Copper treatment charge benchmark established at $70/T -Aurubis
* 2013 TC/RC benchmark established at $70/7 cents
* Continued strong trend in TC/RCs expected
HAMBURG, March 21 (Reuters) - The provisional increase in 2013 global copper ore treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) to $70 a tonne and 7 cents a lb has now been established as this year's benchmark, Aurubis, Europe's biggest copper smelter, said on Thursday.
The 10 percent increase had previously been agreed in January only for six months.
"On the international copper concentrate markets, the benchmark of $70 a tonne and 7 cents a lb for good qualities has been established for framework contracts for 2013, as confirmed by the last contract signings in the past few weeks," Aurubis said in a market report.
TC/RCs are paid by miners to smelters to refine concentrate into metal and are a key part of the global copper industry's earnings.
The benchmark increase will be positive for earnings in the world's copper smelting industry. It is one reason why copper sector is performing better than other areas of the metals industry such as steel.
"The current volumes under annual contracts strengthen smelters' position in spot business, so it can be assumed that TC/RCs will increase as the year goes on."
The benchmarks are for long-term smelting contracts for large volumes, spot business is for smaller deals.
Aurubis said on March 6 that spot deals has been agreed recently way over the benchmark at $80 a tonne and 8 cents a lb.
In the European copper scrap market, good volumes are still readily available and buyers have a good supply, Aurubis said on Thursday.
But sellers' interest in new business is reserved due to lower copper prices, it said.
"Copper product markets are mixed," it said. "Strip products are in higher demand, especially in the U.S."
"Increased demand from the wind power sector as well as in Italy has created positive momentum for rod in a difficult environment. Poor weather conditions and restrictive lending in Southern Europe have had a negative influence, however."
Aurubis said in February it expected big new offshore wind farm projects to boost copper demand.