China Copper Smelters Seek Higher Fees From BHP Billiton

Chinese copper smelters are seeking higher fees to process the metal for the second half of this year from BHP Billiton Ltd., according to an executive with Jiangxi Copper Co.

They want charges higher than first-half levels that were $99 a metric ton to treat concentrate and 9.9 cents a pound to refine the metal as ore supplies are expected to rise and spot rates remain high, Wu Yuneng, a vice president at the country’s biggest producer, said in a telephone interview today. Treatment fees under spot contracts are about $110 a ton, he said.

Higher charges would help boost earnings at smelters and add support to benchmark copper prices in London that have retreated 7.7 percent this year amid increasing supply and slowing economic growth in China, the world’s biggest consumer.

Global mine output for copper may increase 4.7 percent in 2014 and 7.3 percent next year, the International Copper Study Group said in April. The Lisbon-based group predicted a refined metal surplus of about 405,000 tons this year compared with a shortfall of 282,000 tons last year.

Smelters in China are in talks with BHP for second-half rates, Wu said. Eleanor Nichols, a BHP spokeswoman, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News by e-mail.

The fees, deducted from the price paid by smelters to miners for the material, normally rise when mine supply increases.

Copper for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.4 percent to $6,810.50 a ton by 3:28 p.m. in Shanghai. The metal for delivery in August climbed 0.4 percent to end at 48,320 yuan ($7,730) a ton in Shanghai.

— With assistance by Alfred Cang

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