Xstrata: Copper fundamentals are strong and 'should stay that way'

Xstrata Copper division chief executive Charlie Sartain told Dow Jones Newswires on Thursday despite the current uncertainty, fundamentals in the copper market remains strong.

"It's very difficult to foresee what's going to happen to copper prices, but the market remains strong and should stay that way," Sartain said at a press conference in Chile.

Xstrata, in the midst of a $90 billion merger with fellow Swiss commodities powerhouse Glencore, is the world's number four copper miner. The company owns 44% of the Collahuasi mine (Anglo American holds the remainder) in Chile which is the third largest copper mine in the world.

The mine produces around 500,000 tonnes of copper per year, supplying 3% of the world's copper.

Front-month copper contracts were trading at $3.35 a pound in afternoon trade Thursday on the Comex in New York and around $7,400 a tonne in London.

Copper is down 19% over the past year. The red metal hit historic highs at the end of July last year of a shade under $4.50 a pound (more than $10,000 a tonne).