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Edited Transcript of TCK.B.TO earnings conference call or presentation 23-Apr-19 3:00pm GMT

Q1 2019 Teck Resources Ltd Earnings Call

VANCOUVER Apr 27, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Teck Resources Ltd earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Alexander Nicholas Christopher

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Exploration, Projects & Technical Services

* Andrew A. Stonkus

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Marketing & Logistics

* Andrew J. Golding

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Corporate Development

* Dale E. Andres

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Base Metals

* Donald R. Lindsay

Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director

* H. Fraser Phillips

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of IR & Strategic Analysis

* Réal Foley

Teck Resources Limited - VP of Coal Marketing

* Robin B. Sheremeta

Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Coal

* Ronald A. Millos

Teck Resources Limited - Senior VP of Finance & CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Brian MacArthur

Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - MD & Head of Mining Research

* Christopher Michael Terry

Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Curtis Rogers Woodworth

Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Analyst

* Greg Barnes

TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research

* Jackie Przybylowski

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Analyst

* Lucas Nathaniel Pipes

B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior VP & Equity Analyst

* Matthew James Korn

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Senior Metals and Mining Analyst

* Orest Wowkodaw

Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Senior Equity Research Analyst of Base Metals

* Oscar M. Cabrera

CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Scott Schier

Clarksons Platou Securities, Inc., Research Division - Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to Teck Resources' Q1 2019 Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) This conference call is being recorded on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

I would now like to turn the conference call over to Mr. Fraser Phillips, Senior Vice President Investor Relations and Strategic Analysis. Please go ahead.

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H. Fraser Phillips, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of IR & Strategic Analysis [2]

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Thanks very much, Maneesh. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for Teck's first quarter 2019 results conference call. Before we begin, I would like to draw your attention to the caution regarding forward-looking statements on Slide 2. This presentation contains forward-looking statements regarding our business. This slide describes the assumptions underlying those statements. Various risks and uncertainties may cause actual results to vary. Teck does not assume the obligation to update any forward-looking statement. I would also like to point out that we use various non-GAAP measures in this presentation. You can find explanations and reconciliations regarding these measures in the appendix. With that, I will turn the call over to Don Lindsay, our President and CEO.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thank you, Fraser, and good morning, everyone. I will begin on Slide 3 with some highlights from our first quarter results, and I will be follow by Ron Millos, our CFO, who'll provide some additional color. We will conclude with a Q&A session, where Ron and I and several additional members of our senior management team would be happy to answer any questions.

We delivered a solid operating performance in the first quarter despite some fairly challenging weather, severe winter weather which affected a number of our operations. And as a result, we have no changes to our 2019 guidance. At the same time, we achieved a number of important milestones during the quarter. We completed the QB2 partnership transaction with Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corporation, who we'll refer to collectively as Sumitomo. And upon closing, Sumitomo made a CAD 1.3 billion or USD 966 million contribution to the project and a further USD 307 million contribution is expected over the remainder of the year.

The QB2 partnering transaction and financing plan dramatically reduced our equity requirements for the project to just under $700 million, excluding escalation and with no cash required from Teck until late 2020. Work on the project financing for QB2 is progressing well, and we expect to sign a loan agreement by the end of April. Following the signing, the board will consider additional cash returns to shareholders and that's likely at the May board meeting, end of May. Also in the first quarter, we reached agreement with POSCO Canada to substantially increase the royalty that they pay on their 20% share of Greenhills coal production effective February 11.

At benchmark steelmaking coal prices of approximately USD 200 per tonne, the royalty payment will increase by around $90 million annually. The increase in revenue amounted to $13 million in the first quarter already.

We were pleased to be upgraded to investment grade by 4 agencies in the quarter. As a result, we have now canceled $1.1 billion in letters of credit. We continue to return significant cash to shareholders. We purchased $180 million of Class B shares, and we also paid $28 million in dividends in the first quarter.

Last November, the board directed management to apply $400 million to the purchase in cancellation of shares and so far $348 million has been spent to date.

Finally, we remain in a very strong financial position with approximately $9.1 billion (sic) [$8.7 billion] in liquidity, including $2.5 billion in cash, $1.3 billion of which is in Chile for the development of the QB2 project.

Turning to our financial results on Slide 4. In the first quarter, revenues were $3.1 billion and gross profit before depreciation and amortization was $1.4 billion. After adjusting for unusual items, adjusted EBITDA was $1.3 billion in the quarter and bottom line adjusted profit attributable to shareholders was $568 million or $1 a share and that would be $0.99 per share on a fully diluted basis.

Details of the quarter's earnings adjustments are on Slide 5. Primary adjustment this quarter was a $51 million gain on our debt prepayment option and other than that, it was a fairly clean quarter.

I will now run through some highlights by business units starting with steelmaking coal on Slide 6. We continue to generate significant cash flow in coal. Sales are were at the midpoint of our guidance range for the quarter that's 6.2 million tonnes, reflecting solid demand.

Steelmaking coal spot prices remain above USD 200 million per tonne. With steel pricing and world economies remaining sound, indications are that demand for steelmaking coal will continue to grow while supply issues continue to support prices. A substantial increase in the royalty paid by POSCO Canada on their 20% share of Greenhills production came into effect on February 11 and increased our first quarter revenue by around $13 million.

