WEEK IN BRIEF: Base metal production cuts; SRB cobalt purchase; Mn ore ownership dispute; Nyrstar fire

Metal Bulletin reviews some of the key news from the past five days in the metals markets.

Metal Bulletin reviews some of the key news from the past five days in the metals markets. 

Eight major Chinese nickel producers have announced a joint production cut of 15,000 tonnes of nickel metal for December. Here’s what we know about the cuts so far.

The producers are thought to be in talks to cut nickel production by 100,000 tonnes of metal in 2016, but may face problems when agreeing how to spread the pain of the cuts, Ellie Wang wrote.

In the copper market, the China Smelter Purchasing Team is expected to meet in Shanghai on Saturday November 28 to discuss strategy amid the slump in copper prices.

Around 20% of copper mines are underwater (free cash-flow negative) at current spot prices, according to analysts at Macquarie. As the pressure shows no signs of easing, click here for Metal Bulletin’s copper cuts counter. 

Chinese zinc smelters’ plans to slash production in 2016 provided only short-term support to zinc prices, which fell to near six-year lows on the SHFE on Monday. Rena Gu looked at sentiment among market participants.

China’s State Reserve Bureau (SRB) bought more than 1,000 tonnes of cobalt metal from major players at prices set above 200,000 yuan ($31,000) per tonne on Tuesday, according to market sources. 

Cobalt prices quickly rose amid thin trading in China on Wednesday, as the stockpiling move brought hopes that prices will stabilise after recent falls. Sellers could divert stocks to the SRB or move to cover their purchases on the international market, according to international sources.

There were also talks of stockpiling in the base metals markets. The aluminium price hit its daily upside limit on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) on Thursday morning, amid talks that the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Assn has called for stockpiling of 900,000 tonnes of aluminium. Linda Lin had the details.

The past few weeks have seen a raft of measures aimed at boosting the ailing metals markets. Here is a summary of the moves and the effect they may have on the base metals and minor metals and ferro-alloys markets.

And here, Lord Copper looked at the importance of a producer’s place on the cost curve, as metal prices continue to fall.

On the London Metal Exchange (LME), nickel prices fell more than 8% in Monday’s official session, sinking to a fresh 12-year low as the base metal sell-off resumed. Prices started to rebound on Thursday, as SRB stockpiling rumours provided a boost to sentiment.

Click here for coverage of Friday’s price moves and activity on the LME and SHFE.

The LME launched four aluminium premiums contracts on Monday, enabling physical market participants to hedge the premium portion of the “all-in” aluminium price.

The bourse also confirmed plans to introduce a cap on the rent that can be charged by listed warehouses for metal held in delivery queues. Claire Hack had the details.

Meanwhile, manganese ore sales by South African miner Sebilo Resources have led to an ownership dispute involving Noble Resources and a company that partners with Gunvor Group. Janie Davies had the details.

United Manganese of Kalahari is cutting manganese ore production by 50% for December and January in response to poor market conditions.

Price falls have also hit Ekin Maden. The Turkish chrome ore miner is shutting down plants and will not sell its stocks until prices recover to a profitable level, the company said this week.

The Eurasian Economic Commission has proposed that anti-dumping duties of 26.3% be imposed on Ukrainian silico-manganese imports into the five Eurasian Economic Union countries for five years.

Euroalliages is “confident” the European Commission will implement anti-dumping measures on imports of silico-manganese from India next year.

Indian silico-manganese producers have cut their output in the hope prices will find a floor. Prices fell to $660-690 per tonne (fob India) on Tuesday.

Antimony prices also fell this week, as sellers continued to cut prices to secure sales in a market suffering from poor demand, further denting sentiment.

Staying with the minor metals, a fire broke out in the 48-tpy indium plant of Nyrstar’s Auby smelter in northern France on Tuesday. The company also appointed Darin Cooper as vp of zinc smelting, following the departure of Marcos Ramos. 

People news also came from Boliden. Håkan Gabrielsson will take over as cfo for the Swedish miner, as Mikael Staffas takes up the role of business area manager for Boliden Mines.

And finally, BTG Pactual appointed Persio Arida as its interim ceo, following the temporary arrest of André Esteves.

Charlotte Radford 
Twitter: @CRadford_MB

What to read next
The rising interest for low-carbon primary aluminium within East Asia is clear, although its ability to command a premium remains uncertain, according to market participants
An ongoing disruption to trade via the Red Sea and recent strength in some Asian markets are providing support to aluminium premiums across Europe, despite a continued period of low regional demand, participants have told Fastmarkets
Aluminium and nickel appear to have once again escaped inclusion in the latest list of sanctions imposed by western governments on Russia, ending days of speculation that increased both the prices and the traded volumes of the metals.
Fastmarkets launches MB-CU-0513 copper cathode equivalent grade (EQ), cif Southeast Asia, $/tonne on Tuesday February 20.
Fastmarkets’ 2024 outlook for key raw materials and ingredients used in the production and distribution of fast-moving consumer goods
Weak demand continues to stem profitability and prevent capacity return in the European aluminium market, Norsk Hydro’s chief executives told Fastmarkets in an exclusive interview on Wednesday February 14.