Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH

By Alex Feytis
Published: Monday, 23 August 2010

This year Cofermin is celebrating ten years of trading industrial minerals. Managing partners Tim Geldmacher, Pawel Golak, Bernhard Krüger and Ralf Ossen talked to IM about the challenges of raw material availability and how the role of traders has evolved during the last decade

Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH & Co KG, headquartered in Essen, Germany, runs offices in Katowice, Moscow, Tianjin and Tokyo. The company trades over 100 products worldwide, from alumina to zirconia, to markets such as foundry, steel, refractories, building materials, mineral processing, ceramics, glass, fertiliser, welding, and waterjet cutting. Cofermin supplies Europe, Russia and Asia for a large number of international raw material and additives producers. Key areas of Cofermin’s activities is the development of new resources, especially secondary raw materials.

Cofermin was founded in 2000 by four managing partners Tim Geldmacher, Pawel Golak, Bernhard KrŸger and Ralf Ossen, all ex-Frank&Schulte experts in marketing and distribution, processing and trading of ores and minerals.

Today the company employs 40 people in trading and administration throughout the world. In China, Cofermin operates a processing plant for refractory minerals and additives. The company founded Cofermin Chemicals GmbH & Co. KG in 2008, in order to take a more focussed approach towards the chemical business.

Tim Geldmacher, Pawel Golak,
Bernhard Kruger and Ralf Ossen,
managing partners

How do you see the trader’s role?

We regard the continuous and reliable supply of strategic raw materials to our customers as one of our most important tasks. A close relationship with suppliers and customers added to an in-depth knowledge of the specifics of the individual markets help us to achieve this goal. We view ourselves as a global service company operating in a most transparent way. This philosophy sets us apart from most of our competitors.

How has it evolved?

During the late 1990s, the role of the trader was questioned by many consumers. The idea to cut out the middle-man to save cost was supported by the fact that supply for most raw materials was stable, communication had become easier and the internet was starting to make the market a lot more transparent. We started Cofermin in 2000 just about when supply for many raw materials began to get tight. The past years have proven that the role of the trader is still an important one when it comes to a reliable and consistent supply of raw materials.

The relationship between supplier, distributor and final customer will get even closer and more transparent. This will allow an optimisation of the whole process and also help to speed up the development of new sources.

What developments have you planned?

We see great potential in secondary raw materials. The awareness that supply for some products depends to a large extent on a few countries, such as China or South Africa, and large conglomerates help to push the development of new products generated from industrial processes. This is exactly the point where Cofermin can play an important role. Our portfolio in this field already includes silica fume, aluminium oxides, silicon carbide, aluminium flakes and a variety of secondary refractory materials.

What factors have most impacted the market lately?

In the last few years, raw material availability has become an issue of increasing importance to many producing industries worldwide. The continuing strong growth of the world economy and in particular the demand of the Chinese and Indian markets for various raw materials, have been and continue to be the reason for very high prices and limited availability. The above applies for commodity materials such as coke, iron ores and metals but also for other, less known but equally important raw materials such as ores and industrial minerals.

What is the challenge in finding sources of raw material?

The European industry is heavily dependent on raw material imports. Only a few countries are dominating supply of those raw materials relevant to our line of business. This situation bears an enormous challenge for the European industry and also for us as a company. Dependable, long-term availability of ores and minerals is going to come more into focus in the coming years.

The continuing growth of China and the clear policies of the Chinese government to protect their own raw material resources while buying up international resources that become available like bauxite will limit the availability of raw materials for countries like Germany.

We believe that synthetic and secondary raw materials will be a potential substitute for some of the materials concerning our portfolio.

What minerals are the most promising?

As during the past ten years, we will be concentrating on niche products rather than on commodities. As one example: speciality grade bauxites ex China for example will be increasingly difficult to source in the coming years. Utilising our processing company in Tianjin, we are going to concentrate on high density, welding, cement and other speciality grades.