From laws preventing women working in specific jobs, to stereotyping of gender roles and abilities, historically the metals and mining sectors were inhospitable environments for women to enter and progress careers. Long overdue change is now happening in the industry, but there is still much work to be done, thirteen exceptional female leaders told S&P Global Platts. Collectively, their careers span almost every continent and a wide variety of roles and products. They discussed their motivations for working in metals
Jun 12, 2020
Even today, 60 economies have at least one restriction on women working in mining, according to a 2020 World Bank report.
Data from the SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) provides a snapshot of an industry that is gradually improving, but still has far to go to achieve gender parity at the levels of senior management and board.
The SAM CSA, managed by S&P Global, is an annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices and focuses on criteria that are financially material, applying 61 industry-specific approaches and asking companies on average 100 detailed questions. It includes questions on workforce diversity and gender pay gap.
In 2019, out of 66 companies belonging to the steel or metals and mining sectors that provided information on their workforce gender split, total female participation ranged from 3% to 29%.
Representation of women on the board of directors or supervisory board across the group went from 14% in 2016 to 17% in 2019 on average.
While relatively few of the companies surveyed volunteered private information on their executive remuneration ratios, based on the 20 that did respond, on average male executives across the two sectors earned 21% more than females.
Based on both actively participating companies and publically available information, in 2019 only 40 out of 88 companies in the sector had a board diversity policy that included gender factors.*
The interviews in this special report present 13 women who have demonstrated great leadership in metals and mining, with careers spanning many geographies, subsectors and roles. Many of the women described the discrimination they faced in entering particular jobs or progressing their careers, with several mentioning superstitions that even recently prevented women from working underground.
“When I visited China back in 2003. I was told that the canary could go underground, but I wasn’t allowed to because that was bad luck,” said Melinda Moore, finance director and head of global outreach at Women in Mining, a voluntary organization that works to advance women’s representation in the sector.
It is also important to highlight the additional layer of discrimination faced by many women because of their ethnicity, a challenge mentioned by some of our interviewees.
“Given South Africa’s transition to liberation during the early part of my career, I also had to deal with racial discrimination – being designated as a previously disadvantaged person in regulation was disadvantageous at times as there was the perception that my opportunities were “given” and not “earned”,” said former Vedanta executive Deshnee Naidoo.
Interviewees highlighted the need for diversity policies to be comprehensive, covering not only gender but also ethnicity and national diversity, LGBTQ+ representation and issues of social mobility, disability and mental health.
Most of the leaders interviewed expressed optimism for the metals and mining industries, however, pointing to concrete changes that are taking place to encourage greater diversity in general. While quotas seem to have limited appeal, a number of the interviewees talked about the importance of measurable targets and comprehensive training, including in unconscious bias awareness.
“I can understand why quotas and metrics are put in place, but more is needed to drive the right change in behavior for the long-term,” said World Coal Association CEO Michelle Manook, adding that more is needed in terms of alignment across corporate strategy, culture and leadership.
Recent positive moves to achieve equal opportunities in the sector are also plentiful. As well as the many highlights discussed in the interviews, a number of the world’s biggest metals and mining companies have publically set themselves hard targets to improve their gender balance. Fortescue Metals Group in 2019 signed the ParityPledge – a commitment to interview at least one qualified woman for every executive position. The company already has over 50% female representation on its board of directors.
BHP in 2016 set a goal to achieve 50% female participation across its workforce by 2025. In the last four years, it has managed to raise the overall proportion from 17.6% to 24.5%. India’s Tata Steel aims to have 25% women in its workforce by 2025, compared with 17% currently, according to its latest annual report.
An issue mentioned by more than one of the interviewees was that of safety and practical measures that would help women to feel welcome and secure in the workplace. Newmont chair of the board of directors, Noreen Doyle, noted the importance of providing well-fitting protective clothing so that women feel part of the team, while Moore praised initiatives in Papua New Guinea to regularly assess risks and hazards to women in mines, and conduct annual audits to make sure women are safe.
