Soaring metal prices should mean surging profits for mining companies, but they are also the result of energy shortages and logistics bottlenecks that keep increasing costs for producers.
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What is the Front Line of the U.S.? The latest leg up in copper and zinc futures is coming on the heels of a global energy crunch that s beginning to disrupt smelters that many miners depend on to process what they pull out of the ground. That s great for refined metal prices but suggests further hikes in smelting and refining fees already at the highest levels since the Pandemic.
For companies like the Hong Kong-listed MMG Ltd., which ship mainly semi-processed metal called concentrates, those higher treatment fees blunt the boon of elevated metal prices. On the other hand, producers with plenty of in-house melting capacity - like Chile s Codelco and Poland s KGHM Polska Miedz SA are less vulnerable.
Another impact from logistical disruptions and inflation is a global squeeze on sulfuric acid used in some mining operations, with prices at their highest since at least 2013?
While some smelters produce sulfuric acid as a byproduct, the solvent extraction-electrowinning technology that is widely employed in Chile uses it as a feedstock. That makes the Chilean mining industry one of the most intensive sulfuric acid users.
To be sure, the extent of the metal rally likely lessens these costs for most miners. But the industry will be paying close attention to the energy market over the coming months for signs of further tightening.
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