Copper and COVID-19: Who’s Reacting and How?

Base Metals Investing

Read all of INN’s copper-focused COVID-19 coverage, plus learn how both major and junior copper companies are responding.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to hit markets and commodity prices on a daily basis.

Uncertainty over how it may impact copper demand and supply in 2020 increases every day, as more and more companies release news related to the spread of the virus.

To help investors track what’s happening in the market, we’ve gathered our copper-focused COVID-19 coverage below and listed responses from both major and junior copper companies. Read on to learn what they’ve done or said so far, and scroll down to see more COVID-19 coverage from the Investing News Network (INN).

All news and data were current as of March 24, 2020. This article will be updated as new information becomes available — if you know of a copper company that has issued a response to COVID-19 but is not listed, please email 

Copper and COVID-19: INN coverage

Copper and COVID-19: Major companies

Codelco — Chilean copper miner Codelco said on March 18 that it is cutting back production to comply with a national state of emergency announced by the government. The miner also confirmed to Reuters that sales and shipments of copper had not yet been impacted by the spread of coronavirus.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, had an output of 1.7 million tonnes of copper in 2019, the lowest level since 2008 due to falling ore grades at the largest deposits, water scarcity and operational issues. The company operates four mines and seven smelters, all in Chile.

Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) — Following a national quarantine imposed by the Peruvian government, Freeport temporarily suspended its Cerro Verde copper-molybdenum mining complex in the South American country on March 17. Last year, Cerro Verde produced 1.0 billion pounds of copper and 29 million pounds of molybdenum.

The company also suspended its dividend and it has undertaken an aggressive review of operating plans at each of its global copper and molybdenum operations to target reductions in all elements of costs and capital spending.

“Revised operating plans may result in temporary reductions in copper and molybdenum production at operations in the Americas that are challenged by low commodity prices,” the company said on March 23.

Glencore (LSE:GLEN) — To date, there have been no material disruptions at Glencore’s operating assets or within its supply chain, the company said on March 20. Glencore continues to closely monitor and respond to events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and has introduced a number of additional precautionary measures across our offices and industrial assets.

BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT) — Operations at BHP sites continue with additional monitoring and procedures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among its workforce, the company said in a statement on March 19.

“As things currently stand, there have been no material impacts on our operations or supply chain with our workforce able to access our mines and platforms safely and operate effectively,” it said.

BHP operates the world’s largest copper mine, Escondida, in Chile. In an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, the global miner said on March 22 that it will exclude contractors from its Chile copper mines for 15 days.

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) — Rio Tinto said it was slowing down the expansion of its giant Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia as a result of restrictions imposed in the nation to respond to the pandemic. The expansion project is aiming to increase output to more than 500,000 ounces a year.

KGHM (WSE:KGH) — Another top copper producer that hasn’t seen any impact from the coronavirus on its output and sales at the moment is Polish state-run firm KGHM. However, it would consider asking the state for support if needed, the company said on March 18.

Anglo American (LSE:AAL,OTCQX:AAUKF) — After Peru announced a 15-day national quarantine, global miner Anglo American said it would slow down the construction work of the US$5-billion Quellaveco copper project in the South American country. The project is expected to begin production in 2022, with production expected to reach 300,000 tonnes during the first 10 years.

On March 19, the company said it would reduce operations at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile to the minimum necessary to ensure “operational continuity” due to the spread of the coronavirus in the South American nation. Impact on output is expected to be minimal as the company plans to continue processing stockpiled copper.

First Quantum (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF) — First Quantum said on March 24 that its output and sales remain stable in the current environment and maintains its production guidance for the year. Cobre Panama continues to ramp-up and expectations for 2020 copper production remain unchanged at 285,000 to 310,000 tonnes.

“However, as a result of the implementation of the health protocols at the operation, the pace of ramp-up may be slightly slower than originally planned and will impact first half production,” the company said in a statement, adding that several contractors who had been confirmed as having contracted the COVID-19 virus are being cared for in the public health system.

“At this stage, it is expected that the annual production expectation can still be met with better than planned second half production levels.”

Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO,OTC Pink:ANFGF) — Chile’s Antofagasta said on March 20 that it has decided to reduce the number of employees and contractors working at the Los Pelambres expansion project and the company’s operations for at least 15 days to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Antofagasta produced 770,000 metric tons of copper in 2019, compared with 725,300 metric tons in 2018, due to higher production at its Los Pelambres, Centinela and Zaldivar mines.

MMG (ASX:MMG,HKEX:1208) — On March 19, MMG said that, in response to the measures declared by the government of Peru to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, Las Bambas has temporarily reduced operations and has begun the process to reduce employees and contractor levels at site. Las Bambas output in 2019 was expected at 350,000 to 370,000 tonnes.

Vale (NYSE:VALE) — Brazilian miner Vale will place its Voisey’s Bay copper mine into care and maintenance for four weeks to protect nearby indigenous communities from the virus outbreak. Copper concentrate from the mine was around 25,000 tonnes last year.

China Molybdenum (OTC Pink:CMCLF,HKEX:3993) — The operator of the giant Tenke Fungurume mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on March 23 that it would place its copper-cobalt mine in isolation starting noon March 24, according to Reuters.

Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A) — Canada’s Teck Resources has halted the expansion of its US$4.7 billion Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper project in Chile for two weeks to limit transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Teck owns 60 percent of the expansion project, with the rest held by Sumitomo Metal Mining and the Chilean government. Production is expected to start in late 2021 and rise to 316,000 tonnes at full capacity.

Hudbay Minerals (NYSE:HBM) —  As a result of the government measures imposed by Peru mentioned earlier, Hudbay Minerals has temporarily shut its massive Constancia copper mine in the country as of March 20. The company also expects the government processes related to Consulta Previa and permitting applications to be deferred during this state of emergency.

Taseko (TSX:TKO,NYSEAmerican:TGB)  — The company’s Gibraltar mine has operated at planned rates in the first quarter and copper production is expected to be approximately 32 million pounds, the company said on March 23.

“At this time there have been no interruptions to our logistics and supply chains, and sales are expected to be in line with production for the quarter,” the company added.

Copper and COVID-19: Junior companies

Copper Mountain Mining (TSX:CMMC,ASX:C6C) — In a March 10 release, the company said that a revised mine plan and project schedule for the Copper Mountain mine in BC is necessary given the current market conditions.

Copper Mountain Mining has decided to cut its daily mining rate by 25 percent from the current 200,000 metric tons per day, down to between 120,000 and 160,000 metric tons per day for the remainder of the year.

Orion Minerals  (ASX:ORN) — ASX-listed Orion Minerals has re-evaluated the process and timing of its project finance activities in relation to the development of the Prieska copper-zinc project in South Africa, postponing debt financing activities until market conditions stabilize.

Auryn Resources (TSX:AUG,NYSEAmerican:AUG) — Auryn has offered all employees at its corporate offices in Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada, the option to work from home, it said in a March 18 press release. In Peru, where the company has interests in the Sombrero copper project, Auryn recalled all personnel from the field prior to the Peruvian government mandating a temporary two-week border lockdown.

Chakana Copper (TSXV:PERU,OTCQB:CHKKF) — As a result of the Peru lockdown measures, the company has temporarily suspended field activities at its Soledad copper-gold-silver project in the country on March 19. Employees in Peru, Canada and the US will continue working from home in preparation for Chakana Copper’s next drill program.

Mirasol Resources (TSXV:MRZ) — Prospect generator Mirasol Resources has temporarily suspended field activities at its projects in Chile and Argentina. The company said on March 19 that is also reviewing cost savings measures to match its reduced level of activities.

Sprott Resource (TSX:SRHI) — The company has halted copper mining operations at Minera Tres Valles located in Salamanca, Chile, on March 23 after the government declared a state of catastrophe over the COVID-19 outbreak that restricts freedom of movement within the country.

Evrim (TSXV:EVM) — For the safety of its community and its employees, both its Vancouver and Hermosillo offices have transitioned to working remotely since mid-March, President and CEO Paddy Nicol said on March 23.

Forum Energy (TSXV:FMC) — Forum Energy Metals reported on March 23 that Rio Tinto Exploration Canada has temporarily postponed operations at the Janice Lake copper property in northern Saskatchewan due to concerns related to COVID-19.

More COVID-19 coverage from INN

Click the links below for more of INN’s commodity-specific coverage of COVID-19:

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

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