Aurubis urges LME to ban Russian copper as customers shun it

LONDON (Reuters) - Aurubis, Europe’s biggest copper producer, wants the London Metal Exchange to impose an immediate ban on Russian metal due to risk of warehouses filling up as consumers shun it, its CEO told Reuters on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive Officer at Aurubis Roland Harings in Hamburg, Germany October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, but so far there are no restrictions on buying Russian metal.

But there are concerns in the industry that because consumers are avoiding Russian metals, supplies could flood into LME warehouses.

“The supply of Russian (copper) cathode into LME stocks has to be stopped because we see from our customer base there is no interest, even if there are no sanctions, to take Russian metal,” Chief Executive Roland Harings said.

“We have the concern that stocks would pile up in LME warehouses and would distort the functionality of the LME system,” he said in an interview.

“Quick action is required because some contracts with Russian suppliers are going to end this calendar year.”

The LME has already launched a discussion paper on the possibility of banning Russian aluminium, nickel and copper from being traded and stored in its system.

Russia in 2021 supplied the European Union with nearly 292,000 tonnes of copper, based on data from Trade Data Monitor, which showed EU copper imports totalling more than 801,000 tonnes last year.

Industry sources say consumers shunning metal from Russia is part of the reason for an increase in demand for metal from other sources.


Aurubis had no concerns about the energy crisis because it had already secured supplies for the coming year, Harings said.

“We are very confident that we will not have a situation in our company that due to the energy crisis, a lack of natural gas or something, that we will have to slow down or shut down our production,” he said.”

Energy markets have been in turmoil since the Ukraine conflict began in February because of reduced supplies to Europe from Russia leading to surging prices and concerns about shortages.

Aurubis uses some natural gas to produce some products, but new contracts had a clause that passes on any rise in those prices to the consumer, Harings added.

Despite an expected recession in Europe, demand for copper was strong, allowing the company to lift the premium it charges European customers by 85% to $228 per tonne for deliveries next year.

There has been some slowdown in demand from the construction sector, but that is more than made up for by higher demand for the renewable energy sector and electric vehicles, Harings said.

“What we hear from our customers is the order books of the car manufacturers are full, if you want to buy an electric car you have to go on a waiting list.”

In August, Aurubis posted a near 24% jump in its quarterly profit and confirmed its earnings estimates for full financial year despite rising energy costs.

Harings confirmed its forecast that full-year operating earnings before taxes (EBT) would come in at 500-600 million euros.

“We have closed our books in September, so even though we cannot tell the number, the 500-600 (million) is confirmed,” Harings said.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Veronica Brown and Jane Merriman