The fourth quarter Chinese import quota is unknown at the time of writing and the uncertainty of what tonnages will be allowed is making scrap trading much more difficult. Government policy is still calling for all scrap trading to China to stop in 2020.
With the dynamic changes in China’s scrap import regulations and the new import quota system, copper scrap import volumes have been dropping. However, copper concentrate imports have been climbing: data for the first eight months of 2019 indicate an increase of over 10% compared to the same period in 2018. By the same token, China Customs data show bauxite imports jumped close to 25% year on year during the first seven months of 2019.
Slowing production among China’s brass manufacturers has been reported over recent months. The market believes this is due to a combination of the US-China tariff war, seasonal factors and tight scrap supply limited by import quotas. At the same time, rod production using copper cathode as the raw material has increased slightly as a result of lower output from those producers using copper scrap as their feedstock.
Until there is a formal announcement by the Chinese government, the scrap industry can only wonder about the rumour of a new national standard for renewable material - that is, the reclassification of certain non-ferrous scraps.
OmniSource Corporation (USA), Board Member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division