What everyone should know about the bids to re-open Donkin coal mine, pardoned US fugitive Marc Rich, Saddam Hussein, and more!
January 17, 2005
Will coal bury Kyoto?
The good news: Asia's hunger for coal is reviving mines in eastern and western Canada. The bad news: we may be facing an environmental calamity.
When Blair Boone walked away from Cape Breton's coal mines, he thought it was forever. It was December 2001, and the government-owned Cape Breton Development Corp. had just shut down the last of its Nova Scotia collieries due to chronically bad financial performance. Global coal prices had been on a slide for years, and it seemed the world was headed for a future dominated by cleaner fuels like natural gas and environmentally safe energy sources such as solar and wind power. Dirty to burn, dangerous to mine and increasingly unprofitable to sell, coal was considered a fuel of the past. Boone, a mining technologist specializing in underground ventilation, was among the final group of 440 men to be let go. And when they walked out of the deeps that day three years ago, they left behind a local industry that dated back to 1720, employed 12,000 at its peak, and claimed 1,400 lives along the way. King Coal's reign in Nova Scotia was over.
Or so everyone thought.
They hadn't counted on east Asia going middle class, or the United States re-embracing a cheap, abundant fuel source. In the past 12 months, the global coal market has staged a recovery that is nothing short of stunning. Exploding economic growth in China and India has sharply increased demand for coal-fed power and steel there, reversing the long downward trajectory of coal prices. At the same time, the rising cost of natural gas has forced utilities in the U.S. and elsewhere to return to coal as a major source of fuel for electricity generation. As a result, a commodity that was selling for less than US$40 a tonne a couple of years ago is now fetching more than US$125, and analysts expect another healthy jump in price this year. Suddenly, coal is a fuel with a big future -- and all those dead coal mines in places like Cape Breton and northeastern British Columbia are showing new signs of life.
Boone and 25 of his fellow ex-miners recently formed a co-operative and, together with Vancouver-based
Hillsborough Resources, hope to re-open the
Donkin mine, just east of Glace Bay, N.S. -- a network of abandoned tunnels with access to about 300 million tonnes of coal, in veins stretching out for miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Each man has pledged $20,000 of his own savings for a small stake in the $100-million project, which would create up to 250 jobs at the mine and an on-site power plant. For every one of those positions, there are hopes for four spinoff jobs in the surrounding communities. "It'd just be a tremendous boost for the people here," Boone says. "We'd go back underground tonight if there was a shift and we got the call."
But Boone knows it's not that simple. It never is when it comes to coal.
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July 6, 2005
Cape Bretoners look forward to return of smaller King Coal
Donkin mine may provide up to 1,000 jobs
Globe and Mail
HALIFAX -- More than 600 résumés sit stacked on a desk in Bob Burchell's Glace Bay, N.S., office, from coal miners salivating at the possibility of the sooty, black mineral again fuelling the economy and the culture of Cape Breton.
Mr. Burchell himself toiled in a New Waterford, N.S., mine until 1982, working on the machine that sheared the coal from the earth, eventually surfacing as the international representative for the United Mine Workers of America.
A native Cape Bretoner, his father and brother and uncles worked underground, back when coal was both literally and figuratively the foundation on which Cape Breton was built.
The Nova Scotia government is expected to announce shortly which of three bidders it will choose to open the abandoned
Donkin mine, nearly four years after the island's last underground coal mine closed.
Australian company Xstrata Coal, with its partners, Kaoclay Resources Inc. of Halifax and Atlantic Green Energy Development of Savannah, Ga.; Donkin Resources, headed by
Steve Farrell of Sydney, N.S.; and a third group led by Steve Rankin, the former president of Devco, in partnership with Commonwealth Coal of Virginia, are under consideration for the job which is guaranteed to be a big one.
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Cape Breton: Down, But Not Out
Rising coal prices revive mining dreams
by John DeMont
Canadian Business Magazine
Click to read article
July 4 2005
Decision on coal mine expected soon
An announcement on who will open the Donkin coal mine is expected within weeks.
