A press statement this week from the southeastern Siberian town of Irkutsk revived hopes that Russia’s El Dorado, and one of the world’s largest unmined gold deposits, may be about to go on the market.
Sukhoi Log (“Dry Gulch”in Russian), according to Nikolai Suslov, deputy head of the Irkutsk region agency for natural resources (Irkutsknedra), may be put up for public auction “ïn the next few months” — “by the end of 2007, or the beginning of 2008”. Suslov’s timing was initially reported by Interfax, and then Bloomberg picked up the story. The full report of Suslov’s remarks indicate that his focus was on two relatively minor prospecting licences to be put on the block in September and October — the Isko-Tagulsky nickel prospect, and the Uryahsky gold deposit. (more…)
The Armenian government ordered prosecutors last week to put a stop to an attempt by the Vedanta group in London to auction off its rights to the Zod gold mine to the highest bidder.
Two weeks ago, following six months of investigation, the Armenian prosecutor’s office in Yerevan went to court on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources, to seek a ruling to revoke the Zod licence, which has been held since 1998 by Vedanta’s Canadian-listed subsidiary, Sterlite Gold (ticker SGD). The judge deferred his ruling on the procedural ground that the due diligence, which had been undertaken by the prosecutor’s office since January, lacked the appropriate order from the government. The Armenian prime ministry then arranged for the ministerial resolution to be drafted and issued, and an accelerated investigation has already begun. (more…)
One of the oldest friends of Rusal owner, Oleg Deripaska, still calls him by the nickname, zaichik; that’s Russian for hare. The surname of Alexander Bulygin, Rusal’s chief executive, suggests the Russian for a cobble-stone (bulizhnik), but nobody calls him that for short.
The ancient fabulist Aesop didn’t think well of either hares or stones. He composed almost no fables with the former, and in those, the hare is too arrogant, or stupid, to avoid getting beaten, or eaten. As for stones, to Aesop they meant misfortune. Aesop’s animals have plenty to say about that. The hare he made immortal was the one who was out-run by a tortoise.
The big question for United Company Rusal, and its promoters, is whether the hare can carry the stone, or vice versa, across the finishing line represented by the first public sale of shares, due in four months’ time. There are already hints from the Rusal camp that they have begun arguing with each other over what’s best for getting there. That they are unable to agree is evident from the most recent series of presentations of Rusal, which Bulygin led for analysts of leading international banks in Boston, New York, Frankfurt, and London. Other presenters included Vladislav Soloviev, the chief financial officer; Oleg Mukhamedshin head of capital markets; Artem Volynets, head of strategy and development; and Valery Matvienko, head of engineering and construction. They spoke from a presentation kit running to 33 pages of colour slides, which have been obtained by Mineweb. (more…)
A man without enough zinc is likely to suffer from a loss of taste, smell, hair, and sexual arousal. It’s the zinc in oysters that is one reason, at least, for their popular association with libido.
For miners of the bluish-white metal, however, global insufficiency is proving to be very good for business. Although it is one of the most abundant of the minerals buried in the earth’s crust, and one of the most common in metal applications, the scarcity of zinc can be blamed on the Chinese – and not because they think its libidinal value is as good as rhinoceros horn, or tiger’s tooth. In the year 2000, China’s share of global zinc consumption was 15%. Five years later, it had risen to 27%, dwarfing everyone else. Annual growth in Chinese demand was 20% between 2003 and 2005, 13% in 2006, and 9% in 2007.
Total global consumption of zinc (refined) this year is estimated to be 12 million tonnes. Mine and smelter supply looks like reaching 11.86 million tonnes, roughly matching demand. But the three past years of deficit of supply have caused a halving of estimated zinc stocks, including London Metal Exchange (LME) measured stocks. (more…)
Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant to Boston, gave his name to a scheme in which he promised a 50% return to investors within 45 days of their giving him money; or double their money within 90 days. About 40,000 people invested $15 million in 1920 dollars; today that would sum to $150 million.
In essence, the Ponzi scheme pays initial investors their return out of funds subscribed by those who follow, until the market gets wind; there are no new subscriptions to pay claims; and the scheme collapses. From Ponzi, only a third got their cash back.
Junior gold miners can promise something similar; but usually not quite so quickly; and sometimes more reliably. (more…)
Insomniacs count sheep to get off to sleep, but after that, dreams come plentiful and cheap.
When Oleg Deripaska lays his head on the pillow these summer evenings, wishful thinking appears to have led him to a colossal miscalculation. Even worse, Deripaska appears to have been dozing, when he made two catastrophic statements to a London financial newspaper this week. They have undermined, perhaps fatally, Deripaska’s ambition to vault over the latest of the consolidations by Rio Tinto and Alcan, in order to strike an eventual deal with Xstrata or Alcoa.
