 3 iron ore producer, said it has approved $9.5 billion of capital investment to expand its Australian iron ore and coal mining operations.

"The big risk that hangs over the iron ore market is when you look at 2013, 2014 and all of the supply that's expected to come online following a lot of these capital expenditures," said Ben Westmore, commodity economist at National Australia Bank.

Spot iron ore prices, which gained more than 40 percent in 2010, are likely to remain high until new supply comes in.

Global seaborne supply of iron ore has been increasing by 20 million to 40 million tonnes in recent years, but production expansion plans by global miners could boost annual supply by around 100 million tonnes from late 2012 to early 2013, analysts have said.(sourced Reuters)

Tags : raw material, steel plants,

Brazil pressure on miner Vale stirs political storm

Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:28pm GMT

* Opposition slams government for meddling in Vale
* Could harm Rousseff's market-friendly image
* Gov't says Vale not helping develop economy

By Raymond Colitt and Brian Ellsworth

BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO, March 24 (Reuters) - Brazil's government is facing a political backlash over its apparent efforts to force out the head of mining giant Vale, a case that renews concerns over state meddling in private companies.

Opposition leaders on Thursday demanded Finance Minister Guido Mantega explain reports he asked a shareholder of Vale, the world's largest iron ore miner, to help seek a replacement for CEO Roger Agnelli.

The incident could tarnish President Dilma Rousseff's mostly market-friendly image earned during her first three months in office through strict fiscal discipline and defense of central bank autonomy.

"She believes in a big, strong government and has issues with Agnelli. I have no doubt this pressure is coming directly from Dilma," said Jose Luciano Dias, a Brasilia-based political analyst.

According to government sources, Mantega had approached Brazilian bank Bradesco, a key Vale shareholder, to request help replacing Agnelli with another CEO.

Vale, the government and Bradesco officially declined to comment. Vale's top executives will tender their resignations if Agnelli leaves, according to a company source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Relations between the government and Vale have been tense for years as politicians complained Vale was not doing enough to create jobs by investing in steel production and was not sufficiently involved in the country's economic development.

Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who championed the revival of Brazil's shipbuilding industry, was also upset with Agnelli because he bought foreign-made vessels.


Agnelli, 51, a former banker, has further aggravated government officials in recent weeks with his tough stance over a mining royalties debt the government says could reach $2.4 billion.

He may benefit in the short term from having politicians rush to his defense, analysts say, but in the long-run government pressure on Vale will remain because state pension funds are major shareholders.

Most investors believe Vale's strong iron ore project pipeline and low operating costs make it attractive despite the political risks.

They have hailed Agnelli for turning the firm into a global mining giant and the world's top iron ore producer, but the country's top political leaders never forgave him for laying off workers and cutting investments in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Opposition leaders say Mantega's move foreshadows a government takeover of the former state-run firm, which was privatized in 1997.

"This creates the risk of devaluing Brazil's largest private company, we can't allow it to become a government slush fund," said Senator Cyro Miranda, who filed the petition to hear Mantega. "Even government legislators are worried and want to know what is going on."

The government cannot directly push Agnelli out of office, but it indirectly holds a majority stake in the company's controlling shareholder Valepar via state pension funds and the state development bank BNDES.

The company's board of directors can decide whether or not to change the CEO. Analysts say the government would need the support of one of the two other main shareholders of the company, Bradesco or Japanese trading house Mitsui. (sourced:Reuters)

BHP outlines $9.5 bln expansion plans in iron ore, coal

Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:53pm GMT

* $6.6 bln invested in WA iron ore operations

* $2.5 bln invested in Bowen Basin coal site

* $400 mln invested in Hunter Valley coal site (Adds background, details)

LONDON/MELBOURNE, March 25 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton said it has approved $9.5 billion of capital investments to expand Australian iron ore and coal mining projects, in the first details the global miner has given of a planned $80 billion in investments over five years.

The world's biggest miner has decided to expand its own operations and infrastructure rather than chase ambitious takeovers, after three failed takeover bids, as it scrambles to meet rising demand from Asia.

For a factbox on investments

The top global miner said it would invest $6.6 billion in a total investment of $7.4 billion to continue production growth in the company's western Australian iron ore operations.

Investment will include the development of the Jimblebar mine, rail links and additional berths and ship loaders at its Port Hedland site.

BHP said it had also approved three key metallurgical coal projects at its Bowen Basin site in Queensland.

BHP will put in $2.5 billion of the total $5 billion investment, which will see the new Daunia mine developed, its Broadmeadow mine's life extended by 21 years and the stage three expansion of its Hay Point coal terminal.

In a third statement, the company said it had approved a $400 million investment to expand Hunter Valley Energy Coal in New South Wales with a view to increasing production.

The three announcements are the first in the company's planned $80 billion expansion plans announced last month, as it posted a near doubling of first-half profits to $10.7 billion.

BHP has ditched three major deals in the past three years, including its $39 billion bid for top global fertiliser maker Potash Corp last year, mainly on regulatory concerns.

Shares in the company closed up 1.4 percent in London, before the company's statements were issued.

BHP says no date for iron ore expansion to 240 mln tonnes

Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:41pm GMT

MELBOURNE, March 25 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton ferrous and coal chief Marcus Randolph told a media briefing that no date has been set for expanding its Western Australia iron ore expansion to 240 million tonnes.

(sourced :Reuters)

Group urges US not to implement WTO loss to China

Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:26pm GMT

* US should explore other options in case, group says
* Those include negotiations, paying compensation (Adds U.S. trade official comment)

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - The United States should refuse to implement a World Trade Organization ruling that would weaken its ability to use countervailing duty laws against subsidized goods from China, a coalition of labor and business groups said on Thursday.

"In a series of increasingly alarming decisions over the past decade by the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, the application of the United States trade remedy laws to offset unfair trade has repeatedly been struck down," the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws said in a statement.

The most recent decision on March 11 undercuts the United States' ability to use countervailing duties to offset Chinese subsidies, and the committee "calls on the U.S. government to decline to implement this report," the group said.

The ruling goes beyond internationally negotiated disciplines on the use of countervailing duties, Gilbert Kaplan, the group's president, said in an interview.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the decision appeared "to be a clear case of overreaching by the Appellate Body" and U.S. officials repeated on Thursday they were "deeply disappointed" with core elements of the ruling.

Kirk's office and the Commerce Department are evaluating the practical implications of the report and "the best approach to take going forward to ensure continued, effective enforcement of U.S. trade laws," a U.S. trade official said.

U.S. lawmakers also have criticized the ruling, which they said would make it hard for the United States to fight the trade-distorting effects of China's state capitalism.

Rather than simply implement the decision by changing U.S. trade remedy laws, the United States should "look at the whole range of options," Kaplan said.

Those include trying to negotiate an agreement with China that would allow the United States to maintain current practices or potentially paying China some compensation to keep the practices in place, he said.

The appellate body's March 11 decision involved cases in which the United States applied countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties on goods from China.

Countervailing duties are applied to offset government subsidies. Anti-dumping duties are used on goods sold in the United States at less than fair market value.

Until the mid-2000s, the United States only applied anti-dumping duties against China on the grounds that it was too difficult to calculate subsidies in a non-market economy.

The administration of former President George W. Bush changed that policy. However, it continued to treat China like a non-market economy in other regards.

The appellate body upheld China's argument that it was being hit with illegal "double remedies" in cases involving steel pipes, tires and woven sacks.

The panel also angered U.S. policymakers by rejecting Washington's position that certain enterprises majority-owned by the government of China are "public bodies" capable of providing subsidies.

Australia's QR National approves coal freight line expansion

Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:40pm GMT

SYDNEY, March 25 (Reuters) - Australian rail freight firm QR National said on Friday it had approved A$185 million to expand its Goonyella rail network to support the expansion of the Hay Point Coal Terminal in Mackay, Queensland state.

