Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Mining 25: Changes in Brazil Mining Taxation

There is a coincidence in mining tax legislation in the Philippines and Brazil. Two weeks ago, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff launched a mining bill that proposes to double royalties on mineral wealth from 2% to 4%, to affect mainly  iron ore and gold. The levy will also be on gross revenues rather than profit.

Brazil is the world’s second-largest iron-ore exporter. It currently allows mining companies to subtract some royalty calculation costs. This will change and start charging the levy on companies’ gross revenue. Mining comprises  4 percent of its GDP and almost a quarter of total exports.

The lesson for the Philippines is that the new trend in many countries now is the shift from a profit or net revenue to gross revenue taxation. Almost all governments in the world now are so heavily indebted, they want (a) as much tax revenues as possible particularly from the extractive industries, and (b) money as early as possible. So that even if a mining company has not recovered its previous big expenditures in exploration yet, government wants to collect taxes as soon as the first revenues are earned.

I am posting four stories from Reuters, the Financial Times, Econews and The Economist, from June 18 to 22, 2013. More details about this change in mining taxation in Brazil are discussed there.

(1) Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:44pm EDT, Reuters

* Bill to require rights to be developed or lost
* Introduces auction system for some mining prospects
* Vale CEO says would have "major impact" on companies

By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 18 (Reuters) - Brazil, a major producer of iron ore, gold, copper and other metals, unveiled a long-awaited bill to reform its 46-year-old mining code on Tuesday, proposing a doubling of the current top royalty rate and stricter rules for opening new mines.

Murilo Ferreira, chief executive of Vale SA, the world's largest iron ore exporter and Brazil's dominant mining company, said the bill would hit the industry hard. He expects the government's revenues from royalties to more than double to 4.2 billion reais ($1.93 billion) from 1.7 billion reais.

Even so, provisions of the bill are less onerous than the industry feared when the discussion of reforms began nearly four years ago. The top royalty rate under the proposal of 4 percent, is only one-third of typical rates charged in some Australian states and about half of proposals in Mexico and Ecuador.
Vale's preferred stock, the Rio de Janeiro-based company's most-active shares, rose 2.4 percent in Sao Paulo late Tuesday.

"The government is showing itself to be more responsive to industry concerns," said João Neves, an analyst with Eurasia Group in Washington.

Brazil is pushing ahead with changes at a time when the mining industry is experiencing a sharp slowdown. When the bill was first proposed in 2009, the industry was in one of its most prosperous periods ever.

"It's part of a global trend to increasingly tax the mining industry," said Wiktor Bielski, base metals analyst at VTB Capital in London. "Four percent is not punitive, but it doesn't help for a country that's already facing growing internal political headwinds to mining."

Brazil's top two mining states recently imposed their own regulatory charges on output. Environmental rules and bureaucracy have slowed licensing and construction of ports, railways and processing plants needed to commercialize production.
The bill is the latest test of the Brazilian government's efforts to reduce tensions with investors, many of whom have criticized President Dilma Rousseff's economic polices as erratic and her attitude toward business as heavy handed.
In a surprise, the bill makes no provision for a windfall profits.

Ecuador's proposed 3-to-5 percent royalty plus a 70 percent windfall tax prompted Canada's Kinross Gold Corp last week to cancel a gold project in the Andean nation.

Kinross, which owns the Pracatú gold mine in Brazil, is monitoring any changes in Brazil, spokesman Louie Diaz said.     Rousseff said the government wanted miners to have contractual stability and security and for concession renewals to be contingent on them meeting investment and environmental goals.

The government will propose royalties of up to 4 percent calculated on gross revenue, minus taxes, generated by mining projects. The government could charge lower rates in some cases, the mines and energy ministry said. (See factbox )

In the Americas, the trend is shifting to gross revenue-based taxes, which allow governments to collect money far sooner than with a profit-based tax, said Liam Fitzgerald, a partner with PwC Canada's tax practice.

"It's really about trying to increase the amount of revenues they receive, and getting it a lot earlier," he said.

