BHP Billiton’s Serge Pelletier receives Alumni Award #potash

From BHP Potash Pages – September 2014
BHP Billiton’s Serge Pelletier receives Alumni Award
This past June, Serge Pelletier, BHP Billiton’s Prinicpal Community for Reclamation and Closed Mines, received a letter from his alma matter, Montana Tech, letting him know that he had been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Montana Tech Alumni Recognition Award. Montana Tech’s Engineering Department had nominated Serge to receive the award and to be recognized for his professional accomplishments.
Serge, who grew up in Quebec, received a certificate as a Mining Technician after high school; after graduation Serge worked for a crown corporation for two years and for five years at an underground gold mine in the North of the province. In 1991, Serge moved to Butte, Montana to attend Montana Tech and graduated in December 1993 with his Bachelor’s Degree in Mining Engineering.
Serge has been with BHP Billiton since 6 January 1994 where he started with New Mexico Coal, Navajo Coal Mine. He has lived in many locations and had many different roles throughout his time with BHP Billiton, including General Foreman Drill and Blast at the Syama Gold Mine in Mali, Senior Analyst Breakthrough Resourcing in Brisbane, Australia, Technical Advisor, Senior Environment Engineer and Assistant to the Presidents at the Ekati Gold Mine in the Northwest Territories and finally Commercial Manager for Diamonds and Specialty Products in Johannesburg, South Africa before joining Potash in March 2008.
Over the years, Serge has stayed in touch with the Mining Department at Montana Tech, supporting the mining team and lending his knowledge about the industry when they have needed it.
Serge was the first and only person from Quebec to ever attend the Montana Tech School of Mining Engineering.
Serge lives in Saskatoon with his wife, Martine and their two daughters Alexe and Audrey.
Congratulations to Serge on receiving such an outstanding award and for all of his career achievements!

Oil, rail want seven years to retrofit

1 Oct 2014
National Post – (Latest Edition)
By Joan Lowy
The Associated Press
Oil, rail want seven years to retrofit
The oil and railroad industries are urging federal regulators to allow them as long as seven years to upgrade existing tanker cars that transport highly volatile crude oil, a top oil industry official said Tuesday. The cars have ruptured and spilled oil during collisions, leading to intense fires.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters that his group and the Association of American Railroads are jointly asking the Transportation Department for six to 12 months for rail tank-car manufacturers to gear up to overhaul tens of thousands of cars and another three years to retrofit older cars.
The two industries, at odds until recently over how best to prevent oil train collisions and fires, also want three years after that to upgrade newer tank cars manufactured since 2011, known as “1232 cars,” he said.
The Transportation Department is weighing tougher safety regulations for rail shipments of crude, including stronger tank cars, slower train speeds and more advanced train braking systems. In July, the department proposed that older cars be retrofitted within two years.
The longer retrofit timeline reflects the need to allow tank-car makers time to expand their operations while still producing new tank cars, Mr. Gerard said.
The government’s more aggressive timeline could hurt consumers by disrupting the production and transportation of goods including chemicals, gasoline, crude oil and ethanol, he said. All are shipped in the same type of tank cars under government regulations.
The oil and railway industries have made concessions to agree on a safer design for newly manufactured cars. The design adds safety features including “thermal blankets” between the shell of the tank car and an outer jacket. In a fire, the blanket helps prevent oil in tank cars that have not ruptured from overheating and exploding. But the design doesn’t include a thicker shell previously sought by the railroad industry.
The petroleum institute initially had opposed changing the 1232 car’s design, while the railroad industry sought extensive changes. Shippers such as oil companies will bear most of the cost of tank car retrofits and design changes because they lease or own tank cars, not the railroads.
The oil industry is also now opposing a proposal that oil trains be required to install electronically controlled brakes, a key concern for railroads. Electronically controlled brakes stop all the cars on a train at the same time rather than sequentially, which safety officials say can reduce the number of cars that derail in an accident. Railroad industry officials say safety benefits would be minimal and cost US$12-billion to US$21-billion, according to a CSX estimate.
Rail shipments of crude oil have grown from a few thousand carloads a decade ago to 434,000 carloads last year.

