Some of the world’s biggest iron ore miners are slashing ambitious production targets, a move likely to restore balance to the commodity’s skewed fundamentals and fuel price gains ahead.
On Wednesday, BHP Billiton, the world’s third-largest producer,lowered its 2016 output guidance by 10 million tonnes. The news comes a day after number two producer Rio Tinto cut its 2017 forecast by 20 million tonnes and left its 2016 global shipments estimate unchanged at 350 million tonnes.
Weather-related issues were broadly at fault after a cyclone hit Western Australia’s iron ore mining belt, called the Pilbara, earlier this year. Stalled production at Samarco, a company joint-owned by BHP and Brazilian miner Vale, following a deadly dam collapse last year also weighed on BHP’s results while Rio’s performance was hampered by a delay in the deployment of its driverless train technology.
“This is quite positive for the spot price. As more major miners cut production, concerns about oversupply could finally be cooling down,” Angus Nicholson, market strategist at IG, said.
The price of iron ore, a key steel-making ingredient, dropped nearly 40 percent in 2015 on the back of an enormous supply glut, but the mineral substance has since recovered most of those losses. Year-to-date, iron ore is more than 40 percent higher, having recently breached the psychologically important $60 level, on the back of improved demand from China, reflected by a 6.5 percent rise of iron ore imports in the first three months of the year.
Beijing is channeling its massive monetary and fiscal resources to stimulate a nation experiencing its slowest pace of economic growth in over two decades—stimulus that has yielded a noticeable recovery in property investment, industrial production and fixed asset investment. Data last week showed all three indicators logging robust gains in the first quarter of the year.
Because these sectors consume massive amounts of industrial metals such steel, the commodity market benefits.
With the added support of lower production from major miners, iron ore should be able to stay above $60 a tonne in the near-term, Nicholson said. Prices jumped to a six-week peak of $62.85 a tonne on Tuesday, according to the Metal Bulletin’s benchmark index.
“The price rise is sustainable. We probably will not see the lows of $30-$35 for a while and if we do see a correction, it would be a correction that I’d buy into,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer of Ayers Alliance Securities.
From a global supply-and-demand perspective, lower output targets were positive for the market because it created a sense of better balance, explained Shaw and Partners’ metals and mining analyst Peter O’Connor.
BHP and Rio’s combined lowered output will prevent 30 million tons of new supply from hitting the market. While that number may seem like a tiny drop in iron ore’s estimated 1.5 billion-tonne seaborne market, it could lead to a tighter market in 2017, O’Connor explained.
Another factor supporting the commodity’s price recovery was delayed spending on new projects, Nicholson noted. Rio has yet to make a investment in its Silvergrass mine in the Pilbara, which further limits the amount of new supply.
University fees have been under the spotlight since the latter parts of 2015, when students rose up in protest against the restrictive costs to study.
Following weeks of protests in October and November 2015, President Jacob Zuma eventually declared there would be a no fee increase at universities in 2016. To absorb the loss of revenue, government set aside R6.9 billion in additional funding for universities.
However, according to higher education minister, Blade Nzimande, on top of government funding, corporates in South Africa need to foot the bill for higher education, as they will ultimately be absorbing the skilled workforce.
Many companies in South Africa already offer a number of bursaries and scholarship programs, which help students pay for part of or all of the fees needed to study.
Bursaries and scholarship programs are often tied to recruitment, as companies pay for students to develop specific skills they are in need of.
BusinessTech looks at the 10 biggest companies on the JSE (excluding the recently-listed AB Inbev Breweries), to determine what graduate programs they offer.
It’s important to note that the bursaries listed below are not always an annual given – that is, bursaries for many of the fields of study paid for by the companies only open up when the specific skills are needed.
On top of bursaries, South Africa’s biggest companies do also offer apprenticeships and other opportunities.
With bursaries closed for study in 2016, prospective students should apply now (where applicable) for study in 2017.
1. British American Tobacco
British American Tobacco offers bursary options for students that have an undergraduate degree or are in their final year of study in these subjects:
- Agricultural Science
- Food Technology
- Food Chemistry
- Natural Science
- Physical Chemistry
- Public / International Relations
- Bcom Law
- Human Resources
The skills the group is targeting are primarily in (but not limited to) these fields:
- Information Technology (undergrad and post-grad)
- Industrial Engineering (undergrad and post-grad)
- Marketing (post-grad)
- Accounting (post-grad)
Applications usually close at the end of August each year.
SABMiller says that it is committed to helping South Africa develop its skills, and it does so by offering academic bursaries to deserving SA students.
On top of the financial support, the group says its bursars are “afforded the opportunity to learn more about the world of work”.
SABMiller offers bursaries in these areas of study:
- Control and automation
- Supply chain
Naspers says it is committed to developing its own employees as well as extending training outside the group to develop a “talent pipeline”.
