IM Prices August 2017

By IM Staff
Published: Friday, 08 September 2017

See article below, from the July-August issue of Industrial Minerals magazine, for market updates on price movements in various industrial minerals. Minerals featured this month include: fluorspar, graphite, lithium, alumina, bauxite, magnesia, barytes, iodine, antimony trioxide.

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 bodonovan@indmin.com.

Fluorspar

Chinese fluorspar prices drop as refrigerant season ends

Albert Li

Chinese fluorspar spot prices fell in the first two weeks of August as the high season ended, but metspar remained high due to strong demand in the steel industry. Some traders warned that the supply pressure will remain as the environmental inspections continue.

Chinese acidspar spot prices dropped over the first two weeks of August as the traditional high season for refrigerants sales ended while demand from the steel industry continued to support metspar.

Acidspar (97% CaF2) is the key raw material for refrigerants or coolants and the high season for refrigerant is traditionally in spring. Trading activities have been quiet as the market enters the height of summer, traders told IM.

Industrial Minerals’ acidspar min. 97% CAF2, wet filtercake spot prices dropped over the past two consecutive weeks to $340-360/tonne FOB China, according to IM’s assessment on 10 August.

Acidspar, 97% CaF2, Wet Filtercake, FOB, China (USD/tonne) 
Price1  
Source: Industrial Minerals 

Prior to the decline, it spiked to a four-year high in May at $380-400/tonne FOB China as strict environmental measures and restricted dynamite usage in mining cut production.

Amid lower demand, one Indian buyer has received more acidspar offers at the new lower prices, the buyer told IM.

Despite falling acidspar prices, metspar prices on an FOB China basis remained unchanged for several months, supported by the strong steel industry.

Metspar (min 80% CaF2) held at $250-270/tonne since 18 May, while min 85% CaF2 kept at $290-310/tonne, and metspar (min 90% CaF2) also remained at $330-350/tonne, both unchanged since March, according to IM’s assessment.

Environmental checks to stay

Despite falling prices in acidspar, many expect fluorspar production to remain disrupted in China in the coming months as the strict anti-pollution checks will continue.

"The inspections won’t seem to stop this year because a new director of the Ministry of Environmental Protection was appointed recently and his policy execution measures were even stricter than those of his predecessors," one trading company in China told IM. "The supply of many industries might be affected, from steel, hydrofluoric acid and fluorspar."

"Before the new environmental law becomes effective in January 2018, there will be a series of policies to support it," said another trading company in southern China. 

"In the future there will be no hiding when it comes to environmental protection in China. Any industry could be affected by environmental issues."


 Pricing notice: Correction to fluorspar prices

IM’s fluorspar acidspar prices were incorrectly reported on 10 August 2017. Please note changes to IM’s FOB China to India prices.

Due to a reporting error, the fluorspar acidspar 97% dry filtercake, FOB China to India price was incorrectly published online on 10 August.

The correct price for the duration should have been $340-360/tonne.

For further details please go online to Fluorspar Premium Pricing at www.indmin.com/Fluorspar-PremiumPricing 


Graphite

Chinese flake graphite prices rise again

Albert Li

Graphite prices in China increased further in mid-August, as several suppliers told IM that the market may continue to appreciate in the near term on the back of renewed environmental inspections of facilities and restrictions to mining.

"Prices change on a daily basis at the moment," one trader told IM. "It is quite normal that, when prices are increasing, sellers don’t want to sell and hold back, waiting for prices to rise further, while buyers want to buy more to replenish their inventories for future use."

"Prices could go as high as Chinese renminbi (Rmb) 1,000/tonne in a month – why sell it now?" he added.

According to an IM assessment on 17 August, FOB China prices for flake graphite 94-97% C +100 mesh surged to $750-890/tonne from $700-840/tonne previously, while +80 mesh material (same carbon content) increased to $850-1,010/tonne, up from $800-960/tonne in the previous week.

Other grades, including 85-87% C +100 mesh and 90% C -100 mesh, remained unchanged at $570-600/tonne and $370-400/tonne FOB China, respectively.

