Beijing’s State Reserves Bureau (SRB) has been stockpiling supplies of copper, helping to drive up world prices of the metal by 28% this year, the Financial Times reported. While it is unclear how much copper the SRB has been buying, traders estimate that it could buy as much as 1.2 million tons of the metal this year, against total global copper production last year of 18 million tons. The SRB’s purchases are thought to be designed to support China’s copper smelting industry, avoid layoffs and take advantages of lower prices. Copper is currently trading for less than half of last year’s peak. Analysts caution that rising prices do not reflect a real demand recovery.