* LME/ShFE arb: tmsnrt.rs/2oQ5nm20 (Adds closing prices)
By Zandi Shabalala
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Copper rose to a near three-year high on Thursday on signs of stronger demand in top consumer China while inventories fell in London warehouses.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) closed 1.9 percent higher at $6,688 per tonne, having earlier touched $6,731.50, its highest since November 2014.
"There is clear indication that Chinese demand for metals is still pretty strong and copper is no exception," ETF Securities analyst Nitesh Shah said.
Copper, which is up nearly 20 percent this year, has benefited from supply disruptions and declining stocks with firm demand from China also supporting.
CHINA IMPORTS: July imports of refined copper to China rose 13 percent to 283,468 tonnes while ore and concentrate rose 3 percent.
STOCKS: Prices were supported as LME inventories continued to fall on Thursday MCUSTX-TOTAL. On-warrant stocks - those not earmarked for delivery and therefore available to investors - have fallen 42 percent this year.
PRICES: "The fundamentals of copper justify these levels given how weak prices have been over the last few years," ETF Securities' Shah said.
"But I wouldn't be surprised if there was a sharp pull back as there has been lots of price appreciation over a short space of time."
LME COMPLEX: The LME base metals complex marked its highest level since the last quarter of 2014, SP Angel analyst John Meyer said.
ALUMINIUM: China aluminium futures rose to their highest in more than five years on Thursday while prices in London rose 0.4 percent to $2,106. Aluminium is up on expectations of a decline in supply as China braces for capacity shutdowns at its smelters over the winter months.
NEW COPPER MINE: OZ Minerals Ltd said it would begin construction of its Carrapateena copper mine in Australia, the country's largest undeveloped copper project, which it estimated would cost A$916 million ($724 million).
SOUTH32 GAINS: Australian-based miner South32 Ltd posted an eight-fold rise in its annual underlying earnings on Thursday, as a broad recovery in metal prices offset disruptions to its coal business.
VEDANTA UP: Diversified miner Vedanta Resources' first-quarter core earnings rose about 48 percent on higher zinc production, with renewed demand for the metal driven by higher steel production in China.
PRICES: Lead slipped 0.8 percent to $2,357 tonnes, tin fell by 0.2 percent to $20,490, zinc rose 0.8 percent at $3,120 while nickel was 0.7 percent higher at $11,745.
Additional reporting by James Regan in Sydney; Editing by Susan Thomas and Elaine Hardcastle