Copper production growth to accelerate to 2021

19th June 2017 By: Anine Kilian - Contributing Editor Online

JOHANNESBURG ( – Global copper production growth will be supported by key markets with low operating costs and strong project pipelines in the next four years, according to research firm BMI’s copper outlook report, released Monday. 

Global copper mine production, supported by markets and low operating costs, is forecast to increase by an average yearly rate of 4.1% between 2017 and 2021, as many major projects come on line.

“In terms of volume, we expect global copper output to climb from 20-million tonnes in 2017 to 23.7-million tonnes by 2021,” said BMI in a statement.

However, the research firm noted that a few developments will pose considerable risks to the copper mine outlook for 2017, namely labour unrest in Latin America and Freeport McMoRan's negotiations with the Indonesian government to resume copper exports from the Grasberg mine, which could result in lower-than-expected output.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) copper production will return to solid production growth in 2017, supported by continued investment in high-grade reserves, the report says.

“The DRC will regain global copper ore market share of 5% by 2021, after falling to 4.7% in 2016.”

Chile, meanwhile, is expected to remain the leading global copper producer by a wide margin, though the nation’s copper sector will face ongoing challenges, declining ore grades, freshwater shortages and labour unrest.

“Chile will account for a gradually declining share of the global total, from 27.2% in 2017 to
24.7% in 2021,” said BMI.

“We forecast Chile to produce 5.4-million tonnes of copper in 2017, down slightly from 5.5-million tonnes the previous year, and to return to gradual production growth thereafter,” the statement said.

BMI further noted that China's copper sector will post steady production growth as miners contend with declining ore grades and a slow copper price recovery.

“We forecast China's copper production, which accounts for 9% of global output, to increase from 1.8-million tonnes in 2017 to two-million tonnes by 2021.”

Peru's copper sector, meanwhile, continues to post strong production growth as projects in the country come on line. Its total output exceeded two-million tons in 2016, thereby overtaking China as the world’s second-largest copper producer.

“Peru's copper production will increase from 2.6-million tonnes in 2017 to 3.7-million tonnes by 2021, averaging 10.2% yearly growth.”

BMI added that competitively low operating costs and high-grade reserves will underpin Peru’s copper production as copper prices remain subdued by historical standards.

US copper production will increase from 1.4-million tonnes this year to 1.6-million tonnes in 2021.

“Environmental deregulation under US President Donald Trump will encourage project development in the copper sector,” the report said.