BEIJING (Commodity Online): It seems there is no end to China's appetite for metals. China's economic health is robust and it is continuing with the metal buying spree. China's imports of all metals rose in July with imports of refined lead in particular jumping by over 80 per cent compared with June, while refined zinc and nickel imports both surged by over 50 per cent.

Refined copper imports grew to 2,24,700 tonnes supported by tight scrap market and favourable domestic/LME price spread. Among precious metals, palladium imports jumped back up towards levels seen in the first quarter and even if vehicle sales slow, palladium demand should find support from the implementation of tighter emission legislation.

Across energy market, the picture was mixed with coal imports coming in rather strong, while crude inflows fell year-on-year for the first time since March 2009.

Refined copper imports by China, the largest consumer, gained for the first time in four months in July as traders profited from disparities between prices in London and Shanghai. Inbound shipments were 224,723 metric tons last month. That's 6 percent higher than 211,957 tons in June and 23 percent less than 292,226 tons a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations.

The increase reflects demand for imports in May and June, when higher prices in Shanghai prompted arbitrage trade.

Copper stockpiles monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange declined to the lowest level in six months as of July 30. End-consumers drained local stocks after inbound shipments fell for three consecutive months since April.

Stockpiles monitored by the Shanghai exchange fell to 104,507 tons in the week ended July 30, the lowest since January, bourse data showed. Stocks stood at 110,371 tons as of Aug. 20, down 3.1 percent from a week earlier.

Chinalco says it still has ambitions to be a global diversified miner but there is no doubt it has been politically and organisationally weakened by last year's loss of president Xiao Yaqing and the collapse of the $19.5 billion joint venture with Rio Tinto. In recent months it also lost its two most capable dealmakers, Wang Wenfu and Kevin Tai. Last month the loss-making aluminium company managed to sign an important iron ore joint venture with Rio Tinto, but Chinese observers in the resources industry say it doesn't have the spirit or the capacity to move adroitly again.

Sinosteel is another fallen resources giant that might have been a contender not so long ago. Its advantage was an ability to buy iron ore cheaply from Australia and flip it on to local steel companies at an extraordinary mark-up
Sinosteel's star has fallen so far that there is talk that it might be swallowed by its arch-rival, China Minmetals. Minmetals is today's poster boy of China's state-owned miners. It boasts one of the strongest, most flexible and internationalised management teams of any Chinese metal resources company, which explains why its investments in the old OZ Minerals assets are faring so well.