SHANGHAI, Aug 7 (SMM) – The Chinese authorities are considering raising purity threshold requirements for copper concentrate imports, SMM learned, which is set to exert further pressure on Chinese smelters who have already been frustrated by tightening mine supplies.
In July, China’s General Administration of Customs discussed with top smelters, Jiangxi Copper, Tongling Nonferrous and Yunnan Copper, about stricter limits on impurities contained in imported copper concentrate.
Seaborne copper concentrate that contains more than 0.4% of arsenic is likely to be forbidden to enter China, compared to the current limit of 0.5%. This proposal was strongly opposed by smelters, as output of high-impurity or “dirty” concentrate is rising on the backdrop of tightening overall mine supplies.
The current rules, introduced in April 2006, require that shipments of metal concentrate into China must undergo inspection by the China Inspection and Quarantine Services (CIQ). The impurity limits stand at 0.5% for arsenic, 6% for lead, 0.1% for fluorine, 0.05% for cadmium and 0.01% for mercury.
The proposed thresholds came in at 0.4% for arsenic, 4.7% for lead, 0.06% for fluorine, 0.03% for cadmium and 0.002% for mercury.
The Customs is also likely to impose limits on three new elements, with the combined content of antimony and bismuth no higher than 0.2%, and thallium content no higher than 1.2g/mt.
Copper concentrate imports accounted for 70% of the consumption in China, which is home to nearly half of smelting capacity across the world.
High-arsenic concentrate now takes up about 8% of total copper concentrate supply across the globe, and the ratio is expected to climb in the future. The market recently reported greater supplies of high-arsenic materials from Collahuasi and Los Bronces mines in Chile and Toromocho in Peru.
SMM assessments showed that treatment charges for spot copper concentrate stood at $54.5/mt as of August 2, the lowest in recent years.