Copper output down, long-term price rally takes January breather

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Shawn Hempel/Adobe Stock

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) reported the global copper market posted an apparent deficit of 480,000 metric tons through the first 10 months of 2020.

Global copper market in deficit, output down

In addition to the global copper market deficit, the ICSG reported global copper mine production fell by 0.5% during the aforementioned period.

Concentrate production did not change compared with the previous year, while solvent extraction-electrowinning fell by 2%.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted copper mine production last year, particularly in April and May.

In Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, copper mine production fell by 14% during the first 10 months of 2019. Furthermore, from April-May, production fell 38% year over year.

However, Peru’s output recovered gradually, eventually coming in up 1.5% year over year in October.

Meanwhile, Chile, the top producer, saw output fall 3% from July-October, leaving output unchanged year over year for the 10-month period.

Mine production also fell in Australia, Mexico and the United States.

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Refined copper production up 1.5%

Meanwhile, refined copper production rose by 1.5% during the 10-month period.

Chile’s refined output rose by 5%. In Africa, refined output in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia rose by 5% and 25%, respectively.

Secondary refined copper production, meanwhile, took a hit last year.

“Globally, constrained scrap supply due to the COVID-19 lockdown and lower copper prices during the first half of the year have negatively impacted world secondary refined production,” the ICSG reported.

Copper price gains

Although copper prices have trended sideways over the last couple of weeks, prices rose to end 2020.

The average LME cash price rose 9.8% from November to December, according to the ICSG. The December average reached $7,755 per metric ton.

As MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns noted recently, China imported record volumes of copper last year, particularly during the summer months.

According to Reuters, however, China’s copper imports fell in December for a third consecutive month.

Chinese demand in large part powered the recovery of metals prices from the second quarter onward last year. As Burns noted, China’s stimulus-driven growth will likely continue through most of the first half of this year.

In the short term, however, activity in China will slow down amid the Lunar New Year celebration culminating Feb. 12.

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Comment (1)

  1. Howard Okumura says:

    Great commentary

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