Brexit and the Chinese import restrictions are two “looming” issues facing the UK non-ferrous metals industry, according to the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).
Nick Rose of Tandom Metallurgical Group, writing in the BIR World Mirror, says the outcome of these issues is “completely out of the industry’s hands”, and raise questions about whether the new lower contamination thresholds were achievable.
He questions whether the Chinese metal processing industry would have sufficient licence quotas to consume the volume of imports available, even if the quality was sufficient.
China dominates consumption of copper-bearing grades such as cable and electric motors and is also the world’s largest consumer of copper. While new destinations for scrap may develop, these will not appear overnight.
If China cuts back on the lower grades of copper-bearing scrap, it may well increase the demand for high grades.
He said these uncertainties, as well as Brexit, were affecting the metals industry just as UK traders were beginning to find their feet after a couple of tough trading years.
Trading was reportedly lower in Q4 but this was expected at the time of the year, with 2018 European trading taking place for new contracts.
Aluminium demand remains good for secondary and primary grades, with LME prices holding.
On the whole, Rose notes that 2017 has been a better year than the previous one, with a little more volume in the marketplace and healthy LME levels.