Articles in Category: Green

A recent Telegraph article suggests the West is sleepwalking into missing the next industrial revolution as China voraciously buys up raw material assets around the world. Those assets include securing its future supplies of cobalt, copper, lithium and other metals. The aforementioned comes in addition to its current domination of rare earth metals.

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China leads in race for raw materials

electric vehicle charging

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Although the Telegraph article focuses on the UK, the UK is not alone.

Other European countries, and even the US, are only just catching on to the perilous state of most Western economies’ reliance on very limited, and often hostile, supply sources for raw materials.

As the article reports, it takes seven years to plan and build a mine. In the last four years, China Molybdenum has plowed into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 350 kilometer copper belt. The firm paid $2.6 billion (£2 billion) four years ago for the Tenke Fungurume mine from Freeport McMoRan.

It then expanded its empire in December, paying another $550 million for Freeport’s nearby Kisanfu mine. The mine gave it access to a further 6.3 million metric tons of copper. In addition, the mine offers access to 3.1 million metric tons of cobalt.

Chinese companies now dominate mining in the central African country that produces 70% of the world’s cobalt.

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This morning in metals news: the US steel capacity utilization rate ticked up to 77.9% last week; Novelis announced new sustainability targets; and the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) issued a ruling on seamless carbon and alloy steel standard, line and pressure pipe.

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US steel capacity utilization hits 77.9%

US steel capacity utilization rose to 77.9% for the week ending April 3, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported. Steel capacity utilization for the previous week reached 77.6%.

steel arrow up

Pavel Ignatov/Adobe Stock

Production during the week totaled 1.77 million net tons. The output marked an increase of 15.7% year over year. Furthermore, production increased by 0.3% from the previous week.

Novelis announces new sustainability targets

Aluminum sheet manufacturer Novelis announced new sustainability targets and a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Furthermore, Novelis said it aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2026.

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wind and solar electricity generation

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This morning in metals news: US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020; the United Steelworkers union commented on the details of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan; and the aluminum price retraced last week.

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US energy consumption down 7% in 2020

Amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“Last year marked the largest annual decrease in U.S. energy consumption in both percentage and absolute terms in our consumption data series that dates back to 1949,” the EIA said. “Much of the 2020 decrease in energy use is attributable to economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in the United States during the spring of 2020.”

USW on American Jobs Plan

As we noted last week, the United Steelworkers union last week announced a strike at nine Allegheny Technologies Inc. facilities. The move could have significant ramifications for stainless steel buyers, should it linger.

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E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

The European steel industry faces three major challenges, following the impacts of the COVID-19 global and the 2008-09 financial crisis, management consultancy McKinsey & Company stated.

“European steel producers should consider making a series of short-term operational and medium- to long- term strategic moves to ensure economic and environmental sustainability going forward,”
McKinsey said in its March 15 report, “The future of the European steel industry.”

“These strategic moves could encompass restructuring steps aimed at capacity reduction, steps toward strengthening the position of steel companies by diversifying their capabilities and sustainability moves toward low- and no-carbon steel,” McKinsey added.

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European steel needs to address overcapacity

The first move the sector needs to address is the increase in structural overcapacity. That is particularly true after a demand loss of between 5 million and 10 million metric tons demand loss as a result of the pandemic, the group stated.

“European steel players need to adjust overcapacity to be in sync with next normal steel demand,” McKinsey said.

Adjusting for a greener future

Steelmakers also need a short-term response to compensate for higher costs with profitability improvements and incremental measures that will reduce CO2 emissions. For example, they can do so by increasing the scrap rate, the report added.

Meanwhile, producers need to make investments with a view to medium- and long-term decarbonizing of the steel industry. In short, they should tailor long-term plans and technology choices towards CO2 neutrality, McKinsey noted.

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Suez Canal

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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 the Suez Canal blockage, the April 2021 MMO, Western European hot rolled coil prices and much more:

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Week of March 29-April 2 (Suez Canal retrospective, HRC in Western Europe, April MMO report and more)

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carbon dioxide clock

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This morning in metals news: miner Rio Tinto joined an effort in Japan promoting decarbonization transparency; the Nikkei Review reported automaker Nissan plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicle batteries by mid-decade; and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in on the Liberty Steel crisis.

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Rio Tinto joins Green Value Chain Platform Network

Miner Rio Tinto has joined Japan’s Green Value Chain Platform Network, it announced Thursday. The network aims to “lead transparent decarbonization efforts” in the country.

Japan established the network in 2018, Rio Tinto noted.

“We are honoured to be welcomed into the Ministry of Environment’s GVC Network and look forward to engaging on innovative approaches with customers, government and industry to help reduce Japan’s carbon footprint,” Rio Tinto Japan President Bill Horie said.