The expansion of Goonyella, the largest single export coal network in Australia, will support BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's port project and will come on line in early 2014, QR National said in a statement on Friday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

POSCO lifts sales target on Japan order

Thu,Mar24, 2011 |Source:Reuters

South Korea's top steelmaker POSCO said on Thursday it had revised its sales volume target up by 1 million tonnes and will raise output to meet orders from clients in disaster-hit Japan.

Hwang Eun-Yeon, executive vice president at POSCO, also told the Reuters Global Mining and Steel Summit that the world's third largest steelmaker is finding it hard to fully pass on USD 160-USD 180 per tonne of increased costs to clients in the second quarter.

"We are aiming to meet the requests (from Japan) by raising output, although we cannot meet all," Hwang said, adding that it aims to sell more than 35 million tonnes of steel products this year from its previous target of 34 million tonnes.

South Korea's top steelmaker expects to receive a minimum of 1.5 million tonnes of steel requests from Japanese clients this year after Japan's worst quake on record, Hwang said.

Japanese steel mill Nippon Steel, JFE Steel and Sumitomo Metal Industries said on Tuesday that their quake-hit furnaces were resuming operations after being hit by March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Shares of Korean steelmakers including POSCO, whose leading shareholders include Berkshire Hathaway Inc, rallied after the quake, on expectations that they would benefit from reduced shipments from Japan at home and the Asian markets.

Shares of POSOC closed 0.4% lower at 497,500 won on Thursday, underperforming the broader market.

Hard to fully pass on cost rise to clients

Asked how much and when POSCO would raise prices, Hwang said: "We need to raise steel prices by 200,000 won (USD 178.3) per tonne due to rising costs, but I don't think we can raise that much." POSCO is considering lifting prices in early or middle part of April-June period, he added.

Analysts ranged POSCO's possible price hikes at 100,000 won through 150,000 won, while Hwang said "100,000 won was too low."

Lee Won-jae, an analyst at SK Securities, said: "Even if POSCO were to raise more than 100,000 won, it would be difficult to maintain such prices due to the gap with imports from Japan and China. The domestic market is driven by buyers, not sellers."

POSCO has held local steel prices flat since it hiked in June 2010 for third-quarter sales. For the October-December quarter last year, POSCO posted lower-than-expected profit because of its failure to pass on surging costs to customers.

South Korea's second-largest steelmaker Hyundai Steel said on Tuesday it needs to hike major steel product prices no later than early April. Two leading Chinese steelmakers increased prices for the third month in a row for March, before keeping them unchanged for April.

Hwang said Asia's steel demand is seen healthy, driven by expected demand as Japan moves to repair quake-related damages, adding that China's recent efforts to tame inflation through tighter monetary policy were "not too worrisome."

"The quake dampens Japan's steel demand in the short term, but eventually the demand will jump because a large amount of industrial materials are in need for reconstruction," he said.
Tags: POSCO, steelmaker, South Korea, Japan, Hwang Eun-Yeon

EURO GOVT-Portuguese yields hit records as bailout chance grows

Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:11am EDT
* Irish margin hike, Spain bank downgrade add to periphery woes * Wider contagion limited for now; Spain, Italy hold up

By Kirsten Donovan

LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - Portugal's government bond yields hit new highs on Thursday after parliament rejected new austerity measures and the prime minister resigned, increasing expectations that Lisbon will need a bailout sooner rather than later. Heaping more misery on the euro zone's periphery, Moody's cut the ratings of 30 Spanish Banks and clearing house LCH.Clearnet raised the margin it charges on Irish government bonds.

All this comes before a European Union summit on Thursday and Friday that had been expected to draw a line under the region's woes but now looks increasingly unlikely to make major progress.

Portuguese PM Jose Socrates quit after Parliament rejected his government's latest austerity measures, adding to uncertainty with the country already widely expected to need financial assistance.

"The wild card here is the European Central Bank. If they don't get involved then you want to be short Portuguese bonds, but if they do start buying bonds in the current thin market then you're going to get hurt very quickly if you're short," said Nomura rate strategist Sean Maloney.

Portuguese borrowing costs -- with 10-year yields now above 7.9 percent and 5-year yields at 8.5 percent -- are seen as unsustainable, but the country faces 4.8 billion euros of bond repayments in April followed by 6.95 billion euros in June, according to Reuters data.

Rabobank strategist Richard McGuire calculates that Lisbon must still raise a further 1.45 billion euros to meet the first redemptions and almost 10 billion euros to fund itself through to the end of June.

An EU source said on Thursday that Portugal was unlikely to ask for a financial bailout package during the summit although it could not be ruled out.

RBS analysts said accessing emergency funding would see Portugal's ratings cut to the triple-B level, while bond yields would likely converge to Irish levels.

"Countries at the begging bowl of the IMF/EFSF over many years cannot be assumed to remain compliant (with requirements), and so the default risk assessment will remain surprisingly high for a surprisingly long time."

The uncertainty gave German Bunds an early bid with June futures FGBLc1 at one point up as much as 44 ticks at 122.74 but emerging buyers of Spanish and Italian paper -- suggesting a wider peripheral blowout was unlikely -- calmed the safe-haven bid leaving Bund futures flat on the day around 122.30.

"People were bearish at the open on the Portugal story but the reality is that that's been touted for the last few days and the fact they need a bailout isn't new, so maybe some people look to take profit on the initial knee-jerk reaction," a trader said.

Two-year German bond yields DE2YT=TWEB were 3 basis points lower at 1.668 percent, with 10-year yields DE10YT=TWEB down half a basis point at 3.23 percent.

Irish bonds also remained under pressure ahead of an EU summit which is unlikely to renegotiate the terms of the country's international bailout.

But Spanish and Italian paper held up well on Wednesday and outperformed other peripherals on Thursday, suggesting wider contagion remains limited for now.

The Credit default swap curves show how investors are currently pricing in different scenarios for Spain and Portugal, with the Spanish curve retaining a "normal" shape but the Portuguese curve peaking around the 3-year mark.

Commerzbank strategist Marcel Bross said the crucial issue for Spain, Italy and Belgium now is whether the EU will take decisions that will keep the risks in Greece, Ireland and Portugal from spilling over.

"We feel that the spread tightening leg in large peripherals is still intact and expect the de-coupling trend of Greece, Ireland and Portugal from large peripherals to continue."

However, EU leaders also look set to disappoint investors by delaying any approval of a beefed-up euro zone rescue fund till June. (sourced :Reuters)

Tags : German Bunds, debt crisis, RBS analysts, triple-B, EU summit, Rabobank

Japan's radioactive water crisis spreads, panic-buying depletes bottled water supplies

Thu Mar 24, 2011 16:33:13

TOKYO, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Japanese authorities on Thursday detected rising levels of radioactive iodine at water purification facilities near Tokyo and officials have advised that tap water should not be given to infants to drink in the affected areas, sparking panic-buying of already scarce bottled water.

Local officials in Tokyo's neighboring Chiba Prefecture said they detected around 220 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per liter in the city of Matsudo's water supply on Wednesday.

The recommended maximum limit is 100 becquerels per liter for children under 1 year of age, and 300 becquerels for adults.

Radioactive iodine levels found at another purification plants in the region were also nearly double the recommended safe limit for infants at 180 becquerels per liter, the officials said.

Also bordering the Tokyo metropolitan area, local officials at the city of Kawaguchi in Saitama Prefecture said radioactive iodine rose to 120 becquerels per liter of water at its purification plant on Tuesday.

Following levels of iodine spiking to 210 becquerels on Tuesday at a purification plant serving the greater Tokyo area located in the Kanamachi district of the city, the Tokyo metropolitan government urged that tap water not be given to infants in the city's 23 wards and five surrounding cities.

But on Thursday levels of radioactivity dropped to 79 becquerels at the purification facility and the advisory against drinking tap water was dropped.