Saskatchewan aiming to triple exports to Asia

1 Oct 2014
Sask. aiming to triple exports to Asia
Hoping to hit target by 2020
Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan is looking to triple its exports to Asia by 2020 to keep in line with recommendations from a report released on Tuesday.
The Saskatchewan-Asia Advisory Council made 45 suggestions, such as more Asian language studies in schools and increased recruitment of international post-secondary students from that continent.
“There are some pretty bold recommendations,” said Wall, who added the province has already increased its role in Asian markets.
“Lest anyone doubt that this is possible, consider that between 2008 and 2012 Saskatchewan exports to China grew from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion.”
The council, formed in May 2013 to provide advice on Saskatchewan’s trade with Asia, reports Asian countries have the highest demand for provincial products.
It warns Canada is lagging behind countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
Recommendations include the province creating project proposals for at least 10 major investment opportunities for Asian entrepreneurs to consider.
Council chairman Grant Kook, who is CEO of Saskatoon-based Westcap Mgt. Ltd., said Asia is set to account for half of the world’s global domestic product by 2050. He suggests Saskatchewan can reap the economic benefits by attracting Asian investment.
“There is a lack of urgency in national efforts to enhance and transform our Asian relationships,” Kook said. “We believe Saskatchewan can and should lead the nation in Asian engagement.”
The report says Saskatchewan’s trade in 2013 with Asia was at an all-time high of $6.6 billion in exports to major partners such as India, Indonesia, China and Japan.
It recommends Mandarin language programs in schools starting at the primary level and calls for efforts to double Saskatchewan’s international postsecondary recruitment by 2020, with a focus on Asian students.
“We’re going to be careful about any major curriculum changes,” said Wall, who added extracurricular programs are one possible option for increasing the presence of Mandarin at the grade-school level.

