Abr 23

RHI seeks December restart for Norway magnesia plant

The company aims to have its fused magnesia line ‘up and running’ in Norway before year-end.

Austrian refractory maker RHI is aiming to restart fused magnesia (FM) production at its partially-mothballed facility in Norway in December, the company told IM.

After an initial announcement at the beginning of October, RHI said it is confident the FM production line at the Porsgrunn facility can be “up and running” in a short period of time.

“We are working to start up in December with a limited number of lines first. We will constantly evaluate the needs in terms of production volume to guarantee the supply to our customers,” RHI told IM.

The FM operation at the facility was mothballed in August 2016, on the back of weak market conditions that made the line uneconomical to run.

CCM production at the site meanwhile continued – which is the main reason behind the swift restart schedule RHI is pursuing, as workers have remained at the facility and operations have ticked over in the other manufacturing lines at the site.

Whether RHI’s Norwegian plant would start producing FM again has been a main point of discussion among industry players over the past few months, as the shortage of the material intensified in major consuming markets.

Prices of the material from both Chinese and European suppliers have reached new highs in October.

European FM increased further to $1,400-1,600/tonne, while all Chinese FM grades also appreciatedafter the Golden Week national holiday.

Abr 16

Henan enforces mass brown fused alumina shutdown from November

The Henan government has ramped up efforts to combat pollution by implementing yet more shutdowns of brown fused alumina production later this year. This is set to cause more global supply disruptions since output was already intermittent in recent months.

The government of Henan province in China will enforce large-scale brown fused alumina production stoppages from November 2017 – March 2018 in a bid to cut down pollution levels in the region, according to official documentation.

China is one of the biggest fused alumina producers in the world and Henan is a key fused alumina producing region.

Further output cuts will severely impact exports to the refractories and abrasive sectors globally, since production was already intermittent due to the past months of anti-pollution checks, market participants told IM.

According to the provincial capital Zhengzhou government, the province must meet the target of the environmental plan, it announced on 28 September.

Under the plan, the average concentration of particulate matter (PM2.5) between October 2017 and March 2018 must fall by 20% year-on-year, and the number of severe pollution days must also reduce by 15%.

By end of October, all steel and cement producers must complete their paperwork for emission licenses, while copper, zinc, lead smelters, aluminium, pharmaceutical and pesticide producers must obtain their licences by December 2017.

Companies releasing pollutants without licenses will be prosecuted, according to Zhengzhou government.

In a separate notice seen by IM, a list of 51 brown fused alumina producers across Zhengzhou, Jiaozuo, Luoyang,
Sanmenxia, Jiyuan, Gongyi and Lankao have been compelled by the government authority to shut down for a set period of time, between 15 November and 15 March 2018.

While it is not a blanket ban to all producers to shut down production in the next four months, 42 on the list are allowed to produce for one month in January 2018, while five have ceased operation indefinitely.

It is unclear when the environmental restrictions will end, but many market participants within and outside China believe that many small fused alumina producers will not survive this wave of checks. As a result, the total output in China could potentially drop in 2017.

Abr 09

European fused magnesia prices grow over 50%

The latest surge in prices follows extreme tightness in availability of material from European producers, and compounds the shortage seen in China.

Prices of European fused magnesia (FM) have surged to exceed the $1,000/tonne mark this week, following repeated upticks in Chinese prices and extremely tight availability of material reflecting on international demand flows.

While the European magnesia market as a whole somehow managed to stave off the rapid price uptrend that has been seen in China since Q2, the widespread shortage of fused magnesia has now taken the price of the commodity up by over 50% against earlier levels.

European-produced fused magnesia is trading between $1,000/tonne and $1,200/tonne FOB Europe, according to an IM assessment on 29 August.

This marks a 58% surge in prices compared with a previous level of $640-750/tonne FOB Europe.

The latest increase follows a first uptick in the price of the commodity in June, from $480-650/tonne to $640-750/tonne.

A shortage of FM volumes available for spot selling has been the leading driver of the price surge.

“We are totally sold out on all of our FM grades,” a large European producer told IM, adding that he has not had any material available “for months”.

Another seller added: “We can offer only small trial size lots.”

A third producer also said he does not have anything available outside existing contracts. He added: “Buyers are
desperate to secure their supplies and are ready to accept any price.”

Part of the current issue in availability is the fact that a large share of European production is normally booked by domestic customers who settle yearly contracts. This crucially reduces the volumes left for spot business at times of tight supply.

The situation in China has made matters worse.

Disruptions in production at Chinese facilities – where operations were shut during environmental inspections in previous months, and are very slowly restarting – continue to affect local operations.

Additionally, restrictions on the use of dynamite in mining in some areas of the country led to shortage of high-quality magnesite ore that is used for producing FM. This made production impossible also for those few factories that were able to keep operating during and after the inspections.

The market tightness became apparent as customers found it really hard to source FM volumes from China. In late July, Chinese fused magnesia prices rose by around $200/tonne in one go, exceeding the 2016 levels when export quotas and duties were in place.

At that time, a few European suppliers had already told IM that they were “fully booked”.

One noted in late July: “Usually we see a slowdown in demand at this time of year, after strong buying in Q1. Now we are receiving enquiries constantly: we are running at full capacity and cannot meet all the request. This is all down to China being short.”

Stockpiles of material available in Europe – not only FM, but also dead burned magnesia (DBM) and caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) – made sourcing possible for Europe-based consumers in the early months of the year. This kept prices in Europe more stable against rapid price growth in China.

