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Zambia seizes control of Chinese-owned coal mine
by Staff Writers
Lusaka (AFP) Feb 20, 2013

U.S., Canadian firms develop new gold mine
Buenos Aires (UPI) Feb 19, 2013 - A new gold mine on the Argentine-Chilean border is being developed by Fluor Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp. of Toronto, the world's largest gold mining company.

Fluor said it received new mining work contracts from Barrick Gold for development work on the Pascua-Lama mine astride the countries' border.

Chile is one of the largest gold producers and Argentina is hoping to catch up with mineral resources development at varying levels but investors point out the countries have different ways of working with foreign investors.

Chile has a liberal investment regime but Argentina is often criticized for restrictive practices toward investors and foreign businesses.

Fluor booked the undisclosed value of the project into its backlog in the fourth quarter of 2012.

A continuing strength of gold prices has revived interest in the metal's extraction and development across the world. Although at a 6-month low, mainly due to the U.S. dollar's recovery, gold still commands around $1,600 per troy ounce, as trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange indicates.

Fluor will carry out site construction and also conduct overall project management on both sides of the border. That involves work on the Pascua location on the Chilean side and the Lama location on the Argentina side.

Work on the Argentina segment will be part of a 50-50 joint venture with Argentinean contractor Techint.

"Pascua-Lama is one of the most significant and challenging mining projects currently under way in the world," Rick Koumouris, Fluor's business line lead for mining and metals said.

He said Fluor was "very pleased" to continue its relationship with Barrick Gold.

"The Pascua-Lama mining project will draw on all of Fluor's capabilities and resources and is emblematic of what Fluor excels at -- large, remote, complex projects."

The companies worked together on Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic where Fluor was contracted by Barrick Gold to carry out work on that Central American nation's largest foreign investment.

The project involved a new processing facility for one of the largest gold resources in the world earmarked for development.

The Pascua-Lama mine site straddles the Cordilera border region of Argentina and Chile, in the Andes mountains at elevations ranging from 12,465 feet to 17,000 feet.

The mine is expected to produce an average of 800,000-850,000 ounces of gold and 35 million ounces of silver in its first full five years of operation.

Fluor Corp. has headquarters in Irving, Texas. More than 100 years old, the company earned $24.3 billion in 2011 and employs 43,000 people worldwide.

The Zambian government has seized control of a Chinese-owned coal company due to poor compliance with safety and environmental standards, the mines minister said Wednesday.

"Collum Coal mine has had a history of poor safety, health and environmental compliance," Mines Minister Yamfwa Mukanga said in a statement.

"In view of this, my ministry has with immediate effect cancelled all three small scale mining licenses held by Collum Coal Mine."

"Government has also taken over the running of the mine and will continue to run them until a suitable investor is found."

The mine -- located in Sinazongwe, some 325 kilometres (200 miles) south of the capital Lusaka -- has in the past few years been embroiled in controversy.

In 2010 two Chinese managers were charged with attempted murder after they allegedly opened fire on a group of protesting miners. The charges were later dropped.

In 2012 workers at the mine killed a Chinese manager Wu Shengzai during rioting over work conditions.

Police said Wu died after being hit by a trolley which was pushed towards him as he fled underground.

One miner was charged over his death.

China, which is the largest foreign investor in Zambia, has invested more than two billion dollars into the copper-rich southern African nation and created 50,000 jobs.

Trade between the two countries reached $3.4 billion last year, up from $2.9 billion in 2010, Beijing's ambassador to Lusaka Zhou Yuxiao said last year.

But relations between Zambian workers and Chinese businesses have been marked by tension, despite attempts by the Zambian government to remedy the situation.

In October last year Human Rights Watch raised concern about safety and work conditions at Chinese-owned facilities in the country.

It claimed four Chinese state-owned firms ignored labour protections, demanding up to 18 hours of work a day and flouting health and safety rules.

When running for office President Michael Sata railed against the growing Chinese presence in Zambia.

However, Sata has softened his tone since coming to power in 2011.

That has drawn ire in a country where about 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

"President Sata ran on a populist campaign to protect workers, so the lack of meaningful progress in the mining sector is disappointing," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

In addition to safety worries at Collum, the mine had not been paying mineral royalties, minister Mukanga said.

"The company has also failed to meet statutory obligations such as declaration of mineral production and payment of mineral royalties to government," he said.


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Japan logs worst monthly trade deficit of $17.4 bn
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 20, 2013
Japan logged its worst ever monthly trade deficit in January despite an upturn in exports as the yen's recent sharp drop pushed fuel costs higher, official data showed Wednesday. The world's third-biggest economy is mired in recession and a mood of optimism in the stock market and among analysts has so far failed to translate into good macro-economic figures. The finance ministry data s ... read more

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