Rio Tinto said it aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Nissan to use cobalt-free batteries

In other sustainability news, automaker Nissan said it plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicles batteries by the mid-2020s, the Nikkei Asia reported.

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American jobs

Leigh Prather/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: President Joe Biden unveiled details of the $2 trillion investment toward the American Jobs Plan; meanwhile, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive recently released their automotive sales forecast for March; and, lastly, Ford yesterday announced its first-ever integrated sustainability and financial report.

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

Biden reveals details of American Jobs Plan

This week, President Joe Biden unveiled details of his American Jobs Plan, which will include an investment of $2 trillion.

Furthermore, the plan seeks to revitalize the manufacturing sector, improve US infrastructure, and modernize water delivery systems and electrical grids, among other goals.

“The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China,” the White House said. “Public domestic investment as a share of the economy has fallen by more than 40 percent since the 1960s. The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

We have covered the various supply chain and shipping issues that have hampered operations over the last year. Part of the Biden plan calls for improvement of US ports, waterways and airports, including $25 billion for airports.

J.D. Power, LMC Automotive release March sales forecast

Automotive intelligence firms J.D. Power and LMC Automotive recently forecast US automotive retail sales in March would finish up 70.7% compared with March 2020. Furthermore, sales would be up 9.2% compared with March 2019.

In addition, the firms forecast new-vehicle retail sales in Q1 2021 would reach 3.16 million units. That figure would mark an increase of 20.5% from Q1 2020 and 4.7% from Q1 2019.

Ford releases first integrated financial, sustainability report

As electrification continues, many automakers are touting steps taken along the way.

This week, Ford Motor Co. announced the release of its first-ever integrated financial and sustainability report.

Furthermore, the automaker also announced new “science-based targets” toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The targets – to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from operations 76% from 2017, and Scope 3 GHGs from use of the company’s products 50% from 2019, both by 2035 – were recently approved by the Science Based Targets initiative,” Ford said in a release.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including coverage of the semiconductor shortage, the Midwest Premium and more.

A fire at a Japanese chip-making plant last week has slammed automotive operations. General Motors, Ford and many other automakers have announced idling of production as a result of the shortage.

Meanwhile, on the supply side, Intel announced plans to invest $20 billion to build two new Arizona plants. Furthermore, Intel said it aims to “serve the incredible global demand for semiconductor manufacturing.”

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

Week of March 22-26 (semiconductor shortage, Midwest Premium and more)

semiconductor and automobile

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battery energy storage

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This morning in metals news: the Energy Information Administration forecasts a “significant number” of battery energy storage systems will come onto the US electricity grid; meanwhile, miner Rio Tinto announced a partnership with renewable energy technology company Heliogen; and, lastly, global copper mine production levels came in about flat compared with 2020.

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EIA forecasts increase in battery energy storage

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) today projected an increase in battery energy storage systems on the US power grid.

In its Annual Energy Outlook 2021, the EIA projected 59 GW of battery storage will serve the US power grid in 2050.

“Battery storage systems store electricity produced by generators or pulled directly from the grid, and they redistribute that electricity later,” the EIA noted. “They typically charge, or store, electricity during hours of the day with relatively high energy supply, low energy demand, and low power prices. The batteries are then available to discharge electricity during hours with low supply, high demand, high power prices, or when the grid needs backup capacity for reliability.”

Rio Tinto reaches agreement with Heliogen

Miner Rio Tinto announced it had reached an agreement with renewable energy technology company Heliogen.

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China aluminum

Grispb/Adobe Stock

China — and, indeed, Asia as a whole — has a serious issue evolving that few would have seen coming five years ago.

Back then, the carbon content of aluminium was a well-known fact. However, its light weight and high recyclability seemed to outweigh the CO2 emissions inherent in its production.

Not so now.

Grab your coffee and hear MetalMiner’s latest forecast for aluminum, copper, stainless and carbon steel on Wednesday, March 24 at 10 a.m. CDT:  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_6J8wAyYySfihVk3ZUH9yMA.

China aluminum sector and emissions

Government’s ambitions to reduce atmospheric pollution and consumers’ increasing desire for low or net-zero emission products is driving a rapid transformation in issues around aluminum smelter power supply.

Nowhere is this likely manifesting itself as dramatically as in China. Environmental pollution is one of few issues Beijing actually feels vulnerable about as a source of public unrest. The government’s latest five-year plan calls for dramatic reductions in emissions. The news has already hastened a move to hydro-rich Yunnan province, Reuters reported. The government effort against pollution could herald the closure of capacity elsewhere.

Coal problem

The challenge for China is that so much of its aluminum smelting uses coal-fired power production.

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