Weekly Metals News Digest – April 29-May 3

Strategic Maneuvers in the Global Nickel Market: US and Philippines Eye Reduction in Chinese Dominance

Countering China’s Nickel Dominance

The US and the Philippines are reportedly in talks to strategize against China’s leading position in the nickel market of Southeast Asia, aiming to lessen the reliance of electric car battery manufacturers on Chinese supply. A proposed trilateral economic and technology agreement involves the Philippines supplying raw materials like nickel concentrates, matte, and pig iron, with the US providing financial backing for processing projects, and Japan (or possibly South Korea or Australia) contributing technological expertise in smelting and refining. This initiative is still in the preliminary stages, and the feasibility of US financial involvement remains under discussion. Concerns about Chinese influence in Indonesia’s nickel sector add to the urgency of these talks.

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Impala Platinum Initiates Workforce Restructuring

South Africa’s Impala Platinum, a leading platinum producer, is embarking on workforce restructuring that could lead to cutting approximately 3,900 jobs across its Rustenburg, Bafokeng, and Marula operations, and at its headquarters. This decision stems from a persistent decline in global prices for platinum group metals. Although the company boosted its platinum output by 16% to 2.73 million troy ounces between July 2023 and March 2024, economic pressures necessitate cost reductions.

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Norilsk Nickel’s Strategic Transformation

Norilsk Nickel is set to overhaul its business strategy, which includes relocating part of its production from the Copper Plant in Norilsk to China. The vacated capacity will be repurposed for advanced metallurgical processing and 3D printing technology. The company also plans to establish joint ventures with international partners, aiming to modernize its operations and expand globally. This transformation is expected to significantly increase Norilsk Nickel’s annual revenue and tax contributions, while also creating new jobs.

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Global Copper Market Trends

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) forecasts a decrease in the global copper surplus, from 162 thousand tonnes in 2024 to 94 thousand tonnes in 2025. Despite a projected slowdown in China’s copper production due to raw material shortages, global refined copper production is anticipated to grow, reflecting an overall increase in demand, particularly outside China.

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Green Initiatives in Aluminium Production

Sohar Aluminium and Oman Aluminium Processing Industries (OAPIL) have agreed to a memorandum of understanding to produce low-carbon-footprint aluminium using renewable energy sources and recycled materials. This initiative aligns with Oman’s strategy to reduce its economic dependency on oil and gas exports and positions the companies favorably in international markets, especially in Europe where strict carbon regulations are expected.

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Nickel Market Forecast: A Potential Shift

The collaborative efforts between the US and the Philippines could reshape the global nickel market, challenging Indonesia’s current dominance, heavily influenced by Chinese investments. The Philippines, with substantial nickel reserves yet lower production rates compared to Indonesia, is poised to increase its smelting capabilities, potentially affecting global nickel prices and market dynamics. icon

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