As authorities have also detected radioactive iodine in water supplies at levels between 103 and 245 becquerels, spanning from Ichikawa and Funabashi, to Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures, panic-buying of bottled water has become rampant and threatened to deplete supplies.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Thursday began dishing out some 240,000, half-liter bottles of water to families with infants, with a three-bottle limit per-infant being applied by the government.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference that the government will ask makers to increase their output of bottled water, whilst hinting that the government may call for emergency imports of bottled water to deal with the rise in demand and people hoarding large supplies.

Edano, Japan's top government spokesperson, on Thursday said that the levels of radioactive iodine found in Tokyo's water supply on Thursday were not harmful to the health of humans if ingested and called for the public, particularly those without infants, to stop panic-buying and draining the nation's dwindling supplies.

As fear of radioactive contamination has spread following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippling a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, 240 km northeast of Tokyo, the government has also started monitoring soil, seawater and air around the plant to evaluate the pollution and its impact on agricultural and fishery products.

A number of countries including South Korea, Singapore and the U.S. have imposed tough restrictions on food imports from Japan, with some countries opting for wholesale bans on vegetables, fruit, milk and milk products having found levels of radiation in the produce that far exceed legal limits.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned imports of dairy products and vegetables from the vicinity of the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and Japan's National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations halted shipments of potentially contaminated produce in the region earlier in the week.

Tags : imports of bottled water, demand and supply, U.S.halts Japan's food imports,

Mining giants eye China's west for future growth

Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:40am GMT

March 24 (Reuters) - The world's biggest iron ore producers are looking to China's undeveloped western regions for future growth as steel output on the country's thriving eastern coast nears its peak.

Speaking at a Metal Bulletin conference in Beijing, mining executives said the industrialisation and urbanisation of western regions like Xinjiang will need soaring volumes of steel and keep Chinese demand for imported ore at high levels.

"Global iron ore demand for the foreseeable future is strongly driven by China," said Sam Walsh, iron ore director with Rio Tinto , the world's second-biggest iron ore producer.

"Steel use in high-intensity export-dominated cities like Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing is already at the high levels of developed markets like South Korea, but what is truly remarkable is what is yet to come -- inland provinces are just beginning to climb the steel intensity curve," Walsh said.

Government efforts to redress the west-east income gap through intensive infrastructure construction will drive demand, he said, adding that per capita steel consumption in western and central regions was still not even half that of coastal regions.

Luiz Meriz, China president of Brazil's Vale , the world's top iron ore producer, said on Tuesday that rumours of a slowdown in Chinese iron ore demand over the next few years were greatly exaggerated.

"Steel intensity (the amount produced per unit of GDP) varies per region and it is still very low in western China, though it might have peaked in east coastal regions," he said.

He said steel output in the east could peak by 2015, but growth in central and western regions would continue, adding that China's current 46 percent urbanisation rate was expected to grow 1 percent every year until it reaches 70 percent.

Annual seaborne iron ore trade has more than doubled in the last 10 years to around 1 billion tonnes, driven primarily by demand from China's steel industry, by far the world's biggest.

The surge has prompted global mining giants to expand capacity, with Vale aiming to raise output to 522 million tonnes by 2015, up from 311 million tonnes last year and Rio planning an increase of more than 100 million tonnes by investing big in its Pilbara property and its Simandou project in Guinea.

Official figures show that China imported 618.6 million tonnes of iron ore in 2010, down 1.43 percent from the 2009 record, and the industry predicts a 6 percent increase in imports this year.

However, steel industry consultants MEPS said in a research report this week that Chinese demand is being underestimated to the tune of 118 million tonnes over the next two years.

MEPS said analysts have been misled by China's official steel output figures, which could have been under-reported by as much as 47 million tonnes last year as mills tried to evade tough energy restrictions. (sourced:Reuters)

Eleven killed, two missing after NE China coal mine explosion

Thu Mar 24, 2011 16:23:26 |

CHANGCHUN, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A coal mine explosion in northeast China's Jilin Province on Thursday morning left 11 people dead, six injured and two missing, local authorities said Thursday.

(Editor: An )

SAfrica's Transnet ups coal line tariffs by 26-30 pct

Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:10am GMT

JOHANNESBURG, March 24 (Reuters) - South Africa's rail and logistics group Transnet [TRAN.UL] said on Thursday it would raise tariffs on its rail line used to transport coal to the export terminal at Richards Bay by up to 30 percent.

"The export coal rail tariffs will be raised by between 26-30 percent. The tariff increases will be effective from March 26," spokesman Sandile Simelane said in an emailed response to questions. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, Editing by Olivia Kumwenda, Reuters)

Tags : raw material, power station coal, Asian coal market, Africa coal

GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro, crude ease on Portugal debt worries

Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:50am GMT

* Portugal bailout appears likely after PM resigns

* Nikkei down 0.2 percent, MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.9 percent

* U.S. stocks rise modestly on back of base metals gains

* Euro falls below $1.41, yen sits around 81 per dollar

* Oil eases 0.2-0.3 percent, gold steady near record (Fixes format of bullet point)

By Alex Richardson

SINGAPORE, March 24 (Reuters) - The euro fell and oil eased on Thursday after Portugal's prime minister resigned following parliament's rejection of his minority government's austerity programme, renewing worries about the scale of the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis.

Asian stocks outside Japan rose as higher commodities prices lifted materials shares, but Tokyo shares weakened as concerns over radiation leaks from an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant continued to sap investor confidence.

European shares were expected to open little changed as uncertainty over Portugal, Japan and the Middle East gave investors little incentive to stake out fresh positions, while U.S. S&P 500 futures barely budged, pointing to a cautious start on Wall Street as well.

The resignation of Prime Minister Jose Socrates was seen as increasing the likelihood that Portugal will join Greece and Ireland in requiring a bailout from the European Union.

An official euro zone source estimated in January that if Portugal asked for international aid, it might need between 60 billion to 80 billion euros (up to $113 billion).

"Whether there will be a bailout for Portugal or not has some consequences on how things will pan out in Europe. Risks in the euro-zone seem to be increasing," said Serene Lim, a Singapore-based oil analyst at ANZ Bank.

Tokyo's Nikkei fell 0.2 percent. It remains 8 percent below its close on March 11, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan, leaving around 25,600 people dead or missing and cutting power to millions of homes as well as factories, many of which are still struggling to come back online.

The estimated $300 billion in damage makes it the costliest natural disaster in history, and Japan is still grappling with the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl after the quake and tsunami crippled a power plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

"We are unlikely to see further gains in the near future, unless there's an end to the nuclear crisis in sight," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities.

Disruptions in the global supply chain after the Japan quake continue to be felt around the world, most notably for auto makers and electronics firms. Toyota Motor said overnight it will slow some North American production because of parts shortages.

MSCI's measure of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.9 percent, with Australia's resources-heavy index gaining 1 percent after a rally in prices of base metals such as copper the previous day.

Gains for materials shares lifted Wall Street on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 0.6 percent and the broader S&P 500 gaining 0.3 percent.


The political upheaval in Portugal, along with looming elections elsewhere, was expected to deter European leaders from taking tough decisions to address the region's sovereign debt crisis when they meet at a summit this week.

They are unlikely to come up with a plan to strengthen the euro zone's bailout fund until June, which may also undermine the single currency.

"If the EU leaders fail to come up with measures to enhance the safety net that markets have wanted in their summit meeting, the euro could face further pressure down the road," said Sumino Kamei, senior currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

The euro bought around $1.4085 , having dropped as far as $1.4075 on electronic trading platform EBS in late New York trade on Wednesday.

The yen sat near 81 per dollar, a level it has hugged tightly in recent days with markets still wary of further central bank intervention to curb the Japanese currency if it strengthens past 80.50.

