Freeport-McMoRan to expand US copper mines as Biden begins electrification drive

Freeport-McMoRan chief executive Richard Adkerson has revealed that the mining giant is set to greenlight expansions at several of its US copper mines against a backdrop of rapidly rising demand for the strategic metal.

Phoenix-based Freeport is aiming to capitalise on President Joe Biden’s pledge to electrify the nation’s vehicle sector while combatting climate change, which would require copper in vastly greater quantities.

The copper price reached a near 10-year high this week based on expectations that surging demand from the power and construction industries will overwhelm supply, as Biden looks to stimulate the US economy with a US$2 trillion infrastructure investment.

In an interview with Reuters, Adkerson said: “President Biden clearly has a commitment to addressing climate change, and any climate change initiative creates demand for copper.

“We’re very well-situated to address that with the assets we have. Now we can turn our attention to focusing on these growth opportunities,” Adkerson – who became Freeport’s chairman on February 2 – said in the interview, before adding that any expansions would take several years to bring online.

Freeport already produces more than 1 billion pounds of copper each year in the US, most of which is sold into the domestic market. It opened a new mine last year in Arizona and could soon approve expansions at three mines in the Southwest, adding more than 250 billion pounds of copper each year to US output.

The 74-year old reiterated that the company will not pursue a merger with Barrick Gold – which was mooted last year – and will focus solely on copper, avoiding lithium, rare earths and other battery metals gaining attention on the market.