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Chinese Copper Producers to Discuss Output Curbs Amid Low Fees

More than a dozen Chinese copper smelters are expected to discuss next week potential production cuts due to unsustainably low fees for processing the semi-processed ore, or concentrate, into finished metal, sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg on Thursday.

The China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association will host a meeting of copper smelters next week, at which at least 15 copper processing firms have been invited, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

Executives from Chinese copper smelters are expected to discuss a joint cut to production, although it’s likely to be difficult to have all those invited to agree on such a decision, the unnamed sources told Bloomberg. 

Supply of copper concentrate has been tighter in recent months, while a market in an overcapacity of smelters is in competition to have copper miners send their ore for processing to them. As a result, smelters have been lowering their treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs), which seem to have now hit an unsustainably low point.

These treatment fees are estimated to have dropped to the lowest levels in data going back to 2013, according to estimates by Bloomberg.

In China, there is a large overcapacity of copper smelters, which have sprung up in recent years to meet growing demand for copper in construction, electrification, electric vehicles, and the energy transition.

The global copper concentrate market is expected be in a deficit this year, according to Fastmarkets analyst Andrew Cole.  

On the other hand, copper smelting capacity is set to grow rapidly in the coming months with new projects commissioned, sources told special correspondent Andrea Hotter of Fastmarkets. This is expected to exacerbate an already existing struggle among smelters to secure concentrate to process into finished products.

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Meanwhile, copper prices have trended sideways in recent weeks, amid uncertainty over China’s economic stimulus measures and the pace of global economic growth.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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