Saturday, November 29, 2014

Boom-and-bust oil markets a lesson for NW WI iron mining

The oil cartel OPEC is cutting prices to drive US shale and fracking operations out of business.

So while temporary enjoying $2/gallon gasoline, ask yourself: Petro states and royal families vs. upstart drilling operators and across the US: who wins that race to the bottom?

Certainly not field worker families left holding the bag - - in the form of big mortgages on new McMansions or five-year notes on matching $45,000 pickup trucks.

Resource extraction has always followed boom-and-bust cycles, which is certainly on tap in NW Wisconsin where promised jobs mining low-grade iron ore (taconite) might never materialize, or could vanish in the blink of an eye if already-low prices fall further.

Imagine having the pristine Penokee Hills and the Bad River watershed blown apart and clear cut creating deep, ugly pits more than four miles long and nine football field fields wide, only to be left gathering a stew of snow melt and toxic mud close to Lake Superior because various capitalists and state planners decided they didn't need to ship in quite so much Wisconsin product.
Here's the October report by a major banking house about an iron ore glut, and falling prices:Iron ore production in China has probably been contracting since April and further mine shutdowns in the largest importer are forecast as a global seaborne glut expands, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. 
Monthly output from mines in the country may have dropped about 20 percent from a year earlier, analysts Christian Lelong and Amber Cai wrote in an e-mailed report, citing an implied figure from the bank’s in-house analysis. That estimate may overstate the actual drop, Lelong and Cai added. 
Iron ore tumbled 40 percent this year after companies including Rio Tinto Group (RIO) and Vale (VALE5) SA raised low-cost output in Australia and Brazil, spurring a global glut just as economic growth in China slowed. The market is in the midst of a transition without precedent in recent commodity history as supply jumps and higher-cost mines shut, according to Macquarie Group Ltd. HSBC Holdings Plc, which cut its price forecasts this week, sees a 30 percent slump in Chinese output next year. 
“The supply adjustment to a low-price environment continues; in particular, production in China has contracting even though domestic miners have not been fully exposed to $80 a ton seaborne iron ore yet,” Lelong and Cai said. “We expect further pressure on Chinese production.” 

No comments: