SHANGHAI, Nov 28 (SMM) – China is likely to reduce import quotas for copper scrap by half in 2020, with full-year volumes equating to about 50% of actual imports in 2019, accroding to market participants.
The list of companies that can apply for copper scrap import licenses next year Chinese provincial authorities have released so far showed little change from 2019 and there are no companies newly added.
Central environmental authorities this year have issued six batches of import quotas for the so-called Category 6 copper scrap, which were restricted from being imported from July 1. There will not be more quotas granted for this year, a source from China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association (CMRA) Recycling Metal Branch told SMM.
The six batches of import quotas allow about 553,000 mt of copper scrap to enter China by the end of 2019, translating to 442,000 mt in Cu content. Data from China customs showed that China imported 516,000 mt, or 409,000 mt in Cu content of copper scrap in July to October.
This suggested that 37,000 mt, or 33,000 mt in Cu content of copper scrap at the most will enter China in the last two months of 2019.
Scrap shortages forced Chinese consumers to source copper ingots that scrap or secondary byproducts are melted into from markets domestically and globally, to help support their operations. However, seaborne copper scrap ingots struggled to achieve wide adoption across Chinese recyclers who have certain limits on the quality such as impurities and moisture.
In 2020, import quotas for copper scrap will continue to be issued on a quarterly basis, with the first batch to come before the end of this year.
The long-anticipated standards for secondary copper and secondary aluminium raw materials, meanwhile, will come into force in the second quarter of 2020 at the latest, allowing materials that meet the standards to enter China without import quota restrictions, even after “solid waste” scrap imports are completely banned.
China aims to cut imports of “solid waste” to zero by the end of 2020.
The reclassification of high-quality copper scrap as renewable resources, however, is unlikely to prevent a sharp decline in copper scrap imports, as only copper scrap with no less than 97% Cu content and brass scrap with no less than 56% Cu content are likely to be allowed to be imported.