Copper is a naturally occurring metal that gives off a stunning reddish-orange metallic color when polished. Its chemical symbol is Cu, and atomic number is 29. Mining operations extract copper from the ground via open pit mines. Once the copper-containing earth is extracted, the extract is ground to fine ore and put through a froth flotation process. This process combines the ore with water and a collector chemical that makes copper hydrophobic (a condition which repels water). Air bubbles are introduced into the slurry mixture and the now hydrophobic copper rises to the top with the foam. The froth is removed and contains a copper concentration which can be exported or further refined for industrial uses.
The top producers of copper are found throughout the world. The number one producer is Chile, a South American country. Chile produces 5,750,000 tons of copper annually. The country attracted foreign private investments in the 90's when the government passed a mining law that compensation regulations for the case of mine nationalisation.
The second top producer is China, though the copper mining industry here is nowhere near the production capacity of Chile. Copper production in China reaches 1,760,000 tonnes per year. This country is the largest consumer of copper.
With its sights set on beating China in copper production, Peru came close to that goal. At number 3, this country produces around 1,380,000 tonnes per year. Production has increased over the last decade with China being the top importer of Peruvian copper.
Close to the production rates of Peru, the United States takes the fourth position in copper mining. This country extracts 1,360,000 tonnes of copper every year. Mines are located in several southwestern states including Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and further north in Montana. The demand for copper in the US comes from the construction industry.
The fifth largest copper producer in the world is the Democratic Republic of Congo at 1,030,000 tonnes annually. Though the DRC does not have the highest production rate, the second largest copper reserves in the world can be found within its borders. The slightly lower production here may be explained by a lack of appropriate technology.
Following the DRC is Australia. Production levels of 970,000 tonnes annually make Australia number 6. The majority of copper deposits are located in Southern Australia and also contain uranium and gold. The second large mining location is Mount Isa which is one of the biggest underground mines in the world.
In 7th place, Russia produces 742,000 tonnes of copper. Russia is running into a problem with depleting resources and no new reserve discoveries to take their place. One example is the top producer of copper, the Norilsk Nickel mine. This mine focuses on nickel but extracts copper during the froth flotation process. Since its nickel reserve is running out of the mineral, the company will extract more copper heavy ore in an attempt to maintain its nickel production. This act could possibly increase copper production for Russia, though not by much.
The remaining top copper producers are Zambia (708,000 tonnes), Canada (696,000 tonnes), and Mexico (515,000 tonnes). Many of the countries on this list rely heavily on mining and extract other metals and minerals.
Copper is useful in many applications, but the primary use is in electrical wiring. Theis is because copper makes an excellent electrical conduit. The roofing and plumbing industry also has a high demand for copper as well as industrial machinery. This metal has other uses; for instance, copper paint is used to prevent plant growth on boats and fungicides for agricultural use require copper content.
The world's 20 largest copper mines produce nearly 9 million metric tons of the precious metal a year, about 40% of the world's total copper mine capacity. Chile and Peru, alone, account for more than half of the copper mines on this list. The U.S. makes the cut, as well, with two mines among the top 20.
Copper is expensive to mine and refine.The high costs of financing a major mine are reflected in the fact that many of the mines with the most production capacity are either state-owned or owned by major mining corporations like BHP and Freeport-McMoRan.
The list below is compiled from theInternational Copper Study Group'sWorld Copper Factbook 2019. Beside each mine's name is the country that it is located in and its annual production capacity in metric kilotons. Ametric ton is equal to about 2,200 pounds. A metric kiloton (kt) is 1,000 metric tons.
The Escondida copper mine in Chile's Atacama desert is jointly owned by BHP (57.5%), Rio Tinto Corp. (30%), and Japan Escondida (12.5%). In 2012, the massive Escondida mine accounted for 5% of total global copper mine production. Gold and silver are extracted as by-products from the ore.
Chile's second-largest copper mine, Collahuasi, is owned by a consortium of Anglo American (44%), Glencore (44%), Mitsui (8.4%), and JX Holdings (3.6%). Collahuasimine produces copper concentrate and cathodes as well asmolybdenum concentrate.
The Morenci mine in Arizona is the largest copper mine in North America. Operated by Freeport-McMoRan, the mine is jointly owned by the company (72%) and affiliates of the Sumitomo Corporation (28%). Morenci operations began in 1872, underground mining began in 1881, and open-pit mining began in 1937.
