LONDON, July 4 The flow of Indonesian nickel ore to China has resumed after a three-and-a-half year break. There have been a few false alarms since the Indonesian government banned all exports of unprocessed minerals, including nickel, at the start of 2014.
China’s trade figures have shown the occasional import of what has been classified as nickel ore but which was in all probability iron ore with high nickel content. But May’s 264,000 tonnes seem the real deal. Not only was it the largest monthly total in three years but it tallies with plans by Indonesia’s Aneka Tambang (Antam) to make its first 150,000-tonne shipment at the start of the month.
It’s still a fraction of what Indonesia used to send every month to China before 2014. The export ban remains in place but with a growing number of exemptions for companies that have committed to building processing plants.
For the Chinese nickel pig iron (NPI) producers that depend on such ore, it marks a dramatic turnaround from what looked like an existential crisis when Indonesia first cut off their supply.
Famine, however, has now turned to feast. Indonesian ore will add to a growing number of nickel raw materials flows into China. And that spells trouble for the rest of the world’s producers.
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