Codelco is in first place, and it’s followed by Glencore and BHP. Read on to find out the rest of the top copper-producing companies.
Copper prices have made moves in 2021, rallying to record-high levels on expected demand growth amid a supply deficit.
While construction and electrical grids have long been big markets for copper, today the rise in demand for electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage applications are considered some of the biggest drivers of copper consumption.
CIBC analysts have forecast that copper prices will rise to US$5.25 per pound in Q4 2021 and into the first quarter of 2022. Prices are expected to average US$4.62 in 2021 and US$4.75 in 2022.
Given those factors, investors may want to keep an eye on the world’s top copper-producing companies. According to the latest stats from financial market data provider Refinitiv, the following top copper-producing companies produced the most copper in 2020.
Production: 1.76 million tonnes
The first top copper-producing company on the list is state-owned Codelco. As the world’s biggest copper producer, the company put out 1.76 million tonnes in 2020. Although there were concerns early in the year that operation curtailments due to the coronavirus pandemic would knock Codelco from its top spot, the Chilean company defied those expectations to meet its production guidance for the year.
In May 2021, Codelco announced the start of a US$1.4 billion project aimed at extending the life of its Salvador mine through 2068 by converting the underground mine to an open-pit operation. The project is a part of the company’s 10 year, US$40 billion plan to upgrade its many aging mines.
2. Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF)
Production: 1.26 million tonnes
Major diversified miner Glencore produced 1.26 million tonnes of copper in 2020. After suffering an 11 percent drop in copper production for the first half of the year versus the same period in 2019, the company cut its annual production guidance for the full year to 1.23 million tonnes.
Rather than COVID-19 disruptions, Glencore attributed its production decline to its Mutanda mine being placed on care and maintenance in 2019. Operations at Mutanda, the world’s biggest cobalt mine, are set to resume sometime in 2022. In addition to cobalt, the mine has five copper production lines.
3. BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)
Production: 1.21 million tonnes
In 2020, BHP produced 1.21 million tonnes of the red metal. The Australian mining giant managed to keep its copper production numbers high despite the year’s COVID-19 disruptions and strikes at Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.
Labor strife has continued for BHP into 2021 at the Escondida and Spence copper mines in Chile, although the company claims the current strikes have not impacted production.
4. Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)
Production: 1.08 million tonnes
Freeport-McMoRan recorded 1.08 million tonnes of copper production for 2020. Despite coronavirus-related production setbacks, strong copper prices helped to buoy profits for the company.
One of the company’s biggest copper assets is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, the 10th largest copper mine in the world. The company continues to make significant investments in Grasberg to increase both its copper and its gold production.
5. Grupo Mexico
Production: 975,898 tonnes
Grupo Mexico’s mining division is the largest copper producer in the country. 2020 marked a year of record copper production for the company despite the global coronavirus crisis.
On its website, Grupo Mexico says expansion work at its Buenavista del Cobre mine in Mexico and Toquepala mine in Peru will make the company the world’s third largest copper producer.
6. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF)
Production: 715,762 tonnes
Canada’s First Quantum Minerals produced more than 715,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company was able to increase its production guidance for the year despite temporary coronavirus shutdowns at its Cobre Panama mining operation.
In 2021, output is expected to be strong from Cobre Panama, as well as First Quantum’s other two key copper mines, Kansanshi and Sentinel in Zambia.
7. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO)
Production: 548,074 tonnes
Rio Tinto’s copper production in 2020 totaled 548,074 tonnes. The company is one of the largest diversified mining companies in the world behind BHP — and like BHP, Rio Tinto was also negatively impacted by strikes at Chile’s Escondida mine. Rio Tinto holds a 30 percent interest in the project.
8. KGHM Polska Miedz (FWB:KGHA.F)
Production: 543,672 tonnes
Poland’s KGHM Polska Miedz has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holds over 38 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2020, the company produced more than 543,000 tonnes of copper.
KGHM recently announced it’s cutting a few small assets from its portfolio, including the Carlotta copper mine in the US. In the first quarter of 2021, the company achieved its best operating and financial results in nearly a decade.
9. Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO,OTC Pink:ANFGF)
Production: 503,577.6 tonnes
Chilean copper miner Antofagasta operates four mines in Chile and produced more than 503,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company’s output was impacted by having to place its flagship Los Pelambres mine on care and maintenance, as well as by lower grades at its Antucoya operations.
Antofagasta recently pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025 by using renewable energy sources. By the end of 2020, the company reported that it was already powering 19 percent of its operations with renewable sources.
10. Norilsk Nickel (FWB:NNIC)
Production: 456,240 tonnes
Moving forward, by 2030 Norilsk Nickel is looking to increase its copper production by 20 percent from its current level. The company is upgrading its production capacity at the Ruchey copper-nickel mine, replacing its obsolete Kola copper refinery with a state-of-the-art plant.
This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.