The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) met in Lisbon, Portugal, on October 18-19, 2022. Government delegates and industry advisors from most of the world’s leading copper-producing and using countries discussed key issues affecting the global copper market. After the meeting, ICSG’s Statistical Committee shared its view of the world copper market and offered forecasts.

According to the ICSG, world copper mine production is expected to increase by 3.9% in 2022 with higher growth of about 5.3% expected in 2023. The group revised its April 2022 expectations downward from 5% to 3.9%. Citing continued COVID-19 related restrictions and workforce absenteeism, operational and geotechnical issues, strikes, water restrictions in Chile, lower than expected head grades and community actions in Peru, the ICSG noted mine output had been impacted.

World mine production this year, however, will benefit from additional output from new and expanded mines, mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Indonesia.

Following a four-year period where only two major copper mines were commissioned (2017-2020), the pipeline of copper mine projects is improving. Major projects starting in 2021/2023 include Kamoa Kakula and Tenke (expansion) in the DRC, Quellaveco in Peru and Spence-SGO and Quebrada Blanca QB2 in Chile.

Production from solvent extraction and 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 Mexico, Peru and in the United States. Chilean SX-EW output is expected to continue to decline.

World refined copper production is forecast to rise by about 2.8% in 2022 and 3.3% in 2023.

A deterioration in the global economic outlook, mainly as a consequence of elevated energy prices and high inflation, has resulted in a downward revision to refined usage growth for both 2022 and 2023 as compared to the ICSG’s April 2022 forecasts. Growth in World Ex-China usage has been revised down from 2.8% to 1.8% for 2022 and from 3.9% to 2.5% in 2023. Chinese apparent refined usage is expected to grow by about 2.5% in 2022, higher than previously expected due to a 10% increase in net refined copper imports from January-July. Chinese apparent usage growth for 2023 is expected to be 1%.

Although the global economic outlook is challenging, manufacturing activity is expected to show sustained growth in most of the key copper end-use sectors. The ICSG is forecasting a  deficit of about 325,000 metric tons (mt) of refined copper for 2022 and a surplus of 155,000 mt for 2023.