SHANGHAI, Nov 9 (SMM) — This is a roundup of China's metals output in October 2021, from an exclusive survey of key producers by SMM analysts.
China’s copper cathode output stood at 789,400 mt in October, down 1.7% month on month and 3.9% year on year.
The production of many copper smelters across the country was restricted by the power rationing in October, especially in Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangxi, and Yunnan. Some smelters in Henan, Jiangxi, and Guangdong were slightly affected by the power rationing. The power rationing has been eased since late October.
However, some smelters in south and north China cut the production by 15,000 mt for maintenance, further tightened the domestic copper cathode supply.
The supply of blister copper picked up in mid-October as the copper prices rose, but the shipping containers in Africa remained tight, and the deliveries of some long-term orders were postponed. The blister copper supply was still tight. Some smelters failed to resume the normal production due to the shortage of copper scrap and the power rationing.
Alashankou port reopened for customs clearance on October 27, but the congestion of the ships carrying copper concentrate was severe. Most of the copper smelters in south-west China had to cut their production of refined copper, which dragged down the copper cathode output in October. The congestion may continue to restrict the output in November.
According to the production plans, the two smelters in Guangxi are recovering from the maintenance, but the output increased slowly due to the accidents.
The smelters in Jiangsu will maintain the operating rates at 60-70% due to the power rationing, and the smelters in Yunnan will have difficulties in resuming the production.
The smelters in Anhui and other regions along the Yangtze River have curtailed the production slightly for fear of the inventory surplus, but the copper cathode production was not affected.
The domestic copper cathode output in November is expected to be 819,400 mt, up 3.8% month on month but down 0.3% year on year. The output is estimated to total 9.09 million mt from January to November, a year-on-year increase of 7.8%.
China produced 3.16 million mt of aluminium in October, down 2.55% on the year. The daily output averaged 102,000 mt, down 1,600 mt/day on the month. The output totalled 32.24 million mt from January to October, an increase of 5.1% on the year. The operating capacities in Shanxi, Henan, and Guizhou declined further due to the power rationing and production restriction in the heating season. No existing capacity was resumed, nor were there new capacities put into production in October. China's operating aluminium capacity stood at 37.32 million mt/year in early October, while the installed capacity stood at 43.75 million mt/year. The aluminium liquid accounted for 62.2% of China’s total aluminium output in October, a decrease of 2.4 percentage points from September.
The aluminium output in November is expected to be 3.06 million mt, with the daily average output at around 102,000 mt, as there will be no new production cut. The consumption will recover amid alleviated power rationing in Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Henan. The inventory is expected to fall to around 950,000 mt by the end of November.
SMM data showed that China’s alumina output was 6.29 million mt in October, including 6.05 million mt of metallurgical grade alumina. The daily average output of metallurgical grade alumina was 195,200 mt, down 2.2% on the month but up 1.8% on the year. China produced 59.70 million mt of metallurgical grade alumina from January to October, a year-on-year increase of 7.1%. The production in Yuncheng, Lvliang, and other regions in Shanxi was cut due to the floods, while the production in Guangxi was basically resumed. China’s net imports of alumina in October stood at 300,000 mt, and China’s alumina surplus was about 257,000 mt in October. The production of 1 mt of aluminium consumes 1.925 mt of alumina.
As of early November, China's metallurgical grade alumina production capacity was 71.43 million mt/year, with the installed capacity standing at 88.60 million mt/year. SMM will monitor the impact of the heating season in north China on local operating capacities. The output of the metallurgical grade alumina is expected to be 5.9 million mt in November (30 days), and the alumina surplus is expected to be around 260,000 mt.
China produced 244,500 mt of refined lead in October, down 6.52% from September and 7.43% from a year ago. The total output from January to October increased by 3.32% on the year. The production capacities of enterprises involved in the survey totalled 5.48 million mt in 2021.
The output of refined lead dropped as expected due to the intensive maintenance in October. The medium and large enterprises including Hunan Shuikoushan, Shandong Hengbang, Jiangxi Copper, and Jiangxi Jinde conducted maintenance. The coal supply gradually tightened as north China gradually entered the heating season. The smelters in Henan reduced the production by 20-40% after mid-October, and the restriction extended for half a month. Although Yunnan Mengzi, Xingan Silver and Lead, Hunan Jingui, and other smelters resumed the production, the total output still declined.