“Given the strategic importance of technology and intellectual property to our sustainability in a competitive market, skills development is a priority for Naspers.”
The group has developed the “Naspers Academy” – which develops specific skills needed by the group (in terms of Internet engineering and classified businesses).
Externally, Media24 offers four bursaries for students wanting to complete their postgraduate qualifications in journalism at either Stellenbosch University, NWU, Wits or Rhodes University.
This is a two-year bursary programme – one year of postgraduate study and one year based at Media24.
Luxury goods group Richemont doesn’t offer any paid bursaries in South Africa, but the international group offers apprenticeships and other training programs as part of its corporate social responsibility.
The group also makes donations to South African universities such as the University of Cape Town, to provide financial aid for students.
5. BHP Billiton
BHP Billiton provides qualified students with exceptional bursaries every year.
The bursaries cover full university fees (including registration), accomodation, meals, text books and pocket money.
To qualify, candidates need high maths and science marks (at least a ‘C’ – or 60-69%).
- Mining Engineering
- Extractive Metallurgy
- Electrical Engineering (Light & Heavy)
- Mine Surveying
- Mechanical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering (Mineral Process)
Qualifying bursary students are required to sign an employment contract with the company for a period equal to the bursary term.
Bursaries close the end of May each year.
Steinhoff does not have any external bursary or scholarship programs, but does make training and development opportunities available to employees “as far as is reasonably practical,” it says.
“The group concentrates training efforts on its existing employees and not on people outside of the group. Learning assistance through bursaries and study loans is offered in divisions with skills shortages.”
Glencore Xtrata offers bursaries in the mining field, with offers of apprenticeships and recruitment schemes to build necessary job skills.
High English, Maths and Science levels are required to qualify (60-69% and 70-79%, respectively).
The following career paths will be available for study, depending on the need of the company at the time.
- Mining Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Financial Management (B Com)
- Geology Discipline
Sasol has many bursaries available for both under- and post-graduate students.
Sasol Post Graduate Bursaries are awarded for full-time University study in Science and Engineering, at Masters or Ph.D Degree level.
Undergraduate bursaries cover university fees, accommodation, and also gives money for textbooks and spending money.
These are available for the following undergraduate degrees:
- Engineering (B Eng, BSc Engineering – chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, industrial, electronic, mining and computers).
- Science 9BSc: chemistry, geology and metallurgy).
- Commerce (BCom: accounting)
FirstRand offers the Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship, which is for students complete their postgraduate studies abroad in any country and any field.
The program covers a maximum period of two years to the value of R400,000 per year. This is to cover tuition, books, accommodation, meals and other relevant needs.
This scholarship has bursaries available in all fields of study, as long as it’s at any internationally-recognized university in any other country outside of South Africa.
Candidates have to return home to South Africa, work and stay in South Africa for a minimum period of five years after completing their studies.
Applications open from the beginning of January each year and close the end of February.
MTN offers a number of external bursaries to help boost and develop skills, especially for those coming from a previously disadvantaged background.
The MTN graduate program also looks to fill the openings within the company.
The company offers numerous bursaries across many fields, such as:
- Human resources
- Computer science
- Computer engineering
- and many others
The group specifies that while its bursaries are open to all, candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds will get preference.
Mine management and the local leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have reportedly jointly agreed to end the unprotected strike at the BHP Billiton-managed Hotazel manganese operations in the Northern Cape.
BHP Billiton South Africa communications manager Patrick Wadula said in a media statement sent to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online that the agreement meant that all employees were due to have reported for duty by today, Wednesday, April 8.
Wadula stated that management of the Hotazel manganese operations and NUM expected the mines to be fully operational from the morning shift and that both parties had agreed to engage further on the issues under discussion. Mineworkers, who began the strike on March 27, were urged to return to work last week in compliance with a court order, which had declared the stayaway illegal and unprotected.
The stayaway followed prolonged engagement over claims arising from an employee share ownership scheme (Esop), which led to a one-off financial settlement to resolve the matter and the payout of three dividends to date, with a fourth due this month, under a new Esop. BHP Billiton, which is planning to demerge the Hotazel manganese mines into the new South32 spin-off company on which shareholders are scheduled to vote next month, committed itself to open engagement with NUM to ensure continuity of production following rulings in its favour by the statutory Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration and the courts.
The manganese business that has been earmarked to become part of South32 includes the Hotazel mines and Gemco in Australia, and smelters at Temco in Australia and Metalloys in South Africa. With those assets, South32 would be one of the largest low-cost producers of manganese ore and a global producer of manganese alloy. The aim is for South32 to become a 12-asset, five-country, 24 000-employee group and locate a service centre in South Africa similar to the one in Australia that delivers services to the 41-asset, 13-country and 50 000-employee BHP Billiton group on six continents.
Source: Engineering News
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media