Tag Archives: GRAM

Time PNG govt exercised better control over its own resources

A Britten Norman Islander, the first plane to land at Frieda River in 1970. Kiap John Pasquarelli had discovered gold and copper in 1963. Now, 55 years later, the mine is still undeveloped and the object of great controversy

Gabriel Ramoi | PNG Attitude | 12 June 2018

Resources firm Pan Aust (wholly owned by the Chinese state company, Guangdong Rising Assets Management, GRAM), has lost its way with the Frieda River copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province.

It is now time for the PNG government to exercise leadership and rein in control over the Frieda asset if the PNG is to sustain its free education and health policies and lift the rest of the country out of poverty, disease and ignorance.

The view from Frieda is now very different compared with the corporate carnage of 2013 following Glencore’s hostile takeover of Xstrata Mining. In that epic battle for world copper supremacy, Mike Davis’s Xstrata lost to Ivan Glasenberg’s Glencore and with it went a chunk of PNG’s national asset, the K260 billion Frieda mine.

Glasenberg has gone on to become the king of copper and head of the number one mining house in the world.

But then, for a deposit of just K80 million, little known Australian miner Pan Aust Ltd moved in and acquired Frieda from Glencore while PNG government advisers and ministers slept on the job despite warnings from industry that the government should exercise control and reclaim ownership over its strategic asset.

Pan Aust went on to the sell out to GRAM in 2015 for a reported K1.2 billion although officially the deal was closed at K450 million.

GRAM is owned by the municipality of the city of Guangzhau in southern China, although the deal maker in this transaction was a leading Australian Chinese billionaire Dr Chau Chak Wing, the subject of a current controversy because of allegations that he is an agent of the Chinese Communist Party.

Additionally, the influential South China Morning Post reported in September last year that the chairman of GRAM, Li Jinming, as well as the CEO and chief financial officer had been arrested and are facing prosecution in China for failing to account for a number of acquisitions made by GRAM in Australia, including Pan Aust, leading to a loss by GRAM of more than K3.2 billion.

None of these corporate maneuverings went unnoticed by the government of China and eventually Glencore was forced to sell a number of its copper assets to China in order to keep selling its copper ore to the communist country.

I suspect the sale of the Frieda copper mine may have been part of an arrangement between Glencore and the government of China for a number of its assets to be sold to Chinese-controlled companies.

But the question that now needs to be asked in PNG following the arrest of the GRAM directors is what can the PNG government do with Frieda?

Last week, the PNG Mineral Resources Authority reported that Pan Aust had advised it of the withdrawal of an application for the mine development license over Frieda that was filed in 2016.

I suspect the real reason for this is that Pan Aust does not have the required capital to follow through with the development of Frieda Mine since the arrest of the GRAM executives in China and the freeze on GRAM’s activities pending finalisation of court proceedings in China.

Pan Aust and its junior partner Highlands Pacific are already in arbitration over the issue of the costs relating to each partners contribution to the feasibility study.

In the wake of this total mess, an opportunity exists for the PNG government to open dialogue directly with the government of China to revisit the Frieda project.

Already two leading Chinese state companies – China Energy Engineering Ltd and China Railway Yunnan Construction & Development Ltd – have expressed interest in developing the infrastructure associated with the mine.

The PNG government and the provincial governments of West and East Sepik – the ministers of the two provinces in particular – should take the lead in opening dialogue with China on the Frieda project.

How the Frieda project will be developed is part of the unfolding resource war being waged worldwide between private capital (represented by figures such as Glasenberg, Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull) and powerful state actors such as the gvernment of China and other savvy emerging states such as Russia and Indonesia.

The leading US-based mining journal Behre Dolbear reported last week that the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and Mauritania have recently enacted new legislation apportioning greater revenues from mining in favour of the state to the rejection of Barrick Gold in Tanzania and Glencore in Congo.

Over the last six months we have also seen the rise of resource nationalism in Indonesia with a direct challenge to BHP Billiton and Freeport Copper to divest up to 51% of their interest in the Grasberg mine to the Indonesian state.

At the time of writing, BHP has agreed to sell its 40% stake to the state and current negotiations continue on the quantum of compensation for environmental pollution by Freeport.