Cerro Verde copper mine, located 20 miles southwest of Arequipa in Peru, has been operational in its current form since 1976. Freeport-McMoRan, which holds a 54% interest, is the mine's operator. Other stakeholders include SMM Cerro Verde Netherlands, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal (21%), Compaia de Minas Buenaventura (19.58%), and public shareholders through the Lima Stock Exchange (5.86%).
The Antamina mine is located 170 miles north of Lima. Silver and zinc are also separated from the ore produced at Antamina. The mine is jointly owned by BHP (33.75%), Glencore (33.75%), Teck (22.5%), and Mitsubishi Corp. (10%).
The world's largest underground mine, El Teniente, is located in the Andes of central Chile. Owned and operated byChilean state copper minerCodelco, El Teniente has been mined since the 19th century.
Chile's state-owned Codelco owns and operates the Codelco Norte (or Chuquicamata)copper mine in northern Chile. One of the world's largest open-pit mines, Chuquicamata has been in operation since 1910, producing refined copper and molybdenum.
The largest copper mine in Africa, Kansanshi is owned and operated by Kansanshi Mining PLC, which is 80%owned by a First Quantum subsidiary. The remaining 20% is owned by a subsidiary of ZCCM. The mine is located approximately 6miles north of the town of Solwezi and 112milesto the northwest of the Copperbelt town of Chingola.
The Grasberg mine, located in the highlands of Indonesia's Papua province, boasts the world's largest gold reserve and second-largest copper reserve. The mine is operated by PT Freeport Indonesia Co., and the mine is a joint venture between regional and national government authorities in Indonesia (51.2%) and Freeport-McMoRan (48.8%).
Kamoto is an underground mine that was first opened by the state-owned company Gcamines in 1969. The mine was restarted under Katanga Mining LTD control in 2007. While Katanga owns the majority of the operation (75%), 86.33% of Katanga itself is owned by Glencore. The remaining 25% of the Kamoto mine is still owned by Gcamines.
TheBingham Canyon Mine, more commonly known asKennecott Copper Mine, is an open-pit mine southwest ofSalt Lake City. Kennecott is the sole owner and operator of this mine. The mine was started back in 1903. Operations continue through all hours of day and night, 365 days a year, but tourists can visit the mine to learn more and see the canyon in person.
Construction of the Sentinel copper mine began in 2012, and by 2016, commercial production was underway. The mine is 100% owned by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. The Candian company entered into Zambian mining in 2010, with the purchase of Kiwara PLC.
Olympic Dam, which is 100%owned by BHP,is a copper, gold, silver, and uranium mine. The dam operates both on the surface and underground, including more than 275 miles of underground roads and tunnels.
The USGS estimates identified deposits contain an estimated 2.1 billion tonnes ofcopper with porphyry deposits accounting for 1.8 billion tonnes. That brings the total amount ofdiscoveredcopperto 2.8 billion tonnes. This would fit into a cube measuring 680 meters on a side.
MINING.COM and sister company Mining Intelligence compiled a list of the top 10 largest copper deposits currently under development and ranked them according to proven and probable reserves, a measure of economically mineable ore occurring in the mineral deposit.
With approximately 15 million tonnes of contained copper, Udokan is considered the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Russia and the biggest in the world in terms of proven and probable reserves. It is owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanovs Baikal Mining Company.
Kamoa-Kakula is a high-grade copper project with targeted annual production of more than 700,000 tonnes at its peak. First production from phase one of the project could be as early as end-2021. The project is a joint venture between Vancouvers Ivanhoe Mines, Chinas Zijin Mining Group and the DRC government.
The El Arco deposit in Baja California is owned by Southern Copper Corp., a unit of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Mxico. The project has the potential to become a 190,000-tonne copper and 105,000-ounce gold mine but likely not before 2025 as the company focuses on another major project called Tia Maria.
Located in theAtacama region of Chile, Nueva Unin is one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold-molybdenum projects in the Americas. It is a 50/50 joint venture between Teck and Newmont Goldcorp. Annual copper production is estimated at 224,000 tonnes during first 5 years of production.
Anglo AmericansQuellaveco copper projectis a proposed open-pit mine located in the Moquegua region of Peru. First production at Quellaveco is expected in 2022, with production capacity of 300,000 tonnes annually in the first 10 years of operation.
