HAMBURG (Reuters) – Charges to refine copper concentrate (ore) into metal should remain stable in 2021 as the copper industry has come through the coronavirus crisis well, a senior executive at Aurubis, Europe’s largest copper refiner, told Reuters on Wednesday.

    “Mines are working at high capacity and ever more concentrate is coming onto the market,” said Michael Hellemann, Aurubis’ senior vice president, commercial. “I think we are facing comfortable concentrate supplies in 2021.”

    Treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs), the cost of processing ore, are being discussed in the traditional year-end negotiations.

Miners pay TC/RCs to smelters to process their copper concentrate into refined metal and they are a key part of the earnings of smelters like Aurubis. Charges typically go down when concentrate supply is tight and smelters have to accept lower fees to get feedstock.

    “Overall the copper industry has come through the coronavirus crisis without the disruption seen in other sectors and in 2021 I expect abundant concentrate availability,” said Hellemann.

    “But there are a series of scheduled smelter maintenance shutdowns in 2021 which are expected to remove a significant amount of processing capacity from the market so mines will have to offer attractive TC/RCs to gain smelter capacity.”

    TC/RCs in 2020 are $62 per tonne/6.2 cents per pound, with recent forecasts of a fall to $60 a tonne.

But fourth quarter TC/RCs in China firmed.

    Premiums for copper products in 2021 are also set to be announced in coming weeks. In 2020, Aurubis gave a premium of $96 per tonne above London Metal Exchange (LME) prices.

    “Considering the current copper market situation, I am cautiously optimistic we will see little change in premiums in 2021,” Hellemann said. “The copper market is looking positive with the Chinese economy recovering. Aurubis is retaining its forecast for profits in this

Plano-based Toyota Motor North America and the company’s truck and bus subsidiary, Hino USA, say they will jointly develop a heavy-duty fuel cell electric big rig for the North American market.

The companies will use Hino’s new XL Series chassis and Toyota’s fuel cell technology to deliver “exceptional capability without harmful emissions,” according to an announcement Monday. The collaboration expands on an existing partnership to develop a 25-ton fuel cell electric truck for the Japanese market, which was announced earlier this year.

The first demonstration vehicle is expected to arrive in the first half of 2021, Toyota said.

“A fuel cell powered version of the Hino XL Series is a win-win for both customers and the community. It will be quiet, smooth and powerful while emitting nothing but water,” said a statement from Tak Yokoo, senior executive engineer at Toyota Research and Development.

Toyota and Hino have been working on hydrogen fuel cell technology for 20 years and see it as a zero-emissions alternative to battery power for large commercial vehicles. The companies conducted joint demonstration trials of a fuel cell bus in 2003.

Glenn Ellis, Hino’s senior vice president of customer experience, said the new collaboration is “a game changer.” Hino plans to develop a wide range of trucks with hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Hino’s parent company, Hino Motors Ltd., manufactures the top-selling medium and heavy-duty truck in Japan, buses and diesel engines, and Toyota’s FJ Cruiser and Land Cruiser Prado.

In the U.S., it assembles medium-duty trucks in Mineral Wells, W.Va. Its plant in Marion, Ark., produces axles and suspension components for Toyota’s Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia.

Toyota isn’t the only automaker working on fuel-cell-powered trucks. Two weeks ago, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a hydrogen-electric semitruck that it touted as the future of long-haul transport.

Mercedes’ parent company, Daimler, is