Record Prices Could Prevent US Copper Scrap Being Shipped to China

Copper concentrate is usually processed into refined metal for use in the construction and power industries. The People’s Republic of China is the largest buyer of raw materials such as scrap and concentrates, and is also home to about half of copper smelters globally. Since 2023, copper smelters in China have been grappling with concentrate shortages after First Quantum forfeited the right to operate its Cobre mine.

In 2022, the output of this mine, valued at $10 billion, made up 1% of global mined copper supply.

Reducing production at other mines, most of which are in Latin America, has only worsened concentrate shortages and forced smelters in China to import even more copper scrap in an effort to protect their margins and keep their furnaces on. The latest data shows that scrap imports and copper waste into the east Asian country rose by 25% to reach more than 783,004 tons in the period between January and April of this year, in comparison to the first four months of last year.

Scrap makes up about 30% or roughly nine million tons of global copper supplies annually.

Data from Trade Data Monitor also shows that scrap imports from the United States rose in the first four months of this year, surpassing 153,059 tons. Scrap from America is priced at a discount to the price on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which set a new record of $11,460 a ton in May 2024 because parties that had sold futures were forced to roll over their positions or buy them back.

One source at a trading company in China stated that buyers in China were suspending copper scrap shipments from America, despite the fact that the U.S. is the country’s biggest supplier of scrap. The source also revealed that some buyers in China wanted to price scrap from America against copper on the London Metal Exchange.

Alice Fox, an analyst from Macquarie, stated that copper smelters were processing more blister and scrap because of shortages in concentrate. Fox explained that on a contained copper basis, scrap tonnages could move by even a million tons annually given the cost of collection and processing. She then noted that this would help rebalance the market during periods of low or high prices.

Macquarie, a diversified financial group offering asset management, advisory and banking solutions, expects that the gap between the demand and supply of copper will expand to 1.6 million tons in 2030. At the moment, the market has a deficit of about 86,000 tons.

This deficit could partially be covered over time as exploration companies such as First Tellurium Corp. (CSE: FTEL) (OTCQB: FSTTF) take new mines through the development process and production eventually commences.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to First Tellurium Corp. (CSE: FTEL) (OTCQB: FSTTF) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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