In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 15 copper producing countries in the world. If you’re not keen on diving into an in-depth analysis of the copper industry, we’ve got you covered with a more casual and informative approach. So, let’s get started!
Copper holds a pivotal role as one of the world’s most commonly utilized and essential metals. According to insights from Data Bridge Market Research, the global copper market exhibited a substantial size of approximately $304.79 billion in 2021. Projections indicate that by 2029, it’s poised to grow even further, reaching an estimated $453.756 billion, fueled by a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.1%.
When it comes to copper consumption, China takes the lead on the global stage. In 2021, China’s appetite for refined copper was immense, accounting for a whopping 52% of the world’s total copper consumption. This underlines China’s prominent position in the copper market, highlighting its substantial influence and role in shaping the industry’s landscape.
Just like many other industries, the copper sector had its fair share of ups and downs during the pandemic. In 2020, copper mining faced a notable setback, experiencing a 2.9% decline compared to the previous year. This drop was primarily attributed to labor shortages, supply bottlenecks, and temporary mine closures that disrupted production.
However, the copper market made a remarkable comeback in 2021. Fueled by a combination of robust demand and ongoing supply challenges, copper prices surged, surpassing the significant milestone of $10,000 per metric tonne in May 2021. The metal reached its zenith towards the end of March 2022, hitting an impressive $10,230.89. However, the excitement was short-lived as prices subsequently took a substantial dip, landing at $7,651 by the close of October 2022. This decline was largely influenced by a drop in demand from China, beginning in April 2022.
In 2021, a staggering $88.6 billion worth of copper found its way across international borders, marking a remarkable 52.1% increase year-on-year. Out of this massive export total, Chile emerged as the top player, shipping out $26.7 billion worth of copper ore. This impressive figure accounted for nearly 30% of the world’s total copper exports, firmly establishing Chile as a dominant force in the global copper trade.
Copper has long been a favorite in the electronics world, thanks to its remarkable qualities like flexibility and excellent conductivity. But here’s the exciting part: the demand for copper is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Why? Well, as the world gears up for a cleaner, greener future with renewable energy sources and the shift towards electric vehicles, copper’s role is becoming even more crucial.
In fact, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), we’re looking at the possibility of a massive surge in global copper demand. How massive, you ask? Well, it could potentially double by the year 2040. That’s a staggering leap and a clear indicator of just how vital copper is becoming in shaping our future, especially in the realms of clean energy and transportation.
Top copper producers
When it comes to copper production, the top spot in 2021 was claimed by Codelco, a government-owned company hailing from Chile. They were the heavyweight champions, churning out a whopping 1.78 million metric tonnes of copper. It’s quite an impressive feat!
Now, in the silver medal position, we’ve got Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX), trailing behind Codelco with 1.21 million metric tonnes to their name. They certainly put up a solid performance.
But wait, there’s more! The copper mining industry isn’t just about these two giants. We’ve got some other big players in the game as well. Companies like BHP Group Limited (NYSE:BHP), Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE), Teck Resources Limited (NYSE:TECK), and Newmont Corporation (NYSE:NEM) are noteworthy names that also make significant contributions to the world of copper mining. It’s a competitive arena with some heavy hitters!
In this article, we’ve taken a close look at the top 15 copper-producing nations in 2021. We’ve sorted them in order of their copper production for that year, giving you a clear picture of who the major players are.
But we didn’t stop there. We’ve also delved into the copper reserves these countries hold and what the future might have in store for their copper production. So, stick around for a comprehensive insight into the world of copper mining and its future prospects across these 15 nations.
Production in 2021: 5.62 million metric tonnes
Chile stands as the global copper champion, boasting impressive copper reserves of approximately 200 million metric tonnes. In 2021, the nation flexed its mining muscles, producing a hefty 5.62 million metric tonnes of copper.
What’s more, Chile proudly hosts three of the world’s largest copper mines. Among them, Escondida takes the crown as the largest on the planet. Interestingly, this colossal mine is primarily under the ownership of BHP Group Limited (NYSE:BHP) and contributed a substantial 7% to the world’s total copper output in 2021.