First quarter production was around 100,000 tonnes lower compared to the same quarter last year, significant periods of cold weather, negatively affecting the supply chain -- negatively affected the supply chain, but we saw improvement in the latter half of the quarter.

Now with Coal Mountain moving to closure, Elkview has more than offset the reduction in Coal Mountain's production to improve plant performance and the decision to utilize intersite processing capacity. Operating cost increased in the first quarter relative to Q1 2018 as anticipated, because this reflects our decision -- our deliberate decision to incur higher costs in order to capture additional margin given the current pricing environment. Looking forward, we expect second quarter sales of approximately $6.4 million to $6.6 million tonnes.

Turning to our copper business unit. Our Q1 results are summarized on Slide 7. While the copper price averaged USD 282 per pound in the quarter, essentially unchanged from the fourth quarter and down 11% from the first quarter of 2018, the price did trade above USD 3 per pound during the quarter due to a number of mine and smelter production issues.

Copper fundamentals remained strong in our view. Total reported global copper exchange stocks are now estimated to be 7.2 days of global consumption and that is below the estimated 25-year average of 11.9 days of consumption. Overall, in the first quarter, our gross profit before depreciation and amortization in copper decreased by $132 million compared with a year ago and that's primarily due to lower commodity prices. Copper production was down modestly compared with a year ago, primarily due to lower copper ore grades at Carmen de Andacollo and Highland Valley, which was anticipated in their respective mind plans.

Our total cash cost before byproduct credits in the first quarter were USD 1.85 per pound and that's 9% higher than the same period a year ago, primarily due to the effect of lower production volumes. Lower zinc sales volumes and prices combined with significantly lower moly sales resulted in reduced byproduct credits. And as a result, cash cost after by-product credits of USD 1.55 per pound the first quarter were higher than the $1.15 we achieved in the first quarter of last year.

Looking forward though, copper grades at Highland Valley are expected to gradually improve through the remainder of 2019. The installation of the additional ball mill at Highland Valley is progressing ahead of schedule and under budget, and we expect start up in Q2. And at QB2, we continued to ramp up field activities and award major contracts. Earthworks activities are fully underway, utilizing the existing mind fleet and third-party contractors. Engineering, contracting and procurement activities are currently 85%, 91% and 82% complete, respectively.

Our zinc business units' results are summarized on Slide 8. As a reminder, Antamina zinc related financial results are reported in our copper business unit. Zinc market remains very tight. Zinc prices increased steadily throughout the quarter as LME inventories continue to be drawn down to historically low levels. Reported zinc stocks held on the LME and the Shanghai exchanges are now estimated at just 4.1 days of global consumption and that is well below the 25-year average of 22.3 days. Once again, 4.1 days of global consumption versus the 25-year average of 22.3 days. That's a tight market. Overall, in the first quarter, our gross profit before depreciation and amortization in zinc decreased by $91 million compared with a year ago due primarily to lower zinc prices. At Red Dog, very severe winter weather closed the port road, which impacted production.

A production recovery plan is in place, and we expect to make it up in the remainder of the year. Sales were unaffected and came in above our guidance range at 131,000 tonnes. On the cost side, our net cash unit cost of minded zinc was down USD 0.11 per pound from Q1 2018, primarily due to historically low treatment and refining charges. But what goes around comes around as you will see, as we get to trail where profited trail operations improved from Q4 2018, the results were negatively affected by end plan maintenance. Zinc treatment charges have recently increased and are expected to have a positive impact on trail operations in the second half of 2019. The construction of the number 2 asset plant at trail was completed, under budget and ahead of schedule.

Commissioning and ramp up is in progress right now. Looking forward, we expect Red Dog contained zinc sales of $80,000 to $85,000 in Q2 and that reflects the normal seasonal pattern due to the shipping season.

Our energy business unit results are summarized on Slide 9. There was a significant narrowing of Canadian heavy blend differentials for Western Canadian Select and an increase in global benchmark in coal prices compared to Q4 in 2018. This is reflected in our higher average realized price of USD 42.12 per barrel of blended bitumen. Overall, gross profit before depreciation and amortization from our energy business unit was positive at $22 million. And this is despite being affected by lower production, due primarily to the government of Alberta's curtailments that came into effect on January 1, 2019.

Fort Hills production was lower than designed capacity due to the production limits imposed by the government of Alberta and also due to unplanned maintenance. Our share of bitumen production was 30,878 barrels per day, which was within our guidance range of 30,000 to 32,000 barrels per day for Q1.

Operating costs at CAD 29.42 per barrel of bitumen in Q1, were also affected by the lower production.

With the extension of the government of Alberta production curtailments through June, we expect our share of bitumen production in the second quarter to be in the range of 30,000 to 32,000 barrels per day. With the lower production, we expect second quarter unit operating costs to be similar to the first quarter of this year and to remain within our original guidance range of CAD 26 to CAD 29 per barrel of bitumen for the year. For the full year, there is no change to our guidance. Though, with the extension of the curtailments, we now expect to be in the mid- to low end of our annual production guidance range of 12 million to 14 million barrels of bitumen. And with that, I'll pass it over to Ron Millos for some comments on our financial results.

