ICSG: World Copper Mine Production in January Holds Flat

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The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) recently released its copper production report for January 2019, showing that global copper mine production for the month was flat on a year-over-year basis.

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According to the ICSG, production gains in some countries were offset by declines from major producers Indonesia and Chile. Chile’s production declined 4% year over year “mainly due to lower copper head grades.”

Meanwhile, Indonesian copper concentrate production fell 45% “as a consequence of the transition of the country’s major two mines to different ore zones leading to temporary reduced output levels.”

On the other side of the ledger, production in the No. 2 producer Peru, Australia, China and Mongolia increased. Restarts of temporarily closed capacity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia saw to production increases in those countries to start the year.

World refined production increased by an estimated 3%, with primary production (i.e., electrolytic and electrowinning) increasing approximately 3.1% and secondary production (i.e., scrap) increasing by 1.9%. Growth in China paced the global growth in this department, while Australia and Brazil also contributed to the uptick.

In Chile, however, refined production was also down, falling 14% year over year on account of temporary smelter shutdowns related to compliance with new environmental regulations.

Indian copper production continues to be affected by the ongoing shutdown of Vedanta’s Tuticorin smelter. The smelter shut down in May 2018 on the heels of protests by locals regarding the environmental impact of the plant. Police fired on the protestors, resulting in 13 deaths. The Economic Times earlier this month reported that the Indian Supreme Court rejected Vedanta’s plea for an early hearing regarding the smelter in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

According to the ICSG’s estimates, refined copper output increased in Africa by 7%, in Asia by 6%, in Europe by 2% and in Oceania by (25%), but dropped by 7.5% in the Americas.

As for the price of copper, the metal saw an increase of 2.8% from February to March, with an average LME price of $6,451.02/mt in March and $6,278.20/mt in February.

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However, the average LME price of $6,214.92/mt through the first quarter of 2019 marked a 4.7% dip below the full-year 2018 average.

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