Copper miners, Chinese smelters agree first drop in fees in 3 years

By Mai Nguyen, Siyi Liu and Julian Luk

HANOI/BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) -Global miners on Friday reached agreements with Chinese smelters for a lower copper concentrate treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for 2024, the first drop in three years, sources familiar with the matter said.

Miner Antofagasta agreed with Chinese smelters, including China’s biggest smelters, for January-December 2024 treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) at $80 a metric ton and 8 cents per pound, four sources said.

Freeport-McMoRan also reached a deal with top Chinese smelter Jiangxi Copper at the same level for full calendar year in 2024, said Javier Targhetta, senior vice president for marketing and sales at Freeport.

“The settlement reflects well what the market will look like in 2024, which is always the top principle of our negotiations,” Targhetta said.

The deals reached on Friday effectively made $80/8 cents the benchmark for 2024 that is expected to be followed by other smelters and miners in the industry.

Concentrate treatment and refining charges form a key component of copper smelters’ income for converting copper concentrate into metal, which typically fall and squeeze smelters’ profit margins when concentrate supply is tight.

Smelters have been under increasing pressure amid supply uncertainty from a mine in Panama, after the country’s president directed the mine to be shut down.

“We accepted the offer as prices might get worse if the negotiation gets delayed,” a source at a Chinese smelter said.

Jiangxi Copper Co, Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group and China Copper, the three biggest Chinese copper smelters, were not immediately available for comment.

Antofagasta said it does not comment on copper negotiations.

Talks between smelters and miners this year dragged on longer due to split views on whether there will be a shortage or a surplus market of copper concentrate in 2024.

Last month, smelters were looking for higher fees from miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc, above those agreed between Antofagasta and Jinchuan which fell short of what the smelters expected.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi and Siyi Liu in Beijing and Julian Luk in London; Editing by Edmund Klamann, Susan Fenton, Sharon Singleton and Jane Merriman)