SHANGHAI, Mar 27 (SMM) – China's imports of cobalt raw materials, including ore and intermediate products, came in at 5,000 mt in metal content in February, down 21% from a month ago, showed the latest customs data. Imports in the first two months of 2020 were 24% higher on the year, standing at 12,000 mt in metal content.
Cobalt ore imports in February stood at 602 mt in Co content, based on a Co grade of 8%, down 33% on the month and 5% on the year. The coronavirus outbreak deterred domestic logistics and companies’ operations, which led to reduced imports of cobalt raw materials last month. The feedstock deliveries normalised in early March and cobalt salt producers have lifted their operating rates to 60-70% as of March 26.
In February, China’s imports of unwrought cobalt intermediate that was produced through hydrometallurgical processes shrank 18% on the month but rose 40% on the year to stand at 4,400 mt in Co content, based on a grade of 27%.
Import prices of hydrometallurgical cobalt intermediate products averaged $24,093/mt in Co content in February, down 44% from a year ago.
Cobalt raw materials imports in China (Source: SMM, China customs)
The fast-spreading COVID-19 has triggered the lockdown of some African countries, which may impact the deliveries of cobalt raw materials to China in June-July if the exports from major supplier Congo are disrupted. No production suspension of Congo’s cobalt mines has been heard so far.
In the short term, prices of cobalt salts in China will remain under pressure as the demand outlook remains weak on the backdrop of the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 and shutdown of some auto factories in Europe and the US.