Rio Tinto has maintained control of its closed Bougainville copper mine through independence clashes in Papua New Guinea, but as the mine today edges toward restarting after a quarter-century and copper prices are strong, the Wall Street Journal reports Rio might be heading for the exit.
The Anglo-Australian miner on Monday told the WSJ it was reviewing its options for its controlling stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd., after the government passed new laws that could strip the company of its lease on its Panguna mine.
When Panguna—one of the world’s biggest copper deposits—started operations in 1972, Papua New Guinea saw the project in Bougainville as a path to riches. The impoverished country then was still under Australian control and had little industry beyond fishing the schools of tuna that swam near its shores.
But islanders soon became envious that revenue that was flowing to government coffers in Port Moresby rather than to Bougainville schools, health clinics and local incomes. Those frustrations, combined with worries over the mine’s poor environmental record, burst into violence in 1989 when militants forced the mine to shut down.
The Japanese copper cash price experienced the biggest price decline of the day, dropping 0.9 percent to close at JPY 733,000 ($7,157) per metric ton on Monday, August 18. The price of US copper producer grade 110 is back up, rising by 0.3 percent yesterday to close at $3.80 per pound. After falling for two days, the price of US copper producer grade 122 rose 0.3 percent to $3.80 per pound. Following a two-day drop, the price of US copper producer grade 102 increased by 0.3 percent to $3.99 per pound.
Chinese copper closed mixed on Monday. The price of Chinese copper bar is back up, rising by 0.4 percent yesterday to close at CNY 50,380 ($8,192) per metric ton. Following a 0.4 percent rise on Monday, the Chinese copper cash price closed at CNY 50,580 ($8,224) per metric ton. For the fifth consecutive day, the price of Chinese copper wire held flat at CNY 50,395 ($8,194) per metric ton. For the fifth day in a row, the price of Chinese bright copper scrap remained essentially flat at CNY 44,300 ($7,203) per metric ton.
On the LME, the primary copper cash price fell 0.5 percent to $6,852 per metric ton. The copper 3-month price saw a 0.4 percent decline on the LME to $6,843 per metric ton.