But mining companies prefer profit-based taxes, which only kick in after the miner starts making money. Mexico's lower house of Congress approved a 5 percent gross-revenue royalty, a
measure awaiting a Senate vote.

The new royalty could also reduce the competitiveness of Brazilian companies such as Vale because the rules no longer allow transportation costs to be deducted.

Vale's main iron ore competitors, including Australia's BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd, are closer to China, the main global market for iron ore and other metals.      In addition to iron ore, Brazil is also a major producer of copper, gold, bauxite, nickel and manganese.

The bill also proposes the creation of a new mine regulatory agency and would require holders of mining rights to develop their claims or lose them.     Initially at least, auctions would only be held in areas where the geology is well known and the resources are significant enough to warrant a state interest, Telton Correa, a mining ministry spokesman, told reporters in Brasilia.

New concessions for exploration and development will also require rights holders to carry out a minimum program of investments over a specific period of time or lose the rights.      Congress is expected to vote on the bill by the end of the year, Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobão said. While no changes will be made to existing rights, Lobão warned he will strictly enforce the terms of existing licenses.

(2) June 19, 2013 12:43 am, Financial Times
By Joe Leahy in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday launched a mining bill that proposes to potentially double royalties in a move that will test strained relations with investors.

But the long-awaited proposal, which will now go before Congress, was less onerous than some in the industry had feared when negotiations on it began four years ago during the global commodities supercycle.

 “[Royalties] will now comprise of quotas of up to 4 per cent of mining companies’ revenues,” Ms Rousseff said in a ceremony to launch the bill. “This will give an important increase to the budgets of states and municipalities that are host to mining activities.”

Relations between Ms Rousseff’s government and investors have become more strained as efforts by the government to cut taxes and protect some industries have failed to revive Brazil’s former rapid growth rates.

There were also fears that Brazil might belatedly seek to cash in on the mining boom through the bill even though the industry is slowing in line with Chinese economic growth.

“We are a long way from the prices we had in 2011,” Murilo Ferreira, the chief executive officer of Vale, the world’s largest iron ore exporter and Brazil’s biggest miner, was quoted as saying in newspaper Valor Economico.

He said the bill represented a significant increase in royalties at a time when countries overseas were lowering such duties on iron ore and nickel.

Even though Brazil had one of the largest reserves of mineral resources in the world, between the four largest miners only Vale had significant investments in the country. “There must be something wrong there,” he said.

However, the top rate being proposed is only one-third of the basic rate being charged by Australian states, Reuters reported.

The bill also does not include a windfall profits tax, a proposal that drove Canada’s Kinross Gold last week to abandon a project in Ecuador.
“For the past several months, the government has been signalling a more moderate stance towards the sector,” said Eurasia Group in a research note on the mining bill.

“This moderation is driven mainly by Brasilia’s unease with weaker global market conditions, which have exacerbated Vale’s troubles and deepened the economic team’s concern with Brazil’s deteriorating trade balance.”

It warned, however, that the law could face turbulence in Congress, where politicians representing mining and non mining states will seek to gain a higher share of the industries royalties for their constituencies.

(4) JUNE 20, 2013 BY DAVID TWOMEY, Econews Australia
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has proposed a new regulatory framework for mining in in the country, one of the world’s biggest producers of iron, bauxite, gold, nickel, manganese and other minerals.

Ms Rousseff said her plan calls for a new government agency that would regulate mining activity and create a new concessions regime.

The new concessions “will run for 40 years, extendable for another 20,” and the concession holders must comply with “clear legal obligations, with an emphasis on protecting the environment,” she said.
Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao, who joined President Rousseff for the announcement, said minimum investment levels would be established and the bidding process would be simplified.

The bill, which will be sent to Congress, also proposes changes to the royalty regime so that 65 per cent of the total would go to mineral-producing municipalities.  According to Ms Rousseff, these are “the ones that should benefit the most from their wealth”.

Under the plan, Brazil’s states would receive 23 per cent of the royalties and the remaining 12 per cent would go into the federal government’s coffers, President Rousseff said.

