Category Archives: potash
Mine Accident Shows a Potash Market Nervous About Supply Shocks
By Jen Skerritt and Aliaksandr Kudrytski
March 15, 2018, 10:00 PM CST
The news, when it came late Friday night from a government ministry in Minsk, was grim: the ceiling of a potash mine in Belarus had collapsed more than half a kilometer underground, trapping two workers.
Halfway around the world, the reaction to the headlines was swift and dramatic. Shares of some of the largest potash producers soared in New York and Toronto on speculation that the accident could knock out a large chunk of global production capacity.
The March 9 episode vividly illustrates that after a decade of gluts, the industry is suddenly nervous again about supply shocks. Demand has been constantly increasing and any change in production from the world’s top suppliers in Canada, Belarus and Russia has the potential to impact the market dramatically, said Daniel Sherman, a senior analyst for Edward Jones in St. Louis.
“If a large mine in one of those suppliers is hit, it’s clearly going to put a dent in the supply,” Sherman said by telephone. “One of the key things is the supply is very concentrated.”
Potash Market Share
Belaruskali is the world’s second-largest producer
Source: Green Markets data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence
State-owned Belaruskali is the world’s second-largest potash producer and is one of three companies, alongside with Russia’s Uralkali and North America’s Canpotex, that accounts for more than 60 percent of total output. The fertilizer ingredient is used to strengthen plant roots and boost drought resistance.
While Belaruskali insists there is no threat to production, the accident has shown how vulnerable the market is to disruptions at a time when demand is poised to rise: India and China are negotiating supply contracts, buyers are looking to purchase fertilizer ahead of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and Canadian producers recently idled 1 million metric tons of output.
Miners in Belarus and Russia are running at full capacity and “could not produce more” if they tried in the short term, said Jonas Oxgaard, analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Any outages could allow for higher prices for Canpotex, a joint venture which markets sales outside of North America for Nutrien Ltd. and Mosaic Co.
The removal of one of Belaruskali’s mines would take out about 2.5 million tons, or roughly 4 percent of global production, Goldman Sachs analysts Adam Samuelson and Brooke Roach said in a March 9 report.
“If there’s an upset, you’re going to have a shortage somewhere,” said Sanford’s Oxgaard, adding that there hasn’t been a major outage from a potash mine in several years, and “we are basically due,” he said.
A supply squeeze could help potash prices to recover after years of ample inventories. It could also mean a rebound for fertilizer equities. U.S. producer Mosaic has climbed about 3 percent in 2018, but the shares are down more than 50 percent since the end of 2012 as a multi-year rout for crops cut farmer spending.
While outages are infrequent, they have caused supply shocks in the past. In 2006, Uralkali lost a mine after a sinkhole wider than 100 meters opened above the site. In 2014, a flood at Uralkali boosted prices at a time when companies were curbingoutput following the breakup of the company’s sales alliance with Belarus.
In Belarus last week, the roof of the potash mine tunnel crashed down, with methane being discharged, Belaruskali Chief Executive Officer Ivan Golovaty said in a statement on the company’s website. While “such phenomena do occur in our Starobin potash deposit,” it was the first time an incident of such scale happened without any prior warning signs, he said.
Sudden outbursts of salt and gas in Belaruskali mines are caused by geological structures which have gas in their nucleus, contained under enormous pressure. Workers had no chance to react and escape and two people were caught by the falling rock and died “in a fraction of a second,” according to the statement.
Belaruskali Deputy CEO Anatoly Makhlai said company production is now stable and shipping is normal.
“There is absolutely no threat of us stopping production at this mine,” Makhlai said by phone from Soligorsk. “The mine has several directions, and the incident affected only one mine tunnel in one of the several mine sectors. Idling it is out of question, everything is working.”
Even so, the accident shows the risk associated with potash supply and could drive prices higher in the short term, Jacob Bout, an analyst at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a March 9 report. Canadian exports remain strong amid demand from Asia, and as prices tick higher, there’s a possibility the Chinese supply contract may top $250 a ton, up at least 9 percent from a year earlier, he said.
