Global copper mine production down 0.3% through first 10 months of 2019

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Bombardho/Adobe Stock

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) reported global copper mine production fell 0.3% through the first 10 months of 2019.

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According to the ICSG, concentrate production during the period was flat, while solvent extraction-electrowinning fell 1%.

Production in Chile declined 0.2%, according to the ICSG, as a result of lower copper head grades and production disruptions earlier in the year.

Widespread protests have shaken the country since mid-October, first as a reaction to a since-scrapped metro fare hike. The protests have since grown in scope to reflect a more general anti-government sentiment.

In addition, the Chilean government will not give funds to state miner Codelco, which the miner needs to upgrade its mines as ore grades decline. As reported by Bloomberg earlier this month, Codelco is looking for $20 billion in funds to upgrade its mines. It remains to be seen if Codelco will be able to secure the funds it needs — if not, Chile’s production would likely continue to decline as ore grades deteriorate. As the world’s No. 1 copper producer, Chile’s output is critical to global supply; as such, a decline in output there would further increase the already existing deficit.

Elsewhere, Indonesia’s copper output fell 47%. The combined output of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia fell by 3% (after rising 13% in 2018). Australia, China, Mexico, Peru and the U.S. saw production increases, while Panama began copper mining operations in March 2019. As such, Panama was the largest contributor to copper mining growth over the first 10 months of last year, the ICSG reported.

Refined production down 0.3%

Refined production during the 10-month period in 2019 slipped 0.3%, with primary production falling 0.7% and secondary production from scrap increasing 1.7%.

In Chile, refined production fell 10%, with electrolytic refined output dropping 27%.

Refined output in Zambia fell 37% as a result of “power supply interruptions, smelter outages and temporary shutdowns and the introduction on 1st January 2019 of a 5% custom duty on copper concentrate imports that constrained smelter feed.”

Apparent refined usage up 0.2%

Global apparent refined usage increased slightly, moving up 0.2%.

China, the world’s top copper consumer, saw its refined copper imports fall 11%. However, China’s apparent usage still increased by 2.2% as a result of higher domestic output.

Global copper market posts deficit of 439K tons

Meanwhile, the copper market was in deficit by an estimated 439,000 tons during the first 10 months of the year.

When adjusted for changes in Chinese bonded stocks, the deficit increases to 615,000 tons, according to ICSG calculations.

Average copper prices on the rise

In terms of prices, the average LME cash copper price jumped 3.5% in December from November, hitting an average of $6,062.43 per ton last month.

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However, the average price through the first 10 months of the year, $5,999.73 per ton, was down 8% from the 2018 annual average.

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