Eight Escondida-sized mines needed to satisfy global copper demand by 2030

The global copper industry must invest more than US$100 billion in new mines in order to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030, CRU Group’s head of base metals revealed this week.

Speaking at the 2022 CRU World Copper Conference in Santiago, Erik Heimlich said the supply gap for the next decade is estimated at six million tonnes per year, with demand rapidly rising in line with the clean energy transition.

To meet the supply gap, the industry needs to build eight projects the size of BHP’s Escondida – the world’s largest copper mine – over the next eight years. Such task, Heimlich said, seems ‘possible’ rather than ‘probable’ given the bigger scale developments required and the fact that about half the projects in the pipeline are greenfield.

“Historically, the completion rates of these projects have been low. A large share of the greenfield possible projects in 2012 remain underdeveloped so there are questions about the ability to respond to the supply gap in an efficient and timely manner,” he said, as per Mining Journal.

Some significant copper mines come online in recent years, including First Quantum’s 3.1 billion tonnes Cobre Panamá, Ivanhoe’s Kamoa-Kakula project in the DRC – which will eventually become the world’s second largest copper resource – and Anglo American’s $5.3 billion Quellaveco mine in Peru.

The industry is pinning its hopes on a number of projects currently in development being able to fill the supply gap to 2030. Barrick Gold reached a deal last week paving the way for the Reko Diq deposit in Pakistan, while first production at Rio Tinto’s long awaited Oyu Tolgoi underground expansion is due in the first half of next year. SolGold’s Alpala copper-gold project in Ecuador is another closely watched by the market.