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British Steel buyer eyes investment on Teesside – Financial Times

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British Steel’s Chinese buyer is considering building a new metals recycling furnace on Teesside, a move which would bring steelmaking back to an area that has suffered decades of industrial decline. 

Jingye hammered out an agreement with trade unions on new employment terms this week as part of its planned turnround of the failed manufacturer, which will involve £1.2bn worth of investments but also up to 500 job losses — roughly 10 per cent of the workforce. 

The Chinese conglomerate hopes to conclude its takeover of the UK’s second-largest steelmaker by the end of next month. It is looking at the possible installation of an electric arc furnace at one of the company’s smaller factories in Teesside, north-east England, according to people aware of the plans.

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If the proposal goes ahead, it would herald the return of crude metal production to a region with a proud industrial heritage, but whose 170-year history of iron and steelmaking ended when the nearby Redcar blast furnace plant shut in 2015. 

The closure caused 3,000 job losses and left behind vast tracts of despoiled land at what has been described as the UK’s biggest regeneration site.

Securing the future of British Steel is a priority for the UK government, in line with prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to “level up” regional economies. Many former Labour heartlands with manufacturing legacies, including Redcar, turned Conservative in last year’s general election for the first time in decades.

The Teesside beam mill processes basic metal, supplied by British Steel’s main plant in Scunthorpe, into products for the construction industry and employs 400 people. An EAF would make it capable of producing its own primary material.

Unlike blast furnaces that produce virgin steel from raw materials, EAFs melt scrap steel and are smaller, less costly to build and more flexible. They also emit less carbon dioxide, but consume huge amounts of electricity. 

“This should reduce costs and maybe increase competitiveness,” said one person familiar with the Teesside factory. 

However the new furnace would “definitely not” be intended to replace Scunthorpe’s blast furnaces, said one of the people aware of Jingye’s thinking. Jingye declined to comment.

The Community trade union this week said that Jingye’s investment plans would be “transformational” and secure British Steel’s long-term prospects. 

Since it collapsed into insolvency in May, British Steel has continued to operate under the Official Receiver, an officer of the UK Insolvency Service, with funding through a taxpayer-guaranteed indemnity estimated to have cost tens of millions of pounds.

Jingye’s accord with unions this week marked an important step in its rescue. The deal includes a retention bonus paid to workers in their first year under Chinese ownership and no changes to shift premiums or take home pay. Alasdair McDiarmid, operations director at Community, said it was a “better deal for employees than what was otherwise on the table”.

An unsuccessful bidder for British Steel, Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House, wanted to gradually shift Scunthorpe away from blast furnace production to electric arcs, but the likely job losses as a result were a factor in the offer being turned down.

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Tory mayor, recently promised to bring steelmaking back to Teesside when launching his campaign for re-election. Earlier this month the government committed £71m, bringing to £208m so far the public sector support to turn the Redcar site into a hub for new industrial users. 

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Canada proposes overhauling foreign investment rules to tackle security risks

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OTTAWA, Dec 7 (Reuters) – (This Dec. 7 story has been corrected to delete the phrase saying that only one deal had been previously blocked under the Investment Canada Act, in the ninth paragraph)

Canada on Wednesday proposed beefing up its foreign investment rules to give the government greater power to scrutinize and potentially block overseas deals that bring national security risks.

The proposed amendments would be the biggest overhaul to the Investment Canada Act (ICA) since 2009 and come at a time when the country’s rich deposits of critical minerals, which are crucial to the green transition, are in hot demand.

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“These proposed changes will ensure that foreign investments in Canada are not only to the net benefit of Canadians, but are not detrimental to our national security,” Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, said at a press conference announcing the proposal.

Champagne said the proposed changes are country-agnostic, though his ministry last month ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals after a national security review.

The government also took aim at Beijing in its Indo-Pacific strategy launched last month and said it would tighten foreign investment rules to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from snapping up critical mineral supplies.

The proposed amendments to ICA include a requirement for foreign investors in some Canadian industries to notify the government before finalizing deals.

It would allow the government to impose interim conditions to prevent acquirers from accessing trade secrets, intellectual properties and sensitive personal information, and the authority to accept undertakings to mitigate national security risk.

It would also allow greater exchange of information with allies to better address common national security challenges.

The ICA became law in 1985 and has had several updates.

The sectors impacted by the early disclosure rule have not yet been determined, but Champagne said the targeted industries are going to be linked to sensitive technologies, critical minerals and those dealing with personal information.

Ottawa sees the critical minerals sectors as vital to Canada’s economic prosperity and outlined rules earlier this year to protect the country’s critical minerals resources from foreign state-owned companies.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio

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Initiative to protect Hudson Bay Lowlands to benefit from $800M investment

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An Indigenous-led initiative to protect northern Ontario’s Hudson Bay Lowlands is one of four projects to receive a total of $800 million from the federal government over a seven-year period.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new funding at the United Nations’ Biodiversity Conference, COP15, in Montreal on Wednesday.

The four projects, which also include conservation of lands and waters in the Northern Shelf Bioregion in British Columbia, in Qikiqtani Region in Nunavut, and in the Northwest Territories, could protect up to one million square kilometres.

“Our government is here as a partner,” Trudeau said in a press release following the announcement.

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“And today, we took an important step forward – together – to deliver a vision of conservation that has partnership and reconciliation at its core. I’m looking forward to our shared work to deliver results for communities and for the nature that sustains us all.”

Vern Cheechoo, the director of lands and resources with Mushkegowuk Council, said the council is “quite happy with the announcement.”

