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Davide Ghilotti, Fastmarkets IM editor
Alumina prices steady in August after Chinese exports
Prices for brown fused alumina remained steady in August,
continuing a long-term stability trend in the market.
Fastmarkets’ assessments indicate that the
average price for alumina, fused brown, min 95% Al2O3,
refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China was at $788 per tonne in
late August and has been at the same level throughout 2019,
unchanged from the corresponding period in 2018.
The stable year-on-year average price can be attributed to
continuing concerns around China’s supply
capacity, following the government’s
environmental inspections, at a time of low demand.
Fastmarkets assessed the price range for alumina, fused
brown, min 95% Al2O3, refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China at
$750-770 per tonne in the third week of August.
China’s export volumes of alumina (HS code:
2812000) fell by 34% year on year in the first six months of
2019, due to poor demand for refractory products and high
Multiple buyers in Europe said they were not inquiring after
new purchases of fused alumina due to high levels of remaining
Chinese alumina exports in the first six months of 2019
totaled 156,749 tonnes, compared with 239,088 tonnes in the
same period of 2018, including both metallurgical and
From January to June 2019, China exported the highest volume
of alumina to India at 36,023 tonnes, 13% more than 31,895
tonnes over the same period last year.
Compared with 2018, however, other major importers such as
Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia witnessed a downtrend in
their alumina imports from China. Alumina exports to Malaysia,
for example, totaled 27,756 tonnes in 2019, 69.3% lower than
90,280 tonnes in the first half of 2018.
|Alumina, fused brown, min 95% Al2O3,
refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China,
Bauxite market unmoved by 42% drop in Chinese
Non-metallurgical bauxite prices in China were almost
unchanged in August, despite plunging exports caused by
simultaneous low supply and weak demand.
The average price of Fastmarkets’ assessment of
bauxite, refractory-grade, 86%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm), fob
Xingang in January to June 2019 stood at $412 per tonne, down
from the $447 per tonne average price reported in the first
half of 2018.
Fastmarkets’ assessment for bauxite,
refractory-grade, 85%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm), fob Xingang was at
$380-390 per tonne in the third week of August, in line with
levels recorded at the end of July.
Chinese exports of bauxite declined by 42% year-on-year in
the first half of 2019, but it appears that the sharp drop did
little to encourage sellers to cut offers, as scant
availability of material meant that discounts were not
Buyers are also understood to be accepting price levels
without haggling for reductions, even though the weak demand
situation is well known.
China exported 35,140 tonnes of bauxite (HS code: 26060000)
in the January-June period of this year.
This figure includes both metallurgical and
non-metallurgical material, although a substantial amount is
thought to be represented by non-metallurgical refractory-grade
This compares with 60,387 tonnes of bauxite exported by
China in the first six months of 2018, according to official
but unconfirmed data seen by Fastmarkets.
The drop in bauxite exports is mainly due to reduced supply,
resulting from Beijing’s environmental protection
efforts as well as weak market demand from end-user
applications such as refractories.
|Bauxite, refractory-grade, 86%/2.0/3.15-3.2
(0-6mm), fob Xingang, $/tonne
Chinese average fluorspar prices climb after exports
China’s acid-grade fluorspar market held mostly
firm in the first half of 2019, due to tight supply caused by
reduced production and environmental inspections.
Prices showed signs of softness the first half of August,
under pressure from falling downstream prices for hydrogen
fluoride (HF) and a sluggish market for refrigerants.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for fluorspar,
acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China, was $450-520 per
tonne on in mid-August, widening downward by $10 per tonne from
the range assessed the beginning of the month.
China’s total export volumes of fluorspar, with
CaF2 content of more than 97%, in the first half of 2019 came
to 97,722 tonnes, down by 3.8% from 101,626 tonnes in the
corresponding period of 2018, according to official Chinese
The five leading destinations for Chinese fluorspar exports
were India (34,848 tonnes), Japan (19,957 tonnes), the
Netherlands (16,574 tonnes), the United States (9,187 tonnes)
and Germany (5,381 tonnes).
China imported 31,948 tonnes of fluorspar (CaF2 >97%) in
the first half of 2019, down by 50% year on year from 63,916
tonnes in January-June 2018.
The average value of material imported was $273 per tonne,
down by 20.9% year on year. Imports came mostly from Burma
(16,327 tonnes) and Mongolia (7,527 tonnes).
