December 25, 2019 / 4:41 AM / 7 months ago

China November nickel ore imports from Indonesia surge ahead of export ban

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s monthly nickel ore imports from top miner Indonesia rose to a near 6-year high in November although its overall intake fell, as buyers raced to secure as much material as possible ahead of a ban on Indonesian exports starting in January.

Nickel ore shipments from Indonesia were 3.33 million tonnes in November, up 7% from 3.11 million tonnes in October, which was the highest since January 2014, and up 143% from a year earlier.

Overall, China’s nickel ore imports however fell 12.5% in November from the previous month. China imported 5.99 million tonnes of nickel ore and concentrate last month, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. That was down from 6.85 million tonnes in October but up 46% from 4.1 million tonnes a year earlier.

Nickel ore is mainly used in China to make nickel pig iron, a raw material for stainless steel production. China’s nickel pig iron imports in November rose 35.6% to 229,030 tonnes from October, customs data showed. Imports were up nearly 150% from 92,753 tonnes a year earlier.

Jakarta in September confirmed it would expedite a ban on nickel ore exports by two years to the start of 2020 as it looks to process more resources at home, sparking a rush to ship ore out of the Southeast Asian country by the end of this year.

Indonesia imposed a temporary halt on ore exports in late October after discovering violations amid the scramble but said two weeks later it had allowed some companies to resume shipments.

Indonesia exported 2.7 million tonnes of nickel ore worth $112 million in November, data from the country’s statistics agency showed earlier this month. Shipments in the first 11 months of 2019 totalled 29.34 million tonnes.

China’s imports of nickel ore from the Philippines, an alternative source of supply but with lower-grade ore, came in at 2.48 million tonnes in November, down from 3.38 million tonnes in October and down 2.4% from a year earlier.

Reporting by Tom Daly and Emily Chow; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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