Copper Mining in Peru

Peru became the world's second-largest copper producer last year. Here's how that happened.

copper mining in peru

In 2016, Peru reached an annual copper production record for the second year in a row and beat China to become the second-largest copper producer in the world. 

“Peru leapfrogged China to become the world’s second biggest copper mining nation last year with production totalling 2.318 million tonnes, a 40 percent jump from the previous year,” Karen Norton, senior base metal analyst at Thomson Reuters GFMS, said via email.

“Meanwhile, Chinese mine output, which was only slightly higher than Peruvian output in 2015, contracted slightly over the same period, as the low copper prices which prevailed for much of the year kept the pressure on higher cost operations,” she added.

The news will likely be unsurprising for those who have been keeping an eye on Peru’s copper production. In 2014, the country set the goal of doubling its copper output by 2016 and recovering its position as the second-largest producer of the base metal. While it didn’t quite manage to double its output, it is, as mentioned, now the world’s second-biggest producer once again.

Peru’s surge in copper output was supported by increased activity at a variety of different mines in the country. As Paul Benjamin, a research director at Wood Mackenzie, explained via email, “[d]uring 2016, Peruvian output of mined copper was boosted by the commissioning of two large projects: the new Chinese MMG-owned (HKEX:1208) Las Bambas mine and an expansion of Freeport-McMoRan’s (NYSE:FCX) Cerro Verde mine.”

He added, “[c]ombined with the continued ramp up of projects, which has started in previous years, such as Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) Antapaccay and Hudbay Minerals’ (NYSE:HBM) Constancia, this new production capability was sufficient to push total Peruvian production above that of China.

“We are forecasting Peruvian copper mine output to be at 2016 levels or slightly higher for at least the next five or six years and, as a result, remain the world’s second-largest copper producer of mined copper over this period.”

Below is a brief overview of those and other mines that contributed to Peru’s increased copper output last year, plus a quick look at a number of junior companies that are exploring for copper in the country. Mine production numbers are based on information from Peru’s energy and mines ministry.

Cerro Verde

Mine production: 498,951 tonnes

Cerro Verde is an open-pit copper and molybdenum mining complex located 20 miles southwest of Arequipa and operated by Freeport-McMoRan.

A large-scale overhaul of Cerro Verde was completed in September 2015, and a key component was an expansion of the capacity of its concentrator facilities. According to Freeport-McMoRan, the complex is now on track to provide incremental annual production of approximately 600 million pounds of copper and 15 million pounds of molybdenum.

Antamina

Mine production: 443,265 tonnes

Antamina is one of the 10 largest mines in the world in terms of production volume. It produces copper, zinc, silver, molybdenum and bismuth, and is one of the biggest mining investments in Peruvian mining history at US$3.6 billion. The mine is located in the Antamina Ravine, and its useful life should continue until 2029; total reserves are estimated at 745 million MT.

The mine is operated by Compañía Minera Antamina, which is owned by Glencore, BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT), Teck Resources (NYSE:TECK) and Mitsubishi (TSE:8058).

Las Bambas

Mine production: 330,227 tonnes

Las Bambas is a large, long-life copper mine located in Peru’s Apurimac region. It is a joint venture project between operator MMG and CITIC Metal.

Once in full production, Las Bambas is expected to become one of the world’s largest copper mines, with annual nameplate throughput capacity of 51.1 million tonnes. Las Bambas produced 330,227 tonnes of copper in copper concentrate during 2016, and is expected to put out between 420,000 and 460,000 tonnes of copper in copper concentrate in 2017.

There are often conflicts over mining in Peru, especially in far-flung regions where basic services such as running water and paved roads are scarce. In February 2017, residents of a town close to Las Bambas held a five-day protest blocking the road that the company uses to transport copper concentrate; the disruption resulted in a suspension of the mine’s copper shipments.

Antapaccay

Mine production: 221,399 tonnes

The Antapaccay copper mining project is a low-cost brownfield expansion of the Tintaya open-pit copper mine in southern Peru. The mine is owned by Glencore and operated by Minera Antapaccay.

Commercial copper production at Antapaccay started in November 2012, and the first shipment was made to Matarani Port for export. The mine also produces gold and silver by-product credits and its expected life is 20 years.

Toromocho

Mine production: 168,376 tonnes

Minera Chinalco Peru (HKEX:3668) is responsible for operating the Toromocho project, which is located in the Junin region of Peru. The mine is China’s largest overseas copper project and contains 1.526 million tons of ore reserves with an expected mine life of 36 years.

In November 2016, Chinalco signed a preliminary deal with the Peruvian government to expand Toromocho. The company is expected to inject $1.3 billion into the mine in the upcoming months.

Constancia

Mine production: 133,432 tonnes

In 2011, Hudbay Minerals acquired Norsemont Mining and its wholly owned Constancia copper porphyry project in southern Peru.

Production began as expected during the fourth quarter of 2014 and commercial production was achieved in April 2015. The primary metal mined is copper, but molybdenum and silver are also mined. According to Hudbay, 2016 copper production from Constancia exceeded guidance, but is expected to decrease by 17 percent in 2017.

