COLUMN-Iron ore giants eating little guys now, but cannibalism looms: Russell
--Clyde Russell is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own.--
By Clyde Russell
LAUNCESTON, Australia, Sept 3 (Reuters) - There was maybe more than a touch of hubris in Rio Tinto boss Sam Walsh's recent comment that it's time for other iron ore producers to "really feel the consequences" of the current low price.
The chief executive of the world's No.2 iron ore miner was speaking after his company's first-half results last month, basically delivering the message that Rio Tinto is going to keep going full-steam ahead on its iron ore expansion plans.
Walsh, along with the bosses of top iron ore miner Vale and No.3 BHP Billiton, is betting that their low-cost, high volume model will force smaller competitors to the wall, leaving them the undisputed kings.
Perhaps he should have a word or two with the chief executives of coal miners, which, oddly enough, includes himself given Rio Tinto's extensive coal assets.
When the price of both thermal and coking coal started to decline in mid-2011, the word from the industry was that this wasn't too big a surprise, but no need to worry as Chinese demand will ensure prices don't fall too far, and all the new capacity brought on and planned will be profitable.
With spot thermal coal at Australia's Newcastle port , an Asian benchmark, dropping from its post-2008 recession peak of $136.30 a tonne in January 2011 to a low of $110.28 that year, it's easy to see why the concern was muted. Continuación...