Select Page

Copper Supplies and Processing Fees in the Doldrums

As UK metal supply experts, Metalex keep a finger firmly on the pulse of our industry. This time around there’s a whole lot going on in the world of copper, and things are looking ‘interesting’… in the Chinese sense!

Copper Supplies and Processing Fees in the Doldrums

As UK metal supply experts, Metalex keep a finger firmly on the pulse of our industry. This time around there’s a whole lot going on in the world of copper, and things are looking ‘interesting’… in the Chinese sense!

Trouble in the copper sector

There’s trouble in the copper sector as copper concentrate spot processing fees slump to the lowest level since 2013. Extended shut-downs at the world’s biggest copper mines, one in Chile and the other in Indonesia, are taking their toll, and experts predict processing prices will drop even further. Smelters in India and Japan are probably going to be hit hardest and earliest. They traditionally carry low levels of inventory, and are heavily invested in supplies from the two disrupted mines.

Industrial action and export bans take their toll

The strike at BHP Billiton’s Escondida in Chile is now in its fourth week, and concentrate output there has stopped. Together with Grasberg in Indonesia, another of the world’s biggest copper mines, it accounts for almost 9% of global mined copper. Production from both mines was supposed to improve this year after a disappointing 2016, but a combination of long term industrial action at Escondida and an export ban affecting Grasberg since January this year have taken their toll. Now the Cerro Verde mine in Peru is also facing industrial action.

Plummeting smelting fees

Many smelters are suffering stock shortages, including smelters in China, India and Japan, are having to deal with fast-reducing rowing margins as their fees drop. All this means 2017’s refined copper output is under threat, which in turn is forcing the copper market into deficit. At a time when global manufacturing demand is on the cusp of a revival, copper prices are likely to rise… eventually. Luckily smelters have some room for manoeuvre. Chinese smelters tend to break even at around $55 per tonne, ten dollars less in Japan.

The big Indian smelter Vedanta Resources says it isn’t facing an impact from all this disruption yet, and has taken the threat into account. India’s other major smelter Hindalco Industries hasn’t yet made their own situation clear. Japan’s biggest smelter Pacific Copper is busy securing supplies, and Sumitomo Metal Mining said it isn’t being affected yet because it isn’t wholly dependent on Escondida and Grasberg. But it’s only a matter of time before the entire industry begins to suffer. .

At the same time the price for treatment and refining of the metal has plummeted to $70 or so per tonne and 7 cents a pound, the weakest since early spring 2013 and a dramatic fall from 2017’s term rates of $92.50 per tonne.

Are copper price hikes on the cards?

Some experts are baffled as to why the situation hasn’t already resulted in a sharp price rise. They believe it might be down to diverting some shipments and bringing others forward, as well as the fact that concentrate supplies are still looking relatively healthy. The slowdown in supply may ultimately mean refined copper is forced into a deficit through 2017, the first time it’s happened in six years. It may also drive copper prices up to $7,000 or more per tonne this year.

We sell a lot more than copper in various guises. We’re also respected aluminium stockists, brass sheet suppliers and carbon steel suppliers, plus providers of a host more metal products. If metal’s on your mind, talk to Metalex for professional support, great advice and fair prices.

Please complete the enquiry form located on this page, call +44 (0) 330 223 2653 or email us to discover how we could be supplying you with premium metal products and professional metal processing services.

The latest from the blog.

Costly copper, rejected mines, tough emissions targets, and cool aluminium research

Copper prices have soared. The Philippines has rejected plans for a massive new copper and gold mine.  Brass is proving more desirable than anyone imagined in New Zealand. There's an innovative new way of recycling aluminium on the cards. One Brazilian mining firm is...

Canada steel tariffs, copper demand soars, steel plant delays, and more

Canada has slapped a bunch of retaliatory tariffs on American aluminium products following Trump's tariffs on Canadian aluminium. Copper is set to benefit from a slew of new and innovative green energy projects. New steel plants are delayed in Canada, worldwide steel...

Metal Suppliers News – Life on Earth, 3D Steel Printing and more

Every living being on earth might have nickel sulphide to thank for its existence – including us. The US Army will soon be 3D printing super-tough steel components and weaponry. Copper is proving its worth as a powerful disinfectant. Rio Tinto and New Zealand are...

UK industry steps up to supply aluminium for medical products

Metalex Products is currently working overtime at its sites in Poole, Horsham, Birmingham, Chepstow and Milton Keynes to process orders for aluminium plate and bar billets being used in the rapid production of medical equipment.Metalex Products working overtime. As...

Metalex Aluminium Suppliers – Focus Aluminium – Predictions for 2020

Metalex products – Focus aluminium – Predictions for 2020 We all operate in a global economy these days. No company, person or country is an island, Metalex included, and global issues are having an impact in all sorts of ways, some expected and others unexpected....

Weird metals – Meet lasered lead, Gallium, Cuprates, Kagome and more.

Weird metals – Meet lasered lead, Gallium, Cuprates, Kagome and more Metals can be weird. Very weird. This time around, to welcome you to 2020, we thought we'd take a look at some of the oddest, most extraordinary metals around. Here's to an exceptional, profitable,...

Metal Supplies UK news: Trump, tariffs, ‘green’ aluminium and more

Our world is a place of dramatic highs and lows right now. As aluminium suppliers we're pleased to see the industry cleaning up its act so quickly in the face of runaway climate change. As carbon steel suppliers we're watching what's happening to the British Steel...

Focus Aluminium – How great eco-credentials are driving a bright future

Focus Aluminium – How great eco-credentials are driving a bright future for Aluminium. As aluminium stockists we're always on the look-out for news about the metals we sell. This time around we've created an aluminium special, since the metal has such good 'green'...

Brilliant Aluminium batteries, Steel slumps, nickel shortages and more

As providers of aluminium supplies it's fascinating to see exciting new developments happening in the sector. Steel is also on the move, with innovations taking place left, right and centre despite the current slump in demand. Here's the news, from our world to yours....

British Steel deal, ongoing Trade Wars, copper prices suggest a recession

British Steel deal, ongoing Trade Wars, copper prices suggest a recession.. As stainless steel suppliers in the UK, we're keeping our finger on the British Steel pulse. Ongoing trade wars are putting aluminium prices under severe pressure. And the trend is supported...

Accreditations & Associations

Aluminium Stockholders Association

Quick Enquiry

  • South East
  • South West
  • London
  • South Wales
  • North Wales
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands
  • North East
  • North West
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland