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Will Simandou’s high-grade iron ore end Australia’s market dominance? Experts are sceptical

What a difference a week makes in iron ore. Seven days ago successful attempts from the Chinese government to put … Read More
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This article was originally published by Stockhead

What a difference a week makes in iron ore.

Seven days ago successful attempts from the Chinese government to put the kybosh on the iron ore price – from records of $US230/t to only near records of ~$US190/t – led to some apocalyptic takes from commentators.

Since then China showed producers in the steel city of Tangshan a draft plan to relax emissions reducing production restrictions, apparently in the hope increasing steel supply would bring down prices.

Iron ore futures went boing, iron ore was back above $US200/t and the draft was pulled. Not, presumedly, what the CCP had planned.

As prices have remained stubbornly high Australia has benefitted in the form of record export earnings from China, despite ongoing trade tensions that have seen Aussie coal and crayfish turned away at the border.

Enter Capital Economics economist Julian Evans-Pritchard, who suggests a mix of scrap steel, sliding demand and Chinese sponsored overseas developments like the massive Simandou mine in Guinea could help the Middle Kingdom wean off Australian iron ore over the next decade.

“On their own, none of these factors would be enough to wean China off Australian iron ore,” he wrote in a note last week.

“But taken together, they could lower China’s dependence to levels where it would be feasible for the country to cut off shipments from Australia and still source enough from elsewhere to meet its needs.”


What is Simandou?

Located in Guinea, Simandou is one of the largest, highest grade iron ore deposits in the world, but is currently broken into a couple of discrete parts.

Australia’s Rio Tinto owns one half of the deposit (blocks 3 and 4) with Chinese aluminium giant Chinalco and the Guinean government.

It has held onto the project since it made the discovery in the mid-1990s, but only revealed plans to revisit it last year as iron ore prices sky-rocketed after finding it uneconomic to develop back in 2015.

The other half (blocks 1 and 2) had been held by companies associated with Israeli diamond and mining magnate Beny Steinmetz, who engineered a multi-billion dollar deal with Brazilian major Vale, before they were stripped amid allegations of corruption against Steinmetz.

Those blocks were then awarded by the Guinean Government in a tender to a consortium of Chinese, Singaporean, French interests and Guinea’s government owned Alumina company.

They have stated their ambitious aim to bring the roughly US$14 billion development, including a nation-building 620km railway through the Guinean countryside, online by 2025.

Simandou’s grade, scale and quality of resource is not in question. But what it is in question is whether it can be developed and what impact it will have on the global iron ore market?

The most pessimistic narratives involve it either displacing Australian production tonne for tonne, or bring so much additional supply into the market it would hammer prices, but there are a number of analysts who are sceptical about these outcomes.

Is it the Pilbara Killer, or another drop in the ocean as steel demand rises?


Developing Simandou a tall order

Iron ore market expert and Magnetite Mines (ASX: MGT) director Mark Eames said bringing Simandou into production would be more complicated than many analysts believed.

He noted the cost of Simandou in 2015 – when Rio shelved the project as the iron ore price fell away – was rumoured to be US$22 billion, complicated by the Guinean government’s insistence its product be transported through Guinea as opposed to a shorter, cheaper route through neighbouring Liberia.

Eames was involved on project development in Africa with Xstrata and Glencore and warned the history of African iron ore developments showed it would be no easy task to bring it online in the timeframe being put forward.

“Even if you could get through all of this mess of corruption, government relations, history and even if it proved to be economic, and the last design Rio did proved not to be economic, you’ve still got 8-10 years even if it’s physically possible for all of that ore to reach market,” he told Stockhead.

“And even after all of that you’ve got in the order of 60-70 million tonnes, which is not going to move the dial.

“In my opinion, the people who talk about Simandou have absolutely no idea of the practical challenges or the real issues involved in developing that resource.”

Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) chief executive Eizabeth Gaines, whose Pilbara mid-major reportedly missed out to the SMB Winning consortium in the tender process for blocks one and two, believes Simandou will be developed.

But presenting to delegates at the Australian Shareholders Association conference, she said supply from Simandou would be incremental and replace production from mines coming to the end of their life by the time it was ready to produce.


Australian iron ore still sailing high

For now, Australian iron ore appears to be in the driver’s seat, with the Pilbara miners’ main competitor, Brazil’s Vale, yet to recover to export levels seen before the Brumadinho dam collapse in 2019.

Based on shipping data and average May prices, Westpac estimates Australian iron ore exports were worth a colossal $16.7 billion last month.

Australian revenues from iron ore exports continue to climb higher. Picture: Westpac IQ

It is the big boys dining out the most at the moment, but current prices also give a hell of a lot of support to junior miners with small projects that would be unfavourable in lower price environments.

Yesterday iron ore minnow GWR Group (ASX: GWR) announced a fourth shipment through Geraldton Port from its Wiluna West iron ore project.

Having made its first shipment this year from its stage 1 C4 iron ore deposit, it expects to hit the 1Mt mark by December.

A stage 2 expansion is under review to assess how best to exploit the remainder of its resource, which included 21.6Mt at an iron grade of 60.7%.

