Tin, copper: Yunnan embarks on 800kt metal stockpiling drive

Copper smelter

As part of its stimulus plans, China’s Yunnan province has announced that it will set aside 1Bn yuan (US$141M equivalent) to assist businesses in stockpiling 800kt of nonferrous metals. The scheme is part of Yunnan province’s efforts to boost its economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, with stockpiling a strategy to ease pressure on smelters hit by sliding metal prices and slumping demand. The funds will be used to cover interest on bank loans taken out for stockpiling, covering 80% of interest on loans to stockpile tin, germanium and indium, and 60% of interest on loans to stockpile copper, aluminium, lead and zinc.

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Yunnan province is located in southwest China and home to several state-owned metal producers including Yunnan Tin (the world’s second largest refined tin producer), Yunnan Copper, and Yunnan Aluminium. In recent years, the province has developed a strong hydropower sector, which has proved attractive for Chinese smelters looking to use cleaner sources of energy. Further economic support measures outlined by the province include a reduction in the cost of energy for many sectors until the end of 2020.

Yunnan’s announcement of stimulus plans is expected to boost prices for several metals, particularly those which have been hit by sliding prices amid COVID-19 uncertainty. Both tin and copper suffered substantial price drops in March 2020 as end use markets in Europe and North America were hit by lockdown periods, many of which are still in place as of April 2020. Other metals set to receive major boosts to prices from Yunnan’s stimulus plans include germanium and indium. Both minor metals have suffered from several years of subdued prices, after substantial inventories were built up during 2011-2015 when the former Fanya Metals Exchange, in Kunming, was active.

The Chinese metals and mining sector is showing rapid signs of recovery after disruptions from COVID-19. As daily confirmed cases of the virus have dropped substantially to manageable levels in China, economic activity is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. The Chinese economic disruption appears to be consistent with a sharp “V-shaped” trend, with a full recovery expected by June, assuming a second outbreak in the country can be avoided. However, with global metal demand expected to remain subdued into the late stages of 2020, schemes such as Yunnan’s will be highly beneficial for supporting businesses in the short-term. Meanwhile, the amassing of large stocks could serve to keep prices at lower levels until demand recovers sufficiently to draw these down.

Roskill’s Tin: Outlook to 2029, 11th Edition report was published in October 2019. Click here to download the brochure and sample pages for the report, or to access further information.

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This article was written by Adam Slade. Please get in touch below if you wish to discuss further:

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