“With this new framework, we’ll put in place the necessary conditions so that the activities of researching, exploring, mining and marketing mineral resources become more efficient, more profitable and more competitive,” Ms Rousseff said.

The bill is aimed at modernising Brazil’s decades-old mining legislation, which Ms Rousseff said was “out of touch”.

Murilo Ferreira, chief executive of Vale, the world’s largest iron ore exporter and Brazil’s dominant mining company, said the bill would hit the industry hard.

He expects the government’s revenues from royalties to more than double to US$1.93 billion.
Even so, provisions of the bill are less onerous than the industry feared when the discussion of reforms began nearly four years ago.

The top royalty rate under the proposal of four per cent, is only one-third of typical rates charged in some Australian states and about half of proposals in Mexico and Ecuador.

(4) June 22, 2013, The Economist

FOUR years after Brazil’s government said it was planning a radical rewrite of mining laws, on June 18th the industry, which accounts for 4% of GDP and almost a quarter of exports, finally learned its fate. Maximum royalties on mineral wealth are to rise from 2% to 4%, with iron ore and gold probably attracting the top rate, and will be levied on turnover rather than profit. Future licences will come with minimum-investment conditions and licensing will be simplified.

The announcement was met with resignation by mining firms, which had been braced for worse. The government had been keen to squeeze the sector until it squealed, but falling commodity prices and a deteriorating trade balance seem to have made it moderate its plans. A feared new federal levy did not materialise. The only surprise was that the proposals came in the form of a draft bill to be approved by Congress, rather than presidential decree. Approval will probably take the rest of the year. But there was relief that an end to the wait, which has played havoc with business plans, is in sight.

The new rules will raise total royalties from 1.7 billion reais ($0.8 billion) to 4.2 billion, estimates Murilo Ferreira of Vale, Brazil’s largest mining company and the world’s biggest iron-ore producer. Though that only brings the country’s light taxes on mineral wealth closer to those levied in other resource-rich countries (Australia charges up to 12%), mining firms complain that Brazil’s chaotic tax system subjects them to costs and risks they do not bear elsewhere. Vale, for example, has spent more than a decade disputing a tax bill for 30 billion reais on profits generated by foreign subsidiaries.

Miners must now hope that the bill’s passage through Congress does not burden them further. Local politicians in non-mining areas may lobby for a share of royalties; under current plans they get nothing. Mining states also want higher revenues: Minas Gerais (whose name means “general mines”) has raised monitoring fees in recent years, though these are supposed only to cover costs. The government may give permission for more state taxes to smooth the bill’s passage.

The new bill is intended to increase investment, since firms will lose licences unless they start to develop acquisitions straight away. But firms complain that another provision could have the opposite effect. Currently, the first company to apply for a licence for a particular patch is either accepted or rejected; in future the government plans to auction some licences to the highest bidder. The aim is to increase competition, but firms say spending on exploration will fall if they risk losing the right to develop deposits they have discovered. They will lobby for this provision to apply only in areas already thought to be rich in minerals, not the two-thirds of Brazil’s territory that is still a geological blank.

Dilma Rousseff has been haranguing bosses to increase investment since she became president in 2011. One reason few have heeded her call is that her government has made investing in many sectors far tougher. Mining is one of those. In late 2011 the mining ministry, believing new laws were imminent, stopped issuing licences. More than 5,000 projects and at least 20 billion reais in investment have been on hold ever since, according to the Brazilian Mining Association, an industry body. About 20 junior mining companies—firms which assess promising prospects and audit reserves—have had to fire geologists or shut up shop. Though business should pick up now that the new bill has been announced, rebuilding lost expertise will be costly and slow.


See also:
Mining 21: Chile Policies, May 21, 2013 
Mining 22: Philippines as EITI Candidate, June 05, 2013 

Mining 23: On the Proposed 10 Percent Gross Revenue Tax, June 06, 2013 

Mining 24: Casino-Hontiveros Mining Socialism is Off Tangent, June 25, 2013

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