Australia's Big Tech Face-off Just the Beginning

Australia took a stand against Facebook and Google earlier this year, and the move could have long-term implications for tech investors.

It was a ban that sent Australians wild and had the whole world watching.

Back in February, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stopped users in Australia from posting news in a week-long blackout, reacting to proposed legislation that would have forced the social media behemoth to pay publishers for content.

What prompted Facebook to "friend" Australia again, and what are the potential long-term implications of the squabble? Read on to learn what tech-focused investors in Australia should know about the situation.


Australia squares off against Facebook

On February 25 of this year, Australia's federal government passed the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. It was developed after extensive analysis by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and is aimed at ensuring that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for their content.

It stipulates that digital platforms such as Facebook and Google (both named in the documentation) must pay news outlets whose content they feature — for example, if content is shared on Facebook or shows up in Google search results. The idea is that this will help to sustain journalism in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Google didn't react well to the code, which was first introduced in 2020.

Google didn't make any moves after it passed, but Facebook quickly made it impossible for Australian users to share news content, and pages for both local and international news organisations went blank — a major concern given the COVID-19 and wildfire concerns that were circulating at the time.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scathing about Facebook's decision — which he ironically shared in a Facebook post — declaring the tech giant's actions "as arrogant as they were disappointing." He added, "These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."

Despite strong feelings from both Australia and Facebook, the dispute was resolved fairly quickly, with the country agreeing to make four amendments to the legislation and Facebook restoring Australian's access to news.

Implications for Big Tech and news organisations

Both Australia and Facebook have claimed victory in the dispute, with a Facebook representative saying the company will be able to decide if news appears on the platform — meaning it won't automatically have to negotiate with any news businesses. Changes were also made to the arbitration process.

Tech experts have pointed out that larger news companies may ultimately benefit from the changes, but smaller ones could be pushed to the side. Major publishers that have struck agreements with tech giants, such as News Corp, Nine Entertainment (ASX:NEC,OTC Pink:NNMTF), Seven West Media (ASX:SWM) and Guardian Australia, may be able to increase their market share while smaller independent players lose out.

A business that is in full support of the laws is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). During the conflict, President Brad Smith came out loudly in favour of Australia's law, and advised that his company is willing to step up with search engine Bing should Google and/or Facebook pull out of the Australian market.

"In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed forward with legislation two years in the making to redress the competitive imbalance between the tech sector and an independent press. The ideas are straightforward. Dominant tech properties like Facebook and Google will need to invest in transparency, including by explaining how they display news content," he said in a blog post.

"The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead."

Global reach and tech investor impact

Six months down the road from Australia's landmark legislation, it's tough to say what the long-term impact may be.

That said, market watchers do believe the country is part of a new precedent of forcing Big Tech into paying for journalism — something giants Facebook and Google are not used to.

Countries looking to pursue similar legislation include Canada, where Facebook agreed in May to pay 14 publishers to link to their articles on its COVID-19 and climate science pages, as well as other unspecified use cases. Canada is pursuing other avenues too. Meanwhile, in France, Google said it will pay publishers for news content after the country took up new EU copyright laws that make digital platforms liable for infringements.

For investors, the takeaway is perhaps that while companies like Facebook and Google may seem too big too fail, they too can fall subject to new regulations that can change how they do business. As nations around the world look to take back control from these mega companies, it's important to be aware of possible effects on their bottom lines.

Don't forget to follow @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Gold isn't all that glitters in the land down under — silver in Australia is a major industry, and the country is home to both large and small players.

When it comes to precious metals, Australia has long punched above its weight — the nation was born riding the wave of a gold rush.

Gold isn't all that glitters through — Australia is also a major global producer of silver. It's among the 10 top producers, and was ranked seventh in 2020, with 1,300 tonnes coming from the many operational mines in the country. By comparison, the world's top producer, Mexico, produced 6,300 tonnes that same year.

Other key players in the silver market are Peru, China and Russia, which produce more silver than Australia, and the US, Argentina and Bolivia, which produce less.


Australia is sitting on quite a lot of the precious metal, with the world's second largest reserves, behind only Peru.

According to Geoscience Australia, one of the country's first mines was a silver-lead mine near Adelaide. Since then, the entire continent has been combed over with a fine-toothed comb, with deposits identified in every state and territory and active mines in every jurisdiction but one (Victoria).

Overall, Australia is well explored when it comes to silver, and since the mid-1800s it's had a constant stream of silver production. Aside from that, the country boasts metals-processing facilities in South Australia that separate the precious metal from its commonly mined counterpart metals, lead and zinc.

Silver companies in Australia

Those looking at the Australian silver market have options. There are plenty of big players with interests in Australian silver, and many smaller players for investors to consider researching too.

Most silver comes from mines dedicated to other metals — Glencore's (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Mount Isa in Queensland produces mainly copper, zinc and lead, but silver is separated by the company's integrated processing streams. Glencore also operates the McArthur mine in the Northern Territory, which is primarily zinc, but between its copper and zinc assets, Glencore produced 7,404,000 ounces of silver in Australia in 2020 — over 200 tonnes.

Elsewhere, BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT) produces a lot of silver as well at the Olympic Dam operation in South Australia. Perhaps best known for the production of uranium and copper, it also yields significant silver resources to the tune of 984,000 ounces in 2020 (or almost 28 tonnes).

