Renewables MMI: Democratic Republic of the Congo Holds Historic Elections

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Metal Prices

The Renewables Monthly Metals Index (MMI) held flat this month, sticking at a reading of 102.

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Congo Elections

As readers know, a majority of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where political instability has often led to significant fluctuations in the price of the metal (coveted for its application in things like electric vehicle batteries and cellphones).

The country held elections Dec. 30, which this week led to the DRC’s electoral commission announcing Felix Tshisekedi the winner.

The election will see to a successor to Joseph Kabila, who served as president for 18 years.

However, the results of the vote have been far from universally accepted. According to the BBC, defeated candidate Martin Fayulu plans to challenge the result in court.

From a metals perspective, the political situation bears monitoring; any tremors in the process of power transfer could have an impact on industry in the country, particularly the mining sector (which has already seen shakeup in the last year, with an updated mining code seeing royalties on metals like cobalt increasing from 3.5% to 10%).

Nucor to Build Midwest Steel Plate Mill

In other Renewables MMI developments, U.S. steelmaker Nucor Corporation has announced plans to build a steel plate mill in the Midwest.

According to a Nucor release, the firm has approved a $1.35 billion investment to build the new mill, which it expects to be “fully operational” by 2022 and create 400 full-time jobs. The plant is also expected to have an annual capacity of 1.2 million tons of steel plate products.

“This investment is consistent with our drive to continue delivering sustainable, profitable growth and superior returns for shareholders,” said John Ferriola, Nucor’s chairman, CEO and president. “Together with the significant share repurchases completed in 2018, the Board’s decision to fund this high-return opportunity demonstrates our commitment to balanced capital allocation. We have a strong foundation to build upon as we advance our goal of leading in every market in which we compete.”

According to the release, locations for the plant in the Midwest region of the U.S. are being evaluated. Nucor already has plants in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas.

The new plate mill will produce “cut-to-length, coiled, heat-treated, and discrete plate ranging from 60 to 160 inches wide, and in gauges from 3/16 of an inch to 14 inches in thickness,” the release states, “enabling Nucor to supply plate products that the Company does not currently offer.”

Actual Metal Prices and Trends

The price of Japanese steel plate increased 3.6% month over month, up to $784.06/mt. Korean steel plate fell 1.9% to $628.02/mt. Chinese steel plate dropped 4.7% to $607.69/mt.

U.S. steel plate fell 2.7% to $994/st. The U.S. grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) coil price remained flat, moving slightly from $2,462/mt to $2,465/mt.

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Chinese neodymium fell 0.4% to $58,224.99/mt, while silicon increased marginally to $1,497.42/mt. Chinese cobalt cathodes also increased marginally, ticking up to $96,678.20/mt.

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