Copper Production by Country

Find out which countries produced the most copper in 2016.

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The copper price has surged in recent months, supported by disruptions at top-producing mines and growing demand from China. 

Many expect the red metal’s good fortune to continue in 2017. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is calling for copper to move into deficit in the coming months, driving the next leg higher in prices, and other firms have also suggested that is a possibility.

Despite those calls for a deficit, copper supply was fairly even between 2015 and 2016. According to the most recent report from the US Geological Survey (USGS), global copper production came to 19.4 million metric tons (MT) in 2016, up only slightly from the 19.1 million MT produced the previous year. 

Here’s a look at the top copper-producing countries of 2016, as reported by the USGS. Chile took the top spot again by a long shot, although Peru saw a significant increase in output.

1. Chile

Mine production: 5.5 million MT

Though it was hit with earthquakes, heavy rains and strikes in 2016, Chile’s copper production held up well, dropping by only about 160,000 MT year-on-year.

That said, further declines may be in store for the country. President Michelle Bachelet recently said her administration is set to achieve what no other government has managed to do for half a century: break the nation’s copper addiction and diversify the economy.

2. Peru

Mine production: 2.3 million MT

Last year, Peru beat China to become the world’s second-largest copper producer. It saw a drastic increase in copper production, with output jumping from 1.7 million MT in 2015 to 2.3 million MT in 2016.

Moving forward, it’s possible Peru’s copper production will increase further. Investors reportedly plan to allocate US$28.27 billion to the country’s copper mines, the Energy and Mines Ministry reported recently. Main copper operations in Peru include Anglo American’s (LSE:AAL) Quellaveco mine and Southern Copper’s (NYSE:SCCO) Tia Maria mine.

3. China

Mine production: 1.74 million MT

China, the world’s largest copper consumer, fell from second place to become the world’s third-largest producer of the red metal in 2016.

Despite its lower ranking, China’s copper output increased slightly relative to 2015, coming in at 1.74 million MT. The rise has been attributed to the commissioning of new projects, including the 45,000-MT-per-day Zijinshan gold-copper mine owned by Zijin Mining Group (SHA:601899) in Fujian province, and other projects in Anhui and Gansu provinces.

4. United States

Mine production: 1.41 million MT

US mined copper production increased by about 2 percent in 2016. According to the USGS, that bump was largely due to production in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Michigan; those states account for 99 percent of the country’s mine production. Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO) Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah may see labor-related issues this year as contracts are due to expire in March.

5. Australia

Mine production: 970,000 MT

Australia’s copper production remained fairly flat in 2016. Output dropped just 10,000 MT from 2015, in part because BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT) achieved lower copper production at its Olympic Dam mine.

6. Congo (Kinshasa)

Mine production: 910,000 MT

Copper production in the Congo decreased from 1.02 million MT in 2015 to 910,000 MT in 2016. The fall was caused by Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) partial suspension of production at its Katanga operation. Most recently, the Congo’s industry-led chamber of mines said it expects the country to mine about 1.5 million MT of the metal in 2018, supported by the reopening of Katanga in the second half of the year.

7. Zambia

Mine production: 740,000 MT

Zambia jumped from ninth to seventh place on this list last year, recording an increase in copper production of roughly 28,000 MT relative to 2015. Most recently, Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,LSE:FQM) announced plans to modernize and invest over $1 billion in a new smelter for its Kansanshi copper mine in the country.

8. Canada

Mine production: 720,000 MT

Canadian copper production also increased in 2016, coming in at 720,000 MT relative to 697,000 MT the previous year. While the strong US dollar may be putting pressure on copper prices, the exchange rate can be a boon for Canadian producers that record costs in Canadian dollars, but sell in US dollars.

9. Russia

Mine production: 710,000 MT

Russian copper production dropped in 2016, coming in at 710,000 MT compared to 732,000 MT in 2015. Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN) accounts for a large portion of that output — the company reported consolidated copper production of 360,000 MT for 2016, down 2 percent year-on-year.

10. Mexico

Mine production: 620,000 MT

Mexico rounds out the list of the world’s 10 top copper-producing countries for 2016. It produced 620,000 MT that year, up from 594,000 MT in 2015. Despite being lowest on the list, Mexico is home to Grupo Mexico (OTCMKTS:GMBXF), which owns 85 percent of Southern Copper, one of the largest copper-producing companies in the world.

