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Top of a Slippery Slope

With the US agreeing to delay its proposed tariff increase, trade talks appearing to make progress, and growth appearing to slow a little less than predicted, the global outlook is better than anticipated. Nonetheless, the risks we have outlined before are still largely present, and seasonal uplift may be masking the start of a longer-term downwards trend.


ALUMINIUM March 2019
Norway’s Aluminium Habit

Norway is, on a per-capita basis, by and far the most aluminium-hungry country on the planet. It’s been this way for years, and it is likely to be this way for years to come. It’s relatively high on the list of per-capita coffee consumption, too, which makes sense for a cold country that gets almost no light for six months out of every year.


COBALT March 2019
A Contraction Like No Other

Twelve months ago, the cobalt market was looking shinier than any other base metal. Outlooks were strong, and while markets accepted that prices had peaked at US$87,000/t during the June Quarter of 2018, prices were expected to reach an average of US$77,000/t for all of 2018 and then settle gently towards the US$70,000/t mark during 2019 as new supply came online. In retrospect, perhaps expectations were a little too optimistic to be true.


COPPER March 2019
Shining Spots in Chilean Copper

When it comes to copper produced in North and South America, Chile is the clear leader of the pack. Not only does it hold four of the top five copper mines in the world—and the only non-Asian copper smelter in the top ten, Las Ventanas—it also holds the world’s largest underground copper mine and some of the world’s largest copper resources. Copper accounts for around 60% of its exports, and it produces 25% of the world’s mined copper. It is, without a doubt, the copper country.


IRON ORE March 2019
Big Hitters and Foul Balls

The global iron ore market is largely dominated by four key players: Vale, Rio Tinto, BHP, and Fortescue Metals. Together, these companies make up almost a full 50% of all iron ore production, largely centering their operations in Australia and Brazil. Changes in the global market indicate that their overall share may decrease over the next few years, but their mineral reserves, capital access, and developed infrastructure make it hard for smaller or newer producers to gain a foothold.


LNG March 2019
The Costs of Liquidity

With natural gas prices trending downwards—and remaining well below their high averages seen throughout the early 2010’s—the industry is paying closer attention to cash costs for LNG operations. With half of LNG operations looking at cash costs of over US$5/Mbtu, it is worth looking at how producers can—or in some cases, cannot—reduce their costs and remain competitive in the market.


Coking Coal Hotspots

The North American coal industry has made a lot of noise in the media this year, but it’s no secret that the coking coal market is dominated by Australia. Of the top-ten producing sites—which collectively produce 27% of the world’s coking coal—Australia holds seven, including the top five positions. In fact, Australia makes up 51% of the world’s coking coal supply; a percentage that is set to increase over time as further deposits are developed. Mozambique is the only other country not located in the Americas to have a mine in the top ten: Vale-owned Moatize, which produces 2.2% of the world’s coking coal.


NICKEL March 2019
A Second Wind

Nickel has had it rough in recent years, with many producers shuttering operations as prices almost quartered during 2008 from their peak of US$22/lb in 2007 and then, after a recovery to US$12/lb several years later, fell sharply to US$8/lb—and then again to US$4/lb after a brief rally.


OIL & GAS March 2019
Sunset Hours

2019 will see just under 70kbblpd of oil capacity and 16Mcmpd of natural gas capacity close, with a particularly high concentration of end-of-life fields and capacity in the United States and United Kingdom. While closing capacity is fairly evenly spread across sites and largely due to the depletion of reserves, there are some outliers worth considering.


Megabuilds of the Future

The refining industry is poised for large investments over the next few years. Despite protestations by industry critics, demand and supply of downstream oil and gas is only expected to increase, and there are several large-scale investments on the horizon. Two that stand out are the moves by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both of which are making big moves abroad and constructing large-scale billion-dollar refineries. Both initiatives are country-changing economic moves.


STEEL March 2019
Tariff Talks

Over the last few years, tariffs have been a much-publicised driver of steel prices and demand. Depending on who you ask, the US’s steel tariffs are either the end of its industry or the herald of a new era in production and employment—but either way, there’s no denying the effects its tariffs have had on the rest of the world. Countries may be breathing a sigh of relief as the US delays its tariff hike initially scheduled for March 1, but that’s not the end of the story.


Digging Things Up

As resources go, coal presents relatively few technical or chemical challenges to extract, store, and prepare for sale. While many minerals and metals require extensive crushing, heating, and chemical treatment, coal processing largely relies on water-based washing and physical separation techniques. This isn’t to say that coal mining doesn’t present significant technical challenges, though.


ZINC March 2019
Zinky Goodness

By and large, zinc is most useful when combined with another metal—usually steel, copper, or tin. These applications, which see zinc coat or be alloyed with another metal in order to alter its properties or reactions, make up more than 80% of zinc’s end uses.

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