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 coverage of: aluminum production and prices; Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel derivatives; the coronavirus’ potential impact on iron ore; General Motors’ electrification drive; and the arrival of Brexit.
General Motors announced this week it would take another step towards electrification by investing $2.2 billion in its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly, which will be the automaker’s first plant devoted 100% to the production of electric vehicles (EVs).
The automaker said the plant would produce all-electric trucks and SUVs.
Heard of Europe’s Green Deal? No?
That may not be surprising, as it was only announced last month. While it sounds like the latest fruit and veg special offer at your local supermarket, it is likely to be one of the most profound policy changes to hit Europe since the formation of the Common Agricultural Policy or the creation of the Euro — or so says Nick Butler, chair of the Policy Institute at Kings College London, writing in the Financial Times this week.
The Green Deal was announced by new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and in brief, is a commitment by the E.U.’s 27 member states to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.
The Indian solar energy story marked a new milestone after India topped the Asia Pacific Region (APAC) for solar photovoltaic (PV) tenders in December 2019.
According to analytics company GlobalData, with 49% tenders announced and a 75.4% share, India was No. 1 among all other countries in the region, followed by the Philippines (with six tenders and a 9.2% share) and Pakistan (with five tenders and a 7.7% share), according to a Saur Energy International report.
Week in Review: Trump’s trade deals, steel capacity utilization and Hindalco’s diversification plans
Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals coverage here on MetalMiner, including coverage of: India’s Hindalco, U.S. steel capacity utilization, Trump’s trade deals, the Department of Commerce’s circumvention rulings on steel routed through Vietnam, U.S. industrial production and more.
- Sohrab Darabshaw delved into Hindalco’s plans to diversify its operations amid challenging conditions for aluminum in India.
- Rio Tinto’s Pacific operations recently gained Aluminum Stewardship Initiative certifications.
- Stuart Burns on what 2020 might have in store in terms of economic growth.
- Don Hauser overviewed recent trade developments related to the USMCA and U.S.-China talks.
- The European Commission has a proposal aimed at protecting its trade rights amid a deadlock in the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body.
- The U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate hit 80.1% for the year through Dec. 14.
- The Department of Commerce issued affirmative determinations related to circumvention of steel products produced in Korea and Taiwan but shipped through Vietnam.
- U.S. industrial production bounced back in November.
- ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel recently completed acquisition of the debt-ridden Indian steelmaker Essar Steel.
More and more companies are touting their newly acquired “green” bona fides in a world that is becoming increasingly conscious of climate change.
With the 2015 Paris climate accord and other government initiatives targeting reduction of emissions, companies have been quick to point out efforts toward those goals (although more cynical assessments would argue these announcements are intended as branding mechanisms, and that claims of “carbon-free” production or “greenness” must be looked at with some skepticism).
Australian miner Rio Tinto did just that recently, touting its Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certification for its mines in Australia and New Zealand.
Rio Tinto said the following mines gained Performance Standard and Chain of Custody certifications from the ASI: the Amrun and Weipa bauxite mines; Yarwun alumina refinery; and the Bell Bay and NZAS aluminum smelters.
“This certification expands Rio Tinto’s offering of independently certified, responsibly produced aluminium to customers around the world,” Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said. “It continues our leadership on responsible aluminium production from mine to metal, so that our customers can meet the growing demand from consumers for sustainably sourced materials.”
According to Rio Tinto, ASI certification means “customers can be assured that the aluminium they purchase has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to human rights.”
“In 2018, Rio Tinto became the first producer to offer ASI Aluminium through a ‘chain of custody’ spanning the Gove bauxite mine in Australia to its alumina refinery, aluminium smelters and casthouses in Quebec, Canada, adding its operations in British Columbia in 2019,” Rio Tinto said.
Bell Bay Aluminium has an energy supply contract with Hydro Tasmania, which is Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy, according to Rio Tinto.
This morning in metals news, the United States Trade Representative released a statement on the U.S.-China partial trade deal, copper prices fell back from a seven-month high Thursday, and Norsk Hydro signed a $1,600 million credit facility linked to its emissions targets.
