Base Metals

With copper supplies already in a deficit, and the near-term supplies are dwindling due to a reliance on aging mines, and rising copper prices, there is extra incentive to search for new copper reserves.

By Leia Michele Toovey- Exclusive to Copper Investing News

With copper supplies already in a deficit, and the near-term supplies dwindling due to a reliance on aging mines, and rising copper prices, there is extra incentive to search for new copper reserves. As a result, copper exploration is heating up around the world with juniors and miners searching for copper deposits on almost every continent in the world. Here is a quick snap-shot of a few countries where exploration activity is increasing.

Canada (British Columbia)

Canada is in the top-five of the world’s largest copper producers, and the majority of the country’s copper is mined from British Columbia. While British Columbia is not a newcomer to the copper mining and exploration scene, the province has received a renewed interest in the past few years. British Columbia is home to the famous Highland Valley Copper Mine, one of the largest open pit mines in the world. The Highland Valley Copper Mine, which has changed owners a few times, first opened in 1962.  The mine is currently scheduled to be operational until at least 2025, and may be extended an additional 10-15 years.  Recently, explorers have been scouring British Columbia, looking for new copper deposits and potential extensions of the same geology that lead to the Highland Valley Copper Mine. There are dozens of miners and explorers currently operating in British Columbia. A sample of companies involved include: Fjordland Exploration (TSXV: FEX), Taseko (TSX:TKO), Copper Mountain Mining Corp (TSX:CUM), Teck Resources Ltd. (NYSE:TCK), Serengeti Resources (TSXV:SIR), Cascadero Copper Corp (TSXV:CCD),  Lumina Copper (TSXV:LLC), Yellowhead Mining (TSXV:YMI), and Excalibur Resources (PINK:EXCFF)

Zambia

Zambia’s copper resources gained extra attention this year over the “bidding war” for Equinox Minerals, with analysts attributing the majority of interest in Equinox to its Zambian based Lumwana copper mine. When Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) emerged from the bidding war as the winner, the company executives were quick to point out that they were interested in Equinox for its copper assets, and were not attempting to becoming a diversified miner. Zambia will produce an estimated 750,000 tonnes of copper in 2011, and is targeting an annual production of 1 million tonnes by 2015 and 1.5 million tonnes by 2020, according to the mines Minster Maxwell Mwale. Zambia’s copper industry has undergone a boom over the past 10 years, since the privatization of state-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Ltd. According to Mwale, there has been a “flood of investment into Zambia after privatization,” adding that more than $400 million has been spent on exploration in the past 10 years.

Exploration in the country continues to gain steam. Currently, there are many juniors and major miners looking for copper reserves in the country. Canadian miner First Quantum (TSX:FM) intends to invest $1 billion in a new mine called Trident on the nation’s northern copper belt. Swiss-based commodities company Glencore International Plc. (LON:GLEN) will spend $512 million to expand its Mopani mine. BHP Billiton Ltd., the largest mining company in the world, also has an interest in Zambia.  “We are currently actively seeking more titles in the country,” Ian Maxwell, president of BHP Billiton minerals exploration, said at a recent mining conference in Zambia. He added that BHP was “on a mission” to find giant projects worthy of billion-dollar investment.

Peru

In this piece I will focus on Peru, home of the Antamina copper-zinc mine, one of the ten largest mines in the world in terms of operating volume, however, many countries in South America deserves mentioning. Chile, the world’s largest copper producing country does receive most of the attention; however, other South American countries including Peru, Argentina and Brazil are gaining the interest of copper exploration companies.  In terms of Peru’s Antamina mine, as of January 2010, according to Minera Antamina’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 tonnes of minable reserves with 1.06 percent copper, 0.67 percent zinc, 11.7g / t gold and 0.026 percent molybdenum. There are many miners/explorers now at work in the area, including: Candente Copper Corp (TSX:DNT), Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX), Anglo American (LON:AAL), Teck Resources (NYSE:TCK), Xstrata (LON:XTA), BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) and Sunset Cove Mining Inc. (TSXV:SSM).

 

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