Metal supply woes – covid, supply chains, protests, war and more.
Metal supply woes – covid, supply chains, protests, war and more
Need 6061 aluminium UK? In the market for 6082 aluminium round bar? The world of metal supply is looking particularly turbulent at the moment thanks to Russia’s war on Ukraine, the need to deal with climate change, the global cost of living crisis, ongoing worldwide covid-led supply chain issues, and protests at processing plants and mines. Here’s the news from the team at Metalex.
Mariupol’s Azovstal Iron and Steel Works spared – but US steel will suffer
In Ukraine Mariupol’s Azovstal Iron and Steel Works has become a battleground. Once the source of 4 million tons of crude steel every year, the plant and its network of underground tunnels are sheltering thousands of Ukrainian fighters plus as many as a thousand ordinary people. As we write, Vladimir Putin has just ordered his fighters to cancel plans to storm the plant. Instead they’re going to blockade it.
The resulting disruption in the steel supply will affect everything from the auto industry to inflation rates. It could even have a big impact on the fast-growing US renewable energy scene, which is already suffering because of serious supply chain problems.
Rio Tinto warns about problems on the horizon
Rio Tinto says runaway inflation, covid lockdowns in China and Russia’s war on Ukraine could affect its profits. The firm achieved lower than usual iron ore shipments in the first quarter of 2022. At the same time supply chain issues and labour shortages have affected their efforts to increase operations in Pilbara, Western Australia, from January to March 2022.
Russian metals group EN+ says things are looking dire
The Russian London-listed metals group EN+ says difficult trading conditions lie ahead, along with soaring financing costs. The company is having to fund itself in Roubles, the currency has plummeted, and future investment projects may have to be shelved. It is already stopping production at its Nikolaev aluminium smelter in southern Ukraine.
Peru’s Las Bambas copper mine in suspends operations
The Chinese mining firm MMG says it is suspending operations at its Las Bambas mine in southern Peru because of ‘safety concerns’ brought about by protests. Local people have entered the property to demand higher financial contributions, and negotiations are being planned. The mine, one of Peru’s biggest, produces 2% of the world’s copper supply.
Covid sick days and social unrest hit BHP copper and nickel output
Time off for workers with covid plus general social unrest in Chile mean BHP’s copper and nickel output has fallen sharply. The labour shortages are predicted to affect the rest of 2022. They saw declines in copper production in 2020/21 too, again thanks to serious covid outbreaks at the plant and the social issues Chile has been suffering for some time.
BHP says repairs to its South Australian mines are also to blame for the reduced output. Nickel production in Western Australia has plummeted 13%, also because of coronavirus absenteeism and labour shortages.
On the bright side the company’s iron ore output has remained steady in the nine months to the end of March 2022. And that means it’s in better shape than the giant Rio Tinto, whose iron ore output fell by 8% in the first quarter of this year because of covid-led labour shortages and supply chain problems.
Novelis’ new continuous annealing line
Novelis, the world leader in aluminium rolling and recycling, says it’s investing over thirty million US dollars in a new continuous annealing line at Plettenberg-Ohle in Germany. This’ll double its capacity for aluminium used to make coffee capsules, a fast-growing market. Many coffee brands prefer aluminium to plastic and the metal is also perfect for the circular economy, being infinitely recyclable.
3D printing revolutionises the aluminium wires market
3D printing is the latest trend in the aluminium wires market. The tech uses scrap metal to print all sorts of cool aluminium products. Take the Belgian firm ValCUN, which harnesses molten metal deposition (MMD) to first melt the metal, then heat it with plasma, then deposit it. The process apparently uses less heat and energy compared to heating an entire chamber.
Global supply chain problems for aluminium
New research reveals global aluminium supply chains might be at risk in China. An analysis by Horizon Advisory says eight major Xinjiang-based aluminium producers, together making around 17% of the country’s total output, may be involved in ‘state-sponsored transfer of labour’.
China says these programmes take people out of poverty and encourage economic development. Others say they are probably a kind of forced labour, detaining Uyghur Muslims and making them work in Chinese factories far from their homes.
The report by Horizon hints that ‘various global supply chains’, including vehicles, aerospace and electronics, using aluminium made in the region could be exposed to these human rights risks.
US steel production problems, Chinese aluminium sector issues, as aluminium stockists, brass flat bar suppliers, and experts in all sorts of useful and popular metals and alloys, these are extraordinary times. But we’re carrying on regardless, supplying people like you with the stuff you need. Walk this way for all your metal supplies.
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