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China copper smelters keep Q3 treatment charges flat to previous quarter

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - China’s top copper smelters maintained floor treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for copper concentrate in the third quarter of 2022 at $80 per tonne and 8 cents per pound, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The rates were decided at a meeting of the China Smelters Purchase Team (CSPT) held online on Thursday, said the sources, who declined to be identified as the meeting was private.

The new prices are flat to the floor for charges for the second quarter of 2022, but up from $55 per tonne and 5.5 cents per lb set for the third quarter of 2021.

The third-quarter charges were held steady to the previous quarter’s TC/RCs, reflecting expectations that concentrate supplies will be in surplus from new mine projects, said Wang Ruilin, senior copper analyst at CRU Group.

The pre-set second-quarter rates were also not far off from spot rates that held around $80 per tonne from April to May, before dropping to the mid-$70’s per tonne in June, she said.

TC/RCs are a key source of revenue for smelters and are paid by miners when they sell copper concentrate, or semi-processed ore, to be refined into metal.

The charges fall when concentrate supply is tight, and rise when supply is readily available, giving smelters more bargaining power to demand better terms.

The CSPT hiked TC/RC rates in the second quarter this year on good global supplies, improved sea transportation and high inventories.

The last time charges surpassed $80 per tonne was three years ago in the first quarter of 2019, when the rate was $92 per tonne.

The annual benchmark for 2022 set by Freeport-McMoRan Inc and four Chinese smelters was at $59.50 per tonne and 5.95 cents per pound.

Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Tom Hogue

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