SHANGHAI, Sep 4 (SMM) – The world’s 20 major copper miners produced a total of 6.55 million mt of copper in the first half of this year, down 1.2% from the same period last year, showed SMM calculations based on data from those companies’ reports.
The production decline across those miners, whose combined copper output accounted for over 60% of the global total in 2018, confirmed concerns about tightening copper ore supplies.
In terms of production, BHP ranked the first, followed by Codelco and Freeport-McMoRan, and they saw their copper production drop 5.6%, 12.2% and 20.9%, respectively, in January-June.
Mine ageing and resource degradation, mine upgrading as well as disruptions caused by heavy rainfall, landslide or strikes led to the dip in production.
The average grade of copper ore produced by the world’s largest copper mine, Escondida in Chile, fell from 0.99% to 0.87%, lowering copper output from the mine in January-June by 11.3% year on year.
MMG Ltd's Las Bambas mine in Peru saw its copper output shrink 17% quarter on quarter and 15% year on year in the second quarter of the year, as the blockade initiated by the indigenous community paralysed transport for more than two months and disrupted the mine’s production at the start of April.
Workers at Codelco's sprawling Chuquicamata mine walked off the job for about two weeks in June, but the mine’s overall copper output in the first half of the year did not fall as it kicked off underground mining earlier in the year.
The world’s second largest copper mine, Grasberg in Indonesia, is in the transition from open-pit to underground mining, and its copper output declined 64% year on year in the second quarter and 59% in the first half of the year, according to the report by Freeport-McMoRan.
Zijin Mining produced 171,000 mt of copper in the January-June period, up 43.7% from a year ago, marking the largest percentage gain among the 20 miners.
The ramp-up of the copper mine project in Kolwezi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and commissioning of the second phase of Duobaoshan project in China contributed to the production increase from the Chinese miner.
Southern Copper, Antofagasta and KGHM were the fifth, sixth and seventh largest copper ore suppliers in the first half of the year, and saw their output rise 14.1%, 22.1% and 18.9% from the same period last year.
First Quantum’s copper mine project in Panama and Glencore’s Katanga project in DC Congo are expected to see substantial output increases in the second half of the year.
This, however, is unlikely to offset the declines at the world’s two largest copper mines, Escondida and Grasberg. Global copper ore supplies are set to remain tight in the remainder of the year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the overall production and year-over-year change, as production from Grasberg was misstated.