China, the leader in aluminium industry is facing an increasing shortage of bauxite after the Indonesia’s mineral export ban came into effect, said Wood Mackenzie, the advisory firm.
It was expected that China’s alumina refinery production would grow nearly 17 mn tons by the year 2018, followed by a growth of 40 mn tons by the year 2030.
According to Wood Mackenzie, China would require an additional 130 mn tons of bauxite over the 2013 levels and consume 240 mn tons of bauxite by the year 2030.
Till now, Indonesia has been the hub of China’s bauxite demand as it supplied around 65% of China’s total supply in 2013.
Julian Kettle, Woodmac head of metals and mining research, said Indonesia’s ban on mineral exports can bring a change to global bauxite market in the long run, but the impact in the short to medium term would be less significant owing to source diversification and swollen stockpiles.
“China is the main global player in the aluminium market representing between 40% of supply and 60% of demand. Our most recent forecasts indicate that global alumina refinery production will rise to almost 140-million tonnes by 2018, which means we’ll see bauxite demand rise by almost 80-million tonnes to 350-million tonnes.
“With China’s alumina demand set to increase so sharply, there will be huge implications for bauxite demand. We estimate China will need access to as much as 240-million tonnes of bauxite by 2030 and as it only produced 72-million tonnes domestically in 2013, huge uncertainty remains over the import versus domestic supply mix.”
Kettle noted that China would look for other alternatives such as import sources and also developing domestic mines.
He suggested China has been making efforts to diversify their supply of bauxite for some time as long as the ban persists.
Carl Firman, the aluminium analyst of Woodmac, pointed out China has been sourcing excess quantities of bauxite from other countries, especially India and Australia.
“This is a strategic move by China to ensure it can firstly meet the direct needs of the coastal aluminium refineries it’s built up over the years, but secondly in preparation for the ban coming into force. We estimate that China has accumulated more than a year’s worth of bauxite supply. This works out at about 40-million tonnes, or four-fifths of the entire volume of bauxite exported by Indonesia in 2013,” Firman added.