SANTIAGO, Mar 23, 2012 (Dow Jones) -- The copper market will remain tight in 2012, with prices holding at levels similar to those seen last year, the chief executive of Chilean state mining giant Codelco said Friday.
In 2010, copper averaged $4.00 a pound and, so far this year, copper has averaged $3.76, according to state copper commission Cochilco's daily market data.
"Copper supply and demand will remain very tight this year and we're still optimistic about prices," Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile, or Codelco, CEO Diego Hernandez told reporters at a press conference.
He said the economies of northern Europe and the U.S. are showing signs of a small recovery, which is boosting demand.
In addition, China's economic growth, although targeted at 7.5%, will continue to fuel demand for the red metal.
Hernandez noted that, in previous years, China has overshot its growth target, noting he was optimistic this could be case again in 2012.
China is Codelco's biggest client, with 36% of the miner's output going to the Asian giant in 2011.
Last year, Codelco, the world's largest copper miner, produced a record 1.735 million metric tons of the red metal, a 2.7% increase from its 2010 production.
For 2012, Codelco sees production decreasing slightly and then picking up in 2013 when its new Ministro Hales mines is expected to come on line.