While the raw figures show there is still a way to go to achieve gender parity in metals and mining companies, momentum appears to be building, and the growing importance of ESG to investors is also likely to help speed up progress.
Above all, the experiences and viewpoints shared in the following interviews represent a range of exceptional achievements – both personal and collective – that should be celebrated. They also stand as examples of what is possible in sometimes extremely challenging circumstances, suggesting even greater possibilities if the current barriers to working in the industry continue to be steadily demolished.
Jan 05, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic hit many industries hard in 2020, including automotives.
Electric vehicles’ sales, however, grew substantially from 2019 — and the trend should continue in 2021, supporting the demand for battery metals such as lithium and cobalt.
This edition of the Platts Future Energy podcast explains why EVs outperformed internal combustion engine cars and how the lithium and cobalt markets reacted to this increase amid the pandemic.
Dec 22, 2020
An almost doubling of iron ore prices over the past six months led Chinese steelmakers last week to call for a change in the current pricing mechanism.
Miners have reportedly indicated an openness to work towards improvements. The industry should grasp this opportunity to consider enhancements to the way iron ore prices are formed and assessed, but should also be wary of the possibility of inadvertently taking steps backwards, at a cost to the whole market.
Iron ore boasts a deeply liquid spot market, with around 680 transactions (about 85 million mt) concluded so far this year for the main medium-grade fines used in benchmark 62% Fe assessments, or an average of about two and a half transactions every working day, according to data reported to S&P Global Platts. Such volumes make it very difficult for spot price assessments to diverge significantly from market fundamentals, partly explaining their attractiveness as a mechanism for settling long-term contracts.
Critics may point to the recent price surge as a sign that something is wrong and that prices have divorced from fundamentals. Looking at the last six years, that might seem a reasonable assertion: never have prices moved so much, so fast.
But cast your eye further back in time and you will find that such volatility is entirely consistent with history. Prices shrunk by two thirds from $170/dmt to $57/dmt in just three months during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, then doubled between October 2009 and April 2010, before again shedding 47% in the following three months. In late 2012, they spiked by 74% in four months. With global steel markets seeing their sharpest uptrend in over a decade thanks to post-COVID infrastructure spend, it should really come as no surprise to see iron ore prices surging to the current extent.
Interestingly, all these volatile periods occurred before the establishment of liquid derivative contracts.
Around ten million tons were trading monthly on SGX by late 2012, or just about 5% of current liquidity, while Dalian Commodity Exchange only launched its iron ore futures in 2013.
This seemingly undermines the argument that speculative futures trading is responsible for abnormal volatility.
Iron ore is currently caught in a middle stage of its market evolution. On one hand, deep spot liquidity and some degree of transparency ensures that price assessments remain broadly reflective of market values. But on the other hand, the market is in some ways let down by the quality of spot pricing data made available to pricing agencies, resulting in diminished trust in indices, and ongoing squabbling over pricing.
About two thirds of 2020 spot transactions were concluded via broker screens such as globalORE, COREX and the Ore Supermarket, according to Platts data. These brokerages are understandably driven by the commercial need to maximize screen liquidity rather than create high-quality price points for indices. So naturally, data from these venues suffer from a range of issues, when considered for the purpose of use in price assessments. These include issues with timeliness of information presented, a lack of incremental price testing and the fact that “pre-brokering” often masks real value as a function of time. They also include the fact that bids and offers can be put on screen despite a company having a very limited number of potential counterparties, and, last but not least, the fact that all screen activity is anonymous.
Price reporting agencies have been dealing with this lower-quality data in two different ways. For Platts, this has meant critically analyzing every data point and prioritizing higher-quality information for which more dimensions of a trade are known. Many, however, have taken a statistical approach by providing a rough average. The latter is arguably akin to giving up on market evolution and being satisfied with a broadly indicative price instead of pursuing further refinement and precision.