Leading central banks launched the first coordinated market intervention in more than a decade last week to reverse a run that had seen the yen hit a record 76.25 on expectations Japan -- a net creditor to the rest of the world -- would see a wave of funds being repatriated to pay for earthquake reconstruction.

Japanese government bonds rose, with benchmark 10-year futures up 0.19 point, while the 10-year yield eased 1.5 basis points to 1.2 percent.

Oil eased as the euro zone concerns rekindled worries about economic growth -- and hence energy demand -- in the bloc, although traders said continued political unrest in parts of the Middle East would prevent it from falling far.

U.S. crude fell 0.3 percent to $105.48 a barrel and Brent crude was off 0.2 percent at $115.35.

Spot gold traded around $1,437.90 an ounce, in sight of its record $1,444.40 set earlier in the month. ($1 = 0.707 Euros) (Editing by Kim Coghill,sourced:Reuters)

Radiation scare sparks run on bottled water in Tokyo

Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:09am GMT
* Contamination fears spread in Japan and beyond
* Disaster damage estimated at $300 billion
* U.S., Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore restrict food imports
* Engineers battle to stabilise Fukushima reactors

By Chizu Nomiyama and Kazunori Takada

TOKYO, March 24 (Reuters) - Stores in Tokyo were running out of bottled water on Thursday after radiation from a damaged nuclear complex briefly made tap water unsafe for babies, while
more nations curbed imports of Japanese food.

Engineers are trying to stabilise a six-reactor nuclear plant in Fukushima, 250 km (150 miles) north of the capital, nearly two weeks after an earthquake and tsunami battered the plant and devastated northeast Japan, leaving nearly 26,000 people dead or missing.

Tokyo's 13 million residents were told not to give tap water to babies under 1 year old after contamination hit twice the safety level this week. But it dropped back to allowable amounts
on Thursday.

Despite government appeals against panic, supermarkets and stores sold out of bottled water.

"Customers ask us for water. But there's nothing we can do," said Masayoshi Kasahara, a store clerk at a supermarket in a residential area of eastern Tokyo. "We are asking for more
deliveries but we don't know when the next shipment will come." Radiation above safety levels has also been found in milk and vegetables from Fukushima, where the stricken nuclear plant is located on the Pacific coast.

Singapore and Australia joined the United States and Hong Kong in restricting food and milk imports from the zone, while Canada became the latest of many nations to tighten screening
after the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.

Radiation particles have been found as far away as Iceland, although Japan insists levels are not dangerous to adults.

The contamination scare after the catastrophe of March 11 is adding to Japan's most testing time since World War Two.

The estimated $300 billion damage from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami makes it the world's costliest natural disaster, dwarfing Japan's 1995 Kobe quake and Hurricane
Katrina, which swept through New Orleans in 2005.

In Japan's devastated north more than a quarter of a million people are in shelters. Some elderly refugees, among an ageing population, have died from cold and lack of medicines.

Exhausted and traumatised rescuers are still sifting through the mud and wreckage where towns and villages once stood.

The official death toll from the disaster has risen to 9,523, but is bound to rise as 16,094 people are still missing.

Amid the suffering, though, there was a sense that Japan was turning the corner in its humanitarian crisis. Aid flowed to refugees, and phone, electricity, postal and bank services began returning to the north, sometimes by makeshift means.

"Things are getting much better," said 57-year-old Tsutomu Hirayama, staying with his family at an evacuation centre in Ofunato. "For the first two or three days, we had only one rice ball and water for each meal. I thought, how long is this going to go on? Now we get lots of food, it's almost like luxury."

In other cheering news, a baby dolphin was rescued in a rice field after the tsunami dumped it there. Locals wrapped it in wet towels before taking it back to the sea.

Aftershocks are still coming, though, sending shudders through many Japanese. Several shook Tokyo on Thursday.

Admiration for Nuclear Workers

At the Fukushima plant, where the worst nuclear drama is playing out since Chernobyl in 1986, technicians have successfully attached power cables to all six reactors and started a pump at one to cool overheating fuel rods.

Nearly 300 engineers, fast becoming national heroes for braving danger inside an evacuation zone, are fighting to cool fuel rods at the plant's reactors.

They resumed work on Thursday at the No.3 reactor, considered the most critical, after a one-day suspension when black smoke was seen rising, Kyodo news agency said. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is trying to re-start systems to keep the fuel cool and prevent further radiation leaks or a complete meltdown, the nightmare scenario.

Japan urged the world not to overreact to the radiation precautions, and plenty of experts appeared to back that up.

Jim Smith, of Britain's University of Portsmouth, said the finding of 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine, twice the safety limit, at a Tokyo water purification plant on Wednesday
should not be cause for panic. The safety level for adults is 300 becquerels.

"The recommendation that infants are not given tap water is a sensible precaution. But it should be emphasised that the limit is set at a low level to ensure that consumption at that level is safe over a fairly long period of time," he said.

"This means that consumption of small amounts of tap water -- a few litres, say -- at twice the recommended limit would not present a significant health risk."

Tokyo metropolitan government said it would access extra bottled water from stockpiles but could not say for how long.

Philippine Airlines said it was airlifting a donation of 27 tonnes, or 70,000 bottles, of water. The cargo is the first batch of a total 700,000 bottles of 350 ml each donated by sister company Asia Brewery Inc.

The crisis in the world's third-biggest economy -- and its key position in global supply chains, especially for the automobile and technology sectors -- has added to jitters in global financial markets, also worried by conflict in Libya and Middle East protests.

Toyota Motor Corp , which has suspended production at all of its 12 assembly plants in Japan, said it would slow some North American production because of supply problems although it would try to minimize disruptions.

Tags : TEPCO, bottled water stockpiles, damage, crisis, nuclear

Iron Ore-Prices flat to higher, Shanghai rebar slips

Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:31am GMT

* Weak China steel demand continues to weigh
* Rio hints at move away from quarterly pricing system
By Manolo Serapio Jr

SINGAPORE, March 24 (Reuters) - Spot iron ore prices were flat to higher and bids remained scarce on Thursday as the few buyers in the market exercised caution due to weak steel demand in top buyer China.

Chinese steel mills, burdened by huge inventories of steel products and thin demand, had been slow in buying iron ore after aggressive stockpiling early this year lifted prices of the steelmaking material to record highs in mid-February.

Iron ore prices have lost around 14 percent since hitting those peaks last month.

"Mills have big stocks of steel products and selling is very slow. That's the main problem for steel mills at the moment," said an iron ore trader in Shenzhen.

Shanghai steel rebar futures have been volatile of late, reflecting uncertainty on steel demand in China, the world's biggest consumer and producer.

The most traded October steel rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.4 percent to 4,708 yuan a tonne by the midday break.

The contract jumped nearly 2 percent on Wednesday after falling to four-month lows in the previous session.

"Buyers are cautious currently due to volatile moves in Chinese steel prices," Commonwealth Bank of Australia said of the iron ore market, but added that it expects some purchases to continue with port and mill stockpiles running low.

Indian ore with 63.5 percent iron content was quoted at $170-$172 a tonne, including freight, in China on Thursday, unchanged from earlier this week, said Chinese consultancy Umetal.

"People are saying prices could still drop to between $150 and $160," said the Shenzhen trader.

"But I think it's probably difficult for the market to go back up strongly again. At best, prices will be stable with mills only purchasing for short-term needs."

Iron ore indexes, based on spot deals in China and which global miners use in setting quarterly contract, were flat to higher on Wednesday.

The Steel Index's 62 percent benchmark .IO62-CNI=SI rose 0.7 percent to $165.50 a tonne and Platts' 62 percent index IODBZ00-PLT stood at $168.50, unchanged for a fourth straight session.

Metal Bulletin's 62 percent index .IO62-CNO=MB dipped 0.1 percent to $164.98.

