I know, old joke, and it doesn’t work well for an open pit mine. But it’s unfortunately true. Anglo American is now fully out of Venezuela, having sold its coal mine and involuntarily returned its nickel concession.
The Venezuelan state took over operations of the Loma de Níquel mine at midnight Sunday morning, confirming what I reported here a month earlier. The situation was more like my “Imaginary scenario 2,” in which the government has no idea it’s about to be in the nickel business and doesn’t handle the transition very well. Mine manager Carlos Dini, cited in El Universal, says PDVSA is now “operating” the mine, although a worker at the mine says it’s not PDVSA but rather managers left over from Anglo American who are running things.
I understand the mine’s environmental permit expired with the concession, so if they really are operating, they are doing so outside Venezuelan law. I don’t have solid confirmation on either the permit expiration or that they are operating the mine, but hey, this is what you get when you read my notebook.
Worse, a vice minister of labour went to the mine a week before it was closed and had a little ceremony guaranteeing the workers that they’d have their jobs after the handover. But then when workers showed up Sunday, about 100 of them were blocked from entering, according to a worker who was allowed to keep his job. Ah, labour relations worthy of the worker’s paradise. Such a relief after rapacious capitalism, no?
For those of you keen on markets, production is scheduled to restart in January. Given the Venezuelan state’s record with mining and smelting, I’d guess that will be pushed back to March at the soonest.