Raw material supply and market price performance are once
again the leading topics of conversation among delegates at the
61st International Colloquium on Refractories this
week in Aachen, Germany.
As was the case in 2017, raw materials are under the
spotlight at this year’s refractories event.
Considering the restrictions on mining and
production operations in China - the largest
producer of several key refractory raw materials such as
bauxite, fused alumina, magnesia and graphite - attendees in
Aachen are assessing what the future holds for supply.
"It’s the second year in a row that we've
talked about, essentially, only raw materials," one user said
on the sidelines of the event. "If it’s not about
bauxite, it’s about magnesia or it’s
about alumina. But there is no running away from it."
"The only consolation is that everyone is in the same
situation, because the changes are structural. The handicap is
our common denominator right now," another delegate
Consumers have actively been trying to respond to the sourcing issues in China by
seeking alternative origins or by working with
This has not always led to workable solutions, however,
because the tightness has, in some cases, spread to multiple
markets, generating short supply and rising prices across the
"When bauxite was getting short and expensive last year,
consumers tried to shift to andalusite instead," one buyer
said. "Of course, andalusite ended up being short and expensive
too. What we hope is not having more of the same next
Industrial Minerals assessed the price of calcined bauxite
85% at $420-435 per tonne fob Xingang on September 20,
compared with $410-420 per tonne on September 6.
The price of calcined bauxite
86% reached $435-445 per tonne fob Xingang on the same
date, up from $420-440 per tonne earlier in the year.
The buyer pointed to similar situations with white-fused
alumina and tabular alumina – when the rising demand for the first
triggered a shortage of the latter as well during 2017.
An ongoing perception of impending shortage, several
attendees added, could also be a factor supporting market
prices going forward, with uncertainty becoming the new
"How much are the supply issues overplayed when it comes to
contracting?" one trader said. "We know of China and of how
serious what is happening there, don’t get me
wrong. But is this creating knee-jerk reactions by market
players? That may be."