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China's rising recycling capacity poses challenges

Keywords: Tags  China smelters, lead, zinc, recycling, Peng Tao, CNIA, China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, Antaike Information Development Feng Juncong

NANJING, China — Chinese smelters should beware of rising capacity in recycled lead and zinc, an official of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association (CNIA) said at the 2012 China Lead and Zinc Conference in Nanjing.

“Output of recycled lead will account for about 35 percent of China’s total lead output in 2012, while recycled zinc output has also posted a decent increase,” Peng Tao, executive vice secretary-general of CNIA’s lead and zinc branch, told delegates.

China’s recycled lead output rose 15.7 percent year on year to 1.03 million tonnes in the first nine months of the year. During the same period, primary lead output rose by 8.2 percent to 2.49 million tonnes, according to data from Antaike Information Development Co. Ltd.

Recycled zinc production could reach 800,000 tonnes this year, with an annual capacity of about 1 million tonnes, Peng added.

This would represent a sharp increase from about 630,000 tonnes of recycled zinc output in 2011, according to data from the recycled metals branch of CNIA, which noted that recycled zinc currently accounts for about 11 percent of China’s total refined zinc output vs. a global average ratio of about 30 percent. 

The rising recycling capacity not only poses challenges to local smelters, but also will eventually impact China’s appetite for concentrate imports amid limited growth in demand.

“Output of local (zinc concentrate) miners and recycled zinc have almost satisfied local consumption (this year),” Antaike chief analyst Feng Juncong said at the conference.

Thus far in 2012, China’s monthly imports of zinc concentrate have been below 200,000 tonnes. July imports were as low as 111,000 tonnes, the lowest since February 2007, according to Chinese customs data.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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