BHP Billiton’s Answer to Low Iron Ore Prices? Copper Investments

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The world’s largest mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. said it’s shifting the focus of investments in new projects to copper from iron ore to meet demand from China, its biggest customer.

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“As we go forward, we’re likely to invest a lot more in copper than we are in iron ore,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie told Bloomberg News in Shanghai today. The company expects to increase copper sales to China more than iron ore and will invest in mines in Chile, Peru, South Australia and North America, he said.

Following two days of increases, the Japanese copper cash price dropped by 1.2% to end at JPY 810,000 ($6,788) per metric ton on Wednesday, December 10. The price of US copper producer grade 110 rose 0.8% to $3.65 per pound after a two-day drop. Following a two-day drop, the price of US copper producer grade 122 increased by 0.8% to $3.65 per pound. Following a 0.8% rise yesterday, the price of US copper producer grade 102 closed at $3.84 per pound.

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Chinese copper prices were up for the day. Chinese copper bar prices rose 1.0% to CNY 47,880 ($7,739) per metric ton. The cash price of Chinese copper rose 1.0% to CNY 48,080 ($7,771) per metric ton. Chinese copper wire finished the day up 0.9% to CNY 46,970 ($7,592) per metric ton. The price of Chinese bright copper scrap finished the day at CNY 40,700 ($6,578) per metric ton following a 0.5% increase.

On the LME, the primary copper cash price fell 1.0% to $6,400 per metric ton. The 3-month price of copper weakened by 0.8% on the LME, settling at $6,355 per metric ton.

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