The output of refined lead is expected to increase by about 10,000 mt to 254,900 mt in November. Hunan Shuikoushan, Jiangxi Copper, and Jiangxi Jinde will continue to conduct maintenance in November. But the production of large smelters in Henan will recover after the power rationing is lifted. Shandong Hengbang, Xingan Silver and Lead, and other smelters will resume the production after maintenance, which will contribute to the output increment.
SMM data showed that China produced 344,200 mt of secondary lead in October, down 6.66% from September, and up 21.18% from a year ago. The cumulative output in January - October rose 58.67% from the same period last year. Meanwhile, China produced 340,900 mt of secondary refined lead in October, down 3.33% month-on-month, and up 26.13% from a year ago. The cumulative output from January to October advanced 55.54% on the year.
According to SMM research, secondary lead output in October dropped out of expectation partly because the production of some large secondary lead smelters like Anhui Chaowei, Dahua, Huabo, Henna Yongxu and Hunna Jinyi was disrupted due to power outrage or power rationing caused by energy supply shortage in October. On the other hand, due to factors such as equipment failure and environmental impact assessment, such companies as Anhui Tianchang, Dadao, Jiangxi Zhenyu, Jiujiang Huijin, Chongqing Deneng, Shanxi Yichen overhauled in the month, dragging down the overall output of secondary lead. Although the production of a few refineries is still disturbed by power rationing entering November, the overall output is expected to gradually increase with the end of the high-voltage power line swap in Taihe Park in Anhui and the weakening of power rationing in Henan and Jiangsu. In addition, Guangdong Hongxing is expected to contribute some extra output after installing new equipment. As such, the output of second lead may increase by more than 20,000 mt in November.
SMM data showed that China's refined zinc output stood at 499,300 mt in October, down 12,600 mt or 2.46% on the month and 12.29% on the year. The output from January to October was 5.05 million mt, a year-on-year increase of 1.31%.
The alloy output at domestic refined zinc smelters in SMM’s survey sample registered 73,700 mt in October, up 741 mt on the month.
SMM survey showed that the decrease in domestic refined zinc supply in October was more significant than expected, mainly because the smelters in Inner Mongolia, Henan, and Gansu lowered their operating rates temporarily due to the power rationing. The production in other regions was in accordance with the SMM prediction in early October.
The average electricity price in Hunan, Guangxi, and Liaoning were raised by 0.2 yuan/KWh in October, lifting the zinc production costs by 700-800 yuan/mt. The rising prices of auxiliary materials had pushed up the costs to 5,500-5,600 yuan/mt in metal content, and some smelters had the cost at 6,000 yuan/mt in metal content. Based on the current domestic TCs for zinc concentrate and zinc prices, some refined zinc smelters have suffered losses at 500 yuan/mt.
SMM will continue to monitor the price changes of electricity and auxiliary materials amid falling thermal coal prices.
The total refined zinc output in November is expected to rise by 23,300 mt to 522,600 mt on the month in November. The smelters in west and north China will be affected by the power rationing, while the power restrictions in Guangxi, Henan, and Hunan have been lifted. The smelters in suspension earlier will gradually resume the production in November.
The smelters in Yunnan are expected to reduce the production by over 2,000 mt in December, while the output in Jiangxi, Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia will increase amid further production recovery. The refined zinc output is expected to increase by 26,200 mt on the month to 548,800 mt in December, and the total output in 2021 will stand at 6.13 million mt, up 0.35% on the year.
China's refined tin output stood at 14,443 mt in October, up 10.95% from September.
A few smelters slightly lowered the operating rates for lack of raw materials, while most smelters expanded the production amid higher TCs. Some smelters in Guangxi suspended the zinc production to recover the tin production amid eased power rationing. The output in Jiangxi was largely unchanged, as the duration of power rationing in end-October was short. The output in the other regions was basically flat on the month. The smelters under extended power rationing and environmental protection inspections may not resume the production in the short term.
