China has been engaged in an escalating trade row with Australia of late, with Chinese copper smelters and traders verbally ordered to avoid buying Australian copper concentrate
in early November 2020.
The ban coincided with a sharp drop off in raw material supply from key producer Peru, the location of China's only major South American copper mining project Las Bambas, which has been beset by on-and-off blockades from disgruntled local groups
"Everybody has been running their stocks [of concentrate] low for a year and the Las Bambas’ delay has made it worse for Chinese smelters," a trading source said.
Supply constraints had been in place over last year already. Chinese imports of copper concentrates dropped by 1.9% year on year to 21.76 million tonnes in 2020, the first decline since 2011 despite rising domestic demand for concentrate feed.
"The diversion of Australian concentrate has given Japan and South...