While there is a much kneejerk reaction by our neighbours about Chinese checkbook diplomacy in the region, it must be remembered that China is Australia’s number one trading partner.

Despite just 70 years ago China being rolled over by Japan after a long period of being pushed around by colonial powers, it has emerged in recent times as a super power extending its hand of friendship to countries around the world as it builds a new world order with itself at the centre.

“Developing countries where 90% of the world lives are at a crossroad,” says the leading black African woman of our generation, Zambian economist, lawyer and banker Dambisa Moyo. “They are facing a choice between the United States model of democracy and private capitalism or the Chinese model of state capitalism and no democracy.”

This may be too unequivocal as many third world countries including PNG are now better poised to consider bartering our copper, gold and other mineral wealth for infrastructures such as roads, ports, railways, universities and hospitals rather than simply allowing private capital through direct foreign investment.

Our experience over 40 years has been dismal as highlighted by reports such as that by Jubilee Australia. As PNG struggles to build its next generation of mines, the young lawyers and technocrats advising our leaders must take it upon themselves not to repeat the mistakes of the past but to look at recent deals between China and a number of counties in Africa and negotiate a new mining development contract for PNG that we all can be proud of.

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Highlands loses first round in Frieda River arbitration

Protest outside the Highlands Pacific offices against the Ramu nickel mine marine waste dumping. Nov 2010.

Esmarie Swanepoel | Mining Weekly | 10 April 2018

ASX-listed Highlands Pacific is facing a $12.4-million bill relating to the Frieda River copper/gold project, in Papua New Guinea, after the first stage of arbitration found in favour of project partner PanAust.

Highlands, which has a 20% interest in the Frieda River joint venture (JV), has been arguing that a feasibility study submitted to the Papua New Guinea government as part of an application for a special mining lease in June 2016, was incomplete, and that the company’s free carry should continue.

However, an arbitrator has determined in the first stage of an arbitration process that Highland’s free carry for the Frieda River project feasibility study ended on the date of the lodgement of an application for a special mining lease.

The arbitration will now proceed to the second stage, with Highlands telling shareholders that it will be contending that other provisions of the JV agreement should be applied to make PanAust liable in the first instance for the full cost of the feasibility studies undertaken since June 2016, with the right for Highlands to pay its share at a later date, if the project proceeds.

If Highlands is unsuccessful in the second stage, and if the cash calls made by PanAust are held to be valid, the ASX-listed company will be expected to pay its share of project expenditure from June 2016 to May 2018, which amounts to some $12.4-million.

In this case, the company could either elect to pay the amount, or have its share in the JV dilute by around 2.2%.

Meanwhile, the permitting process for the Frieda River project is continuing, although the Papua New Guinea authorities are awaiting the completion of current feasibility study work, which is scheduled for the second half of 2018. 

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Chinese looking to cut costs for Frieda river mine

What will be the costs for the environment and the mighty Sepik river as PanAust looks to “decrease capital expenditure”?

Frieda River upside options explored

PNG Industry News | 16 February 2018 

THE Frieda River copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province represents PanAust’s long-term strategic growth opportunity.

This was said by PanAust managing director Fred Hess when he presented the company’s quarterly report for December 2017 this week.

[PanAust is wholly owned by Chinese State company, Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd (GRAM)]

“In 2017, we made strides towards making the project a reality through identifying opportunities to increase the value of the project, decrease capital expenditure, and reduce its overall risk profile. 

“We will continue to evaluate these opportunities in 2018,” Hess said. 

The company says it continues to liaise with PNG authorities on Frieda River following lodgement of a special mining lease (SML) application and environmental impact statement (EIS) with the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) of Papua New Guinea and Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) of PNG, respectively in 2016.

“The overall approval and permitting process for the SML application and other permits and approvals is now being coordinated by a government appointed state negotiating team, chaired by the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management.

PanAust says it is investigating opportunities to increase the value of the project and access alternative development pathways to decrease capital expenditure and reduce the overall Project risk profile. Study work to investigate these opportunities continued throughout the quarter, and indicate several potential pathways for value enhancement. The outcomes of this work will inform a decision as to whether an update to the project’s SML application will be made.