The price of flake 94-97% C, -100 mesh increased by $10/tonne on the lower-end of the range to $495-690/tonne, according to IM assessment. 

One producer in north-eastern China told IM: "We are only selling to our oldest customers – and, frankly, we don’t even want to sell to them. We sell 96% C +80 mesh at Rmb 7,000/tonne ($1,048/tonne), ex-works VAT included, simple package, but even our oldest customer might not get it. To new customers or refractory producers who always want to bargain and don’t have a relationship with us, we simply do not sell, or don’t even quote."

"Even we as producers are facing difficulties in sourcing graphite from other sellers for future inventory use. In addition, we must be able to pay for the material in advance, and we must have good contacts or friendships [in the industry] to get it in the first place," the producer added.

In addition, strict environmental regulation on chemical processing is also restricting the purification of graphite using acid, hence output has been reduced, which supported prices, suppliers said.    

Prices expected to stay high

Haibo Mo, deputy general manager of Hensen Graphite, a large spherical graphite producer in China, told IM: "We expect prices will remain at a high level for the rest of the year. One thing is certain: overall prices won’t fall back to the cheap levels seen before."

"[Any future movement will follow closely the development] of the environmental protection policy, which nobody can control or foresee," he added.


Flake, 94-97% C,+100 Mesh -80 Mesh, FCL, FOB, Qingdao, China 
Price2  
Source: Industrial Minerals 

Graphite

Jixi graphite producers join forces to hike prices

Albert Li

Graphite producers in Jixi city, in China’s south-eastern Heilongjiang province, came together to announce a mutually-agreed increase in graphite prices in August, which they said was needed on the back of fast-rising costs affecting operations.

At least seven producers in Jixi stamped a jointly-issued price increase notice, formally announcing their allegiance and combined effort to capitalise on the tightening supply situation that has brought about the recent appreciation seen in graphite prices.

The document – issued by the Jixi Graphite Industry Association – says that, in 2017, graphite production costs have continued to increase due to additional investment needed to meet environmental regulation, higher taxes and land fees, and shortage of ore supply – all this resulting in a "severe [financial] burden" for producers.

The table below shows all grades of graphite affected by the increase, and their updated price in Chinese Renminbi (Rmb). All listed prices are ex-works, VAT included, with simple package.


Prices3  

The jointly-issued document marks a new phase of collaboration between producers, changing drastically their approach to business, which until now used to be one of fierce competition. 

Mine closure in Luobei

In another graphite producing area, meanwhile, mining activity ended earlier than expected.

"Graphite mines in Luobei are shut down due to mine safety standards failing to meet the guidelines required by the local safety inspection bureau. We don’t know when they will be reopened," one local producer told IM.

This could mean that the previous targets set by the government to double graphite production in Luobei may fall short of expectations.

At a time when Chinese domestic production is affected, local sources suggest foreign competitors could have a crack at the market, eroding China’s market share.

"Now it seems like a good opportunity for foreign graphite mining companies, since China is short of large flake graphite," a second producer said to IM. "It is likely that domestic graphite buyers [will have to] import graphite from foreign producers, and foreign buyers who used to buy from China could buy from other countries too."

In fact, China has already begun importing material from African countries. Between January and June this year, China imported 525 tonnes flake graphite from Madagascar. Last year, China imported 181 tonnes from Madagascar and 207 tonnes from Tanzania. This trend is expected to increase.


Lithium

China’s new automotive policy to support lithium demand

Albert Li

A proposed overhaul of the Chinese government’s electric vehicle policy will see subsidies wound down in favour of a California-style point system, a move lithium producers hope will support battery demand. 

The China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced a draft of a double-point system that will be applied to all automakers of both internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and new energy vehicles (NEV).

The Chinese Government was collecting views from the public until last June and, on 25 July, the MIIT announced that the new system would be confirmed sometime before the end of 2017.

Under the new system, NEV producers will be awarded points based on their annual NEV production and imports, while fuel consumption will incur negative points. 

This means that producers or importers must produce or import a certain amount of NEVs, replacing the carrot of the subsidy system with a stick. 

The double-point system was borrowed from California’s CAFE and ZEV policy and will be applied to both internal combustion car manufacturers and manufacturers of NEVs.

