Revealed by a source at the Chilean state-owned mine Codelco, the company has been selling mixed copper blends to the copper smelters from China without facing any problem. The company’s Ministro Hales mine has copper with high-arsenic content which it mixes with the cleaner copper grades to sell to the Chinese smelters.
In China, import of materials containing more than 0.5 percent arsenic has been restricted. However, the source at Codelco said that Chinese smelters have been taking the blended concentrate from them. Industry experts mention that the blending of copper is not a long-term solution as it tightens the standard grade market. Also, the costs attached with treatment and refining has widened the gap between the standard grade and impure grade of copper. It is difficult for the smelters to process the copper ores with high-arsenic content.
Though Codelco has not yet reached its estimation target in selling blended concentrate, the sources said that with the company’s guarantee and backing, the smelters have been buying the blends. Lower selling of the blends than the estimated figures has been due to the smelters betting on strong spot treatment and refining charges. At Codelco’s Ministro Hales mine, the roaster to remove arsenic from the copper ores has not been operating due to the start-up issues. Though the company says that it would be functional in two to three months, it has been selling the blended copper to the smelters in the meanwhile.
The price war between the high-arsenic content copper and the standard copper has led the industry experts to speculate about the long term effects of lower ore grades on global smeleters. The arsenic content carbon sells at $180 per tonne compared to the standard grades which are sold at $110 per tonne.