Production from the world’s top ten copper mining companies decreased in 2020, albeit by a marginal 0.2%, to 11.76-million tonnes, with the key disruptors being reduced operational workforces as a result of Covid-19 measures, lower ore grades and production halts owing to maintenance, data and analytics company GlobalData reports.
Nonetheless, by year-end, six of the ten largest producers succeeded in increasing output and, this year, GlobalData expects copper production from the top ten copper companies to bounce back, rising by up to 3.8% to reach 12.2-million tonnes.
In 2020, the highest increase in copper production was by Canada’s First Quantum Minerals, which, despite all the challenges, reported 10.4% year-on-year growth. The company’s Sentinel mine, in Zambia, and Cobre Panama operation, were the key contributors.
Although Cobre Panama remained under care and maintenance between April and August 2020, it delivered record production levels during the subsequent months.
GlobalData associate project manager Vinneth Bajaj, meanwhile, notes that, despite Chilean State-owned mining company Codelco reporting over 3 400 active Covid-19 cases during July 2020, the company nonetheless achieved 1.2% growth in its production last year.
Codelco also implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the Covid-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also avoiding any significant impact to its copper output, he says.
Although the overall impact was small, GolbalData points out that declines in production were observed from Glencore (8.2%), Antofagasta (4.7%), BHP (3.9%) and Freeport McMoRan (1.3%).
“Robust growth is expected from Freeport McMoRan, which provided 1.72-million tonnes of copper guidance for 2021, 18.5% higher versus 2020 output, backed by the commencement of its recently expanded Grasberg mine, in Indonesia,” he says.
Further, about 9.1% growth is expected from First Quantum and 5.3% higher copper cathode output is expected from Jiangxi.
The growth will also be supported by production from other operating mines such as Escondida, Collahuasi, El Teniente, Cerro Verde, Buenavista and Antamina, concludes Bajaj.