China driving long-term copper growth

WORLD copper production per annum increased by 21% over the 10 years to 2012, thanks largely to Chinese demand, according to the International Copper Study Group.

Its 2013 statistical yearbook, released today, tracked an increase in global copper output from 13.8 million tonnes recorded in 2013 to 16.7Mt in 2012.

Copper in concentrates rose by 18% over the 10-year period while solvent extraction-electrowinning production rose by 35%.

The SX-EW share of total mine production increased from 20% in 2003 to 22% in 2012.

World refined production increased from 15.3Mt in 2003 to 20.1Mt in 2012, with China's annual refined production more than tripling from 5.8Mt.

"Over the 2008-2012 period, as a result of numerous factors including lower head grades, labour unrest accidents, technical problems and temporary shutdowns or production cuts, capacity utilisation averaged 82% and mine production grew by a compound annual growth rate of only 1.8%," ICSG said.

"Mine production grew 3% per year during the preceding five years and averaged 2.2% over the 10-year period."

On a country-by-country basis, notable changes in mine production over 2003-2012 included increases of 876,000 tonnes in China, 530,000t in Chile and 503,000t in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to expansions and start-up of new projects.

ICSG said the revival of the African copper belt also played a role, leading to an increase in African copper mine output of 867,000t over the period.

Indonesia was a standout loser, with production declining 604,000t over the period.

Annual world copper usage increased by 31% over the period from 15.7Mt to 20.5Mt.

The growth driven by China, whose copper usage surged 186% in the 10 years to 2012.

China's share of world usage grew to 43% from 20% over the 10 years, while world usage excluding China decreased 7.3% due to the global economic recession.


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