Swiss multinational commodity trading company Glencore purchased some 5,000 tonnes (t) of Russian copper routed through Turkey to Italy in July, according to a report by the Financial Times on Tuesday.
While blanket sanctions on purchasing Russian metals currently do not exist, the trade via third countries highlights Europe’s continued dependence on Russian commodities.
The copper sheets purchased by Glencore were made by Russia’s Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC), and were exported through Turkey to Italy’s Livorno port, the report stated.
In July 2022, the EU added the head of UMMC to the list of individuals banned for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; however, the company itself was not banned. Glencore is not in breach of any sanctions, but the development highlights the rise of Turkey as a transhipment hub and the role of middlemen in Dubai who trade Russian commodities into Europe.
The copper shipment to Glencore was sold by United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Haldivor Energy and was destined for the Carlo Colombo wire rod factory in Northern Italy. Glencore told the Financial Times that the transaction was the final part of a contract that was in place before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In line with its own policy as of March 2022, Glencore added that it will not engage in any Russian business.
EU officials have reiterated that shipments from third countries like Turkey, China and the UAE undermine the effectiveness of sanctions placed on Russia.
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Turkey did not join the row of western sanctions and has maintained close ties with Moscow, given that Russia is a key trade partner for supplying energy to Turkey’s $900bn economy.
In the first seven months of 2023, imports of Russian copper into Turkey tripled to 159,000t, according to the report. Turkey’s largest export destination for copper is now Italy with copper trade between the countries growing by 3%.
As of September this year, Russia also began production at its largest untapped copper deposit in the Kalar District of the Trans-Baikal Region in the south-east of Russia. The Udokan plant will produce sulphide copper concentrate with a 40–50% metal concentrate, according to the company.