copper recycling chops
A reported pledge to cut concentrates imports in China could be environment and price-related.
Photo by Brian Taylor

Copper producers in China pledge concentrates cut

Reported pledges point to either less copper produced in that nation or the use of more scrap.

May 10, 2021

A group of the 15 of the largest copper producers in China has pledged to reduce the amount of copper concentrates they import, according to a research firm in that nation.

A Reuters news item points to Beijing Antaike Information Co. Ltd. as saying the firms have jointly agreed to cut their concentrates purchases year on year by nearly 9 percent, reportedly as a way to boost treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) and create more profitable conditions.

If copper production is to remain stable in the nation that is the world’s largest producer of the metal, Chinese producers will either have to import more finished cathodes or semifinished copper (blister) or import or seek out more domestic red metal-bearing scrap.

In a research note reportedly seen by Reuters, Antaike said the agreement between the 15 smelters would result in a reduction of about 1.25 million metric tons of concentrates imported in 2021 compared with 2020, “or some 300,000 metric tons on a metal content basis.”

Major overseas concentrate suppliers to China are Chile and Peru, while it purchases scrap from the United States, Japan, and scrap surplus nations in Europe. In recent years, China also has imported scrap from nearby nations such as Malaysia and Thailand, after processors there purchase it from the scrap surplus nations and upgrade it to meet China’s high scrap purity standard.

Cutting into concentrates refining activity in China also ties into Beijing’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. As China makes a shift to a “greener” economy, however, it may require more copper, not less.