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Ronald A. Millos, Teck Resources Limited - Senior VP of Finance & CFO [4]

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Thanks, Don. I'll start with the summary of changes in our cash balance on Slide 10 here. So as Don mentioned on the closing of the partnering transaction, Sumitomo contributed USD 966 million or CAD 1.3 billion to the QB2 project and that appears in 2 lines on the cash flow statement as it advances from the 2 Sumis and equity contributions. And note that, as Don mentioned, they're expected to contribute a further USD 307 million over the remainder of 2019. We generated $520 million of cash flow from operations, and we spent $482 million on capital projects and capitalized stripping costs were $199 million.

We've returned $208 million to shareholders through buying back $180 million of Class B shares and paying $28 million by way of our quarterly $0.05 base dividend.

We paid $110 million in interest and financing charges and $31 million to repay lease liabilities, and this includes the impact of the adoption of the new accounting rule IFRS 16, which we adopted effective January 1. And that resulted in approximately $347 million of additional lease liabilities being recorded on our balance sheet.

Further information on the impact of the new rule is available on our MD&A and in note 15 to the financial statements. And after these and other minor items, we ended the quarter with cash and short-term investments of about $2.4 billion and our current cash balance is now approximately $2.5 billion.

Turning to the summary of our financial position on Slide 11. We continue to generate strong operating cash flow. Our liquidity is currently $8.7 billion, Don mentioned $9.1 billion and that was a mistake, it is $8.7 billion in liquidity. And that includes $2.5 billion in cash of which $1.3 billion is in Chile for the development of the QB2 project. QB2 partnering transaction and financing plan dramatically reduces our equity requirements on the project to just USD 693 million that excludes escalation, and no cash is required from Teck until late 2020. We are progressing the project financing for QB2 and expect to sign the loan agreement later this quarter. We have no significant debt maturities prior to 2024 and of course, we're pleased to be upgraded to investment grade by 4 agencies in the first quarter. And as a result, we've canceled $1.1 billion in letters of credit that were providing security for our power purchase agreements in Chile and the transportation agreements at Fort Hills. And I'll now turn the call back over to Don for closing comments.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Thanks, Ron. Before we wrap up, I would like to revisit the theme that I talked about at our recent Investor and Analyst Day. And that was the 2018, was truly a transformational year for Teck and the transformation has continued into 2019. We achieved significant major milestones, and we now find ourselves on incredibly solid foundation to build for the future.

We have a number of valued catalysts that we're poised to execute on, including potential additional cash returns to shareholders, possible further reductions in our notes outstanding, growth certainly through QB2, which is already in construction and even more so further down the road with QB3. We've got value creation coming from Project Satellite and all throughout transformation through our RACE21 program and innovation across the company. So overall, we believe, Teck is well positioned to take advantage of the many opportunities that we already have on our plate and generate compelling value for shareholders.

And with that, we'd be happy to answer your questions. And I should say that some of our management team members are calling in from different locations, so there may be a brief pause when you ask a question as we sort out who's going to be answering. Thank you, back to you, operator.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) And we have a question from Matthew Korn of Goldman Sachs.

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Matthew James Korn, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Senior Metals and Mining Analyst [2]

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I wanted to ask on MacKenzie Redcap. You've been very clear on your view now for last several quarters on through cycle coal pricing in the end markets. And from the Analyst Day, you've got a good grasp on this project, there is a low CapEx, higher OpEx operation. Just right now, what are you buttoning up when it comes to go ahead? What are the remaining variables for you in getting this done and decided upon over the next couple of months?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Well, it's a decision that will be discussed at the board over the next couple of days, and we may take longer to make the decision. It's -- there's equally balanced arguments for and against, so it's quite interesting. It's not that big a decision in terms of total capital, but it is a higher cost operation and so we're very conscious of that. You could think of it almost as a swing producer. It's certainly a product that our marketing people would really like to have as part of the overall portfolio. There's key customers who have a strong interest in the product and have had for years. But balancing that is just more coal on the market overall and the higher cost. So we'll discuss it thoroughly and see where we get to, but I couldn't signal one way or the other on this decision and not sure that it'll happen -- not sure exactly when it'll happen other than probably in this quarter either at this meeting or the next meeting.

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Matthew James Korn, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Senior Metals and Mining Analyst [4]

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Right. Got it. Let me circle over to copper. Now you were all at CESCO I think earlier this past -- this month. Now how would you characterize the tone and the messaging on the copper market as you heard from the other corporates this time around? And was bullishness still pronounced from everything that we've seen, the tighter market disruptions and the better data out of China? And was there any more enthusiasm that you saw for new project development relative to -- to the last few years? I'm interested in your take there.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Yes. No, it's a good question. I would say that there was a group that was trying to make the case that the copper market may be balanced for longer and not enter the structural deficit that many have been calling forth for some time. But that case was not really being well accepted by most. Most were looking for copper projects that they'd love to be able to get their hands on because we have quite a long list as you may know. We had a lot of approaches, most people don't have anything developed. I mean we seek QB2 and [get it back] under development but even those take to 2021, 2022 or longer in some cases to come into production. So -- and then balancing the background in China, where I think you're seeing a more positive tone. The looser monetary policy and the stimulus, usually there's a lag effect of 8 months or so before it starts to gain traction, so looks like it's gaining traction like Redwood now there's a more positive tone between China and the U.S. So we think the outlook for the next 6 to 12 months is probably as positive as it has been for some time when it comes to copper. In the end, though, it'd be really into 2020 before the structural deficit starts to really get some traction, and we're looking forward to that because QB2 will be timed fairly well for that.