$80 million capped GWR has fallen from 45c to 27c since the start of 2021, but remains more than 400 per cent up on its share price this time last year.


GWR Group share price today:


The post Will Simandou’s high-grade iron ore end Australia’s market dominance? Experts are sceptical appeared first on Stockhead.

Base Metals

ArcelorMittal plans major EAF, DRI investments for decarbonizing steel production in Canada

ArcelorMittal announced with the Government of Canada its intention for a CAD 1.765-billion (US$1.4-billion) investment in decarbonization technologies…

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ArcelorMittal announced with the Government of Canada its intention for a CAD 1.765-billion (US$1.4-billion) investment in decarbonization technologies at ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s plant in Hamilton.

At the heart of the plan is a 2 million tonne capacity Reduced Iron (DRI) facility and an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) facility capable of producing 2.4 million tonnes of high-quality steel through its existing secondary metallurgy and secondary casting facilities.

Innovative DRI. Source: ArcelorMittal

Modification of the existing EAF facility and continuous casters will also be undertaken to align productivity, quality and energy capabilities between all assets in the new footprint.

The intended investments will reduce annual CO2 emissions at ArcelorMittal’s Hamilton, Ontario operations by approximately 3 million tonnes—approximately 60% of emissions—within the next seven years.

ArcelorMittal will introduce new manufacturing processes that contribute to a considerable reduction of CO2 emissions and deliver other positive environmental impacts including the elimination of emissions and flaring from coke-making and ironmaking operations.


Smart Carbon. Source: ArcelorMittal

The investment is contingent on support from the governments of Canada and Ontario. The Government of Canada announced it will invest CAD 400 million (US$321 million) in the project. The company is in discussions with the Government of Ontario regarding its support.

The new DRI and EAF will be in production before the end of 2028.

This project is part of ArcelorMittal’s new global 25% CO2 2030 emissions reduction target which was announced yesterday in our second climate action report. DRI-EAF technology, such as that being introduced in Dofasco, is at the heart of our new target although we do also continue to develop our smart carbon technology route. Transitioning from the blast furnace route to the DRI-route offers an immediate significant reduction in emissions in the first phase through natural gas and then in a second phase, which we call innovative DRI, harnessing green hydrogen or other Smart Carbon technologies.

This is the first significant decarbonization project we have announced outside Europe and again reflects ArcelorMittal’s determination to lead the decarbonization of the steel industry. Across the company our people are highly motivated to demonstrate that steel can reach net zero and will be the core material for a carbon-neutral world. This project in Dofasco is a very significant and important milestone in this journey.

—Aditya Mittal, CEO ArcelorMittal

ArcelorMittal has an ambition to be net-zero by 2050. The company recently published its second group Climate Action Report in which it set a new 2030 global carbon emissions intensity reduction target of 25%. It has also increased its European 2030 carbon emissions intensity target to 35%, from 30%.

ArcelorMittal estimates the cost of achieving its global 2030 carbon reduction target is around US$10 billion and believes government funding support of approximately 50% is required to enable the company to remain competitive regionally and globally through the transition period given the capital investment required and higher operating costs of low-carbon steelmaking technologies.

The company expects to deploy approximately 35% of this $10-billion investment by 2025 with the remainder in the second part of this decade.

The Company has developed two technology pathways, Smart Carbon and Innovative DRI, both of which it believes will have an important role to play in helping the company achieve net zero by 2050.

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Energy & Critical Metals

Tata Steel contracts for 27 electric trucks for transportation of finished steel in India

As part of its sustainability initiative, Tata Steel is partnering with an Indian start-up to deploy electric trucks for its steel transportin India. This…

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As part of its sustainability initiative, Tata Steel is partnering with an Indian start-up to deploy electric trucks for its steel transportin India. This marks the first use of EVs by any steel producer in the country for transportation of finished steel.

The electric trucks feature a 230.4 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack with a cooling system and a battery management system giving it capability to operate at ambient temperatures upto 60 °C (140 °F). The battery pack will be powered by a 160-kWh charger setup which would be able to charge the battery from 0 to 100% in 90 min. With zero tail-pipe emission, each electric vehicle would reduce the GHG footprint by more than 125 tCO2e every year.

Tata Steel has contracted for 27 EVs, each with a carrying capacity 35 tonnes of steel (minimum capacity). The company plans to deploy 15 EVs at its Jamshedpur plant and 12 EVs at its Sahibabad plant. The first set of EVs for Tata Steel are being put in operation between Tata Steel BSL’s Sahibabad Plant and Pilkhuwa Stockyard in Uttar Pradesh.

At a virtual ceremony organized on July 29, Tata Steel formally flagged-off the loaded vehicle at the Pilkhuwa Stockyard to move to the Sahibabad plant, 38 km away.

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Base Metals

If Coal Is Dead, Then Why Are Ships So Full Of It?

If Coal Is Dead, Then Why Are Ships So Full Of It?

By Greg Miller of FreightWaves,

Amid all the talk of global warming, climate change-induced…

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If Coal Is Dead, Then Why Are Ships So Full Of It?

