Australian copper ore heads to China as relations thaw

Port Hedland, Australia. Stock image.

Copper concentrates from Australia are headed to China, according to port data, in what would be the first shipment of its kind since the country halted imports three years ago.

One 11,000 ton consignment on the vessel African Crate set sail from the Australian port of Geraldton to Qingdao Nov. 3, according to Australia’s Mid West Ports Authority. A second 11,000 ton shipment on the same route is scheduled on the Densa Hawk next week.

The move comes amid a thawing in relations between the two countries. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese concluded a state visit to China last week touting positive talks with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

The shipments are also happening at a time when the market for the partially processed copper ores known as concentrates is expected to tighten, as smelters expand capacity and mines face growing political risks. Miners, traders and smelting executives are arriving in China for CESCO Asia Copper Week to negotiate annual supply deals.

China did not officially ban imports of Australian mined copper, but an unofficial block in 2020 on what had been a major supplier prompted a rush from Chinese smelters to secure alternative supplies, while Australian material was rerouted elsewhere. Other products such as coal also faced import restrictions that have subsequently been relaxed.

Located on Australia’s western coast, Geraldton is the export port for copper concentrate from 29Metals Ltd.’s Golden Grove mine. The company did not respond to multiple phone calls and emailed questions requesting comment on the shipments.


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