U.S., China reach partial trade deal
Although the agreed-upon “phase one” trade deal is still short on publicly available details, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) did note some tariff implications in a release Friday.
According to the USTR, the U.S. will maintain a 25% tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods and a 7.5% tariff on $120 billion worth of goods.
Copper drops after hitting seven-month high
Copper prices fell Thursday after hitting a seven-month high, Reuters reported.
LME copper reached as high as $6,174 per ton yesterday, according to Reuters, its highest since May 10.
Hydro signs credit facility linked to emissions goals
Norwegian firm Norsk Hydro announced Thursday it had signed a U.S. $1.6 billion credit facility that is tied to its emissions goals.
“The margin under the facility will be adjusted based on Hydro’s progress to meet its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by the end of 2025,” Hydro said in a statement.
“Hydro has set a new climate roadmap towards 2030 where 10% reduction in climate emissions by 2025 is an important milestone to achieve 30% reduction by 2030.”
This morning in metals news, the European Steel Association (EUROFER) offered its reaction to the new European Green Deal, China’s steel output could fall next year and China’s imports of iron ore dropped in November.
EUROFER lauds carbon border adjustment mechanism in European Green Deal
This week, the E.U. unveiled the European Green Deal, which EUROFER largely supported in a statement Wednesday.
“We welcome the aims of the European Green Deal,” said Axel Eggert, EUROFER director general. “In charting a series of sectoral and specific policy plans, it is clear policymakers take seriously the need to transition to a carbon-neutral future with industry, rather than without it.”
EUROFER also highlighted the initiative’s carbon-neutral ambitions, particularly through the lens of steelmaking and competition against lower-lost, less “green” steel producers.
“It is now of utmost importance to develop a regulatory framework that creates markets for CO2-neutral products: these have significantly higher production costs, for example because of the use of highly-priced hydrogen instead of coking coal in the steelmaking process,” Eggert said. “Policymakers must establish – jointly with us – how ‘green’ steel can compete against carbon-intense, low-cost steel imports that have a significantly higher CO2 footprint than EU-made steel.
“The EU seeks to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050, which is a high ambition. The steel industry is already working on a range of low- and carbon-neutral solutions that could lead to reductions in CO2 emissions from steelmaking by up to 95% in 2050 under an optimum regulatory framework. It is why a partnership on clean steel – as well as other means to ensure the steel industry remains competitive even as it becomes carbon-lean – is so essential.”
China’s steel output to drop in 2020?
Despite mandated winter production cuts over the past few cold seasons, China’s steel output has continued to ascend.
Next year, however, the country’s steel output is expected to come down from its record high set this year, according to the China Metallurgical Planning and Research Institute.
According to Reuters, the institute forecasts steel output will fall to 981 million tons next year, down from 988 million tons this year.
China’s iron ore imports drop
In other China news, the country’s imports of iron ore fell in November, Reuters reported.
China imported 90.65 million tons of the steelmaking material last month, down 2.4% from the October import total, according to the report.
The Renewables Monthly Metals Index (MMI) dropped one point this month for a December MMI reading of 96.
Glencore inks long-term cobalt supply deal with SK Innovation
Glencore announced another cobalt supply deal, this time with SK Innovation.
The deal will run for a six-year period and includes up to 30,000 tons of cobalt contained in hydroxide between 2020 and 2025.
“In signing this contract with the world’s largest producer of cobalt, SK Innovation has secured supply of a metal which is both core to battery production and in short supply,” SK Innovation said in a prepared statement. “SK Innovation stands ready to produce the batteries required to meet the significant anticipated battery demand.
“The electric vehicle (EV) battery market is growing fast and the total market size will be c.US$150bn in 2025, larger than the semiconductor market. Accordingly, cobalt demand will keep increasing. We assume global cobalt demand for EV batteries will be 32kt in 2020 and 92kt in 2025. With this contract, SK Innovation can produce batteries for 3 million EVs.”
Madagascar to increase mining royalties
Reuters recently reported the government of Madagascar has drafted a law calling for the increase of mining royalties for nickel and cobalt, bringing the rate up to 4% from 2%.