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Operator [6]

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(Operator Instructions) We'll now take our next question from Curt Woodworth of Crédit Suisse.

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Curtis Rogers Woodworth, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Analyst [7]

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First question is just around portfolio optimization, specifically around your copper assets. When you look at -- the success you had at QB2 as well as other copper transactions, it seems to suggest that the private market is willing to pay much higher NAV value relative to where the public equity markets are. So given you've got QB2, QB3 and the mix, has that altered sort of your plan around Project Satellite? Or if you could speak to potential monetization strategy around that would be helpful?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [8]

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Right. Okay. No, good question. It's something we spent a fair bit of time on at the Analyst Day. So QB3 has become our best project just to -- the capital efficiency that is associated with that and building that after QB2 and that moved all the other projects, and we have 8 in total down a notch, if you like, and gave us a lot more flexibility on what we might do with them in terms of either realizing value actually sell for cash or bringing on a partner and letting them do it or what we might do. The first 2 coming up are Zafranal, whose feasibility study is finished about now and then San Nicolás at the end of the year, the pre-feasibility study. I should say that NU -- NuevaUnión's feasibility study is also finished in the second half of this year. So we have 3 that are in the near term of a lot of interest to -- 2 that interest to other partners. NU, of course, we continue on with [Nueva] Goldcorp. And so what we do with those 2, it really depends. We're in no rush, it's not as if we need any cash. As you heard, we have $8.7 billion in liquidity and no debt due this year and no debt due next year, only $100 million due in 2021. No equity obligations in QB2 either. So we're financially extremely strong. But it is a logical time for us to start discussions on those projects. So we've had approaches, and we've sort of started a quiet dialogue as to what might be possible. But we're in no rush and people shouldn't be sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for an announcement. But the NPVs of these things add up to some pretty decent numbers. So sometimes during their course, maybe in the latter part of this year or early next year, we'd likely enter into some transaction on one or both of those 2. That's our thinking at the moment but there's no particular timetable for it.

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Curtis Rogers Woodworth, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Analyst [9]

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That makes a lot of sense. And just a follow up, with regards to the coking coal market. The China import data has been extremely strong year-to-date. The March data was up 53%, I think that came out this morning. So there's been a lot of sort of speculation around what's going on in China with respect to port clearance and issues around taking Australian coal. Can you just speak to what you see kind of on the ground right now in China? Are you being impacted by that by any measure? And then I guess, is the feedback you're getting from the Indian customers, who've just come in to take I guess majority share relative to China, do you see that continuing this year as well?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [10]

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Yes. I'll make a quick comment then I'll turn it over to Réal Foley for further detail. It's quite interesting situation in the coal market. So I mean the average price for the last 11 years is $197. We're holding very nicely and steadily. It's -- the volatility has reduced dramatically. The transparency in the market because of the change in pricing mechanism a while back is really helping to provide stability. And then globally, we're seeing good growth in steel production. And then China as I said, the effective loosening monetary policy and stimulus is only gaining traction now. So we see a very good outlook for the next 6 to 12 months from that part of the market. India remains very strong. The numbers last year were really quite extraordinary. So we see quite a positive environment. Add to all this is, capital is clearly being rationed to coal and likely will be for the foreseeable future. So additional supply will be few and far between kind of thing. So we see a very good environment. Now on the specifics of ports and so on, over to you Réal.

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Réal Foley, Teck Resources Limited - VP of Coal Marketing [11]

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All right. Thanks, Don. So the first point I guess about China is, we've reduced our exposure to China a lot. If you go back to the peak in 2013, we were selling close to 8 million tonnes of our production into China. Last year, we sold less than 3 million tonnes and actually India became a bigger market for Teck with our sales exceeding 4 million tonnes. So that was the first time in 2018 that India surpassed China. To the question about the port restrictions, there is no official policy that we're aware of in China, but what we've seen reported in the media is the fact that Australian imports particularly are being targeted with longer delays at ports and those longer delays which started in the North have spread through the Southern port. So it seems that Australian imports are impacted. We saw -- we don't have the breakdown per country yet and per coal quality yet, those usually come out a little bit later in the month. But what we saw to the end of February, February imports from Australia were down around 25%, but year-to-date at the end of February, they were up by about 25%. So the bottom line is, China actually needs some higher grade hard coking coal from the seaborne market. Over 2/3 of the steel production in China is located on the coast to have access to high grade hard coking coal from the seaborne market. And we see those larger steel mills continuing to rely on seaborne imports -- seaborne imports of high grade, hard coking coal for the foreseeable future, as their own domestic reserves are depleting. And year-to-date, domestic raw coal production in China, including thermal and met coal is down over 10%.

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Operator [12]

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And we now have a question from Greg Barnes of TD Securities.

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Greg Barnes, TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research [13]

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I was just wondering what happened to the POSCO royalty when it has to be reset, again, I guess at December 31, '22?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [14]

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We'll have a discussion with POSCO at that time and it'll reflect market conditions and hard to predict what conditions will be like at that time. But it will be either at the same kind of dialogue we had this time. I mean if you think about it, effectively, what's happened is, we now have the economics of about another 1 million tonnes of coal added to our business without having to lay out any capital to build or purchase that scope of production. So it's pretty exciting news for our coal division for sure. At the end of the day, Teck owns the coal so that's a very valuable asset for us. And we'll have a discussion with POSCO as to what arrangements they might want to have.

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Greg Barnes, TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research [15]

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Does it reset every 3 years then? Is that how the mechanics work?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [16]

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No. Andrew, go ahead.

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Andrew J. Golding, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Corporate Development [17]

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It's Andrew Golding here. Not from 2022 onwards. It -- we're in the middle of a 10 year extension period at the moment, where there was a negotiation after 3 years, one that's just finished is after 6 years. And as Don just alluded to the next one comes in 2022. After that, it is to be agreed between us.

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Greg Barnes, TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research [18]

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Agreed between you when it resets again?

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Andrew J. Golding, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Corporate Development [19]

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I'm sorry, I missed that, Greg?

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Greg Barnes, TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research [20]

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So after 2022, you renegotiate the deal again or its...

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Andrew J. Golding, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Corporate Development [21]

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That's correct. Yes.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [22]

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If they offer -- you know, they're a large customer, very important customer. If they offer us a deal that we think is suitable, then we'll do another deal. Otherwise, we'll just keep the coal and it becomes ours.

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Greg Barnes, TD Securities Equity Research - MD and Head of Mining Research [23]

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Oh, I see. Okay. Okay. Got you. And just Don, can you talk a little bit again about MacKenzie Redcap? Obviously, it is a higher OpEx, operational. What kind of OpEx range are we talking about, because it's a swing producer?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [24]

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We haven't disclosed those numbers at this stage, Greg. And so I think once we've made the decision, then we'll give you a lot more detail. I wouldn't want too much focus to be on MacKenzie Redcap because it's in the grand scheme of things, it's not that much capital. It's just a fraction of our just annual sustaining capital and that just a -- it's more about looking at the big picture. And you hear a lot of people talk about value over volume and you've heard me over the years repeat again and again that we always make more money on price than volume. And so it's kind of looking at all of those kind of factors. And then we look at other things like logistics, imports and capacity, balancing, those kind of things, longer-term sustainability factors perhaps. I mean, there's so many factors that go into such a decision. It's very easy to make a case one direction or the other. And so this is one that's right on the bubble. I'm pretty convinced that if we go ahead with it, that it'll make a lot of money because I'm pretty convinced that the coal price is going to stay in this range that I've been talking about because it has for 11 years. So I think it would be very economic. But I also know that whether it'd be you Greg or any of the other analysts on the line have much lower coal prices that you're going to analyze it on and come to a different conclusion. And we won't know who is right till the end of 8 years. So there in lies part of the dilemma is that, if everybody used the 11-year average coal price on MacKenzie Redcap, you'd all be rushing to make sure we put this into production. But unfortunately, you don't, so we're going to consider it very, very carefully.

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Operator [25]

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And we now have a question from Chris Terry of Deutsche Bank.

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Christopher Michael Terry, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [26]

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Don and team, couple of questions from me. I just want to extend a little bit on the earlier question around the different projects in your portfolio. I understand that you want to take time and evaluate the best decisions on those but from a share price perspective, what do you think the market's looking for? Is it asset sales or some of those Project Satellite opportunities? Or do you think JVs and putting firmer, I guess, numbers around some of the projects will hopefully result in that being recognized in the share price? And then specifically on Quintette, I appreciate the comments on MacKenzie Redcap and that ones, the one that you're immediately looking at. I know Quintette's further down the line. Would you ever look to sell that project? Or is it not one that's in line purely because somebody else could then develop it and it may then impact the coal price? Just interested in your thoughts on that.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [27]

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Well, doing the second one first. I think you almost answered your own question in a sense. But yes, that is part of the things that we think about when we look at Quintette. There's no plans for Quintette in the near term. It is a more economic project that some of the others we see people proposing. But we'll watch to see whether some of these other projects actually ever do get up and running, some of them won't even though they make a good case and they're good promoters. So that's probably the answer on Quintette. On the copper projects, I'm not sure there's much more to say than what I said already. Is that, we clearly have added a lot of value since we launched Project Satellite, is it almost 3 years I guess, and moving them from resource to reserve, to scoping study, to prefeasibility study, to feasibility study, each one of those takes it up a step in value. And we're at the stage where parties have expressed interest. There are 2 that are developable and could be in production by 2023. We don't want to distract ourselves from our QB2 and QB3 focus that we just want to be absolutely totally focused on executing those cleanly. So we would consider a transaction with another company where their people and their money developed it and maybe we'd keep a carried interest or joint venture interest or maybe we just sell outright. But as I said with $8.7 billion in liquidity and no debt due this year or next year and no equity contribution required at QB2 for quite some time, like, we're in no rush. So -- and particularly, if you believe as we do that, the copper market is likely to improve in 2020 and 2021, and we think we'll have a real structural deficit and probably some pretty high copper prices that might be a better time to engage in any transaction at that stage because people will be that much more enthusiastic to get their hands on a project. So we're in a very good position, we'll take our time but continue to add value and listen to the proposals. We aren't running a formal process at this stage, though, we could, though, not in the next few months. Well, but we could within this year. So we've highlighted that we have this resource rich situation and we're going to convert it to value. But we can't give you a schedule because we don't see a need to rush this.

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Christopher Michael Terry, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [28]

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Okay. And then just on Antamina. Just wondering if you can give some more color on the timeline of the potential expansion and just some details around that?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [29]

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Dale Andres?

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Dale E. Andres, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Base Metals [30]

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Yes. Thanks, Chris. We're currently undertaking debottlenecking studies. Wouldn't want to put any time frame to it now. There's lots of resources as we know. And it's looking at things like our infrastructure and our tailings capacity and things like that longer term. What we are doing through the debottlenecking study is looking at just kind of 15% to 20% throughput improvement. And we know we have resources that will go for decades. So it's more just undertaking those studies over the next, I would say, 18 months to 24 months, and we'll hear more as we progress.

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Operator [31]

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We have our next question from Orest Wowkodaw of Scotiabank.

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Orest Wowkodaw, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Senior Equity Research Analyst of Base Metals [32]

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I just wanted to talk about, a little bit about the water treatment in the Elk Valley. You disclosed that you're going to push off building the Elkview active water treatment plant in hopes of building a saturated rock fill plant. I'm just curious, you must be pretty confident with your negotiations, I guess, with the government. But how long do you -- how long can you wait on this before you need an approval and then have to revert back if -- can you just indefinitely wait?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [33]

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Yes. Let me say, we are pleased with the progress as you've outlined. And I'll turn it over to Rob and to give further detail.

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Robin B. Sheremeta, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Coal [34]

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Yes. It's -- I'll give you some of the pieces that just have just to fall in play. It's really just going through a process right now. So there isn't anything that's interfering with our ability to advance the SRF being built out to 20 million liters of water a day at Elkview now. So -- and that's really just an expansion of what's currently running at 10 million liters of water a day. So that process is simply a matter of working through with the government, the regulators, the [KNC] in terms of how to put that permit in place. So that's why, as we work through this, we expect to have formal approval within this quarter -- second quarter. [So I'm not sure]...

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Orest Wowkodaw, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Senior Equity Research Analyst of Base Metals [35]

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So, and if -- if your approval takes longer -- okay.

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Robin B. Sheremeta, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Coal [36]

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Go ahead and ask your other part.

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Orest Wowkodaw, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Senior Equity Research Analyst of Base Metals [37]

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I'm just curious, what if the approval takes longer with respect to getting the sign off. Can you indefinitely defer the active water treatment plant?

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Robin B. Sheremeta, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Coal [38]

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We can at this stage. When we talk about what if it takes longer, if it took into Q3 say, it would not interfere with the plan to continue to advance the SRF. That plan is pretty much locked in at this stage. It would be a considerable amount of time down the road before we would have to look at an alternative. We don't anticipate that's in the cards.

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Orest Wowkodaw, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Senior Equity Research Analyst of Base Metals [39]

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Okay. Perfect. And then just finally on the MacKenzie Redcap. At the Investor Day, you talked about the $140 million of CapEx that's already embedded in the 2019 guidance. Is there any incremental development CapEx beyond this year? Or is that the whole project?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [40]

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We should clarify that $140 million was in the budget but not in the guidance just to distinguish between the 2. And I think I'll go back to the same answer I gave before that once the decision on MacKenzie Redcap has been made, we'll give you all the details if we're going forward or if we're not going forward that would be I guess, easier in your models. But we don't have additional information to give you for your models at this stage. So we'll wait for the board decision.

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Operator [41]

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We'll take our next question from Oscar Cabrera from CIBC.

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Oscar M. Cabrera, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Research Analyst [42]

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Don, the next thing in coal and your products. We had a discount of about 11.4% to the benchmark. So I would have expected this to be a little bit lower because Coal Mountain is not in production or the sales are much lower now. So I was wondering if you can help us understand what is making that discount go above 10%? Is it the spot sales? Or is there anything in terms of quality of coal we should be taking into consideration here?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [43]

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So just before I turn it over to Réal for this one. As you may recall, I've been trying to move the market away from looking at these percents and getting people to look at the individual prices that are published in the trade journals for high quality, hard coking coal or semi-hard or semi-soft and see how those spreads work. Because that's public information, the market that we think people can follow rather than just calculating a percent, that's why we don't publish the percent anymore. And then of course, there's changes quarter-to-quarter in mine plans depending upon where you are in that particularly mine plan and then particularly if you're opening up a new pit, as before you get into the main coal seams, you can have some variation, but -- Réal, how about further detail from you.