The refined tin output in Yunnan and Jiangxi is expected to stand flat in November as there is no plan for production expansion. The output in Guangxi is likely to decrease by 700 mt due to the shortage of raw materials. The output in the other regions may increase slightly amid alleviated power rationing and environmental protection control.
The total refined lead output is expected to stand at 13,825 mt in November.
According to SMM data, domestic refined nickel output stood at 14,500 mt in October, up 1.48% or 212 mt month-on-month. The average operating rate stood at 66%. The actual output in October did not decrease, and the output of major refineries in Gansu was relatively stable.
The output of refined nickel is expected to stand at around 14,500 mt in November. Domestic refineries’ production activities are relatively stable at the moment.
According to SMM, the national nickel pig iron (NPI) output picked up slightly in October 2021, rising by 0.12% year-on-year to 30,720 mt in nickel content. The month-on-month growth rate is still declining compared with the previous years. The output of high-grade NPI stood at 25,700 mt (Ni content) in October, up 2% on the year; and the output of low-grade NPI was 5,100 mt (Ni content), dropping again on the month. The electricity cuts and production restriction eased slightly in October, and stainless steel mills have slowly recovered their production. However, most NPI plants’ production activities were still greatly suspended or reduced, and the recovery in production many places was limited.
Domestic NPI output in November is likely to stand at 34,200 mt in nickel content, up 11.28% on the month. Among them, the output of high-grade NPI will be 28,800 mt (Ni content), and that of low-grade NPI will stand at 5,400 mt (Ni content). Most NPI plants will gradually resume their production in November. Due to the increase in electricity prices in Jiangsu and Guangxi, the power rationing policies will be relatively loose. Shandong will maintain its production restrictions. NPI plants in Hebei will have strict environmental supervision due to the upcoming Winter Olympics, and the local output will stay low. There has been a rebound in production in Guangdong and Fujian, which will bring back some NPI output. As such, the overall supply and demand is likely to be in a tight balance.
According to SMM data, China’s output of nickel sulphate was 29,700 mt in metal content in October, or 138,000 mt in physical content, up 6.29% on the month and 74.36% on the year. The output of battery-grade nickel sulphate was 27,900 mt. In terms of raw materials for nickel sulphate production in October, self-dissolved nickel briquette and powder accounted for 51% of the total raw materials used, virgin materials (MHP/MSP/high-grade nickel matte) accounted for about 32%, scrap accounted for about 13%, and the remaining was crude nickel sulphate. The power rationing continued in October, and the output of some manufacturers was still lower than normal. Imports of intermediate products have continued to increase recently. And the proportion has also increased from the previous month. Although there has been a slight surplus of nickel sulphate, the output is still increasing, mainly from precursor plants that use self-dissolved nickel briquette. However, some non-integrated nickel sulphate plants indicated in October that the current consumption was poor and the output will be reduced. In November, with the gradual easing of power cuts, the production of nickel sulphate continues to increase month-on-month. The nickel sulphate market is currently actively accumulating stocks, and the expected reduction in production due to supply surplus has not yet appeared. Domestic nickel sulphate output is expected to increase 2.19% on the month and 88.03% on the year to 30,300 mt in Nickel content in November.
According to SMM survey, the domestic stainless steel output in October totalled about 2.3 million mt, up 799,000 mt or 3.59% month on month and 19.63% year on year. China’s output of stainless steel totalled 27.08 million mt from January to October, an increase of 12.72% year on year.
The production in some regions was still affected by power rationing in October, but the restrictions were alleviated in late October, and the stainless steel output increased slightly. The 200 series output increased by 39,000 mt or 6.78% to 614,000 on the month, and the 300 series output rose by 56,000 mt or 4.73% to 1.23 million mt. The 400 series output fell by 14,800 mt or 2.06% to 456,000 mt.
Some steel mills resumed the production in November amid alleviated power rationing. The stainless steel output is expected to rise by 243,000 mt to about 2.55 million mt in November, and the increment mainly comes from the 300 series output as the plants in south China will resume production, and the plants in north China will expand their production. The 200 series output will increase slightly amid alleviated power rationing in Fujian and Jiangsu, while the 400 series output will stand unchanged at around 450,000 mt.
SMM data showed that China’s polysilicon output stood at 40,400 mt in October, down 3% month on month, but up 17% year on year.
