By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief
A comparison of metals prices from the E&MJ Price Index reveals some big changes in metals prices during 2022. While some finished where they started, several experienced wild swings throughout the year. Gold, for example, started 2022 at $1,829.80/oz and finished at $1,824.50/oz, a difference of $5.30. The small difference masks the swings in gold prices during 2022, rising above $2,000/oz in early March and falling below $1,650/oz during the fall before climbing back to current levels.
For the platinum group metals, platinum was pretty much range bound between $900/oz and $1,100/oz for much of 2022. Palladium, however, surged above $3,000/oz in early March before steadily declining to $1,795/oz, an 8% decline for all of 2022.
Among the non-ferrous base metals, prices were a mixed bag. Aluminum, copper, and zinc declined by 13% to 15%. Lead finished where it started. Nickel experienced a significant gain and tin lost about one-third of its value. Copper dropped below $7,000 per metric ton (mt), or $3.18/lb, briefly in July before recovering to its current level of $8,372/mt, or $3.81/lb. Aluminum peaked at $4,000/mt at the beginning of March, dropped steadily and became range bound between $2,600/mt and $2,400/mt.
Nickel became a story unto itself. Primarily used to make stainless steel, nickel has also gained prominence as a “battery mineral.” In March, nickel prices on the LME skyrocketed to nearly $50,000/mt in hours before the LME suspended trading, a controversial move that caused many to question the exchange. Lawsuits have been filed and the LME recently issued a final report, which is available on its website. Despite all the turmoil, nickel prices climbed steadily throughout the rest of the year to reach $30,048/mt, or $13.66/lb, a 45.1% gain for all of 2022.
The minor metals also experienced some enormous price swings. Molybdenum prices climbed to $66,726/mt, to more than $30/lb, a 63% gain. Cobalt reached a high of $87,600/mt at the end of April before dropping steadily to $41,336.67/mt, a 44% decline for all of 2022. Lithium was 2022’s big winner with a near parabolic 157.4% ascent. During February prices for lithium hydroxide (LiOH) climbed to $63,500/mt. In March, LiOH prices rose to $74,500/mt. It finished the year at $83,900/mt, or nearly $40/lb.