Stock 11-07-2024 05:39 4 Views

Top 10 Copper-producing Companies (Updated 2024)

Copper miners with productive assets have much to gain as supply and demand tighten.

The copper price hit a new all-time high of US$10,954 per metric ton (MT) on the London Metal Exchange and US$5.20 per pound on the COMEX on May 20 on the back of increasing demand and growing supply concerns.

While construction and electrical grids have long been major markets for copper, today the rise in demand for electric vehicles (EVs), EV charging infrastructure and energy storage applications are emerging drivers of copper consumption.

“I’m a copper bull, it’s a long-term performing asset, but ‘quality’ is what you have to add to the phrase, and I think copper is essential. As we all see the population growth, modernization, electrification, it’s going to be a key metal going forward,” said Ivan Bebek, chairman of Torq Resources (TSXV:TORQ,OTCQX:TRBMF), at a January panel.

Given those factors, investors may want to keep an eye on the world’s top copper-mining companies. According to the latest stats from global financial infrastructure and data provider LSEG, the following companies were the largest copper producers in 2023. Read on to learn more about their operations.

1. Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)

Company Profile

Copper production: 2,058,910.28 MT

The most productive of the world’s copper mining companies, Freeport-McMoRan recorded 2,058,910.28 metric tons (MT) of copper output in 2023. One of its biggest copper assets is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, which is the second largest copper mine in the world, as well as the world’s second largest gold mine. The company continues to make significant investments to increase its output of both copper and gold.

Long-term mine development activities are underway at Grasberg’s Kucing Liar deposit. Freeport-McMoRan believes that it could produce over 6 billion pounds of copper and 6 million ounces of gold between 2028 and the end of 2041.

In Q1, the company exceeded expectations to produce 1.1 billion pounds of copper, up from 965 million pounds in Q1 2023, with a big help from a 49 percent jump in production from its Indonesian operations.

2. BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)

Company Profile

Copper production: 1,389,022 MT

BHP produced 1,389,022 MT of copper in 2023, with the majority coming from two mines in Chile, one in Peru and three mines in Australia. The first Chilean mine is Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine and an important contributor to the country’s economy. The company’s other Chilean mine is the Spence copper mine, whose life BHP is working to extend by 50 years. In Peru, BHP owns the giant Antamina copper-zinc mine.

Although the red metal is only one of the resources BHP produces, the company has been increasing its foothold in the copper market through exploration and development, as well as through acquisitions. In April 2023, the mining giant finalized its US$6.4 billion acquisition of Australian copper-gold producer OZ Minerals. This gave it control of the Carrapateena and Prominent Hill mines to add to its Australian copper production out of the polymetallic Olympic Dam.

In its operational review for the nine months ending in March 31 2024, BHP CEO Mike Henry explained that the company’s ‘(c)opper volumes have increased by 10 per cent reflecting strong performance and additional tonnes from Copper South Australia, record year-to-date performance from Spence, and improved grades and production at Escondida.’

Next up, BHP is making a bid for Anglo American (LSE:AAL,OTCQX:AAUKF) and its copper assets. As of mid-May, Anglo had rejected BHP’s US$42 billion takeover offer.

3. Codelco

Copper production: 1,347,200 MT

As the world’s third largest copper producer, Chilean state-owned Codelco put out 1,347,200 MT in 2023. The company’s copper production is at the lowest levels in 25 years, according to Reuters.

Codelco is nearing completion of a US$1.4 billion project launched in 2021 aimed at extending the life of its Salvador mine through 2068 by converting the underground mine to an open-pit operation. The Rajo Inca project is set to begin production this year, and is part of the company’s larger US$40 billion plan to upgrade its many aging mines.

Codelco is also carrying out a large upgrade to its Chuquicamata operations. However, these efforts have been plagued by numerous delays, including collapses and construction challenges.

4. Anglo American (LSE:AAL,OTCQX:AAUKF)

Company Profile

Copper production: 1,147,300 MT

British miner Anglo American controls a diverse resource portfolio that includes economically important commodities such as copper, diamonds, platinum and iron ore. The company holds a 44 percent stake in Chile’s Collahuasi copper mine.

Anglo American’s Los Bronces open-pit copper-molybdenum mine is also located in Chile, as is its El Solado mine, which is reportedly running out of high-grade ore.

To strengthen its position as one of the world’s top copper producers, the company is advancing its Quellaveco copper project in Peru. Once in operation, it is expected to deliver around 300,000 MT of copper annually in the first 10 years.

As it works to stave off a takeover by BHP, Anglo American has reportedly initiated a hiring freeze and is considering spinning out or offloading some of its coal, nickel, diamond and platinum assets in order to fully focus on revamping production at its copper assets.

5. Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO)

Company Profile

Copper production: 714,972 MT

Antofagasta operates four mines in Chile and produced more than 714,972 MT of copper in 2023. Copper output was up for the year at the company’s flagship asset, Los Pelambres, mainly as a result of the completed construction of a desalination plant during the year. The company is looking to further increase production rates for 2024 at Los Pelambres.

Declining grades contributed to lower copper production in 2023 at the Centinela and Antucoya mines. Production for 2024 is expected to continue to decline at Centinela but remain stable at Antucoya. Additionally, lower ore processing rates led to lower production at its Zaldivarin mine last year.

Earlier this year, Antofagasta secured US$2.5 billion for the expansion of Centinela, which will include increasing production with a second concentrator that will have the capacity to add 144,000 MT of annual copper production.

6. Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF)

Company Profile

Copper production: 695,750 MT

Glencore produced 695,750 MT of copper in 2023. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Swiss-based company operates the Katanga and Mutanda copper-cobalt mines. Its Australia operations are the Mount Isa mines, which produce copper anode material, silver-lead bullion and zinc concentrates, and the CSA underground copper mine. Additionally, Glencore holds interests in the Collahuasi mine (44 percent) in Chile and the Antamina mine (33.75 percent) in Peru.

In May 2023, the market heard plans that the major diversified miner was looking to invest US$1.5 billion in an expansion project at its Antapaccay copper mine in Peru. Also last year, Glencore tried to win over Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A,TSX:TECK.B,NYSE:TECK) shareholders with a US$23.2 billion merger offer in a bid to further increase its position in the global copper market. Although that didn’t happen, Glencore agreed to acquire a 77 percent stake in Teck’s steelmaking coal business in November 2023. Glencore has also shown an interest in making its own play for Anglo American.

7. KGHM Polska Miedz (FWB:KGHA.F)

Company Profile

Copper production: 614,278.5 MT

Poland’s KGHM Polska Miedz has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holds over 40 million MT of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2023, the company produced more than 614,278.5 MT of copper.

Along with copper concentrates, KGHM’s primary products include copper cathode and copper wire rod. In February 2023, KGHM signed a copper cathode supply agreement with Nexans (EPA:NEX), a major wire and cable company.

In its Q1 2024 report, KGHM highlighted that payable copper output increased by 2 percent over the same period in the previous year, attributed to better quality ore from the mines.

8. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF)

Company Profile

Copper production: 561,815 MT

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals produced more than 561,815 MT of copper in 2023. The company previously had seven copper-producing mines across six countries, with the most important being the Kansanshi copper-gold mine in Zambia and the newest one being the Cobre Panama copper mine in Panama. However, in November 2023, First Quantum was forced to shut Cobre Panama down after its contract was ruled unconstitutional in court.

In March 2023, First Quantum completed a partnership agreement with Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO) to advance development in one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper resources, the La Granja copper project in Peru.

In its Q1 2024 results, the company reported total copper production for the quarter was down by 37 percent from Q4 2023, due in large part to the shutdown at Cobre Panama. First Quantum also shared that it had successfully strengthened its balance sheet enough to continue with the expansion project at Kansanshi, which is on track for first production in 2025.

9. Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO)

Company Profile

Copper production: 556,026 MT

A majority-owned, indirect subsidiary of Grupo Mexico (BMV:GMEXICOB), Southern Copper recorded 556,026 MT of copper production for 2023. The company operates major copper mines in Peru and Mexico and has exploration projects in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. Southern Copper claims to have the largest copper reserves in the industry.

The company expects its copper production for 2024 to increase by 2.7 percent over last year’s, in part because the Pilares project has now reached full capacity and should add 44,000 MT in 2024.

10. Norilsk Nickel

Copper production: 494,346 MT

The tenth largest copper producing company in 2023 is Russia’s Norilsk Nickel. Additionally, it’s also one of the world’s largest nickel, palladium and platinum producers. Also known as Nornickel, the company has mining operations in five different countries across three continents. In 2023, Nornickel’s copper output totaled 494,346 MT of the metal. The company’s copper production guidance for 2024 is pegged at 334,000 MT to 354,000 MT.

A vertically integrated global metals business, Nornickel also produces copper concentrate, copper alloys and wire rods used in electrification and construction. Under the stress of sanctions placed on Russia stemming from its war of aggression against Ukraine, Reuters reported in April 2024 that Nornickel will close its Arctic copper plant in its home country and instead build a new plant in China via a joint venture. Construction is slated for completion by mid-2027 to produce approximately 2 million MT of copper concentrate per year.

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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