Rio Tinto , the world's No. 2 iron ore producer, on Thursday hinted at moving away from the quarterly pricing system, noting that several miners are pricing ore on daily and monthly basis.

"We're seeing it is still an evolutionary process. This system has been accepted by a number of producers, but some are pricing according to quarter, daily or monthly," Sam Walsh, head of Rio's iron ore division, said at an industry conference in Beijing.

"The jury is still out where this will settle." (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Jo Winterbottom, sourced Reuters)

Tags :Platts, Spot prices for 63.5% Indian fines,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nuclear fears shut 25 embassies in Tokyo

March 23, 2011 8:47PM

THE nuclear emergency following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has led 25 embassies to temporarily shut their doors in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said today.

As of yesterday; "eight of them had transferred their functions outside Tokyo or Japan", Matsumoto told AFP by email.

"The rest have had their staff stay home. They have been changing its working arrangement day by day," he said.

"At any rate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps in touch with the embassies temporarily transferred or embassy staff staying home, providing accurate information to the entire diplomatic corps."

Nearly two weeks after the double disaster ravaged the country's Pacific coast on March 11, workers were battling to avert catastrophe at a crippled nuclear power plant, located 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

The foreign ministry's press division said the following countries had closed their doors: Angola, Bahrain, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama and Switzerland.

The US State Department last week authorised the "voluntary departure" of embassy family members in Tokyo, including relocation to other areas within Japan.

Zone Resources Inc. Acquires Iron Ore Project in Quebec


March 23, 2011)

Ancouver, British Columbia - Zone Resources Inc. announces that it has acquired an option to earn a 100% interest in the Girard Iron Ore Property, consisting of approximately 7,200 hectares, located in Nunavik, northern Quebec. The terms of the agreement are subject to regulatory approval of the TSX Venture Exchange. The iron zones located on the Girard Iron Ore Property are located in the Labrador Trough, a world famous iron ore belt. The property is northwest of Adriana Resources' Lac Otelnuk Project (wherein Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp. has paid $120 million for a 60% interest), and New Millenium's Kémag and Labmag projects (who have an option agreement with Tata Steel for a $4.9 billion development which includes the construction of a 750 km slurry pipeline). The Girard Iron Ore Property has not been subjected to modern exploration methods and only minimal drilling has been carried out in the past.

Pursuant to the terms of the option agreement, Zone will pay a cumulative amount of $225,000 cash and issue 2,150,000 common shares over a three year period. The Girard Iron Ore Property will also be subject to a 2.0% Net Smelter Royalty ("NSR") and Zone shall have an option to purchase 1% of the NSR for the sum of $1,000,000 at any time up to when a production decision is made.

"With the recent exciting developments in the Labrador Trough, we believe that this iron-ore opportunity has the potential to add significant shareholder value," stated Charles Desjardins, President and CEO of Zone Resources. "Zone Resources will also continue to try and identify oil and gas opportunities that will contribute to the growth of the Company."

The Girard Iron Ore Property contains a minimum of 6 zones of iron mineralization that were identified in historic work which was completed by the Quebec Labrador Development Company Ltd. between 1947 and 1960. The zones of iron mineralization are located over a length of 19 km and a width of up to 5 km. Outcrop is limited and overburden is up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) deep. As a result, the property was not extensively worked during the period that the major iron mines of the Labrador Trough were developed near Schefferville and Labrador City.

The 6 zones of iron mineralization on the property, from south to north, are; the MacDonald, Gagnon, Big Dome, Ball No. 1, Ball No. 2 and Girard Lake.

The MacDonald zone had been exposed by hand trenching, pitting and small x-ray sized core drilling with holes to a maximum of 100 feet. The MacDonald zone was discovered because of a prominent rust covered area, one and one half miles long and widths exceeding 600 feet. Trenching, pitting and drilling on the North Zone, where the overburden was the thinnest, extended the iron zone by at least 2,600 feet. Assays from trenches and pits, outlined in a report dated 1950 by K.C. Burwash of the Quebec Labrador Development Company Ltd., ranged from one sample assaying a low of 28.37% iron to a high sample assaying 65.24% iron, with 6 (out of 41) samples assaying from 33.25% iron to 39.50% iron, and 20 (out of 41) samples assaying from 40.37% iron to 49.23% iron, and 12 (out of 41) samples assaying from 50.16% iron to 59.75% iron, and 2 (out of 41) samples assaying from 62.41% to 65.24% iron, with the full range of assays from 4 separate trenches and 13 separate pits. There is no reference to whether the samples were chip or grab.

The Ball No. 1 iron zone is approximately 8 km north of the MacDonald zone. The Ball No. 1 zone is in an area of overburden at least 25 feet (7.6 meters) thick and was originally discovered due to the soil discoloration. The following excerpts are from a 1949 report by W.P. Corking for the Quebec Labrador Development Company Ltd.; "... the Ball No. 1 showing is iron formation... analysis of nine samples showed iron content ranging from 28% to 43%... the work done to date consists of 15 test pits covering a length of 800 feet and a width in one place of 600 feet. The actual dimensions of the oxidized zone are not known because of glacial covering: on the evidence of the soil colouration however, it is estimated that not more than 10% of the zone has been test pitted."

Between the MacDonald and the Ball No. 1 zones, the Big Dome and the Gagnon zones were identified. In a 1952 report by Burwash, it is reported that Dr. Sandefur had; "... located a very prominent and deep fold in the iron formation... this trough has been outlined by Dr. Sandefur for over a length of 4 miles of which the Ball No. 1 forms the eastern extremity."

The Ball No. 2 zone lies 6 km to the north of the Ball No. 1 zone. The Ball No. 2 zone had 8 test pits and trenches over an area of ½ mile by ½ mile and returned from 35.67% Iron to 45.52% Iron as reported in 1950 by Burwash.

The Girard Lake zone is 5 km northwest of the Ball No. 2 zone. The Girard Lake zone consists of iron formation and magnetite and was reported by Bergeron in 1952 as; "... A preliminary sampling showed an iron content varying between 60% and 68%." The zone was outlined by pits and trenches in excess of 400 feet and with widths varying from 12 to 40 feet.

The historical results disclosed in this news release have not been verified by a Qualified Person to conform to NI 43-101 standards and are included here for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon. All geological information, including all information on the Girard Iron Ore Property, has been provided by the Optionor and has not been independently verified by Zone. Investors are cautioned not to rely solely on this information.(sourced: zone-resources)

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India NMDC expects to renew Japan iron ore

Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:22am EDT

By Ratnajyoti Dutta & Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI(Reuters) India's top iron ore miner NMDC Ltd (NMDC.BO) expects to renew soon a five-year iron ore contract with Japanese customers which expires at the end of March, the company's top executive said.

"India and Japan will have to renew the contract which they had for the last five years. I am sure there will be an agreement signing," state-run NMDC Chairman Rana Som told the Reuters Global Mining and Steel Summit.

NMDC supplies to a consortium of Japanese steels companies called Japan Steel Mills and to POSCO (005490.KS) in South Korea.

He added that despite power shortages from the earthquake and tsunami that crippled production at several steel mills and other industrial units, Japan had not asked for supplies to be halted.

"It could be that the Japanese are trying to see a situation (where) they would like to manage some supply and bring it back to the stock so that whenever they start production, they will not have to wait for the stocks to come.

"I believe at least so far as contract negotiations are concerned, they will try to maintain the continuity not withstanding the fact that the physical lifting will be affected by their economic condition."

NMDC's contract with South Korean importers is also up for review and Som said he was confident that a deal would be signed.

NMDC's contract with Japan Steel Mills was on an annual basis for the first four years. The buyers had agreed to switch to a quarterly price mechanism in line with other firms such as BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) BHP.L for the 2010/11 fiscal year.

The current price agreement for the January-March period with Japanese steelmakers and South Korea's POSCO has been fixed at about $140 per tonne for iron ore fines and about $158 for lump variety on free on board (FOB) basis.


