February 16, 2021

Top 10 Copper Projects in the world

Over the years, copper has proved its significance, its global demand has tripled over the past half-century, and a good deal of new copper projects have been initiated.

This rising demand for copper - a metal key to the green energy transition shall keep on increasing with time as emerging economies led by China continue to ramp up industrial activity. Also, expected global economic recovery in 2021 with Chinese stimulus will support the copper demand in the future. At the same time, the copper supply is subject to risks of the lower copper grade and deeper deposits, market appetite and availability of projects. Thus, Canaccord Genuity mining analysts expect copper prices to average $3.50/lb ($7716/mt) in 2021, an approximate by 17% higher than previous forecast. 

USGS (United States Geological Survey) estimates that 700 million tonnes of copper have been produced till now and about 2.1 billion tonnes of copper is yet to be mined.

Source: Top 10 largest copper deposits currently under development, Mining Intelligence

A list of top 10 largest copper deposits currently under development was prepared by MINING.COM and sister company Mining Intelligence. The list was ranked according to copper resources in the mentioned categories (see source).

Kamoa–Kaula tops the list, which is an underground project being developed by an Ivanhoe–Zijin joint venture in the Kolwezi district of Lualaba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Kakula, a major high-grade mining area, is expected to begin its production in July 2021. A production rate of 18 million tonnes per annum paves the path for the project to become the world's second-largest copper mine that produces 700, 000 tonnes of copper annually.

The Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska comes at the second spot. However, because of the rejection of the project’s key water permit by US federal regulators in November, the status of the project is still uncertain.

The Udokan deposit in Russia's Zabaikalye region is at the third spot. Despite being discovered in early 1949, it remained idle because of technical hurdles until recent years. The commercial production for the project is expected in early 2022.

The fourth spot is for the Reko Diq project in Pakistan. This project has also been in a state of uncertainty for around a decade now, since the Government of Balochistan highlighted the mining lease application to be incomplete and unsatisfactory.

Next is the Tampkan deposit found on the Philippine island of Mindanao. A joint venture involving Glencore, Sagittarius Mines, is busy seeking local and international approval. An estimated average of 375, 000 tonnes a year over a 17-year mine life is expected to be mined if the mine gets approved.

The remaining list includes Rio Tinto-BHP’s Resolution project in Arizona, SolGold’s majority-owned Cascabel project in Ecuador, the Taca Taca deposit in Argentina held by First Quantum Minerals, the Frieda River project backed by the Chinese state and Pala Investments, and Glencore’s El Pachon in Argentina.

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