Meanwhile, total export volumes of Chinese fluorspar with
CaF2 content less than, or equal to, 97% in the first half of
2019 came to 91,907 tonnes, down by 11.3% year on year from
102,507 tonnes in the corresponding period of 2018.
The average value of material exported was $325 per tonne, up
by 18.2% year on year.
The top five destinations for this material were India
(31,971 tonnes), South Korea (17,020 tonnes), Japan (12,620
tonnes), Indonesia (10,870 tonnes) and Taiwan (8,820
Strong demand for downstream steel products and construction
materials in both the domestic and export markets supported
volumes and prices of fluorspar exports.
China’s imports of fluorspar (CaF2 ≤97%) in
the first half of 2019 increased by 42.7% year on year to
197,082 tonnes, up from 138,150 tonnes in January-June 2018.
The average value of material imported was $163 per tonne, flat
year on year.
Imports came mostly from Mongolia (173,831 tonnes), Burma
(8,190 tonnes) and South Africa (4,913 tonnes).
|Fluorspar, acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet
filtercake, fob China, $/tonne
Flake graphite market awaits offers from new Chinese
Davide Ghilotti, Huaqing Fu
Limited graphite trading activity characterized
China’s seaborne market for both flake and
amorphous products in August and price assessments for both
commodities remained unchanged.
Demand for fine flake material, especially 94% C, -100 mesh
(commonly known as -194 grade) has been slow, while
participants hold off to see what offer prices may be available
from the new Luobei graphite mine in Heilongjang province, with
the first material anticipate at the end of August.
Market participants said they expect further softening in
the China flake export market in the coming months, due to
oversupply and weak demand from some end applications.
Trade to Europe also remained subdued in August due to the
summer holiday period in a number of European countries,
compounding already low demand for graphite material.
Refractories, still the largest single end market for
graphite in Europe and other main western markets, has suffered
a sharper than expected slowdown in 2019.
After a strong 2018, both users and producers of
refractories amassed inventories that have been slow to clear,
weighing down demand for flake graphite.
Prices for flake and amorphous grades were unchanged in
Europe in the first three weeks of August, however market
participants predicted some volatility towards the end of the
Graphite flake 94% C, -100 mesh, fob China,
August iodine prices unchanged by reports of higher
The spot price for iodine held firm in August at $29-33 per
kg, the range it has settled at since late June, marking the
longest spell of stability in a year.
Assessments remained unchanged, despite sellers reporting
spot sales at $35 per kg. The price for iodine, min 99.5%,
spot, delivered US/Europe, cif Asia, was assessed by
Fastmarkets at $29-33 per kg on August 15. Prices rose to that
level from $27.75-31.00 per kg on 27 June.
The last similar period of stability was between July 26 and
September 20 last year, when the price was $25.50-26.50 per kg
for nine weeks.
The lack of movement in the spot market, which has shown a
17% increase since the start of 2019, has been due to a
standoff between buyers and sellers following a $2 per kg
increase at the beginning of the third quarter. Several buyers
said they would not place orders while the offer price was
$33-34 per kg.
Despite hesitation among purchasers, two sellers reported
that spot sales had been achieved at $35 per kg in
A producer said that "plenty of customers are coming to us
for inquiries and quotations, but
we have limited inventory and we cannot take [new] spot
Fastmarkets refrained from raising the price assessment
until such prices were confirmed from the buy-side of the
|Iodine 99.5% min, spot, delivered US/Europe,
cif Asia, $/kg
Chinese buying revives while other regions remain
Martim Facada, Carrie Shi
China’s domestic battery-grade lithium
carbonate market leveled off in mid-August after several weeks
The stabilization was attributed to a slight improvement in
downstream demand after some cathode makers returned to the
market to meet increased production needs.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3
min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at
60,000-65,000 yuan ($8,529-9,240*) per tonne on August 15,
unchanged from the previous week.
Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate
prices fell again in mid-August, with a number of deals
concluded around 55,000 yuan per tonne or lower, in reaction to
weaker battery grade prices.
Fastmarkets’ Chinese domestic lithium carbonate
99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, ex-works, spot
price fell to 54,000-58,000 yuan per tonne on August 15, from
55,000-59,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.
Meanwhile, the Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide
market continued to be sluggish. Although lower offer prices
were heard, the assessment was unchanged due to limited
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min,
battery grade, exw spot price remained at 70,000-75,000 yuan
per tonne in August, where it had been since the beginning of
the month, when it fell from 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne.
