Production from the world’s top 10 copper mining companies decreased in 2020, albeit by a marginal 0.2% to 11.76 million tonnes, according to UK-based analytics firm GlobalData.
Although the initial impact of the covid-19 pandemic on global mining operations was immense, six of the 10 largest copper producers still succeeded in increasing output for the year.
The highest increase in copper production was by Canada’s First Quantum, which, despite all the challenges, reported 10.4% growth in 2020. The company’s Sentinel mine in Zambia and Cobre Panama were key contributors to this growth. While the latter remained under care and maintenance between April and August, it delivered record production levels during the subsequent months.
“Despite Codelco reporting over 3,400 active cases during July 2020, the company achieved 1.2% growth in its production in 2020. The company implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the covid-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also avoiding any significant impact to its copper output,” says Vinneth Bajaj, associate project manager at GlobalData.
Although the overall impact was minimal, declines in production were observed from Glencore (8.2%), Antofagasta (4.7%), BHP (3.9%) and Freeport McMoRan (1.3%). Reduced operational workforces due to covid-19 measures, lower ore grades and production halts due to maintenance were the key disruptors to output during the year.
“Robust growth is expected from Freeport McMoRan, which provided 1,723.6kt of copper guidance for 2021, 18.5% higher versus 2020 output, backed by the commencement of it’s recently expanded Grasberg mine in Indonesia. Additionally, around 9.1% growth is expected from First Quantum and 5.3% higher copper cathode output is expected from Jiangxi. The growth will also be supported by production from other operating mines such as Escondida, Collahuasi, El Teniente, Cerro Verde, Buenavista and Antamina,” Vinneth adds.
In 2021, copper production from the top 10 companies is expected to bounce back, rising by up to 3.8%, to reach 12.2 million tonnes, GlobalData estimates.