Robin Bromby

About Robin Bromby

Robin Bromby is a journalist, author and sometime publisher who has had titles issued by mainstream publishers, including Doubleday, Simon & Schuster and Lothian Books. Robin began as a cadet journalist in 1962 with The Dominion, the morning paper in Wellington, New Zealand. He also worked for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, TV1, the South China Morning Post, The Herald (Melbourne), the Sunday Times (Wellington), The National Times (Sydney) and, since 1988, he has been first a staff reporter and now columnist for The Australian and has been a Senior Editor for InvestorIntel since the onset.

BHP changes tack on Jansen while speculation mounts on new Potash Corp. move

Jansen-Potash BHP Billiton is slowing its spending on the huge Jansen potash project as conjecture grows as to the British-Australian company's tactical plans in Saskatchewan. Will BHP make another bid for Potash Corp (possibly in partnership with Germany's K+S)? Or will BHP come to a deal with Potash Corp once the latter's new management is in place whereby the two will co-operate on developing Jansen? Or is BHP just playing it safe by not spending too much in Saskatchewan while it waits to see how the potash market and, on a more broad perspective, the global economy pans out over coming…

New technology for critical metals, agribusiness, nuclear plants, 3-D printing, renewable energy — you name it, Japan’s there

Uniqlo Having spent a few weeks (involuntarily) accompanying various shopping expeditions in Paris, I have become — suddenly — aware of Uniqlo. The crowds of women of all ages lining up at the cash registers at one of its Paris stores attests to the extraordinary success. And I read that staff are allowed just 60 seconds to process each retail transaction. Now this Japanese designer of casual wear is planning to launch in Australia, with a target of 100 stores in this country. The Uniqlo phenomenon, and I am assured by the shopper in this household that it is a phenomenon, lies in sharp…

Solar sceptics may need to reconsider: power from the sun is becoming more economic

120px-Mafate_Marla_solar_panel_dsc00633 Solar power has had some bad press in recent years. The case against it seemed increasingly persuasive: it cost too much: it would never replace fuels (like oil, coal and nuclear) which offered reliable base-load power generation; and even if solar systems could be made more efficient and, helped by better and better storage batteries, to produce reliable electricity even when the sun wasn’t shining, solar still couldn’t compete on price with other fuels, particularly coal. We’ve heard all these arguments and, in the case of this writer, pushed them ourselves. Well, maybe it’s time for a rethink. According to some…

Chinese and Apple seek new tin supplies; More room for graphite producers while uranium standstill continues

tin apple While questions remain about the real state of financial affairs in China, and therefore the future demand growth for metals of all types (but particularly the major base metals such as copper, aluminium and zinc), there are quite clear signs that when it comes to the critical technology metals , the potential consumers are taking a great interest in potential future sources of supply. (This, too, offset by the fact that even some minor metals are seeing subdued demand and pricing at present, notably with declines in prices being paid for antimony, gallium and selenium; bismuth, indium and tellurium have…

Chinese technical know-how opens way for Arafura REE project

nolans project 2 Australian rare earths hopeful Arafura Resources (ASX: ARU), for all the speed bumps it has hit in recent years, still has an economically sound project, according to analyst Tony Parry of Sydney-based Resource Capital Research. And the relationship with major shareholder (24.9%) East China Mineral and Exploration Bureau (ECE) is likely to result in even further cost savings, he said. His client says that Arafura is taking decisive action to improve the project economics and project financing prospects for what he calls "its world scale Nolans Rare Earths project". So far projected operating costs and capital requirements have been slashed and…

Don’t count on Putin being an economic rationalist when it comes to Europe’s gas

Putin The Europeans have been grumbling for years about their dependence on Russian gas. They even watched helplessly five years ago when Moscow threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine over unpaid bills. Since then, Europe did make some effort: mainly more interconnections to allow gas to be switched between pipelines so as to avoid the 2009 situation when the closing of the pipeline via Ukraine hit countries further down that line. But, in essence, they did not do enough; if they had, then the European newspapers would not this week be featuring multiple hand-wringing articles about what Europe can do to lessen…

Siberia: The technology metals wild card

A few days ago, with a window seat flying from Tokyo to Paris, I spent much of that time transfixed by Siberia below. More than half the 12 hours of flying time is spent crossing Siberia in an arc from Khabarovsk to the Arctic northern coast of Russia, and then down over Finland. It is easy to become fascinated by the seemingly unending vastness of the place, punctured only by white iced-over rivers and one or two signs of human settlement, with one of those at least on a railway line. Siberia is already a mining powerhouse. From it comes 29% of…

BHP makes clear Jansen is a keeper as giants grab more of world’s agribusiness

Agribusiness BHP Billiton has reasserted its hopes for the Jansen potash project at a time when some very big players have moved to consolidate the agribusiness space. The big question is: with BHP ― a mining and petroleum company, no less ― already talking about “feeding the world”, can it be only a matter of time before new and old agribusiness players start thinking along those same lines and cast eyes in the direction of potash and phosphate? Andrew Mackenzie, the Scotsman who heads BHP, has spelled out his hopes in Boss, the monthly magazine inserted into the Australian Financial Review.…

Graphite straightens Syrah’s long and winding road to mineral stardom

Syrah Resources certainly occupied plenty of news space last week with its announcement of a graphite off-take deal with Chinalco, one of China’s largest state-owned metals operations. As we have found here on Investor Intel, this Australian exploration company has its detractors and critics. But there is one thing above all which makes Syrah stand out from the crowd: in just 2 years and 3 months, it has gone from the acquisition of a project to having a potential off-take agreement. Of course, there is a good part of the development process to go and, no doubt, problems will turn…

Bromby: Bolivia to its lithium promise, add that other technology metal — tin

victory-project-locations-lg Bolivia in the 19th century saw riches flow from silver. In the 20th century, or at least part of that, the great wealth creator was tin. Now, as we have previously reported, lithium is the great hope of the early 21st century as attempts will be made to reap the rewards of Bolivia’s brine lakes. But tin could be making a comeback, too. In the city of Cochabamba, said to be the most pleasant of the country’s cities, there is open to the public a rather over-the-top mansion. It was built by the man known as the Tin King, or…