Though down slightly from the prior month, May saw imports of bauxite ore into the People’s Republic of China spike by double digits on the year last month. Such was the story told by numbers released by Customs officials in Beijing earlier this week.
Per Customs, imports of the aluminium precursor last month totaled 9.71 million metric tons, which was a drop of 4.59 percent from April. However, last month’s bauxite imports to the Middle Kingdom represented a jump of 33.18 percent over imports of the ore in May of last year.
Imports originated from familiar sources last month, as mines in Guinea, Australia, and Indonesia made up 92.12 percent of the month’s total.
With May’s numbers included, the year’s running total of imported bauxite rose to 47.03 million metric tons, according to Customs data.
Experts say the in-country sources for bauxite ore have had difficulty keeping pace with ballooning demand, necessitating ever greater shipments from abroad, with pressure by national government organs over environmental concerns acting as a major limiting factor on production.
At least one refinery has partially retooled in order to accommodate overseas bauxite according to SMM, as SPIC Shanxi Aluminium recently completed such a modification. Two of the plant’s alumina production lines are now operating in low-temperature mode, giving the plant 800 thousand metric tons per annum of production capacity available to handle overseas bauxite ore.
SPIC Shanxi Aluminium joins Tianshan Aluminium, as the latter’s operations in Jingxi, Guangxi feature a 850 thousand metric ton per annum production line in its second stage of construction.