The output fell on the month due to the power rationing in Jiangsu and Inner Mongolia. The production in Xinjiang, the largest silicon production area, was basically normal although the local plants received the production restriction notice.
Tongwei Sichuan commissioned a new capacity this week. Tongwei may put five newly built projects and technical transformation projects into production this year, which are expected to yield output in Q1 2022.
The national output of polysilicon is expected to rebound to around 42,000 mt in November.
SMM data showed that China’s industrial silicon output stood at 270,000 mt in October, down 1.5% month on month, but up 15.6% year on year.
The plants in Yunnan, Chongqing, and Inner Mongolia basically resumed the production from the power rationing. The operating rates in Gansu and Sichuan also rose after the maintenance. But Xinjiang reduced the production by over 10,000 mt due to the power rationing, leading to the slight decline in the total output.
Despite the power rationing, China’s monthly output of polysilicon stood at around 270,000 mt in September and October, which were little changed from that in August but lower than expected.
The national output of polysilicon is expected to increase to 290,000 mt in November, driven by the production recovery in Xinjiang and Fujian. The production in south-west China will be cut in the low-water period in December.
China's output of praseodymium-neodymium (PrNd) oxide in October 2021 stood at 5997 mt, up 3.2% on the month. The increase was mainly contributed by Sichuan and Guangdong, while the output in Jiangxi dropped slightly from September; and the output in other regions was largely unchanged.
With the end of environmental protection inspections, the production in Sichuan and Guangxi resumed accordingly, slightly pushing up the output. For Jiangxi, the total output declined for a combination of reasons, including the power rationing, rising auxiliary materials prices, more expensive electricity tariffs. Hence, the production of some separation plants in October has declined by around 30 - 40% from last month. Due to the hindered import of Myanmar ore, some separation plants using medium and heavy rare earth ore in south China were unable to maintain normal production, and the operating rates of some separation plants in Guangxi have been lowered to below 50%. Separation plants that use scrap as the main raw material has managed to operate normally.
The domestic PrNd output in November is estimated to stand at 5,900 mt, slightly lower than in October considering that the import of Myanmar ore still remains uncertain, domestic rare earth ore inventory is declining, and a large SOE in north China will carry out maintenance after fulfilling its annual rare earth ore mining quota.
China's PrNd alloy output in October 2021 stood at 5493 mt, down 2.2% month-on-month mainly due to less output in Jiangxi and Zhejiang.
The metal plants’ power consumption for production activity is mostly 8000-9000 kWh/mt. Compared with separation plants, they will consume more electricity, and suffer greater losses when shutting down electrolytic furnaces. Therefore, metal plants will be more greatly influenced by power rationing than separation plants and magnetic materials plants. Affected by the power rationing, the output in Jiangxi and Zhejiang fell to varying degrees in October. The prices of PrNd oxide increased as a whole in October, and the prices of raw materials, auxiliary materials, and electricity all got on the upside trajectory. Thus, the costs of metal plants stood high, some of whom had to reduce the purchase of high-priced raw materials in order to mitigate financial risks.
It is expected that China's PrNd alloy output will slightly decrease in November on the back of tight supply of raw ore, falling inventory of PrNd alloy, short supply of thermal coal in the heating season, as well as the likely-to-sustain power rationing.
According to SMM, China's magnesium ingot output stood at 63,900 mt in October, up 16.58% month on month and down 0.47% on the year. The output totalled 682,700 mt from January to October, a year-on-year increase of 7.26%.
The output of the magnesium ingots recovered quickly in October as the manufacturers in major producing areas resumed production, according to SMM survey. Also in the month, the operating rates in Shaanxi stood at 59%, up 10 percentage points from 49% in September. As such, the average operating rate of the magnesium ingot industry stood at 58.77% in October, up 16.58 percentage points month on month and down 14.19 percentage points year on year.
Based on the current production scheduling, except for a few manufacturers that have maintenance plans for November, the overall operating rates of the supply side is stabilising. It is estimated that the domestic output of magnesium ingots in November will be approximately 63,500 mt.