In March, the province accepted three bids to operate the mine, a site that was flooded and closed when coal prices dropped in the early 1990s.
Scott Swinden, a government spokesperson, said an announcement will be made in "fairly short order," possibly before the middle of the month.
There are 200 million tonnes of coal under the ocean in Donkin, and three companies are hoping to cash in on the world-wide demand for it.
Cape Breton Coal Energy is backed by a former Devco president and a local contractor, with partners from the Membertou First Nation and the United States. A mining engineer fronts another local company, Donkin Resources.
The third group, Xstrata, is one of the world's largest coal mining companies with more than 30 mines in Australia and South Africa. Donkin would be its first in North America.
"The worldwide coal industry is booming at the moment," said Xstrata general manager
Jeff Gerard, on a visit to Cape Breton on Monday.
"We see the demand for thermal coal remaining; it's very strong, it's the cheapest source of energy. And we think it will continue to grow at the rate required to support a development of this nature."
Although a decision on who will open the Donkin mine could come soon, Swinden said he's not reading too much into the timing of Gerard's visit.
"It's not part of a timetable I'm a part of," he said.
February 01, 2002
Xstrata discusses Glencore coal
Swiss-based Xstrata AG has confirmed that it has been in discussion with its major shareholder Glencore International AG, which holds a 38.5% interest in Xstrata, regarding the acquisition of Glencore's Australian and South African coal assets. The assets are held by
Enex Resources Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Glencore, which was to have been floated on the Australian Stock Exchange last year (M J, July 27, 2001, p.53). However, the date for the flotation was September 17, and the turmoil in the markets after the terrorist attacks on the US the previous week led to the postponement of the A$4 billion initial public offering.
May 1, 2002
Sydney Australia Gas signs MOU with Bulga to study Hunter coal
Enex’s general manager of business development and technical services
Jeff Gerard said Bulga Coal was happy to be working with Sydney Gas.
May 10 2002
Enex now called Xstrata Coal Australia
Following the recent acquisition of Enex Resources by Xstrata plc, the company has changed its name to Xstrata Coal Australia Pty Ltd. The operations of Enex in Australia and Duiker Mining in South Africa now comprise the coal division of Xstrata. Peter Coates has been appointed the chief executive of this division, reporting to Mick Davis, the Xstrata CEO.
Glencore, through its subsidiaries, is both a significant producer of Coal from its assets in South America and is itself a market leader in the marketing of Coal to the world's industrial consumers.
Xstrata Coal is the world's largest producer of export thermal coal and a significant producer of coking coal.
Across these global operations, there is a total commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace, with Xstrata Coal allocating significant resources to training and management systems to ensure a best practice approach to safety at all times. Parallel to this is an unwavering focus on meeting its environmental commitments.
August 16, 2005
'King of Zug' reigns over trading network -
Controversial Marc Rich has long been a part of the buying and selling of the world's mineral wealth,
Gordon Pitts, Canada Globe and Mail
The peaceful Swiss canton of Zug, with its lovely old town and sailboat-dappled lake, seems an unlikely setting for a mysterious and controversial trading empire.
Yet this pastoral playground is the home base of
Marc Rich, the former fugitive billionaire commodities trader, who was pardoned by Bill Clinton in his last day as U.S. president in early 2002.
It is also the headquarters of
Xstrata PLC, the mining powerhouse which yesterday bought 19.9 per cent of Canadian nickel giant Falconbridge Ltd., putting it in position to launch a potential takeover bid for the company.
Xstrata often gets mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Rich. Both are part of the huge trading community drawn to Zug by extremely low taxes, privacy and comfortable surroundings. (Canadian auto parts tycoon Frank Stronach also has a vacation place there.)
Through this small canton, a large chunk of the world's mineral and energy wealth is traded, often by Marc Rich & Co. Mr. Rich, 70, has been called the "king of Zug," which boasts about 10,000 international companies.
Mr. Rich and Xstrata share another bond.
