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Copper production in Chile to rise by 3.7% in 2021 — report

Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile. (Image courtesy of Teck Resources.)

Chile’s copper output is expected to grow by 3.7% to 5,957.1kt, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.

This figure is expected to reach 6,702.8kt in 2024 – posting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4%. Over 20 projects are expected to commence operations during this period, of which, seven are under construction and expected to add 641.3kt of copper production capacity.

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Copper price jumped last week as investors assessed the decision by Chile to close its borders during April due to a spike in covid-19 cases.

Copper for delivery in May was down 0.78% on Monday, with futures at $4.0075 per pound ($8,816 a tonne) on the Comex market in New York.

“While the country’s mining sector avoided a full-scale lockdown as seen in neighboring Peru, operational restrictions and rising cases impacted the progress of various developments in 2020,” said Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData.

Codelco had to halt on-site construction activities at Chuquicamata and El Teniente last year. Teck Resources also suspended construction activities at Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 between March and August as part of covid-19 measures.

In 2020, BHP’s copper production fell by 3.9% to reach 1,680kt. The restrained growth was attributed to lower production from the Escondida mine, which reported a year-on-year (Y-o-Y) fall of 3% in Q3 2020.

Royalty bill

Chile’s mining minister Juan Carlos Jobet said on Monday a bill to boost royalties on copper and lithium miners currently being discussed by lawmakers was “unconstitutional”, adding that center-right President Sebastian Piñera’s administration would oppose it.

The proposed law, introduced in 2018, would set a 3% mining royalty for companies mining and exploring for the two metals in the country, which is the world’s top copper producer and the one with the largest known reserves of lithium.

The tax, to be applied on the nominal value of extracted metals, would affect copper miners that produce more than 12,000 tonnes of the metal annually and those extracting 50,000 tonnes a year of lithium, used in batteries that power electric cars.