Mazumdar: Copper exploration in the wrong place?

Too much copper exploration in Canada?

Copper Mountain's Copper Mountain mine in British Columbia, Canada

Copper Mountain's Copper Mountain mine in British Columbia, Canada

Citing data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence, Mazumdar observed that copper exploration budgets in Canada, the USA and Australia saw a significant increase in 2021 to some US$855 million of the $2.3 billion global spend, although the countries are not large copper producers.

These three countries have historically attracted 30% of exploration spend, but this has now jumped to 40-45%.

"The biggest increase was in Canada at 150%, but the top five mines in Canada only gen 1.5% of global copper production. Meanwhile, Peru, which is the second largest producer in the world, saw 24% less expenditure," said Mazumdar.

Looking at this another way, he said Canada and Australia each have 160 companies operating while Peru has only 50. "Driving this is lower perceived geopolitical risk, but I would argue that Chile and the US have become risker because of their new governments and the difficulty to permit," said Mazumdar.

Mazumdar also said that the impact of the Ukraine conflict may exacerbate the forecast copper supply shortfall as risks increase. He said copper supply is forecast to grow from about 21 million tonnes a year now to about 25Mt in 2024. Some 5Mt in new capacity will be needed through 2026-2027, much of which is expected to be met from brownfield expansions. However, Mazumdar warned that, "if brownfield expansions are delayed the supply gap may be earlier and larger as projects may be deferred or canceled due to nationalisation, higher rents or water restrictions."

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