Global mine production, as well as refined copper output, increased in January compared to the previous year on recovery in the mining sector and increasing demand in China, according to the latest International Copper Study Group (ICSG) data.
However, global copper usage during the month under review fell by 1.2pc annually as countries are still recovering from COVID-19 related lockdowns last year to reach pre-pandemic demand levels. Ex-China copper consumption was estimated to have declined by about 9pc and to a lower level of around 5pc in January. In China, however, ICSG noted that copper usage increased by 2pc in January.
Indonesia leads Cu mining recovery
In January, mine production of copper increased by 4pc to 1.75mn mt compared to 1.68mn mt in the same month of 2020, ICSG noted. Mining capacity also rose to 2.16mn mt from 2.08mn mt, though mine capacity utilization remained unchanged at 80.8pc during the period under review.
Mining in Chile and Peru, the two largest copper producers in the world, remained subdued in January, with output in Chile flat compared to the prior year, while Peru reported a 16pc decline. However, these declines were offset by improving production in Indonesia due to the increase in production at the Grasberg mine and new or expanded copper output from mines in other countries, ICSG reported.
Expansion improves Africa’s refined Cu output
Global refined copper production improved by 1.7pc in January to 2.09mn mt from 2.06mn mt in the same month last year, according to ICSG. Of the total refined copper output, 1.75mn mt came from refining primary copper while 340,000mt was produced after refining secondary copper sources like copper scrap.
Refined copper production surged in Africa, following a 15pc growth in this activity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in January on an annual basis and a 40pc increase in refined copper production in Zambia on recovery in smelter operations.
Primary copper refining also improved in Chile, growing by 8.5pc in January compared to the same month last year after smelters were upgraded to comply with the country’s new environmental regulations. However, a drop in secondary copper refining saw the country’s overall copper refining output decline by 7.8pc during the period under review.
Based on the usage in China, ICSG estimated that world copper balance in 2020 at a surplus of 28,000 tons. Adjusting for changes in the Chinese bond market, the group reported a world copper deficit of around 32,000 tons last year.