BHP Potash Pages September 2014 #potash

See Newsletter – Potash Pages – 2014 09

Crude oil in U.S. slides most in 17 months on growing supply

Crude oil in U.S. slides most in 17 months on growing supply
Moming Zhou and Mark Shenk
Bloomberg News
Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 2:29 PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
West Texas Intermediate crude slid the most in 17 months, while Brent had its steepest drop in a year, as ample supply shielded the market from the risk of disruption as a result of the conflict in the Middle East.
Futures slumped as much as 3.9 per cent in New York and 3.1 per cent in London. OPEC oil production increased in September, led by a rebound in Libyan output to the highest level in more than a year, a Bloomberg survey showed Tuesday. Both benchmarks are poised for their biggest quarterly decline in more than two years. WTI may approach $90.63 after breaking below $93 and $91.50, according to Bloomberg First Word oil strategist Eric D. Pradas.
“We are going to continue to see lower prices as we go forward,” said Tariq Zahir, a New York-based commodity fund manager at Tyche Capital Advisors. “Fundamentally we are just very well supplied. The dollar continues to get stronger and it’s adding pressure to oil.”
WTI for November delivery fell $3.18 (U.S.) or 3.4 per cent to $91.39 a barrel at 1:31 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have lost 13 per cent this quarter, the most since June, 2012. The volume of all futures was 51 per cent above the 100-day average.
Brent for November settlement slid $2.46 or 2.5 per cent to $94.74 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract fell as far as $94.24, the lowest intraday since June, 2012. Volume was 11 per cent above the 100-day average. Prices have decreased 16 per cent this quarter. WTI was at a discount of $3.32 to Brent on ICE, compared with $2.63 Monday, which was the narrowest close since August, 2013.
Third Month
Oil is set for the third consecutive month of losses as supply gains offset the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State. Brent is down 8.5 per cent in September, compared with a 5-per-cent retreat for WTI.
“It’s the quarter end and a lot of hedge funds are pulling money out of the market,” said Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks & Opinions LLC in Houston.
Reformulated RBOB gasoline futures slid 4.5 per cent to $2.576 a gallon on the Nymex, heading for a quarterly drop of 16 per cent. The October contract expires Tuesday.
“The weakness in the expiring RBOB contract is the primary driver today,” Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pa., said by phone. “The secondary driver is the end of the quarter, which leads to book squaring. A tertiary reason is the strength of the dollar, which always weighs on commodity markets.”
Reduced Positions
Speculators reduced their net long positions on WTI by 4.8 per cent in the week ended Sept. 26 to 193,965 futures and options combined, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Oil also followed declines in other commodities as the Bloomberg Dollar Index climbed to 1,073.81, the highest since 2010. The Bloomberg Commodity Index fell 1.3 per cent. A stronger dollar reduces commodities’ investment appeal.
U.S. crude stockpiles probably expanded by 1.5 million barrels last week, a Bloomberg News survey showed before an Energy Information Administration report tomorrow.
U.S. crude stockpiles may have climbed last week as refineries started conducting seasonal maintenance. Plants typically schedule planned work for September and October, when they move from maximizing gasoline output to producing winter fuels.
‘Continuous Decline’
“What we are seeing is a continuous decline since the highs in June,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, BNP Paribas SA’s London-based head of commodity markets strategy. “We have not only financial deleveraging, but also physical surplus in the market. The dollar is going to be dominating.”
U.S. domestic production rose to 8.87 million barrels a day in the week ended Sept. 19, the most since March, 1986, according to EIA estimates. A combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S.
U.S. output gains are pushing out imports. Crude oil shipments to the U.S. fell 1.24 million barrels a day to 6.87 million in the week ended Sept. 19, the lowest level since May.
“Our reduction of imports is the same as an increase of supply to the world,” said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics, an energy-research firm in London, Arkansas. “The supply-demand fundamentals favour lower oil prices. A lot of speculators are getting out of long positions.”
Libyan Output The International Energy Agency said earlier this month that higher exports from Libya and booming U.S. production “deepened the overhang in crude markets and overshadowed any lingering worries of potential output disruptions in Iraq.”
Libya’s oil production was at 900,000 barrels a day, unchanged from yesterday, according to National Oil Corp. The country is working to restore crude output after a year of unrest reduced it to the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at one stage.
The U.S. and its European and Arab allies have conducted thousands of air missions against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
In northern Syria, Islamic State’s offensive against the town of Kobani sparked an exodus of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds, raising concern that the conflict would widen. Tensions increased Monday after errant shells fired by Islamic State militants landed inside Turkey, injuring five people, Turkish Kurdish officials said.