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Réal Foley, Teck Resources Limited - VP of Coal Marketing [44]

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Yes. Thanks, Don. So Oscar -- I guess, our focus is really on margins, the earnings and the cash flow that the coal business units is generating. And at the current prices, as Don said, that's pretty sizable. And then we've mentioned before that the difference between our average realized price and the quarterly index is a function of a number of factors including the price spreads between the various qualities of coking coal, our product mix and also the timing of the sales amongst other factors. For instance, if you look today at the price spread for the quarter-to-date lagged by a month, you'll see that the FOB average of these indexes is around $208 for the high-grade, hard coking coal and it's around $179 for the semihard. So that's a $30 gap more or less compared to around a $10 spread, historically. So that will have an impact on what we're selling. And like Don said, it's also important to keep in mind that our realized price versus a quarterly price has been quite volatile. So if you go back to Q2 2010 to-date, our realized prices ranged from a high of 104% to a low of 75%. So this is a big difference and with 89% we're around what we would expect for realized price.

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Oscar M. Cabrera, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Research Analyst [45]

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Okay. No that's helpful, Réal. And Don, I appreciate the -- you cannot encapsule everything in one number. But are you going to start disclosing then what the quality of the coal that you're selling is?

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Réal Foley, Teck Resources Limited - VP of Coal Marketing [46]

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So what we've indicated before, Oscar, is that around 75% of our coal is high-quality, hard coking coal, long term, that hasn't changed. But again, as Don mentioned, from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year, depending on where we mine in our various operations, we might get slightly different ratio of high-grade, hard coking coal compared to semihard, semisoft products.

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Oscar M. Cabrera, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Research Analyst [47]

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Réal, then if I may, on your zinc business, there was a comment during your introductory remarks about treatment charges and how this affects trail positively on the second half of the year. I was wondering if you can comment on results from the negotiations for this year. I understand it's about $100 a tonne more in treatment charges. And how that then impacts the concentrate that you're selling into the market as well. Is it also an impact for the second half of this year?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [48]

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I think I'll save Andrew Stonkus the trouble and just say that we can't comment on those negotiations. Sorry, Oscar. That's just the nature of the beast here. And I would observe that while there's intense focus on 89% or 91% present realization, when you then put that on your model and you're using $125 coal price, which is $80 below the market, that might be a little bit more material Oscar in your model, and I would encourage you to think about that.

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Operator [49]

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We'll take our next question from Scott Schier from Clarksons.

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Scott Schier, Clarksons Platou Securities, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [50]

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On coal, guidance suggests a decent step up in production next quarter. Just for modeling purposes, is this a trend that we can assume will continue throughout the year? And can we expect to see a similar improvement in cost as well? Or just how would you like to think -- us to think of all the moving pieces?

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Ronald A. Millos, Teck Resources Limited - Senior VP of Finance & CFO [51]

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Generally, I think, you just refer to the guidance of 26% to 26.5%, we're going to be somewhere in that range. And it's going to vary from quarter-to-quarter. Same thing with cost, we're still confident in our cost guidance of 62% to 65%. So we've got -- there is a number of factors that enter into the year, so you'll see some of the plant shutdowns occurring through the middle of the year towards the later part. And that's going to affect things in short runs. But generally, we're on guidance at this stage.

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Scott Schier, Clarksons Platou Securities, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [52]

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Okay. Great. And then just as a quick follow-up more broadly. Are there any other commodities or projects out there that look attractive to you at this stage that you'd consider adding to your portfolio?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [53]

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Short answer is no. We're all in focus on QB2 and that's where our focus is right now.

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Operator [54]

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We have our next question from Lucas Pipes from B. Riley FBR.

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Lucas Nathaniel Pipes, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior VP & Equity Analyst [55]

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I wanted to first ask a little bit about kind of the -- your current transportation logistics options. So with Neptune coming on, how will that change? And then specifically, what amount of tonnage are you currently shipping through Ridley, and how does -- how that -- how will that may change as you bring on MacKenzie Redcap?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [56]

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Okay. Some of the answers to that, Lucas, unfortunately are commercially sensitive, so we can't give you too much detail. The one thing we certainly can tell you is that there will be more coal going through Neptune quite a bit more. And I'm not sure, I'm looking at Andrew Stonkus, is there anything else we can disclose at this stage? I'm not sure that there is.

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Andrew A. Stonkus, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Marketing & Logistics [57]

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No. I think what we're looking for is optionality and in particular come to market when we need to get it to the market and we're going to achieve that.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [58]

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Yes. You can assume that we put an awful lot of time into thinking through the port issue very carefully as to how much capacity will be used and where and at what cost. And we're quite excited about the end result that we will have in 2021. Neptune will be ready a good 5 months in advance of that too. So looking good, but that's all we can tell you for now.

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Lucas Nathaniel Pipes, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior VP & Equity Analyst [59]

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No, currently not possible to disclose the volumes that go through Ridley?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [60]

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I guess what did we disclose last year? We can look backwards.