Points can be transferred from company to company or traded. Points for fuel consumption can be carried forward into the following year while point for NEVs cannot.

The punishment for getting negative points or for failing to achieve enough NEV points is anticipated to be the partial shutdown of factories or the payment of fines.

The new double-point system will replace the subsidy system with a view to promote and sustain a more consolidated Chinese automotive industry. Subsidy support will be reduced gradually and eventually disappear by 2020 as seen throughout 2017, having fallen by 20% year-on-year.

Under this new policy, the Chinese government aims to reach the production target of 2m NEVs by 2020 targets.

"The Chinese government is looking to consolidate the automotive industry as currently there are over 200 electric automotive OEMs [equipment makers] in the country and the new policies aim at putting this market in the hand of a handful companies to make this industry more sustainable," a trader told IM

The new NEV policy is set to be effective from the beginning of 2018 and will have a direct impact on lithium consumption in China, which is expected to increase accordingly following the vehicle production targets set by Beijing.

Bullish market sentiment

"We anticipate prices of lithium carbonate to move up throughout H2 2017 due to the current tightness of material in the market," a lithium producer told IM

"Recent announcements of the Chinese NEV policies are fuelling the bullish sentiment in China and prices are anticipated to firm even further," the lithium producer added.
"We have recently been receiving several inquiries for lithium carbonate to be sourced into China. We are normally more active in Japan and Korea but we might start selling material into China," a second trader told IM

Global lithium prices

In China lithium carbonate (min 99-99.5% Li2CO3) spot prices remained unchanged between $17.4-22.80/kg CIF China, according to IM’s 10 August market assessment, while lithium hydroxide (min 56.5-57.5% LiOH) remained between $19.9-24.3/kg CIF China.

Lithium carbonate (min. 99-99.5% Li2CO3, del. US and Europe) prices were also stable between $11-16/kg for large biannual contracts.

Lithium hydroxide large contracts (56.5-57.5% LiOH, del. US and Europe) held at $14-20/kg.


Bentonite


 Pricing notice: Proposed delisting of bentonite prices

Industrial Minerals proposes to delist 14 bentonite prices in end-September, and revise the frequency of assessment of one grade from weekly to monthly.

IM is proposing to delist the following 14 bentonite grades with effect from 28 September:

Bentonite (dried material in bulk) FOB Greece, €/tonne

Bentonite OCMA/Foundry grades crude and dried, bulk, FOB Milos, €/tonne

Bentonite, API grade, bagged, rail car, ex-works, Wyoming, $/s.ton

Bentonite, Cat litter grade 1-5mm, bulk, FOB main European port, €/tonne

Bentonite, Cat litter grade, crushed, dried and loose in bulk, FOB Kandla, India, $/tonne

Bentonite, cat litter grade, ex-works Wyoming, USA, $/s.ton

Bentonite, foundry grade, bagged, rail cars, ex-works Wyoming, $/s.ton

Bentonite, fullers’ earth, soda ash-treated, Civil eng. grade, ex-works, South Africa, £/tonne

Bentonite, Indian, FOB Kandla, crushed and dried, loose in bulk, Civil Engineering grade, $/tonne

Bentonite, Indian, FOB Kandla, crushed and dried, loose in bulk, Iron ore pelletising grade, $/tonne

Bentonite, IOP grade, crude, bulk, ex-works Wyoming, $/s.ton

Bentonite, South African., ex-works Fullers’ earth, soda ash-treated, Cat litter grade,1-7mm, £/tonne

Bentonite, South African, ex-works Fullers’ earth, soda ash-treated, foundry grade, bagged, £/tonne

Bentonite. Foundry grade, bulk, del Japan, $/tonne

IM is proposing to change the  frequency of assessment from weekly to monthly for Bentonite, rail hopper cars, crude, bulk (all grades), ex-works Wyoming, USA, $/s.ton.

The above grades will be assessed on the last Thursday of each month, with effect from 28 September.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Industrial Minerals at pricing@indmin.com.

