Global copper production disruptions

Las Bambas copper mine in Apurímac, Peru. (Image courtesy of Minera Las Bambas).

Producers across South America, where the bulk of the world’s copper is produced, have halted or cut back operations and slowed construction projects due to restrictions caused by coronavirus.

  • Hong Kong-listed MMG said on Thursday that operations at its Las Bambas mine, with expected production in the 360kt range for this year had been reduced temporarily after Peru declared a state of emergency.  
  • Anglo American earlier this week said it will slow the building of its $5 billion Quellaveco project in Peru and on Thursday the miner said it is scaling down operations at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile. The company will also reschedule work at mines in countries such as Chile.
  • Teck Resources said on Wednesday it is temporarily suspending construction activities at its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) copper project in Chile. The project is expected to have an initial mine life of 28 years, producing 316,000 tonnes of copper equivalent annually.
  • The world’s no 2 copper producer, Chile’s state-owned Codelco, said on Wednesday it planned to reduce its operations but sales, shipments of copper are not yet hit by coronavirus.
  • BHP said so far the pandemic has not affected output. Reuters reports unionized workers at the Escondida mine in Chile operated by BHP requested a halt to operations unless management begins to implement stricter health and safety measures. Escondida is the largest copper mine in the world by a wide measure and was projected to produce some 1.2 million tonnes this year.
  • Freeport-McMoRan said this week it is suspending operations at its 350kt per year Cerro Verde mine in Peru for at least 15 days.
  • Antofagasta PLC said on Friday it would put parts of its Los Pelambres expansion project on care and maintenance as the Chilean miner reduced the number of staff to reduce risk of coronavirus infection. Los Pelambres had production of 357,800 tonnes in 2018.
  • Glencore’s Mopani copper mines unit in Zambia said on Friday it would review all parts of its business due to the increasing economic uncertainty.

In Asia, Europe and North America:

  • Work at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, with annual production of 146.3kt in Mongolia has slowed because of government curbs to curtail the spread of a coronavirus, Rio Tinto said on Monday.
  • Vale reduced activity and output at its Voisey Bay copper mine in Canada as a precaution to protect nearby indigenous communities from coronavirus. Voisey Bay produces 6,000 tonnes-per-day.
  • Polish state-run firm KGHM, one of the world’s biggest copper and silver producers, said so far the pandemic has not affected output and sales, but that it will consider asking the state for support if needed.

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