Recent debates around pricing mechanisms show that there is appetite in the iron ore industry for a better solution than the status quo. All major market participants, when speaking in public, advocate for transparency – and this is entirely right, since transparency encourages responsible behavior and builds confidence in price benchmarks. The Platts Market on Close process, which is widely used in many of the largest commodity markets, offers a pathway towards absolute transparency and the removal of the shortcomings mentioned above, inherent in sourcing data from commercially driven brokering screens. The net result for the industry would be to gain a price assessment mechanism which is fairer, open to all, and in particular, beyond doubt, as all market participants would share a common understanding of which information contributed to the assessment and how it was arrived at every day.
Platts Market-on-Close (MOC) is the process Platts editors use to assess prices of iron ore and other commodities. The MOC approach to methodology operates on the principle that price is a function of time. Structured and highly transparent, the MOC is a process in which bids, offers and transactions are submitted by participants to Platts editors and published in real time throughout the day until the market close. Following the close, Platts editors examine the data gathered through the day, conduct their analysis and develop price assessments that reflect an end-of-day value.
MOC participants are buyers and sellers of iron ore. They include, but are not limited to, miners, steel mills, independent trading houses, or entities acting on their behalf.
Any active market participant may submit bids, offers and transactions to Platts as part of the MOC process. Participation in the MOC is voluntary. However, Platts is selective as to which companies are permitted to participate in its price assessment process. As a publisher, Platts will only accept data provided by reputable companies that meet counterparty acceptance criteria and comply with the guidelines Platts has set to govern the MOC process.
Entities that wish to participate in the iron ore MOC should complete this form. spglobal.com/platts/en/our-methodology/participation-review. Platts’ Price Group then conducts a participation review to establish that the company is credible, creditworthy and an active participant in the broader market for that commodity. The entities can also request more information on how MOC works and Platts guidelines governing the process. Entities must be reviewed for each specific market and evaluated against the editorial criteria for that market. For more information on the participation review process, please contact Price Group.
Platts expects trades reported in the iron ore MOC to be physically performed. Participants should not unreasonably withhold substitutions or hamper the established delivery process. Platts reviews the performance of trades reported in the iron ore MOC to maintain the integrity of the assessment process. Platts reserves the right to not publish bids, offers and trade information from a company that fails to perform as per standard industry practice and Platts guidelines.
Platts applies objective criteria to review companies that wish to participate in the MOC. All companies need to demonstrate that they are acceptable counterparties to a critical mass of active market participants on typical terms and in accordance with Platts published methodologies. To participate all companies must also demonstrate that they are able to perform as an iron ore buyer and/or seller, providing evidence of trade performance and logistical capability to perform. In the MOC assessment process, Platts specifies that transactions must be at arm’s length, meaning not conducted between corporate affiliates, individuals or companies that may be related in such a way that creates the potential for a perceived or actual conflict of interest. As part of the counterparty acceptance review, Platts verifies companies’ financial standing and creditworthiness as well as understanding of the Platts editorial guidelines.
Firm bids, offers and trades from companies are published in real time on Page 700 of Platts Steel Alert (STL), on the Platts iron ore MOC microsite, as well as on Platts Platform and Platts Market center.
Where can I find more information about Platts Iron Ore MOC?
From LNG in Asia to scrap metal in Turkey and Brent crude, commodity prices assessed by S&P Global Platts have surged to new highs. The…
Jan 18, 2021
From LNG in Asia to scrap metal in Turkey and Brent crude, commodity prices assessed by S&P Global Platts have surged to new highs.
The rally has triggered speculation of a new supercycle in commodities driven by stimulus spending and a weaker US dollar. “A key factor is growth being observed in the East led by China where we see demand above 2020 levels,” said Chris Midgley, head of Platts Analytics.
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Oct 20, 2020
S&P Global Platts is very pleased to bring you the Aluminum Virtual Symposium 2021. The 2021 program is currently in production. The event at a…
Feb 10, 2021
As the industry continues to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, thought leadership, market transparency, and a forum to network all have become more critical than ever. In February, we will discuss the industry’s response to the pandemic as well as evolutions in the marketplace and reverberations from the 2020 U.S. election.
After a year of disruption and uncertainty, this edition of Insight looks at emerging themes in energy, from sustainable aviation fuels to China’s net zero…
Dec 15, 2020
After a year of disruption and uncertainty, this edition of Insight looks at emerging themes in energy, from sustainable aviation fuels to China’s net zero aspirations and the impact of the US election.
This is Part 2 of 5 in the S&P Global Platts Metals Trade Review series, where we dig through datasets and digest some of the…
Jan 19, 2021
Seaborne iron ore prices defied the usual late year seasonal slowdown to hit multi-year highs in the final quarter of 2020, with demand fueled by strong steel margins and high output — but margin pressures and the seasonal Lunar New Year holiday slowdown are likely to take the heat out of the rally in the first quarter of 2021.
The S&P Global Platts 62% Fe Iron Ore fines index, or IODEX, surged to a nine-year high at $177.15/dry mt CFR China Dec. 21, after starting the quarter at $123.15/mt, due to a combination of speculative buying and restocking ahead of winter and Lunar New Year.
End-users found mainstream medium grade fines the most cost-effective in Q4 due to their adequate liquidity in a volatile price environment.
Chinese steel margins, particularly for domestic rebar, have since come under pressure in early January, which could spur some pushback on rising iron ore prices. China’s ban on Australian coking coal imports has increased both CFR and domestic prices, eroding steel margins in the process, although flat steel margins have been more robust due to the recovery in manufacturing.
Beijing is expected to further tighten credit conditions in 2021 and constrain financing for property developers, which could result in some downward pressure on prices.
Iron ore prices in Q1 will likely find support in lower supply from Australia and Brazil due to wet weather curtailing exports. The Platts Iron Ore & Steel Outlook survey for the quarter found that 62% of respondents expected the IODEX to sit just above $120/mt CFR — a big price correction from current levels, and likely to prove a conservative view.
Spreads between the mainstream MNP fines — Mining Area C, Newman and Pilbara Blend — gradually narrowed over Q4 and formed the bulk of sinter feed for Chinese mills. To a certain extent, these iron ore products are interchangeable.
High domestic coke prices meant end-users were reluctant to make significant changes to their blast furnace operations that would result in higher coking costs. This resulted in mills preferring a more streamlined sinter feed blend, a situation likely to continue in Q1 if China’s domestic coke prices strengthen further.
Spot premiums for Pilbara Blend fines or PBF surged to a quarterly high of more than $5/dmt over the loading month in October, dampening speculative interest as seaborne prices became higher than those at port.
The trend of procuring cargoes from ports led to an increasing lack of liquidity for seaborne cargoes. Selling pressure emerged as premiums for January loading PBF fell to less than $3/dmt, with sellers looking to avoid landing cargoes.
Despite strong appetite for port stocks, material held at Chinese ports ended 2020 at almost the same level as it started the year — at 124.5 million mt Dec. 27, compared with 124.6 million mt on Jan. 5, CEIC data showed.
Amid the various medium grade fines including non-mainstream cargoes, there was strong demand for material with higher Fe content.
Brazilian Blend fines, or BRBF, were sold at more than $6/dmt over low alumina indices on a month-plus-one basis. Market sources pointed to BRBF’s low alumina and typical 63% Fe grade as ideal for improving production efficiency.
Other medium grade fines with Fe levels above 62% such as Kumba and Khumani attracted interest from end-users that were able to accommodate the higher alkali levels in their blast furnaces.