Speaking of numbers, Chile plays a significant role in the global copper landscape, accounting for a whopping 23% of worldwide copper production. In 2021, Chile did face a minor dip of 1.9% in its copper production, and experts at S&P Global Commodity Insights predicted a further 4.8% decrease in 2022.
However, don’t count Chile out just yet! Projections indicate that between 2022 and 2026, the country’s copper production is set to rebound with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.2%. By the end of this forecasted period, Chile aims to reach an impressive 6.4 million metric tonnes of copper production, showcasing its resilience in the copper mining arena.
Production in 2021: 2.2 million metric tonnes
In 2021, Peru flexed its copper production muscles, churning out an impressive 2.2 million metric tonnes of the prized metal. Peru boasts three major players in the copper mining game: Cerro Verde, Antamina, and Las Bambas. These significant mines are primarily under the ownership of Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX), Glencore plc (OTC:GLNCY), and MMG Limited (OTC:MMLTF), respectively.
After a dip in production in 2020, thanks to the disruptions caused by COVID-19, Peru bounced back in style. In 2021, copper production in the country surged by roughly 7%, showcasing its resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges.
Fast forward to the end of 2022, and Peru’s copper production is expected to shine even brighter, with a projected increase of 4.8% compared to 2021, reaching a total of 2.3 million metric tonnes. This upward trajectory solidifies Peru’s position as the world’s second-largest copper-producing nation.
And if you’re thinking long-term, Peru has quite the copper reserves to back its ambitions. With a whopping 77 million metric tonnes in reserves, it proudly claims the title of the world’s third-largest holder of copper reserves, underscoring its significance on the global copper mining stage.
Production in 2021: 1.8 million metric tonnes
China has been a noteworthy player in the global copper production scene, contributing 1.8 million metric tonnes in 2021. In fact, it reached an impressive high of 1.9 million metric tonnes back in 2016, showcasing its significant role in the industry.
However, despite its copper production, China finds itself in a unique situation. The country’s immense appetite for copper, driven by its booming industries, forces it to look beyond its borders for supply. In 2022, a whopping 72.2% of China’s copper demand was met through imports, making it the world’s largest consumer of this valuable metal.
Interestingly, China seems to be shifting its focus towards copper imports from Russia, especially after Chile increased its premium rates. The numbers speak for themselves: China’s copper imports hit a peak of over $10 million in February 2022 but dipped to approximately $3.7 million by October of the same year.
When it comes to China’s own copper production, the Tibetan Yulong mine takes center stage. This impressive mine produced over 1.1 million tonnes of copper in 2021. However, there’s a catch – the Yulong mine is on a countdown, set to exhaust its copper reserves by 2036. Currently, it’s primarily owned by Western Mines Group Ltd., further highlighting China’s ongoing quest to secure its copper needs for the future.
4. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Production in 2021: 1.8 million metric tonnes
Congo is rapidly gaining attention from investors and copper mining companies, thanks to its abundant copper reserves and high-quality copper ore. The game-changer was Ivanhoe Mines, which initiated copper production in its Kamoa-Kakula mine, setting a benchmark for the entire copper industry. According to Robert Friedland, the founder and co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is like the “Saudi Arabia of copper, cobalt, and hydro-electric generation potential.”
In 2021, Congo was no slouch in copper production, churning out a substantial 1.8 million metric tonnes. And the momentum continued into the first quarter of 2022, with the country producing a remarkable 572,983 tonnes of copper, marking a substantial 51% increase year-on-year.
Congo’s copper exports in 2021 also showed impressive growth, surging by 12.3% to reach 1.798 million tonnes. Leading the pack in copper production within the country is the Kamoa-Kakula mine, which made headlines with its exceptional performance earlier in the year. The mine processed a staggering 25,126 tonnes and produced 1,202 tonnes of copper, underlining its significance in Congo’s copper mining landscape.
