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Smelters provide insight into e-scrap use

Financial reporting

Major smelting companies discussed changing metals prices and cost inflation in recent filings. | Gualtiero Boffi/Shutterstock

Glencore, Umicore and Boliden recently released financial and operational details from their smelting operations in 2022. 

The following are some key takeaways from reports filed by the three Europe-based mining and metals smelting giants.

Glencore emphasizes importance of recycling

Global mining and refining company Glencore recently disclosed how much copper and precious metal it recovered from e-scrap and batteries in 2022. 

According to the Switzerland-based company’s preliminary 2022 report, Glencore recovered the following metals in its copper/e-scrap and nickel recycling businesses: 31,000 metric tons of copper; 6,300 tons of nickel; 101,000 ounces of gold; 1 million ounces of silver; 13,000 ounces of palladium; 3,300 ounces of platinum; and 1,500 metric tons of cobalt. 

Overall, the company reported $34.1 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in 2022, up 60% from the prior year. Glencore didn’t break out its financial performance related to recycling activities, specifically. 

In a Feb. 15 conference call with investors, Gary Nagle, Glencore’s CEO, noted the importance of recycling to the company. 

“We have invested capital in it during 2022 and we will continue to invest in 2023. It’s profitable for our business,” Nagle said. “But not only is it profitable, it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Kunal Sinha, Glencore’s global head of recycling, recently spoke with E-Scrap News about the importance of e-scrap recycling to the company’s efforts to supply the metals necessary for the transition to clean energy. 

The company’s 2022 financial report also noted that one of its key capital projects from 2023 through 2025 will be to install emissions reduction systems at its Québec Horne Smelter, which processes printed circuit boards. That facility has come under pressure from politicians and regulators in Québec for its arsenic air emissions. 

Umicore feels energy price pressures

Belgium-headquartered Umicore reported that its recycling business, which includes metals recovered from e-scrap, tallied about 1.1 billion euros (nearly $1.2 billion) in revenue in 2022, just about flat with the year before. Its EBITDA dropped, however, coming in at 532 million euros (about $570 million), down 17%. 

The EBITDA decrease was due to cost inflation, especially in energy prices, and lower precious metals prices compared with 2021. 

“Although well above historical levels, earnings were below the record level achieved in 2021 reflecting substantial cost inflation headwinds,” a Umicore results presentation stated.

The presentation noted that rhodium and palladium prices peaked in the first half of the year before declining substantially. Meanwhile, platinum, silver and gold prices fluctuated significantly throughout the year. 

Umicore recovers metals from circuit boards at a plant in Hoboken, Belgium. Early in 2022, global logistics disruptions affected shipments of scrap to the plant, but by the summer months those disruptions eased, the company noted. According to the report, “In the second half of the year, the business unit was able to catch-up and process the delayed supplies of complex PGM-rich materials from the first six months of the year.”

Looking forward, and assuming that precious metals prices are stable throughout the year, Umicore said that 2023 adjusted EBITDA in the recycling business group will likely be below last year’s number because of the effects of cost inflation. 

Boliden boosts smelter profits

Sweden-based mining and smelter giant Boliden recovers copper, gold and silver from e-scrap at its Rönnskär smelter in Sweden. 

That smelter is one of five owned by Boliden, with others focused on zinc, copper, nickel and lead recovery. Overall, the company’s smelter business reported 84.8 billion Swedish kronor (about $8.1 billion) in revenue in 2022, up 26% from 2021, according to a financial presentation. The smelter business’s operating profit was about 6.1 billion Swedish kronor (about $587 million) in 2022, up 67% from 2021.

A Powerpoint presentation from the company also noted that its smelters produced a record amount of gold last year. Boliden is scheduled to release details on its e-scrap recycling and metals production at Rönnskär on March 8.

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