SHANGHAI, May 21 (SMM) – China's imports of bauxite, the main ore source of aluminium and which has to be first refined into alumina, rose to a record high in the March quarter, due to greater demand and lower sea freight costs.
China imported 28.41 million mt of bauxite in the first three months of 2020, marking the highest quarterly import volume on record, according to China customs data under HS code 26060000. That was up 26.01% from the fourth quarter of 2019, and 9.99% from the first quarter of 2019.
Source: Data from China customs compiled by SMM
The Republic of Guinea remained the top bauxite exporter to China, and its first-quarter supplies were barely changed at 13.37 million mt from a year earlier, accounting for nearly half of China’s total bauxite imports.
Australia and Indonesia took the second and third places. China’s bauxite imports from Australia increased 22.95% year on year to 9.24 million mt in Q1, while those from Indonesia jumped 46.45% to 4.73 million mt.
The ramp-up of alumina refineries that have upgraded their facilities to adapt foreign ore, a decline in logistical costs caused by lower sea freight rates and subdued recovery of domestic mines due to COVID-19 boosted China’s demand for imported bauxite to an all-time high in Q1.
However, the appeal of imported bauxite has waned, as greater losses in prices of domestic ore, lower prices of caustic soda and coal make it more cost-effective to use domestic bauxite, and approximately 2 million mt per year of alumina capacity using imported bauxite have gone offline.