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4 August | Copper

US adds copper to critical raw materials list

Credit: Alex Tepetidis via Shutterstock

The US Department of Energy (DoE) officially added copper to its list of critical raw materials earlier this week in an historic move that reflects the growing importance of energy transition technologies. 

In its finalised Critical Materials Assessment for 2023, the US Government has for the first time included copper as a critical material, following the example set by the EU, Japan, India, China and Canada. The Critical Materials Assessment evaluates materials based on whether they “serve an essential function” in the production of energy transition technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs). It is also defined as any non-fuel mineral that has a high risk of supply chain disruption. 

In March, the US Geological Society (USGS) controversially denied a request to add copper to its official critical minerals list. The request was made by the Copper Development Association (CDA) due to a “dramatic supply risk”.

1 September | Legal

197 investors sue Glencore over “untrue statements” in its prospectuses

A total of 197 funds seek damages from Swiss mining giant Glencore over allegations that the company made misleading or untrue statements in its prospectuses to cover up corrupt activities. 

The claimants have alleged that they suffered financial losses as a direct result of “untrue statements” and omissions in Glencore’s 2011 prospectus for its listing on the London Stock Exchange. They are also suing for misleading information relating to the company’s merger with Anglo-Swiss mining company Xstrata. 

The long list of claimants includes sovereign wealth funds and major pension funds. The allegations against Glencore state that senior management “knew of, or were reckless as to the existence of”, some or all of this “bribery, corruption and fraud”. Instances of bribery relate to copper and cobalt acquisitions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, oil trading in West Africa, South Sudan, Brazil and Venezuela, and fuel oil price manipulation in the US.

31 August | Gabon

Eramet resumes manganese mining in Gabon after military coup

Paris-based miner Eramet will restart production at its manganese mine in Gabon after mining activities were temporarily halted because of a military coup in the country.   

The company had to stop all activities after the army in Gabon claimed they had deposed President Ali Bongo. An Eramet spokesperson told Reuters: “From this morning, all operations have been halted and train transport suspended.” The overnight events drove the company’s shares down by 18% to $68.   

Monitoring the ground situation, Eramet issued a statement: “In view of the information available this evening on today’s events in Gabon, the group has decided to immediately restart rail transport activity and to resume mining operations as of Thursday 31 August. Passenger train movements will remain suspended until further notice.”  

Eramet is the world’s largest producer of high-grade manganese ore, which is mined at the Moanda mine in Gabon. It produced 7.5 million tonnes of high-grade ore in 2022.

30 August | Copper

Peru slashes economic growth outlook as copper investment slumps

Peru’s Government on Tuesday lowered its economic growth forecasts for this year and the next, citing poor private investment in the country’s copper industry, the El Niño weather phenomenon and social unrest. 

The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) said in Peru’s official gazette, El Peruano, that the economy is now set to grow by 1.1% in 2023. This is down more than half from a previous estimate of 2.5% after data showed the economy shrank in the first half of this year. This would mark the slowest annual growth rate for the country since 2009, excluding 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic first began to disrupt global business. 

Between 2024 and 2027, the economy is forecast to grow by more than 3%, the MEF said, although this too is down from a previous estimate of 3.4%. The recovery of growth in the second half of this year will come from improvements in domestic demand, driven principally by private spending, the dissipation of social conflicts and strengthened investment in infrastructure, the ministry added.

4 September | Legal

Diamond-mining magnate detained in Cyprus over Romanian land rights

French-Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz has been detained in Cyprus on a Romanian-issued warrant. Steinmetz was detained on his arrival into Larnaca airport on 31 August.  

The mining tycoon is being held for allegedly being involved with a group trying to illegally secure land rights in Romania. The case dates back several years and he has already faced arrest in some other European countries on the same warrant but was cleared.   

Steinmetz is the owner of BSG Resources (BSGR). The company is under investigation in several countries, including the US, for alleged violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company denies these allegations.  

Steinmetz is also involved in a separate legal battle in Switzerland where he has been found guilty of corruption. The case involves the exploitation of iron ore deposits in Guinea.