Global iron ore prices will bottom out at about $140 per tonne because of reduced demand from disaster-hit Japan, but the trend could reverse in six months, Som said.

Spot iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI had lost about 14 percent since touching record highs near $200 a tonne in mid-February as slow Chinese steel demand turned off buyers and worries emerged lower Japanese steel output could hit its iron ore imports.

Som said iron ore prices may continue to fall over the next six months, before a demand-driven rebound drives prices to "beyond $170" per tonne.

"Once the Japanese steel mills start their production, they will have to build more stock, so therefore this phenomenon of falling prices of iron ore and lack of demand from Japanese steelmaking could be a short-term phenomenon," Som said.

"I am expecting in about six months or so the whole situation will have a different trend. What will happen is that Japan will start the reconstruction in a big way so their production will pick up and it will pick up at the pre-recession level."

Indian prices generally follow the global market, dominated by Australian and Brazilian miners, with China buying on spot basis for its low-grade ore needs.

India, the world's third-largest supplier of iron ore, produced 226 million tonnes in 2009/10 and exported 117.37 million tonnes, most of it to China and about two percent of it to Japan.


NMDC produced about 25 million tonnes of iron ore in 2010/11, mostly for local sales -- slightly below recent averages of 29 million tonnes. Som said the company was expected to up production by two million tonnes in 2011/12 on improved mining activities.

"We are keeping a provision of three million tonnes (for exports) and balance 28 million tonnes for domestic market," Som said.

Iron ore exports from India are likely to fall 35 percent to about 58 million tonnes in the next fiscal year, weighed by environmental curbs, a four-fold rise in export tax and a continuing ban on exports from a major producer state.

Som said though NMDC had a comfortable reserve of iron ore, it was hoping to achieve "long-term raw material security" for Asia's third-largest economy through overseas acquisition of mines, including two assets in Australia over the next two months.

"So NMDC's approach in iron ore has been that it will join hands with junior miners for developing the mines, exploring it and developing it and then mining it."

He said the mines could start production in about 30 months.

The output from the two Australian mines will be over and above the company's production target of 50 million tonnes by 2014/15. Som did not say how much the two mines could produce.


NMDC has signed a deal with state-run Coal India (COAL.BO) and the eastern state of West Bengal to develop a two billion tonnes coal block. The project is awaiting clearance from the federal government.

South Africa's Sasol (SOLJ.J) has evinced an interest in acquiring a minority stake in the project to produce liquid fuel from coal. Sasol signed a deal with India's Tata Group last year to invest $10 billion in a similar coal-to-liquid project in eastern Orissa state.

"They (Sasol) want equity partnership of about 10 percent. It is absolutely fine," Som said.

"Coal India and we get the major equity and some equity will also go to the West Bengal government."

India, growing at more than eight percent a year, will need to keep burning cheaper fossil fuel to expand the reach of electricity to the half of its one-billion-plus population without power. India imports more than a third of its oil needs.

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Rinehart told to share iron ore deposit

March 23, 2011, 5:13 am
By Kate Emery, The West Australian

Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart faces the prospect of having to hand over a 25 per cent stake in the Rhodes Ridge iron ore deposit within a month of her appeals over a 10-year legal battle being officially exhausted.

A year after the Supreme Court ruled that the children of Lang Hancock's late business partner Peter Wright were entitled to wrest the stake from Ms Rinehart - Mr Hancock's daughter - the court's final orders were delivered yesterday.

Although the outcome of the appeals process is not yet known, if Ms Rinehart is unsuccessful she will have 28 days to transfer the stake.

Ms Rinehart is expected to take the fight to the High Court if she is unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal.

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Krishnapatnam Port sets all India record for Coal Discharging

Tuesday, 22 March 11

"Krishnapatnam Port has set an all India record for discharging 71,587 tons of steam coal in just 24 hrs using the conventional unloading system", according to e-mail statement received by from Krishnapatnam Port.

The statement further said, vessel MV. Pedhoulas Trader carrying 77,005 tons called at Krishnapatnam Port on 19th March, 2011. The discharging was completed in just 29 hours 50 minutes and sailed on 21st March, 2011.

This feat surpassed Krishnapatnam Port’s previous record of 57,564 tons which was also an all India record then and was established barely a few days earlier on March 12, 2011 for vessel MV. Yusho Spica.

This achievement stands out as the fastest discharge rate, using conventional system, in the history of any port in India & possibly in the world. Krishnapatnam port has become synonymous for series of record shattering performances.

One of India's largest and fastest growing ports, Krishnapatnam Port is swiftly developing into a major Coal hub of India. The port has state-of-the-art cargo handling equipments for quick turnaround of vessels making Indian exporters & importers globally competitive. Apart from its strategic location, Krishnapatnam Port connects demand with supply, industry with port, rail & road with port and capital with business in a harmoniously mutual beneficial manner.

Indonesian coal exports to Japan may be diverted to other countries - The Jakarta Post

Tuesday, 22 March 11

The Jakarta Post reported that, Indonesia’s coal exports to Japan will likely be diverted to other countries for several months after the recent earthquake and tsunami that damaged around four of Japan's coal-fired power plants, the Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) says.

Earlier this month, a vessel containing 60,000 tons of coal from Indonesia was diverted to China because of conditions in Japan, APBI chairman Bob Kamandanu told The Jakarta Post.

“We don’t know yet the future of Japan’s coal imports. We still have to wait for the Japanese government to complete its assessment of the damage to its coal-fired power plants, which is expected to be released by the end of this week,” Bob said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The Japanese government is also recalculating its coal imports for the next fiscal year, he said, adding that the disasters would likely cause its coal imports to decline significantly. The Japanese fiscal year ends March 31. (source:The Jakarta Post)


Wednesday, 23 March 11

Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Ltd. has closed its inquiry today.

Seven Indian coal traders have submitted price bid to supply 160,000 plus minus 5 percent metric tons of non-coking coal with Gross Calorific Value (ADB) 6000 Kcal/Kg, our sources said.

Adani Enterprise, Gupta coal, MSTC, Rudhra Energy, Star Coal, Knowledge Infrastructure and Coastal Energy have submitted bids today, said a source familiar with this tender.

According to the tender issued on 1st March 2011, the quality of coal should be Gross Calorific Value (adb) 6000 Kcal/Kg basis and will be rejected if GCV is below 5600 kcal/kg. The Inherent Moisture (adb) of around 10 pct, Total Moisture (arb) 15 pct basis and above 23 pct will be rejected. The Ash content (adb) 8 pct max , Sulphur (ADB) 0.8pct max and Volatile Matter (adb) 25 to 45 pct and above 45 pct will be rejected.

TNPL is a regular importer of Indonesian coal, for its paper factory in Karur district, India. It bought 240,000 tons of the fuel from Indonesia in November 2010 at US$ 81.20 CIF.

The reference price (HPB) set by Indonesia for coal grade of 5,667 GAR kcal/kg heating value was at a US$ US$ 103.50 per a ton based on March 2011 HBA. HBA index of March 2011, US$ 4.62 lesser than its record price of US$ 127.05 for 6322 GAR coal in February 2011.

TNPL, will conduct electronic bidding on Friday, 25 March 2011 and will award the contract to the lowest electronic or manual bidder.

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Anglo American is Seeking to Purchase Iron-Ore Assets as Prices Increase

Mar23, 2011 4:17 PM GMT+0530

By Rebecca Keenan & Jason Scott

Anglo American Plc (AAL), a diversified mining company, is seeking to acquire iron ore assets as the price of the steelmaking raw material rises.

“We like iron ore and are determined to grow our iron ore business,” James Harman, head of business development for Anglo’s iron ore and coal unit, said today at a conference in Perth, Australia. “We remain on the lookout for quality iron ore opportunities globally, including Australia.”