Junior miners to watch

While the above companies currently produce the bulk of Peru’s copper, there are a slew of other companies hoping to become producers in the country. Juniors exploring for and developing copper projects in Peru include:

  • Panoro Minerals (TSXV:PML)
  • Duran Ventures (TSXV:DRV)
  • Candente Copper (TSX:DNT)
  • Regulus Resources (TSXV:REG)
  • Indico Resources (TSXV:IDI)
  • AQM Copper (TSXV:AQM)
  • Metminco (ASX:MNC)
  • Alianza Minerals (TSXV:ANZ)
  • Camino Minerals (TSXV:COR)
  • Kaizen Discovery (TSXV:KZD)
  • Lara Exploration (TSXV:LRA)

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network on April 7, 2011.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.


This article is updated periodically. Please scroll to the top for the most recent information.

By Leia Michele Toovey-Exclusive to Copper Investing News

Peru has long been known for its impressive mineral wealth. There is evidence of mining in Peru dating back thousands of years. Currently, Peru ranks third in world copper production. The country is also the top producer of silver, the second largest producer of zinc, fourth for lead and sixth for gold. Mineral exports account for a significant portion of Peru’s export revenue. As of 2009, mineral exports accounted for 61 percent of total export revenue in Peru, which produced 1,260,000 metric tonnes of copper that same year, according to the USGS.

While Peru holds vast mineral wealth, historically, its geography has made the minerals difficult to access. Many of the richest deposits are found in the central Andes in areas of high elevation and relief. On an artisanal mining scale, extraction of Peru’s resources is relatively easy; however, transitioning the mining economy from small to full-scale operations required advancements in both mining techniques and equipment. Utilizing these advancements in mining, there is potential currently to pin-point new resources, and for this reason there are many miners in the region actively exploring and developing Peru’s mineral deposits.

Peru’s government is pro-mining and open to foreign investment; however, this has not always been the case. In 1971, state mining rights were assigned to the government enterprise Minero Perú. In 1992, the government developed “The General Mining Law” which simplified the legal process for obtain mining rights, and amendments in 1996 guaranteed protections to mining ventures and contracts. These laws have ensured more favorable exploration and production contract terms for investors. Within the framework of four 1990s laws promoting investment in mining and natural resources, and dealing with foreign and private investment, more than 250 domestic “Stability and Guarantee” contracts have been signed since 1993. As of 2001, the government had privatized 90 percent of its mining assets. Now, the government plays a limited role as an overseer of the the country’s mining industry.

Example of a world class mine: Antamina

Antamina is one of the largest producers of copper and zinc in Peru, and one of the ten largest mines in the world in terms of operating volume. Antamina’s ore deposits are a skarn-type and host copper, zinc, silver, molybdenum and bismuth. As of January 2010, according to Minera Anatmina’s website, the mine lifespan was for another 16 years, until 2026. In July 2008 it was estimated that the Antamina deposit had 745 million tons of minable reserves with 1.06% copper, 0.67% zinc, 11.7g / t gold and 0.026% molybdenum. The mine turns out impressive volumes, and for this it is consistently placed within the top ten for mines with the most volume output. The average capacity of material removed is 430,000 tonnes per day, and the mine operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Investment in Antamina (an initial investment of approximately U.S. $2.3 billion, plus U.S. $1.2 billion of investment in the expansion of its operations) is the highest in the history of Peruvian mining. Compania Minera Antamina SA is a company incorporated under Peruvian law, the product of a joint venture between four leading companies in the world mining industry: BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Teck Resources, and Mitsubushi Corporation.

Juniors

Candente Copper Corp (TSX:DNT)

Holds zinc and copper assets in Peru, including Cañariaco Norte copper deposit and the Cañariaco Sur and Quebrada Verde.

Viper Gold (TSXV:VPR)

Viper Gold Ltd is a new company focused on the silver-gold potential of the “Gold Corridor” in Northern Peru. Their primary interest is the Corongo Property.

Sunset Cove Mining Inc. (TSXV:SSM)

Their Peruvian interests are the Carolay copper-gold deposit and the Azulcuna copper deposit.

Miners and Explorers

HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM)

In early 2011, HudBay acquired Norsemont Mining Inc. and its wholly-owned Constancia copper porphyry project located in Southern Peru. The Constancia project is located approximately 100 kilometers south of Cusco, Peru. It is situated on the eastern side of the Andahuaylas-Yauri copper belt, approximately three kilometers from the Katanga mine, a copper-gold mine that operated from the early 1900s up until the 1990s.

Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO)

SCC is one of the largest integrated copper producers in the world. They produce copper, molybdenum, zinc, lead, coal and silver. All of our mining, smelting and refining facilities are located in Peru and Mexico. Southern Copper conducts exploration activities in Peru, Mexico and Chile.

Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX)

Has an interest in Peru through the Cerro Verde project.

Anglo American (LON:AAL)

Holds interests in Peru including the Quellaveco and Michiquillay projects.

Teck (NYSE:TCK)

A shareholder in Antamina.

Xstrata (LON:XTA)

Has an interest in Peru, through the Las Bamblas copper project. Also a shareholder in Antamina.

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP)

A shareholder in Antamina.

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Comments
  • Check out the junior Australian explorer who holds ground in the Copper rich Ilo region of Peru. Latin Resources Ltd (LRS:ASX) explore exclusively in Latin America and have a number of projects. They are currently working with First Quantum in Ilo to define a world class deposit. Put them on your radar.

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