— With assistance by Megan Durisin
Download Deloitte’s full “Tracking the Trends” HERE
These are top-10 global mining trends expected for 2018
The most important one? Transitioning towards a “digital mine”
In the last 10 years, the mining industry has been on a roller-coaster, with commodity prices reaching both historic highs and lows, as well as operational realities shifting irrevocably in the face of a digital revolution. And companies better fasten their seat belts because those rapid changes are likely to continue and even accelerate this year, a study released by Deloitte on Wednesday says.
Phil Hopwood, Global Mining Leader at Deloitte and author of “Tracking the Trends” annual mining report, now in its 10th edition, told MINING.com that as several commodities appear to be at the onset of a bull run for the next 10 years, the sector will have to continue its transition to the digital mine of the future and anticipate future disruptors, including declining ore body grades, decreasing availability of tier one assets, and continued focus on shareholder returns.
Turning disruption into opportunity requires a long-term view capable of assessing how emerging market trends may affect the demand for specific commodities.
But turning disruption into opportunity requires a long-term view capable of assessing how emerging market trends may affect the demand for specific commodities, he says.
“Looking back just 20 years, it’d have been hard to believe that nickel, lithium, cobalt and graphite would be an affordable way to power batteries,” says Hopwood. “Today that is the reality and a potential growth opportunity, particularly with the emergence of electric vehicles.”
Asked whether the impressive gains in commodity and equity prices around the world in the lithium, cobalt and other “battery-making” metals sectors are a trend or just investment hype, Hopwood is quick to note that most new commodities result in an initial “plug”.
“There is no doubt excitement around those commodities. They are the key ingredients in batteries — and energy sources of the future – but I don’t think the hype around needing better quality nickel is ‘hype’ at all; it’s integral. Laterite nickel pig iron (NPI) is simply not as good as nickel sulfide for use in batteries; but of course it’s the cheaper option. The problem is, you can’t substitute for good quality nickel and expect quality results,” he says.
The same goes for lithium, Hopwood adds. “The bottom line is that what we need to focus on is the fundamentals and ask more pressing questions, like how to get the resources out of the ground effectively to meet supply.”
To thrive in the mining industry’s historical boom and bust cycle and capitalize on new opportunities, he says, companies must rethink the traditional mining model.
“I see mining really making changes in terms of adopting digital technology and innovative thinking – though still at an early stage for some.”
He notes that some big names in the industry, such as BHP, are really focusing on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As revealed in Deloitte Canada’s recent report on Inclusion – inclusive companies deliver better financial results.
Mining companies are also moving to being more visible and transparent in their reporting, Hopwood says.
“They are out there talking about the work they do with communities and their commitments. They are publishing papers and trying to improve their reputation(s) by publishing POVs and reports on where the industry should be heading. They now understand that they have a responsibility to play an integral role in the “image” of mining,” he notes.
While there is still more that can be done, the expert believes the wheels are in motion and that the industry is moving in the right direction.
Download Deloitte’s full “Tracking the Trends” HERE
Vale closes sale of fertilizer business to Mosaic for $1.4 billion – includes Kronau project in Saskatchewan
Vale closes sale of fertilizer business to Mosaic for $1.4 billion
Jan 9, 2018
The sale of its fertilizer business to Mosaic is part of Vale’s strategy to cut debt and focus on its core businesses. (Image courtesy of Vale SA.)
Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE), the world’s largest iron ore and nickel miner, has officially closed the sale of its fertilizer business to US-based Mosaic Co. (NYSE:MOS), the No.1 producer of phosphate fertilizer, in a deal worth about $1.4 billion, considerably less than the $2.5bn originally estimated.
The transaction, part of Vale’s strategy to cut debt and focus on its core businesses, excludes the TIPLAM port, located in Brazil’s south-eastern Santos city and which was originally included in the deal. The Minnesota-based company, however, has been granted the right to use that terminal.
Back in December 2016, when the deal was first announced, Mosaic had agreed to pay the highest amount for Vale’s stake in Peru’s Bayovar mine, the firm’s Kronau potash project in Canada and most of its phosphate assets in Brazil, including the terminal, but excluding the nitrogen and phosphate assets in Cubatão, which will be bought by Norwegian chemical company Yara for $255 million.
The sale ends Vale’s supremacy on the phosphate market in Brazil, which in turn is the planet’s fifth-biggest user of fertilizer.
‘Eco-colonialism’: Rift grows between Indigenous leaders and green activists
Indigenous communities say they’ve had enough of activists invading their lands, misleading them about their agendas and using hard-line tactics against those who don’t agree
With flowing long hair, stoic expression and tribal garb, Martin Louie, the hereditary chief of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in north-central British Columbia, more than looked and acted the part of an aggrieved leader in the epic fight against the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.
He was quoted in the campaign’s news releases, filed complaints to the United Nations and spoke defiantly to investors. Environmental group Stand.earth even described him as the “poster boy” for Indigenous opposition to Enbridge Inc.’s pipeline.
The $7-billion pipeline was eventually cancelled last year, but Louie didn’t actually want to sink the project. Lost in the heat of the public battle was that he really just wanted to win more money for his impoverished community than the “ridiculous” $70,000 a year being offered by the company.
Louie’s experience is indicative of a widening rift between Indigenous communities and activists over natural resources, particularly in British Columbia, the focal point of major green campaigns generously funded by U.S. interests to thwart oil and gas exports.
The campaigns consistently portray a united Indigenous anti-development front and allies of the green movement, but some Indigenous leaders are becoming alarmed that they could be permanently frozen out of the mainstream economy if resource projects don’t go ahead.
They said in interviews they’ve had enough of activists invading their lands, misleading them about their agendas, recruiting token members to front their causes, sowing mistrust and conflict, and using hard-line tactics against those who don’t agree.
“The best way to describe it is eco-colonialism,” said Ken Brown, a former chief of the Klahoose First Nation in southwestern B.C. “You are seeing a very pervasive awakening among these First Nations leaders about what is going on in the environmental community.”
For instance, Louie is now one of the leaders of the proposed $17-billion Eagle Spirit pipeline, a Northern Gateway alternative championed by First Nations.
“When I went after Enbridge we were trying to gain more benefits for major projects going through our country,” he said.
Word soon got out about his differences with Enbridge and he was approached by a handful of lawyers representing green organizations who promised him assistance and funding, Louie recalled.
Their partnership ended bitterly because the two sides had conflicting objectives. He wanted better benefits; the activists wanted the project to fail.
The eventual failure of Northern Gateway was just one of a series of tipping points in recent months that worry some Indigenous leaders.
There was also the demise of Pacific NorthWest LNG and Aurora LNG, as well as the continuing challenges faced by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and other proposed LNG projects. These cancellations and obstacles are celebrated by activists, but also wiped out jobs and revenue for First Nations.
Eagle Spirit also faces difficulties. Led by Indigenous lawyer Calvin Helin and supported by First Nations along the proposed route through northern B.C., the project will collapse if the federal government goes ahead with a tanker ban that is making its way through Parliament.
The ban is related to the Great Bear Rainforest, which was created by the B.C. government last year to conserve a big part of the province’s northern and central coast.
Both initiatives are seen by greens as big achievements, but are disputed by First Nations such as the Lax Kw’alaams, who said they were advanced without proper consultation and prevent their members from making a living.
Brown’s experience with environmental activism started about a decade ago, when he was chief of his tribe and supported two run-of-river hydro projects.
The projects were attacked by groups such as Save Our Rivers and Western Canada Wilderness Committee for being harmful to fish habitat, and Brown’s band was criticized for being “sellouts and socially irresponsible people looking for the quick buck,” he said.
“What an onslaught it was. There was a high level of participation from people who had never been to the region … and they were all conveying the same narrative: ‘The sky is falling, keep your blood money, corporations are evil.’”
Brown, who now runs a consulting company, said similar tactics are used against other projects, too.
“If First Nations communities are willing to conform to the prescribed eco-narratives, they are going to get all kinds of accolades and praise, but if they don’t conform, it’s vitriolic hit pieces on these people,” he said.
Louie is still shaken by the backlash he experienced. After complaining to activists they were only using him to advance their cause, he said he was blackballed.
“Workers were spreading the word that I am not a good man, that I am there to ruin the environment, that I am making money on my own,” he said. “They were making me sound like I am taking millions from a lot of people. If I was in that position, I wouldn’t be struggling to pay for my car payments.”
Louie said he joined the Eagle Spirit project to achieve what he couldn’t with Northern Gateway: help his tribe become economically self-reliant.
Environmental organizations and Indigenous communities in recent years have found common cause in opposing some projects and in fighting the impacts of capitalism on the environment, said Dwight Newman, Canada research chair in Indigenous rights at the University of Saskatchewan.