In the high grade fines segment, the lack of spot seaborne Carajas fines, or IOCJ, resulted in strong portside demand.
Given high coking costs, iron ore fines with high silica levels continued to be discounted. With premiums for mainstream medium grade fines weakening on the back of overall iron ore price strength, sellers were under pressure to widen their discounts for cargoes due to thinning liquidity.
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High coking costs weighed on discounts for low grade fines due to their relatively higher contaminant levels and lower Fe content.
High iron ore prices initially led to monthly term contract discounts for FMG’s low grade Super Special fines and Fortescue Blend fines narrowing from 6% to 4% and 3% to 2% respectively in November from October, as weaker steel prices led to end-users cutting costs.
However, a resurgence in steel margins led to a shift away from lower grade fines, with discounts for SSF and FBF widening in December to 7% and 4% respectively, despite surging iron ore prices. Discounts for Indian fines also widened as buyers turned back to mainstream sinter fines.
Lump premiums saw a steady recovery in Q4 on the back of increasingly expensive pellets and the broader preference for higher grade raw materials. For much of Q4, seaborne lump premiums were subdued given minimal lump premiums in the portside market. The push for production efficiency also helped kick-start the greater utilization of lump.
Seaborne pellet prices and premiums rebounded in Q4 from a slump in Q3, with the 65% pellet premium hitting a year-to-date high of $44.10/dmt in December and the 64% pellet index an all-time high of $200/dmt CFR China in the month.
The restoration of blast furnace utilization rates in Europe, North Asia and North America took pellet supply away from China, reversing the trend seen earlier in 2020 when all the unwanted pellet supply was diverted to China. There was subsequently little high grade pellet availability, and China premiums bounced back strongly.
India exported fewer pellets as they were needed for domestic steel consumption, particularly as there were delays in accessing mines following mining area auctions.
New production capacity in Southeast Asia, along with end-users restarting operations, was also seen as a demand driver. Market sources expect stronger demand for Indian pellets in Q1 as a replacement for European high-grade pellets, given the lack of spot availability.
One of the more unusual trends seen in Q4 was the spread that emerged between hematite and magnetite sintering concentrate. Magnetite concentrate is mainly used for pelletizing purposes, but the lack of Chinese end-users with pelletizing facilities meant it was used for sintering instead. This resulted in discounts, as magnetite quality is not as good as hematite for sintering.
The impact of high coking costs and discounted valuations for high silica material were evident in the concentrates market, where low contaminant variants from Chile and Peru received high premiums despite their magnetite qualities.
China’s domestic 66% grade concentrate prices rose by 17% from the previous quarter in Q4, with demand supported by firm steel prices, before starting to weaken in winter due to environmental concerns and operational restrictions.
London — A rise in the price of copper is likely to continue in 2021 on low inventories and a bullish demand narrative, though at…
Jan 18, 2021
The red metal has found support on the back of upcoming elections and labor negotiations in Chile and Peru, an anticipated rebound of the global economy, sustained growth of industrial activity as well as robust metal demand by China, global COVID-19 vaccination rollout, and a weaker dollar.
“This provides a lot of confidence,” said ABN AMRO Group senior economist Industrial Metals Markets Casper Burgering.
“As a result, total long positions are high, but this also brings a downside price risk because it increases the likelihood of profit-taking by speculators. In 2020, the market has taken a substantial advance on the good news of 2021. The copper price will rise further in 2021, but in a lower gear.”
The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the global supply chain and logistics have resulted in year-on-year supply of the metal from Chile and Peru to tighten, said Global Commodity Research analysts at Bank of America.
“While we have factored in an increase of mine production and also scrap supply this year, this is unlikely to be sufficient to prevent the copper market flipping into a deficit,” Bank of America said.
“We lift price forecasts especially for copper, which we see averaging $9,500/mt ($4.31/lb) in 4Q21, with the market likely flipping into a deficit, as inventories are low.”
