IM prices April 2018

By Davide Ghilotti, Martim Facada, Cameron Perks, Carrie Shi
Published: Thursday, 17 May 2018

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.


White fused alumina

Lower Chinese prices push white fused alumina market down

Davide Ghilotti 

Prices of white fused alumina (WFA) decreased in April, while spot quotes from China pushed the market down from the high levels recorded at the start of the year.

Following a notable increase in both contract and spot prices of WFA in early January, on the back of a widespread material shortage coupled with high demand, the market had stabilized before the latest drop in spot quotes.

Industrial Minerals assessed the price for WFA refractory grade at €730-850 per tonne ($903-1,050) cif Europe on April 19, down from €780-900 per tonne cif on April 5.

Market assessments gathered by Industrial Minerals suggest the decrease is related to lower prices out of China, which comes after a phase of really high prices for Chinese WFA.

Between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, when the shortage of bauxite, brown fused alumina (BFA) and WFA was at its peak and demand was high in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, spot prices for Chinese material had, in some cases, exceeded quotes for ex-China origin material.

This had supported the high levels in January and during the first quarter.

"There is no point in importing WFA from China to Europe at the moment, as I can get the same price, or even a little less, if I buy from non-Chinese sources," one distributor in Europe said to Industrial Minerals in January.

"You go to China because prices are lower. If they aren’t, what’s the point?" he added.

Other sources in the market had given a similar description of the situation at the time. This price pattern had prompted a shift in demand away from Chinese material toward non-Chinese producers in Eastern and Western Europe.

"We are overbooked. We can’t confirm any new orders. Demand has been high from existing customers and from new customers who are looking for WFA as an alternative material, or who don’t want to source in China," one large producer outside of China told Industrial Minerals earlier this year.

Prices in China have declined in the subsequent months up to now, pushing the global market down, Industrial Minerals understands.

In some cases, distributors returned to source material in China on the spot market, following the decrease in domestic Chinese prices.

Market participants active in western markets had, in previous assessments, stated that non-Chinese producers – especially within Europe – had maintained higher prices compared with China, and would still be trading at the higher end of the pricing range.

Contractual patterns are also thought to play a role because China normally supplies on a spot basis, while other origins set contracts on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Alumina, fused white, 25kg bags, CIF Europe, €/tonne 
Price1  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Iodine

Global spot iodine prices tick up on tight supply

Martim Facada

Global iodine prices rose in April due to higher achieved sales, tight material supply and bullish sentiment among producers.

Industrial Minerals assessed iodine global spot market crystal, min 99.5%, drums, prices at $24-25.50 per kg on 12 April, up 50 cents on the high end of the range from a week earlier. 

Producers and consumers reported an active market in the latest pricing assessment. 

"We have been achieving sales of iodine in the spot market [globally] as high as $25.50 per kg; however, there is still an important part of the global market trading material as low as $24 per kg," a producer told Industrial Minerals.

"The market is moving upwards due to producers’ bullish sentiment and tight supply of iodine globally," a consumer said. 

"We are currently seeing the market between $24.50-25.50 per kg for lots of 5 tonnes and [there were some] offers as high as $25.75 per kg," the consumer added.

Persistently scarce material is one of the main concerns within the iodine industry and a factor for bullish sentiment among producers that are pushing for higher prices globally, according to market participants.

Meanwhile, fears that producers will not be able to increase output over the course of 2018 is also driving prices higher, sources said.  

Contract price steady

Industrial Minerals’ iodine crystal, 99.5 min, drums, contract price assessment was at $23-24 per kg on April 12, unchanged from the prior week.

Market participants told Industrial Minerals that their iodine contract prices were unchanged, but higher spot prices could push up current contract prices. 

Contract prices are typically renegotiated on a quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis.

"Our different contract prices remain unchanged, and whether they will be increased for next quarter or mid this year [depending on their quarterly and biannual contracts] will depend on the iodine spot market price and whether there is enough material in the global market," a consumer told Industrial Minerals.