Production in 2021: 1.2 million metric tonnes
According to data from the United States Geological Survey, Arizona took the lead in copper production in 2021, accounting for a significant 71% of the country’s domestic production. In that same year, the United States collectively yielded an impressive 1.2 million metric tonnes of recoverable copper content through mining operations, with a total value of $12 billion. This marked a substantial increase of 58% compared to the previous year’s value of $7.61 billion. However, it’s worth noting that copper imports also saw an uptick, rising from 37% in 2020 to 45% in 2021.
Across the United States, several other states contributed to copper production in 2021. These states included Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, showcasing the country’s diverse copper mining landscape.
On a global scale, the United States proudly holds the top position as the largest copper-producing nation, and it’s among the top 10 countries for copper exports. In 2021, copper ore exports from the United States were valued at a substantial $8,102 per ton, making it one of the more expensive exports of this valuable commodity. The net exports of copper ore amounted to a noteworthy $2.82 billion.
Furthermore, a study conducted by the Atlantic Council predicts a significant surge in demand for copper related to infrastructure, projecting a need for 4,000,000 kilograms by 2030. This heightened demand is primarily attributed to President Biden’s ambitious goal of establishing 500,000 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, underscoring the vital role of copper in shaping the nation’s infrastructure and green energy future.
Production in 2021: 820,000 metric tonnes
Russia made its mark in the copper production scene by producing 820,000 metric tonnes of copper in 2021. While that’s certainly substantial, it’s worth noting that Russian copper production achieved its zenith back in 2012, hitting an impressive 883,000 metric tonnes. However, there was a dip in the years that followed, with production falling to 705,000 metric tonnes in 2017. Nevertheless, the country boasts substantial copper deposits, totaling around 62 million metric tonnes.
Among these deposits, the Udokan deposits stand out as Russia’s largest and rank as the world’s third-largest, holding a staggering 26 million metric tonnes of copper reserves. What makes it even more noteworthy is that industrial mining at the Udokan deposit kicked off in August 2022. This significant development is under the ownership of the Russian company Udokan Copper.
Looking ahead, Udokan Copper has big plans on the horizon. It anticipates commencing exports from the project in 2023, with China as its primary buyer. This signals an exciting chapter in Russia’s copper industry and its role in the global copper market.
Production in 2021: 817,700 metric tonnes
Australia holds the distinction of being the second-largest copper reserve holder globally, with a hefty 93 million metric tonnes, second only to Chile. In 2021, Australia made a significant contribution to the copper market, producing 817,700 metric tonnes, albeit a slight dip from the 879,500 metric tonnes produced in 2020.
Copper plays a pivotal role in Australia’s economic landscape, accounting for approximately 10% of the country’s revenue. In 2021, Australia’s copper exports predominantly found their way to China, making up 50% of the total exports, followed by Japan and South Korea. Looking ahead, there are promising prospects for growth in copper exports, with forecasts indicating an increase to 977 kilotonnes by 2023-2024, compared to the previous forecast of 807 kilotonnes for 2021-2022.
When it comes to the key players in Australia’s copper mining sector, the Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold deposit is a standout. This deposit ranks as one of the largest copper deposits in the country and is under the ownership of BHP Group Limited (NYSE:BHP). In the fiscal year 2022, the mine contributed 138.4 kilotonnes of copper to Australia’s production, although this was a decrease from the 205 kilotonnes produced in FY2021. Additionally, notable copper deposits like Prominent Hill in South Australia and Girilambone in New South Wales also add to Australia’s significance in the world of copper mining.
Production in 2021: 810,000 metric tonnes
Indonesia holds a significant spot on the global copper production map, contributing 810,000 metric tonnes of copper in 2021. Leading the charge in Indonesian copper mining is the Grasberg Block Cave Mine, nestled in Papua. This powerhouse of a mine produced a remarkable 295.5 thousand tonnes of copper and an estimated 26.4 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) of Run-of-Mine (ROM) material in 2021. However, it’s worth noting that the Grasberg mine is expected to exhaust its copper reserves by 2041. The ownership of this valuable asset lies with PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium.
Now, here’s an interesting twist in the tale. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has hinted at a potential ban on copper exports in 2023. The goal behind this move is to bolster the resource processing industry within the country, marking a significant shift for Indonesia, one of the world’s top copper-producing nations. In 2021, Indonesia was quite active on the copper export front, shipping out a hefty 2,235,454 tonnes of copper ore, which translated to a substantial $5.4 billion in export value. This potential policy change could reshape Indonesia’s role in the global copper market, so it’s one to keep an eye on.
Production in 2021: 734100 metric tonnes
Mexico played a significant role in the global copper scene in 2021, contributing 734.1 kilometric tonnes of this valuable metal. Behind this impressive production, Mexico also boasts substantial copper reserves, with nearly 53 million metric tonnes in its treasure trove.
Leading the way in Mexican copper mining is the Buenavista del Cobre Mine, nestled in Sonora. This mining giant produced a substantial 327.3 kilotonnes of copper in 2021. The ownership of this key asset lies with Grupo México, S.A.B. de C.V. (OTC:GMBXF).
When it comes to exports, Mexico was an active player, shipping out copper ores and concentrates valued at $3.42 billion in 2021.
However, recent data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography paints a different picture. In July 2022, Mexico’s copper production faced a decline of 1.4% compared to the same period in the previous year. This decline wasn’t unique to copper alone but affected the entire mining industry in the country. The challenges included mine closures, operational delays, and lower ore grades. As a result, experts anticipate that the overall decline in copper production could reach 4% by the end of the year, shedding light on the ongoing dynamics in Mexico’s copper sector.
Production in 2021: 726,379 metric tonnes
Copper is the lifeblood of Zambia’s economy, playing a pivotal role by contributing a whopping 75% to the country’s total export earnings. In 2020, Zambia reached a historic high by producing an impressive 800,192.27 metric tonnes of copper. However, in 2021, there was a slight dip, with copper production declining by 4.5% to 726,379.19 metric tonnes.
Driving this copper production in Zambia are the Mopani Copper Mines, a significant player and home to the most substantial copper deposit in all of Africa. In 2021, these mines made their mark by producing approximately 88,000 metric tonnes of copper. Another noteworthy player in Zambia’s copper landscape is the Lumwana mine, owned by Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:GOLD).
When it comes to exports, Zambia was a formidable contender, with copper exports amounting to an impressive $8.44 billion in 2021.
What’s particularly interesting is the vision of Zambia’s new president, Hakainde Hichilema. He’s set his sights on boosting investments in the country and has ambitious plans to triple Zambia’s copper output over the next decade. This signals a new chapter in Zambia’s copper industry and its quest for growth and development.
Production in 2021: 590,000 metric tonnes
Canada boasts a notable presence in the world of copper production, with the Highland Valley Copper Mine leading the charge by producing a substantial 130,500 metric tonnes in 2021. This impressive surface mine is nestled in the picturesque province of British Columbia and is set to continue its operations until the year 2040, ensuring a stable supply of copper for years to come.
Copper production isn’t limited to British Columbia alone; several other Canadian provinces also contribute to the country’s copper output. These provinces include Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Quebec, reflecting Canada’s diverse copper mining landscape.
In terms of exports, Canada is no stranger to the global copper market, with copper exports totaling a noteworthy $4.1 billion in 2021. This translates to approximately US$10,314 per exported ton, emphasizing the economic significance of copper for the country.
Intriguingly, Canadian miners are exploring potential partnerships with the U.S. military, aimed at funding crucial mineral projects. This collaboration is especially focused on the Ring of Fire area, which is rich in valuable minerals, including copper. These ventures could shape the future of copper mining in Canada and its role on the global stage.
Production in 2021: 520,000 metric tonnes
Kazakhstan, a notable player in the copper industry, contributed 520,000 metric tonnes of copper to the world market in 2021. Leading the charge within the country is the Aktogay Project, situated in East Kazakhstan, which stood out as the largest copper-producing mine, churning out an impressive 136,400 tonnes of copper in the same year. This significant asset falls under the ownership of the British company KAZ Minerals plc. However, it’s worth noting that the Aktogay mine is projected to exhaust its copper reserves by 2045.
KAZ Minerals plc extends its reach in Kazakhstan with ownership of other vital copper mines, including the Orlovsky mine, Irtyshsky mine, and Artemyevsky mine.
Looking ahead, Kazakhstan’s copper production is on an upward trajectory. According to Fitch Solutions, the country is expected to produce 776,100 tonnes of copper in 2022, with further increases forecasted for 2023 and 2024, reaching 803,270 tonnes and 830,580 tonnes, respectively. This growth can be attributed to KAZ Minerals’ strategic expansion plans and the launch of the new Koksay copper mine, a joint endeavor with China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group. These developments signal a promising future for Kazakhstan’s role in the global copper market.
Production in 2021: 403,300 metric tonnes
Mining stands as a cornerstone of Brazil’s economy, playing a pivotal role in maintaining a positive trade balance for the country. In the year 2021, the mining industry flexed its muscle by exporting an impressive $980.81 million worth of copper. Leading the charge in Brazilian mining is the colossal Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE), a Brazil-based mining giant that holds sway over some of the largest and most significant mines within the country.
One standout player in Brazil’s copper mining landscape is the Salobo Mine, nestled in the Para region. In 2021, it proudly claimed the title of the largest copper-producing mine in the country, churning out a substantial 191,700 metric tonnes of copper. It’s no surprise that this major asset also falls under the ownership of Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE), a key player not just in Brazil but on the global mining stage.
Following closely behind, we have the Sossego Mine, which produced approximately 86,000 metric tonnes of copper in 2021. This achievement secures its position as the second-largest copper mine in Brazil, and like its counterpart, it’s also under the ownership of Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE). These impressive mining operations underline Brazil’s significance in the world of copper production.
Production in 2021: 391300 metric tonnes
Poland takes center stage as a global leader in electrolyte copper production, a feat that underscores its prominence in the copper industry. The country’s prowess in copper production is further demonstrated by its impressive copper exports, which amounted to a substantial $5.97 billion in 2021, solidifying its status as one of the world’s top copper exporters.
Additionally, Poland boasts a significant copper reserve base, estimated at around 36 million tonnes, providing a solid foundation for its continued involvement in the copper market.
One key player in Poland’s copper mining landscape is the Rudna mine, which holds the distinction of being the country’s largest. This mine doesn’t just produce copper; it’s also a source of silver ores. Ownership of this substantial asset lies with KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., a significant player in Poland’s mining industry.
To provide some up-to-date insights, as of November 11, KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. reported impressive figures for Polish metallurgical copper production in 2022. The production reached 442.5 kilotonnes, while mined production stood at 334.4 kilotonnes for the first three quarters of the year, underscoring Poland’s ongoing role as a powerhouse in copper production.
Production in 2021: 263,990 metric tonnes
Mongolia boasts an enviable gem in its mining portfolio – Oyu Tolgoi, home to one of the world’s largest gold and copper deposits. What sets this project apart, according to the Rio Tinto Group (NYSE:RIO), is its remarkable safety record and commitment to sustainability. In 2021, Oyu Tolgoi made its mark by producing approximately 163,000 metric tonnes of copper, and its operations are slated to continue until 2052. Moreover, the project hasn’t even hit its full stride yet, with full capacity expected to be reached by 2028. Once that milestone is achieved, Oyu Tolgoi is poised to rank among the world’s top copper and gold-producing mines.
In terms of exports, Mongolia played a significant role, exporting around $3 billion worth of copper in 2021. This accounted for a notable 3.4% of global copper exports, underlining Mongolia’s standing in the global copper market. Key among its export partners is China, with Mongolia exporting a substantial 335,000 metric tonnes of copper to its neighbor in the first quarter of 2022.
What’s particularly intriguing is Mongolia’s trajectory in the mining industry. With ongoing advancements and developments, the country is poised to make a significant mark on the world stage, with projections indicating it could become the fifth-largest copper producer by 2030. This underscores Mongolia’s ascent in the world of copper production and its promising future in the mining sector.