The London-based company joins Rio Tinto Group in studying acquisitions to boost commodity production. Anglo, which is spending about $17 billion to expand capacity, is seeking to increase its annual iron ore output to 80 million metric tons by 2014 and 150 million tons by 2020, Harman said.

“We’re in a strong financial position, which will drive this growth,” he said.

Annual profit more than doubled last year to $6.5 billion after commodity prices rallied. Anglo is extending its Kumba Iron Ore unit’s operations in South Africa and building the Minas Rio iron ore mine in Brazil as demand from Asian steel mills climbs. Anglo owns 65.3 percent of Kumba, the world’s fourth-largest supplier of seaborne iron ore. (sourced bloomberg)

Tags : South African iron ore, Minas Rio, Asian steel mills, seaborne iron ore
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Italians raise questions about military operation against Libya

Wed Mar23, 2011 10:40:29

ROME, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Some Italian pollsters Tuesday expressed their doubts and worries over the ongoing Western-led military operation against Libya, only 250 km off Italy's southernmost coast.

They believed the main reason behind some Italians' opposition to the operation was that it was launched for the West's oil and natural gas interests in Libya instead of humanitarian purposes, according to a poll by the Italian polling firm Opinioni.

Italian energy statistics show around 30 percent of Italy's energy needs are met by oil and gas from Libya.

Maria Rossi, co-director of Opinioni, said "most of those against the operation said they feared the humanitarian reasons are a kind of cover-up."

Italians are also worried that if the operation dragged on too long, it could spark a massive exodus of Libyans, many of whom would end up on Italian shores.

This concern was echoed by Italians who spoke to Xinhua about their views of the escalating crisis in Libya.

Raffaella Pontarelli, a 30-year-old theater actress originally from Naples, said she was suspicious of Italy's involvement.

"I think Italy is getting involved for wrong reasons. I think the government just wants to make sure they can continue to have access to the oil and gas they need."

Despite some Italians' suspicion, the general support for Italian involvement in Libya, however, has risen in recent days and inched above 50 percent of those questioned, according to the Opinioni poll.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pledged Monday that Italian fighter planes in Libya were there only to protect civilians and wouldn't fire on Libyan planes.

Italian military bases are being used by NATO countries as a launching pad for air strikes against Libya because of the country's proximity.

Western powers, including France, Britain, the United States and Italy, have launched a string of air raids against Libya since Saturday. Libyan authorities said the strikes had killed at least 64 Libyans and wounded 150 others.

Tags : NATO, France, Britain, United States

Japan banks may lend $25 bln to nuclear operator -sources

Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:57am EDT

* TEPCO needs funds after tsunami damaged nuclear plant
* TEPCO: no problem with cash now but sees big funds need next FY
* Says not sure about annual dividend now vs 60 yen/shr pvs f'cast
* TEPCO shares end down 4.5 pct, have halved since disaster

By Taiga Uranaka

TOKYO, March 23 (Reuters) - Japan's largest banks are in talks to provide up to $25 billion in emergency loans to Tokyo Electric Power to shore up its finances and rebuild its power network following a disaster at one of its nuclear plants.

Tokyo Electric, Asia's largest utility, is waging a desperate battle to cool reactors at its Fukushima-Daiichi power plant which were crippled by the powerful earthquake and tsunami
on March 11 and have leaked radiation.

The disaster knocked out about 20 percent of Tokyo Electric's operating thermal and nuclear generation, forcing it to implement rolling blackouts set to last months until it can secure alternative sources of power.

Highlighting the uncertainty over its financial prospects, the company -- known for its rich and steady dividends -- said on Wednesday that it was now not sure what its annual dividend
would be, erasing its prior forecast for a payout of 60 yen per share.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group , the utility's main lender, is expected to provide more than 500 billion yen in loans out of an emergency package that could total 2 trillion yen ($25 billion), sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group are considering loans of 200-500 billion yen each. Sumitomo Trust and Banking and other major trust banks are also expected to offer funds, the sources said.

The loans would be used to fix damaged plants and for other reconstruction efforts and may be extended to the utility as early as this month, according to the sources, who were not
authorised to speak publicly about the matter.

"Interesting, as one suspects that the government has implicitly guaranteed the survival of TEPCO as a regulated entity if all these institutions are willing to accept the risk," said Penn Bowers, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo.

"Given the amount of cash on the balance sheet, I am surprised at the urgency of talks but certainly the need to prevent a crisis of confidence could be seen as necessary to keep recovery efforts stable," he said.

Tokyo Electric, which provides power to about one-third of the Japanese population, had 432 billion yen in cash and equivalents at the end December 2010 and 7.5 trillion yen in outstanding debt, according to its financial statements.

Of its $64 billion in outstanding bonds, the company is due to repay $4.8 billion this year, and another $5.6 billion in 2012, underscoring the importance of refinancing to meet its funding needs.

Last week, credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut its long-term and short-term ratings on TEPCO by one notch to "A+" and "A-1" respectively. Moody's also cut the firm's long-term
rating by two notches to "A1."


At the six-reactor Fukushima-Daiichi plant, engineers are battling to cool the reactors to contain further contamination and avert a meltdown.

But even if TEPCO is able to regain control of Fukushima-Daiichi, it faces lengthy repairs and inspections at other nuclear facilities and will have to burn more oil and gas to make up for the nuclear shortfall, eating away at its finances.

In addition to the destroyed Fukushima-Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric's Fukushima-Daini plant is also out of action, along with some 18 percent of the company's thermal power capacity.

Damage to plants, lines and networks in the most affected northeast of the country is expected to linger, raising the prospect of blackouts during the peak summer demand season.

Tokyo Electric has said it would likely be able to secure 54 gigawatts of supply by summer, up from around 35 gigawatts now, as it restores some of the damaged thermal plants and
brings on other plants that were mothballed or down for maintenance.

CLSA's Bowers says its fuel costs could rise by 700 billion yen in the financial year to March 2012 "given the change in fuel mix - the ability to pass this through will be the key long-term factor for funding."

Five-year credit default swaps for insuring against a Tokyo Electric default hit a record high of 373 basis point on March 17. The spread has since tightened to close at 245 on Monday,
reflecting some progress in containing the crisis.

"We don't have a problem with cash at hand, but as we see a need for large funds in next financial year (beginning on April 1), we are procuring funds as needed," said Hajime Motojuku, a
TEPCO spokesman, declining to elaborate.

A spokeswoman for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, the core commercial banking unit of SMFG, declined to comment on transactions with a specific client but said the bank would like
to give "maximum support for TEPCO as its main lender".

A spokesman for MUFG said the bank has been approached byTEPCO for loans but details have not been decided yet. A Mizuho spokesman said he could not comment on individual ransactions.

Shares of TEPCO ended down 4.5 percent at 1,049 yen, underperforming a 1.7 percent fall in the benchmark Nikkei average . The stock has fallen by about half since the disaster on March 11, cutting its market value to less than $22billion.($1 = 81.065 Japanese Yen)

France reiterates no ground troops to Libya

Wed, Mar23, 2011, 03:47:53

PARIS, March 22 (Xinhua) -- French Prime Minister Francois Fillion said Tuesday that an option of sending ground troop to Libya was excluded, reiterating that it will limit the military operation within the range of UN resolution 1973 on Libya.

"It's not a war against Libya. It's an operation of civil protection as it consisted in protecting Libyans by openly excluding sending forces to occupy the ground," the premier told deputies in the National Assembly.

"The use of force was the result of a series of diplomatic actions aimed at stemming Gaddafi violence. We have always been clear that the intervention's objective is to protect civilians," Fillion stressed.

Critics said the military intervention in Libya started by France is on paper a move to protect civilians but on reality an attempt to let foreign powers put their hands on the country's strategic oil sites.

France was the first country to recognize the Libyan National Transition Council and said to have regular contacts with members of the rebels' political body.