A big reason is that Indigenous people have unique legal rights and by working with them, green groups are better able to block developments than if they relied on environmental grounds alone, he said.
Section 35 of Canada’s constitution states the Crown has a duty to consult with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and, where it anticipates adverse impacts, to accommodate to the extent reasonably possible.
So far, the law has been used against development, but one of the unknowns is whether Indigenous communities will use it to pursue economic development and override the environmental laws that block projects such as Eagle Spirit, Newman said.
“At some point, these arguments will end up in the courts, either directly as rights claims or as claims that there ought to have been consultation on potential effects on such rights,” Newman said in an article for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, where he is a senior fellow.
“And the very presence of these arguments will overturn the expectations of many who think they have liberal views, but actually have ongoing paternalistic views that assume First Nations always need protection from development.”
Many conservation campaigns rely on U.S. funds because there is more money available there due to tax laws and an abundance of wealthy philanthropists.
Vancouver-based researcher and blogger Vivian Krause has tallied the large sums poured by U.S. groups to fight pipelines and gas projects in Canada by analyzing tax filings.
The biggest funder has been the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has granted more than $190 million to First Nations, environmental and other organizations working in B.C., Krause said.
The top recipient of funds from the Moore Foundation is Tides Canada, which received at least $70 million, she said. Tides Canada spends that money internally and re-grants it to other groups, particularly First Nations organizations.
Other big U.S.-based funders are the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts.
“These American interests are trying to stop these projects any way they can, and one of the best ways is by leveraging the constitutional rights of First Nations in the courts,” Krause said.
The former United Nations worker said she pursued the research because of pleas for help from Indigenous leaders “who want jobs and social and economic prosperity (and) are sick and tired of what they call the paid protesters.”
One of those leaders is Gary Alexcee, a hereditary chief of the Nisga’a Nation near Alaska, and a member of Eagle Spirit’s Chiefs Council. He’s disappointed the federal government is giving more weight to environmentalists than to the needs of Indigenous communities.
“We were totally taken aback and surprised by the announcement of this tanker ban because of the government’s statement that they were going to include First Nations,” he said. “No one got consulted.”
Eagle Spirit would create jobs and opportunities “that people never had” in a region where other industries such as fishing, forestry and eco-tourism are doing badly, he said.
Alexcee, 70, said many in his community don’t support green campaigns. He said activists have come to the region in big numbers and picked “token” members to advance their causes.
Relations between activists and Indigenous people got really ugly in nearby Prince Rupert, in the territory of the Lax Kw’alaams.
The community was initially opposed to a liquefied natural gas project proposed by a consortium led by Malaysia’s Petronas because of its location on Lelu Island, which they believed would threaten juvenile salmon.
They became supporters after negotiating bigger benefits and getting the project to re-locate.
But a small group of opponents continued to protest. Their frontman was Donnie Wesley, who claimed to be a hereditary chief and led an occupation of the site. That opened the door for activists to come in and offer band members funds and assistance to defeat a high-profile target, said Mayor John Helin.
Dozens of “professional protesters” travelled to the area from as far away as California with funding from groups such as SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, which, in turn, was getting money from Tides and the Moore Foundation.
“More or less, they called me a traitor,” Helin said.
Petronas pulled the plug on the $36-billion venture this summer, which meant $2 billion in benefits over 40 years for the band were lost.
The Lax Kw’alaams chided Wesley for misrepresenting himself as a hereditary leader. The dispute over who represented the community ended up in court. Wesley lost and is appealing.
Greg Knox, executive director of Terrace, B.C.-based SkeenaWild, said there is a wide range of perspectives in Indigenous communities and while some may feel they lost opportunity when Petronas cancelled its LNG project, others were relieved because salmon were no longer threatened.
“This project was proposed for a terrible location,” Knox said. Many other LNG projects were also proposed, but “this was the only one that people were concerned about and there was big opposition to.”
His group also campaigned against Northern Gateway and supports the tanker ban, he said, but doesn’t have a position on Eagle Spirit yet because it doesn’t have enough information.