Canaccord Genuity mining analysts expect Chinese stimulus to support copper demand in combination with an expected global economic recovery in 2021.
“We now expect copper prices to average $3.50/lb ($7716/mt) in 2021, an approximate 17% increase on our previous forecast of $3.00/lb ($6,614/mt),” Canaccord said.
In terms of copper supply, two aspects that are also hindering supply are the lower grade and deeper deposits as well as market appetite and availability of projects, Stifel Financial analysts said.
“Due to the cyclicality of the copper market, we have looked across the sector at mega projects currently board greenlighted to get a sense of downside price protection for the red metal. With a copper market in excess of 22 million mt Cu annually, only major projects (we define as those greater than 200,000 mt/year Cu produced) have the ability to materially swing the needle on the supply/demand balance,” Stifel said.
“Based in part on capital costs, operating costs, and a minimum acceptable return on investment, we estimate that current major projects require a minimum price in excess of $3.20/lb ($7,055/mt) Cu, globally.”
The expected increase in copper demand is also a result of the sustainable energy generation and consumption agenda, part of the green energy drive by governments.
“Of all the metals used in the generation, transmission, storage, and consumption, copper remains the common denominator,” Stifel said. “Electricity generation, transmission infrastructure, energy storage, and consumption all require copper.”
Copper’s long-term demand is backstopped by green energy and the push toward it, “as it is significantly more copper intensive than traditional, fossil fuel-based infrastructure,” Stifel said. “We are updating our LT [long-term] Cu price to $3.40/lb ($7,496/mt). We believe a combination of short- and long-term market support in pricing.”
This was echoed by Bank of America. “Given the increased focus on tackling climate change, the focus of government spending will be worth following as de-carbonization is bullish metals.”
“Linked to that, we believe copper could once again rise above $10,000/mt ($4.54/lb) at some stage. What are the risks? Vaccine efficacy, delays to opening up economies and tighter monetary policy.”
On Jan. 18, the copper price stood at $8,012/mt ($3.63/lb), up 0.7% on Jan. 11, with the metal experiencing “volatile trending, down last week on a firmer dollar and as China’s renewed COVID-19 concerns offset prospect of US stimulus,” South African research house Afriforesight said. “Up today on strong Chinese growth data.”
Pittsburgh — The US State Department is sanctioning several entities and individuals for doing steel-related business involving the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, its…
Jan 15, 2021
State is imposing sanctions on IRISL under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act for knowingly selling grain-oriented electrical steel to Hoopad Darya Shipping Agency Company, according to a statement.
Hoopad is included on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“The State Department is also imposing sanctions on Mohammad Reza Modarres Khiabani, CEO of IRISL, who has been determined to be a principal executive officer, or person performing similar functions and with similar authorities, of IRISL,” the department added.
IRISL was previously sanctioned under Executive Order 13382 due to its status as the preferred shipping line for Iranian proliferators and procurement agents. IRISL is also included on the List of Specially Designated Nationals.
Among other companies based in Iran, the State Department said it is designating sanctions on Iran Transfo Company, Zangan Distribution Transformer Company, Mobarakeh Steel Company and IRISL subsidiary Sapid Shipping under IFCA.
Transfo and Zangan knowingly imported grain-oriented electrical steel to Hoopad, the department said.
Mobarakeh sold, supplied or transferred raw or semi-finished steel to Sapid. Additional sanctions are being imposed on Mobarakeh CEO Hamidreza Azimian in relation to the transaction, the department added. Both companies are on the List of Specially Designated Nationals.
The State Department is also designating China-based Jiangyin Mascot Special Steel and UAE-based Accenture Building Materials for sanctions under IFCA.
Jiangyin Mascot knowingly transferred grain-oriented electrical steel to Iran via IRISL.
Accenture knowingly sold, supplied or transferred raw or semi-finished steel to Sapid to Mobarakeh.
As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated companies that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control.