 


Brown fused alumina

Brown fused alumina prices spike on supply cut

Yoke Wong

Chinese brown fused alumina (BFA) spot prices have spiked over the past two weeks as the persistent anti-pollution checks severely capped output and choked supply.   

Since mid-July, the environmental inspectors have again moved into Henan province – the main fused alumina producing region in China – and many facilities were compelled to close during inspections.

China is one of the biggest fused alumina producers globally and the output cut will impact exports to the refractories and abrasive sectors globally.

At least two fused alumina producers in Henan were shut for days while operations at another facility were greatly reduced, the three producers told IM.

It is unclear when the environmental inspections will end, but the authorities will remain watchful on the region ahead of the national sports events due to be held in Henan in September.

The extreme supply shortage has pushed refractory-grade brown fused alumina higher, while many suppliers are wary of committing to bigger volume contracts exceeding 100 tonnes, in case they were unable to meet orders due to sudden shutdown. 

Refractory-grade BFA (95% Al2O3 min, 0-6mm) spot prices increased to $620-700/tonne FOB China, up from $580-620/tonne from a fortnight ago, according to IM’s assessments on 10 August.

Offers for BFA produced from fixed furnace start at the lower range of $620, while the premium material from tipping or Higgins furnace are priced at the higher-end.

Abrasive-grade material (95% Al2O3 min, Fepa F8-220 Grit) were unchanged from previously at $730-780/tonne FOB China.

Acidspar, 97% CaF2, Wet Filtercake, FOB, China (USD/tonne) 
Price4  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Bauxite

Shanxi to shut all polluting minerals production by end-September

Yoke Wong

The department of environment protection of Shanxi has vowed to hit at industries breaching emission regulations and shut down all polluting operations by the end of September, a move which would further reduce refractory minerals output.

The new, tougher policy is set to further disrupt refractory minerals production in Shanxi – a key bauxite producing region in China. Calcined bauxite production capacity in China has been slashed following months of strict environmental checks on all facilities, and this latest round of intensifying anti-pollution efforts is set to further compound supply issues.    

China is one of the largest calcined bauxite producers globally and supply disruptions will likely impact deliveries to global refractories makers. Refractory-grade bauxite prices increased in August.  

The Taiyuan municipal government announced it would roll out the "iron fist pollution control atmospheric environment remediation and implementation in hundred days" plan, to ensure the province complete the task of combating pollution by October, it said on 11 August.

Under the plan, the average concentration of particulate matter (PM) between October 2017 and March 2018 must fall by 25% year-on-year, and the number of severe pollution days must also decline by 20%.

Taiyuan will crack down on illegal waste disposal in the steel, thermal power, cement, coal, paper, printing, dying and coking industries, speeding the prosecution of these "scattered polluting" industries, the authority said.

According to the government, those facilities without permit for their emission and waste disposal will be shut down and prosecuted by the end of September. All motor vehicles used in city must be registered with the authority by 1 August. With effect from 1 October, the city will also supply only state-approved grades of diesel fuel for motor vehicles.      

By 10 October, Taiyuan city aims to have electricity supply in the city to be entirely powered by gas, instead of the traditional coal-fired power plants. By end of September, the city will be completely coal-free and it will also ban the sales, distribution and burning of coal.

Err on the side of caution

This fresh wave of inspections is also expected to affect facilities that have already met environmental standards, as many producers prefer to err on the side of caution and shut down during checks.

One Shanxi-based bauxite producer told IM that the plant is going to close for a week for a half-day environmental inspection, as it is a "fail-safe decision".

"We are going to get as many tonnes out of the plant now," said the producer.

Environmental inspectors have been enforcing strict measures on all facilities as they too prefer to err on the side of caution in order to keep emissions down, the producer said.

"From their point of view, it’s very safe to make that [shutdown] decision. It’s very unsafe to stay in operation," he added.

Magnesia


Magnesia prices rise as environmental focus back on Liaoning

Albert Li

The Chinese magnesia market continues to appreciate, as export prices of a number of magnesia products have increased further in August while producers’ concerns over the environmental controls in Liaoning province persist.

