If you look very closely at B2Gold Phillipines security incidents

you begin to detect a trend.

June 25, 2014:

On the evening of 19 June 2014, a security supervisor in the process of undertaking his routine duties entered into an altercation with another security employee resulting in the fatal shooting of the supervisor.


B2Gold Corp. regrets to announce the shooting death of two security guards at the Masbate Gold Project (MGP) operation in the Philippines.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Feb 11, 2015 (Philippine time). The two guards, employees of Kublai Khan Security Services (KKSS), which is a security contractor of the MGP, were found fatally shot at their guard post.

The incident is under investigation by Philippine National Police.

Sorta makes you think there is more to this than what we’re seeing in the press releases.

(Yes this is a tribute post.)

Citgo was biggest client for top DC lobby firms in 2014 (Updated)

CITGOLogoBWCitgo Petroleum, the US refining subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, had a big year on the lobbying front in 2014. According to current records at OpenSecrets.org, the company spent $2.16 million on DC lobbying, a five-fold increase over 2013. It was the 9th-biggest among the 100+ clients of  Cornerstone Government Affairs and fourth-biggest at Brownstein Hyatt. But it really shone by becoming the biggest client of the year at both Dutko Grayling and Squire Patton Boggs.

Patton Boggs client ranking per records at OpenSecrets.org. Current as of Jan 25 2015.

Patton Boggs client ranking per records at OpenSecrets.org. Current as of Jan 25 2015.

Yes, that Patton Boggs. From Ken Silverstein’s article on the lobby house from last week:

And no one is, or was, more symptomatic or responsible for this pathetic state of dysfunction than Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who died last September… Boggs was a richly-paid lobbyist who ran his firm like a brothel, once saying, “We pick our clients by taking the first one who comes in the door.” With that as his guiding principle, Boggs and his firm compiled a client list that included America’s biggest, most criminally minded corporations and the world’s worst dictators.

Really a worthwhile read, so go click over there. It takes a lot of work to be the #1 client of Patton Boggs. The company had 179 paid clients last year. Following well behind PDVSA you find companies with massive regulatory worries. (Note that all figures were current at time of writing. Future disclosures may change the ranking.) So what was all that money spent on? Continue reading

50 years

Tractor spreads salt on Rachel Street, Montreal, 2 February 2015

The current situation

In case your Monday is just a bit too cheery, here is something to think about.

I am in Montreal, cherishing something that has become scarcer every decade: a day with wind-chills of -30°C, blasting snow crystals that sting the eyes, parents pulling their kids to school on little sleds, bundled up like blue burritos in their puffy snowsuits. Winter days like this were once routine across much of continental North America and Asia; today they are often newsworthy. (And the news is always full of people remarking about how this disproves climate change. Argh.)

This week is also an important anniversary. It’s been 50 years since the first US presidential address on the climate change consequences of excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

50 years!

I had no idea. (This is one more reason to subscribe to the daily “Above the Fold” e-mail from Environmental Health News. Good stuff in there.)

“Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places,” said Johnson less than three weeks after his 1965 inauguration. “This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”


I like fossil fuels. We can burn rocks! We can turn underground gases into phones, chairs, keyboards, eyeglasses, false teeth, blue snow suits and nerf footballs. We are amazing. The problem, of course, is we do it too much. It’s a shame to see one species among millions changing the lived experience of every square centimeter of our planet. But hey. At least we are doing something useful with all that fuel.


Confirmed breakouts ($PTA.v)

breakoutShareholders of PetroAmerica (PTA.v) might have some PTSD these days. It was just a few months ago that the stock jumped to 44c from 35c on heavy volumes, in what the always reliable CEO.ca called a “confirmed breakout.” Except it wasn’t so much a breakout as a pump.

The company announced earnings Aug 19, the stock did nothing the next day. Then the stock jumped on no news Aug. 22. And it really moved on Aug 25, when CEO.ca ran this story about Frank Giustra (or should I say, “Mr. Frank Giustra“?) owning a big chunk of PTA.v, and calling the stock’s move a “confirmed breakout” with “a new short term target of $0.50 and a longer term target of $1.00, according to our CEO Technician.”

A stock with average volumes around 1.5mln shares/day instead had 20 million shares of volume in 2 days. Woo hoo.

Then the confirmed breakout turned into confirmed wealth destruction. By October 9, with the OIL ETF down less than 10%, PTA.v had fallen more than 40%. I guess it’s just nice that PTA.v has held its 14c level so well the last few weeks, letting oil catch up with its drop.

One might be tempted to wonder if the state of his portfolio has anything to do with Giustra’s decision to immolate suspend print publication of Modern Farmer?

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Want to understand Colombia’s gold mining situation?

You need to read the newish Atavist book, The Devil Underground, by Nadja Drost. Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.57 AM   Here, Drost has written the best explanation I’ve ever seen of the battle for Antioquia between the Urabeños and the Rastrojos. And has shown herself to be a brave, serious reporter who will stop at nothing to really understand a story. And has given readers an idea of what they buy when they buy gold, particularly Colombian gold. She has also written one of the most beautiful pieces of literary nonfiction I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about Gran Colombia Gold, which is trying to turn Segovia into a normal professional mine. I have been reading about this situation for years, but now I feel like I am about 10 times closer to understanding it — even though this book barely mentions Gran Colombia. It’s well worth your US$3.99. Go read it.

UPDATE: I hadn’t seen this, which shows that a connection between crime and gold may remain present in Colombia.

Did Pratt & Whitney do all it could to avoid a corrupt deal?

A document leaked to the web in November raises questions about whether multinational companies did all they could — and all they were legally required to do — to avoid participating in potential corruption in Venezuela’s electricity industry.

The document in question is a chain of e-mails between Pratt & Whitney Power Systems and ProEnergy Services. It, along with the others in that same collection of ostensible leaks, appears to show that some of the turbines eventually sold to Venezuela came from Pratt & Whitney Power Systems. At the time, that company was a unit of publicly traded United Technology Corp. (UTX), but has since been sold to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011.jp OTC:MHVYF ) and renamed PW Power Systems.

I found this interesting. Ever since 2011, when we first heard tales of Venezuelan state companies buying turbines at inflated prices, I always wondered how big companies like Pratt & Whitney, General Electric Corp. (GE), and Rolls Royce Holdings Plc (RR.L) could have gotten mixed up in this, since US law gives them a responsibility to run due-diligence checks on their local partners. In the words of Carl H. Loewenson, Jr. of big US law firm Morrison Foerster:

The simple fact is that parties should know with whom they are doing business. Companies and individuals should take necessary precautions to ensure that they have formed a business relationship with reputable and qualified third parties.

The extent of diligence that should be conducted on a particular third party is a fact-based inquiry that will vary depending on a number of factors, including the industry, the market, the type of transaction, and the historical relationship with the third party.

At a minimum, companies should understand the “qualifications and associations” of its third- party intermediaries. That is, companies should understand the business rationale for hiring the third party as well as the intermediaries’ business reputation and government affiliations. As the DOJ and SEC make clear in the Resource Guide, “the degree of scrutiny should increase as red flags surface.”

Continue reading

Goodbye mysterious little airplane

Since people seem so interested in the Rincón family these days, here’s another snippet for you. A reader points out that the Cessna Citation with US registration N9GY, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, has been delisted in the USA and exported to Venezuela.

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Its new registration is YV3040, according to LAAS. It’s well and truly out of reach of FOIA now, I suppose. Continue reading