Jointly owned by Cobalt 27s Highlands Pacific and a Chinese company, Frieda River represents one of the biggest copper-gold deposits in the Asia-Pacific region. The mine is estimated to produce 175,000 tonnes of copper and 230,000 ounces of gold during a 33-year mine life.
Situated in Catamarca province, northwest Argentina, the Agua Rica gold-copper project is jointly owned by Canadas Yamana Gold, Swiss commodities trader Glencore and the worlds largest gold miner Newmont Goldcorp. The companies signed an agreement this year to develop the project using infrastructure and facilities at their existing ventures in the country.
The Wafi-Golpu joint venture operated by Australias Newcrest Mining and South-Africa-based Harmony Gold is an advanced exploration project located in the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea. Annual production is expected to peak in 2025 at 320,000 ounces of gold and 150,000 tonnes of copper.
Namosi is being advanced by Newcrest Mining and is located in the Namosi and Naitasiri provinces of Fiji. Exploration is currently focused on the Waisoi copper-gold project, currently in pre-feasibility phase.
Large projects that fall outside the top ten include Vancouver-based Teck Resources and Newmont Goldcorps Galore Creek project in British Columbia, another Teck property Schaft Creek also in BC, Rosemont in Arizona which is being advanced by Hudbay Minerals and Pumpkin Hollow owned by Nevada Copper which is set to go into production before the end of 2019.
Resolution Copper, the massive project in Arizona jointly owned by Rio Tinto and BHP, has no reserves outlined yet, although resources come in at more than 10m tonnes contained copper measured and indicated.
Long time number two project under development Cobre Panama, owned by Canadian copper giant First Quantum Minerals, went into commercial production in October and now counts among the top 20 largest copper mines in the world. At maximum capacity the mine could reach output of 375,000 tonnes per year.
Thanks for the comment Sophie. We considered projects with proven and probable reserves for the ranking. Pebble can also be considered primarily a gold project (70moz!). That said Pebble deserves a mention here Frik
You may want to fact check some of the data as it is dated or incorrect. Starting here with the Frieda River Project will give you the actual owners amongst other items such as contained Cu. https://friedariver.com/
Thanks for getting in touch The Miner. Cobalt 27 acquired Highlands Pacific (which owns 20% of Frieda River) in May this year. PanAust Limited to which I presume you are referring to as the actual owners is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Guangdong Rising Asset Management.
Youre right Tom, Malmyzh at the very least deserves an honourable mention here. We did not include it in our rankings because only inferred resources have been estimated and the Russian GKZ system cant be readily compared to NI 43-101 or Jorc.
3 typos/inconsistent totals in the first few paragraphs. Also, the last picture is definitely not Cajamarca Peru. This article makes me wonder if any of the data or stories published by Mining.com are actually accurate.
Thanks for keeping us on our toes Chris. That was indeed the wrong Cajamarca, weve updated the picture. Not sure about the typos/inconsistent numbers in the intro? 700m tonnes mined plus 2.1bn identified deposits total 2.8bn ever discovered Frik
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The reddish-gold metal has a range of industrial uses, and is often used in electronics due to its high electrical conductivity and its ability to be easily shaped into wiring. It is also a good conductor of heat, giving it additional properties prized by industry.
There is expected to be a growing demand for copper over the coming years along with many other metals and minerals due to its importance to the manufacturing of products that will be used in the electrification of the worlds energy system.
Codelco mines many of these Chilean reserves, including the El Teniente project (the worlds largest underground copper mine), and Chuquicamata (the second-deepest as well as one of the largest open pit mines in the world).
Its major mining interests include the Grasberg copper-gold deposit in Indonesia the worlds biggest gold mine and the Morenci mine in Arizona, which is one of the largest copper deposits in North America.
In total, the company operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America, as well as two molybdenum operations. It also has two copper mines in South America Cerro Verde in Peru and El Abra in Chile.
Glencores major copper mines include interests in the Antamina open-pit mine, located in the Peruvian Andes, as well as Chiles Collahuasi mine. In Australia, it operates the Ernest Henry, Mount Isa and CSA mines.
The company also has a significant footprint in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it mines copper alongside cobalt at the Katanaga and Mutanda mines. The DRC by far the worlds largest cobalt producing country, and Glencore has established itself as one of the top producers of this metal via these operations.
