mining protests

For Barrick Gold, there was a silver lining to the Chilean Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to uphold the suspension of the construction of its giant Pascua Lama mine.

The Toronto-based company will at least not be required to apply for a new environmental permit for the $8.5bn project, which sits high up in the Andes on the border with Argentina. Read more

It’s been a rocky start to the week for South Africa, with the hunt for an urgent solution to its mining chaos going nowhere. On Tuesday Jacob Zuma, the president, once again called for a peaceful resolution to the troubles rocking the sector after Monday’s fatal shooting of a union leader. He had made similar calls last week, as the sector’s troubles contributed to GDP growth at a fresh low of 0.9 per cent in the first quarter and the rand tumbled dramatically to record lows – its fall exacerbated, critics said, by Zuma’s failure to actRead more

By Jude Webber and Naomi Mapstone

Another mining project in a minerals-rich Andean country has been hit by another environmental/indigenous complaint. Digging up precious metals as a way of achieving economic prosperity, especially in areas of outstanding natural beauty, has never been so fraught.

The latest casualty is the Chilean side of Barrick Gold’s Pascua-Lama project, which promises to be one of the world’s biggest gold mines. Read more

Zambia announced on Wednesday that it had revoked the licences for a controversial Chinese-owned coal mine in the south of the country in response to violations of safety and environmental laws and a failure to pay mineral royalties.

Mining minister Yamfwa Mukanga said the government had taken over the mines and would operate them “until a suitable investor is found”. The decision highlights the sometimes troubled relationship between China and Zambia. Read more

Anglo American Platinum, the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal, is to close four shafts and look to sell another mine complex as part of a radical overhaul of its South African operations.

Announcing the results of a year-long review of its business, the company said the moves could affect up to 14,000 jobs, which it hoped to recreate through other initiatives. In total Amplats employs about 60,000 people.

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Strikes brought platinum and gold mines across South Africa to a standstill in September. Big producers such as Lonmin, Gold Fields, and Anglo American Platinum were involved. The government has now published mining production figures for the month, so we can begin taking stock of the impact. Read more

After comings and goings, Bolivia’s leftist government with an indigenous twist finally ruled out paying compensation to Canada’s South American Silver, two months after their mining licence was revoked.

“The nation has no financial obligation to South American Silver,” mining minister Mario Virreira told reporters, adding there was “never any document establishing that the Bolivian government had a contractual relationship” with the Vancouver-based company. Read more

Next time a president of a resource-rich country thinks nationalisation of mining assets is a way of solving internal conflicts, s/he would do well to take a look at Bolivia, where salaried and independent miners have been violently fighting for the control of a recently nationalised mine. Read more

Labour unrest in South Africa has hit gold and mining stocks, but the wider South African market has held up well. Jeff Gable, head of African research at Barclays, explains why to emerging markets editor, Stefan Wagstyl.

By Thero Setiloane of Business Leadership South Africa

It is probably too soon to say whether the very fabric of our labour relations framework is being torn apart in South Africa. I don’t think it’s too soon to say that it is being challenged in a deep and fundamental way. All mining companies will be affected by this and will need to approach this change in an open and constructive way.

One of the biggest challenges to that framework has been the initial R12,500 basic monthly wage demand made by the Lonmin workers. That demand was until recently one of the enduring features of the current unrest but its potential impact on the mining industry and what it tells us about labour relations in South Africa hasn’t really been understood. Read more

Mining companies are queuing up for east Africa’s natural resources boom, but one key player might now be heading for the exit.

On Thursday Barrick Gold, the world’s biggest gold producer, confirmed it is considering selling its 74 per cent stake in its African operation, African Barrick. As the FT reports, potential buyers in the frame are China National Gold and the Zijin Mining Group – both state owned. Read more

Even during thunderstorms and floods, the Incas believed the ancient sun god, or Inti, was always shining. In today’s Peru bloody and protracted protests have stopped mining projects from going ahead – such as Newmont Mining’s $5bn Conga project.

They have also forced the country’s President, Ollanta Humala, to make cabinet changes. But the investment climate in Latin America’s fastest-growing economy seems to be, somehow, shining. Read more

The death of a Chinese mine supervisor during a protest over wages at the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in Zambia’s Southern Province has brought the uneasy African-Chinese working relationship into the spotlight again.

This is not the first time the Collum mine has been the site of controversy, with a history of complaints and even gunfire. The Zambian government’s response will now be watched closely. Read more

With the deaths of up to four anti-mining protesters in Peru’s southern Andes, president Ollanta Humala finds himself knee-deep in the same quagmire that bogged down several of his predecessors.

Social conflict remains the key investment risk for the extractive sector in Peru, because Peru remains a divided country. Read more

Newmont’s decision to cut 6,000 jobs at its stalled $4.8bn Conga gold and copper mine has given the project’s home base of Cajamarca a taste of what it stands to lose if the company walks away.

The mine, Peru’s biggest single investment, has been on hold since protesters blockaded Cajamarca in November over concerns about water supply. Read more

Indigenous Panamanians protest recent changes to the country's mining lawThere’s gold in them thar Central American hills. Gold and several other valuable minerals. Mining companies, especially Canadian, are courting the region yet most of the governments are playing hard to get, if not being openly hostile.

All of which must be pretty perplexing to at least some of the companies. World prices of metals remain high while Central American economies are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Surely a slam-dunk for the miners? Read more

Peru’s long-running Conga mine dispute inched forward on Tuesday with the naming of two Spanish engineers to oversee an independent review of the $4.8bn copper mine project.

The biggest single investment in Peruvian history has been stalled for more than two months after anti-Conga protestors blockaded the provincial capital of Cajamarca for 11 days. The government is hoping it can restart the project after the review. Read more

Panama City has been transformed in recent years into a “Dubai of the Americas”, complete with a Trump Tower – a real-estate boom fuelled by double-digit growth.

But the go-go economic policy of the nation’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, has suddenly hit trouble in the face of protests. Read more

By Robert Johnston and Divya Reddy of Eurasia Group

Mining companies have been busy scouring investment frontiers that they once avoided. The world’s seven largest gold-producing companies are all developing major projects in frontier markets, including Papua New Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, and Ecuador.

Geologically-attractive deposits (especially for gold, and to a lesser extent, copper) in politically-stable countries are scarce today, while large, untapped deposits in frontier markets offer greater promise. However, this shifts risks from below- to above-ground. The world should brace itself for an increase in supply disruptions for key commodities. Read more

If 2011 was the year of the (unpredicted) protest, what does 2012 have in store? More protests, quite possibly. But one growing trend to look out for is that of “resource nationalism” – efforts made by natural-resource rich countries to secure greater rewards from those assets.

This is one of the key findings of Maplecroft, a risk advisory company, in its Political Risk Atlas for 2012. It makes sobering reading. Read more