The cif Asia battery-grade lithium spot market was also
flat. Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3
min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at
$10-12 per kg, and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5%
LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and
Korea at $12-14 per kg, on August 15.
European and US spot prices were stable in August, largely
thanks to the summer holiday period. Fastmarkets assessed the
lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price
ddp Europe and US at $11-13 per kg, unchanged since May
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min,
battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US also stable week on
week at $13-14 per kg on August 15.
All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are
available via Fastmarkets’ Battery Raw Materials
*Conversions made August 2019
|Lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical
and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic
Magnesia prices stable in quiet market
Davide Ghilotti, Carrie Shi
Prices for refractory grades of magnesia were flat in August
amid quiet trading conditions, despite constrained raw material
supply in China.
In late July, Chinese magnesite producers announced a
three-month ban on magnesite mining to clear inventory and
stabilize prices, after sharp price falls in the first and
second quarters of 2019.
Fastmarkets’ latest assessment of the magnesia,
fused, 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump, fob China price was $850-950
per tonne on Tuesday August 13. This market had shown few signs
of movement by the third week of August.
Global refractory materials manufacturer Magnesita said in
August that demand for magnesia-based steel refractories had
been weak in the first six months of this year, although
non-steel markets, including glass refractories, environmental
and oil and gas applications, performed solidly.
The company said it believed prices for refractory raw
materials would increase again before the end of 2019.
With subdued demand from for magnesia-based steel
refractories, the largest market for magnesia, and China
restricting magnesite output, Chinese exports of fused magnesia
have declined this year compared with 2018.
China exported 192,578 tonnes of fused magnesia in the first
six months of 2019, down by 31.8% from the equivalent period of
2018. Export revenue was $152.18 million in January-June, down
by 39.6% compared with the same months of 2018, customs data
Increasing stocks from newly opened flotation production
lines have caused most magnesia producers to lower prices this
year to boost sales against a flat market.
Chinese exports of other magnesia products rose in the first
half of the year, however.
The country exported 495,993 tonnes of dead burned magnesia
during the period, up by 11.1% year on year. Export revenue
totaled $157.6 million in January-June, down by 17.9% from the
same period last year.
The dead burned magnesia price has trended downward this
year, especially for high-grade materials due to increasing
stocks. Fastmarkets’ spot price for magnesia, dead
burned, 97.5% MgO, lump, fob China was $700-850 per tonne on
August 13, down from $1,100-1,300 per tonne on January 1,
Chinese exports of caustic calcined magnesia totaled 372,359
tonnes in the first half of this year, up by 2.6% year on year.
Export revenue was $65.77 million in January-June, up by 3.6%
year on year.
Caustic calcined magnesia prices have mostly held steady in
2019 on stable demand from chemical sectors. Fastmarkets
assessed the magnesia, calcined, 90-92% MgO, fob China price at
$170-210 per tonne on August 13, down from $180-220 per tonne
in early 2019.
Magnesia, fused, 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump,
fob China, $/tonne
Silicon carbide prices remain steady despite tight
Silicon carbide prices have remained mostly flat over the
past six months, even though the lasting effects of production
shutdowns in China as well as higher costs of producing
abrasive green silicon carbide and refractory-grade material
reported earlier this year kept the market tight.
Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for
silicon carbide, green, over 99.5% SiC, FEPA 8-220, ddp Europe,
was €1,950-2,100 ($2,160-2,327*) per tonne at the end of
July, compared with €1,950-2,050 per tonne in January this
The price of silicon carbide, refractory grade 95% SiC min,
ddp Europe, was assessed at €1,050-1,300 per tonne on July
30, up from €1,000-1,250 at the start of 2019, while
silicon carbide, refractory grade 98% SiC min, ddp Europe was
€1,250-1,400 per tonne in July, compared with
€1,200-1,400 per tonne in January.
"Silicon carbide prices increased in early 2019 due to the
tightness of material supply resulting from shutdowns in China
throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, as well as the higher
production costs," a consumer told Fastmarkets earlier this
year, explaining what had set off the upward trend.
The price of silicon carbide, FEPA 8-220 black about 99% SiC
acid wash, ddp Europe was assessed at €1,450-1,550 per
tonne on July 30, while the silicon carbide, FEPA 8-220 black
about 99% SiC water wash, ddp Europe price was assessed at
€1,350-1,450 on the same date. Both prices have remained
flat since the start of 2019.