Iodine crystal, 99.5% min, drums, spot $/kg 
Price2  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Lithium

European, North American lithium spot markets up; Chinese spot market unchanged

Martim Facada 

Chinese lithium spot market prices remain unchanged as a result of thin buying activity, while some lithium suppliers were resistant to sell their material too cheaply. 

Consequently, the spot price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) remained at 145,000-150,000 yuan per tonne* ($23,093-23,890) on Thursday April 12, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

"We started purchasing battery-grade lithium carbonate in small volumes this week, and we can buy lithium carbonate at 145,000 yuan per tonne," a consumer told Industrial Minerals.

"However, some producers were unwilling to lower prices and withholding their material if it was not sold between 148,000-150,000 yuan per tonne," the consumer added.

"Lithium carbonate prices have been stable in recent days after a slight decrease at the end of March and we had no deals concluded as consumers are holding back and waiting for lower spot prices before purchasing more material," a lithium producer told Industrial Minerals. "We don’t expect prices to fall in the coming months due to the huge demand coming from the development of the new energy vehicle sector in China, which is a key driver for lithium prices."

Meanwhile, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) market was similarly unchanged week on week, remaining between 148,000-153,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday April 12, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

Seaborne markets

Seaborne China, Japan and South Korean markets remained unchanged week on week after a small price increase was reported to Industrial Minerals in the last week of March.

The technical and industrial grades of lithium carbonate spot prices, cif China, Japan and South Korea, remained unchanged week on week between $18-20 per kg on Thursday April 12.

Similarly, the battery grade lithium carbonate, cif China, Japan and South Korea price was unchanged at $19-21 per kg, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

A lack of market activity has also kept the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, technical, industrial and battery grade spot market prices unchanged this week.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, technical and industrial grades cif China, Japan and South Korea, was at $20-21 per kg on Thursday April 12 unchanged week on week, while battery grade was unchanged at $20-22 per kg, according to Industrial Minerals market assessment.

Europe, North America

In Europe and North America the lithium spot markets were more active, with market participants reporting higher prices week on week due to the scarcity of lithium carbonate in the global spot market.

The European and North American spot prices of lithium carbonate, technical and industrial grades, moved up week on week to $17-20 per kg on April 12 from $17-19 per kg.

"The price of lithium carbonate remains quite high due to scarce availability, and prices below $19 per kg for lithium carbonate technical, industrial and battery grades would be quite hard to find currently in the spot market," a supplier told Industrial Minerals. 

Battery-grade spot prices for lithium carbonate increased 50 cents on the top end of the range to $18-20.50 per kg on April 12 from $18-20 per kg assessed in the prior week.

"The global lithium carbonate market remains quite tight as different producers are sold out and selling most of their material on a contract basis, meanwhile, some of our leftovers are being sold in the spot market at higher prices when compared to our contract prices," a second producer told Industrial Minerals.

Lithium hydroxide monohydrate spot prices have firmed due to tight lithium carbonate availability and higher year on year lithium carbonate contract prices.

"The higher lithium carbonate prices, both on a contract and spot basis, alongside scarcity for this material has made us increase our lithium hydroxide prices progressively since the beginning of 2018, having increased our prices again this week," a second supplier told Industrial Minerals.

Affected by the tightness of lithium carbonate in the global market and higher prices, Industrial Minerals assessed the prices for technical and industrial grades of lithium hydroxide monohydrate at $19.50-20.50 per kg on April 12, moving up from $19-20.50 per kg a week earlier.

Meanwhile, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate increased 50 cents on the top end of the range to $19-21.50 per kg on April 12 from the week previous.

*Battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices are available in full in Industrial Minerals’ weekly Battery Price Report.

Lithium carbonate min 99.5% Li2CO3 battery grade, spot price,
ex-works domestic China, yuan/tonne 
Price3  
Source: Industrial Minerals


Chromite

PARIS ICDA 2018: Chemical grade chromite price holds despite volatile UG2 prices

Davide Ghilotti 

The chemical grade chromite market remains quiet amid continuing volatility in metallurgical chrome ore prices, as well as a wide spread due to localized trading patterns.

