Copper mine production capacity to grow 4%/year through 2019: ICSG

Copper mine production capacity through 2019 is expected to grow at an average rate of about 4%/year to reach 26.5 million mt/year in 2019, an increase of about 3.9 million mt, or 17%, from 2015, analysts with the International Copper Study Group said.

Copper concentrate production capacity will represent 83% of the growth (3.2 million mt), while solvent-extraction/electrowinning capacity will represent 17% (670,000 mt), the Lisbon-based research firm said in a report.

ICSG analysts lowered initial estimates of annual mine production capacity for 2018 and 2019 by around 200,000 mt and 500,000 mt, respectively, mostly because of ongoing delays for many project expansions and startups.

During the 2015-2019 period, copper in-concentrate capacity is expected to rise around 4%/year to reach 21 million mt/year in 2019, and solvent SX-EW capacity is expected to increase at a slower rate of 3%/year to reach 5.5 million mt/year in 2019.

Peru is projected to account for 25% of additional capacity from new mine projects and expansions through 2019, followed by Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China and Mexico, the ICSG said. Together those five countries will represent 65% of the world growth.

Projects also are being planned in countries that currently do not mine copper, including Afghanistan, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Israel, Panama, Sudan and Thailand.

“By 2019, total expected copper production capacity from projects starting in these new copper mining countries could reach 330,000 mt/year, and capacity could continue to increase well above 1 million mt/year if projects under evaluation in these countries are developed,” the ICSG said.

Concurrently, production from countries that started mining copper in the last decade is seen as increasing to around 400,000 mt/year this year from zero in 2000.

Annual copper smelter capacity growth is projected to lag behind growth in concentrate capacity, growing an average of almost 3%/year to reach 22.8 million mt/year in 2019, an increase of 2.4 million mt, or 12%, from that in 2015, according to the ICSG.

“Although at a slower pace, China is continuing to expand its smelting capacity and will account for 65% of the expected world growth through 2019,” ICSG analysts said.

China’s copper smelting capacity quintupled in the 2000-2015 period to around 4.7 million mt/year, and is expected to rise a further 1.5 million mt/year by 2019.

Outside of China, a new copper smelter started last year in Zambia and others are expected to be built in India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Mongolia, the ICSG said.

The balance between concentrate production and available smelting capacity will depend on capacity utilization rates.

ICSG calculations indicate that world copper refinery capacity will reach 29.7 million mt/year in 2019, an increase of 2.4 million mt/year, or 9%, from 2015.

About 1.7 million mt/yr of the expansion is expected to come from electrolytic refineries and around 700,000 mt/year from SX-EW capacity. Electrolytic refinery capacity growth is projected to average 2%/year and is generally tied to the growth of smelter capacity.

“About 50% (1.2 million mt/year) of the world refinery capacity increase during this period is expected to come from electrolytic refineries in China and about 25% (600,000 mt/year) from electrowinning capacity increases in DRC, Mexico, Myanmar and Zambia,” the ICSG said.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News