News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: Bad weather dries up iron ore and coal shipments; Doyles Creek licence ‘falsely’ valued at $100m; and Gold stumbles into bear territory.

Staff Reporter

Bad weather dries up iron ore and coal shipments

Australia’s largest miners are poised to report weaker iron ore and coal shipments in the March quarter due to bad weather in Western Australia and Queensland, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group will release their quarterly production and sales figures this week. March is historically the weakest quarter for bulk commodity producers due to weather issues.

Port statistics show iron ore shipments from Port Hedland – used by BHP, Fortescue, Atlas Iron and BC Iron – fell 4% in the March quarter to 66.9 million tonnes after a record December quarter. However, as a result of ongoing expansions, the shipments were 20% higher than in the March quarter last year.

Doyles Creek licence ‘falsely’ valued at $100M

A director of public mining company NuCoal told a corruption inquiry in New South Wales that a coal exploration licence at the centre of its investigation was valued falsely at $100 million when he and his associates were seeking new investors in a mining venture, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Mike Chester, a financial adviser and analyst, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday that associate Craig Ransley was the most likely source of the inflated estimate.

Chester is a director of NuCoal, which bought private miner Doyles Creek Mining in 2010.

Gold stumbles into bear territory

Gold has entered bear market territory after a sharp price fall on Friday when the yellow metal hit its lowest level since May 2011, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The precious metal shed 5.02% to $US1483 amid heightened expectations that QE3 – the United States Federal Reserve’s massive bond buying program – will be wound back sooner than expected if the world’s largest economy continues its recovery.

Also pressuring the gold price, the Cypriot government is said to be counting on the sale of about $US252 million of “excess” gold reserves by its central bank to trigger international aid.