By IM Staff
After weeks of relative market buoyancy, prices for rare earths
slipped during the second week of October as reduced demand
from buyers undermined recent gains.
Prices were around 5% down on their
September averages, according to sources, with the more
valuable heavy rare earths being among the hardest hit.
According to the Chinese media,
dwindling downstream demand was compounded when expectations of
a rare earths bid invitation - related to rumours of a planned
government stockpile - fell through.
Recent indications from other
markets, including bromine chemicals, high-purity graphite and
precious tech-related precious metals, suggest that
manufacturing of consumer electronics, and particularly display
screens, slowed down in Q3.
Softening demand from high-tech
industries has put pressure on the price of tech-related
graphite products, which failed to achieve anticipated price
increases as the market entered Q4.
IM Data reported
in early October that prices for flake, 97% C, -100 mesh - a
grade generally consumed by high-tech or niche industries -
sourced from Henan, China, were over 14% lower than at the
start of Q3 2013.
IM Data also
reported that prices for spherical graphite (99.95% C, 15
microns, FOB China) have fallen by around 5% due to weakness in
lithium-ion battery markets.
In terms of the overall graphite
market, there has been no significant change in demand, sources
told IM Data, although some expect a slight
upturn in sales over the coming weeks in anticipation of the
US-headquartered Rockwood Holdings
Inc. announced at the beginning of October that its Rockwood
Lithium division will implement price increases for
butyllithium and other organometallics by approximately 4%
globally from 15 October, as contracts permit.
Prices for energy and raw
materials, particularly solvent costs, have been increasing
over the last 12 months, which makes this step necessary,
said Gerd Michael Kraemer, vice president global marketing and
R&D for Rockwood Lithium.
Butyllithium is an organometallic
compound used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber and
plastics. Prices for the material can range between
$10-1,000/kg, depending on the application.
Diatomite, perlite and calcium
EP Minerals reported a similar
story in October, announcing its intention to implement a 5-7%
price increase across all diatomite grades, effective 1
The US-based company added that it
would also be increasing prices of perlite and cellulose
products, and said that the increase will affect all
EP Minerals said the price
increases were necessary to offset inflationary pressure
in the industrial mineral business with increased costs in
mining, regulatory compliance, labour and benefits, ore and
hauling costs, packaging, freight and logistics.
It added that it expects that
prices for key inputs will continue to increase over the next
Earlier in the month, Imerys
Carbonates North America said it was raising the price of its
calcium carbonate products, effective 1 December, by 3-10%.
Surcharges for unique packaging
configurations will also be implemented in addition to the
price increases, the company added.
Imerys explained that the
surcharges were necessary to minimise the increased packaging
and shipping costs it has been experiencing.
Imerys European business,
Imerys Performance and Filtration Minerals Europe, has also
been hit by increased costs in freight, packaging and raw
To offset the rise in energy costs,
the company says it has no choice but to implement a system of
energy surcharges across its range of European products.
Production has been particularly
affected at the Imerys diatomite plant in Murat, France, and at
the companys Alicante celite plant in Spain.
The surcharge for products from
Alicante will affect calcined and non-calcined grades depending
on energy demand, and will be based on Brent prices $/bbl from
the previous six months.
Murat products will be charged at
18.70 ($25.78*)/tonne, and the energy surcharge will be
calculated monthly, with any changes implemented on the
26th day of each month.
Perlite products will also be
subject to an energy surcharge, Imerys added, as well as the
companys modified alumino-silicate product, OpTiMat.
October energy surcharges have been
confirmed by Imerys at 7.80/tonne for OpTiMat customers,
and 6.10/tonne for perlite customers.
South American iodine producers
lowered their pricing ranges for spot and contract orders in
Until recently, companies in the
region had been reporting significantly higher prices than
market participants in other parts of the world, with values
close to the $60/kg mark.
However, large suppliers have now
revised their ranges to $54-58/kg, hinting that slowing end
market consumption and tougher deals as the market enters Q4
were behind the softening.
The new range is still slightly
above prices reported from European and US market insiders who
told IM that iodine values were stable between
$42-52/kg, and that they expected prices to remain at this
level for the rest of this year.
Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.
reported a 45% year-on-year drop in third quarter profits in
October as plunging prices, poor sales volumes and general
market uncertainty took their toll on the company.
Earnings of $356m for the quarter
were in line with the Saskatoon, Canada-based companys
recently lowered guidance. The potash market has been in flux
since July, when Russian producer Uralkali exited its agreement
Belaruskali and warned of lower prices.
The uncertainty has led customers
to delay purchases, which is hitting the bottom line of the
The companys average realised
potash price was $307/tonne in Q3, compared to $429/tonne in
the same quarter a year ago.
The bad news is not limited to
potash, as prices for phosphate and nitrogen have also come
down sharply over the last 12 months. Potash Corp., Agrium Inc.
and Mosaic Co. have all issued recent profit warnings due to
For antimony trioxide, recent
reports suggest that producers are continuing to hold off
placing orders in the hope of securing lower prices for
Sources indicated to
IM that the market has remained quiet during
October as the impasse on antimony trading is yet to break.
Antimony metal standard grade II
prices rose while standard grade I prices narrowed, while the
price range for trioxide grade material remained largely
stable, with some marginal narrowing upwards from the lower
end, sources said.
US-based speciality chemicals
producer Albermarle Corp said recently that its attempts to
raise the price of bromine products in 2013 have been given a
mixed reception by customers.
In August the company raised the
price of its n-Propyl bromide based products by 20% and its
elemental bromine and hydrobromic acid products by 25% for
This was followed in September by a
15% hike in the price of its brominated flame retardants.
Responding to analyst questions
during its Q3 earnings conference call, Albemarles CEO,
Luke Kissam, said that its higher bromine prices had been
received differently by different markets.
Kissam did not give any specific
details on pricing, other than to state that values were now
well north of the $3,000/tonne mark.
Market indications are that bromine
prices could increase further before the end of the year.
*Conversions made October