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Brighter copper production prospects

World copper mine production is expected to register 5% growth both this year and next after three years of stagnation.

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) says Covid-19 related restrictions and workforce absenteeism continued to constrain mine output at the beginning of 2022. ‘However, world mine production this year is expected to benefit from additional output from new and expanded mines as well as an improvement in the general situation regarding the pandemic,’ according to the newly published ICSG market forecast for 2022 and 2023.

Following a four-year period where only two major copper mines were commissioned, the pipeline of copper mine projects is increasing with major projects in D.R Congo, Peru, Chile and Russia. ‘Most projects are concentrate producing mines which should result in sustained growth in world concentrate output in 2022 and 2023.’

After three years of constrained growth, world refined copper production is forecast to rise by about 4.3% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023. Primary and secondary (scrap) output are both expected to be higher in 2022 and 2023. Secondary output should benefit from an improvement in the availability of scrap and additions to secondary refinery capacity.

World apparent refined copper usage is expected to increase by about 1.9% in 2022 and 2.8% in 2023, with the 2022 figure revised down due to a weaker global economic outlook mainly because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the negative effect Covid-19 lockdowns in China.

World refined copper balance projections indicate a surplus of about 140 000 tonnes for 2022 and 350 000 tonnes for 2023.

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