Articles in Category: Company News
thanksgiving

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While you may be busy putting the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving spread and, subsequently, taking a turkey-induced nap, you might find some time to revisit this week’s coverage, including industrial production figures, aluminum analysis and much more:

We’re off today and will resume regular coverage Monday.

But for now, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, MetalMiner readers!

Norsk Hydro

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This morning in metals news: Norsk Hydro recently resumed production at its Husnes aluminum plant; the Census Bureau recently released the latest data on new housing starts; and copper prices continue to rise.

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Norsk Hydro resumes production at Husnes B-line

Oslo-based Norsk Hydro announced the restarts of production at its Husnes aluminum plant after having operated at half capacity since 2009.

The A-line at Hydro’s Husnes plant produces about 95,000 tonnes of aluminum annually. Hydro added it will ramp up output to around 195,000 tonnes as it restarts 200 electrolysis cells in the one-kilometer-long B line.

Hydro President and CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim said the restarts are based on a “combination of increased demand for aluminum and expectations that Norway will continue to utilize EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) for 2021-2030.”

Strong October for housing starts

In addition to the Norsk Hydro news, U.S. housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million in October. The October rate marked a 4.9% increase from September.

Furthermore, the October rate marked a 14.2% increase year over year.

Meanwhile, single-family housing starts in October hit a rate of 1.18 million, up 6.4% from September.

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aluminum price

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This morning in metals news: the LME three-month aluminum price has continued to rise in the leadup to the Thanksgiving holiday; Rio Tinto signed a new agreement to strengthen its partnership with China’s Tsinghua University; and, lastly, New York state is one of the U.S. leaders in renewable energy generation.

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LME three-month aluminum prices gains

Like other metals, the LME three-month aluminum price has showed significant upward momentum this year.

The LME-three month aluminum price closed last week at $1,995 per metric ton. Aluminum is up 8.22% from the previous month.

Furthermore, since its April trough, the price has increased 37%.

Rio Tinto strengthens partnership with Tsinghua University

Miner Rio Tinto announced it is strengthening its partnership with China’s Tsinghua University.

The firm said it is committing an additional 30 million yuan ($4.5 million) over the next five years to support research projects at the Tsinghua-Rio Tinto Joint Research Centre for Resources, Energy and Sustainable Development.

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merger and acquisition

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including Tata Steel and its attempt to spin off its European assets, the U.S.’s rising steel capacity utilization rate, China’s economic recovery and its impact on metals prices, and much more:

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Week of Nov. 16-20 (Tata Steel looks for buyers, capacity utilization rises and more)

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LNG vessel

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This morning in metals news: miner Anglo American has signed a 10-year contract to add vessels fueled by liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to its fleet; jobless rates fell in 37 states in October; and copper prices retraced slightly.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Anglo American welcomes new vessels fueled by LNG

Earlier this month, miner Anglo American hailed the future addition to its fleet of four new vessels fueled by LNG.

“The new build LNG vessels offer significant environmental benefits, including a c.35% cut in CO2 emissions compared to standard marine fuel, while also using new technology to eliminate the release of unburnt methane, or so-called ‘methane slip,'” the miner said in a release.

Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding in China will build the fleet, which is expected to be delivered in 2023.

Jobless rates down in 37 states

Aside from the Anglo American LNG news, jobless rates in October fell in 37 U.S. states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Furthermore, the national unemployment rate fell by 1.0 percentage point to 6.9%. However, the rate marked a 3.3-percentage-point increase from the October 2019 rate.

Copper falls slightly

The LME three-month copper price has been on a relentless rise since late March.

After taking somewhat of a breather in September, copper continued its ascent in October and the first half of November.

Copper closed Thursday at $7,046 per metric ton, or up 3.07% month over month. However, the price dipped a little over 1% this week after opening the week at $7,128 per metric ton.

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renewables

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This morning in metals news: Nucor Corporation has signed a power purchase agreement with EDF Renewables North America; the Pilbara Ports Authority reported an 11% year-over-year increase in throughput in October; and, lastly, Minnesota’s mining rules are getting another look.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Nucor signs power purchase agreement with renewables firm

Steelmaker Nucor has signed a power purchase agreement with EDF Renewables for 250 megawatts of new solar energy in Texas.

The agreement is for 15 years.

“Nucor is one of the most efficient and cleanest steel producers in the world, and we are always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. That is why we are proud to make our production process even cleaner by supporting the development of this solar energy project,” said Leon Topalian, president and CEO of Nucor Corporation. “We are already North America’s largest recycler, and supporting the addition of more clean power to the regional grid via this agreement further demonstrates Nucor’s commitment to sustainable steelmaking.”

Pilbara Ports Authority reports October activity

The Pilbara Ports Authority reported monthly throughput of 62.5 million tonnes in October.

