Copper miners squeezed by lower prices, higher labour costs

Teck Resources' Highland Valley operations in Canada

Teck Resources' Highland Valley operations in Canada

20th July 2023

By: Reuters


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Major North American copper miners are likely to report a fall in second-quarter profits, as global growth concerns dented realised prices for the red metal and labour costs remained high.

Freeport-McMoRan, Southern Copper and Teck Resources are estimated to post a combined adjusted profit of $1.53-billion for the April-June quarter, according to data from Refinitiv, compared with $2.63-billion a year earlier.

The average copper price fell about 11% to $3.85/lb during the period, as per CFRA Research.

"Copper prices fell considerably in the first part of second-quarter before finding a bottom in late May, at which point it was able to regain some lost ground," said Steve Schoffstall of Sprott Asset Management.

He blamed fears of slowing global growth, particularly in top consumer China, for the decline in prices.

The drop knocked Freeport-McMoRan's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) by about $110-million, Wolfe Research said in a research note.

Freeport, which operates the low-cost, high-grade Grasberg mine in Indonesia, is also awaiting an export permit after the Southeast Asian nation banned raw mineral exports. The company has not shipped its materials since June 10 following the expiry of its export permit.

Bernstein sees labor costs, which account for 28% of site production costs, further decreasing margins for Freeport.

Southern Copper, on the other hand, may have the best chance to post a year-on-year rise in adjusted earnings, said Matthew Miller, analyst at CFRA Research, on higher production.

Freeport-McMoRan is set to launch the second-quarter earnings season for miners on Thursday, with Southern Copper, First Quantum and Teck scheduled to report next week

Edited by Reuters


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