Copper concentrate treatment and refining charges have repeatedly fallen to record-low levels over the first five months of 2024

Trading in the spot copper concentrate market in Asia was sluggish in the week to Friday May 31, with smelters not actively looking for spot units, sources said

Record-high prices for refined copper metal and a shortage of copper concentrates have caught the attention of investors. Bringing new, large-scale supply to the market is not simple or quick, but brownfield expansions and scrap supply may offer a quicker response

Sources from across the copper concentrate industry told Fastmarkets that some miners are becoming more cautious of their counterparty risk – the risk that the other party in a transaction may not fulfill its part of the deal – with copper concentrate terms being agreed as far out as 2028.

Recent weeks have seen a significant number of miners agreeing sales of copper concentrate to traders for one to four years of supply, Fastmarkets has learned

The copper market is facing a historical moment with Chinese smelters now paying premiums for raw material copper concentrate while selling their finished product at a discount, but participants point to easing concentrate demand in the second quarter as supportive for the market

The influential annual treatment and refining charge (TC/RC) benchmark that sets the price that smelters charge miners to process their copper concentrate could be at risk, according to multiple market sources, although most believe the system, or elements of it, will remain

In anticipation of a tight market, copper concentrate traders have locked in 2025 volumes at notably low treatment charges, with deals being placed well below the long-term industry benchmarks

German copper producer Aurubis is among the least likely to consider reducing capacity despite record low treatment charges (TCs), according to its chief executive officer

More copper smelters are likely to reduce capacity amid record-low spot treatment and refining charges (TCs/RCs), the chief executive of Chile-based copper miner Antofagasta Minerals said