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More production shutdowns expected in China

By Yoke Wong
Published: Friday, 02 December 2016

More refractory minerals production shutdowns are anticipated amid warning of heightening pollution level around Beijing. Despite the supply disruption, spot prices of bauxite and brown fused alumina remained unchanged amid weak demand.

More refractory minerals production in China is expected to be shut down as the ministry of environmental protection (MEP) urged local authorities to take swift actions ahead of severe pollution on 2 December.  

On 30 November, MEP issued warnings on extremely polluted weather in areas around Beijing and Tianjin between 2 – 4 December. The MEP also sent warning letters to six provinces – Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Henan  – to remind provincial governments to take precautions against harmful air quality.   

In previous anti-pollution related shutdowns, production facilities within 600km of Beijing were closed when the smog levels get to such a harmful level.

According to the MEP update, industrial production at 224 plants in Shanxi, 175 in Henan, 149 in Shandong and 17 in Hebei have either been  capped or halted from January-October this year. In total, output was restricted at 565 facilities from these four provinces, which account for 17% of total production cap in China.    

During the first ten months of the year, facilities that did not meet environmental standards were also seized and shut. 181 plants in Beijing, 17 in Tianjin, 22 in Hebei, 122 in Shanxi, 258 in Shandong and 593 in Henan were seized. 1193 properties from the six provinces were shut, which account for 20% of China’s anti-pollution related closures.      

China is one of the world biggest supplier of refractory minerals.

Up to 90% of refractories minerals are produced in Shanxi province, with the region holding most of the bauxite resources, one supplier told IM

There is also a concentration of fused alumina production facilities in Henan. 

"The production halt in Shanxi is definitely going to have a big impact," the supplier said.

Although Guizhou province also has bauxite mining operations, the production is smaller than Shanxi province.   

"There is no stock in Guizhou and even if there is, it will be more expensive," the supplier said.   

Earlier in November, Taiyuan municipal government imposed a city-wide industrial stoppage in the Shanxi province’s capital city until end-2016. 

Despite supply restrictions due to the stricter anti-pollution control, refractory-grade bauxite and brown fused alumina prices have not increased this past week, according to market participants who put the lack of impact to date due to on-going weak demand.  

Spot prices for Shanxi-origin, 85% Al2O3 (0-6mm) bauxite were assessed at $270-300/tonne on a FOB Xingang basis, 1 December, while 86% material was traded at $280-300/tonne, both unchanged week-on-week (w-o-w).

Spot prices for 95.5% Al2O3 min brown fused alumina (refractory sized 0-1,1-3,3-5mm) held at $585-600/tonnes, also unchanged w-o-w, according to IM’s assessment on 1 December.

Full information on IM’s bauxite and alumina prices can be found on the IM Pricing Database.