China’s imports of copper ores and unwrought copper rose to an annual high in December 2019, on increased smelter capacity and reduced copper scrap supply.

China imported 527,000mt of unwrought copper in December, up by 22.8pc from the prior year period, when the country imported 429,000mt unwrought copper. 

China’s annual imports of semi-finished, refined and rolled copper, however, dropped by 6pc from the previous year. 

China imported 4.98mn mt of unwrought copper in 2019, down from 5.3mn mt a year ago.

Imports of copper ores and concentrates into China rose by 31.8pc, from 1.46mn mt in December 2018 to 1.93mn mt in December 2019. 

The annual imports of copper ores and concentrates also rose by 11.6pc, from 19.72mn mt in 2018 to 21.99mn mt in 2019.

China faced a gap in demand and supply of copper raw materials at the end of 2019, as copper smelters expanded capacity and copper scrap supply dried up on increased import quotas, leading to record high imports of copper ores and unwrought copper. 

In addition to a lack of supply of blister copper and scrap, lowered treatment charges of spot copper concentrate fell below smelter cost lines and affected smelter operations.

The supply of secondary scrap is expected to rise in the first quarter of 2020, as China announced increased import quotas along with reclassified standards for high-grade copper scrap, in order to exclude the raw material from banned solid waste and include in necessary resources.

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