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.
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 alternative
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."