Indonesia's planned export curbs on nonferrous metals won't impact Chinese industry: analysts
Published: Nov 25, 2021 04:18 PM
Nonferrous metal  Photo: VCG

Nonferrous metal Photo: VCG

China's nonferrous metals supply is unlikely to be affected by Indonesia's reported export curbs on multiple nonferrous metals, including tin, nickel and copper, in the coming years, Chinese analysts said on Thursday, after the latest move raised concerns about potential supply woes. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday that the country may stop tin exports in 2024 as part of an effort to attract investment into the resource processing industry, and improve Indonesia's external trade balance.

But industry insiders said that Indonesia is unlikely to fully block nonferrous metals exports in the short term, considering the underdeveloped smelting and refining infrastructure in Indonesia.

China has the largest tin reserves in the world with the capacity to meet 70 percent of its own needs, so Indonesia's tin export restrictions will have little impact on Chinese enterprises, Guo Ning, deputy secretary general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Tin Branch (CNIA-TIN), told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Due to China's complete tin supply chain, even as overseas supply chains were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, China's tin exports continued to increase," said Guo.

According to statistics provided by CNIA-TIN, China imported 3,572 tons of refined tin in first 10 months of 2021, down 75.3 percent year-on-year, while exports of refined tin stood at 13,000 tons, up 257.1 percent. Net exports of refined tin totaled 9,428 tons.

Recently, as domestic production had not fully recovered, China's tin imports from Indonesia increased. But the domestic tin market saw little change following the latest Indonesian government announcement, according to industry analysis.

Apart from Indonesia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also major exporters of tin ore to China. Myanmar's exports of tin ore to China reached 16,365 tons in October, up 50.4 percent from September, accounting for 82.5 percent of China's total imports of tin ore. Meanwhile, imports from Australia fell 29.7 percent month-on-month, according to CNIA-TIN.

Indonesia's tin export restrictions are unlikely to have a direct impact on China's domestic tin supply. However, it may have an impact on regional supply chains, and the industry should monitor external market changes, analysts said.

Moreover, Indonesia's curbs on exports may also cover other nonferrous metals, including copper and aluminum, according to media reports.

Exports of nickel, a vital component for new-energy vehicle (NEV) batteries, may also be restricted by Indonesia. The majority of China's nickel is imported, Chen Ruirui, an insider at the Advanced Technology & Materials Co, a metal products research firm, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Global demand for nickel in NEV batteries will increase from about 107,000 tons in 2020 to 600,000 tons in 2025, according to a report from Industrial Securities in March 2021.

China, one of the largest NEV producers and markets, will need more nickel to meet its rapid growth in the NEV sector.

China is heavily relied on nickel import. Its overall nickel product consumption hit 1.5 million tons so far in 2021, according to industry data. 

But nickel production in 2021 is only expected to reach 750,000 tons, Chen said. 

China's largest nickel ore source is the Philippines, and Indonesia usually ranks fourth. But Indonesia suspended nickel ore exports in January 2020, Chen said.

"Indonesia's nickel products are still available. Most nickel smelting facilities in Indonesia have financial backing from Chinese companies," Chen noted.

China and Indonesia enjoy wide-ranging cooperation, especially in infrastructure, under closer ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway, a landmark project jointly built by China and Indonesia, witnessed the successful passage of its box girder erection through the only steel truss bridge on the line on Thursday, a step forward to completion, according to a statement sent to the Global Times.

The line will cut the travel time between Jakarta and Bandung from the current three hours to 40 minutes.