Prices for chemical grade chromite have been stable over recent weeks due to limited trading activity while most of the industry met in Paris for the Internal Chromium Development Association (ICDA) members meeting which took place in late April.

China, the single largest consumer of the material, remains slow in securing new orders, market participants told Industrial Minerals on the sidelines of the Paris event. This has been one crucial factor in determining price momentum as of late.

Industrial Mineral assessed chemical grade chromite, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk, at $285-340 fob South Africa on Tuesday April 24. 

Prices for this grade have been stable since early March.

Participants point to large stockpiles in China as contributing to the slow trading, as well as an ongoing standoff between Chinese buyers and South African suppliers, whose bids and offers differ widely and prevent deal-making.

"Chrome stocks at ports in China are high, but the consumption rate is also high. This means that they will have to start buying, otherwise they could run out of feedstock," one delegate in Paris said.

Around 3 million tonnes of chromite (including both metallurgical and non-metallurgical material of all grades) are now sitting in warehouses at Chinese ports, Industrial Minerals understands.

While this is larger than for most of last year, participants claim the utilization rate is equally higher. At this rate, it is thought current stocks would last between two and three months.

Volatile met grade

Meanwhile, the bearish price moments in the metallurgical chrome ore space are being closely monitored by chemical grade players.

The industry is assessing whether the lower prices of UG2 chrome ore will have an effect on chemical grade quotes.

Historically, metallurgical and chemical prices are closely correlated, with the latter normally following on the basis of the former.

The Metal Bulletin UG2 chrome ore index fell to $193 per tonne cif China on April 20 from $244 per tonne on March 16.

But while prices for metallurgical UG2 have been declining, the chemical market has remained stable.

Around this time last year, when the UG2 chrome ore price tanked, chemical grade prices followed suit.

Chemical grade prices more or less halved over the course of a couple of months, falling from above $400 per tonne in late April 2017 to a 14-month low of $200-220 per tonne in July of that year. It took a few months into the fourth quarter for prices to recover.

Some participants say variables affecting the market are different this year, and this would prevent prices from falling as far as they did in 2017.

"Last year we were in a condition of oversupply, particularly for met grade, which is not the case this year," one supplier said.

A second supplier added: "The bearish drive [in metallurgical prices on chemical] is contained by the fact that availability is limited. This means that sellers of chemical grade may be able to uphold their offers, rather than feeling forced to sell."

A third supplier pointed to the high utilization rate in China, claiming that "they will burn through their stocks quickly and will have to return to the market."

Spread remains wide

The spread between the low and high ends of the chemical grade price remains as wide as it has been over the past few weeks, following a first expansion recorded in early March.

The spread has persisted due to a geographical split between destinations, with some markets – particularly China and Southeast Asia – consistently at the low end of the range, while other destinations – including Russia, Europe, the United States – have consumers who have been more accepting of higher prices.

"I am simply not exposing myself to China at the moment, since the prices I get elsewhere are much higher," one seller said.

"Spreads are high on everything," another supplier added, suggesting that some buyers in western markets may be buying chemical as a substitute for much more expensive foundry sand for some refractory applications. "This may also explain why spreads are higher than normal." 

Chromite, chemical, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk, FOB South Africa, $/tonne 
Price6  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Magnesia

Chinese magnesia prices steady on halt in magnesite mining

Carrie Shi 

Magnesia producers in China’s Liaoning province have confirmed to Industrial Minerals that they still are not allowed to extract magnesite using explosives, and have stopped all magnesite mining because of imminent environmental inspections.

Magnesia prices have increased by more than 100 yuan ($16) per tonne in the domestic market, but producers have not adjusted their export prices because of sluggish demand, with most overseas buyers staying on the market sidelines waiting for clearer signs of a price direction.

"We kept our magnesia export prices unchanged this week on the lack of spot buying. I heard that the central environment inspection group will arrive in Liaoning in May, so the halt in magnesite mining may last until then. Prices still have upside potential if the interruption to magnesite mining lasts for a long time," a producer in Haicheng said in April.

"There is no confirmed news on when the restrictions will stop," a second producer in Haicheng said.

