Rio Tinto Considering 3rd-Party Copper Concentrate for Utah’s Kennecott Smelter

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Rio Tinto‘s Kennecott copper smelter is considering treating third-party concentrate on a large scale for the first time, as the second-biggest U.S. copper producer tries to tackle falling ore grades from its nearby mine, 4 sources said.

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The Utah plant has bought external concentrate, an intermediate product that smelters use to make refined metals, on occasion in the past, but this would be the first formal effort on a large scale that many traders can remember.

The move would be a big shift for Rio’s biggest smelter, which turns ore from its nearby century-old Bingham Canyon mine into refined metal. The reasons for the low-grade ore at Bingham, the world’s biggest open-pit, are not known.

The copper 3-month price fell 0.7% on Wednesday, November 12 to $6,625 per metric ton on the LME, making it the day’s biggest mover. After improving for two days, the cash price of primary copper declined 0.7% on the LME to $6,688 per metric ton.

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The price of US copper producer grade 122 inched up 0.5% to $3.75 per pound. The price of US copper producer grade 110 rose 0.5% to $3.75 per pound. The price of US copper producer grade 102 rose 0.5% to $3.94 per pound. The cash price of primary Japanese copper declined 0.5% to JPY 801,000 ($7,357) per metric ton, after two days of improvement.

Chinese copper closed mixed yesterday. Chinese copper bar prices inched up 0.2% to CNY 48,950 ($7,970) per metric ton. The Chinese copper cash price inched up 0.2% to CNY 49,150 ($8,003) per metric ton. The price of Chinese copper wire held steady at CNY 50,395 ($8,205) per metric ton. The price of Chinese bright copper scrap saw essentially no change for the fifth day in a row, remaining around CNY 44,300 ($7,213) per metric ton.

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