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 each year. Please scroll to the top for the most recent information.

Copper prices have been on a downtrend for some time, losing roughly 26 percent in 2015. The red metal has gained back some ground throughout 2016, but is still sitting well below the $3-per-pound mark, largely due to a decrease in demand growth from top consumer China.

However, world copper supply hasn’t dropped as much as one might expect. According to the most recent report from the US Geological Survey (USGS), global copper production inched up 200,000 tonnes for a total of 18.7 million tonnes in 2015, despite reports of production cuts from major miners.

Here’s a look at the top copper-producing countries of 2015, as reported by the USGS. Chile took the top spot again by a long shot, although Peru saw a significant increase in its output.

1. Chile

Mine production: 5.7 million MT

Despite being hit with earthquakes, heavy rains and strikes in 2015, Chile’s copper production held up well, dropping by only about 50 tonnes relative to 2014. Still, mine production came in well below initial estimates for the year — Chile was initially expected to produce about 6 million tonnes in 2015.

2. China

Mine production: 1.75 million MT

China, the world’s largest copper consumer, is also the world’s second-largest producer of the red metal, coming in with only a slight decrease in production relative to 2014. Late in 2015, nine of the country’s largest copper smelters announced that they would cut production by more than 200,000 tonnes this year in an effort to support copper prices.

3. Peru

Mine production: 1.6 million MT

Peru came short of its goal of overtaking China to become the world’s second-largest copper producer. That said, it did see a drastic increase in production, jumping from 1.38 million tonnes in 2014 to 1.6 million tonnes in 2015.

With a number of major projects set to come online in 2016, Peru’s copper production is expected to increase by 66 percent this year, according to Peru Reports.

4. United States

Mine production: 1.25 million MT

US mined copper production was down by about 8 percent in 2015. According to the USGS, that was largely due to decreases in production in Utah and Arizona. Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO) Bingham Canyon mine in Utah saw production fall by roughly 100,000 tonnes due to lower mill throughput.

5. Congo (Kinshasa)

Mine production: 990,000 MT

Copper production in the Congo decreased from 1.03 million tonnes in 2014 to 990,000 tonnes in 2015. According to Reuters, that’s the first time in six years that the country has seen a drop in copper production.

Glencore (LSE:GLEN) partially suspended production at its Katanga mining operations in Congo in September.

6. Australia

Mine production: 960,000 MT

Coming in at number seven on the list, Australia’s copper production remained fairly flat in 2015. Its copper output dropped just 10,000 tonnes from 2014, even with troubles at BHP Billiton’s (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT) massive Olympic Dam operations early on in the year.

7. Russia

Mine production: 740,000 MT

Russian copper production was relatively unchanged for 2015, coming in at 740,000 tonnes compared to 742,000 tonnes in 2014. Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN) accounts for a large portion of that output — the company reported consolidated copper production of 369,000 tonnes for 2015.

8. Canada

Mine production: 695,000 MT

Similarly, Canadian copper production remained flat in 2015, sitting around 695,000 tonnes relative to 696,000 tonnes for the year previous. While the strong US dollar may be putting pressure on copper prices, the exchange rate can be a boon for Canadian producers who record costs in Canadian dollars, but sell in US dollars.

9. Zambia

Mine production: 600,000 MT

Zambia dropped from eighth to ninth on the list of top copper producers last year, seeing a decline in copper production of roughly 92,000 tonnes relative to 2014. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX,NYSE:ABX) halted operations at its Lumwana mine in Zambia due to higher royalties in the country, but by April the country had reversed its decision on the royalty hike.

10. Mexico

Mine production: 550,000 MT

Mexico rounds out the list of the world’s 10 top copper-producing countries for 2015 with 550,000 tonnes of production, an increase from 515,000 tonnes in 2014. Despite being lowest on the list, Mexico is also home to Grupo Mexico (OTCMKTS:GMBXF), which owns 85 percent of Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO), one of the largest copper-producing companies in the world.

This article was originally published on May 17, 2016.

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

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