Metal Bulletin's inaugural Copper Recycling conference took
place in Brussels this week at an interesting and, in certain
ways, unprecedented time in the copper scrap market.
Over two days, around 120 delegates heard the views of industry
executives collectively representing the entire copper supply
chain, from scrap dealers to secondary refiners, and
fabricators to equipment manufacturers.
Separately, speakers forecast that the copper scrap market will
be transformed over the next few years by changing trends in
the production, treatment, and consumption of copper, and also
by the evolving demands of global regulations governing scrap
Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than most expect, China's
overwhelming dependence on imported scrap will ease as the
country moves further along the road to becoming an advanced
industrial nation, as Sims Metal Management Asia's Michael Lion
This, in turn, raises long-term questions about where the next
scrap recycling hub will be, and developing countries in
Africa, South America and elsewhere in Asia may soon attract
more attention from scrap traders and processors globally as
China's own domestic generation of scrap increases.
In end-use markets, copper will increasingly be employed in
high-tech applications in commercial, industrial, and
infrastructural sectors, and the multi-metal, low-grade scrap
these industries produce will force traditional secondary
producers to invest heavily in more advanced recycling
technology, as the likes of Aurubis and Metallo are already
And as those companies look to keep pace with the rapid growth
in the generation of e-waste in particular, governments and
supranational institutions must also ensure that regulations
governing the global and regional scrap markets are fair,
relevant, enforceable and unbureaucratic, speakers pleaded.
But beyond the valuable insights and viewpoints proffered in
presentations and on the sidelines of the conference, many of
the delegates in attendance are likely to remember the
conference as the place where they learned that the London
Metal Exchange recommended that Hong Kong Exchanges &
Clearing (HKEX) take over the 135-year-old bourse.
Certain delegates will now have to decide what they want to do
with their direct stakes in the exchange, and many more will
wonder how a sale might indirectly affect their businesses in
the long term.
Those that wish to preserve the status quo will presumably take
comfort from HKEX's pledge to preserve the LME's membership and
date structure, warehousing network and open-outcry trading
ring, at least until 2015.
On the sidelines of the conference, brokers, producers and
consumers expressed concern over how the LME will evolve beyond
that, but in the breakneck world of metals markets, two full
years of certainty will nevertheless be welcomed.
Others, meanwhile, will find the promise of greater access to
Chinese markets, including the potential establishment of
warehouses there, as a tantalising prospect.
There was cause for concern and excitement then, in view of the
evolution of the scrap markets and the LME alike, but there was
also consensus that in both regards, changes will come.