Last week, the UN Security Council passed the resolution 1973 backing to impose a no-fly zone on Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians, but gave no leeway for foreign ground troops to enter into Libya.

Indonesia suspends importing fish from Japan

Wed Mar23, 2011 18:02:01 |

JAKARTA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian Fishery Minister Fadel Muhammad said on Wednesday that the government has temporarily suspended importing fish from Japan due to concern over the impact of nuclear radiation.

The minister said that Indonesia's waters were safe from possible spread of the radiation.

The decision came after the government carried out check on imported fish from Japan.

Though there has been no evidence that fish from Japan has been contaminated by the radiation, the minister said that the decision aims at convincing the Indonesian consumers.

Federal government allows coal leases in Wyoming basin

Tue, Mar. 22, 2011 10:15 PM

The federal government is making leases available for mining 750 million tons of coal in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Tuesday. State officials have butted heads with the Interior Department about long delays in selling federal coal reserves in that region.
Cap and trade

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith has ruled that California’s cap-and-trade program needs further review. The judge said California air-quality regulators failed to properly consider alternatives to the program to give power plants, utilities and other polluters financial incentives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

(Courtesy sourced:The Associated Press)

India's iron ore exports seen less than 100 mln T-Sesa Goa

Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:13am GMT

* Spot iron ore prices have fallen 14 pct from mid-Feb
* Slower China, Japan demand weighing on prices

BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - Iron ore exports from India, the world's third-largest supplier of the steelmaking material, will be less than 100 million tonnes in the next fiscal year starting April if prices stay at current levels, a top executive at Sesa Goa said on Wednesday.

India usually exports about half of its annual iron ore output of around 200 million tonnes, most of them going to China.

"Iron ore exports from India will be less than 100 million tonnes if prices stay at current levels," P.K. Mukherjee, managing director of top Indian iron ore exporter Sesa Goa, told reporters at an industry conference.

Spot iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI have fallen 14 percent since hitting record highs in mid-February as thin steel demand in top consumer China slowed buying by Chinese steel mills.

Worries that demand from disaster-hit Japan may also slow in the near term before a reconstruction-led rebound has also weighed on iron ore prices.

Iron ore prices surged more than 40 percent in 2010 on booming demand from China, prodding global producers in Brazil and Australia to boost output.

But India's iron ore exports fell for a seventh straight month in January because of a ban on shipments from its key Karnataka state and exports are seen falling further due to a four-fold rise in export tax.

India's iron ore exports are likely to fall 35 percent to about 58 million tonnes in the next fiscal year due to the curbs and the increase in taxes, R.K. Sharma, secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries, said earlier this month.

U.S. halts Japan food imports, Tokyo water contaminated

Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:41am GMT

* U.S. to block milk, fruit, vegetable imports
* Radiation dangerous for infants in Tokyo water
* Engineers battling to stabilise Fukushima reactors
* Earthquake, tsunami left nearly 23,000 dead or missing

By Mayumi Negishi and Kazunori Takada

TOKYO, March 23 (Reuters) - Radiation danger from Japan's tsunami-smashed nuclear plant loomed on Wednesday with water in Tokyo showing hazardous levels for infants and the United States becoming the first nation to block food imports.

Tokyo authorities said water at a purification plant for the capital of 13 million people had 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine -- more than twice the safety level for infants.

"This is without doubt, an effect of the Fukushima Daiichi plant," a Tokyo metropolitan government official said, in reference to the damaged nuclear plant 250 km (150 miles) north of the city.

Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, however, said the radiation level posed no immediate health risk and water could still be used.

"But for infants under age one, I would like them to refrain from using tap water to dilute baby formula," he said.

Crystallising international concern, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was stopping imports of milk, vegetable and fruit from four prefectures in Japan's crisis-hit northeast.

South Korea may be next to ban Japanese food after the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. France this week asked the European Commission to look into harmonising controls on radioactivity in imports from Japan.

At the six-reactor Fukushima plant, crippled by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, engineers are battling to cool reactors to contain further contamination and avert a meltdown.

In a rapidly widening problem, Japan said on Wednesday above-safety radiation levels had been discovered in 11 types of vegetables from the area, in addition to milk and water.

Officials still insisted, however, that there was no major danger to humans and urged the world not to over react.

"We will explain to countries the facts and we hope they will take logical measures based on them," Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano, who has been the government's public face during the disaster, told a news conference.

The Asian nation's worst crisis since World War Two may have caused $300 billion damage, sent shock waves through global financial markets, and left nearly 23,000 people dead or missing, mostly from flattened coastal towns.

More than a quarter of a million people are living in shelters, while rescuers and sniffer dogs comb debris and mud looking for corpses and personal mementoes.

Worsened by widespread ignorance of the technicalities of radiation, public concern is rising around the world and radioactive particles have been found as far away as Iceland.

Japan has already halted shipment of some food from the area and told people there to stop eating leafy vegetables.

Asian neighbours are inspecting imports for contamination, and Taiwan advised boats to stop fishing in Japanese waters.

Although there has been progress in restoring power to the Fukushima site 13 days after the accident, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it needed more time before it could say the reactors were stabilised.


Technicians working inside an evacuation zone around the plant have successfully attached power cables to all six reactors and started a pump at one to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods.

Concern is high over reactor No. 1 after its temperature rose to near 400 degrees Celsius, above a design limit of 302.

As well as having its workers on the front line in highly dangerous circumstances, TEPCO is also facing accusations of a slow disaster response and questions over why it originally stored more uranium at the plant than it was designed to hold.

Vienna-based U.N. watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed concern about a lack of information from Japanese authorities. It cited missing data on temperatures of spent fuel pools at the facility's reactors 1, 3 and 4.

"We continue to see radiation coming from the site ... and the question is where exactly is that coming from?" said a senior IAEA official, James Lyons.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was concerned about radioactive fallout affecting the U.S. 55,000 troops in and around Japan, many involved in a massive relief operation for Washington's close ally. "We're also deeply concerned about the wellbeing of our Japanese allies," he said.

Experts said tiny traces of radioactive particles, measured by a network of monitoring stations as they spread eastwards from Japan across the Pacific, North America, the Atlantic and to Europe, were far too low to cause any harm to humans.

"It's only a matter of days before it disperses in the entire northern hemisphere," said Andreas Stohl, a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research

The Japan crisis has dealt a blow to the nuclear power industry around the world. Italy became the latest nation to re-assess its programme, announcing a one-year moratorium on site selection and building of plants.

Crisis in the world's third-biggest economy -- and its key position in global supply chains, especially for the auto and technology sectors -- has added to global market jitters, also affected by conflict in Libya and unrest in the Middle East.

Asian shares fell on Wednesday, with Tokyo's Nikkei shedding more than 1 percent as investors took profits from a two-session bounce. Japanese stocks are about 8 percent below their close on the day the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck.

Toyota said it would delay the launch in Japan of two additions to the Prius line-up, a wagon and a minivan, from the originally planned end-April due to production disruptions.

The tsunami and earthquake are the world's costliest ever natural disaster, with the government estimating damage at 15-25 trillion yen ($185 billion-$308 billion.

The upper end of that range would equate to about 6 percent of Japan's gross domestic product.

The official death toll has risen to 9,199, but with 13,786 people still reported missing, it is certain to rise.

There are reports dozens of survivors, mostly elderly, have died in hospitals and evacuation centres due to a lack of proper treatment, or simply because of the cold. It is winter in Japan.

At one sports arena in Minamisanriku where 1,500 evacuees are staying, old people crowded at a counter stacked with pills and bandages, while about 30 people slept on beds or on the floor in a makeshift clinic with doctors on standby.

"It's less a problem of medical supplies now, but a problem of finding out what medicine is lacking where and centralising that information," said Nobuyuki Maki, a doctor.

"Many places in this area haven't restored mobile phone connections yet so there are still problems with communication."