Teck to lift germanium partial force majeure after Q4 furnace restart

Teck Resources expects to remove partial force majeure on its germanium output after the fourth-quarter restart of one of the fuming furnaces at its zinc and lead smelting and refining complex, Trail Operations.

A spokesperson for the Canadian company told Metal Bulletin that repair of the furnace, which suffered an operating disruption after a breakdown of equipment during an explosion in January, was ongoing.

“Repair of the slag fuming furnace #2 furnace is proceeding and we anticipate the furnace to be operational in the fourth quarter of this year, following which we expect to be in a position to lift the partial force majeure,” the spokesperson said.

The company didn’t provide a specific date for the restart or give details of how much germanium metal and germanium dioxide will come back onstream.

Germanium prices rallied on the news of the partial force majeure, gaining roughly 24% from $1,250-1,400 per kg on January 12 to $1,720-1,800 per kg on May 18.

The market, which traders say is oversupplied, has since had prices soften, with Metal Bulletin assessing germanium metal at $1,550-1,650 per kg on an in-warehouse Rotterdam basis on July 27, unchanged from the previous week.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin currently assesses the germanium dioxide free market at $1,070-1,250 per kg, down from $1,070-1,320 per kg previously. This is nonetheless up around 33% from $800-900 per kg on January 12.

The restart and end to the limitations on supply at Trail Operations are in line with Teck’s prior forecasts. A notice informing customers of the partial force majeure – seen by Metal Bulletin – said that Teck had expected to supply around 60% of its monthly contractual allotment from February 1 to December 31, 2018.

Teck is one of the world’s largest integrated germanium producers and processes germanium-bearing concentrates at Trail.

China produces around 70% of the world’s germanium; China’s germanium refinery production was 88,000 tonnes in 2017, up from 80,000 tonnes the prior year, according to data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).