According to the report, the proposed law also calls for allowing the government to take an at least 20% stake in any mining production in the country.
Neodymium potentially down the road for Lynas venture
As we noted in out Rare Earths MMI report, Australian miner and processor Lynas Corp. earlier this year signed an MOU with a Texas-based firm to build a rare earths separation facility in the U.S.
The company said the plant would initially focus on heavy rare earths, like dysprosium and terbium.
However, the company added it could incorporate separation of light rare earths, like neodymium, at a later date.
GOES fall 24 points
The GOES MMI, which tracks grain-oriented electrical steel, took a fall this month.
The GOES coil price fell 13.1% from last month’s reading, down to $2,171/mt.
In other GOES news, the lone U.S. producer of electrical steel, AK Steel, is being acquired by Cleveland-Cliffs, as MetalMiner’s Lisa Reisman explained last week.
“The transaction will combine Cliffs, North America’s largest producer of iron ore pellets, with AK Steel, a leading producer of innovative flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel products, to create a vertically integrated producer of value-added iron ore and steel products,” AK Steel said in a prepared statement. “The combined company will be ideally positioned to provide high-value iron ore and steel solutions to customers primarily across North America.”
Elsewhere, Germany’s thyssenkrupp AG continues restructuring efforts and recently outlined a series of priorities for the firm going forward.
Among other efforts, the German firm continues to work toward an eventual IPO for its elevator segment.
“The preparations are timed in such a way that thyssenkrupp is expected to be able to make a sound decision in the first quarter of 2020 on which options to pursue primarily,” the company said. “Internal preparations for an IPO will be completed by the end of the year. thyssenkrupp has already received indicative offers from strategic and financial investors. Based on a due diligence, thyssenkrupp expects binding offers as a basis for potential negotiations in the next year.”
Thyssenkrupp, a producer of electrical steel, posted a net loss of €260 million for fiscal year 2018-2019.
Actual metals prices and trends
Japanese steel plate fell 1.4% to $785.15/mt as of Dec. 1. Korean plate fell 7.1% to $516.24/mt. Chinese steel plate rose 1.3% to $580.16/mt.
U.S. steel plate fell 9.9% to $616/st. As we have noted previously, plate often does not follow the same trend as other forms of steel. For example, HRC, CRC and HDG prices have been on the rise over the last month, but plate has not joined in the upward momentum.
Chinese cobalt cathodes rose marginally to $94,561.10/mt.
This morning in metals news, Tata Steel is making job cuts across its European operations, U.S. Steel announced it plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030 and copper ticked up again Monday.
Job Cuts Coming to Tata Steel’s European Operations
Steelmaker Tata Steel will cut jobs throughout its European operations, Reuters reported, where the company employs approximately 20,000 people.
According to the report, Tata says there won’t be any plant closures.
U.S. Steel Announces Emissions Target
U.S. Steel announced last week it plans to cut emissions by 20% by 2030.
“The company has set a goal to reduce its global greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 20 percent, as measured by the rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents emitted per ton of finished steel shipped, by 2030 based on 2018 baseline levels,” the company said. “This target will apply to U. S. Steel’s global operations.”
The steelmaker also outlined initiatives toward that goal.
“U.S. Steel’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction goal will be achieved through execution of multiple initiatives,” the company said. “These include the development of electric arc furnace steelmaking at U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works and at Big River Steel, the first LEED-certified steel mill in the nation, in which U.S. Steel recently acquired a minority interest with an option to acquire the remainder over the next four years. Electric arc furnace steelmaking relies on scrap recycling to produce new steel products, capitalizing on steel’s status as the most recycled material on earth. Further carbon intensity reductions are expected to come from the company’s introduction of state-of-the-art endless rolling and casting technology and construction of a cogeneration facility at its Mon Valley Works announced in May, as well as implementation of ongoing energy efficiency measures, continued use of renewable energy sources and other process improvements.”
Copper Makes Gains
Copper prices rose for the second straight session Monday, Reuters reported.
LME three-month copper ticked up 0.1%, while SHFE copper rose 0.3%, according to the report.