Commodities Roundup: Critical Minerals, Copper Prices and Lead Leading the Way

conflict mineral

For the buyers and category managers out there, especially those of you deep in the weeds of buying and managing commodities, here’s a quick rundown of news and thoughts from particular commodity markets.

From price movements to policy decisions, our MetalMiner editors scour the landscape for what matters. This week:

U.S. Department of the Interior Publishes List of 35 ‘Critical’ Minerals

The U.S. Department of the Interior published a draft list of minerals deemed to be critical to the U.S. economy and national security, with the understanding that the U.S. should seek to work to become less dependent on foreign sources for those materials.

This week, following the requisite period of public comment, the department published the finalized list.

According to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) release, the list will be the “initial focus of a multi-agency strategy due in August this year to implement President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order to break America’s dependence on foreign minerals.”

The full list of minerals is as follows:

  • Aluminum (bauxite)
  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Barite
  • Beryllium
  • Bismuth
  • Cesium
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Fluorspar
  • Gallium
  • Germanium
  • Graphite (natural)
  • Hafnium
  • Helium
  • Indium
  • Lithium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Niobium
  • Platinum group metals
  • Potash
  • Rare earth elements group
  • Rhenium
  • Rubidium
  • Scandium
  • Strontium
  • Tantalum
  • Tellurium
  • Tin
  • Titanium
  • Tungsten
  • Uranium
  • Vanadium
  • Zirconium

LME Copper Slides

After upward gains late last week and early this week, the LME copper price proceeded to slide the last couple of days.

For the past month, London copper has traded in a band between just over $6,700 per ton and just under $7,000 per ton.

According to Reuters, LME copper Thursday dropped for the second day in a row, falling 0.1% after a 1.6% drop on Wednesday, with the news source citing President Donald Trump’s decision to call off a planned summit with North Korea as a reason for the slide.

Meanwhile, the most-traded contract on the SHFE was rising in the early hours of Friday, May 25, up to 51,600 yuan per ton ($8,090.95 per ton), according to data on the SHFE website.

Lead Surges

The same Reuters report tells a different story, however, for lead, which has risen more than 7% since last Friday. Dropping available LME warehouse stocks contributed to the rise.

Novelis Announces $180M Investment in Chinese Automotive Aluminum Capacity

Aluminum firm Novelis announced Wednesday plans to invest $180 million in its Changzhou automotive aluminum plant in China.

According to a Novelis release, the firm plans to begin expanding its Changzhou facility this year in order to be operational by 2020.

A projected surge in demand for automotive aluminum underpinned the decision, the announcement states.

"As our customers continue to see aluminum as the material of choice to meet their lightweighting and performance goals, Novelis is strengthening its leadership position in the world's largest automotive market place," said Steve Fisher, president and CEO of Novelis Inc, in the release. "We believe China's commitment to fuel efficiency and reducing emissions represent a large and favorable opportunity that will require greater adoption of aluminium, particularly in the rapidly growing electric vehicle market."

U.S. Raw Steel Production Rises

According to data from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), U.S. raw steel production for the week ending May 19 was up 1.6% from the previous week and up 3.3% from the same week last year.

At a capacity utilization rate of 75.7% last week, production hit 1,775,000 net tons, according to the AISI report, up from 1,747,00 net tons for the week ending May 12.

For the year to date (through May 19), production is up 1.8% from the same period the last year.

Demand From Jet Engine Makers Sends Cobalt Price Soaring

Typically, application of the pricey but coveted cobalt is discussed in relation to electric vehicles. But according to a Reuters report, demand for cobalt in the jet engine industry has seen the cobalt price continue to rise.

According to the report, cobalt prices are up 20% since January.

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