Availability has now become tight for some DBM grades, while CCM remains in better shape overall.
FM is by far the shortest material in Europe now.

Other European magnesia prices have remained unchanged. Calcined agricultural magnesia stands at €240-300/tonne CIF EU ports. Electrical-grade fused magnesia is priced at $1,500-2,450/tonne ex-works UK. Raw magnesite, max 3.5% SiO2 content, is also stable at €65-80/tonne FOB East Mediterranean.

In North America, electrical-grade fused magnesia is trading at $1,700-2,500/tonne ex-works US, while refractory-grade fused magnesia stands at $900-1,400/tonne FOB US.

Abr 02

Dwindling supply lifts Chinese calcined bauxite prices

Further crackdown on environmental rule-breaking plants in Shanxi have slashed calcined bauxite output, pushing prices up over the past fortnight.

Chinese calcined bauxite spot prices increased over the past fortnight as the already tight supply dwindled further amid more governmental shutdown of production facilities.

The Shanxi government announced 11 August that all plants that breached environmental standards in the refractory minerals producing province will be closed by the end of September. This rule followed Tianjin’s plan to relocate mineral processing plants in the port city that was announced at the end of June.

The two measures have brought further disruption to calcined bauxite production facilities. Combined with limited
availability of high-grade ore, output has been slashed.

Although one Shanxi-based producer observed that there are still some plants operating secretly against the authority’s rule, overall production volume has declined sharply.

Buyers in the market have encountered great difficulty in sourcing material over the past fortnight and many suppliers were reluctant to provide quotes amid the uncertainty.

“There is no stock in the country, so it’s not possible to export,” one Tianjin-based trader told IM.

“I’m not making any offer – it is pointless,” he added.

A Europe-based trader agreed: “[It’s] the same situation, [but] it’s getting worse. The price is going up, there is no material.”

All spot prices of refractory-grade bauxite on a FOB Xingang basis increased, according to IM’s price assessment on 24 August.

Spot prices for 85% refractory-grade bauxite (85% Al2O3/2.0/3.15-3.2/0-6mm) increased to $370-390/tonne FOB
Xingang, up by an average of $15/tonne from two weeks ago.

86% bauxite also rose to $390-400/tonne, up $10/tonne compared to a fortnight ago.

87% bauxite jumped to $400-450/tonne, compared to $390-400/tonne previously, while 88% was assessed at
$450-480/tonne, up from $400-430/tonne previously.

Environmental restrictions to get worse

At least two Chinese producers and one distributor believed that environmental inspections in Shanxi, Tianjin and Henan – provinces around Beijing – are likely to intensify in September and October ahead of a major sporting event (the National games) being held in Henan and the 19th national congress of the Communist Party in the capital.

One Europe-based distributor claimed that the authorities could close down most of the industries around Beijing, he told IM.

The government’s crackdown on tax evasion further disrupted the market, said the Shanxi-based producer.

“[There is] more uncertainty. It’s very difficult to know if deliveries are going to happen,” said one Europe-based distributor.

Mar 26

CMP to start new calcined bauxite production in November

The major Chinese calcined bauxite producer will start operations at its newly constructed calcination plant in Guizhou in Q4. Although there is widespread environmental restriction on production, CMP has received all the governmental permits to continue production in both Guizhou and Tianjin.

Calcined bauxite producer China Mineral Processing (CMP) will be starting commercial production in its new plant in Guizhou, South West China in November.

The newly constructed 80,000tpa calcination facility with rotary kiln and pressurized shaft will start operation in end of October, producing rotary bauxite lump between 85-90% Al2O3.

The monthly output is expected at 8,000-10,000 tonnes/month in the longer-term, according to CMP.
“This is now certain and we have all the permits required plus we are unrestricted in production in the 4th quarter 2017 – for calcinations of our own mine produced bauxite,” James Devlin, managing director of CMP Europe sales, told IM.

CMP has a bauxite mine with estimated reserves of 3m tonnes in Xiuwen, north of Guiyang, and the mine will be supplying the calcination plant with raw material. The mine has been in production since June 2012.
In addition, the company also has a supply contract with Aluminium Corp of China Ltd (Chalco) Guizhou, which would provide them with additional bauxite raw material.

Due to the draconian anti-pollution measures enforced by the central Chinese government, mining and industrial activities in provinces around Beijing will be greatly restricted from 1 October onwards.

CMP expects production in Guizhou to be greatly reduced in October due to the ban on explosives use but operations should return to normal between November and March 2018. This is because unlike Shanxi, Guizhou is far away from any big city and is located more than 2,000km away from Beijing, hence the province is subjected to less scrutiny compared to Shanxi.

Bauxite lump produced in Guizhou will be exported from South China ports, or transported in bulk to CMP’s crushing plant in Tianjin in late December or January 2018 for processing into sized refractory material.
Although CMP’s crushing plant in Tianjin has received environmental permission to work continuously through November – March 2018, the facility could run out of raw material to crush after 15 November due to a shortage of bauxite.

“Work in CMP Tianjin could to be interrupted because of the shortage of bauxite (dynamite and mining restrictions) in October and because of environmental closures of the calcinations plants in Shanxi after 15 November,” Devlin said .

Due to the scarcity of bauxite in the market, demand for the refractory minerals remains very strong.
“We already got the first two containers in September 2017 for testing in Europe,” Devlin said.
To date 3,000 tonnes of bauxite lump and 6,000 tonnes of crushed material have also been sold to different clients for delivery in December-January 2018, according to delivery.

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