(Bloomberg) — Add sulfuric acid to the list of challenges facing copper miners as the world clamors for more of the wiring metal.
The compound, used to extract copper from ore, is getting harder to come by. A slowdown in oil refining during the pandemic has resulted in less availability of sulfur, a key input for the acid.
At the same time, more acid made in Asia is being used locally as industries there rebound. At least one copper mine in top-producer Chile has already been impacted and spot prices have surged.
“That collection of events hasn’t ever really happened before,” said Peter Harrisson, principal sulfur analyst at CRU Group.
“In the middle of 2020, it was smelters wishing they didn’t have to make acid because they couldn’t sell it, whereas now, it’s smelters wishing they could make more.”
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