Does This News Show A New Top Copper Nation Rising?

Tough week for the copper mining sector in Chile. With S&P downgrading the country’s sovereign debt for the first time since the 1990s, because of lower copper prices. And workers at the Zaldivar mine voting for yet another strike in the Chilean sector.

And news elsewhere suggests Chile may have even more to worry about when it comes to copper. With one of the country’s competitors coming on fast — perhaps even moving to challenge for world’s top spot in copper output.

That’s Peru. Where authorities said yesterday they see copper production taking a quantum leap over the next few years.

Those numbers were released by Peru’s Center for Competitiveness and Development of San Martín de Porres University, and the Institute of Mining Engineers of Peru. With these groups estimating that a full 18 new copper projects are set to start production across Peru by 2021.

Here’s the breakdown:

2018 – Pukaqaqa and Magistral (Minera Milpo), and the enlargement of Toquepala (Southern Copper)

2019 – Quellaveco (Anglo American), Huánuco (Volcan), and the enlargement of Toromocho (Chinalco)

2020 – Calatos and Cotabambas

2021 – Quechua, Galeno, Río Blanco, La Granja, Los Chancas, Zafranal and Michiquillay

Based on these developments, the study authors are projecting a huge jump in Peru’s overall copper production. Saying they expect national output to hit 4.8 million tonnes per year by 2021 — more than double the 2.3 million tonnes Peru put out last year.

That kind of growth would cement Peru as the world’s fastest-growing copper mining nation. With output here already having increased 77% since 2012. 

In fact, the growth projected above might allow Peru to challenge Chile for top spot in the copper world. With the Peruvian target of 4.8 million tonnes of yearly production not far below Chile’s 2016 output of 5.5 million tonnes — which itself was down 5% from Chile’s 2015 level, as the industry struggles to keep up with cost escalation and labor difficulties.

We’ll see if Peru can actually meet its aggressive schedule. Watch for new mine openings next year, and for continuing numbers on production and exports — to see who will come out on top during the coming years. 

Here’s to the path forward,

Dave Forest

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