Australia Beats Malaysia to Become China’s Top Bauxite Supplier

Australia overtook Malaysia as China’s top supplier of bauxite in May after falling behind a month earlier.

China, the world’s biggest producer of aluminum extracted from bauxite, bought 1.61 million metric tons from Australia in May from 1.62 million tons a month earlier and 1.24 million tons last year, customs data show. Shipments from Malaysia fell 23 percent from April to 1.58 million tons.

The world’s second-largest economy has sought alternative supplies after Indonesia halted shipments of raw ore including bauxite, nickel and copper, in January 2014 in a bid to spur domestic processing. China imported 3.83 million tons in May, less than half a record 8 million tons in January last year.

“Malaysia is capable to supply more” as there are new mines starting to produce, said Wan Ling, the assistant chief representative in China for researcher CRU. Shipments will probably expand to 12 million tons this year, she said June 19. Cargoes in May already jumped about 20-fold from a year earlier.

Production in Malaysia more than quadrupled to 962,799 tons in 2014 from 208,770 tons the year before, data from the Minerals and Geoscience Department in Kuala Lumpur show.

“Malaysia has emerged as a strong contender” to replace Indonesia, Morgan Stanley said in a June 22 report. The bank estimates China will need a total of 35 million tons in 2015.