Commodities Roundup: Glencore inks cobalt deal; harsh world of EVs claims victim; GM-UAW deal may halt strike

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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.

MetalMiner, a sister site of ours, scours the landscape for what matters. This week:

Glencore has cobalt deal with Chinese firm

Multinational miner Glencore recently announced a five-year cobalt supply deal with the Chinese firm GEM Co. Ltd.

The miner will supply a minimum of 61,200 tons of cobalt to the Chinese firm from 2020-24.

Trafigura eyes cobalt too

Commodity trading firm Trafigura is taking a hard look at cobalt, coveted for its application in electric vehicles, laptops, cellphones and more.

As MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns noted this week, Glencore’s decision earlier this year to idle production at the Mutanda copper and cobalt mine — the world’s largest cobalt mine — gave support to a flagging cobalt price.

Now, Trafigura is betting on the Mutoshi mine, owned by a company based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Trafigura is looking to contribute financing in return for marketing rights on the cobalt,” Burns wrote. “Mutoshi hopes to produce 16,000 tons of cobalt annually by the end of next year, should financing be put in place.”

Global steel demand forecast to hit 3.9% this year

According to the World Steel Association’s October Short Range Outlook, global steel demand is expected to rise 3.9% this year.

However, demand growth is forecast to fall to 1.7% in 2020.

China’s steel demand is forecast to rise 7.8% this year, but just 1.0% next year.

Manufacturers in the age of the ‘skills gap’

These days, manufacturers often struggle to fill positions with the right talent.

The so-called skills gap has become a problem for manufacturers — but what can they do to find the right talent and keep productivity humming?

An upcoming MetalMiner webinar — featuring MetalMiner Executive Editor Lisa Reisman, Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center Founder Matt Runfola and Avetta Director of Business Development Brett Armstrong — will delve into the topic, including strategies that manufacturers can deploy to find the right talent.

The Oct. 24 webinar is free to attend, but registration is required.

Dyson’s dream for electric vehicles dies

Few things in recent years have received as much hype as the rise of electric vehicles.

In spite of that, some firms have been met with the harsh economic realities of the business.

The latest victim is Dyson, which recently announced it would close its EV division, located in the UK and Singapore.

“So what went wrong, you may ask?” Burns wrote.

“Technologically, the firm had the creative talent and the financial strength to probably deliver on a viable end product, although deadlines were slipping (particularly for the key solid-state battery technology).

“But the economics, on the basis of just 10,000 premium vehicles per year, was becoming increasingly tenuous, with new models flooding the market from established manufacturers like Volkswagen, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. Even Tesla, which had a dominant head start in the premium EV car market, is struggling as competitors rush into an arguably oversupplied market.”

India becomes net copper importer

For the first time in 18 years, India is a net importer of copper.

“The primary factor behind the shift is the permanent closure of Sterlite’s 400,000 ton per annum smelter in South India from May 2018,” MetalMiner’s Sohrab Darabshaw explained.

“Two other major players, along with Sterlite, dominated primary copper production in India: state-owned Hindustan Copper and privately held Hindalco Limited. With Sterlite gone from the picture, there is now a shortfall of almost 40% between supply and demand.”

GM, striking UAW reach tentative deal

General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union have reached a tentative deal that could end the strike that has gone on for over a month.

The union announced the strike — the first nationwide work stoppage for the automaker since 2007 — in mid-September.

“We just reached a tentative agreement with GM a short time ago, today, Wednesday, October 16, 2019,” UAW Director and Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in a statement posted on the UAW website. “We will go over the details when the Council meets tomorrow morning in Detroit.

“On behalf of the entire staff here in negotiations, we want to thank you for your support.

“In the meantime, continue the picket lines until after the UAW-GM National Council concludes business tomorrow, Thursday, October 17, 2019, and then you will receive further instructions.”

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