China’s top copper producers call for relaxation of scrap import standards

Representatives of Jiangxi Copper, Tongling Nonferrous, China Copper, Jinchuan Group, Zijing Mining, Daye Nonferrous, China Gold, Hechi Nanfang Nonferrous, Zhongtiaoshan Nonferrous and Huludao Nonferrous met this week in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province, before an industry conference.

At the meeting, they pledged to make 25% of their total production from recycled copper by 2025, according to a joint statement from the 10 copper producers.

They’re not too far from that target now. Last year, China produced 10.5 million tons of refined copper, including primary and secondary production, according to official data. Secondary copper production was 2.257 million tonnes, or about one-fifth of the total.

The latest statement came amid copper smelters’ plans to build better closed-loop copper recycling systems and to negotiate with the government adjustments to import limits for the “copper raw material“.

As of 2020, China does not allow the import of “scrap” copper. Only high-purity copper scrap that could be reclassified as “raw copper material” could be imported.

When the reclassification was first implemented, many copper trade flows were suspended due to uncertainties about the release of shipments, but business eventually picked up.

In 2021, China imported 1.69 million tons of scrap copper and copper alloys, up significantly from 944,000 tons in 2020.

With greater consistency in the quality of imported scrap and the ease of obtaining tax refunds, many consumers in China have displayed a preference for overseas copper scrap over domestic materials.

The spot market in China was active. Fastmarkets priced #1 copper material, RCu-2A,1B (candy/berry), CIF China, LME/Comex rebate at 10-12 cents per pound in late October, narrowing higher by 2 cents per pound end september .

Copper recycling has been redirected to form a solution towards decarbonization, and recyclers have explored ways to get a share of the so-called “green bounty”.

Some metal producers in Europe who have increased their share of secondary raw materials and are using more renewable energy have began charging a premium to a group of “climate sensitive” customers.

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