A mining and exploration retrospect for December 8 to 14, 2012
by Greg Klein
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U.S. politicians ponder windfall royalties
The United States has joined the list of countries considering additional ways to mine miners, according to a Wednesday Reuters story. Some American politicians are talking about royalties as high as 12.5%, the same benchmark applied to certain other resources, including oil and gas.
Reuters said the proposal would get about $700 million during the lifespan of Freeport-McMoRan’s copper-molybdenum operations in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Last year alone, the royalty could have taken $150 million from Barrick’s TSX:ABX Goldstrike mine in Nevada, according to Reuters’ figures. Barrick told the news agency the company’s taxes have already jumped four-fold over five years.
Democrat Representative Raul Grijalva, a proponent of the 12.5% levy, sees it differently. “As we face these fiscal challenges, these are the pennies that we should pinch,” Reuters quoted him. Along with some other U.S. federal politicians, Grijalva also wants to review miners’ tax breaks.
Previous attempts to raise miners’ taxes have failed, Reuters stated, “as the industry has strong political allies.” The story added that “state and local governments often catch a windfall from mining revenue.”
Ivory Coast hikes taxes but overestimates profits, miner says
A new tax on Ivory Coast gold extraction underestimates cash costs by nearly 50%, according to at least one source. New legislation that applies to 2012 production assumes cash costs of $615 an ounce, Reuters stated on Friday. The tax on “profits” above that amount will fluctuate with the yellow metal’s price. At $1,600, that comes to 17%. The rate will be lower for companies that pay the country a corporate tax, the news agency added. Randgold Resources CEO Mark Bristow called the new levy, expected to raise $79.8 million, a “punitive tax,” Reuters said.
In a December 7 Bloomberg report, Endeavour Mining TSX:EDV spokesperson Nouho Kone said Ivory Coast gold production can actually cost between $1,000 and $1,200 an ounce. “The worst-case scenario would be to see companies shut down their mines in the short term,” he told Bloomberg. Reuters stated that Perseus Mining TSX:PRU put its $160-million Sissingue project on hold last September “pending clarification of the fiscal regime applicable to the project.”
Maybe Ghana too
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama’s re-election brings to mind his previous effort to impose a 10% tax on windfall profits, Monday’s Financial Post reported.
The government had already raised miners’ corporate taxes from 25% to 35% and imposed “a uniform regime for capital allowance of 20% for five years of mining,” the FP stated. But the government’s intended windfall tax had been shelved due to industry pressure, according to a Wednesday Reuters dispatch.
Reuters added that government discussions with gold miners are underway “to loosen up so-called ‘stability agreements’ held by some firms that lock in royalty and tax rates.” This year Ghana raised gold royalties from 3% to 5%, but the stability agreement exempted companies like AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont Mining TSX:NMC, the news agency stated.
Unions lose bid to block foreign workers from staffing B.C. mine
HD Mining International called it a “massive victory,” the Globe and Mail reported Friday. A federal court judge has allowed the company to import Chinese workers for its proposed Murray River coal mine in British Columbia. Two unions had applied for an injunction blocking the work permits after learning that HD Mining planned to staff its underground operation exclusively with Chinese workers—which would total over 400 at full production.
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