Commodity Review 20190712 by Andrew Pedler – Now Available

Commodity Review 20190712 by Andrew Pedler – Now Available


Comments of particular interest are noted with ‘*’. 

Matau’s Comments:  

  • Base metal inventories continue to remain tight.  Most prices are in the ‘nose of pinch-point graphs.  Pinchpoint positions are mostly less than 1 week’s consumption.  More media commentary is recognising this condition.  However sentiment (geopolitical) continues to drive prices over fundamentals.
  • Base metal (industrial metal) trade volumes though exchanges have slowed markedly during 2019, with ‘trade-war fatigue’ and the lack of apparent progress emanating from the USA-China trade talks, which  is affecting the confidence to make decisions and trade in markets.  
  • USA economic data (industrial production, orders to durable goods, housing starts, construction spending) that relate directly to commodities demand, are all showing signs of slowing or negative growth.  employment is usually a lagging data series, orders to durable goods and new housing starts are both indicators of confidence that normally lead employment data changes.  The USA Federal Reserve Chairman commented that there is a concern that slowing global economies may impact upon the USA.  Matau’s observations are that the USA economy is already slowing. 



*Copper  Term concentrate TC/Rs between Chinese and Chileans.  DRC’s Cu output down.  AIS doing well.

*Cobalt  Artisanal Co miners in DRC are the global swing producer.

*Nickel  Indonesia may reinstate Ni-ore export ban in 2022.   WSA, PAN.

Zinc & Lead  Nyrstar extends force majeure.  NCZ production ramping up.  Plans to double capacity..

*Tin  *Tin market under greater pressure from economic slowdown & falling demand than supply issues.

Aluminium  Trade conflict with China which investors expect to weaken economic growth and metals demand.

*Gold  Gold and financial markets may be a little ahead of themselves.  No details on talks still.

Platinum & Palladium  Wage negotiations: talks begin.

*Oil  Market tightening, though not clear how long will last.

Coal  Chinese mills restocking met coal, ahead of possible import controls.

Iron Ore  China’s iron ore imports fell in June.  Heading into the maintenance and antipollution half year.

Shipping  Capes boosted by iron ore.


*LNG markets:  demand will start to outstrip supply by 2022-2023

UK – Industrial production, manufacturing et al:  positive growth in most segments.

USA – Construction spending:  remains negative growth, particularly in private & residential segments.

Germany – IP, durable goods, & construction:  IP & Durables -ve.  Construction +ve.

EV revolution could stall due to mineral shortages

EV revolution could stall due to mineral shortages

An article from Petroleum Economist  (italics are Matau Advisory’s emphasis) is below.


Note that the article’s assumptions are that by 2050, 100% of cars in UK will be electric.  My limited imagination suggests that is a big ask.  Thus the required increase in demand for critical commodities will appear dramatic.

Note also that BHP and BP assume that EVs may achieve 40% of market share by 2040. 

Matau’s thinking is that with the time constraints on discovery, evaluation, permitting, construction and commissioning of new projects being approximately 6-10 years (with the average skewed to the longer term), that supply of the critical commodities, (lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, copper, manganese) to battery factories at the very high forecast growth rates (+20% p.a. for ~ 10 years from 2020) will seriously constrain growth rates, to likely less than 10% p.a., based on current new mine production growth rates, and even that supply growth rate will be a challenge.  i.e. that the EV uptake will be limited by supply of critical materials. 

It is not so much the political stability of the jurisdiction, rather the process from discovery to delivery (anywhere in the world).

That commodity supply thematic also applies if enthusiasts want to displace Li-ion batteries with a different battery construction that may include say vanadium, zinc-air, et al. 

There may be scope for new technology to improve recoveries of some of the key elements from existing operations, though these technologies have yet to be identified and or applied. 

This article refers to the logistics for delivery of power supply for EV’s to the UK.  Many other countries have lower population densities, spread over larger areas, which suggests to Matau that the greatest uptakes are likely to be within major cities.  Also many large cities have created their own (polluted / photo-chemical smog) microclimates that a high level of EV uptake could alleviate, including examples such as Los Angeles.

Matau applauds the development and adoption of EV’s though considers that careful thought and management of expectations is required.



EV revolution could stall due to mineral shortages

More planning is required to ensure adequate supply, researchers say

A potential shortage of minerals needed to produce the billions of batteries required to power electric vehicles (EVs) risks slowing down the transition from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to cleaner forms of transport, according to a team of UK-based scientists.

Researchers working on the Security of Supply of Mineral Resources (SOS Minerals) multi-institution research programme, partly funded by the UK government, have crunched the numbers and come up with some daunting-looking headline figures.