Hess added: “Looking to the year ahead, PanAust will look to further strengthen the relationships that have become integral to the company’s success, and are synonymous with how it conducts itself where ever it operates.

“The common currency of PanAust’s success is the strength of its relationships; relationships with our employees, communities, host governments, suppliers, peers, and partners. These relationships depend on trust and consistent transparent communication. This is what pushes PanAust way ahead and will continue to do so throughout 2018,” Hess said.

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Frieda river mining company in corruption investigation in China

Guangdong Rising Assets Management is under investigation for a series of bad investments including the purchase of PanAust and the Frieda river mining rights. Four people are already being prosecuted for corruption and now the former Chairman is in the spotlight over losses of more than $1 billion

Chinese probe big mine loss

Rowan Callick | The Australian | October 16, 2017

The former chairman of a Chinese state-owned enterprise has been handed over to prosecutors for investigation after the company’s investments in several Australian mining ventures lost more than $1 billion.

Li Jinming, who chaired Guangdong Rising Assets Management, which is owned by Guangdong province, was earlier expelled from the Communist Party following an investigation that began in 2014 over losses that the disciplinary inspection team described as “dreadful”.

The company was established 17 years ago with $2bn capital, the South China Morning Post reported, and it began investing in Australia after the Global Financial Crisis pushed down asset and commodity prices.

It acquired, through different subsidiaries, lead-zinc producer Perilya for $45.5 million, coal producer Caledon Resources for $500m, copper and gold company PanAust — with a massive prospect awaiting commitment in Papua New Guinea at Frieda River — for $180m, and rare earths producer Northern Minerals for $60m,

It also paid $15m for a large stake in gold and base metal explorer Hawthorn Resources.

Leading Chinese financial website Caixin reported that most of these deals had since made losses, with calls on further capital from GRAM.

Li Zezhong, who worked for GRAM for 11 years, ultimately as president, was then appointed mayor of Zhuhai, a thrusting city of 1.5 million on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, just north of Macau.

It was his successor at GRAM who urged a deepening of the investigation into the company’s management.

Last month it was announced that Li Zezhong was being investigated for “serious violations of party discipline,” believed to relate to his time at GRAM.

Four colleagues from his time at the company are already being prosecuted for corruption.

Caixin has reported that investigators are also seeking to interview Liu Facai, now living in Australia. He chaired the committee responsible for all state assets in Guangdong province when he led a team to Australia 11 years ago to explore investments in mineral projects.

Caixin said that he and his son, who was already living in Australia, introduced GRAM to firms in which the company went on to invest.

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Where to dump Frieda’s raw waste just a ‘technical issue’: Minister

Frieda River mine set to start operations 
[the Post Courier loves a misleading headline!]

Post Courier | March 09, 2017

The giant Frieda River mine in West Sepik is now 60 percent ready of becoming a reality with the National Government waiting to issue the mining license for the project to start after few technical issues are sorted out, says Aitape Lumi MP and Minister for Treasury Patrick Pruaitch.

“Frieda River is 60 per cent reality now, we are ready to issue the license. We just need to work through with the technical people to on how they will dump the raw waste.”

“The company has put an application to convert mine waste into power generation system , but the State does not have the capacity so it is doing its best to hire people to give the best advice on how we can look at that and we can give the okay for that 40 per cent to be completed, for 100 per cent to give the mining license for project to start,” Mr Pruaitch said.

Mr Pruaitch said this at the opening of the first ever Frieda Mine Landowners Forum underway in Port Moresby’s Crowne Plaza Hotel that started yesterday and will end today.

Mr Pruaitch urged the people to work together and put together their benefits package for the National Government to consider during the project negotiation.

” Let us not send mix signals, it will give opportunity for company to go divide a few LLGs and MP’s to start the mine with the least cost possible so we can bring in impacted development for that region,

“I believe that is a big project that will transform Sandaun Province and Sepik region including Madang. This project will spread benefits across the region.”

YUP, JUST LIKE OK TEDI HAS TRANSFORMED WESTERN PROVINCE; LIHIR HAS TRANSFORMED NEW IRELAND; PORGERA HAS TRANSFORMED ENGA; AND THE LNG HAS TRANSFORMED HELA PROVINCE

HOW ARE OUR POLITICIANS STILL ABLE TO SPOUT THIS NONSENSE AND NOT GET LOCKED UP IN LALOKI PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL?

