The Border Watch : December 10th 2013
BUSINESS Toxic spill causes havoc for ERA PERTH: Shares in Energy Resources of Australia have dived more than 12 per cent after a toxic spill at the company’s Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory. The fall came after the company said it was still assessing the impact of the weekend spill on full-year 2014 production guidance. ERA, which is owned by Rio Tinto, has not given a time frame on how long the mine will be closed or the nature and extent of the repair works required. It said the leak had been contained. “Processing operations have been ceased and clean-up operations are well advanced,” the company said yesterday. “Processing operations have been ceased and clean-up operations are well advanced.” Traditional owners say up to a million litres of acidic radioactive slurry poured from a burst tank at the mine in heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, making it one of the biggest nuclear accidents in Australian history. Workers were evacuated from the nearby area after the tank “failed” and a mixture of slurry escaped. ERA said containment systems had operated as designed and all watermonitoring points at the mine and surrounding areas had normal readings. “The slurry moved outside the bundled containment area, but has been captured and contained on site,” ERA said. “There is no impact on the environment surrounding the Ranger Project Area.” Jobless rate steady at 6pc SYDNEY: Jobs growth is still sluggish and the unemployment rate is expected to remain a little under 6 per cent for the coming months. Official labour force figures will be released on Thursday, and the unemployment rate is expected to rise 0.1 percentage points to 5.8 per cent, according to an AAP survey of 13 economists. The number of people with jobs is forecast to have increased by 10,000 last month, compared to a rise of 1100 the month before. JP Morgan Australia chief economist Stephen Walters said recent economic indicators did not point to a turn around in the weaker parts of the economy. “Employment growth has been dismal in the second half of 2013, with the economy shedding a net 16,000 jobs over the past six months,” he said. “Weak employment growth has not had the expected impact on the jobless rate, however, largely due to the continued decline in labour force participation, which is tracking at multiyear lows. “In this week’s release, our forecast looks for a 10,000 gain in jobs, which, with an unchanged participation rate, should bring the jobless rate up to 5.8 per cent.” The participation rate – the percentage of the working-age population either in work or looking for a job – is expected have stayed at a seven-year low of 64.8 per cent for the third month in a row in November. ANZ head of Australian economics Justin Fabo said the labour market would remain weak as the economy has a bumpy transition away from being one that is mainly driven by mining investment. “The resources boom is now moving into the operational/production phase which is expected to be less labour intensive than the investment phase,” he said. “While this will likely see net exports contribute strongly to gross domestic product growth over the next few years, growth in domestic demand and employment is likely to remain subdued.” – AAP QBE shares plunge on downgrade MELBOURNE: Investors have punished insurance giant QBE’s shares after a large earnings downgrade and the retirement of its chairman. Shocked investors wiped more than $4 billion from the value of one of the ASX’s 20 biggest companies, with QBE shares falling $3.45 or 22.3 per cent, to $12. The company flagged a $250 million net loss for calendar 2013. QBE’s North American business is hurting the overall company, leading to $600 million in goodwill writedowns to its value. QBE has been exposed to claims related to the worst draught in 50 years in the US. Chief executive John Neal yesterday said there was a clear need to restructure the North American business. It would still be a viable, profitable business next year, albeit on a much smaller scale, he said. – AAP The company also announced chairman Belinda Hutchinson would leave QBE in March. – AAP Tough time: QBE chairman Belinda Hutchinson and chief executive John Neal. Picture: AAP NT opens biggest mine in 20 years DARWIN: The largest new mine in the Northern Territory for 20 years has been opened in the Roper Region. The Roper Bar iron ore mine, about 600km south-east of Darwin in the NT’s Gulf country, is expected to produce up to three million tonnes of iron ore a year for the next eight to 12 years, chief minister Adam Giles says. The mine officially opened yesterday, and the first shipment of Roper Red will be exported through the Bing Bong port later this week. Western Desert Resources, the owner of the Roper Bar mine, is now the Territory’s largest independently owned company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, with an estimated market value of about $350 million. The company has spent $180 million on major infrastructure, including building a 165km road with 10 new bridges to transport ore from the mine to Bing Bong Port. The company expects to transport about 11,000 tonnes of ore along that route daily, delivering an annual turnover of up to $450 million. Only 20 per cent of the whole area has been explored, and Western Desert Resources believes there could be up to two billion tonnes of ore in the province. 10 - The Border Watch, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 – AAP PanAust warns of earnings slump PERTH: Shares in Laos-focused copper and gold producer PanAust have slumped more than 3 per cent after the company said full-year earnings will be at the lower end of its target range due to higher costs. While PanAust expects copper and gold production to be at the upper end of the range, lower commodities prices would affect earnings for the 2013 full-year, the company said yesterday. “The positive effect on earnings of the excellent operating performances will be offset by softer realised commodity prices in the final quarter resulting in 2013 full-year earnings being at the lower end of the guidance range,” PanAust said. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are expected to be $285.64 million to $329.58 million for full-year 2013. PanAust has two mines in Laos – Phu Kham and Ban Houayxai. The company said it remained on track to reach its copper and gold production targets of 62,000 to 65,000 tonnes of copper and 160,000 to 175,000 ounces of gold. However, it said full-year costs were estimated to be above the upper end of the guidance range at both Phu Kham and towards the upper end of guidance range at Ban Houayxai, largely due to lower prices for by-products at each operation. IN BRIEF Amcor shareholders vote to demerge BRISBANE: Shareholders in global packaging company Amcor have overwhelmingly voted to separate its packaging distribution business into a new company, Orora. Some 99.79 per cent of votes cast were in favour of hiving off Amcor’s old Australasia and Packaging Distribution business, formerly also known as AAPD. Chairman Chris Roberts said there were more positives than negatives to the demerger. Metcash reverses food business split SYDNEY: Retailer Metcash is splitting its food and grocery business in two, after deciding last year to merge the operations. Metcash’s supermarket business includes the IGA supermarkets and the No Frills and Black and Gold private labels. These will now operate separately from the IGA and Lucky 7 convenience store business. Jetstar scales back Darwin operations ADELAIDE: Budget airline Jetstar will establish a new cabin crew and pilot base in Adelaide after cutting back on services from Darwin. The move will boost the company’s employment in Adelaide from 40 to about 160 as they service four A320 aircraft to be based locally from March next year. Three of those aircraft are being relocated from Darwin, in response to increased competition on international routes from overseas airlines. Shares close lower on Chinese data SYDNEY: The Australian share market has closed lower after data showing Chinese inflation slowed to 3 per cent last month. At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 41.6 points, or 0.8 per cent, lower at 5144.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 37.6 points, or 0.73 per cent, at 5148.4. On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 35 points lower at 5149, with 27,946 contracts traded. Dollar higher despite US jobs figures – AAP SYDNEY: The Australian dollar is a little higher after traders were in two minds about how to interpret the good US jobs figures. At the close yesterday, the Australian currency was trading at US90.9c, up from 90.5c on Friday.
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