"I think it will come to an end in June or July because the central environment inspection group will arrive in the middle of May. We haven’t adjusted magnesia export prices this week, but I think prices will edge upward because most magnesia companies will run out of raw materials if the restriction continues for much longer," the second producer added.

Most downstream buyers were waiting for lower prices.

"We only purchased a small batch of magnesia after receiving news of mine closures in Liaoning, and concluded that prices will be unchanged [for some time]," a buyer for an overseas refractory producer said. "Suppliers informed me that prices may increase if the halt in magnesite mining continues, so I will keep watching the market direction for a while."

Because most exporters have kept their export prices unchanged while the halt in magnesite mining continues, Industrial Minerals’ price assessments for caustic calcined magnesia (CCM), dead burned magnesia (DBM) and fused magnesia (FM) were stable in the week ended Friday April 27.

The price of CCM 90-92% MgO fob China held at $180-220 per tonne on Tuesday April 24, and the price of DBM 97.5% MgO stayed at $1,100-1,400 per tonne fob China. The price of 97% MgO (Ca:Si 2:1) remained at $1,250-1,400 per tonne.


Magnesia, calcined, 90-92% MgO, FOB China, $/tonne 
Price4  
Source: Industrial Minerals


Magnesia

Sparse buying activity leaves Chinese magnesia export prices steady

Carrie Shi

Sluggish buying activity in China’s magnesia market has left prices unchanged at the beginning of May, with most overseas buyers holding back in the hope of getting cheaper material if the country’s government allows miners to restart the extraction of magnesite.

Sources in the industry told Industrial Minerals on  May 9 that there is still no news about when the magnesite mining stoppages, which began in April, will be rescinded.

"We are nearly running out of high-grade magnesia stocks due to a lack of high-quality raw materials," a producer in Haicheng said. "But we haven’t pushed up export prices further because current global trading activity is very weak, while low-grade magnesia stocks are still sufficient compared with high-grade materials."

The price for dead-burned magnesia (DBM), 90% MgO lump, fob China, was $220-280 per tonne, unchanged from last week, while the price of DBM, 97.5% MgO lump, fob China, was similarly steady at $1,100-1,400 per tonne, according to Industrial Minerals’ assessments on May 8.

Meanwhile, the prices of caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) and fused magnesia (FM) were also steady on quiet purchasing activity this week.

Industrial Minerals’ price assessments on May 8 were CCM 90-92% MgO, fob China, steady at $180-220 per tonne, and FM 97% MgO (Ca:Si 2:1), fob China, unchanged at $1,250-1,400 per tonne.

"I think prices might drift lower if magnesite mining recovers in June or July, but there is no confirmed news [about that] yet," a buyer from a Europe-based company said. "We haven’t started to purchase CCM because we are still waiting for a clearer market direction.

Fluorspar

Weak demand pressures acidspar prices lower

Carrie Shi

Industrial Minerals assessed acid grade fluorspar (acidspar) min 97% CAF2, wet filtercake at $430-530 per tonne fob China on Thursday May 3, down from $450-550 per tonne previously.

"Chinese domestic acidspar prices fell from just over 3,000 yuan ($471) per tonne in March to 2,600-2,800 yuan per tonne, caused by sluggish downstream [demand from the] hydrofluoric acid and refrigerant industries," a trader in south China told Industrial Minerals. 

"Increasing supply, with more producers recovering production in the second quarter 2018, is another factor for the price fall," he said.

The fluorochemical industry 

is the biggest end-user of acidspar, using the mineral to manufacture hydrofluoric acid - a key raw material in refrigerants, fluorocarbons and fluoropolymers. 

The hydrofluoric acid market is also suffering downward pressure and demand for acidspar has reduced.

Metallurgical-grade fluorspar (metspar) prices were unchanged week on week on 3 May, because high-quality materials remained in tight supply due to strict environmental standards on production. 

Industrial Minerals assessed metspar min. 85% CAF2 steady at $350-370 per tonne fob China. Metspar is used as a metal smelting feedstock for steelmaking, and steel production is a key driver of metspar demand.

