Copper prices have been sliding this year, with the average LME cash price in August of $5,707.98/mt down 3.9% from a July average of $5,939.85/mt.
Global copper mine production is also down.
Through the first half of 2019, copper mine production was down 1.4% compared with the first half of 2018, according to a report by the International Copper Study Group (ICSG).
Solvent production fell 1% during the period, while extraction-electrowinning production fell 3.5%.
The half-year decline was paced by declines in Chile and Indonesia.
Chilean production was down by 2.5% due to lower copper head grades, according to the ICSG. Meanwhile, Indonesian concentrate production plunged 55% as the country transitioned two major mines to new ore zones.
Production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia was about flat compared with 1H 2018 levels, while production in No. 2 producer Peru, Australia, China and Mongolia ticked up.
Meanwhile, refined copper production was estimated to have declined 1% in the first half of the year compared with 1H 2018. Production production fell 1.5%, while production from scrap increased 1%.
Chile’s refined output declined by 38% “due to power supply interruptions, smelter outages and the introduction on 1st January 2019 of a 5% custom duty on copper concentrate imports constraining smelter feed.” Meanwhile, the ongoing closure of Vedanta’s Tuticorin smelter — dating back to April 2018 — saw India’s production fall by 33%.
However, output increased in China, Iran, Poland, Brazil and Australia, according to the ICSG.
Apparent refined usage declined by 1% in 1H 2019. China saw its net refined copper imports decline by 16% during the period, but its usage increased 3% on the back of increased domestic output.
As MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns noted, China’s falling aluminum and copper imports can be attributed in large part to the ongoing trade war with the U.S.; on that front, the two countries are scheduled for principal-level talks in early October (on the heels of last week’s deputy-level talks).
According to the ICSG, copper stocks held at major metal exchanges as of the end of August were up 48% compared with stock levels at the end of December 2018.