IM’s full price listing is only
published online. If you have any comments or concerns, or wish
to discuss any of the grades or prices listed, please contact
Barbara O’Donovan, Industrial Minerals editor
Mixed views on European graphite market
The graphite market in Europe remained broadly stable at the
start of 2017, although some participants pointed to instances
of discounted offers from China.
As the sector entered the new year, suppliers reported
stability in market prices although some discrepancies in
demand flows were seen. While some sellers told IM of regular
and steady inflows of enquiries and orders, others spoke of
slower-than-average demand in December, citing availability
of material and flat prices.
Through January, the industry was taken by surprise by
China’s sudden decision to scrap duties on exports
of natural flake and amorphous graphite material, which until
then added a 20% tax on top of the price.
This had a rapid effect on new-year offers out of China,
which saw a decrease in mid-January.
At the same time, delivered prices into Europe have remained
As per IM’s market assessment on 2 February,
flake graphite, 85-87% C, +100 -80 mesh size, remained at
$400-450/tonne, while amorphous, 80-85%, -200 mesh, was at a
similar $400-430/tonne, both on a CIF Europe basis.
Higher purity flake, 94-97% C, was also unchanged: +100 -80
mesh size traded at $700-750/tonne CIF EU, while +80 mesh held
at $750-850/tonne CIF EU and the -100 mesh size was sold at a
lower $620-650/tonne CIF EU.
Lower carbon flake, 90% C, into Europe was priced at
$500-550/tonne CIF for -100 mesh material, at $600-650/tonne
CIF for +80 mesh size and at $550-620/tonne CIF for +100 -80
"The influence on the market of the Chinese tax cancellation
[on European prices] was not as high as was expected," a
local supplier told IM in early February.
He added that his quotes had not changed on the back of the
reduced Chinese prices, and he expects higher demand throughout
the year. To prepare for this, the company is forecasting a
3,000 tonne increase in its 2017 output against last year.
Other sources based in Europe previously cited high freight
rates in the China-Europe route as a factor that has
increasingly been critical to determining prices. In early
February, the rate for a 20ft full container load (FCL) to main
European ports (Rotterdam, Hamburg) stood in excess of
$1,000/FCL, according to market participants.
Additionally, any contracts delivered in January, or paid in
January, but secured last year, would still reflect the
previous duty regime.
A central European trader said that he has "regular business
with customers", and that so far he was not being affected by
aggressive prices from China.
"Our customers are more interested in getting the exact
product specifications they need, so are less likely to switch
supplier to save a few euros," he said.
But not everyone agreed with this view. A European
distributor told IM that some of his customers
chose to source from others who had cut their quotes following
the duty cancellation.
"I lost some business to competitors who had offers that were
around 10% below my price," he told IM.
Sources also reported diverging patterns in terms of
While some spoke of regular inflows of enquiries, another
European-based supplier told IM that December
was "slower than usual".
"We worked well up until November, but December was quiet,"
he said, stating that customers were not in a rush to cover as
they thought there was enough material on the market.
He added however that he expects demand and prices to pick
up between Q2 and Q3, as stockpiles have been reduced over the
past year. This, in his view, would push the market
|Graphite, flake, 94-97% C, +80 mesh, FCL, CIF
Europe ports, $/tonne
|Source: Industrial Minerals
Proposed change to a number of IM’s
pricing assessment frequencies
Industrial Minerals proposes moving the weekly assessment
schedule of the following minerals to Tuesday, with effect
from 9 March 2017.
• Antimony Trioxide
Assessments currently take place on a weekly basis, every
If you have any comments please contact Industrial Minerals
head of market reporting Yoke Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lithium market quietens ahead of Chinese New
With annual contracts in place and Chinese buyers and sellers
winding down operations for the Chinese New Year holiday, the
global lithium market entered into a seasonal quiet period at
the end of January.
Sources expected market activity levels to remain low until
at least mid-February as supply chains in China - from
production facilities to transportation - were taken offline to
varying degrees for the holiday.
