The world copper mine capacity will likely experience growth by 2021. The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) expects the capacity to grow at an average rate of 2.2% per year in the next 2 years.
In its biannual ‘Directory of Copper Mines and Plants’, ICSG notes that the average is derived from the lower growth of about 0.5% seen in 2018/19. This is in comparison to 4% growth expected in 2020/21 when more projects and expansions come on stream.
The report goes on to elaborate that concentrates represent around 85% of the total growth. Furthermore, the ICSG anticipates 31% of world copper mine capacity growth to 2021 to come from ramp-up and expansions of existing operating mines. 56% of the same will come from mines that are currently under development and 13% from projects that are currently under feasibility study.
The ICSG further says there is increased interest in seabed copper exploration with projects being evaluated, the first of which is expected to start producing copper before the end of the decade. The continued increase in copper capacity development is linked to Chinese overseas investments, mainly in Africa and South America.
Meanwhile, China is continuing to expand its copper smelting capacity but at a slower pace than before. Chinese capacity is expected to increase by a further 3% by 2021, accounting for 68% of expected world smelting capacity growth over the period from 2018 to 2021.
The ICSG says yearly copper refinery capacity should grow at an average rate of around 3% a year up to 2021. The agency reports that growth in electrolytic refinery capacity, generally tied to the growth of smelter capacity, is projected to average 3.2% a year.