SHANGHAI, Jun. 17 (SMM) – The average operating rate at these smelters rose in May to 46.75%, up by 0.2 percentage point from April’s average of 46.55%, a recent SMM survey of 13 major smelters reveals.
The operating rate at large smelters with capacities above 150,000 tpy rebounded to 64.35%, up 12.01 percentage points from April’s 52.34%. The rate at medium-size smelters with capacities between 100,000-150,000 tpy fell to 35.98%, down 10.21 percentage points MoM. The average rate at small smelters with capacities below 100,000 tpy rose, however, to 18.84%, up 9.11 percentage points from April.
Anhui Huaxin Lead Industry Group and Tianjin Toho Lead Recycling both restarted operations in May after conducting equipment renovations for environmental protection inspections, helping boost output. Guangdong Yingde Xinyu Reclycing Resource also began trial production following a 1-year suspension.
Illegal and unqualified lead smelters resumed production late in April since profits for smelting secondary lead reached over 500 yuan per tonne and since environmental protection inspections loosened to some extent. Thus, the amount of raw materials available for qualified lead smelters declined, sending scrap auto battery prices to 7,225 yuan per tonne in late May, up from April’s 7,100 yuan per tonne. Large smelters turned cautious when purchasing raw materials with higher costs, preferring to explore alternatives such as lead slag and slime from lead-acid battery producers.
In addition, secondary lead prices remained essentially flat in May despite higher scrap battery prices. Sluggish consumption at lead-acid battery producers provided little incentive for secondary lead smelters to continue production.
SMM scrap battery prices are now quoted as high as 7,300 yuan per tonne amid supply shortages. The average operating rate at large secondary lead smelters is expected to fall further in June due to the low availability of scrap batteries.