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May 14, 2018

Chile, Peru, Zambia raise copper ore output target

SHANGHAI, May 11 (SMM) – Major copper ore producing countries including Chile, Peru and Zambia have raised their output forecast by 700,000 mt this year following higher production registered in the first quarter.

In 2017, the total output of these three countries accounted for 44.3% of global copper ore production.

SMM expects global copper ore output growth to reach 3.3% this year, taking into consideration the expansion of new copper mines and potential industrial actions.

Key things to watch out for in the near term include the commissioning pace of new smelting capacities as well as copper concentrate treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs).

Chile produced 1.42 million mt of copper concentrate in the in the first quarter of this year, up 18.9% from the same period last year, according to Chilean copper commission Cochilco. In March, Chile's copper concentrate output hit 487,900 mt, up 30.8% from a year ago.

The surge was boosted by a low basis for comparison due to the strike at BHP's Escondida copper mine last year, Cochilco said. Escondida is currently the world's largest copper mine. It tripled its production in the first quarter this year to 322,700 mt, Cochilco's data showed.

The country's copper concentrate production is expected to reach 5.76 million mt in 2018, up 4.3% year on year, according to Cochilco.

Cochilco also expects the copper concentrate output to grow further to 5.94 million mt in 2019, given the output rise at Antofagasta's Antocuya, KGHM's Sierra Gorda and Lumina Copper's Caserones.

There are still ongoing labour negotiations at many copper mines in Chile and Peru. Cochilco believed they could be resolved properly within this year.

Following Chile, Peru is the second largest copper ore producer in the world. Its copper concentrate output increased from 564,400 mt in the first quarter of 2017 to 567,500 mt the same period this year, data from the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) showed.

The country's copper concentrate registered at 2.45 million mt in 2017, and is expected to surge to 2.8 million mt in 2018, as Southern Peru Copper and other companies decided to raise output amid higher copper prices. The country plans to increase copper concentrate production to 3 million mt per year by 2021.

Zambia will produce more than 1 million mt of copper concentrate in 2018, BMI Research said. The country's output growth rate will speed up in the following months due to rising copper prices and improved domestic electricity supply.

The country’s Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development raised the target for this year from 755,000 mt in 2017.

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