Thirty years ago, Mr., Rich founded
Glencore International AG, a secretive trading Goliath
also based in Zug. Glencore is now Xstrata's largest shareholder with a 40-per-cent interest in the company and three of its executives sit on the board.
Mr. Rich sold Glencore in the mid-1990s to its senior management group. Glencore, today a private company with annual revenue worth $72-billion (U.S.), says it now has nothing to do with Mr. Rich.
BusinessWeek, in an investigative article last month, described the vast international trading network Mr. Rich helped create in Zug as "The Rich Boys," and listed Glencore's key managers as "former Rich bigwigs."
It is understandable that Glencore would be eager to play down its Rich roots. The globe-trotting billionaire is as much a magnet for controversy as for personal wealth -- estimated by Forbes last year at $1.1-billion, the 514th largest fortune in the world.
His major brush with notoriety came in 1983 when he fled the United States, having been indicted in federal court of evading more than $48-million in taxes. He was also charged with 51 counts of tax fraud and with running illegal oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis of the late 1970s.
It meant leaving the country that had sheltered him in 1942, as the child of a Belgian Jewish family that had fled Europe amid the Nazi onslaught.
At 19, Mr. Rich dropped out of New York University and joined Philipp Brothers, then the world's largest raw-materials trading company.
He started in the mailroom but soon came to the attention of legendary trader Ludwig Jesselson, becoming Mr. Jesselson's heir apparent. But in 1975, Mr. Rich and his partner, Pincus (Pinky) Green, quit Philipp Brothers, taking some of its leading traders with them.
The timing was splendid. In the 1970s' global energy shakeup, oil-producing countries rebelled against the international oil companies, and began selling their oil through traders such as Mr. Rich. He is credited as the father of the spot market, in which oil was freely traded to the highest bidder.
As the price of oil skyrocketed, he was able to grab the escalating margins between buying and selling prices. His new role also led him into relationships with pariah states, including Iran during the hostage crisis, apartheid-era South Africa, North Korea, and a then hard-line Libya.
"He sees himself as a citizen of the world, unencumbered by the laws of sovereign nations," Howard Safir, a former U.S. marshal told the Washington Post in 2001. Mr. Safir became familiar with Mr. Rich by waiting outside his Swiss residence in 1985, trying vainly to enforce an arrest warrant against the fugitive trader.
August 16, 2005
Testing the sterling in Glencore's record
By Eric Reguly, Canada Globe and Mail
If you didn't like the idea of a Chinese company buying Noranda and Falconbridge, you should be delighted the two Canadian mining players are instead going to a Swiss concern, called
Xstrata. Switzerland is the symbol of European purity. The Swiss are polite, don't toss wrappers on the ground and are capitalists too! They are decent folk buying decent Canadian companies.
You might also be deluding yourself. Xstrata is 40-per-cent controlled by Glencore International, the commodities trader that is one of the world's largest and most secretive private companies. What little is known about Glencore isn't pleasant. It was formed by the fugitive financer
Marc Rich, now 70, who was mysteriously pardoned by Bill Clinton in the dying hours of his presidency.
Although no longer associated with Mr. Rich, Glencore is run by a gaggle of former Rich lieutenants, among them Willy Strothotte, who is chairman of Glencore and a director of Xstrata. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had exceedingly rude things to say about Glencore in the oil-for-food scandal, all of which are denied by Glencore. People who know Xstrata say Xstrata "suffers" from Glencore's reputation. That much is obvious.
Xstrata yesterday announced the purchase of 19.9 per cent of Falconbridge (the company recently formed by the recent merger of Noranda and Falconbridge) from Toronto's Brascan for about $2-billion, or $28 a share. The move was purely opportunistic. Brascan has been trying to unload its underperforming mining and smelting assets, first assembled in the early 1980s under the Jack Cockwell reign, for years.
