LONDON, June 2 (Reuters) - Most metals analysts have raised their global copper output forecasts for 2010 from those made at the end of 2009 as unforeseen supply disruptions have had less impact than expected, a Reuters survey showed.
The survey carried out over the past two weeks showed 9 out of 11 analysts expect production to be higher than they envisaged last December, with just two lowering their forecasts.
Even as they raise projections some analysts remain wary due to past experience. Copper production has tended to fall short of projections consistently over the years due to factors such as accidents, falling mine ore grades and strike action.
Surging output in top refined copper producer China has prompted recent upward revisions with a median average of 18.810 million tonnes for this year, up from 18.451 million.
"Disruptions are the norm rather than the exception, but this year it does seem to be the case that production is creeping up," said independent consultant Angus MacMillan.
"I have the sneaking suspicion that in three months time I will be putting up my numbers again," he added.
A major earthquake in top copper mining nation Chile in late February unnerved market watchers for a time. But it became clear that copper facilities had emerged almost unscathed.
Chile's Codelco, the biggest copper miner said last week it lost 11,300 tonnes of copper due to the quake. But it expected to meet this year's goal of 1.7 million tonnes.
Supply disruptions appear fewer and further between this year and China also may exceed already high expectations.
"Chinese copper output may surprise on the upside," Mark Pervan, senior commodities analyst, at ANZ said.
China was using more domestic concentrates and scrap, cutting its reliance on imported concentrates, he added.
Chinese refined copper output in the first four months of the year was 16.0 percent higher than the same period last year at 1.455 million tonnes, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Barclays Capital raised its forecast by 222,000 tonnes to 18.553 million, again citing higher Chinese output.
But analyst Gayle Berry said consumption had also outpaced already bullish expectations and Barclays Capital predicts a supply deficit in 2010.
On average, analysts' copper output forecasts showed an upwards revision of around 250,000 tonnes, or 1.32 percent.
The largest increase was the half a million tonnes to 18.9 million tonnes made by Simon Hunt of Simon Hunt Strategic Services. But that still left his global output forecast well below the top prediction of 19.8 million tonnes made by Citi.
Reuters Metal Production Database (MPD) 2010 refined copper output figure (http://bond.views.session.rservices.com/mpd/) has been reduced by 45,000 tonnes since the end of 2009. MPD does not make allowances for production disruptions before they occur.
The biggest reduction among analysts was by Business Monitor International, which lowered its forecast by 265,000 tonnes to 19.234 million tonnes, still above the median average of forecasts.
Simon Hunt attributed his increase to higher secondary and solvent extraction electro-winning (SX-EW) output. SX-EW bypasses the traditional smelter-refinery production route.
In April, the Lisbon-based International Copper Study Group (ICSG) predicted world refined copper output would remain relatively stable, growing by 0.6 percent this year to 18.5 million tonnes..
The 18.1 million tonnes figure from Credit Agricole analyst Robin Bhar, the only other to downgrade his projection, was also the lowest forecast among the 10 analysts surveyed.
At the end of last year Credit Agricole expected output to rise by 1.4 percent this year to 18.35 million tonnes.
"Our current projections now expect refined production to be flat year-on-year in light of continued constraints on copper mined supply...," Bhar said.
He cited disruptions caused by several problems including earthquakes, adverse weather, health and safety issues and labour unrest.
This year is quieter year in terms of major labour contract expiries, which tend to unnerve market watchers as they draw near.
A new labour deal was tentatively agreed without incident on Monday at Xstrata's CCR refinery in Canada.
But the handful up for renewal in Chile at the end of November will keep the market on its toes through to the final quarter.