MAC: Mines and Communities

China's apparently unquenchable thirst for minerals is taking it into Burma

Published by MAC on 2004-07-23
Source: South China Morning Post ()

China's apparently unquenchable thirst for minerals is taking it into Burma, despite (or because of) the entire lack of any democratic decision making on new mining ventures.

Potentially CNMC's nickel project is the biggest mine in the country CNMC has already forged several controversial overseas joint ventures (including with Lafayette, at the newly-opened Rapu Rapu mine in the Philippines). Meanwhile China state-owned CITIC, has entered a partnership with Burma's current biggest foreign exploiter, Ivanhoe, controlled by "Toxic" Bob Friedland.

Mainland miner gets Myanmar approval

South China Morning Post

July 23, 2004

China Non-ferrous Metal Mining & Construction (CNMC) has received approval from the government of Myanmar to invest US$500 million in nickel mining operations.

Mainland mining firms are increasingly eager to tap overseas metal resources, as demand in the rapidly industrialising country far exceeds domestic production capacity. China, the world's fastest-growing nickel market, imported 80,779 tonnes of nickel last year - up 110 per cent from 2002.

CNMC signed an agreement earlier this month with Myanmar Third Mining to locate and exploit nickel reserves in northern Myanmar's Mandalay province, according to China Non-ferrous Metal Mining Network.

The project is CNMC's latest overseas project, after its copper mine investment in Zambia, zinc mine investment in Mongolia and a lead-antimony alloy factory in Thailand, CNMC said in a statement published by the network.

The targeted reserves are located 120kms from the south-eastern border town of Liangjiang, in Yunnan province, and a few kilometres from Myanmar's Ayeyarwady River, which will provide water for the open-pit mining project.

CNMC has received permission to explore 40 sq km in the region. Preliminary studies have revealed an average nickel content of about 2 per cent, with likely total reserves of about 800,000 tonnes.

It plans to invest US$500 million to build a 30,000 tonne-a-year nickel production plant at the site.

About 65 per cent of the world's nickel is used to make stainless steel. Nickel is also used in non-ferrous metal alloys and electroplating.

China Jinchuan, the nation's largest nickel miner, produced about 60,000 tonnes of nickel last year - about 88 per cent of the country's output. Of the 80,779 tonnes of nickel China imported last year, 31.1 per cent was from Russia, 29.5 per cent from Australia and 15.9 per cent from Canada.

Tight global supplies and China's avaricious demand have boosted three-month nickel future prices in London by as much as 73.5 per cent over the past 12 months, to US$15,025 a tonne.

Estimated global refined nickel consumption this year of 1.3 million tonnes is forecast to exceed production by 15,000 tonnes, compared with a 35,000-tonne shortfall last year, according to the International Nickel Study Group.

CNMC general manager Zhang Jian was quoted by People's Daily in December as saying the firm would seek to invest in non-ferrous metal mines in neighbouring countries, central and southern Africa, Australia and Canada.

It would also consider lending money to cash-strapped nations to invest in mining projects, accepting repayment not in cash but in metals produced.

Copyright (c) 2004. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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