China's imports of copper concentrate from Australia in October fell by more than half from the previous month, customs data showed on Wednesday, adding weight to speculation Beijing has placed an unofficial ban on shipments. Media reports early this month said the Chinese government had instructed companies not to purchase copper ore and concentrate - as well as at least six other commodities ranging from coal to lobster - from Australia from Nov. 6 because of souring relations between the two countries. Even in October, copper concentrate shipments from Australia were down sharply, plunging 54.2% from September to 40,496 tonnes, General Administration of Customs data showed. That was also down 34.5% year-on-year and the lowest monthly total since April. China's overall imports of copper concentrate - the raw material smelters use to make refined metal - from all countries were around 21% lower last month from September's bumper total above 2 million tonnes. Australia accounted for 4.8% of China's total copper concentrate imports in 2019, making it the fifth-biggest supplier after Chile, Peru, Mongolia and Mexico. It is also China's biggest iron ore supplier and one of its main suppliers of bauxite, the primary source of aluminium. Trade ties between the two countries have deteriorated since Australia in 2018 became the first country to publicly ban China's Huawei from its 5G network, and worsened after Canberra called for an enquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Asked about Australian vessels waiting to deliver coal into Chinese ports on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a lot of coal imports failed to meet environmental standards. REUTERS
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