OR MAYBE WE NEED TO CHANGE THE LAW TO MAKE PEDDLING FALSE CLAIMS AND PRAYING ON PEOPLES DESPERATION BECAUSE THEIR GOVT HAS FAILED THEM A CRIMINAL OFFENCE?

“I want initial support from landowners because if we don’t have a project, we will not talk about benefits. We have to have a project, we have to get a leg in and another one in than we can be able to negotiate for the benefits. If we are not supporting the project than we can be standing here as leaders driving a lost cost, we must have a project, we must have shareholding understanding with impacted landowners, we must have understanding with the Telefomin district, we must have that understanding with the Telefomin LLG and sandaun Provincial Government.”

“I want Frieda mine which is going to be the first mining for the next government to use LNG precedent to allocate these benefits.”

Landowners to discuss benefits amongst others

FRIEDA Mine landowners have come together to discuss issues including benefits for negotiations with the National Government and developer PanAust when Frieda Mine project comes into development.

Member for Telefomin Solan Mirisim who initiated the first ever landowner forum to discuss issues surrounding the Frieda River Project, the Political Leaders from the West Sepik Province. MRA and stake holders emphasised on how best they can work hand in hand and support the Company, landowners and the State to kick start the Project once the SM application is granted.

“I stand up here representing the views, the cries and the excitement of over 50,000 people from Telefomin District, including people from ward 21, particularly the seven impact Villages within the vicinity of Special Mine Lease area.”

Mr Mirisim said Telefomin is the host District of the Frieda River Project and is one of the most remotest districts in the country that has no road link, only mode of transport is by Air and the four LLG are all accessible by third level airline and it is very expensive District to deliver goods and services to our people on time.

“Frieda River Project is the only Project in this country that has taken over 40 years of exploration after exploration, I must take this time to thank many exploration companies who have worked on the Frieda River Project for many years to this time, it is long time awaiting for our People in Frieda River and Telefomin District.”

“I would like to thank the Highlands Pacific and the PanAust for taking the project closer to fruition. One final step to finish and we will have a world class Mine that will be mined and developed in our District which will no doubt create prime opportunity to impact and transform the lives of our people through employment, training, economic empowerment, contracts and all kinds.

“We want to see a Pathway that will improve our way of life, a pathway that will change the areas of Infrastructure, a pathway that will see a society transformed with Improved Social and Health Indicators.

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Greedy foreigners continue to fight over who profits from the destruction of the Sepik

The Chinese and Australians are fighting over who will control the destruction of the Frieda river and the region’s rainforests, swamps and staple sago trees

PanAust speaks out on HPL

Post Courier | March 08, 2017

MINER PanAust Limited has broken its silence on the rift that has developed with its joint venture partner-Highlands Pacific Limited (HPL).

Responding in a market report managing director Dr Fred Hess clarified the proposal was to reinvigorate its (HPL) board and that it had omitted material information to the proposal.

“PanAust also wishes to note that in its view each nominee would meet the test of independence as set out in the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations.” he said.

“PanAust also wishes to clarify that the proposal to reinvigorate the Highlands board is unrelated to the ongoing dispute in relation to the Frieda River project and the proposed independent directors have no involvement in the Frieda River joint venture.

“In particular, the announcement failed to disclose that PanAust views each nominee as independent from PanAust, and that there is no arrangement or understanding that the proposed independent directors will act at the direction of, or report to PanAust.”

Dr Hess said the reasons for PanAust seeking to change the composition of the Highlands board include to implement a new strategy and direction for Highlands.

Dr Hess said this is with a view to increasing shareholder value in circumstances where the HPL share price has decreased significantly over the last five years.

“PanAust notes that voting patterns at the last annual general meeting reflect substantial shareholder discontent with the current board following the US$68 million loss in 2015 which included the payment of short term incentives to senior management.

“Sentiment is unlikely to have improved following the 2016 half year loss of US$23.5 million which has been exacerbated by the board’s delayed and ineffective response to implement austerity measures and also in the absence of any disclosure in respect of strategy to create shareholder value.

“Clearly, change is overdue with barely US$10.5 million cash left in the bank at year end after spending US$3 million on staff costs for the year,” Dr Hess said.