*Conversions made August 2019
|Silicon carbide, green, over 99.5% SiC, FEPA
8-220, ddp Europe, €/tonne
TiO2 feedstock prices rise
Titanium dioxide feedstock prices have been fairly steady so
far in 2019, with most grades moving up slightly since the
beginning of the year.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for rutile
concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bulk, cif China was $1,150-1,250 per
tonne on August 15.
Prices for this grade started the year at $1,000-1,100 per
tonne and have inched up over the eight months to late August,
despite volatility in titanium dioxide markets.
Prices for rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bagged, fob
Australia have also crept up very slightly during 2019 to date,
assessed at $1,250-1,350 per tonne on August 15, compared with
$1,045-1,350 per tonne in January.
Prices for rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, large volumes
for pigment, fob Australia were assessed at $1,100-1,200 per
tonne on August 15, compared with $1,000-1,050 per tonne at the
start of the year
Ilmenite prices have similarly increased slowly this
Fastmarkets assessed the price of ilmenite concentrate,
47-49% TiO2, cif China at $180-200 per tonne on August 15, up
from $164-180 per tonne in early January.
Mineral sands miners have performed fairly solidly in 2019
on steady to slightly increasing prices, whereas titanium
dioxide producers have reported lower profits, due to higher
feedstock costs and sagging pigment prices.
|Rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bagged, fob
Europe’s soda ash market tightens as
Chinese prices soften
The global soda ash market has been tight this year,
allowing European producers to introduce price increases into
their annual contracts.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for soda ash,
natural and synthetic, dense and light, large contracts,
delivered Europe was at €195-230 ($216-255*) per tonne on
This was a widening of the €210-220 per tonne range
reported in January, but market feedback suggested that
transactions have been weighted towards the upper end of this
bracket in recent months.
Tightness in European supply has been exacerbated by the
closure of some major local producers.
In the second week of August, it was announced that soda ash
production will halt at Ciech’s factory in Romania
from September 18 after a price increase from the steam
supplier slashed the profitability of the plant.
CET Govora, a state-owned steam supplier, has placed a 135%
rate increase on its price for supply of steam to the soda ash
The soda ash plant in Ramnicu Valcea, northwest of
Bucharest, has nameplate capacity of 600,000 tonnes per year of
soda ash. It relies on state-owned CET Govora to provide steam
for the chemical processes involved.
With this asset halting production, there could be further
strain on supply in the European market, which is soon to begin
yearly contract negotiations.
In China, the market has trended the other way, with prices
falling on ample supply. China has invested in significantly
boosting its domestic soda ash capacity in the last five
The price of soda ash, synthetic, dense and light, fob China
was assessed at $230-240 per tonne on August 15, down from
$275-285 per tonne in January.
*Conversions made August 2019
|Soda ash, synthetic, dense and light, fob
Zircon prices rally towards end of year highs
Premium grade zircon prices strengthened further in August
against July, after relatively short supply continued to
support selling values.
Prices of zircon, both premium and standard grades, have
been on a long-term uptrend in recent years, thanks largely to
the depletion of existing stockpiles and a lack of new projects
Fastmarkets assessed the price of zircon, premium grade,
66.5% ZrO2 min, bulk, cif China, at $1,550-1,650 on August
15, up from $1,450-1,650 per tonne in early July.
The increase took premium zircon prices back up to levels
recorded at the beginning of 2019 and marked a clear
increased over the $1,350-1,450 per tonne level seen at the
start of 2018.
Prices for zircon, premium grade, 66.5% ZrO2 min, cif Spain
were flat against the equivalent cif China price for the same
grade of material at $1,550-1,650 per tonne in mid-August,
having been more or less stable in that range since the start
of the year.
Prices for zircon, standard grade, 65.5% ZrO2 min, cif China
were assessed at $1,400-1,600 per tonne on August 15, compared
with $1,450-1,600 per tonne at the beginning of 2019.
Mineral sands companies are rapidly snapping up projects
with zircon production capacity.
But the profitability of such projects is often hindered by
weaker and more volatile prices for other mineral sands which
are co-produced with zircon and go into the titanium dioxide
feedstocks market, rather than higher value refractories and
ceramics applications like zircon.
|Zircon, premium grade, 66.5% ZrO2 min, bulk,
cif China, $/tonne