Global mined copper production is estimated to have increased by 7.1% in the first quarter, with concentrate production rising by 7% and solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX-EW) by 7.3%, the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) reported in its Copper Bulletin, last month.
The ICSG attributed the estimated 330 000 t increase in mined production to constrained output from Chile and Indonesia in the comparative period of 2017. The organisation noted that production in Chile, the world’s biggest copper-producing country, increased by 19%, mainly because production in February/March 2017 had been constrained by a strike at Escondida, but also because of an improvement in Codelco’s production levels. Meanwhile, Indonesian output increased by 58%, because comparative output in 2017 was negatively affected by a temporary ban on concentrate exports, which had started in January and ended in April.
Moreover, the Democratic Republic of Congo experienced a 9.5% % increase in SX-EW production, while Zambian mine output rose by 16%, owing to the restart of temporarily closed capacity.
The ICSG noted that, while no major supply disruptions occurred in the first quarter of this year, overall growth was partially offset by lower output at some mines in Canada (–10%) and in the US (–7.5%). Additionally, output in Peru had “levelled off”.
“On a regional basis, mine production is estimated to have increased by around 11% in Africa, 7% in the Americas, 6% in Asia, 4% in Europe and 5% in Oceania.”
World refined production is estimated to have increased by 3%, with primary production rising by 2.3% and secondary production (from scrap) increasing by 6%. The ICSG noted that the main contributor in terms of tonnage was China, as a result of its continued capacity expansion.
Production in Chile was up by 8%, while production in Indonesia and Japan also rose substantially, having recovered from constrained output last year due to a strike and maintenance shutdowns respectively. However, overall growth was partially offset by declines in Peru, Poland and the US.