Global copper production disrupted as coronavirus rages on

Copper producers around the world have moved to halt or cut back operations and slow construction projects of the bellwether metal as the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak continues.

In South America, where the bulk of the world’s copper is produced, several mining giants have announced various measures intended to minimise the spread of the pandemic across the region.

Anglo American said it would slow the building of its US$5 billion Quellaveco project in Peru as well as scaling down its operations at the Los Bronces copper mine in Chile. The company will also reschedule work at mines in countries including Chile.

The world’s second largest copper producer, Chile’s state-owned Codelco, said last week that it planned to reduce its operations but sales, shipments of copper are yet to be hit by coronavirus.

Yesterday, BHP announced it will exclude contractors from its Chile copper mines for 15 days, mirroring similar actions by peers in the region including Antofagasta, Codelco and Teck Resources.

BHP operates the Escondida and Pampa Norte mines in Chile, which on Saturday confirmed its first coronavirus death. The South American country has so far had 537 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Elsewhere in the world, work at Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia has slowed because of government restrictions, and Vale reduced activity and output at its Voisey Bay copper mine in Canada to protect nearby indigenous communities from coronavirus.

Copper prices fell last week to levels not seen since November 2016, in a sign of an imminent global economic slowdown. Copper is considered a leading indicator for future economic trends due to its application in myriad industries, including construction, consumer products and manufacturing.