According to SMM, China's magnesium alloy output stood at 17,300 mt in October, up 12.66% month on month and down 44.39% on the year. The output totalled 278,000 mt from January to October, a year-on-year increase of 21.58%.
The average operating rate of magnesium alloy industry stood at 32.08% in October, up 12.66 percentage points month on month and down 48.16 percentage points from a year ago, according to SMM survey.
Based on the feedback of salesmen from some magnesium alloy factories, as magnesium prices fell, overseas orders that were backlogged due to the sharp rise in magnesium prices in September have been delivered in October. In terms of domestic trade, the current magnesium alloy prices were still high for the downstream companies. At the same time, with the recent rapid decline in magnesium prices, downstream purchases have been generally cautious. Compared with foreign trade, the domestic market for magnesium alloys remained weak.
Considering that the overall operation of the magnesium ingot supply side is relatively stable and the magnesium prices are gradually returning to rationality, the domestic downstream sector is expected to walk out of the wait-and-see sentiment. Moreover, the fourth quarter is the traditional seasonal high for exports. Under the overall recovery in demand, China's magnesium alloy output is likely to recover and stand at 18,000 mt in November.
According to SMM data, China's magnesium powder output stood at 8,300 mt in October, a year-on-year increase of 12.86%.
The average operating rate of magnesium powder industry recorded 46.63% in October, up 12.86% on the month. Magnesium prices corrected down in October, which promoted the delivery of some overseas orders for magnesium powder. While magnesium powder factories were also actively purchasing raw materials. Hence, the monthly output rebounded rapidly.
Going forward, the magnesium prices are likely to stabilise, which will facilitate the release of downstream demand. It is expected that the output of magnesium powder in November will continue to rise and reach 9,000 mt.
According to SMM, China's titanium dioxide output stood at 315,900 mt in October, up 5.46% month on month and 5.32% on the year. The output totalled 3.14 million mt from January to October, a year-on-year increase of 11.82%.
Domestic titanium dioxide output rose slightly in October, and the power rationing in Shandong, Guangxi, and Jiangsu eased to some extent. According to the feedback of some manufacturers in Guangxi, the power rationing has loosened greatly, leading to rapid recovery in local operating rates. However, considering that most of the anatase titanium dioxide manufacturers are located in Guangxi, the prices are likely to return to normal after the traditional seasonal high in September and October drew to an end.
Based on the current production scheduling, except for a few manufacturers that have maintenance plans for November, the overall operating rates of the supply side are stabilising. It is estimated that the domestic output of titanium dioxide in November will be approximately 313,000 mt.
The domestic 1# silver output stood at 1,218.387 mt (including 1051.294 mt of mineral silver) in October, up 4.72% from the previous month, which is basically in line with SMM estimate in September. The output was not affected by the National Day long holiday.
The US ADP employment data increased by 571,000 in October, more significant than the expected 400,000, hitting a new high since June. The US trade deficit September also reached a new record high at $80.9 billion higher than the estimated $80.2 billion. The positive data weighed on the silver prices. The non-commercial net long positions of gold and silver in CFTC stood at a medium-to-high level, and the risks are accumulating, which also suppressed the silver prices in September and October.
The silver prices dropped in September and October, with limited rebounding room. The prices are expected to fluctuate within a wider range under the impact of volatile US dollar index and remain in a downward trend in November.
The falling prices affected the spot transactions, but the production was basically normal. The production suspension and recovery mainly depended on the maintenance plans or power rationing.
The output declined in Jiangxi Copper Lead and Zinc, Hunan Shuikoushan, Zhejiang Hongda, Zhongtiaoshan Nonferrous Metals, and Yantai Penghui Copper. Some of them reduced or suspended the production for maintenance, some cut the production sharply due to the power rationing, and some suspended the production temporarily due to the equipment failure.
Shaanxi Nonferrous Metals, Yubei Gold & Lead, and Hongqian Nonferrous have not resumed the production for lack of raw materials.
The output in Sino-Platinum Metals, Yunnan Copper, Jiangxi Longtianyong, Mengzi Mengzi Mining and Metallurgy, Gejiu Lianxing, and other companies increased significantly after the production was resumed, which contributed to the increment in the total silver output in October.