Acidspar, 97% CaF2, Wet Filtercake, FOB, China [USD/tonne] 
Price7  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Antimony trioxide

Seaborne antimony trioxide market softens amid depressed demand

Martim Facada

Demand in the Chinese seaborne antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) market weakened at the end of April due to lower demand as consumers waited for lower prices.

The Industrial Minerals price assessment for Chinese antimony trioxide fell by $40 per tonne week on week on Tuesday April 24 to $7,360-7,460 per tonne fob, down from $7,400-7,500 per tonne fob.

"Softening demand has made us [drop] our selling prices and we had to [do] deals at... below $7,400 per tonne for lots of at least 20 tonnes," one supplier said.

"We have been receiving offers for new material, [but] however, we believe the market will soon reach the bottom and have been holding back to shop at lower prices," a consumer told Industrial Minerals.

Metal Bulletin’s domestic Chinese MMTA standard grade II antimony, ddp price stabilized at 51,500-52,000 yuan ($8,191-8,270) per tonne on April 18 after a period in decline, due to scarce demand and availability since March 14, when prices were 53,000-53,500 yuan.

Europe and the US 

Prices in the European and United States seaborne antimony trioxide markets also witnessed price falls on April 24, motivated by a lack of consumer appetite and lower prices in China.

Industrial Minerals’ weekly price assessment for European antimony trioxide, cif Antwerp/Rotterdam was at $7,500-7,600 per tonne on Tuesday April 24, down from $7,600-7,700 per tonne a week earlier, while the weekly assessment for the same material in the US on the same day was $7,550-7,650 per tonne cif US East Coast from $7,650-7,750 per tonne in the prior week.

"The market has gone down influenced by the lack of consumer appetite alongside [poor] availability in the market," another supplier told Industrial Minerals.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin’s European antimony metal MMTA standard grade II, in-warehouse Rotterdam price remained on a downward trend last week - influenced by lack of consumer appetite and material availability - falling to $8,200-8,350 per tonne on Friday April 20, down from $8,300-8,450 per tonne on April 18.

In the European and US domestic markets, antimony trioxide prices remained unchanged on scant market activity as consumers waited to buy material at lower prices.

Industrial Minerals’ European antimony trioxide in-warehouse Antwerp and Rotterdam price was at €6.30-6.70 ($7.70-8.19) per kg on April 24, unchanged since April 10.

And the price assessment for US domestic antimony trioxide in-warehouse Baltimore was unchanged week on week at $3.45-3.55 per lb on lack of consumer appetite, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment on April 24.

"The European and US markets remain stable for the time being," a supplier told Industrial Minerals. "However, the lower seaborne prices could soon influence domestic prices in Europe and the US."

Antimony trioxide, typically 99.5% Sb2O3, 20 tonne lots FOB China, $/tonne 
Price8  
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Spherical graphite

Chinese producers maintain firm prices for spherical graphite

Carrie Shi

Chinese export prices for spherical graphite were unchanged at the start of May, with producers confident that supplies will tighten later in the month ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference in June due to the temporary closure of heavy industries in the region to improve air quality.

Industrial Minerals assessed spherical graphite, 99.95% C, 15 microns at $2,700-2,800 per tonne fob China on Thursday May 3, unchanged from the previous week.

A major producer in Qingdao sought to conclude deals at above $2,800 per tonne fob China for spherical graphite given the firm domestic prices of 18,000-21,000 yuan ($2,829-3,301) per tonne.

"Since the SCO summit is coming in June, I heard production restrictions might start at the end of May and sea transport might also be influenced at that time," a producer in Qingdao said. "But there is no official news yet [of restrictions)."

"Supplies will be tighter from the end of May," he added.

Graphite flake prices also remained steady week on week.

Producers in major graphite production hub Shandong province told Industrial Minerals the graphite flake market had stayed flat because of unexceptional demand from the downstream refractory industry.

"With more producers in Heilongjiang province restarting production recently, demand for graphite flake from Qingdao will reduce because [prices in the country’s number two graphite region, Heilongjiang] are cheaper," a producer in Qingdao said. 