According to Geoscience Australia data from 2016, over 20 mines in Australia produced silver in that year, while there are dozens of other resources identified in each state.

A primary producer of silver is the Cannington mine in Queensland, where South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF), a company that was spun off from BHP in 2015, mines silver and lead. Cannington is a big one, producing 11,792,000 ounces in 2020, or 334 tonnes of silver.

Tasmania boasts the Rosebery mine, which has seen 85 years of continuous operations and is currently owned by MMG (ASX:MMG,HKEX:1208). Rosebery, like all the others here, is polymetallic, and besides silver also produces copper, zinc, lead and gold. MMG also has the Dugald River mine in Queensland which also produced silver.

Getting into smaller companies, there are those like New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) which restarted the Century mine in the Northern Territory for zinc and silver.

The future of silver in Australia

So, you get the picture — there's a lot of silver to be mined in Australia by way of mining everything else.

It's worth noting that because silver operates both as a precious and an industrial metal, and is mined most often alongside base metals, it can be pulled in many directions. However, it traditionally follows (and lags behind) its precious metal sibling, gold, making it a valuable investment commodity to keep an eye on.

Looking forward, the future of the commodity in the land down under — especially given Australia's significant reserves and operator diversity — is as bright as you'd like it, and depends on what investors are most interested in, given the by-product nature of the metal.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Queensland is the 16th most attractive jurisdiction in the world, sneaking in above BC and the Yukon in Canada, and just behind New Mexico in the US.

Queensland is one of the top three Australian jurisdictions for copper.

While it's well behind South Australia, a behemoth in the country for resources and production, Queensland hosts some 12 percent of all known Australian copper deposits, level with its southern neighbour New South Wales.

A premier mining jurisdiction globally, Queensland is ranked third out of all Australian jurisdictions for mining investment attractiveness, according to the Fraser Institute. Globally, it's ranked as the 16th most attractive jurisdiction, sneaking in above BC and the Yukon in Canada, and just behind New Mexico in the US.


The state is renowned for its mining prowess in Australia, and is known as one of the resource states, with a large chunk of its economic heft coming from the mining industry and its operations across the vast state.

Overall, mining accounts for 11.7 percent of Queensland's economy, with coal and liquefied natural gas being the primary focus of output. Together, coal, gas and mineral exports account for over 80 percent of Queensland's exports, according to the state government.

Having said that, copper plays a large role, and Queensland is home to the second biggest producer of copper in Australia in the form of Glencore's (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Mount Isa mining complex in the northwest of the state. There, Glencore owns and operates the Enterprise and X41 mines.

Aside from Mount Isa, Glencore owns the nearby Ernest Henry copper mine. Combined, Glencore's Queensland operations produced 138,800 tonnes of copper in 2020 — accounting for a little over 10 percent of the company's global copper production. Glencore isn't listed on the ASX, but can be found on the LSE.

Besides the Mount Isa complex itself, there's also a handful of other operational mines in the northwestern portion of the state, although most of them are privately owned, such as the Capricorn copper project, which is a joint venture between EMR Capital and Lighthouse Minerals; it secured itself "prescribed project" status in 2017.

Other privately owned projects include Round Oak's Barbara project (in care and maintenance), Chinese-backed CuDECO's Rockland copper project (mothballed, CuDECO in liquidation) and Chinova's Osborne mine — which was originally set up by Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN,OTCQX:IVPAF). There's also the Balcooma mine, which Royal Gold (NASDAQ:RGLD) has copper royalties on, and the privately owned Mount Cuthbert mine.

Many of the mentioned projects ran into trouble in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting company operations.

All in all, Queensland has 13 operational copper mines, but as can be seen many are in private hands, making investment opportunities somewhat slim. Aside from previously mentioned Glencore operations, there's Red River Resources (ASX:RVR,OTC Pink:RRRDF), which owns the Thalanga operations near Charters Towers. Red River acquired Thalanga in 2014, and has been working to develop the legacy site back into a viable investment.

From the beginning of production in 2017, the operations have a lifespan of some 10 years, according to Red River, with further development and exploration options on the table. In its most recent quarterly report, Thalanga reported output of 3,086 tonnes of copper concentrate.

The remainder of the options on the table for investors are exploration focused, such as Copper Mountain Mining (ASX:C6C,OTC Pink:CPPMF) with interests in the Eva copper project, which is — unsurprisingly — in the northwest of the state, near the town of Cloncurry. Eva is in the development phase, with a feasibility study completed in early 2020 envisaging a 15 year mine life with an annual expected output of 106 million pounds of copper equivalent.

There's also Global Energy Metals (TSXV:GEMC,OTCQB:GBLEF), which like Glencore isn't on the ASX, but has interests in the Millenium cobalt-copper-gold project and others near Mount Isa — all in the exploration stage.

Aside from that, Strategic Energy Resources (ASX:SER) acquired exploration licences from Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM,OTC Pink:NCMGF) in May 2021 for licences around Mount Isa, and Zenith Minerals (ASX:ZNC) is exploring the Develin Creek copper-zinc project. Zenith recently divested from another copper project, Flannagans, in June 2021 by selling its interests to a private company for $450,000.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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