The spot price of DBM 97.5% MgO rose to $500-600/tonne FOB China, compared with $460-530/tonne previously, according to a 14 August IM assessment, FM 96% MgO also increased further to $580-650/tonne FOB China, up from $580-620 last week. Other magnesia grades bound for exports remained stable.

In the first week of August, the China Ministry of Environmental Protection held a meeting focused on pollution and environmental issues in Liaoning Province.

The environmental inspection team from the ministry was already stationed in Liaoning for a month, between 25 April and 25 May, reporting a number of problems to the provincial government.

Among the criticism voiced at the recent meeting, the ministry noted that illegal projects were backed by local government departments, that pollution problems regularly reported by local citizens were ignored, and other points of contention.

As regards magnesia-related pollution, the inspection team reported that, out of the 1,394 kilns in 291 magnesium companies in Dashiqiao, 40% had no de-dusting equipment causing serious dust pollution. 

Additionally, out of the 116 magnesium companies in Haicheng, most had ineffective or sub-standard environmental procedures: the area around several facilities was clouded by yellow smoke, prompting frequent protests by the local population.

The Ministry required that the Liaoning provincial government start working immediately to rectify the irregularities, and must submit a plan of action to the State Council by the end of August.

This means that the environmental inspections will continue, as will the impact on operations caused by the disruptions, including shortage of source material supply and further production stoppages.


Barytes

 

Pricing notice: Proposed changes to barytes prices

Industrial Minerals proposes to revise the specifications and pricing frequency of four barytes prices and also proposes to delist 13 other grades by the end of September.

Industrial Minerals proposes to revise four barytes specifications in end-September and change the frequency of assessment for these barytes prices from weekly to monthly. These grades will be assessed on the last Thursday of each month, with effect from 28 September.

IM proposes to change the below specifications of barytes:

Barytes, unground lump, OCMA/API bulk, SG 4.20, FOB Morocco, $/tonne

Barytes, drilling grade, unground lump, OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.20, FOB Chennai, $/tonne

Barytes, ground, OCMA/API, big bags (1.5t), FOB Southern Turkey, $/tonne

Barytes, drilling grade, API unground lump, SG 4.20, FOB China, $/tonne

With effect from 28 September, the specifications of the prices above will be changed to:

Barytes, unground lump, API, bulk, SG 4.2, FOB Morocco, $/tonne

Barytes, unground lump, API, bulk, SG 4.2, FOB Chennai, $/tonne

Barytes, ground, API, 1.5t big bags, FOB Southern Turkey, $/tonne

Barytes, unground lump, API, bulk, SG 4.2, FOB China, $/tonne

IM is also proposing to delist the following 13 grades with effect from 28 September:

Barytes, API, lump, CIF Gulf Coast, Chinese, $/tonne

Barytes, API, lump, CIF Gulf Coast, Indian $/tonne

Barytes, chemical grade, Chinese, CIF Gulf Coast $/tonne

Barytes, Drilling grade unground lump, OCMA/API bulk, SG 4.10 FOB Chennai, $/tonne

Barytes, Drilling grade, ground SG 4.22, bagged, FOB Morocco, $/tonne

Barytes, Drilling grade, API unground lump, SG 4.10, FOB China, $/tonne

Barytes, ground, OCMA bulk, del. Aberdeen, £/tonne

Barytes, ground, OCMA bulk, del. Gt Yarmouth, £/tonne

Barytes, Indian, API, ground, big bags 1.5 tonnes, FOB Madras, $/tonne

Barytes, drilling grade, unground lump, OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.20, C&F North Sea (Moroccan), $/tonne

Barytes, paint grade, ground, white, 96-98% BaSO4, 325-350 mesh, 1-5 lots, ex-works US, $/s.ton

Barytes, paint grade, ground, white, 96-98% BaSO4, 350 mesh, 1-5 lots, del. UK, £/tonne

Barytes, paint grade, Chinese lump, CIF Gulf Coast, $/tonne

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Industrial Minerals at pricing@indmin.com.


Iodine

Global iodine spot prices move up

Martim Facada

Global iodine (crystal, 99.5%min, drums) spot and contract prices rose 17 August with more activity reported in the market.