The statements lie, like depth-charges, under what was intended to be the Financial Times’s profile of best business practice in the history of the Russian aluminium sector. Deripaska spoke explicitly on the two topics, which his lawyers and investment bankers have repeatedly cautioned him to avoid. They were the two great unmentionables at the briefing for investment bank analysts, arranged by JP Morgan in London, on June 29. But in London, as in the preceding sessions in Frankfurt, New York and Boston, they were recognized as the two prime investor risks, which have been deterring almost all the bankers from recommending a main-board London Stock Exchange (LSE) listing for United Company Rusal – in which Deripaska owns the controlling stake of 66%.
Call them the Cherney and the Putin risks. (more…)
Gold raiders may be pushing gold mining asset holders on to the defensive in Russian Fareast
When Winston Churchill tried to express his ignorance of how Russians conduct their affairs, he famously referred to bulldogs fighting under a rug. These days, in the Russian gold mining sector, the bulldogs are hard at it again, but the rug has slipped off –well, let’s say half-off.
There are asset raids under way, driving share prices down, for Ovoca in Magadan region; and Highland Gold in Chukotka. Ovoca and Highland are both listed on the London Alternative Investment Market (AIM); Ovoca is also listed in Ireland.
The conflicts over their assets have also spilled over into investigations of regional and federal officials alleged to have taken sides, possibly corruptly. One of the allegations being aired publicly is that regional mine licence inspectors are not enforcing mandatory licence deadlines to produce gold from deposits under development. (more…)
Talk of oil supply crunch intensifies price threat as Russian output tips and additional export markets beckon.
Russian oil producers have been losing oil output at Russia’s onshore fields since February of this year, and a combination of tax, investment, and technical factors has led to a forecast of “dire straits”, according to a new report by Moscow’s Alfa Bank.
But these straits appear to be deeper and direr for oil consumers, than for Russia as a producer; especially since new oilfield developments are likely to swing the direction of oilfield growth in the direction of China. Korea, and Japan. (more…)
Russian aluminium giant, Rusal has held a secret briefing at London’s Skinners’ Hall for its London IPO investors .
When Gioacchino Rossini, the 19th century opera composer, had grown famous and rich, he was told that a group of his admirers were collecting the equivalent of $50,000 to erect a statue to celebrate him. Rossini responded: “Give me the money, and I’ll stand on the pedestal myself.”
Rossini came from humble origins; his father was a slaughterhouse inspector, his mother a baker’s daughter. He had made himself wealthy enough, and his career assured, by the age of 32; he stopped writing music for money five years later. But the problem of cash for the self-made rich is that they never feel secure without more of it coming in.
The problem of Oleg Deripaska and Victor Vekselberg — the two Russians who made themselves very rich in a short time by mining and smelting some of the world’s largest volumes of bauxite and aluminium — is that, like Rossini, they believe the only cure for nerves is cash. But unlike Rossini, they haven’t the public reputation to stand on a pedestal. Since an Initial Public Offering (IPO) is the London market’s equivalent of a statue on a pedestal, and the investor cash at stake runs into several billion dollars, the reputational risk of the pedestal is now the subject of extraordinary measures. (more…)
Alrosa is retrieving its diamond market positions after initial misstatements by new CEO
Alrosa, the Russian diamond miner with the largest share of the global rough diamonds market after De Beers, is reconsidering its international market strategy, and correcting several misstatements by its newly appointed chief executive, Sergei Vybornov.
Veteran international representative for Alrosa, Sergei Uhlin, announced in Amsterdam last week that the company has no intention of withdrawing its European Court of Justice case against a ruling by the European Commission to cancel Alrosa’s diamond trade with De Beers at the end of next year. Uhlin added that, not only is Alrosa confident of winning its appeal; but that if it wins, and the EC trade order is revoked, Alrosa will not necessarily decide to renew its trade with De Beers. “We are challenging our rights in principle, regardless of what we’re going to do,” Uhlin is quoted as saying. A spokesman for the company told Mineweb that Uhlin’s remarks have been correctly reported, and reflect company strategy. (more…)
Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.
There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.
There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.
Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers. In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.
Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.
How little the Germans have changed.
But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.” By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”
So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.
Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.
China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.
The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.
In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022, is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.
There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself. Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”
This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.
The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.
Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age, after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.
After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster history to be her own joke.
Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself. This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.
In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English: the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.
The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British. Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating. The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin BlueLine (d. 1996).
The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok) are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences. The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.
Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money. “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.
By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.
The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.
Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.
China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years. The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.
So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.
The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).
A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester, he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018, claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.
Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”
Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.
After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.
The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.”
Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.
New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.
Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes, it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.
The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.
The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory. The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.
“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”
“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”
The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image). McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.
Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.
Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.
In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.
Those lighting Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral pyre are torching the truth of the matter – that Gorbachev was a liar of monumental vanity who betrayed his country out of greed and incompetence, outpointed by his adversaries in Moscow, Washington, and London because they knew him better than he knew himself.