The current supply of silver-containing materials including anode mud remains tight, and the pricing coefficient is little changed. The national silver output is expected to increase slightly in November.
SMM data shows that in October 2021, the domestic molybdenum concentrate output was 19,020 mt, a decrease of 2.63% from the previous month.
The output decreased slightly from a month earlier. As far as SMM understands, the main reason for output decline is the weakening of terminal demand for ferromolybdenum, which suppressed the domestic molybdenum market further. And the prices of molybdenum concentrate also dropped, turning downstream manufacturers of ferromolybdenum and molybdenum metal to be more cautious in purchasing raw materials. Some molybdenum mining enterprises reduced their production accordingly.
The domestic ferromolybdenum output totalled about 13,950 mt in October, down 410 mt or 2.86% on the month.
The ferromolybdenum companies continued to restrict production in October due to the falling prices. According to SMM survey, the bid solicitation volume of the steel mills was about 5,000 mt in October, down 43% on the month. The traders were eager to ship goods, and most ferromolybdenum producers only accept back-to-back orders. The operating rates across the ferromolybdenum in Liaoning dropped significantly.
The ferromolybdenum producers in Liaoning, Henan and other regions also curtailed the production due to the power rationing, and the operating rates across the plants in Beijing and Tianjin were also lowered amid the frequent environmental protection inspections before the Winter Olympics.
The ferromolybdenum prices remained in a downward trend in October, especially when the steel mills forced down the bidding prices by the end of the month as the demand weakened more significantly.
The national output of ferromolybdenum is expected to drop further in November. However, the downward room will be limited as the producers are reluctant to produce amid the weak demand and strong bearish sentiments, and they will schedule the production according to the orders. However, most plants have already been producing on demand, so the further decline in the output will not be significant.
China’s cobalt sulphate output stood at 5,799 mt in metal content in October, a month-on-month increase of 9% and year-on-year increase of 42%. In October, some manufacturers have increased the use of self-produced cobalt sulphate to produce ternary cathode precursor. Meanwhile, the prices moved up on the whole, encouraging more manufacturers to ramp up the production of cobalt sulphate, on the combining of premiums of cobalt sulphate over cobalt chloride. The situation is expected to extend into November. Cobalt salt companies tend to produce more cobalt sulphate and less cobalt chloride. And the current power rationing will have little impact on the production of cobalt salt companies. China’s output of nickel sulphate is likely to stand at 5,979 mt in metal content in November, up 3% month-on-month and 39% year-on-year.
China’s lithium carbonate output was 19,792 mt in October, a month-on-month increase of 1% and year-on-year increase of 40%. The power rationing in Jiangsu and Shandong basically came to an end, and the local production activities have returned to normal. The output of lithium carbonate extracted from spodumene rose significantly by 11%. The output in Qinghai has decreased by 10% on the month due to low temperature in October, resulting in significantly falling local inventory. While the number of inquiries increased in November. The output of lithium extracted from lithionite decreased slightly, mainly as the output in Jinagxi dropped 4% from September due to the power rationing by end of October. It is expected that the overall lithium carbonate production in November will reach 20,115 mt, an increase of 2% from the previous month and up 30% on the year thanks to extra output from some new production lines, though the production in Qinghai will decrease further and the power rationing will bring more uncertainties to the overall production.
Ternary cathode materials
China produced 38,879 mt of ternary cathode materials in October, an increase of 4.7% month on month and 54% year on year. On the supply side, the impact of power rationing in Hunan eased since October. Most companies resumed their normal production after the National Day holiday. The impact of power cuts in Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Zhejiang was relatively small. The production capacity of most ternary cathode materials companies recovered, and the expanded capacities of some companies have yielded output. Therefore, the overall output increased. On the demand side, orders for high-nickel ternary materials from leading battery companies remained stable, while other domestic and foreign battery companies increased their high-nickel demand slightly, resulting in higher demand on the whole. There was still an increase in demand for 5 and 6 series ternary materials in the power battery market, and the overall demand also increased. Looking into November, the demand from the power battery market remained positive; the power rationing was basically over; and the manufacturers’ production capacity was restored and new production lines started to yield output. Therefore, the output is expected to be 41,675 mt in November, an increase of 7.2% month-on-month and 47% year-on-year.