"Logistics companies have shut down, port infrastructure has
been wound right back. Making and receiving deliveries is
nigh-on impossible," one Chinese producer told IM, adding that
processing facilities would be working on limited crews.
The Chinese spot prices for lithium carbonate and lithium
hydroxide were both expected to remain stable over the period
as a result.
Lithium carbonate (spot, min. 99-99.5%
Li2CO3, CIF China) held at $18-21/kg and
lithium hydroxide (spot, 56.5-57.5% LiOH, CIF China) at
$20.5-24/kg, according to IM’s assessment on 26
One buyer expected the quiet period to stretch to the latter
part of Q1, at which point domestic buyers would decide how
much material to buy based to the new electric vehicle (EV)
subsidy programme rolled out by the Chinese government at the
end of 2016.
The publication of a firm subsidy policy for 2017 after
months of uncertainty has led to speculation that Chinese spot
prices might rise again, once its effects were absorbed into
the market. This might take some time, however.
"[China] is a very reactive market (…) they wait until
they see really pronounced movement and then ramp prices up
or down," said one supplier.
He predicted it would be Q2 or Q3 before prices would be
affected by the policy.
"The EV guys will go to the cathode guys and say we want 'X
volume’ over the next three or six months. Then
the cathode guys will hit the market to get their lithium
chemicals supply. As soon as the lithium guys’
phones start ringing, that’s when it will kick
off," he said.
Outside China, contract prices also remained steady. Lithium
carbonate (min. 99-99.5% Li2CO3, large contracts, del.
US) 2017 annual deals concluded at $10-16/kg and quarterly
contracts at $10-18/kg.
Lithium hydroxide (56.5-57.5% LiOH, del. Europe or US)
contracts meanwhile settled at $14-20/kg on an annual basis and
$15-20/kg on a quarterly basis.
One source indicated that global market supply may ease when
Albemarle increases carbonate production in H2, but not before.
Hydroxide supply is set to remain tight, however.
|Lithium carbonate, min 99-99.5% LiC2O3, spot
contracts, China ex-works, CNY/ton
|Source: Industrial Minerals
Antimony trioxide prices edge up as China returns to
Myles McCormick, Yoke Wong
Antimony trioxide prices rose slightly as Chinese market
players returned to work following the Chinese New Year break
in early February.
While the market remained relatively quiet, with many buyers
having stocked up ahead of the holiday, IM’s
market assessment on 9 February tracked antimony trioxide
(typically 99.5% Sb2O3) prices rising by
around $50/tonne across the board compared with the previous
On an FOB China basis, prices rose to $6,550-6,700/tonne. In
Europe, CIF Antwerp/Rotterdam prices moved upwards to
$6,650-6,800/tonne, while CIF US prices increased to
Traditionally prices tend to increase following the China
New Year break, according to market participants. This
year worries related to closures of Chinese plants, following a
crackdown on pollution, may accentuate this, they said.
Closures have already happened in Guanxi, with further
possible in Hunan.
One Europe-based trader told IM the threat of further
facility closures was "hanging over the market". Shutdowns may
be imposed over the course of the current quarter.
But "it’s not wreaking havoc yet," he said,
adding the impact might not be felt until mid-to-late
Another trader emphasised that shutdowns were far from a
given in Hunan. "Environmental inspections in Hunan will only
push the price up further if they happen," he told
On top of this, several plants in central and northern China
are also facing rising production costs.
One Chinese trader suggested that price increases could be
driven by suppliers "testing the water", to see if the higher
prices will be accepted by buyers.
Antimony trioxide prices were "well supported by the current
antimony metal rally", one trader said.
Antimony metal prices also increased in early February,
according to IM’s sister publication Metal
Ingot prices (antimony MB free market, in warehouse
Rotterdam, max 100 ppm Bi) jumped by $125/tonne to
$7,625-7,900/tonne on 8 February.
|Antimony trioxide, typically 99.5% Sb2O3, 20
tonne lots FOB China, $/tonne