Caracas seeks N Korea help with sanctions, coltan

  • Market: Crude oil, Metals
  • 04/10/19

Venezuela is stepping up relations with North Korea to gain sanctions-busting advice and explore metals marketing routes in Asia, according to Venezuelan government officials consulted by Argus.

President Nicolas Maduro said this week he plans to visit North Korea "very soon". The visit would form part of an Asian tour that also could include stops in Vietnam and China, according to presidential palace and foreign ministry officials.

Close Maduro ally Diosdado Cabello, who presides a rubber-stamp constituent assembly, returned to Caracas from North Korea and Vietnam last week to prepare for the presidential visit.

During Maduro's official sojourn, several agreements will be signed in strategic areas including mining, agriculture and "general trade," a palace official said. Bilateral security also figures in a tentative agenda that is being developed jointly by presidential and foreign ministry aides.

The palace official noted that both countries "have much in common including the US empire's constant aggression against our sovereign independence and national interests."

A defense ministry official in Caracas said Maduro wants to forge a security alliance between Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Caracas and Pyongyang have maintained distant bilateral diplomatic relations since 1965.

A foreign ministry official said the Maduro government is seeking advice from North Korea on how to evade global US sanctions that have hamstrung the state-owned oil industry and choked off Venezuela's access to international financial markets. "North Korea has decades of experience evading international sanctions," the official said.

A US government official dismissed the significance of the warming ties between Caracas and Pyongyang. Maduro is "grasping at straws" and "posturing" in the face of international pressure to remove him, the official said.

Late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez prioritized efforts to strengthen relations with North Korea after he first assumed power in January 1999, but the effort did not gain momentum until Maduro replaced Chavez in April 2013, according to the foreign ministry.

North Korea opened its embassy in Caracas in 2014. The Maduro government did not inaugurate Venezuela's embassy in Pyongyang until 21 August 2019 in a joint ceremony presided by Maduro's deputy foreign minister Ruben Dario Molina and North Korean deputy foreign minister Pak Myong Guk.

Coltan king

The Venezuelan delegation to Pyongyang in August was led by Maduro's son, Nicolas Maduro Guerra. Nicknamed Nicolasito, Maduro Guerra controls coltan and gold-mining projects in Bolivar state near Venezuela's border with Colombia. His partners include senior army and national guard officers in Maduro's government, two mining ministry officials tell Argus.

During Nicolasito's week-long stay in Pyongyang, he discussed mining, agricultural and financial issues with senior North Korean government officials, according to a Venezuelan official who formed part of his delegation.

Nicolasito is Venezuela's "untouchable coltan king" and is "seeking new routes to smuggle out coltan and gold from Venezuela" following a recent smuggling bust in Italy, a disgruntled official with the Sebin national intelligence service tells Argus.

During his Asian visits last week, Cabello was tasked by Maduro with proposing potential bilateral agricultural and oil ventures with Vietnamese investors, the palace official said.

Maduro is seeking Vietnamese technical advice and investment to resuscitate Venezuela's rice farming industry which has shrunk from about 1.2mn t/yr in 2014 to only about 400,000 tons in 2018, the palace official said.

The palace official said Maduro also hopes to persuade state-owned PetroVietnam to restart development of PetroMacareo, a 200,000 b/d Orinoco extra-heavy crude joint venture from which the Vietnamese company withdrew in 2013.

According to state-owned Vietnamese media, national assembly chair Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan "affirmed that Vietnam is willing to share experience in socio-economic development, especially in agricultural production, with Venezuela."


Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News
21/05/24

Japan’s Kobelco to shut basic oxygen furnace, build EAF

Japan’s Kobelco to shut basic oxygen furnace, build EAF

Tokyo, 21 May (Argus) — Japan's Kobe Steel (Kobelco) will close one of the two basic oxygen furnaces (BOFs) at its Kakogawa steel works, looking to replace it with an electric arc furnace (EAF). Kobelco will invest ¥300bn ($1.9bn) to accelerate reducing greenhouse gas emissions by introducing a new EAF, the company said on 20 May as part of its mid-term strategy for the 2024-26 fiscal years. This will result in a closure of a BOF at Kakogawa. It will finalise the decision for introducing an EAF in the early part of its 2024-26 mid-term strategy period, Kobelco said, aiming to start producing crude steel with scrap metal sometime during the 2030s. Kobelco produced 5.9mn t of crude steel during the 2023-24 fiscal year ending 31 March, down by 3.5pc from the previous year. It forecasts producing around 6mn t during 2024-25, according to data separately announced by Kobelco on 9 May. The company did not disclose the production of each BOF at Kakogawa. This is the latest major Japanese steel firm that specialises in BOF production to announce proposed EAF operations, following Nippon Steel and JFE. Nippon Steel started commercial operations in 2022, while JFE plans to start in 2027. Kobelco's switch to EAF production will lead to further concerns about scarcity of scrap in Japan . The supply shortage could be as high as 5mn t in 2030 and 11mn t in 2050, according to a 2022 report by the country's trade and industry ministry. By Yusuke Maekawa Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
News