Stand.earth brags on its website that it has delayed or stopped 21 “dirty oil pipelines and train projects.” But it relied on Will George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, to confront Kinder Morgan Canada chief executive Ian Anderson at a recent Vancouver Board of Trade event promoting the $7.4-billion expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“I do not welcome you onto my territory. You are not welcome on my lands, and you certainly cannot be doing business here without Tsleil-Waututh consent,” George said, according to a statement distributed by the group.
“It’s really Indigenous nations protecting their land that allows us to win these fights,” said Stand.earth campaigner Hailey Zacks, noting 150 First Nations in Canada and the U.S. are opposed to the project.
For its part, Kinder Morgan said 42 directly impacted Indigenous communities are supportive of the pipeline expansion and have signed benefits agreements.
Zacks couldn’t speak to that, but said, “What I do know is that the communities that I work with are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it.”
Haida Gwaii is one community known as a hostile place for development of all kinds — and for those who dare to promote it.
Hereditary chief Ray Jones, 66, was harshly castigated for doing consulting work for Northern Gateway, which would have included tankers sailing to and from Asia, potentially impacting the island.
A former captain in the fishing industry with intimate knowledge of the coast, the 66-year-old said he supported the shipment of oil and gas and any other work that promised desperately needed employment.
His contract job with Enbridge involved building communications between the island community and the company, he said.
But Jones was up against powerful forces. Haida Gwaii’s leadership worked closely with activists, he said, “a whole pile of them,” particularly from the David Suzuki Foundation, visited the area regularly and influenced the local population.
The foundation did not respond to an interview request.
The community was so close-minded about getting an alternative point of view, few even asked him what his job with Enbridge involved, Jones said.
“Everybody said they hated me for working for Enbridge, you are the enemy, you are a traitor,” he said. “I have two sisters who don’t talk to me. I have had people call me the village clown, a lot of derogatory things. I’ve had my tires slashed, I’ve had somebody key my car. It’s ugly.”
The same attitude has killed other jobs, pushing young people away and leaving the rest with nothing to improve their lot, he said.
“I always tell my grand children, get a damn good education because I don’t know what you kids are in for in your life,” Jones said. “We lived in a good time.”
PREMIER CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NUTRIEN MERGER BASED ON COMMITMENTS TO SASKATCHEWAN
Premier Brad Wall today said he is cautiously optimistic about the recently approved merger of Agrium and PotashCorp into a new company called Nutrien, based on commitments made in recent meetings with the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Board Chairs of the two merging corporations.
Those commitments include:
- Nutrien’s registered head office and global potash operations will be located in Saskatoon;
- corporate office positions in Saskatchewan will increase by at least 15 per cent, to approximately 300;
- approximately 4,500 of Nutrien’s 20,000 employees worldwide will be located in Saskatchewan;
- two new business functions will relocate to Saskatchewan; and
- CEO and/or Executive Chair of the Nutrien Board and the President of Nutrien’s potash operations will live and work in Saskatchewan.
“This is a strong commitment to Saskatchewan, which will ensure that the merger results in a net benefit for our province,” Wall said. “All of these commitments remain subject to approval of the new Nutrien board. Our government will be closely monitoring future developments, but I have every expectation that Nutrien will follow through on their commitments to Saskatchewan.”
For more information, contact:
Rio Tinto currently have 4 positions posted for their Saskatoon location. This is pointing towards movement in diamonds and/or uranium and/or potash.
Here are the posted positions:
DECEMBER 27, 2017
Potash Corp, Agrium win final approval to merge, forming Nutrien
WASHINGTON/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc and Agrium Inc have received final regulatory clearance to merge, forming a new company to be known as Nutrien, the two firms said on Wednesday.
The two Canadian fertilizer and chemical companies agreed to divest two of Agrium’s U.S. production facilities to ensure merger approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
PotashCorp and Agrium agreed in a settlement with the FTC to divest one facility to Itafos and another to Trammo Inc, the FTC said.
The merger of two Canadian companies required U.S. regulatory approval because Nutrien will control the majority of North America’s potash capacity as well as a large farm retail business.
The deal is now expected to close on Jan. 1, 2018, and Nutrien will start trading on Jan. 2 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol NTR.
“This final clearance marks a significant milestone in bringing two industry leaders together,” said Chuck Magro, president and chief executive of Agrium.
Magro will lead Nutrien as CEO and has said the company plans to expand its U.S. farm supply network and return cash to shareholders.