Chinalco proposes curbing China’s copper capacity
The general manager of state-owned metals group Chinalco is calling on China to rein in “blind expansion” of copper smelting capacity as the country’s lawmakers gather in Beijing to decide policy objectives and economic targets for the year.
Yu Dehui, also a delegate at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is submitting a proposal at this year’s Two Sessions that will also urge an acceleration of supply-side reform in the sector, a publication run by the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association said on Thursday.
The Two Sessions refers to the annual gatherings of the CPPCC, a political advisory body that opened its meeting on Thursday, and the National People’s Congress, or parliament, which convenes from Friday.
Smelters in China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, have expanded at breakneck speed in recent years but overcapacity in the sector has previously not been targeted by the government in the same way as aluminium or steel.
Chinalco is best known as an aluminium producer but its unit China Copper has primary copper smelting capacity of 1.35 million tonnes per year in regions including Fujian, Yunnan and Inner Mongolia.
“Since 2008, China’s copper smelting industry has developed rapidly, with output increasing by nearly 200%,” Yu was quoted as saying in the report, adding that “the problems of blind expansion … are prominent”.
Annual capacity in China reached 12.59 million tonnes in 2019 and is expected to hit 14.22 million tonnes in 2021, he said, noting that refined copper output, however, was only 9.78 million tonnes last year, giving a capacity utilisation rate of only around 77%.
Industry standards for copper must be revised and re-issued as soon as possible, Yu said, adding that the geographical layout of the copper smelting industry in China should be optimised and industry technology should be upgraded.
(By Tom Daly and Min Zhang; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)