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Global copper smelter capacity inactivity exceeds recent years in H1 2024

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10 July 2024 – London – Latest data from Earth-i‘s SAVANT real-time Global Copper Monitoring Index shows that an average of 16.1% of global smelter capacity (covering 90% of the total) was inactive in the first half of 2024, significantly above the 13%, 12.9% and 11.7% registered in the same period of 2023, 2022 and 2021 respectively. 

In June, inactivity dipped from the previous month’s high level of 20.8% to average some 19.9%, which notably left it close to the year-ago level. However, it will take time to establish whether this indicates a return to more usual levels of smelter inactivity in the remainder of the year. 

SAVANT Global Inactive Capacity Index – 1 January 2021 – 30 June 2024

The recent high in Chinese smelting inactivity has reduced down from 26% in May down to 15% in June with the high-capacity smelters coming back online.

SAVANT Inactive Capacity Index – Global (Excl. China) v China – 1 January 2021 – 30 June 2024

Certainly, the season for maintenance shutdowns continues. In Germany, the major Hamburg smelter owned by Aurubis shows as closed, aligning with the firm’s previously announced scheduled closure between early May and early July.

SAVANT Smelter Activity – Hamburg – July 2022 – June 2024

Yellow = Active / Blue = Inactive / Grey = No reading

In China, two of the three smelters in China that were closed for maintenance at the time of the last report–Xingguang Copper and Shandong Fangyuan–have restarted. Both plants have nameplate capacities of 400,000 tonnes per year (tpy). Elsewhere, maintenance outages last month at the 120,000 tpy Chinese-owned Lualaba smelter in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and at Sudbury Copper Cliff in Canada appear to have been completed with production resumed. 

SAVANT Smelter Activity – Individual Sites – (July 2022 – June 2024)

Yellow = Active / Blue = Inactive / Grey = No reading

As updates relating to copper smelter activity and supply increase in importance, Earth-i is broadening its coverage. We now monitor activity at several new sites that are due on-line later this year and are also seeking signals relating to the recently mooted restart at Asarco’s shuttered Hayden facility in the United States. 

Freeport McMoRan’s PT Manyar / Freeport McMoRan’s PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara

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Earth-i’s SAVANT platform monitors up to 90% of the smelting capacity for copper, nickel and steel around the globe and provides indicators of smelter activities around the globe, in an easy-to-understand format, covering multiple metals and minerals.

The Inactive Capacity Index is derived from binary observations of a smelter’s operational status as being either active or inactive. The capacity weighted global and regional indices show the percentage of smelter capacity that is inactive, with readings displayed in the chart below as a weekly rolling average.  A reading of zero would indicate 100% smelting capacity.

Data is collected and analysed using advanced algorithms derived from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques. Data is taken from several different Earth Observation satellites and our global and regional indices are updated daily to give consistent, insightful and dependable results.

Two types of indices are provided: smelter activity levels and periods of shutdown or inactivity. With daily monitoring capability, SAVANT provides data on a near real-time basis for up to 95% of global smelting capacity, including China, about individual smelters, regions, countries and companies.

Activity is scientifically measured using a consistent methodology. Over eight years of historical data is available.

About Earth-i:

Earth-i is a geospatial intelligence company using machine learning, artificial intelligence and Earth Observation data to provide unique and relevant insights, derived from diverse geospatial data, that deliver clear decision advantage for businesses, governments and other organisations.

Earth-i provides advanced analytics using automated interpretation of a range of geospatial Earth Observation data sources including colour imagery, colour video, infra-red and radar from a range of sources including satellite, drone, aerial and ground-based sensors. This data is fused with additional data sources to extract factual understanding and generate predictive insights across a range of markets such as commodities, supply chain, agriculture, infrastructure and defence.

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