March Newsletter – 21.03.2022


  • Climate impact from China’s coal push visible from space
  • Supercharging critical minerals manufacturing; Prime Minister of Australia
  • Nickel squeeze threatens London’s place at heart of metals trade
  • Belgium to extend life of nuclear reactors by another decade
  • Beijing doubling down on fossil fuels; Chinas co2 emissions increase; Coal production growth
  • Chinese companies exploit Indonesia’s natural resources under BRI Initiative
  • Barrick to restart Reko Diq project in deal ending dispute with Pakistan
  • U.S. imposes sanctions over illicit exports of gold from Congo
  • Zambia lead poisoning victims seek court approval for Anglo case

Climate impact from China’s coal push visible from space

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Coal mine in Hailar, Inner Mongolia, China

China’s increased reliance on coal to combat an energy shortage was never going to bode well for its ambitions to cut planet-warming emissions. Now, thanks to new analysis of satellite data, the effects of that climate choice could already be evident from space.

A plume of methane, which traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere, was detected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite near a remote coal mine in Inner Mongolia on March 1. The Sentinel-5P had never before spotted the powerful greenhouse gas in that location, suggesting new or expanded activity.

In bigger or more developed fossil fuel regions — such as China’s Shanxi province or the Appalachian basin in the U.S. — satellite data has laid bare a bleak history of dozens of invisible, sustained leaks that escape from the Earth when sedimentary rocks are crushed or coal seams are exposed. Although Inner Mongolia is a major coal producer, the satellite hadn’t previously picked up methane in the autonomous region’s Xilingol League, a sparsely populated area that borders the country of Mongolia.

President Xi Jinping is deepening China’s dependence on coal as soaring energy prices and geopolitical instability resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threaten to hurt economic growth. China’s top economic planner has told major mining regions it wants to boost domestic output capacity by about 300 million tons and Beijing last month approved three different billion-dollar coal mine projects.

Supercharging critical minerals manufacturing; Prime Minister of Australia

Australia’s critical minerals sector and the job-creating industries that rely on it are being supercharged under the Morrison Government’s $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

The Government has today announced over $243 million in support for four projects under the Collaboration Stream of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which will create over 3,400 jobs over time and cement Australia’s place in the rapidly growing critical minerals, electric vehicle and battery markets.

This includes:

  • $119.6 million for Pure Battery Technologies’ $399 million Western Australian pCAM Hub, in partnership with Poseidon Nickel, will build an integrated nickel manganese cobalt battery material refinery hub in the Kalgoorlie region. The site will become home to a growing workforce with 380 construction jobs and 175 initial permanent jobs from 2023.
  • $49 million for a $367 million project led by Australian Vanadium, to process high-grade vanadium from its Meekatharra mine in WA and transported to its Tenindewa plant powered by clean hydrogen from partner ATCO Australia. This highly sought-after critical mineral will then be transformed into energy-storing batteries to fuel the growing domestic and overseas market, with more than 740 jobs to be supported.
  • $30 million for Arafura Resources’ flagship Nolans Project near Aileron, in Central Australia, the first of its kind rare earth separation plant in Australia and only the second outside China. The $90.8 million project, located in the Northern Territory, will leverage Australia’s mineral processing expertise to develop rare earth separation technology not currently available here now, creating 650 jobs at the peak of construction and new high-value export opportunities.
  • $45 million for Alpha HPA’s $330 million project with Orica to construct a high purity alumina production facility near Gladstone that will help meet the rapidly expanding demand for lithium-ion batteries and LED lights, with more than 300 jobs to be created from this year.

Nickel squeeze threatens London’s place at heart of metals trade

The first short squeeze to plunge the London Metal Exchange into an existential crisis came over a century ago. In 1887, French industrialist Pierre Secretan set out to corner the copper market, sending prices more than doubling before he lost his grip and they collapsed.

In the years since, the exchange has survived world wars, scandals and defaults to cement its place as a City of London institution: the home of global benchmark prices for the world’s key industrial metals.

That status is now under threat. The reason is another short squeeze, this time in nickel, that is wreaking havoc through the metals world. Investors are furious with the LME for allowing prices to soar 250% in less than two days, then retroactively canceling $3.9 billion in trades. When it tried to reopen the market, the exchange’s electronic trading system malfunctioned repeatedly.

The LME’s outsized role in how industrial metals are bought and sold means that angry traders and investors have few alternatives. But the fallout from the nickel squeeze will cast a long shadow, embroiling the exchange in investigations and lawsuits for years, and raising questions about its structure, ownership and oversight.

Belgium to extend life of nuclear reactors by another decade

Belgium’s government will work to extend the life of two nuclear reactors beyond their original shutdown date of 2025 to secure supply amid record-high energy prices.

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Doel 4 nuclear plant in Belgium

The energy ministry will negotiate with operator Engie SA to prolong the operation of Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors for a further 10 years up until 2035, the federal government said in a statement. It will submit the draft bill on extension to the Council of Ministers by the end of March and also plans to spend 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to finance its transition to climate neutrality.

“This extension should allow to strengthen our country’s independence from fossil fuels in a chaotic geopolitical context,” the government said.

Accelerated transition

The announcement comes as part of a plan by the energy ministry that includes measures to accelerate transition to renewable energy for the country, which imports more than 90% of its primary energy. It also marks a revision of earlier plans to shut nuclear reactors, a step also being considered in Germany, in response to possible energy supply disruption after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Beijing doubling down on fossil fuels; Chinas co2 emissions increase; Coal production growth

Chinese leaders are “doubling down on fossil fuels” amid “growing” fears of global energy shortages and “rising” concerns of an economic slump, according to Bloomberg. The news came after the Chinese government repeatedly underlined the importance of energy security at a series of key political meetings last week.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said last week that China was the main driving force behind a global CO2 emissions “rebound” past pre-pandemic levels. Separately, an energy advisor to the Chinese government told state TV that China’s CO2 emissions had grown by 350m tonnes last year, more than double the average annual increase in recent years.

In other news, China’s “raw coal” production reached 687m tonnes in the first two months of this year, up 10.3% compared to the same period last year, according to official data from China. The rise followed Beijing’s campaign to “ramp up production for the winter heating season”, Reuters reported.

Chinese companies exploit Indonesia’s natural resources under BRI Initiative

Beijing [China]. March 17 (ANI): The operations of Chinese companies under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Indonesia have become a hazard for the country’s environment, disturbing its ecological equilibrium resulting into population displacement.

Chinese companies’ operations have been exploiting the natural resources of Indonesia and disturbing its ecological equilibrium. Their activities have not only threatened the flora and fauna, but the indigenous population causing their displacement, The HK Post reported.

Batang Toru Forest of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has been home to roughly 800 Sumatran Orangutans. on the ‘Critically Endangered Species’ list.

Furthermore, environmentalists argue that the project threatens the Sumatran tiger and Sunda pangolin.

These already endangered species have come under threat due to the construction USD 1.6 billion Batang Toru Hydro-Power Project, under China’s ambitious Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), by China’s Sino Hydro Corporation Limited.

The site of the Project is located near a fault line, a concern not mentioned in its environmental assessment, but raised by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), the report said. Moreover, the Hydroelectric Power Project has been rated as the riskiest environmental project in history by scientists who have approached Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the protection of Batang Toru Forest.

Barrick to restart Reko Diq project in deal ending dispute with Pakistan

Barrick Gold has ended a long-running dispute with Pakistan and will now start to develop one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mining projects under an agreement signed on Sunday.

Under the out-of-court deal, an $11 billion penalty slapped against Pakistan by a World Bank arbitration court and other liabilities will be waived and Barrick and its partners will invest $10 billion in the project, Pakistan Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said.

The Reko Diq project in southwestern Pakistan, which hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta a licence to develop it.

Barrick said in a statement it will operate the project which will be granted a mining lease, exploration licence and surface rights.

In a separate statement, Antofagasta said it had agreed to exit the project as its growth strategy was now focused on the production of copper and by-products in the Americas.

“The new project company shall be owned 50% by Barrick Gold. The remaining 50% shareholding shall be owned by Pakistan, divided equally between Federal Government and the provincial government of Balochista,” a statement from the office of Prime Minister Imran Khan said after the signing ceremony in Islamabad.

U.S. imposes sanctions over illicit exports of gold from Congo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Belgian businessman Alain Goetz and a network of companies tied to him that it accused of being involved in the illicit movement of gold from Democratic Republic of Congo.

The U.S. Treasury Department, in a statement, said among the targets was the African Gold Refinery in Uganda, which Goetz operates, and several other companies he owns or controls. It accused Goetz and the companies of being involved in illegal gold exports valued at hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

In a statement, Goetz said his inclusion on the U.S. sanctions list “seems to be based on misinformation”. He said he has not been to Congo in more than 20 years and has not kept any active contacts within Congo.

Goetz said he was asked to set up East Africa’s first gold refinery in 2014, adding that “nothing has made me prouder than to see the impact that African Gold Refinery has had on the gold industry in the Great Lakes region”.

The Treasury said a network of armed groups, smugglers and companies generate illicit revenue from the gold industry through forced labor, smuggling or other means. It said the illicit movement of gold provides revenue to armed groups that threaten peace and security in Congo.

Zambia lead poisoning victims seek court approval for Anglo case

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Abandoned by industry in 1994, former workers still come to Kabwe in search of lead and other metals to sell, to scrape a living.

Lawyers pursuing a class action suit against a unit of Anglo American Plc for lead poisoning around a Zambian mine presented their arguments to a South African court, saying the company can’t pass blame to a state-owned company that took over the operation in 1974.

While law firms Mbuyisa Moleele and Leigh Day accuse Anglo American of being the mine’s operator for the period when it produced two-thirds of its lead, the company denies it ever owned the assets. Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines operated the Kabwe mine for 20 years after it was nationalized until it was closed.

“Anglo’s attempt to blame its successor, ZCCM, for the present lead contamination does not stack up,” the legal firms said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “It is contradictory for Anglo to argue, on the one hand, that elevated soil and blood lead levels are not due to the mine and, on the other hand, to accuse ZCCM of ‘recklessness and neglect’ over its handling of the mining operations and failure to clean-up.”

Anglo American said it isn’t responsible for the current situation. The operator was Zambia Broken Hill Development Company and while it provided services, it “at no stage owned or operated the mine,” the company said in an emailed response to questions.

Mbuyisa Moleele and Leigh Day first filed the suit in 2020 on behalf of a group they estimate of more than 100,000 people in Zambia’s central Kabwe district. A hearing on whether the class action proceeds is expected later this year, the firms said.

The lawyers said blood lead levels there have caused cognitive impairment in a large proportion of the population and are higher than the levels of residents in Flint, Michigan, where a more than $600 million settlement was reached with people who suffered from lead poisoning.


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