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lithium-ion battery

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: Norsk Hydro has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore a potential lithium-ion battery business; U.S. import prices fell slightly in October; and Gulf of Mexico oil production fell in August by the largest amount since 2008.

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Norsk Hydro signs MOU to explore potential lithium-ion battery business

Norsk Hydro, Panasonic and Equinor have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential for a lithium-ion battery business based in Norway.

“The companies will work together towards summer 2021 to assess the market for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and mature the business case for a green battery business located in Norway,” Norsk Hydro said in a release. “The companies intend that this initiative is based on Panasonic’s leading technology and targets the European market for electric vehicles and other applications.”

U.S. import prices fall in October

Meanwhile, U.S. import prices fell 0.1% in October after gaining 0.2% in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

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Central Europe and Eastern Europe

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Interest in the Central European steel sector came not only from the West, but also from further East.

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Interest in Central European steel assets

Ukrainian group Industrial Union of Donbass (ISD) acquired Hungarian integrated flats producer Dunaferr in 2004. The group also acquired Polish integrated plate producer Huta Czestochowa in 2005.

The Polish plant entered bankruptcy in 2019, however, amid what it called increasing difficulties in the European steel market.

Liberty Steel subsidiary Sunningwell leased in 2019 the plant from Czestochowa’s bankruptcy trustee. In 2020, it won a tender to purchase the plant. Polish media noted in October, however, that the plant would remain leased until mid-2021.

Czestochowa is now operating, an administrator for the plant confirmed to MetalMiner. However, she declined to indicate what shops were operating or at what percentage of capacity.

Steel situation in Ukraine

One difficulty Czestochowa faced was reportedly due to the armed conflict in 2014 between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, resulting in creation of the breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, a November 2014 report in Polish media stated.

ISD subsequently lost control of its slab producer at its Alchevsk plant, which is in Luhansk People’s Republic, and from which it sourced slabs for rolling at Czestochowa.

Donetsk region, once Ukraine’s industrial heart and the location for the majority of steelmaking and rolling assets, is now the within the breakaway and unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic. The republic contains Donetsk Steel, integrated metal and mining group Metinvest’s Yenakievo and Makeyevo plants and the Khartzysk pipe plant.

Reports of low operating percentages against capacities, industrial action by workers over unpaid back salaries and out-of-date equipment are also coming out of steelmakers in the Donetsk People’s Republic, sources told MetalMiner.

“Nobody knows what’s going on there,” a second analyst said.

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European Union flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part review of the European steel sector.)

While steelmakers east of Berlin are working to meet rising demand, others are facing myriad technical and regulatory challenges.

Those challenges include a global pandemic that has severely impacted economies, industry watchers and market participants told MetalMiner.

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European steel faces higher costs, environmental restrictions

Steel plants in Central and Eastern European states that are members of the European Union face not only higher costs, but also environmental restrictions that could eventually mean an additional $30-40 per tonne to make steel.

China’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has led to increases there in steel production and cheaper imports.

As a result, China’s rebound has further impacted European steelmakers in Central and Eastern Europe.

‘Shifting east’

Foreign metals and mining groups started to acquire plants in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Governments in those regions sought to privatize what in many cases were previously state-owned assets.

“The view was that the market was shifting east in terms of manufacturing bases,” as Western European automakers and white goods producers were setting up shop in those countries, one analyst said.

Some of the acquired assets also have either captive raw materials sources or easier access to them. This solved potential supply chain questions and allowed the acquiring groups to redistribute material elsewhere within their own network.

Many of the newer member states that joined from 2004 were also receiving subsidies from Brussels for infrastructure improvements. Those improvements would, in many cases, require steel, the analyst added.

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hot rolled steel

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This morning in metals news: the U.S.’s steel capacity utilization rate reached 71.4% for the week ended Nov. 14; a survey by INVERTO took a look at procurement trends during the COVID-19 pandemic; and steel prices continue to rise.

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Capacity utilization rises to 71.4%

The U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate for the week ended Nov. 14 reached 71.4%, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

The rate marked an increase from 71.1% the previous week. However, the rate fell from 78.8% during the same time frame in 2019.

Steel production during the week ended Nov. 14, 2020, totaled 1.58 million net tons. The production total marked a 0.4% increase from the previous week but a 13.3% year-over-year decline.

INVERTO releases Raw Materials Study 2020

A survey conducted as part of INVERTO’s Raw Materials Study 2020 delved into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on procurement and ways buyers have tried to adapt to the challenges of 2020.

Among its key findings, INVERTO noted of the survey respondents that “supply security is underestimated,” with few expressing concern about raw materials supply in the future.

Furthermore, INVERTO concluded few companies had taken “structured, profound and long-term countermeasures” in response to the pandemic.

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