August 8, 2018 / 4:44 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-China July copper concentrate imports surge to all-time high

* July copper concs imports up 31.8 pct y/y to record 1.845 mln T

* China smelters buying more ore amid capacity expansion - analyst

* Unwrought copper imports at 452,000 T last month (Recasts, adds analyst comment)

BEIJING, Aug 8 (Reuters) - China’s monthly imports of copper concentrate rose to a record in July as Chinese smelters ramped up purchases to feed their growing capacity and take advantage of high processing charges.

China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, imported 1.845 million tonnes of copper ores and concentrates last month, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Wednesday.

That was up 31.8 percent from a year earlier, beating the previous record of 1.78 million tonnes in November 2017, and also 5.4 percent higher than the revised figure of 1.75 million tonnes imported in June.

“China is adding new smelting capacity and it is also the case that the copper price is going down and the spot treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) are going higher, so that is maybe the reason smelters are importing more concentrate to process,” said Helen Lau, an analyst at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

Miners pay copper smelters the TC/RCs, which Lau said were currently in the high $80s per tonne, to process ore into refined metal.

The TC/RCs fall when supply decreases, which could soon be the case amid the prospect of a labour strike at the Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, in Chile.

Meanwhile, China’s unwrought copper imports - which include anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished copper products - rose by 2.7 percent from a month ago to 452,000 tonnes in July, customs said. The imports were up 15.9 percent year-on-year.

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Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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