Supply of quality copper concentrate shrinks, sows seeds of price support – by Melanie Burton and Yuka Obayashi (Reuters U.S. – July 3, 2015)

MELBOURNE/TOKYO, July 3 (Reuters) – Supply of high quality copper concentrate shrank more than expected in the first half of this year due to output delays in top miner Chile, squeezing the pipeline for metal producers and likely supporting prices later in 2015, traders said.

Production from two of four mines in Chile that churn out clean, standard concentrate was stalled in the first half as the country was hit by floods, while the world’s top mine, Escondida, has not tendered surplus concentrate for months, the traders and mining sources said.

Smelters blend clean concentrates with supply from mines that suffer from impurities such as arsenic, which have become more common as miners dig deeper into the earth’s crust.

“The concentrate element is tightening up which will eventually flow through to a tighter refined market,” said analyst Colin Hamilton at Macquarie in London

Benchmark LME copper has shed 8 percent this year as China demand slows, plumbing six-year lows in January. It traded at $5,800 a tonne on Friday.

President Yukio Uchida of JX Holdings told Reuters that production at Chile’s Caserones mine, in which it holds a majority stake through its smelter, had been slow.

“Copper output at Caserones came at a low level for the January-June half due to the problem of slag disposal on site and floods in Chile,” he said, without giving a specific figure.

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