An integrated producer of copper and various minerals, Southern Copper operates mining, smelting and refining facilities in Mexico and Peru. Its major mining operations include Perus Toquepala and Cuajone mines and Mexicos Buena Vista del Cobre (aka Cananea) and La Caridad mines.
For investors interested in the red metal, its worth looking at copper production by country. According to the latest US Geological Survey data, global copper production reached 20 million metric tons (MT) in 2019.
This year, despite COVID-19, copper-mining companies, including state-owned Codelco, BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT), Anglo American (LSE:AAL), Glencore (LSE:GLEN) and Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO), have been churning out more copper than they did the year before. But many believe the country will not be able to maintain these levels with reduced staff and spiking contagions Chile is one of the hardest-hit Latin American nations in terms of the virus.
Peruvian copper production saw a slight drop in 2019 as it reached 2.4 million MT, down from 2018s total of 2.44 million MT. The main copper operations in Peru include Anglo Americans (LSE:AAL,OTCQX:NGLOY) Quellaveco mine and Southern Coppers (NYSE:SCCO) Tia Maria mine.
The majority of copper produced in the country is shipped to China, followed by Japan, South Korea and Germany, among others. Copper output in the country has grown more than 97 percent from 2008 to 2019, but 2020 has told a different story so far.
The pandemic hit copper production in the country, bringing output down 20.4 percent in the first half of 2020 versus the same period in 2019, as the government implemented strict measures to contain the virus. Copper miners resumed operations in June.
Its worth mentioning that the trade war between the US and China, which at the start of 2020 seemed to be on track to reach a phase one deal, has meant high tariffs for Chinese exports. Some reports claim that manufacturing work, which requires copper, has been cooling as a result.
Tying for fourth place in copper production by country is the US, which saw its copper output increase in 2019 as it jumped from 1.22 million MT to 1.3 million MT. According to the US Geological Survey, the increase was due to higher ore grades and higher mining and milling rates at several operations.
The trade war mentioned above also of course affects the US. With China being a major consumer of the red metal, these tensions could mean that the US will cool its own copper production if it doesnt have enough buyers. It is currently too early to tell how this situation may play out.
One of Australias largest copper operations is BHPs Olympic Dam copper-uraniumgold deposit in South Australia; while the asset is more known for its uranium production, it maintains a strong stance as the fourth largest copper deposit in the world.
Also worth noting is Queenslands Mount Isa, run by a subsidiary of Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLNCY). It is one of Australias largest copper producers, and the two copper mines that operate out of Mount Isa collectively process 6.5 million tonnes of ore each year.
According to Mining for Zambia an initiative run through Zambias Chamber of Mines there are four major mines that dominate the countrys copper production. These include Barrick Golds (TSX:ABX,NYSE:GOLD) Lumwana, First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF) Kansanshi, Mopani Copper Mines (majority owned by Glencore) and Konkola Copper Mines, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources (NYSE:VEDL).
One of the biggest copper mines in Mexico is Grupo Mexicos (BMV:GMEXICOB) Buenavista del Cobre operation in Sonora, also referred to as Cananea. It has been in operation since 1899 and has an estimated copper reserve of almost 27 million MT.
One of the biggest copper operations in Russia is the Udokan deposit in Siberia, which is currently owned by Baikal Mining Company. The deposit made headlines in 2018 when it was revealed that Baikal was looking to raise US$1.25 billion to develop a mining and metallurgical plant at the project. It is now under construction.
Kaz Minerals (LSE:KAZ) accounts for a large part of Kazakhstans metal production. The company is working on expanding Aktogay mine to double its processing capacity, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
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(Kitco News) - As Kitco reported before, according to the preliminary data released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), estimated global mine production of copper was 20 million tonnes in 2020, or 2% decrease over 2019 (20.4 million tons).
With ~5,700 ktonnes of copper mined in 2020, Chile was the top copper producer worldwide, followed by Peru (2,200 ktonnes) and China (1,700 ktonnes). The top ten copper producing countries mined 15,920 ktonnes of copper in 2020, a 2.3% decline over 2019 (16,289 ktonnes).
USGS said that global copper output declined over previous year primarily due to COVID-19 lockdowns in April and May. These disruptions significantly affected output in Peru, the second-ranked mine producer of copper.
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