Industrial Minerals’ price assessment for graphite flake 94-97% C, -100 mesh in China was unchanged at $655-790 per tonne on 3 May as was the price assessment for +80 mesh material with the same carbon content, which remained at $1,050-1,210 per tonne.



Spodumene

Strong carbonate, hydroxide monohydrate prices in China boosting spodumene prices in Q2

Martim Facada 

Persistently strong lithium carbonate and hydroxide monohydrate prices in China’s spot market have propelled lithium spodumene (LiO2) prices higher the since the start of the second quarter.

"The lithium concentrate price has been going up quarter on quarter," a lithium concentrate consumer told Industrial Minerals. "As long as the Chinese lithium carbonate and hydroxide monohydrate spot market prices remain strong, this trend will persist."

The price of lithium spodumene min 5-6% fob Australia had to $855-925 per tonne as of April 25 from $860-910 per tonne a month earlier.

And the lithium spodumene min 5-6% cif China price climbed to $900-970 per tonne on April 25 from $900-950 per tonne at the end of March, according to Industrial Minerals’ monthly market assessments.

Meanwhile, the lithium spodumene min 7-7.5% cif China price was unchanged month on month at $975-1,000 per tonne on April 25 but up from $950-1000 at the end of February and from $755-780 per tonne in August last year.

"Our lithium concentrate prices from Australia remain mainly pegged to offtake agreements with our Chinese customers, which are updated every quarter or every six months," an Australian lithium spodumene producer told Industrial Minerals.

"Prices have gone up mainly due to the higher prices in the Chinese domestic spot market against which we calculate our offtake prices in our contracts," the producer added.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide monohydrate prices in the Chinese domestic spot market remain at all-time highs of $22,229 per tonne* and $23,811 per tonne respectively, according to Industrial Minerals’ price assessments on April 26.

Prices have been at this level over the past year - far above prices of $5,000-7,000 per tonne that were prevalent before the lithium boom at the end of 2015.

The higher production costs associated with the production of lithium concentrate from hard rock compared with production from brine have also contributed to higher lithium carbonate and hydroxide monohydrate prices both in the Chinese spot market and globally, market participants told Industrial Minerals.

"Currently, over 50% of the world production of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) is coming from Australia and this has given a more robust price to the lithium compounds currently sold globally," a second Australian lithium concentrate producer told Industrial Minerals.

"There is huge demand in China and appetite for more raw material from Australia has promoted practices such as the shipping of direct shipping ore (DSO) from Australia to China," he added.

*Battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices are available in full in Industrial Minerals’ weekly Battery Price Report.

Spodumene min 7-7.5% Li2O, CIF China, $/tonne 
Price9  
Source: China Customs


Zircon

Cameron Perks 

PRICING NOTICE: Discontinuation of one zircon grade, launching of another

After a consultation period, Industrial Minerals has suspended the following grade of zircon, effective April 18, 2018:

• Zircon premium grade min 66.5% ZrO2 bulk fob Australia $ per tonne

Industrial Minerals has suspended this grade after assessing that fob terms are no longer representative of global market contracts.

Since Europe represents a large market in terms of zircon consumption outside of China, Industrial 

Minerals will launch the following price assessment, effective April 18, 2018:

• Zircon, premium grade, min 66.5% ZrO2, cif Spain, $ per tonne 

To consistently provide the market with the most relevant data, Industrial Minerals will continue to assess prices for the following grades:

• Zircon, premium grade, min 66.5% ZrO2, bulk, cif China, $ per tonne
• Zircon, standard grade, min 65.5% ZrO2, cif China, $ per tonne 

If you have any comments on the discontinuation or launch of these prices please contact Cameron Perks by email at: pricing@indmin.com. Please add the subject heading: 'FAO: Cameron Perks, re: Zircon’.

All historical data relating to these prices prior to their suspension will be retained and made available to subscribers upon request.

To see all Industrial Minerals’ pricing methodology and specification documents go to www.indmin.com/Methodology