June 28, 2018 / 6:10 AM / 3 months ago

China copper smelters fail to set minimum treatment charges for Q3 -sources

* Quarterly meeting ends with no floor prices set

* First time in 15 years smelter group has not set TC/RCs -source

* Analysts had expected treatment charges to increase

By Tom Daly

BEIJING, June 28 (Reuters) - China’s top copper smelters on Thursday failed to set minimum treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for copper concentrate in the third quarter of 2018, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

One of the sources said that marked the first time the 10-member China Smelters Purchase Team (CSPT) had failed to set a floor since it was established in 2003.

CSPT members are supposed to adhere to the floor in any deals with copper miners, which pay the TC/RCs to the smelters to process their ore into refined metal, offsetting what the smelters pay the miners for the ore.

But the two sources, who both declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media, said a CSPT meeting in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia, discussed market fundamentals but ended without setting floor TC/RC figures.

With the third quarter starting on Sunday, no TC/RCs will be set for the period and in the absence of a new floor, “each company will purchase (copper concentrate) according to the market situation,” the second source told Reuters.

The second quarter TC floor had been set at $78 per tonne and 7.8 cents per pound, respectively, the lowest rates since at least 2015. In the third quarter of 2017, the TC/RCs were $86 per tonne and 8.6 cents per pound.

Analysts had expected the Q3 2018 floor to rise, citing higher spot TCs in the high $80s. Higher charges for processing point to a well-supplied market for copper concentrate.

The CSPT, which includes major smelters in the world’s biggest copper consuming country such as Tongling Nonferrous Metal Group, Jiangxi Copper Co and Jinchuan Group, meets every three months to set the floor TC/RCs. The meetings are usually held in Shanghai rather than Inner Mongolia, one of China’s biggest mining regions.

The sources dismissed the possibility of discord among CSPT members over desired TC/RC levels, with the second source saying that “everyone is very clear about the current market and their views are consistent”.

China’s imports of copper concentrate rose 37.4 percent in May from the year before to 1.58 million tonnes, according to customs data. (Reporting by Tom Daly Editing by Joseph Radford)

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