Weekly Metals News Digest (Jan 15-19)

India Poised to Shift from Copper Importer to Exporter

India, traditionally a copper importer, is on the verge of becoming an exporter of the red metal, thanks to a new smelter being constructed by the Adani Group at Mudra Port. The plant, which has already received environmental clearance and is finalizing concentrate supply contracts, is expected to commence operations by the end of the first half of this year. With a projected capacity of 0.5 million tonnes of copper per annum, this development could significantly alter India’s position in the global copper market.

The need for increased copper production in India became evident following the closure of Sterlite’s 0.4 million tonnes copper smelter in May 2018, leading to a 184% surge in copper imports in the first half of FY 2024 compared to the same period in FY 2023. India’s copper production in FY 2023 was 0.55 million tonnes, down from 0.77 million tonnes in FY 2018. Concurrently, the Indian government’s commitment to a low-carbon economy, with substantial investments in electric vehicles and renewable energy power plants, is expected to drive a rapid increase in domestic copper demand.

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Kazakhstan Set to Transform the Global Selenium Market

Kazakh scientists have developed a groundbreaking technology for producing high-purity selenium, poised to revolutionize the global market for this rare element. This new method enables the production of selenium with purities exceeding 99.5%. The technology will be implemented at the Balkhash smelter, part of Kazakhmys Corporation, a major copper producer. This advancement will enable the production of over 60 tonnes of high-purity selenium annually.

Currently, unrefined selenium costs around $10-12 per kilogram on the world market, while selenium with over 99.5% purity commands prices between $110-150. The production cost using the new Kazakh technology is about $4 per kilogram. Selenium, essential in the electronics industry as a semiconductor, is typically obtained as a byproduct of copper ore processing. The annual global production exceeds 3,000 tonnes, with China, Japan, Russia, Belgium, Germany, and Turkey as the largest producers. With this technological breakthrough, Kazakhstan is positioned to significantly impact the global selenium market.

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Forecast: Indonesian Nickel Production to Influence Price Rise

The current situation in Indonesia’s ferronickel and nickel matte production could signal a potential decrease this year. The active export of low-grade nickel from Indonesia, including ferronickel and nickel matte, contributed to the decline in nickel prices at the London Metal Exchange in 2023. Prices dropped from over $30 thousand per tonne in January to $16,550 thousand in December, and further to $16,040 thousand currently.

However, this price decline could lead high-cost metallurgical enterprises in Indonesia to cease operations to avoid losses. This would result in reduced exports of low-grade nickel from Indonesia, decreasing the global market surplus and potentially reversing the downward trend in nickel prices. This shift in market dynamics is more likely to occur towards the end of 2024. In the meantime, the global market is expected to remain oversupplied with nickel, with prices possibly reaching $15.5 thousand per tonne by March. icon

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