Aluminum’s dangerous dependency on China’s smelter sector – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – January 26, 2017)

LONDON – China produced 31.6 million tonnes of aluminum last year. National output in both November and December was running at an annualized 34 million tonnes, a fresh record.

The country’s share of global output last month was more than 56 percent, according to figures from the International Aluminium Institute (IAI). Ten years ago it was around 30 percent.

The build-out of capacity in the intervening decade has been explosive and is continuing, a new generation of smelters rising out of the deserts of the northwestern province of Xinjiang. China’s increasing dominance of the global supply chain has fueled resentment among other producing nations.

The U.S., which has experienced a sharp contraction in aluminum smelting capacity over the last decade, has launched a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization alleging China has provided parts of its aluminum sector with unfair subsidies.

China’s huge capacity and tendency toward over-production may be bad news for other producers, but it has been distinctly good news for aluminum users. Aluminum is one of the fastest growing metals sectors, at least partly due to its recent history of low and relatively low-volatility prices.

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