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Mining sector showing signs of slow down December 20, 2012 12:00 PM

The lowering of the official cash rate from 3.25 to 3 per cent in early December was partly inspired by a belief that the mining boom in Australia is beginning to plateau, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). According to the Central Bank, short-term investment outlook outside of the resources sector is soft enough to prompt supportive measures on interest rates. RBA governor Glenn Stevens forecasts a gap in growth in 2013 if sectors away from mining do not see improvement.
 
Following a court dispute between ExxonMobil and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Federal Government has amended the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT). According to the government,the court's interpretation of the ExxonMobil ruling would cause financial duress for the oil and gas industry in its application, as many companies are unable to make deductions on legitimate expenses.In amending the PRRT, the government has enabled more deductions, which will greatly encourage company’s cost-cutting measure across the sector and help insulate against economist forecasts of a pending mining contraction.
 
Divestments
 
Tap Oil Limited (ASX:TAP)says while no offers have been received for the its interest in the Zola and Tallaganda gas fields in Western Australia, it has started to test the market for a sale.
 
Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG) says it has started the process to explore selling a minority interest in The Pilbara Infrastructure (TPI).
 
Project updates
 
BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)and ExxonMobil will construct the $1.1 billion Longford Gas Conditioning Plant in Victoria, after announcing the project has been approved. BHP says the plant is a necessary extension of Bass Strait infrastructure to increase hydrocarbon liquids production and domestic gas supply.
 
The Gullewa tenements host Mutiny Gold Limited’s (ASX:MYG) Deflector gold and copper project is close to full production after a long wait.
 
Arafura Resources Limited (ASX:ARU)has announced a maiden JORC ore reserve for its wholly owned Nolans Rare Earths Project in the Northern Territory. The reserve supports a 22 year mine life and is a key milestone to the project’s commercialisation.
 
Contract wins
 
Forge Group Limited’s (ASX:FGE) wholly owned subsidiary CTEC has been awarded a $105 million contract by Worly Parsons to develop a power station in Western Australia. CTEC will develop BHP Billiton’s Yarnima’s Power Station, three kilometres northwest of Newman in the Pilbara region.
 
Regulation
 
AJ Lucas Group Limited (ASX:AJL) has been given a boost on news Britain has lifted a ban on controversial shale gas exploration. The mining services company holds a 42 per cent stake in Britain’s only licensed shale gas explorer, Cuadrilla.
 
Commentary

OZ Minerals Limited (ASX:OZL) has forecast a potential fall of more than 15 per cent in its 2012 full year earnings, in responding to an ASX query concerning its erratic share price amid a subdued commodity market that may continue to affect earnings in 2013."In light of the lower commodity prices and reduced gold sales, coupled with reduced copper production and increased costs as the operations have progressed during the year, the expected operating result for the full year ending 31 December 2012 will be less than that of the corresponding previous period by more than 15 per cent," the company said in a statement. Oz Minerals has reduced production levels at its South Australian operations in recent times, and will continue to do so in 2013 as lower grades and higher costs continue to subdue its output.

Aluminium producer Alcoa (ASX:AAI) is being subjected to a review for a potential downgrade of its credit rating by ratings agency Moody’s. "The review reflects the challenging headwinds given the decline in aluminum prices that has occurred, dropping almost 22 per cent to an average of 92 cents per pound from the comparable 2011 average, and the adverse impact this has had on earnings performance and earnings based debt protection metrics," Moody's said in a statement.

Tungsten Mining (ASX:TGN) has followed up its Initial Public Offering on the ASX with the announcement that drilling has commenced on its flagship Kilba Tungsten Project in Western Australia. Tungsten says it is concentrating on rapidly evaluating and developing the site, which hosts a high grade scheelite deposit with potential to support a mining project. The diversified miner holds a 100 per cent entitlement to a mining lease within the Kilba, and has completed the first phase of its drilling program, comprising 8 diamond core holes. Tungsten says the drilling program, alongside its admission to the ASX, represents a significant milestone towards becoming a developer. 

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