Last week the metals world came to London for 2013 LME Week,
taking place in what one person called one of the hardest years
in metals markets.
But what does LME Week have to do with industrial minerals?
Well, nothing and everything. As is well known many industrial
minerals are used in refractories for steel making, which means
that there is a natural relationship between the markets.
Bauxite, alumina, chromite and titanium are used for their
non-metallurgical purposes as well as their met-grade
But quite apart from this, is there another link is LME
week becoming more relevant in industrial minerals as metals
traders look to other markets?
Put simply, not really. Traders being traders, there is always
an inclination to deal in anything that will make money. This
has become more apparent this year over others, but this
doesnt necessarily mean that droves of people are now
looking specifically at industrial
It does mean that those who have always looked at one type of
market could well be open to looking at a new opportunity. Several traders said
they were now looking at iron and minor metals, which in the
past had been ignored. One trader said he was dealing in
almonds, whereas another admitted he had invested in some
I think that it's definitely true that people are not
just looking at metals now, one trader told IM.
In the past you'd get someone visiting a plant and they
would only be interested in what they were covering, and you'd
ask if they thought to enquire on ferroalloys or iron and
they'd invariably say they hadn't. Now there's an appreciation
that people are looking at any in, the trader
According to Gerard Lyons, e
conomic adviser to the Mayor of London, the economy is growing
and could still see the best 30 years of growth it has ever
Despite the global crisis we have seen growth, he
said, pointing to the world growth, during his keynote speech
but still growing.
The disconnect is that not everyone is sharing in the
success, he added pointing to the wealth divide in China
and youth unemployment in the west.
Transparency is fundamental
Not unlike industrial minerals markets, transparency and the
cost of regulation formed the basis of a lot of the
presentations given. Garry Jones, the new head of the LME, told
those at the opening talk that what was needed was better
regulation, not more regulation.
This has been key to many recent seminars in industrial
minerals not least at IMs recent
China roundtable, where
the cost and dubious impact of consolidation and regulation had
left markets at times more prone to manipulation, or slowed
An example of this is in talc markets, where markets are
hampered by government involvement, explained Jia Xiu Zhuang,
Haichen MinChem Co. Ltd.
More industrial minerals discussed
While there wasnt a significant step change towards
looking at industrial minerals over metals, there was
definitely interest in other markets.
When pressed, most admitted that they didnt realise
markets being looked at fell under this category; lithium, rare
earths (a dead story, snorted one trader), and
chromite sand were only reluctantly agreed to fall under the
industrial minerals label.
But those who were now dealing in industrial minerals were
looking at oilfield minerals, which is unsurprising as it is
expected to be a good growth area, but also at sulphur,
agriminerals such as potash and held an interest in minerals
which can be used as fillers.
However, as one trader said, these [industrial minerals]
are a harder story to sell because there's no metallurgical
attachment. You have to be able to sell it on a basis that
people understand what it is and how it can be