Mr. Harings, raw materials, securing resources, supply chains – these are currently topics of paramount importance for the economy. Now you are traveling with the Federal Chancellor in Latin America. Why is this trip important?
Aurubis purchases 2.4 million tons of copper concentrates from all over the world, we have a very diverse supply. 14 percent of that amount comes from Chile, so that’s a very important country for us. The reverse is even truer: Aurubis accounts for 40 percent of all goods exported from Chile to Germany – measured in terms of export values. We have maintained close business relationships with Chile for decades, the same applies to Brazil and Peru. That was the reason why I, as CEO of Aurubis, was invited to the Federal Chancellor’s trip.
Usually on such occasions a supply contract is signed or an investment is agreed. In your case it was about environmental protection?
Yes, it was about the copper smelters of the state-owned Codelco group, some of which use the same technology as 30 years ago. For example, large amounts of sulfur dioxide are still released. We, on the other hand, have the best process technology and pass on our know-how to the state-owned Codelco company. By signing the cooperation agreement on this topic, among other things, as part of such a trip, you create a supportive framework so that the improvements are actually implemented.
With the new supply chain law, would it still be possible for Aurubis to purchase copper concentrate from Codelco as long as they do not implement better environmental standards?
To say it in advance: Our supply relationships with Codelco are only very limited. Up to now we have mostly cooperated with other companies in Chile and Codelco in turn supplies mainly to China. But nobody needs the Supply Chain Act. Maybe in another industry, which was the trigger with its working conditions, but not in our branch. Aurubis is much further ahead, both conceptually and in terms of implementation. Our policy is: stay and improve. Our aim is to improve the entire copper supply chain. At the same time, we want to create awareness in politics of the framework conditions that industry needs.
Keyword framework conditions: What is your most important concern in the current situation?
On the way to decarbonizing our processes, electricity from renewable energies is becoming increasingly important, which must be available reliably and at competitive prices: affordable, available and sustainable. In cooperation with the VCI and BDI associations, Aurubis has developed a model that enables a transformation electricity price for the industry that is about to decarbonize. For us, this is the biggest transformation since the industrial revolution.
What do you think is necessary for this?
When generating electricity in this transformation, the existing base load power plants with lignite, nuclear power and hard coal must first continue to run and gradually be taken off the grid with the available electricity from renewable sources. Since our goal is the fastest reduction in CO2 nuclear power should therefore be the last to be shut down. Incidentally, the original phase-out of nuclear power was planned for 2032. This was brought forward by 10 years in an emotional reaction by the Merkel government. Our industry has a very stable energy demand, so we can also guarantee very stable demand. We propose a separate industrial electricity pool for this purpose. The merit order principle, which caused such high price fluctuations last year, would then only be applied to a smaller part of the electricity market and would no longer have such a serious impact. In this way, a transformation electricity price of around 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour or 40 to 50 euros per megawatt hour could be realized.
But isn’t that possible without nuclear power?
The model should primarily work with offshore wind energy, for which special areas should be created as quickly as possible. But you are right: brown coal or nuclear power would of course still be needed for the base load for a transitional period.
What does Aurubis pay in the USA, where you are currently making large investments?