MININGNewcrest cost fearsAustralia's biggest listed gold producer has joined the list of mining companies warning that Australia has become too expensive to consider new domestic projects. Speaking in Melbourne yesterday, Newcrest Mining's managing director, Greg Robinson, said Australia was among the most expensive 25 per cent of destinations around the world in which to develop gold projects. "We love working in Australia ... [but] labour costs are very high, the currency is high and energy costs and taxation issues are making Australia's gold industry about a third or fourth quartile industry," he said.Peter KerAWB INQUIRYBreach admittedSix years after the Cole Inquiry unveiled details of how AWB paid hundreds of millions of dollars of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime, the former boss of the wheat exporter has conceded he failed in his duties. Andrew Lindberg, who quit as chief executive in early 2006, just as the Cole inquiry began, agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and, subject to court approval, will be barred from managing companies until September 15, 2014. His admissions mark the first time anyone involved in the AWB kickbacks has been formally penalised. Mr Lindberg has admitted to four breaches of section 180(1) of the Corporations Act, the provisions that require a director or officer of a company to exercise reasonable care and diligence in carrying out their duties. Implicit in the admissions is that Mr Lindberg should have been more alert when it came to watching over the corporation.Leonie WoodPROPERTYBecton stakeMelbourne's Becton Property Group, which is saddled with $200 million in debt, is fighting to boost its financial position while facing a possible raid by Mariner Corporation. Becton, formed in 1976 and with $4 billion worth of projects completed over this period, issued two statements yesterday on a report that Mariner may take a position in the company. Becton's assets are retirement villages and residential projects. Mariner could build a stake though Becton's main shareholder, Australian Capital Reserve, which is in liquidation. The liquidator, PWC, is selling that stock through Macquarie Bank. It is believed Mariner wants to buy up to 20 per cent of Becton's stapled securities.Philip Hopkins
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