Rock sorting just got easier – MineSense’s latest invention

30 Sep 2014
National Post – (Latest Edition)
By Peter Koven Financial Post
Rock sorting just got easier
Mining is risk averse, but innovation may change the game
There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate
The mining industry is not always synonymous with innovation. Extraction methods have been entrenched for decades, and many companies are happy to stick with the same mining and milling processes that are standard across the sector.
“There’s a monolithic barrier to anybody trying to do anything new because everybody’s the same and everybody thinks the same,” says Andrew Bamber, chief executive of MineSense Technologies Ltd.
Mr. Bamber, 43, believes there is an untapped billiondollar market for innovation and new technologies within the broader industry. With Vancouver-based MineSense’s latest invention, a unique orehandling technology for optimizing metal recovery, Mr. Bambler hopes to help prove his case.
The technology has nothing to do with finding new mines. It is about identifying valuable ore in existing mines that he believes companies are foolishly throwing away. Conversely, it is about making sure companies do not waste time and money processing low-quality ore.
When mining firms design their mine plans, they spend hours poring over the drill holes on a property and carefully assigning value to blocks of material in the ground.
Rock that gets assigned a high value goes to the mill for processing, and low-value material gets shipped to the waste pile.
Mr. Bamber says the mine plan is akin to a strawberry cake. “We know there’s strawberries in it, and we’ve got a rough idea where some are because two holes might hit a strawberry. And we extrapolate in between to say what the rest of the massive cake looks like to define the value.”
This is incredibly inefficient, he says. Drill holes can be spaced far apart, and he does not think they provide nearly enough insight on the ore. Moreover, materials can shift when companies are blasting to get the rock out of the ground, making the original model even more inaccurate.
To address this problem, MineSense has designed sensors that integrate right into mining shovels, scoops and belt conveyors. The sensors monitor the ore grades and alert companies about whether the rock should be sent to the mill or the waste pile. Essentially, the sensors are supposed to create certainty where many companies are making educated guesses.
According to MineSense’s projections, this technology could lead to cost reductions and production increases of 15% to 30% respectively, along with significantly less waste and lower energy costs.
If MineSense’s projections are accurate, it may seem absurd that no one has done this before. But that just underscores the lack of innovation in an industry where many companies are risk-averse and slow to adopt new technology, Mr. Bamber says.
“There’s a hole in the market right in the space where we operate,” he says.
Pilot trials quickly demonstrated the potential benefits of the technology to customers, Mr. Bamber says. One miner in Chile found the sensors could add hundreds of millions of dollars of value to its operation and increase the mine life.
The obvious customers for this technology are miners with low-grade, marginal projects or mines with short lives. A minor improvement in project economics could extend the life of the mine or even prevent it from closing.
When metal prices fall and miners find themselves with unprofitable operations, they usually do one of two things: cut costs aggressively or invest huge dollars in expansions to achieve economies of scale. Those are both very challenging and time-consuming options.
“We offer a third route … to put loss-making operations back into profit,” Mr. Bamber says.
If everything goes as planned, he is eyeing commercialization of the technology by the end of 2015. MineSense has a number of key milestones in its sights, including raising a fresh round of capital and finding a partner (likely an equipment manufacturer that actually builds shovels).
Mr. Bamber says a lot of mining companies, including some senior producers, are supportive of the technology because they see the potential. But one challenge in marketing it is that many companies in the mining space are so set in their ways that it can be difficult convincing them that a technology could make such a difference, he says.
On the other hand, he thinks there is a possible benefit in the fact that mines across the world are so similar in how they operate: If the technology produces good results at one mine, many others will be keen to adopt it.
Mr. Bamber founded MineSense in 2009 after working on its basic concepts as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. The company was incubated in a lab at UB C and operated out of an employee’s garage for a while. From those modest beginnings, it now has 20,000 square feet of industrial space in South Vancouver.
“Some companies in Silicon Valley actually rent garages, so they can say they went through a garage phase,” Mr. Bamber says with a laugh. “We have a genuine garage phase in our past.”

Grain prices down; potash, uranium up #uranium #potash

30 Sep 2014
The StarPhoenix
Grain prices down; potash, uranium up
Agricultural index down in August
Commodity prices are a mixed bag for Saskatchewan producers, with most agricultural commodity prices down in August, including wheat, canola and hogs, while other commodities like cattle, uranium and potash are showing signs of strength, according to a bank commodity report released Monday.
Scotiabank’s commodity price index report indicated its agricultural index was down 6.7 per cent in August over the previous month, mainly due to declines in grain and livestock prices. “The decline was led by barley, pushed lower by very low U.S. corn prices, a competing grain for livestock and poultry,” the Scotiabank report said.
The silver lining for Saskatchewan wheat producers is that some higher-grade crops left over from last year are fetching good prices because of the large, but relatively low-quality wheat harvest this year.
“While the world wheat crop is also expected to be a record this fall, crop quality will be poor in the United States, Russia, France and Ukraine, boosting premiums for high-protein bread wheat,” Scotiabank said. “Excessive moisture will also take a toll on Western Canada’s wheat quality, but carryover volumes of higher-wheat from 201314 will add to Prairie farm income this year.”
On the mineral side, potash prices were up slightly, while uranium prices have hit bottom and are moving upward, Scotiabank said.
Spot market potash prices were at US$310 per ton in August, up only slightly from the January low of US$295 for standard-grade potash. However, Uralkali, which caused potash prices to plummet when it left the Eastern European potash cartel BPC last July, has increased granular prices in Brazil and across Latin America to US$380 per ton.
Uralkali also intends to boost contract prices to China by 10 per cent in the first half of 2015. As a result, China will exercise its options on Canpotex volumes, eager to purchase more tonnage before prices move up.
Canpotex — the overseas sales agent of Potash Corp, Agrium and Mosaic — is effectively soldout over the balance of 2014, Scotiabank said.
Record deliveries
Global potash deliveries were at record levels in the first half of 2014 and will likely increase by eight per cent to nearly 59 million tons in 2014. Canpotex producers have the bulk of the surplus capacity available for world markets. As a result, Potash Corp is recalling staff at previously curtailed operations in its Canadian mines and will consider raising its production to 10.5 million to 11 million tons in 2015 from 9.2 million tons this year.
Patricia Mohr, Scotiabank’s commodity specialist, said Potash Corp hopes to increase production now in the expectation of higher prices later. “They would like to have the volume gains, rather than substantially higher prices.”
Spot uranium prices have also lifted decisively off a US$28.25 per pound low in June to US$36.50 in mid September.
“Improving market sentiment reflects prospects for two nuclear reactor re-starts in Japan, more active midterm utility demand and production deferrals and curtailments,” Scotiabank said.