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Andrew A. Stonkus, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Marketing & Logistics [61]

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Yes. Well, we have released one of our core port logistics change. So we put approximately 3 million tonnes through that facility currently in addition to what we put through Westshore Neptune already. And we also have these balanced shipments as well. So when you look at our logistics chain, we have multiple ways of getting our coal to the marketplace.

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Lucas Nathaniel Pipes, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior VP & Equity Analyst [62]

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And if MacKenzie were to come online the most logical option would be replaced on the distance perspective?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [63]

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Yes. Yes, that's right.

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Lucas Nathaniel Pipes, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior VP & Equity Analyst [64]

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That's very helpful. And then I wanted to switch topics to capital allocation. This came up during the Analyst Day and I believe the response at the time was that you're looking at a couple of options including debt reduction. And -- so I wanted to ask the question again and maybe with a slightly different emphasis. And what is your preference in terms of capital allocation? If you could rank it from here on out with the cash flows you're going to generate over the course of the year that would be very much appreciated?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [65]

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I'm not sure that the word preference would apply. We're looking at the 8.5% coupon 2024 bonds or USD 600 million where we have the option to redeem those. And clearly, there's very strong economic incentive to do so when you have a huge cash balance as we do that's earning not very much in these days of low interest rates. And that -- so that's sort of looked at in its own rate. And then we have told the market that as a result of the transaction on QB2 where we feel we've got good value and the market seems to agree that the board would consider once the project financing is signed an additional return of capital to shareholders and that's still the case and likely to be determined at the board meeting at the end of May. So that's -- it's not an either/or situation, we're looking at both. And then going forward, it's all hands on deck on QB2, just total focus on that. And if we continue to generate kind of cash that we are, then the next point which we look at what to do would be normally the November board meeting. I suppose, it could stretch out to the February board meeting. But continue to look at it at each board meeting what the cash needs are versus the cash being generated. And in this environment, which we think is pretty stable. I mean we've got more positive tone between the U.S. and China as well on top of what's going on with the Chinese economy and demand in India. So this looks to be pretty good environment. So I would expect the board will continue to look at returning capital to shareholders.

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Operator [66]

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We will now take our next question from Brian MacArthur from Raymond James.

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Brian MacArthur, Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - MD & Head of Mining Research [67]

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I was wondering if you just remind me how you actually account for the POSCO royalty. I mean I think it's 1 million tonnes that you get at Greenhills there. Those all brought through as all revenues, cost, et cetera and you just gross up the realized price for the revenue? Or how do you actually account for that in the overall coal division?

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Ronald A. Millos, Teck Resources Limited - Senior VP of Finance & CFO [68]

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Brian, it just goes into revenue.

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Brian MacArthur, Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - MD & Head of Mining Research [69]

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But -- so it's just an additional revenue. So if I think of it if you're getting $100 million extra at these prices that's kind of like $4 a tonne over the 27 million tonnes, is kind of what you're getting basically?

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Ronald A. Millos, Teck Resources Limited - Senior VP of Finance & CFO [70]

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Yes.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [71]

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And no cost.

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Brian MacArthur, Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - MD & Head of Mining Research [72]

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Okay. So that's impacting your realized price as we go forward. Is that a linear function? Is it an NSR-type thing? So I know Don you mentioned, we tend to use lower prices. Is it a linear function, or is it step function or -- because obviously that's going to make a difference on the realized price everybody is trying to calculate as well too.

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H. Fraser Phillips, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of IR & Strategic Analysis [73]

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Brian, this is Fraser. I'll confirm for that. But I do not believe that the royalty is included when we -- it's included in revenue, but it's not included for the calculation of a realized price, just to be clear.

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Operator [74]

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And we'll take our question now from Jackie Przybylowski from BMO.

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Jackie Przybylowski, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Analyst [75]

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I just wanted to get a little bit more color from you guys on QB2 if I can. Can you tell us like what metrics or news flow we may expect to hear from QB2 this year besides the financing that you've achieved already?

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [76]

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Just one second, who wants it, Dale or Alex, who wants to...

Alex Christopher is going to answer that one, Jackie.

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Alexander Nicholas Christopher, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of Exploration, Projects & Technical Services [77]

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Yes. So, thanks, Jackie. I guess in terms of news flow, right now we're -- as we stated in our investment day, we're presently in the field with our mass earthworks getting ready for our major vertical construction package to get in place. To-date, we've been reporting on our progress with respect to things like our engineering, procurement and contracting. But as we get those major packages into place would we expect to be reporting in terms of our major milestones and accomplishments with respect to that as well as with respect to our financial progress against our budget.

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H. Fraser Phillips, Teck Resources Limited - SVP of IR & Strategic Analysis [78]

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Operator, I think we have time for one more question.

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Operator [79]

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It appears there are no further questions at this time. Mr. Fraser Phillips, I'd like to turn the conference back to you for any additional or closing remarks.

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Donald R. Lindsay, Teck Resources Limited - President, CEO & Director [80]

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Well, maybe I'll take that. But thank you all for joining us this morning. We're very pleased with where we stand as a company. Very strong foundation to continue to focus on the priorities and realize on some of these catalyst or evaluation milestones that are coming throughout the year. And we look forward to speaking to you again next in July. Thanks very much all.

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Operator [81]

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This concludes today's call. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.