Output from top copper producers down 3.7% in Q2 2020 – report

BHP’s Escondida mine is the world’s largest copper producer, located in northern Chile. (Image courtesy of BHP)

Copper output from the world’s top ten producers declined by 3.7% year-on-year collectively during the second quarter of 2020, according to GlobalData, a UK-based data analytics and consulting company.

Lockdowns across Chile, Peru and Mexico, including the closure of some of the world’s largest copper mines, were a key factor behind the decline, which saw total output drop from 2.7Mt to 2.6Mt for the three-month period.

The largest decline in Q2 was observed from Glencore, where production fell 13.9% year-on-year due to lower ore grades and disruptions caused by the covid-19 outbreak, particularly at the Antamina mine, which also reduced BHP’s output.

“Lower ore grades at BHP’s Pampa Norte (Spence and Cerro Colorado mines), Antofagasta‘s Centinela Concentrates and lower rates at KGHM’s Robinson and Franke mines were key factors behind the declines in the other major producers output during the second quarter,” says GlobalData senior mining analyst Vinneth Bajaj.

Major operating mines that were closed as a result of the pandemic for significant periods in Q2 include Chuquicamata, Cobre Panama, Antamina, Las Bambas and Cerro Verde. Development work was also halted at the Los Pelambres and El Teniente mines.

Overall copper production is forecast to drop by 1.5% this year to 20.3Mt, with steeper declines in Chile and Peru, GlobalData says.

While Chile was initially relatively unaffected at the start of the quarter, with Codelco having just to halt on-site construction activities at Chuquicamata and El Teniente, rising cases led to mounting pressure from workers and the temporary shutdown of Chuquicamata at the end of June. As a result, production in Chile is expected to decline by 2.3% in 2020.

“Although operating activities in Peru resumed at the end of May, covid-19 restrictions have disrupted the momentum of several copper mines, including the Las Bambas, Constancia, Toromocho and Cerro Verde, with production in Peru set to decline by 7.2% in 2020,” Bajaj adds.

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