Rio Tinto trims iron ore shipment target

Rio Tinto has pared back expectations for its full-year iron ore shipments as ongoing maintenance work slows its ability to export the steel making ingredient.

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The world’s second largest iron ore exporter now expects 2017 iron ore shipments to be at the low end of its previous guidance of between 330 and 340 million tonnes.

Shares in the company skidded on the news, down 1.6 per cent at $64.90 at 1510 AEST.

“Investors are factoring in the lower guidance for iron ore and coking coal and that seems to be weighing on the stock,” Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast said.

“However, iron ore prices are stronger than people predicted and that should be a driver for the company’s earnings.”

The revision comes after June quarter shipments from its Pilbara iron ore operations slipped six per cent from a year ago to 77.7 million tonnes because of rail track maintenance work.

Mr Prendergast said the impact of rail maintenance had been expected to be spread over several quarters, but seemed to be more skewed towards the June quarter.

Production of iron ore was nearly steady in its second quarter, down just one per cent from a year ago to 79.8 million tonnes.

The mining giant had already made a sluggish start to the year, with first quarter shipments and production affected by bad weather.

Rio said its revised shipments target took into consideration first half production and further rail maintenance in the second half of the year.

“Further rail maintenance will continue throughout the remainder of 2017, albeit at a lower level than in the second quarter,” the company said in a statement.

Guidance for hard coking coal production in 2017 was cut to 7.2 to 7.8 million tonnes, from the previous forecast of 7.8 and 8.4 million tonnes, after June quarter output declined 14 per cent due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie.

Rio’s copper production fell six per cent to 124,700 tonnes in the June quarter, as operations at its jointly-owned Escondida mine in Chile gradually ramped up following a 43-day labour strike, while output remained curtailed at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia.

Malala urges Nigeria to prioritise education, meets Chibok girls

The 20-year-old global education campaigner made the suggestion at a meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa in Abuja.

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Nigeria has some 10.5 million children out of school – the most in the world – and 60 percent of them are girls, according to the UN children’s fund, Unicef.

Many of them are in the country’s northeast, where the Boko Haram insurgency has devastated education in the last nine years, damaging or destroying classrooms and schools.

Yousafzai, who was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in her native Pakistan in 2012 for insisting girls should go to school, told reporters: “I highlighted a few issues. 

“The first was to ask the government to declare a state of emergency for education because the education of the Nigerian girls and boys is really important. 

“The federal government, state government and local government should all be united for this. Secondly, the spending should be made public and thirdly, the Child Rights Act should be implemented in all states.”

Yousafzai said there was a “positive response” to the suggestion from Osinbajo, who has been standing in for President Muhammadu Buhari since he left on open-ended medical leave in early May.

Nigerian activist Amina Yusuf meets Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai in Abuja, Nigeria, July 17, 2017.AP

The most high-profile symbols of the attack on girls’ education are the more than 200 students who were abducted by Boko Haram Islamists from their school in the remote town of Chibok in April 2014.

Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2014, joined politicians, celebrities and campaigners from around the world to support the online #BringBackOurGirls movement to demand their release.

On a previous visit to Nigeria in July 2014, she urged the then-president Goodluck Jonathan to meet the girls’ parents. 

On the first anniversary, she called the missing girls “my brave sisters” and wrote in an open letter that she could not wait to meet and hug them. “You are my heroes,” she said.

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A total of 106 of the kidnapped girls have been released, rescued or escaped after more than three years in captivity, while 113 are still being held.

Yousafzai said she was “very happy” to see some of the girls, who are staying at a government-run facility in Abuja. 

“I’m really excited to see them going back to their homes and to their families and continuing their education,” she added. 

“But I hope the other girls who are still under abduction of Boko Haram are released.”

Australian firefighters to help fight Canada wildfire emergency

Canada scrambled thousands of firefighters and hundreds of aircraft from across the country to tackle raging infernos in the western province, and had even drafted extra firefighters from Australia, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

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He said 39,000 people had been forced from their homes so far, noting that the emergency measures constituted “the largest evacuation in the history of British Columbia,” the worst-hit region in the country.

“I would note that we’re expecting at least 50 forest firefighters to be coming in from Australia over the course of the next couple of days. And if there are additional resources needed from other parts of the world, we will access those as well,” he said.

Southern and central British Columbia have been hit by scorching weather that has left the forested province on high alert for the past 10 days.

Authorities had hoped to have the fires under control late last week, but they returned with a vengeance over the weekend, fanned by strong winds and increasing in number as lightning strikes sparked new blazes.

Wild fires were also devastating forests in California, where a lightning storm on Sunday near Yosemite National Park started a blaze dubbed the “Detwiller fire” which razed 7,100 acres (2,870 hectares), according to Cal Fire.

Around 50 alerts were issued in towns and villages in British Columbia, forcing residents to flee their homes with no guarantee they can return anytime soon.

On Saturday, the 11,000 residents of Williams Lake were forced to abandon their homes and spend hours stuck in traffic jams on the only evacuation route still open from their town, surrounded by flames in the middle of the night.