Saskatchewan farmland prices up again

Farmland prices holding steady despite falling crop values

Eric Atkins

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 5:00 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 29 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

The value of agricultural land across Canada is generally holding up despite falling crop prices, regional flooding and a long winter that kept buyers at bay, a new report shows.

However, the study from real estate company Re/Max adds that price increases for most farmland are expected to slow this year, with the exception of Alberta, southwestern Ontario and parts of the Ottawa Valley.

In Alberta, bidding wars have helped drive up the price of farmland by as much as 20 per cent year over year to around $10,000 an acre in the southern part of the province. Even unproductive scrubland rose in value as city dwellers bought rural getaways.

“Western Canadian farmers and their families continue to display resilience, surefootedness and enduring optimism,” said Elton Ash, regional vice-president at Re/Max of Western Canada. “Intense demand and short supply in Alberta has caused bidding wars like we see in Canada’s hot housing markets.”

The picture was not as bright in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where flooding and a harsh winter hurt farm profits and kept per-acre values generally flat year over year. In Saskatchewan, prices increased from between $1,500 and $2,000 an acre in 2013 to between $1,800 and $2,200 in 2014. Manitoba saw its price range go from between $1,350 and $1,600 to $1,500 and $2,000.

The report said the most typical buyer of farmland anywhere was a farm family expanding their output by buying more land. Proximity to local processing facilities was also a big factor in purchases.

In Ontario, farmland north of the Greater Toronto Area slated for redevelopment has hit $54,000 an acre, double the value of producing land in the region. The southwest tip of the province, Chatham-Kent, saw prices increase by 40 per cent from 2013 to $25,000 an acre. The rise drove some families looking to expand their farms out of the region to find more affordable land, the report said.

In Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, the bulk of the buyers were wealthy city folk looking to start a hobby farm. These farms ranged in size from 15 to 50 acres and typically cost just under $1-million, slightly lower year over year. Farmers in this area are also having to go further afield to find affordable land to expand their operations.

British Columbia’s blueberry-growing region, the Fraser Valley outside Vancouver, is also drawing a lot of interest from buyers. In the wake of a good blueberry crop in 2014, prices for an acre of farmland rose modestly to as high of $63,000 an acre from $60,000 in 2013.

In Nova Scotia, a number of new vineyards help send up prices 25 per cent to as much as $10,000 an acre.

Uralkali’s CFO Resigns #potash

Uralkali Announces Senior Management Change


Uralkali (LSE: URKA; the Company), one of the world’s largest potash producers, announces that Viktor Belyakov has resigned from his position as Chief Financial Officer of the Company.

Anton Vishanenko will act as the interim CFO until the next Board of Directors meeting scheduled for the end of October when the Board will consider his appointment as the permanent CFO. Viktor Belyakov will advise the interim CFO in order to ensure an effective and smooth transition of responsibilities.

Anton Vishanenko has extensive financial experience in the role of Chief Financial Officer at several major Russian companies, including Mechel, UralChem and Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. He holds an Executive MBA from INSEAD, and is a member of ACCA and CPA.

Dmitry Osipov, Uralkali CEO, commented: “In his 12 years at Uralkali, Viktor Belyakov has played an instrumental role in the Company’s continued growth. He helped steer the business through key milestones, including Uralkali’s IPO in 2007, the transformative merger with Silvinit in 2011 and the subsequent integration. He also capably led the Company as acting CEO during September-December 2013. We are grateful to Viktor for his excellent work and wish him the very best in his future endeavours”.

Uralkali ( is one of the world’s largest potash producers and exporters. The Company’s assets consist of 5 mines and 7 ore-treatment mills situated in the towns of Berezniki and Solikamsk (Perm Region, Russia). Uralkali employs ca.11,300 people (in the main production unit). Uralkali’s shares and GDRs are traded on the Moscow Exchange and London Stock Exchange, respectively.

Miners victim of their own ‘over-promotion’

Miners victim of their own ‘over-promotion’

  • From: The Australian
  • September 29, 2014 12:00AM

RESOURCES companies should blame themselves and their history of over-promotion, rather than cooling commodity prices, for the steep downturn in mining stocks.

That’s the view of Bert Koth, the managing director in Australia for the $US7.9 billion-plus ($9bn) Denham Capital private equity group, who believes it will be some time before investors are again prepared to back the resources sector with the same gusto seen over much of the past decade.

Australia’s resources indices have fallen by almost 40 per cent since peaking in 2011 and equity funding in the sector has dried up, leaving smaller explorers battling to survive.

Speaking to The Australian, Mr Koth said blaming the funding crisis on falling commodity prices ignored the mistakes the industry had made during the boom.

“It’s not because China is growing a little bit slower, it’s not because there was or is a debt crisis in the US and Europe, to a significant degree it’s because the industry was over-promoted,” Mr Koth said. “When you set inflated expectations and they don’t come to fruition, people abandon the sector.”

Studies by Denham found that an investor backing every single initial public offering in the resources sector over the past five years would have lost more than 60 per cent of their money.

“In a city like Perth, where there’s a lot of punters, their portfolios are down 70 per cent. If you lose 70 per cent of your money on something, how long does it take before you invest again in the same thing with the same people? It might take a while.”

The continued plunge in the iron ore price this year meant the resources sector was at an “inflection point”, he said, where listed companies that were low on cash may finally go under.

“Everyone was hinging on the belief that in six months everything would be better. But with iron ore price forecasts down to $US70 to $US75 (a tonne), it’s going to depress the whole market confidence even further and undermine any residual optimism in the system,” he said.

The current malaise in the resources sector was likely to prevail for some time as demand gradually caught up with supply.

Mr Koth noted that about 95 per cent of new copper and iron ore supply on the drawing board around the world came from projects with a forecast capital expenditure of more than $1bn.

Around half of those $1bn-plus projects were in the hands of junior to mid-tier companies with little likelihood of securing funding, while the mining giants owning the balance would be very cautious about putting more money into new projects.

“Macroeconomically that’s going to mean eventually demand will meet supply,” Mr Koth said. “That’s not going to happen tomorrow, and I’d argue you’re talking multiple years rather than multiple months. So, I don’t see any swift recovery.”

The upside of a prolonged downturn in the resources sector would be some relief in operating and capital expenditure pressures across the industry.

Mr Koth said that of the more than 500 mining projects that Denham had looked at in recent years, only “a handful” made financial sense. He said there were opportunities for companies to reduce their cost bases in the current climate by addressing overstaffing, renegotiating rates with mining contractors and taking advantage of the new-found availability of geological staff. “Industry-wide I think there’s at least a 10 per cent opex and 20 per cent capex reduction potential in Australia,” he said.

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