10 Top Copper-producing Companies

Here's a look at the 10 top copper-producing companies of 2015, as outlined in this year's Thomson Reuters GFMS Copper Survey.

historical copper prices

Check out our 2016 look at the world’s top copper producing countries here. 

It’s certainly been tough for copper prices lately. The red metal lost roughly 26 percent in 2015, and while it looked like things were bouncing back at the start of this year, copper has started to dip back downward.

According to the latest survey from Thomson Reuters GFMS, a 150,000-tonne surplus expected in 2016, with slowing supply cuts and global demand growth sitting below the average of three percent seen over the past decade.

Still, the firm noted that the copper surplus is shrinking, down to less than half of last year’s 363,000 tonnes. Thomson Reuters stated that it sees the current low price environment as “sowing seeds for the next boom, ” with prices rising around 2018.

Here’s a look at the 10 top copper-producing companies of 2015, as outlined in this year’s Thomson Reuters GFMS Copper Survey.

1. Codelco

Production: 1.893 million tonnes

Codelco upped its copper production again last year, from 1.839 million tonnes to 1.893 million. The state-owned Chilean company is the world’s biggest copper producer.

Last year’s rise came despite a few setbacks, such as protests that temporarily shut down production at Codelco’s Ministro Hales mine.

That trend is set to increase in 2016 as well—as per Shanghai Metals Market, Codelco increased its copper output by 11 percent year-over-year to 437,000 tonnes for Q1.

2. Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)

Production: 1.547 million tonnes

Freeport-McMoRan recorded an increase in copper production for 2015, putting out 1.547 million tonnes of the red metal compared wth 1.47 the year previous. The company is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

One of the company’s assets is the Grasberg minerals district in Indonesia, which is one of the largest copper deposits on the globe. Grasberg exported less material in 2014 due to a concentrate export ban in Indonesia, and also had to temporarily halt production in 2015 due to worker protests.

Last December, Freeport announced additional copper production cuts, to bring approximately 350 million pounds of copper offline in total.

3. Glencore (LSE:GLEN)

Production: 1.259 million tonnes

A major diversified miner, Glencore saw a drop in copper output to 1.259 million tonnes of copper in 2015 from 1.296 million tonnes in 2014. Like Freeport, Glencore announced substantial copper production cuts last year, taking roughly 400,000 tonnes of copper cathode out of the market.

4. BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT)

Production: 1.178 million tonnes

BHP Billiton also saw a dip in production from 2014 to 2015, producing 1.178 million tonnes last year compared with 1.203 million in 2014. The Australia-based producer had plans to improve production in 2015, but saw problems earlier this year at its Olympic Dam operation in Australia, forcing it to cut its production forecast by 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes.

Still, the company has high hopes for copper, with the company’s asset manager for Olympic Dam telling Bloomberg, “The real spark, though, is the demand for renewables … Regardless of where the energy’s coming from, it needs copper.” BHP is planning to increase copper output at Olympic Dam by 15 percent by 2021.

5. Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO)

Production: 745,000 tonnes

Southern Copper saw a 9.08 percent gain in its copper production, putting out 745,000 tonnes in 2015 vs. 665,000 tonnes in 2014. The company, which is over 85-percent owned by Grupo Mexico, increased its copper sales volume by 12.3 percent on the back of this higher output. For 2016, Southern Copper is expecting to produce 903,300 tonnes of copper, a 21 percent increase.

The company believes it has the largest copper reserves in the industry. However, Southern Copper and Grupo Mexico got some bad press for environmental troubles at Buenavista mine in 2014 — a toxic leak at the mine contaminated the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers in Northern Mexico, turning waters orange.

6. KGHM Polska Miedz (WSE:KGH)

Production: 562,000 tonnes

Poland’s KGHM has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holds over 37.5 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2015, the company produced 563,000 tonnes of copper, jumping back up after a drop to 506,000 tonnes in 2014.

Despite this decrease, the company is certain its production will continue to grow, increasing its ranking as one of the world’s top copper-producing companies. Indeed, KGHM bumped Rio Tinto out of the number 6 spot on the list of top copper producers this year. In January of 2015, the company released an announcement highlighting its commitment to shifting its strategy.

7. Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO)

Production: 555,000 tonnes

Rio Tinto produced 555,000 tonnes of copper in 2014, a steep drop from the 636,000 tonnes it produced in 2014. One of the largest diversified mining companies in the world behind BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto got some good news regarding its Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia in May 2015: after two years of setbacks due to disagreements over the project with the Mongolian government, the two parties came to an agreement to move it forward. This month, the miner gave approval for the $5.3 billion expansion project.

8. Anglo American (LSE:AAL)

Production: 472,000 tonnes 

Like many companies on this list, Anglo American put out less copper in 2015 than it did in 2014 — 472,000 tonnes compared with the previous year’s 504,000 tonnes.

The company sold two of its copper mines in Chile in 2015 for $330 million.

9. Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO)

Production: 400,000 tonnes

Chilean copper mining company Antofagasta produced 400,000 tonnes of copper in 2015, a decrease from 2014′s total of 455,000 tonnes. Last July, Antofagasta announced that it would acquire a 50 percent interest in Barrick Gold’s Zaldivar copper mine in Chile for roughly $1 billion.

10. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM)

Production: 366,000 tonnes (380,000)

Rounding out the list of 2015′s 10 top producers is First Quantum Minerals. The company saw a bit of a dip in production from 2014 to 2015, producing 380,000 tonnes in 2014 and 366,000 last year.

In 2014, First Quantum experienced several setbacks in production throughout the year, including the suspension of operations at its Guelb Moghrein copper-gold mine in Mauritania due to strike action taken by some unionized employees in September. However, that year company also acquired Lumina Copper and that company’s Taca Taca project in Argentina.

For 2016, First Quantum looks to be on track to increase production once again. It reported its highest quarterly production and sales for Q1. “It was a strong start to the year for every aspect of the Company. The momentum generated in 2015 with the excellent performance of the Kansanshi copper smelter and successful cost savings and expenditure programs, continued into 2016,” said First Quantum chairman and CEO Phillip Pascall in a statement.

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