He said PanAust disagreed with the comments that had been made by Highlands that, should the proposal be implemented, it would result in a “PanAust-dominated board” which “would be at risk of operating in the interests of GRAM, rather than in the interests of all its collective shareholders.”

“PanAust considers that the appointment of a new, independent board is an important step towards a strategic reinvigoration of Highlands with a view to stemming ongoing value destruction.

“PanAust notes that it is still waiting on a response from Highlands on the date of the shareholders meeting to consider Highlands board composition,” he said.

He urged investors to consider the resolutions being proposed by PanAust carefully, together with the information and reasons put forward by PanAust.

Further, that they vote in favour of the resolutions at the special meeting, which will be held in May, 2017.

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China ‘angling for control’ of massive Mt Frieda copper deposit in PNG

Exploration drilling at the Mt Frieda deposit, in Papua New Guinea. 

Exploration drilling at the Mt Frieda deposit, in Papua New Guinea.

Brian Robins | Sydney Morning Herald | 2 March 2017

Frieda River is one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world. Now, the smaller shareholder in the project, in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, has cried “foul’ warning that a proposed board spill will give the Chinese government control.

Less than two years after paying $1.2 billion to snap up PanAust, an Australian miner with interests in projects in Laos and Papua New Guinea, Guangdong Rising, a Chinese investment company owned by the Guangdong provincial government of southern China, is angling to gain control over the Mount Frieda gold and copper deposit.

The Frieda River deposit has been under study for development for more than 30 years. Now controlled 80 per cent by PanAust and 20 per cent by Highlands Pacific, it has had a series of owners, from Japanese to American groups, with Swiss trader Glencore the majority owner before it sold to PanAust. All of the owners to date have struggled with the cost of developing the resource.

Located in the remote north-west of PNG, Frieda River is 175 kilometres north-west of the Porgera gold mine and 75km north-east of the Ok Tedi mine.

Development costs have been put at as high as $US6 billion, which is a stumbling block, since few private companies could finance a project of that size, and most banks would baulk at the large sums involved and the associated development risk. One reason for the high cost is the need for a hydro-electric dam to generate the power needed by the project.

The most recent project study put forward by PanAust last year was based on a plant capable of handling 40 million tonnes of ore annually, producing 175,000 tonnes of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold, with an initial mine life of 17 years. This would cost an estimated $US3.6 billion to develop, excluding some key costs such as the power station and other items of equipment.

Highlands Pacific rejected the study, and obtained a review of the proposal arguing it was deficient, a view which was supported by an independent assessor which found that less expensive, lower risk options should be put forward for consideration.

PanAust had in September 2014, well before the Chinese government took control of the company, put forward a $US1.7 billion estimate to develop Frieda River. The second, more expensive development concept reflects the larger annual production capacity of the project, additional spending on waste and tailings management and increased construction costs.

In February, just over a month after the peer review of the feasibility study was released, PanAust moved to take control of the Highland Pacific board, seeking to replace its four independent directors with its own nominees.

Guangdong Rising has a 14 per cent shareholding in Highlands Pacific, with Trafigura, the privately controlled commodity trader, owning 16 per cent and an arm of the PNG government another 11 per cent.

Guangdong Rising’s “proposed board spill would constitute a change of control of the company, without any payment or premium for control”, Highland Pacific’s outgoing chairman Ken MacDonald and Ron Douglas, the chairman elect, said in a letter to shareholders.

“Our shareholders deserve better. If GRAM wants control, it should make a takeover offer and pay a full price.”

For its part, the Chinese company has stated the proposed board spill is simply an attempt to “reinvigorate” Highland Pacific’s board.

“PanAust considers that the appointment of a new, independent board is an important step towards a strategic reinvigoration of Highlands with a view to stemming ongoing value destruction,” it said in a statement, denying the proposed board spill is about gaining full control over the Mt Frieda project.

It also argues that the nominees it has put forward to stand for the Highlands Pacific board are viewed as being independent of itself, and they will not act under its direction. 

Along with the Frieda River stake, HIghland Pacific has a small share in the large Ramu nickel project, controlled by China Metallurgical Co, along with some advanced exploration projects.

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