Mushkegowuk Council represents seven First Nations around northern Ontario’s James Bay Coast. The council also works with Weenusk First Nation and will collaborate with Fort Severn First Nation on a marine conservation initiative tied to the new funding.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $800 million in funding over seven years to support four Indigenous-led conservation projects. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

In a press release, the council said the federal government’s announcement sets the stage to protect a territory that represents almost one third of Ontario’s land mass.

The Hudson Bay Lowlands are home to one of the largest peatland complexes in the world and store an estimated 30 billion tonnes of carbon. The region is also an important habitat for billions of migratory birds.

“It’s important in terms of cooling Mother Earth,” Cheechoo said. “The elders called it the breathing lands.”

Cheechoo said Mushkegowuk Council is still waiting to have more discussions with the federal government to find out what portion of the $800 million it will receive.

But whatever amount it gets, he said it will help build capacity and infrastructure, such as office space, to support researchers, stewards and guardians who will protect the land.

Cheechoo said he hopes the support from the federal government can lead to more long-term funding to permanently protect the area.

He added the new funds will also help promote conservation-based economic activity for the region. He said British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest serves as an example where economic development can also protect the environment.

“The work that they are doing out there, they’ve created like 1,200 jobs, started 200 new businesses,” Cheechoo said.

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Security concerns compel Ottawa to make 'most significant update' to Investment Canada Act in a decade – Financial Post

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Legislation would give government more time and authority to address new threats that may rise from foreign investments

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government tabled legislation that would give the industry minister more time and authority to assess foreign transactions that might compromise national security, while also making penalties for violating the Investment Canada Act more severe.

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The amendments would help the government align with the “changing global dynamics” and address new threats that may rise from foreign investments, an allusion to worries in the West about China’s growing influence, the government said in a statement.

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“Geopolitics of the world today has vastly changed in the last few years; that’s why we must be prepared to face the challenges that could endanger our economic security and our national security,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said at a press conference on the evening of Dec. 7.

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“We need to be more vigilant and this is going in that direction,” said Champagne, who described the proposed changes as the “most significant update of the law in more than a decade.”

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The Investment Canada Act (ICA) allows for the review of foreign investments in Canada based on a number of factors that include “net benefit” to the economy and national security. The legislation dates to the mid-1980s, a time when free-trade principles were ascendent around the world. That phase of globalization would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and China’s admission to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Globalization is now headed in another direction.

A month ago, Canada’s government used the ICA to order three Chinese companies to divest their stakes in Canadian miners, citing results of a multi-step security review. This took place after the federal government in late October said any attempt by a state-owned enterprise to purchase assets in Canada’s critical minerals sector could trigger a section of the ICA that determines whether deals could be “injurious to national security,” requiring lengthy review.

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“We have gone from an era where foreign engagement strategy was centred around trade to an era that security is now the dog that wags the trade tail,” said Carlo Dade, trade director at the Canada West Foundation, a think-tank.

One of Champagne’s proposed amendments would require new filings from businesses in certain sectors prior to the implementation of the investments, giving the government a chance at an earlier stage to involve itself with transactions where there is risk of a foreigner gaining access to sensitive information.

Some of the sectors that the government will be keeping an eye on include critical minerals, artificial intelligence and businesses dealing with personal data, said Champagne.

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The bill also proposes to provide the industry minister with the power to conduct extended national security reviews of investments. Currently an order from the Governor in Council is required for this multi-step process. The change will make the review process more “efficient and flexible,” the government said.

In addition, the changes would bring stronger penalties against businesses that don’t comply with the act, as opposed to the existing ones that were established several decades ago and haven’t been revisited.

The bill also includes a provision that would allow the minister to disclose information about an investor to allies to support their foreign investment and national security reviews. Currently, information about a specific investor cannot be disclosed.

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When asked if the increased scrutiny might discourage Canada’s allies from investing in the nation, Champagne said: “I have no concern. I have been traveling the world recently and everyone wants to invest in Canada.” He added that other countries were also tightening their economic provisions due to the current geopolitical scenario.

“The proposed changes would formalize clearer and stricter processes under the act, allowing the government to more effectively implement them,” said Bob Fay, managing director of digital economy at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a think-tank.

  1. Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said that following a “multi-step national security review process,” the government has asked Sinomine Rare Metals Resources Co., Chengze Lithium International Ltd. and Zangge Mining Investment Co. to divest from Canada’s Power Metals Corp., Lithium Chile Inc. and Ultra Lithium Inc.

    Ottawa orders Chinese companies to exit three Canadian lithium miners

  2. Brine pools used to extract lithium next to a lithium mining camp.

    Canadian lithium miner ordered to break with Chinese investor finds replacement in Australia

  3. Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, right, with Ontario Premier Rob Ford, left, in Oshawa in April.

    ‘They see stability and calm here’: Canada looks like a good place to invest to some EV producers

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Twenty-four investments were subject to extended national security reviews in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2022. So far, in the current fiscal year, the government ordered Sinomine Rare Metals Resources Co., Chengze Lithium International Ltd. and Zangge Mining Investment Co. to divest from Canada’s Power Metals Corp., Lithium Chile Inc. and Ultra Lithium Inc., respectively.

Analysts say the move to push China out of the lithium industry is part of a series of steps being taken by the United States, bigger European economies, Canada and other democratic economies to shift their industries’ supply chains away from China, which dominates the EV industry, and towards friendlier nations.

Reflecting on the move, Trudeau said at an event on Dec. 5 that he wants to make sure that Canada is “in control” of its critical minerals so that the country’s allies can rely on the nation at a time when the demand for these minerals have increased primarily due to the rise in sale of electric vehicles globally, as the world looks to shift away from fossil fuels.

• Email: nkarim@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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