The political risk is getting larger and larger. Ville Niinistö, minister of the environment, reportedly has said to protestors that unless he was the minister he would have been among them on that day. You better believe that because he is the chairman of The Greens of Finland. Finnish Police is also investigating Talvivaara on three separate counts of suspected environmental crime.
Ville Niinistö, minister of the environment, speaks to protesters on 14th of November 2012. Picture by Hanna Nikkanen. Some rights reserved.
Talvivaara has approximately 52000 stockholders in Finland. Among them is husband of ex. minister of the environment Paula Lehtomäki of Centre Party of Finland with 51320 shares and their children with 3560 shares [Talouselämä 41/2012]. Talouselämä magazine also counted that so far they have lost some 160,000 euros with those positions.
Among the biggest shareholders is Solidium, a wholly owned holding company of the State of Finland, with 8,89% of the shares. Pension insurance companies Varma and Ilmarinen own 8,71% and 6,15% of the shares respectively. The State of Finland pension fund owns 0,78% and The Local Government Pensions Instution 0,76%. All of these can be considered holdings for the benefit of general public in
Besides direct investments in Talvivaara, Finnish Government has high stakes in the mining sector overall.
Mining investments are made for tens of years and political stability and predictability are extremely important. Thus, it seems unlikely to me that extreme measures would be used such as closing the mine permanently. After all, The Greens of Finland is a rather small party with only 10 seats in the Parliament of Finland. This is not to say that there would not be MPs with sympathies towards “Stop Talvivaara” movement in other parties.
Production at the mine started in October 2008 and production ramp up is still ongoing. The current environmental permit is for 30,000 tonne annual capacity and does not cover uranium extraction. The company has been seeking both permit to increase annual capacity and permit for uranium extraction. Given the environmental problems, I doubt that they will get permission to increase volume. On the other hand with all of their production problems they won’t be near their full capacity any time soon.
The target for year 2011 was originally set to produce 30,000-35,000 tonnes of nickel. The company has lowered its guidance on Nickel production already twice this year (to 17,000 tonnes) It is unlikely that the company meets even that because their metals recovery plant has been suspended since November 4th 2012. The company told on 21st of November that it has been permitted to re-start the plant and it will ramp it up by 25th of November.
Even before the massive leakage from gypsum pond, the company had suspended ore production because unusually heavy rains forced the company to use the open pit mine to store some 1,7 million tons of excess water. This does not affect metal production potential short term because so much ore is stored in the heaps. However, it won’t certainly help them either.
The Talvivaara mining company will make this year net loss far bigger then the net loss of 10,5 million euros last year. Net loss for the first three quarters alone has been 44,5 million euros. At the end of Q3 (30th of September, 2012) the company had 87,3 million euros of cash and cash equivalents. Debt level stood at 601,9 million euros at the end of the quarter. Debt-to-equity ratio stood at 140,6%.
Analyst estimate according to Kauppalehti (kol 21.11.12) that the company might need up to 150 million of extra funding. Talvivaara’s management is admitting that their cash position is challenging on mid to long term. This means they will need more funding one way or another. This isn’t good news for the current shareholders.
I conclude my post with a quote from my previous analysis on Talvivaara:
"There is nothing Talvivaara can do about Nickel prices. There is, however, a lot it can do about environmental problems and bad press. If not handled properly these might become blocking points for uranium extraction and ramp up to full capacity (not to mention production expansion / mine area expansion)."
Full disclosure: The author does not have any positions in Talvivaara and there are no plans to initiate any in the immediate future.