Increased bauxite supply from Indonesia seen weighing on prices in 2018

Increased supply of bauxite from Indonesia is likely to prevent any price rally and could even weaken prices in 2018 after Jakarta relaxed its export ban on the raw material last year, market participants said.

Indonesian bauxite is attractive to Chinese alumina refineries because of very competitive pricing due to its low-cost production and cheap freight costs to China, they added.

“With renewed supply from Indonesia, Chinese consumers have a stronger hand in price negotiations,” a bauxite consumer in northern China said.

Indonesia exported 1.3 million tonnes of bauxite to China during the second half of 2017, according to official Chinese customs data.

Although this was significantly lower than the 48.7 million tonnes shipped to China in 2013, when Indonesian exports to the country reached a peak prior to the implementation of the ore export ban, Indonesia is gradually regaining its market share in the global bauxite supply chain.

Indonesia-based PT Aneka Tambang (Antam) is targeting full-year bauxite production of 1.6 million wet metric tonnes (wmt) in 2018, an increase of 126% from last year, the company said on Wednesday March 7.

The miner produced 705,322 wmt of bauxite in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 192%.

Antam is also targeting a 90% increase in sales volumes to 1.6 million wmt this year. Its bauxite sales grew strongly in 2017 to 838,069 wmt, an increase of 181% from 298,012 wmt in 2016.

Following the relaxation of Indonesia’s ore export ban in January 2017, Antam obtained an export license for 850,000 wmt of bauxite from the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. It made its first delivery of bauxite to China in three years in July.

While Metal Bulletin does not currently assess Indonesian bauxite prices, consumers and import traders pegged Indonesian bauxite quotations around a steady $46-52 per dmt cif China since the export ban was lifted.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin assessed the Brazilian bauxite price at $37.50 per dmt fob Brazil on March 1 and the Guinean bauxite price at $38 per dmt fob Guinea on the same day. Both assessments were unchanged from the prior week.

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