August’s top stories: Olympic Dam delayed as strikes cripple SA

2 September 2012 (Last Updated September 2nd, 2012 18:30)

While violence between mining unions broke out in South Africa, BHP Billiton shelved expansion works at its Olympic Dam mine. Mining-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from August 2012.

August’s top stories: Olympic Dam delayed as strikes cripple SA

Europe eyes mining opportunities in Greenland

Melting surface ice has opened up possibilities to mine natural resources.

Europe was reported to be looking to extract rare earth metals and gem stones in Greenland following surface melting on the island in July, which opened up opportunities for extraction.

Satellite data indicates that 97% of Greenland's surface underwent surface melting during four warm days in July, meaning natural sources could become available for extraction in the next ten to 20 years.

European commission vice-president Antonio Tajani told The Guardian that Greenland is essential in terms of natural resources due to considerable opportunities.

Nautilus Minerals gets approval for deep sea mine

Nautilus Minerals is set to mine for gold and copper on the seabed in Papua New Guinea.

Canada-based Nautilus Minerals announced in August that it had obtained approval from the Papua New Guinea government to begin work on Solwara 1, the world's first deep sea commercial mining venture.

Nautilus will mine for copper and gold off the coast of New Britain in Papua New Guinea using hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

The company has raised C$34m ($34.2m) from Anglo American, MB Holdings, Metalloinvest and existing Nautilus investors to develop its proprietary seafloor production system.

Falling coal demand may force BHP to slash Australian jobs

BHP may cut down on production at its Australian mines.

BHP Billiton suggested that it may be forced to slash jobs at its coal mines in Queensland, Australia, due to a recent fall in coal demand.

With the Chinese economy showing signs of slow down, demand for coal has dropped sharply causing the prices of coal, iron ore and other commodities to drop significantly.

Furthermore, coupled with high production costs, the declining prices have led to decreased production across the globe.

The company told Reuters in August: "We don't intend to provide any detail about specific adjustments, but clearly there may be some impact on jobs in some areas."

BHP, in a 50:50 joint venture with Mitsubishi, operates six coal mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin and claims to supply one-fifth of the world's coal production at its peak.

Lonmin: sacking striking employees may fuel further violence

Marikana mine in South Africa

On August 21 platinum producer Lonmin said it fears that sacking 3,000 striking workers at its Marikana mine in South Africa could lead to an escalation in violence.

Clashes between inter-union rivals, which started on Friday 10 August, resulted in the death of 44 people, including workers and police personnel, and the majority of the 28,000 workforce continued to stay off work.

Lonmin's executive vice-president for mining reportedly told a local radio station: "It won't help anyone if Lonmin goes out and dismisses a whole lot of people for not coming to work today."

Workers arrested at the mine have since been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.

BHP Billiton delays Olympic Dam expansion as profits decline

BHP Billion will delay of the expansion of the Olympic Dam project.

Global mining company BHP Billiton announced on August 22 that it will delay its proposed $20bn Olympic Dam expansion project due to tough market conditions and "subdued" commodity prices.

The company said it will investigate an alternative, less capital-intensive design to the open-pit copper expansion, involving new technologies to improve the economics of the project.

The news came on the same day BHP reported a fall in profits for FY2012 ended 30 June 2012, a first in three years.

South African miners to sue leading mining companies for negligence

A plea before the Johannesburg High Court is seeking damages from mining companies in South Africa.

A South African lawyer representing more than 3,000 miners with lung disease filed a plea before the Johannesburg High Court on 21 August to sue leading mining companies operating in the country for negligence.

Thousands of miners in the country allege that they contracted silicosis while working for mining companies, including AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony.

Mining companies would face the possibility of paying billions of dollars in damages if the court recognises this case fit for a class action.

Lundin Mining resumes operations at landslide-hit Aguablanca mine

Copper

Canada-based Lundin Mining resumed production at its wholly-owned Aguablanca nickel-copper mine in Spain on 27 August after a landslide caused production to halt in December 2010.

The mine is now expected to reach its full production capacity between October and December of 2012.

Heavy rains had led to the collapse of the south-west wall of the open pit mine two years ago, restricting the main access ramp and subsequently halting operations.

Disruption set for US steel supplies as strike looms in Minnesota

Steel supply in the US could be disrupted with a possible strike at iron ore mines in Minnesota.

Reports on 30 August revealed that steel supply across the US could be severely disrupted by the expiry of contracts between three major mining companies and the United Steelworkers of America.

Five mines in the Iron Range, located north-east of Minnesota, employ close to 3,000 union workers whose contracts were due to expire at midnight of 31 August 2012, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Though specific details of the contract dispute were not readily available, a stalemate was expected to result in a strike disrupting production and thereby effecting steel supplies across the country.