Producers and consumers told IM the increase is likely just the beginning of an anticipated rise in prices following the decline to historically low levels late last year.

Multiple iodine sellers told IM that they are confident the spot and contract iodine (crystal, 99.5%min, drums) prices will reach $24/kg before the end of 2017. 

While that would require a relatively steep increase, from the lows of $18.50/kg seen in November 2016, it remains well below the "equilibrium point" that some consumers and producers expect which is closer to $30/kg.

According to IM’s 17 August market assessment iodine (crystal, 99.5%min, drums) spot and contractmarkets have moved up by $0.50/kg to $20.50-21.50/kg and $20.50-21.00/kg respectively.

Producers have reportedly been running down stock levels of old inventory.

"We have been witnessing producers here in South America reducing their output over the course of 2017 at the same time withholding new stock in order to sell the existing old material," an iodine producer told IM

Reducing stocks combined with other favourable market conditions mean producers are better positioned to push for an increase, the producer added.

"The iodine market is at a stage in which producers - supported by lower total iodine exports from Chile, less production and steady demand - are ready to start seeing prices escalate slowly with eyes on the $24/kg mark before end of 2017," he said.

But still, prices levels in August remain around $21/kg.

"Our spot and contract prices remain somewhere between $20.50-21/kg but we will soon be achieving prices closer to $21.50/kg mark," a second producer told IM.

"We keep being supplied between $20.50-21/kg by our traditional suppliers," a consumer told IM

"However, we have started seeing prices being offered above $21/kg indicating suppliers might soon propose a rise in prices the next time we go to the market," the consumer added.

Iodine crystal, 99.5% min, drums, spot $/kg 
Price5  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Antimony trioxide


Global antimony trioxide market quiet in midsummer

Martim Facada

China remains the most active antimony trioxide market but prices remain steady, failing to track antimony metal markets upward by mid-August. 

"Prices are anticipated to increase but a good share of our market in Europe and US remains away on holidays. We have achieved more in China," one trader told IM

"We have kept on selling and offering prices at $7,400/tonne FOB China per container," the trader added.

IM sister publication Metal Bulletin reported a recent price increase on antimony metal MMTA standard Grade II on MB 11 August Global Antimony Wrap, with Chinese DDP prices up 500 renminbi, at 55,500-56,500 renminbi/tonne. 

But antimony trioxide prices have yet to catch up, with offers and confirmed sales for antimony trioxide 99.5% Sb2O3 material ranging between $7,300-7,400/tonne in an unchanged market. 

IM’s 15 August market assessment prices remained between $7,250-7,400/tonne FOB China.

Europe and US

National holidays in Europe however kept the market quiet through August. 

Confirmed spot sales have remained at low levels, with the few active consumers and suppliers holding back since a good portion of the market is on holidays. 

The European antimony trioxide 99.5% Sb2O3 market remains between $7,300-7,450/tonne CIF Antwerp/Rotterdam seeing the same price trend of stability within the domestic market having this sat unchanged at €6.50-7.10/kg in-warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam according to 15 August IM market assessment.

"Wait and see is our current market attitude. We have kept our price offer between €6.70-6.90/kg in warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam," a European trader told IM.

"However, the few active consumers have been probing us by asking prices below these ranges and we are not willing to sell below this price range," the trader added. 

"We have been mainly more active on the metal antimony side of the business," a second trader told IM

"Our offering prices for antimony trioxide would be somewhere €7.00-7.10/kg in warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam, but we have no material in stock and we have not received material inquiries in the past weeks," the trader added.

In the US, consumers and producers told IM that the market remains stable due to depressed demand, with prices between $7,400-7,500/tonne CIF East Coast and between $3.50-3.60/lb in-warehouse Baltimore. 

"We have had few material enquiries over the past days," a US trader told IM

"We have received offers of Chinese material at higher prices, somewhere above $7,600/tonne CIF East Coast, but due to the cheaper material within the US we will not source Chinese material since everything remains very slow in North America," the trader added. 

"Lately we have been selling 1-2 tonnes of material here and there and I think that pretty much the majority of the material being sold within the US is now of these volumes due to low demand," a second US trader told IM.