Southeast Asian steel demand to rise in 2024: Seaisi


21/05/24
News
21/05/24

Southeast Asian steel demand to rise in 2024: Seaisi

Shanghai, 21 May (Argus) — The Southeast Asia Iron and Steel Institute (Seaisi) estimates that southeast Asian countries' steel demand will grow by 3.7pc from 2023 to 76.5mn t in 2024. But the growth rate fell below previous expectations considering high global inflation risks, volatile prices and a demand slowdown in China and many other regions, the institute said at the 2024 Seaisi conference in Vietnam held over 13-16 May. Steel demand in the six major countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean-6) fell by 1.9pc from 2022 to 73.5mn t in 2023, Seaisi said. Asean-6's steel production also dropped by 2.1pc on the year to 49.4mn t in 2023, in line with contracting demand. Asean-6's net imports slid by 1.3pc on the year to 24.3mn t in 2023. Lower external demand, high inflation and interest rates as well as tightening global financial markets were the main reasons for steel industrial setbacks last year. It led to a slowdown in construction sectors and steel industrial destocking activities in the region. Steel demand in Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam fell by 14pc, 7.5pc and 4.8pc respectively in 2023, weighing on regional industrial performance although demand rose by 18pc in Singapore and 6.3pc in Indonesia, Seaisi said. Thailand's steel demand edged down by 0.1pc in 2023. Asean regional steel demand was expected to increase in 2024 because Asean-6 governments were optimistic about achieving their economic growth targets, given strong private consumption in most countries, the rolling out of infrastructure and construction projects, a recovery in tourism and electronics, and as inflation rates move towards targeted ranges. But the region will continue to experience challenges from supply chain uncertainties on the back of escalating geopolitical tensions and wars, weakening Asean currencies except for the Singapore dollar, economic slowdowns outside of Asean, volatile commodity prices, and extreme weather, Seaisi said. Seaisi did not provide a forecast for regional steel production in 2024, but it sees steel capacity expansions in the region leading to overcapacity issues. It expects Asean-6 crude steel capacity to rise from 78mn t/yr in 2022 to 94mn t/yr in 2024. Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Australia pauses pro-upstream offshore oil, gas reforms


21/05/24
News
21/05/24

Australia pauses pro-upstream offshore oil, gas reforms

Perth, 21 May (Argus) — Australia's federal resources minister Madeleine King acknowledges the political situation in the nation's upper house of parliament the Senate prevents any deal to clarify consultation requirements for the nation's offshore oil, gas, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and renewables sectors. The Senate last week passed the Labor party-led federal government's legislation on changes to deductions permitted under the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax (PRRT) and a new fuel efficiency standard for light commercial and passenger vehicles . But the deal struck with the Greens party and two independent senators meant the government withdrew amendments designed to specify which stakeholders must be consulted under law before receiving environmental permits. King blamed the Greens for her government removing the amendments from the agenda. "My disappointment is not for the industry but the community that will remain subject to inadequate and inappropriate consultation requirements for longer," King said on 21 May at the Australian Energy Producers conference in Perth. "The Greens political party and the crossbench independents and others promoted widespread misinformation in relation to the proposal that would ensure the community had the benefit of clarity and certainty in consultation." Environmental lawyers delayed field drilling and pipeline laying for Australian independent Santos' $4.6bn Barossa backfill project from late 2022 until early 2024, citing insufficient consultation with traditional owner groups, in a case ultimately dismissed by the Federal Court of Australia. Changes to offshore laws were promised by the federal government in January with concerns legal tactics could lead to further lawsuits aimed at driving up costs for LNG backfill, offshore wind power projects or CCS. Climate campaigners saw the changes as a vehicle for easing scrutiny on developers and its politicians promised to oppose any changes. But having dealt with the Greens instead of the Liberal-National coalition on legislation for fuel efficiency and the PRRT because of the latter's demands that the approvals process for oil and gas be expedited, Labor is less likely to now receive support for changes to consultation ahead of next year's federal election. The future gas strategy released by the federal government this month said new supplies are urgently needed, as gas-fired power generation will likely replace firming capacity provided by retiring coal-fired power plants. The report also found multiple reasons for Australia's low gas exploration investment, including difficulties with the approvals processes, legal challenges and market interventions that may lead international companies to focus on lower cost and lower risk fields in other jurisdictions. By Tom Major Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Roy Hill's WA iron ore loadings support WA exports