... ... Glencore was created in the mid-1970s by Mr. Rich to trade metals, minerals, crude oil and, later, grain. In the 1980s, it bought interests in resource companies and today owns significant stakes in three public companies, among them Xstrata. Last year, Glencore had sales of $72-billion (U.S.) on assets of $23.5-billion. According to published reports, including a July investigation by BusinessWeek magazine, Mr. Rich was notorious for trading with Iran during the hostage crisis, South Africa during apartheid and Libya and Cuba during the U.S. trade embargoes.
In 1983, he was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for racketeering, trading with the enemy (Iran) and tax evasion. He fled to Switzerland. His pardon by Mr. Clinton meant he was exempt from punishment from any criminal conviction. The pardon triggered investigations in both houses of Congress and fierce criticism from Democrats and Republicans. Investigators wanted to know whether Mr. Rich's ex-wife, Denise, who gave an estimated $1-million to various Democratic causes, including the Clinton library, could explain Mr. Clinton's bizarre behaviour.
Mr. Rich sold his interests in Glencore in 1994, amid rumours of a fight between him and his partners. His lawyers and Xstrata officials say he has no interests in either Glencore or Xstrata. But his legacy lives on.
Three Xstrata directors have top positions at Glencore; they are all survivors from the Marc Rich era.
Glencore's -- and by extension Xstrata's -- problems didn't end with Mr. Rich's departure and presidential pardon a few years later. The Iraq oil-for-food scandal took care of that. Last year, a CIA report alleged Glencore paid $3.2-million in illegal surcharges to Iraq for Iraqi oil. Glencore denies any illegal or inappropriate dealing with the Iraqi government outside of the UN-administered oil-for-food program.
Xstrata's association with Glencore became an issue in Australia during the battle for WMC.
Politicians and lobby groups said Xstrata's bid for WMC should have been blocked (the government ultimately said it could go ahead). Xstrata isn't buying control of Falconbridge. So far, it's just a passive investment. But the status quo is likely to change as the mining industry consolidates. Xstrata should at least explain how it and Glencore are truly independent from each other, as they claim they are.
The Plot thickens
August 16, 2005
Falconbridge becomes quarry for takeover after Xstrata deal
Swiss miner scoops up Brascan holding, raising the spectre of a total buyout
By Wendy Stueck, Mining Reporter, Canada Globe and Mail
Vancouver -- Swiss mining powerhouse Xstrata PLC has agreed to pay $2-billion for a 19.9-per-cent stake in Falconbridge Ltd., raising the possibility that the Swiss company will swallow Canada's biggest mining company.
Xstrata, a major copper and coal producer that has a stock market value of more than $15-billion (U.S.), announced yesterday that it had purchased Brascan Corp.'s stake in Falconbridge, triggering speculation that the Swiss company's next move would be to acquire the rest of Falconbridge.
November 7, 2005
Inco union opposes foreign ownership of Falconbridge
TORONTO (Reuters) - The union representing Inco Ltd. (N.TO: Quote) workers said on Monday it would try and stop Swiss-based
Xstrata Plc (XTA.L: Quote) from taking over Falconbridge Ltd. (FALlv.TO: Quote) after a report said Xstrata plans to trump Inco's C$12 billion offer.
"We will do what we need to do to stop Xstrata from coming in and taking over Falconbridge," said Wayne Fraser, a spokesman for United Steelworkers of America, which represents some 4,700 Inco workers.
"Mining is an integral part of our economy and as far as the union is concerned, it should be owned and operated by Canadians."
November 7, 2005
... ... Last week, Inco was trumpeting comments by the Pittsburgh-based president of the United Steelworkers, Leo Gerard, who is in favour of the Canadian mega-merger.
The Steelworkers have about 7,500 members at Inco and Falconbridge.
''With mining companies trying to acquire each other, if Inco and Falconbridge don't come together, some foreigner will either acquire Falconbridge or somebody will acquire Inco,'' Gerard said Friday.
''We would fight Xstrata to the death because they've got a long history of busting the union.''
Behind the Curtain
17 March 2005
Xstrata cops record $1.46M fine for Gretley deaths but vows to fight on in Court
The NSW Industrial Commission last Friday imposed a record $1.46M fine on Xstrata over the deaths of four coal miners killed at the Gretley mine on 14 November 1996. Two mine managers and a surveyor, who were convicted of 20 breaches of the safety laws at Gretley, were also fined a total of $102,000.
But rather than cop the fines and bring some closure to the families of the victims, Xstrata is continuing its bid in the Court of Appeals to overturn the laws that secured the Gretley convictions.
Victims family spokesman Ian Murray – whose 18-year old son Damon Murray was killed in the Gretley disaster –said that if Xstrata’s challenge was successful mining companies would be immune from prosecutions for breaches of safety laws. “I don’t understand why they can’t just cop the fine.
All miners and their families are entitled to the full protection of the law and mining companies like Xstrata have no right to seek to put themselves above the law. Companies are prosecuted for a wide range of violations of the law in areas like tax evasion and pollution yet Xstrata is demanding that mining companies be exempt from prosecutions for negligent actions that lead to mineworkers being injured or killed”, said Ian Murray.
As Xstrata commenced its appeal on Monday, mineworkers from every pit in NSW assembled outside the Court of Appeals and unanimously carried a resolution warning that should Xstrata’s appeal succeed, mineworkers could not be expected to work in an unsafe industry.
Union Fears Inquiry Into Mass Poisoning Will Be a Mockery [South Africa]
African Eye News Service [South Africa]
The US$25 million mine owned by Swiss company Xstrata is accused of overexposing miners to vanadium pentoxide and other dangerous chemicals that have caused asthma, cancer and chemical bronchitis.
December 8, 2004
Blood and Coal
... In January 2002, bulldozers completed the demolition of the village of Tabaco after many of its residents had been forcibly evicted from their homes in order to clear the way for the mine’s expansion. Some of Tabaco’s 1,100 Afro-Colombian residents, many of who were direct descendents of the town’s original founders, were attacked by more than 200 soldiers and police dispatched to remove those who refused to voluntarily abandon their homes. Many of Tabaco’s 350 families became part of Colombia’s ever-growing internally displaced population—the second-largest in the world after the Sudan.
In March 2002, a multinational consortium consisting of three of the world’s largest mining companies—Anglo-American, BHP Billiton and
Glencore—took over the Cerrejón Mine. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil says that it no longer owns the Cerrejón Mine and, therefore, is not responsible for the displaced citizens of Tabaco.
The availability of cheap coal from the Loma and Cerrejón mines contributed to the closing of Cape Breton’s mines, which could not compete with multinational operations in Colombia. Nova Scotia, however, now has a golden opportunity to simultaneously protest the Colombian government's unwillingness to defend the rights of workers and create much-needed jobs in Cape Breton. The opening of the Donkin Mine, which is currently being discussed, would achieve both objectives, reducing the Province's reliance on imported coal while boosting prosperity in local communities. As Francisco makes clear, the cost of Colombian coal must be measured in more than dollars. His life, and the lives of his colleagues, may well depend on our grasping this reality
The Script (current scene)
NOVEMBER 3, 2005
DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.
NAT. RES. - XSTRATA: DONKIN MINE - SUITABILITY
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Swiss-based Xstrata is one of the three bidders under consideration for opening the Donkin Mine. As the largest producer of thermal coal in the world, Xstrata is well known in the resource industry but, more interestingly, they are known by who some of their companies are, and one of the largest shareholders is Glencore, a company that holds a 40 per cent stake in Xstrata. Glencore was founded in 1974, by Mark Rich, who became a fugitive from U.S. Justice when he was charged with embargo-busting in Iran in 1983. Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton on the last day of the administration. Last week, the UN released its report on investigation of kickbacks into the Iran Government through Oil-for-Food Program. In that report Xstrata's major shareholder was mentioned no less than 250 times. So my question to the minister is, do we really want that type of company doing business in Nova Scotia?
HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, what we did is we had proposal calls for the Donkin resource. We've evaluated the three proposals that are in. What we want is a good solid company that's going to use the resource from our province and create jobs in this province.
MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, if that's what he calls a good company, let's tell him a bit more about Xstrata and how they do business worldwide because one of their big problems is around health and safety. Xstrata is now appealing a previous conviction in a case that could have a serious impact on OH&S legislation in Australia. They're challenging the government's power to bring criminal prosecutions against employers for workplace death and injury. Just because the company shows interest, doesn't mean we should welcome them with open arms. We've have had enough Clifford Frames. We've had enough Westrays. Why would this minister allow a company like Xstrata to bid on our natural resources?
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member and all members, this government has an open process and we have an open tendering process and that's exactly what we got. We got three proposals in. We're evaluating those proposals and I will be taking those proposals to my Cabinet colleagues.
MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, nobody in this House, especially anybody from Pictou County, Inverness County, Springhill or Cape Breton, has to know any more about the amount of blood that's on the coal in this province, and this minister should know better. If you're going to allow a company like this to come in and take away our natural resources,
you tell us why, tell us why you're allowing this company to bid on natural resources, like coal?
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I must look on my nameplate, I think I'm still the Minister of Natural Resources. I have not made a decision, and I have not taken it to my Cabinet colleagues. Until that decision is made, I don't know where this member is speaking from.
November 11 2005
Province delays coal mine decision
The Nova Scotia government wants more time to decide if the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton will open again.
John Hamm's cabinet discussed plans at a meeting Thursday from three separate groups that are hoping to start production. The MLAs decided to ask each group to provide more information on their plans before the province makes a decision.
Richard Hurlburt, the cabinet minister responsible for the file, said the province wants to be sure it chooses the right company.
"We're asking for a little more analysis be done and we'll be making an announcement real soon. We just want to make sure that we're doing what's right for Cape Breton and for Nova Scotia. This is a massive project and we want to make sure we're making the right decision."
The groups bidding for the project include Cape Breton Coal Energy, Donkin Resources and an offshore resources company called
The mine closed nearly 20 years ago, but 300 million tonnes of coal remain underground, and high prices for oil and natural gas are making coal a more attractive source of energy.
The government ran coal mining in Cape Breton for 30 years, costing taxpayers almost $2 billion, but keeping thousands employed in an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
A group of miners tried to open Donkin Mine in 2003, but failed to come up with the financing.
Premier Hamm announced last year that the province was looking for a private operator for the mine.
November 30, 2005
Keep mines in Canadian hands:
Munk Warns Ottawa of danger to national interest if foreigners scuttle takeovers
By GORDON PITTS
Globe and Mail
Barrick Gold Corp. chairman Peter Munk has hit the lobbying trail, warning Ottawa of severe negative consequences for the national interest if it allows foreign bidders to scuttle two all-Canadian mining deals.
He wants the federal government to send a message that it would look askance at any foreign takeover of a major Canadian mining company unless the deal is of net benefit to the country, as mandated under the Canada Investment Act.
He says Canada's long-standing stature as a mining leader is at risk if, as rumoured, foreign buyers emerge to snatch Barrick's hostile-takeover target, Placer Dome Inc., or to upset Inco Ltd.'s friendly deal for Falconbridge Ltd.
Mr. Munk, Barrick's 78-year-old founder, said that, while his proposal has received a sympathetic ear among cabinet ministers, nothing will happen while the political parties are fighting an election.
"This is too important to be left just because we have a damn election," he said, explaining why he is taking the issue to the broader public.
Mr. Munk's efforts are part of the intense jockeying since Barrick's October bid for gold miner Placer and Inco's planned takeover of nickel-copper giant Falconbridge.
Both targets are believed to be attracting foreign interest -- U.S.-based Newmont Gold Co., the No. 1 gold producer, for Placer, and Anglo-Swiss company
Xstrata PLC for Falconbridge -- but no rival bids have emerged.
... ... Mr. Munk said mining is an exceptional case as a critical Canadian industry, and no country, however dedicated to free enterprise, allows its vital industries to be surrendered to foreigners.
He said he met with a few cabinet ministers in Ottawa, including Industry Minister David Emerson, but came away with no commitments.
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