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Global copper and nickel smelting slips in June, satellite data shows

Global copper smelting activity declined in June, hit by a stoppage in top producer Chile, data from satellite surveillance of metal processing plants showed on Monday.

Chilean state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on June 8 that it stopped its Ventanas smelter and refinery to carry out maintenance.

The move in Chile along with weak activity in China and Europe weighed on global copper smelting, according to a joint statement from commodities broker Marex and SAVANT, the satellite analytics service Marex launched with Earth-i in 2019.

The data showed Ventanas remained closed while Codelco’s other smelters at Chuquicamata, El Teniente and Salvador are running below full capacity, it added.

“SAVANT observations present growing evidence of demand destruction in industrial metals,” said Marex Global’s head of analytics, Guy Wolf.

Earth-i, which specialises in geospatial data, tracks smelters representing 80-90% of global production. It sells data to fund managers, traders and miners, and also publishes a free monthly index of global copper smelter activity.

Its global copper dispersion index, a measure of smelter activity, declined to 46.7 in June from 49.4 in May.

Under the dispersion index, 50 points indicate that smelters are operating at the average level of the past 12 months. It also has a second index showing the percentage of active smelters.

The Global Inactive Capacity Index for copper has registered three consecutive months above 20% for the first time in five years, the statement said.

In nickel, global smelting activity dipped, mainly due to periods of inactivity at key smelters including the Jinchuan smelter in China, Polokwane in South Africa and Sudbury in Canada.

The global dispersion index for nickel slipped to 49.0 in June from 53.0 in May, while the Chinese nickel pig iron (NPI) index declined to 53.9 in June versus 54.1 in May.

NPI is a lower nickel content substitute for refined nickel.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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