20/05/24
News
20/05/24

Roy Hill's WA iron ore loadings support WA exports

London, 20 May (Argus) — Iron ore shipments by the four largest producers in Western Australia (WA) rose in the week to 18 May on the back of a rebound of Roy Hill's volumes as the company completed routine quarterly maintenance. Rio Tinto's shipments ticked up too despite a derailment on its rail line. The four largest Pilbara iron ore producers — BHP, Fortescue, Rio Tinto and Roy Hill — loaded vessels with a combined capacity of 17.10mn dwt, up from 16.63mn dwt in the week to 11 May. The dwt capacity is the maximum capacity of a vessel and overestimates actual shipments by about 5pc. Rio Tinto's shipments reached 6.14mn dwt from 5.81mn dwt the previous week. This is below the 2024 average of 6.44mn dwt.There was a derailment on the rail line heading to Rio Tinto's Dampier facilities last Monday. "We have reopened our dual train line 80km from Karratha following a rail incident on Monday, with the first train travelling on one of the repaired lines on Friday and the second line reopening on Saturday," the company said. Roy Hill's exports jumped to 795,000 dwt from 208,000 dwt the previous week as the company appears to have completed its quarterly maintenance. But the volumes remain below the average of 1.25mn dwt. BHP's volumes ticked down to 5.88mn dwt from 6.22mn dwt the previous week. Fortescue's iron ore loadings edged lower to 4.29mn dwt but were still well above the rolling average of 3.74mn dwt. Overall iron ore shipments from WA increased to 48.95mn dwt during the 1-19 May period from 47.81mn dwt in the same period last year, provisional shipping data indicate. Shipments to China rose to 42.27mn dwt from 39.51mn dwt across the same timeframe. Spot freight costs have stepped down in recent weeks as demand has decreased. Capesize freight rates — for loading on 4-7 June — on the bellwether WA to north China route fell to $10.40/t today from the most recent peak of $11.95/t on 8 May. By Andrey Telegin Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

India's JSW Steel to buy coking coal firm in Mozambique


20/05/24
News
20/05/24

India's JSW Steel to buy coking coal firm in Mozambique

Singapore, 20 May (Argus) — India's JSW Steel will buy a coking coal company in Mozambique to secure supply of the key steelmaking raw material and shield against any volatility in prices. JSW Steel's board of directors approved the acquisition of coal mining firm Minas de Revuboe (MDR) for about $74mn. The purchase of a 92pc stake in MDR gives JSW access to more than 800mn t of premium hard coking coal reserves in Mozambique, the steel producer said on 17 May. MDR's mine is not yet operational but the company aims to start developing the mine in the 2024-25 fiscal year. "This is not only going to provide us some cushioning with respect to the highly volatile [premium low-volatile (PLV)] index," said JSW Steel's chief executive officer Jayant Acharya. "It also is logistically closer to India, and therefore, will give us an optimised cost." Fluctuations in prices of high-quality seaborne coking coal have been a concern for Indian steelmakers, as they work to ramp up production in anticipation of rising demand from the infrastructure and automobile sectors. The Argus -assessed Australian PLV hard coking coal price crossed $600/t in March 2022, following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It was at $237/t on 17 May, a decline of $8/t from the start of this month, owing to ample supplies and thin buying interest. JSW Steel's fourth-quarter profit fell by 64pc to 12.99bn rupees ($156mn) because of higher coking coal costs. Crude steel production in the quarter rose by 3pc on the year to 6.79mn t, while sales totalled 6.73mn t, also registering a growth of 3pc from last year. The company also expects capital expenditure at 200bn rupees ($2.4bln) in the 2024-25 fiscal year, as it adds to its steelmaking capacity. JSW Steel is targeting a production capacity of 50mn t/yr by the 2030-31 fiscal year. The company expects steel demand to pick up in the coming year, citing the government's infrastructure push and robust economic growth in India. By Amruta Khandekar Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more