Sunday, January 25, 2015

Miners to Reveal Impact of Iron Ore Price Slump

Miners to reveal impact of iron ore price slump

It is well and truly a buyer’s market in iron ore and this week we should find out the extent of the damage for some of the smaller players.

With iron ore prices now below $US70 a tonne after falling by half and still threatening to go lower, there are serious doubts that the full complement of miners will survive the downturn.

While the big, low-cost players Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are still ramping up production, the smaller operators are struggling, with Atlas Iron admitting it was losing money in the December quarter until oil prices dipped and returned it to slim profitability.

Chinese Government-backed Citic has announced it will be writing down the value of its Sino Iron project in Western Australia by up to $2.2 billion and further writedowns of up to $2.3 billion have already been flagged by Atlas, Mount Gibson Iron, Gindalbie Metals and Grange Resources.

On Thursday it is the turn of number three player Fortescue Metals to outline its December quarter production figures and perhaps give some guidance as to its profitability at current prices.

Fortescue chief executive Nev Power has already been critical of WA government plans to offer a 50 per cent iron ore royalty rebate to smaller players while prices are below $US90 a tonne, a move designed to keep them going in a really tough market.

BC Iron’s second quarter production is also out on Friday.

Other struggling commodities may also produce some surprises with copper/gold miners OZ Minerals, PanAust and Sandfire Resources all reporting quarterly production on Wednesday, along with oil and gas companies Beach Energy and Oil Search.

While copper and oil have both been dropping, at least gold has been heading in the other direction, which may become apparent with struggling gold giant Newcrest’s quarterly production on Friday.

The focus will also be on continuing reaction to the European Central Bank’s more than €1 trillion stimulus package, and also inflation figures due on Wednesday.

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