By Greg Miller of FreightWaves,

Amid all the talk of global warming, climate change-induced catastrophes, decarbonization and green finance, the global trade in “dirty” coal is enjoying an ironic renaissance. Bulk ships are busy transporting coal to Asia — and to eco-conscious Europe — boosting freight income for some of the very shipowners who publicly tout their environmental bona fides to investors.

“Turns out the news of the demise of coal has been greatly exaggerated,” said Stifel analyst Ben Nolan in a new client note. “Despite an unseemly carbon footprint, coal demand is actually accelerating this year.”

Freight rates buoyed by coal

Coal is transported aboard larger bulkers known as Capesizes (ships with a capacity of around 180,000 deadweight tons or DWT), as well as on sub-Cape vessels such as Panamaxes (65,000-90,000 DWT) and Supramaxes (45,000-60,000 DWT).

According to Clarksons Platou Securities, Capesize spot rates averaged $32,800 per day on Monday, with Panamaxes at $31,800 and Supramaxes at $31,600. It’s rare in dry bulk shipping for all three segments to simultaneously top $30,000, as they have for the past five weeks.

“Strong activity in the coal markets as well as robust minor bulk volumes remain the driving force of elevated rates across the different asset classes,” said Clarksons.

The Financial Times recently pointed out that coal commodity pricing is outpacing both real estate and financial stock returns this year. The price of high-grade Australian thermal coal (used for power generation) had risen to $151 per ton as of Friday, more than triple its price last September, according to Argus. The price of semi-soft Australian coking coal (or metallurgical coal, used for steel production) was $127 per ton, up almost 80% year to date.

“Year-to-date thermal coal exports from the U.S. Gulf Coast, where exports tend to be very price- and demand-sensitive, are up 194%,” said Nolan.

Thermal coal demand drivers

Some of the extreme weather events being attributed to global warming are now increasing demand for seaborne shipments of high-carbon-emitting coal.

Exceptionally hot weather has hiked electricity usage, which is simultaneously being pushed up by growing economic activity. Higher electricity usage increases demand for thermal coal imports. “This year, a hot summer in Asia has led several of the big consumers, which had been shifting away [from coal], to not shift at all,” said Nolan.

A drought in May in southern China cut that region’s access to hydropower, an alternative to coal. More recently, the problem has been too much water in northern China. This month’s tragic floods in Zhengzhou are curtailing coal moves from inland sources. China’s state planner reported that coal transport from Inner Mongolia and Shanxi through Zhengzhou to eastern and central China has been “severely impacted.”

Hot weather is simultaneously boosting prices and lowering reserves of natural gas, which competes with thermal coal for power generation. “Even in Europe, which is the epicenter for decarbonization, low natural gas inventories are driving a sharp increase in thermal coal imports from virtually every nation,” said Nolan.

Restocking for winter

Summer demand will be complemented by restocking for winter demand and inventory rebuilding in general, as well as by demand for coking coal for steel production.

Maritime Strategies International (MSI) noted in its monthly outlook, “China’s National Development and Reform Commission has announced plans to build stocks of over 100 million tons of ‘deployable coal reserves,’ but domestic coal stockpiles are at their lowest levels since February.”

It’s not just China. According to Braemar ACM Shipbroking, “In preparation for the winter season, South Korea, among other nations, has increased coal purchases to avoid energy supply deficits.” South Korea’s July coal imports are on track to hit a five-year high.

Nolan added, “With coal prices currently in regions not seen in a decade or more, there is ample motivation to increase production anywhere and everywhere. Clearly, this is good news for dry bulk shipping moving into winter as coal is often stockpiled in advance and the motivation for such inventory building should be great given the risk of [natural] gas shortages.

“This should lead to some very interesting months starting in September, given how tight the dry bulk shipping market already is currently.”

Decarbonization and Chinese imports

One irony of the current market is that weather events ascribed to global warming are stoking demand for transport of out-of-favor coal. A second irony is that the decarbonization push in China could increase coal-shipping demand even more. 

During last month’s Marine Money Week virtual conference, Magnus Halvorsen, CEO of Norway-listed 2020 Bulkers, explained, “China consumes around 4 billion tons of coal [a year] and imports shy of 300 [million tons], so any change in the import ratio to consumption will have a dramatic impact on import requirements. If China, as part of an environmental crackdown on its domestic production, produces significantly less coal, it’s going to have a strong impact on import requirements.”

According to Aristides Pittas, CEO of EuroDry (NASDAQ: EDRY), “China, for environmental reasons, is going to limit the use of its own coal mines. So, the better-quality coal [from outside China] will benefit, and that will benefit the shipping market.

“We all know coal is a dirty cargo and one that will become obsolete at some point in time,” said Pittas during the Marine Money Week event. “We are all in favor of that. We want a clean world and we want to help. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen that quickly. And the road to decarbonization will create a lot of inefficiencies. Inefficiencies are usually things that help shipping markets.

“I think coal will surprise people,” said Pittas. “It’s not disappearing yet, so watch out.”

Tyler Durden Fri, 07/30/2021 - 14:28
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