A dozen towns set up emergency centers to accommodate those fleeing the fires, providing camp beds and food. But towns such as Kamloops and Prince George were starting to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people arriving every day.

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Around 3,000 firefighters from all over Canada, together with 200 helicopters and fire-fighting planes, were battling more than 150 blazes in British Columbia, several of which were raging out of control.

A fire-fighting helicopter crashed in the region on Saturday, and its pilot – who was alone on board – was being treated in a hospital.

Since April 1, 657 fires have destroyed some 730 square miles (188,800 hectares) of forest in the province.

Some of the worst fires, such as the blaze near the town of Ashcroft, cover tens of thousands of hectares.

Fires are also threatening areas further east in the Rocky Mountains, home to some of the country’s most important national parks like the nature reserve in Banff.

A part of that park – which receives almost four million tourists each year – was closed Monday as a new fire menaced the surrounding area.

The Parks Canada authority also closed parts of the neighboring Kootenay National Park.

The fires come at the height of tourist season and just as Canada is expecting a flood of visitors to celebrate its 150th anniversary, when it will grant free access to its national parks.

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Ancient Roman amphitheatre ‘secretly’ sold off in Israel

Caesarea’s Roman amphitheatre and hippodrome were built by King Herod around 2,000 years ago, transforming the coastal city into the commercial capital of ancient Judaea.

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By 6 BC it was the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine, and later became the most important city in the country following the destruction of Jerusalem.

In the Bible King Herod ordered the death of all young boys when Jesus was born to avoid being overthrown.

The structures, listed for tentative consideration for UNESCO heritage status, are still used to host local and international performers, with US band The Pixies set to hold two concerts there later this month.

According to a news report on local television station Channel 2, more than 170 acres of land were sold off in June by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Chariot racing inside the amphitheatre at Caesarea in ancient Palestine, circa 100 BC.AAP

The buyer of the land, including the areas on which the ancient structures stand, is reportedly an overseas holding company.

The Times of Israel newspaper said the areas sold include large parts previously designated as historic national parklands.

Channel 2 said the deal was done for an undisclosed amount between the church and a company called Saint Ventures Limited.

It adds that officials were completely blindsided by the sale, including those at the Israel Lands Authority and the Justice Ministry.

The Justice Ministry has reportedly called for a meeting to discuss the land sales – particularly following recent similar revelations, the Times of Israel stated.

Around 1,500 property owners in some of Jerusalem’s wealthiest neighbourhoods last month discovered the land on which their homes sit had been sold by the church to several private real estate firms.

The Greek Orthodox Church acquired more than 1,000 acres of land in the centre of the Israeli capital city in the 19th century, primarily for agricultural use.

Following Israeli independence, it agreed to lease the land to the Jewish National Fund for 99 years.

Structures including Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, are built on land owned by the church.

The religious organisation is the second-largest owner of land in Israel behind the Israel Lands Authority.

A $35 million project to develop the city of Caesarea was announced in April, with Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson telling The Jerusalem Post newspaper that the venture will help to “expose, conserve and make use of Caesarea’s secrets for the enjoyment of the general public.”

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Breust lauds Clarkson ahead of AFL 300th

Long-serving Hawthorn forward Luke Breust says his “inspirational” coach Alastair Clarkson deserves every plaudit he gets ahead of his milestone AFL match.

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Clarkson hits 300 games as coach of the Hawks at Domain Stadium on Saturday night against Fremantle.

In doing so he will take the record for most games coached at Hawthorn, overtaking legendary boss John Kennedy Snr.

Kennedy Snr oversaw the club’s first three premierships in 1961, 1971 and 1975 and was named as Hawthorn’s coach of the century.

Breust, who has played in three of Clarkson’s four winning grand finals, says his boss deserves to be feted.

“He’s been huge for this club from the day he stepped in the door back in 2004,” he said on Tuesday.

“His ability to take this group from where it was to where it is now has been inspirational.

“Any chance he gets he’s passing on his knowledge of the game … he’s been massive for this footy club and to break John Kennedy’s record speaks volumes for what he’s been able to do.”

Breust has backed Clarkson’s contentious moves in the player market and at the selection table this year, justified as necessary to grow the next generation of flag-winners at Waverley.

The Hawks rebuild has gathered pace in the past month with an away win over league leaders Adelaide and a draw with highly-fancied Greater Western Sydney.

“He has had to evolve, to take a step back and see what we’re doing and what our way forward was,” Breust said.

“(That means) getting games into those young guys and giving them the experience.

“Games like Adelaide Oval with 50,000 people, (young players have) never experienced anything like that so how do you coach them to get up and make sure they don’t get overawed?

“He’s been unreal in making sure they’re calm and collected.”

Clarkson, 49 is known for his gruff and abrasive demeanour.

Breust said it was one of his most intense moments that provided him with a favourite Clarkson memory from nine seasons at the club.

“I think it was a Geelong game when he punched the wall,” he said.

“Matt Suckling missed that inside kick and he hit Suckers up for some money to help with the plaster bill.

“Suckers told him he had enough.”