Exports of alumina receded significantly in the year’s penultimate month, dropping by 37.9 percent to 285,696 metric tons in November.
According to numbers released by China’s General Administration of Customs on Sunday, exports of aluminium’s precursor took a nosedive last month, down from record highs in October. The year’s tenth month witnessed 460,072 metric tons depart China’s shores, eclipsing the previous record high of 165,839 metric tons recorded in September.
To date, alumina exports from the People’s Republic of China total over one million metric tons. This year’s substantial exports of alumina are a significant reversal from the country’s usual practice of entirely consuming its refined alumina domestically.
Ordinarily catering to a domestic market full of smelters thirsty for feedstock, the 2018 global alumina market has been wracked with turmoil, including a crippling strike at Alcoa’s Western Australia refinery, mandatory output curtailment at Rio Tinto’s massive Alunorte refinery in Brazil, and United States government sanctions on Russian Federation aluminium and alumina giant U.C. Rusal.
In addition to supply shortages, favorable price arbitrage helped coax alumina shipments from Chinese refineries. However, November saw alumina prices dip by 16.8 percent, cutting away at Chinese refiners’ financial incentive to continue shipping their wares abroad. Resolution of the Alcoa strike, an improved outlook for Alunorte’s future, and growing certainty that United States sanctions on Rusal are coming to an end have all helped to reel alumina prices back to normal.