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Fortescue wants to cut iron ore production costs

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After its production costs hit a record low in the last quarter, Fortescue Metals wants to drive costs even lower this financial year, according to the CEO of the Australian iron ore producer.

Speaking to CNBC on “Street Signs,” Elizabeth Gaines, CEO of Fortescue Metals, talked about the strategies that she believes will help the iron ore company to cut costs.

The measures that the company is taking is largely around automation, she said.

“We’re rolling out our autonomous haulage system to our Chichester operations. That’s a conversion of over 100 trucks from man to autonomous. We have automated drills, we have a new relocatable conveyor system,” Gaines said.

“It’s largely around innovation, that’s the way we will continue to drive our costs lower,” she added.

Gaines said the company, one of Australia’s largest iron ore producers, is aiming for costs of production to be even lower this financial year.

She said: “We did come out at a record low $12.08 per wet metric tonne for our December quarter, so we’re well on track for that guidance of between $11 and $12 a tonne for this financial year.”

“There are some factors such as the Aussie dollar exchange rate and fuel prices that will determine where we stick within that $11 and $12,” she added.

On the outlook for the future, the CEO also promised that Fortescue will “continue along our path to be the safest, lowest cost, and most profitable iron ore producer in the world.”

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Cement firm works with GE’s renewables unit on wind turbine recycling 

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Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Electric’s renewables unit and LafargeHolcim, the world’s biggest cement manufacturer, have struck a deal to explore the recycling of wind turbine blades.

A memorandum of understanding will see the companies focus on exploring “circular economy solutions.” Business practices connected to the notion of a circular economy have gained traction in recent years, with many companies around the world looking to operate in a way which minimizes waste. 

In a statement Thursday, the firms added they were looking into “new ways of recycling wind blades, including as a construction material to build new wind farms.”

The plans announced this week build on an already existing relationship between the two companies. Last June, GE Renewable Energy said it was going to partner with LafargeHolcim and another firm, COBOD International, to develop wind turbines that use 3D-printed concrete bases.

The issue of what to do with wind turbine blades when they’re no longer needed is a headache for the industry. This is because the composite materials used in their production can be difficult to recycle, with many blades ending up as landfill when their service life ends.

As governments around the world attempt to ramp up their renewable energy capacity, the number of wind turbines on the planet only looks set to grow. This will in turn increase pressure on the sector to find sustainable solutions to the disposal of blades.

Over the last few years, major players in wind energy have announced plans to try to tackle the problem. Just last week Denmark’s Orsted said it would “reuse, recycle, or recover” all turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of wind farms once they’re decommissioned. 

In April, it was announced that a collaboration between academia and industry would focus on the recycling of glass fiber products, a move that could eventually help to reduce the waste produced by wind turbine blades.

Last December, GE Renewable Energy and Veolia North America signed a “multi-year agreement” to recycle blades removed from onshore wind turbines in the United States. And in January 2020, wind energy giant Vestas said it was aiming to produce “zero-waste” turbines by the year 2040.

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G-7 leaders to pledge 1 billion doses of Covid vaccines to poorer nations

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LONDON — The leaders of the G-7 are expected to pledge a donation of 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations this weekend as they try to ease concerns over vaccine nationalism. 

The most-advanced economies of the world — as the G-7 defines itself — have been criticized for not sharing more vaccines with countries that have fewer resources. The United States, for example, legislated that it should send vaccines abroad only after it reached a satisfactory level of vaccination within its borders. The U.K. and the EU have also received similar criticism.

However, the G-7 nations — the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — want to end the pandemic next year and will be stepping up their individual contributions, according to a statement published by the U.K. government on Thursday.

Britain already said Thursday it will donate at least 100 million surplus coronavirus vaccine doses within the next year. The United States also said earlier this week it will donate 500 million doses of the PfizerBioNTech shot to low-income countries.

On Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who will be representing the EU at the G-7, also said: “We do subscribe to the G-7 aim to end the pandemic by 2022 by stepping up the global vaccination.”

Sharing vaccines is described by health officials as the only way to fully end the pandemic. This is because for as long as the virus exists, it can mutate and continue to spread all over the world. At the same time, measures such as lockdowns and social distancing will likely keep hurting global economic output.

There have been more than 174 million cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic emerged in early 2020 and more than 3.7 million deaths worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The pandemic is front and center in the discussions of the G-7 leaders, whose three-day summit in Cornwall, England, is getting underway Friday. 

In this context, the U.S. surprised other leaders last month by supporting the waiving of intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines. 

Health experts, human rights groups and international medical charities argue it is critical to do so in order to urgently address global vaccine scarcity amid the pandemic and ultimately avoid prolonging the health crisis. Vaccine makers, however, say this could disrupt the flow of raw materials and lead to to lower investments on health research from smaller biotech innovators.

This opinion is also shared by certain EU leaders, notably France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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UK competition regulator gets a say in Google plan to remove cookies

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The logo of Google Chrome shown on a smartphone.

Thomas Trutschel | Photothek via Getty Images

LONDON — Britain’s competition regulator will have a say in Google’s plan to remove third-party browser cookies that track people online.

The Competition and Markets Authority said Friday that it had secured commitments from Google to address concerns about the proposal. The CMA is worried that the plans will harm newspapers and other businesses that rely on personalized ads.

Web cookies are small pieces of code that websites deliver to a visitor’s browser. They can be used to track online activity, such as items added to a shopping basket. Third-party cookies are often added by advertisers to serve people with personalized ads.

Google plans to scrap third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and replace them with an alternative. The company launched an initiative called “Privacy Sandbox” last year, in a bid to address privacy concerns with cookies. One of the proposals Google is confident about is called “Federated Learning of Cohorts.” The CMA launched a formal probe into the changes in January.

Google committed to involve the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.K.’s privacy watchdog, in the development of its Privacy Sandbox proposals. The company promised to publicly disclose results of any tests of the effectiveness of alternatives, and said it wouldn’t give preferential treatment to Google’s advertising products or sites.

“If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement.

The CMA said it would consult with “interested third parties” before deciding whether to accept Google’s commitments. If accepted, the watchdog would drop its enforcement case and engage with Google on the details of its proposals.

“We appreciate the CMA’s thoughtful approach throughout the review and their engagement with the difficult trade-offs that this process inevitably involves,” Oliver Bethell, Google’s director of legal, said in a blog post.

“We also welcome feedback from the public consultation and will continue to engage with the CMA and with the industry on this important topic” Bethell added. “We understand that our plans will be scrutinized, so we’ll also continue to engage with other regulators, industry partners and privacy experts as well.”

The move is the latest sign of the CMA’s growing role in scrutinizing major U.S. tech firms — which are facing antitrust probes around the world — after Brexit. The watchdog has been tasked by the government with setting up a new Digital Markets Unit to police competition in the U.K.’s digital market.

Last week, the U.K. and European Union launched two separate competition probes into Facebook on the same day. Meanwhile, Apple is also facing antitrust investigations in both Britain and Europe.

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