Germanium prices drop on surplus material in China

Germanium prices in Europe fell on Wednesday June 14 as a result of surplus material available in China and low demand from end users.

Metal Bulletin assessed germanium metal at $1,560-1,660 per kg on an in-warehouse Rotterdam basis on Wednesday, down 5.3% from $1,650-1,750 per kg the previous week.

“A European trader offered us 50 kilograms of germanium at $1,575 per tonne, but we didn’t buy, so I guess they sold it at a lower price,” a supplier said.

Suppliers were now lowering their offers due to weak demand in the market, he added.

“When the Chinese said production between November and January would close due to environmental reasons… western consumers bought much more than they needed expecting a shortage later in 2018, but now production is back,” the supplier said.

End users are working off their inventories and are unlikely to seriously re-enter the market until July or August, he added.

There is also some extra material that entered the market when prices surged, a producer said.

“When prices ran up, it also brought to market some very old lots of germanium and germanium dioxide,” the producer said. “While the 15 year old germanium metal is in good condition, nobody is ready to buy the 15 year old germanium dioxide, which is pressuring the germanium metal price, while the germanium dioxide market remains relatively quiet.”

Germanium prices were on an uptrend earlier this year after Teck Resources declared a partial force majeure on metal sales from its zinc and lead smelting and refining complex, Trail Operations, after there were equipment issues at one of the fuming furnaces.

As a result, germanium prices moved up over 24% from $1,250-1,400 per kg on January 12 to $1,720-1,800 per kg on May 18, before softening to current levels.

Germanium prices had been rising since the end of 2017 as a result of the pollution crackdown in China.

One trader agreed that the market is oversupplied even before material from Teck re-enters the market, but this is not expected until next year.

“We are hearing that Teck won’t come back into the market for the rest of the year, and will only come back in 2019,” the trader said. “But demand is quite weak and this week I sold 50 kilograms at $1,560.”

But one producer believes Teck will not re-start their germanium production at all.

“Some people think it will be so costly for them to re-open their germanium production that they may not re-open at all,” he said.

Teck Resources declined to comment when approached.