They looked at the amount of minerals required to make all cars and vans in the UK electric by 2050—based on the current UK fleet size of some 31.5mn vehicles—and for all new sales to be purely battery electric by 2035.  Both are recommendations contained in a report by the parliamentary Committee on Climate Change (CCC).  In early June, these were being considered for adoption by the UK government, whose current pledge is limited to eliminating ICE sales by 2040.

The team concluded that just to meet these UK targets, assuming the vehicles use next-generation NMC 811 batteries, would require just under two times the world’s total annual cobalt production, nearly all world production of neodymium, three quarters of the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production, based on 2018 data.

Just ensuring that EVs meet UK demand for new cars and vans from 2035, would require the UK to import the equivalent of European industry’s entire cobalt consumption, according to a letter sent to the CCC in early June.  It was signed by Richard Herrington, head of the Earth Sciences department at London’s Natural History Museum, and other scientists involved in the SOS Minerals programme.

Scaling that up to a global level would, of course, be an even a greater challenge.  By 2050, some forecasts predict, there will be at least 2bn cars on the world’s roads.  Herrington estimates that if all of those were to be EVs, annual production of neodymium and dysprosium would need to increase by 70% and stay at that level until 2050.  On the same basis, annual copper output would need to more than double and cobalt output would need to increase by at least 3.5 times to meet global demand.

Herrington told Petroleum Economist that increasing minerals production to meet the envisaged increase in the EV fleet—as well as for the additional renewable energy and storage infrastructure required to power the fleet and extract the minerals—would be challenging but not impossible.

“[The ambition] is laudable, and it could be plausible.  but it needs greater thought as to where those materials might come from,” he said.

Many of the rare earths and other minerals used for batteries are mined in politically unstable parts of the world, such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa.  Herrington believes they could be sourced closer to the main EV markets, providing greater security of supply, as well as boosting overall production.  That includes Europe, where, for example, more cobalt could be recovered from copper mines than is currently the case, if new technologies were deployed, he said.

The increase in renewable energy infrastructure needed to provide power for EVs would also consume more metals and minerals.  Wind turbines require a lot of steel, while solar panel installations consume several scarce minerals, such as high purity silicon, indium, tellurium and gallium.  Extracting the minerals themselves is also a power-hungry process, adding to demand.

Then there are the transmission lines needed to connect them to the grid.  Herrington notes that a power station requires fewer copper-based cables than hooking up the hundreds of wind turbines required to produce the same amount of power.

“You could be more aggressive with carbon capture and still continue with hydrocarbons to generate power,” he said.

However, given the faltering progress of efforts to get carbon capture and storage moving in the UK and elsewhere in the world, for now, this technology seems unlikely to be able to play more than a bit part in efforts to allow coal and gas to play a long-term role in the energy sector.

Herrington does not believe the potential minerals supply crunch necessarily means the world will have to use more oil for longer in the transport sector.

“I don’t think we have to.  We just have to make sure that we gear up, so that the alternatives are available in the quantities that we want,” he said.




Commodity Review 20190712 by Andrew Pedler – Now Available

Commodity Review – 20181005 -by Andrew Pedler – now available


*Copper  BHP calls on China’s One-Belt-One-Road for mid-long term Cu demand growth.

*Cobalt  Strong growth outlook.  Supply is somewhat complicated by co-production with Ni and Cu.

*Nickel  Cassini (CZI) and OzMinerals (OZL) progressing PFS for West Musgrave.  Plus new drill results.

*Zinc & Lead  Inventories falling, even as Chinese demand cools.  Limited downside.

Tin  Kasbah (KAS) preparing for finance for Achmmach in Morocco.

Aluminium  Alumina market in turmoil on refinery (temporary) closure.

Gold  Prices up on the week on poor USA employment data.  Direction is uncertain.

Platinum & Palladium  Deep u/g mines in South Africa are a thing of the past, based on economics.

*Oil  Supply-demand fundamentals and geopolitical uncertainty both claimed as price drivers this week.

Coal  Settlements achieved for Sept19-year thermal contracts and Dec18Qtr LVPCI (jfe).

Iron Ore  China’s changes to its pollution abatement strategy leave the direction of output growth uncertain.

Shipping  Cape rates up markedly.  Panamax rates up slightly.


USA – PMI:  Strong outlook.

*United Kingdom – Industrial Production:  Reasonable but slow positive growth.

*Germany – Industrial Production:  Strong IP for July not continued in Durables orders in August.

*USA – Construction Spending:  Overly strong growth.

*Japan – Industrial Production.  Slower growth trends began in 2017 and continue into 2018.

Share of Global Copper Demand

The shifts in economic power or influence over time can be seen in Glencore’s graph of copper demand, showing the rise and demise of British economic power, followed by USA (rise and demise), and now an emerging Chinese economic influence rising.