* Mine supply cuts to persist as low prices drag into 2016-miner
* CRU expects copper prices to average below $5000 next year
* Copper market seen in deficit this year, balanced next year - CRU
By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE, Nov 13 (Reuters) - A rash of production cuts by copper miners will strengthen their hand next week when talks with China’s powerful smelting industry on 2016 processing fees kick off in earnest in Shanghai.
The stage is set for a bitter contest between global miners such as Chile’s Codelco and smelters such as Jiangxi Copper over the fees that miners pay smelters to turn ore into metal, with copper prices near six-year lows amid waning Chinese demand growth.
Treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) are paid by miners to smelters to convert concentrate into refined metal and are deducted from the smelters’ purchase prices. As the supply of concentrate rises, both demand for smelting capacity and the charges increase, boosting profits for smelters but cutting earnings for miners.
Miners lost out this year after 2015 benchmark TC/RCs soared to the highest in a decade on bets that a boom-time driven supply flood would swing the market into a chunky surplus for the first time in half a decade.
But a year later, that surplus has failed to appear due to a bevy of price-driven production cuts and bad weather that curbed output. Miners have won much better terms for material sold on the spot market.
“It is absolutely correct to say there will be no rush to agree on a number after last year,” said a source at a major miner in Asia, who declined to be named because discussions are confidential.
“Not everyone is going to be able to keep producing at these price levels,” the source said, adding that some African miners were likely to curb output.
Zambia’s Konkola Copper Mines, owned by Vedanta Resources , became the latest victim of low copper prices, saying on Wednesday its Nchanga mine is making “unsustainable losses”, in response to reports it was closing.
Glencore PLC, Freeport McMoRan, Poland’s KGHM and Anglo American have all announced plans to suspend some copper production.
“The miners will hold out for longer this year - they have just had a year in which the spot terms have been consistently below the benchmark ... and they are also seeing margins being squeezed,” CRU analyst Christine Meilton told Reuters Global Base Metals Forum.
“Our thinking is that terms will settle around the $100 mark, a thee-digit figure is likely, but not much higher.”
Processing terms for China hit a 10-year high at $107 per tonne and 10.7 cents per pound this year, and were likely to be around $100-$110 and 10-11 cents for 2016, Chinese smelting sources said last month.
Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin