The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) held its annual meeting on April 28-29. Government delegates and industry advisors from most of the world’s leading copper producing and consuming countries participated. The group discussed key issues affecting the global copper market. 

After three years of stagnation, world copper mine production increased 2.4% last year with higher growth of about 5% expected in both 2022 and 2023. World mine production this year is expected to benefit from the additional output from new and expanded mines as well as an improvement in the general situation regarding the pandemic.

Following a four-year period where only two major copper mines were commissioned, the pipeline of copper mine pro-

jects is improving. Major projects starting in 2021-2023 include Kamoa Kakula in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Quellaveco in Peru, Spence-SGO and Quebrada Blanca QB2 in Chile, and Udokan in Russia. A number of medium and small projects and expansions have also started or are expected to start in 2021-2023.

Most projects are concentrate producing mines, which should result in sustained growth in world concentrate output in 2022 and 2023. Solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX-EW) is expected to recover in 2022 from last year’s decline and continue rising in 2023 with growth mainly supported by expansions and new projects in the DRC and, to a lesser extent, in the USA. Chilean SX-EW output is expected to continue declining.

After three years of limited growth, world refined copper production is forecast to rise by about 4.3% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023. A recovery is expected this year from the constrained output last year when a number of countries were impacted by operational issues and reductions at SX-EW plants that led to a 1.3% decline in World ex-China refined production.

World refined production growth in 2022 and 2023 will be mainly sustained by the continued expansion of Chinese electrolytic capacity and new and expanded SX-EW operations in the DRC (electrowinning capacity).

Both primary (from concentrates and SX-EW) and secondary (from scrap) output are expected to be higher in 2022 and 2023. Primary production will benefit from the increased supply of concentrates and expanded SX-EW capacity and secondary output from an expected 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. World usage growth for this year was revised down to 1.9%. This was due to a weaker global economic outlook, mainly as a result of the Russia-Ukraine situation and the negative effect COVID-19 related lockdowns in China are having on the country’s manufacturing activity. Chinese apparent refined usage is expected to grow by about 1% in 2022. World refined copper usage is expected to increase by about 2.8% in 2023 because of a general improvement in manufacturing activity, mainly in China, and continued growth in key copper end-use sectors.

World refined copper balance projections indicate a surplus of about 140,000 metric tons (mt) for 2022 and 350,000 mt for 2023.

The next meeting of the ICSG will be held in Lisbon, October 18-19.