CRU-CESCO-China's copper smelting capacity to peak 'soon' -industry official

April 12 (Reuters) - Copper smelting capacity in China will soon reach a peak as part of efforts to meet the country’s climate pledges, a senior official from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association (CNIA) said on Monday.

China’s copper smelters - and their raw material needs - have grown at breakneck speed in recent years to meet rising demand in the world’s top consumer of the metal, but authorities have vowed to crack down on “blind” expansion.

Duan Shaofu, secretary general of the CNIA’s copper branch, told the CRU World Copper virtual conference that China’s smelting capacity rose to about 8.34 million tonnes at the end of 2020, while it had 12.08 million tonnes of refining capacity.

“Although there will be some new projects put into operation from 2021 to 2022 ... the peak of China’s copper smelting capacity will come soon,” as Beijing controls capacity not only in the energy-intensive aluminium sector but also in other metals, he said.

The CNIA last week set a provisional goal of bringing nonferrous metal carbon emissions to a peak by 2025 and cutting them by 40% by 2040. China aims to reach peak overall emissions before 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2060.

On a very tight market for copper concentrate, the main feedstock used by smelters to make refined copper, China’s new scrap metal standards that allow material meeting them to be imported freely “will effectively relieve the pressure on China’s import of copper raw materials,” Duan said.

He expects copper scrap’s “substitution effect,” or replacement of other forms of copper, to become more obvious in future as China recycles more.

While the path to carbon neutrality will certainly boost copper demand, the growth rate in consumption “is not expected to be too high” in the next two years, Duan said, without providing figures.

Reporting by Tom Daly Editing by Marguerita Choy