Overall copper production is forecast to grow 20.5% through 2030 to 7.04 million tonnes a year, peaking in 2027 at 7.33Mt based on the portfolio of projects Cochilco maintains, while production from existing mines is forecast to fall 30% over the period to account for 4.08Mt in 2030. Lower grade, deposit exhaustion are the main reasons stated for this fall, with Cochilco noting the number of current oxide production lines will fall from 31 to 19.
Cochilco said hydrometallurgical production of copper was set to experience a 52.6% decline through the next decade as copper oxide projects with SXEW processing to produce cathodes became more of a rarity. At the same time, production of copper in concentrates will continue to increase 47.8% from 4.3Mt in 2018 to 6.3Mt in 2030.
The state agency attributes this to a lack of new oxide projects in the development pipeline, which will mean that come 2030, some 1.3Mt of SXEW capacity might be unutilised.
The production of unrefined concentrates in Chile will grow from 71% in 2018 to 75% in 2030 from 10.51Mt of dry concentrate to 16.9Mt, which expressed in terms of fine copper, will see the country export 4.74Mt in 2030 compared with 3Mt in 2018.
While this may be good news for copper smelters in Japan, China and elsewhere, it could also renew calls for the development of new smelting capacity in Chile given political pressures for the country to added value to its mineral export products rather than just sell raw materials, particularly as in a strong copper market grade A copper cathodes frequently attract price premiums over and above the LME price.