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this month ’ s series :

May 2010
Investment funds today are holding Copper: Market outlook and the
role of Latin America
more refined copper tonnage than
ever. When they foresee a rise in
prices and start buying up stocks,
they help make that vision reality
by increasing physical demand. The
opposite is true on the downside. Expert opinion on where the copper price is looming euro zone debt crisis could slash
going in the coming years is not easy to pin demand, analysts seem to agree that the
End user demand down. Different analysts see things quite overriding macroeconomic conditions
China’s huge purchases of physical
differently, at least in terms of the refined in the OECD as a whole are pointing to
copper “saved 2009.” The Asian
copper market balance, but certain market steady growth.
giant’s demand growth is expected
fall in 2010 compared to last year, indicators seem to be telling us that the
but perhaps this would leave it at good times are far from over. Latin America, of course, is in a prime
more sustainable level. position to benefit from any rise in red
Looking at what investment funds are metal demand or prices. The region leads all
Market balance doing today, for example, it is apparent the forecasts for mine production growth,
Analyst opinions on the global that a majority believes prices will rise holds the biggest known reserves and has
copper market balance in the coming in the short to medium term. Some consistently been the site of the most
years vary greatly depending on who people think China, and in particular exploration activity for years. As such,
you ask. Even when they agree, for its housing market, could be a bubble in terms of providing supply for a copper-
example, that supply will rise slightly soon to burst, while others find the idea hungry world in the next few years, all eyes
in 2010, market balance forecasts unlikely. And though fears do exist that a are on Latin America.
range from a deficit of 87,000t to a
surplus of 578,000t.

Cost advantage
Apart from being the undisputed leader
in production figures, South America
also boasts the lowest average copper Copper mine production by region, 2009-15
cash costs in the world.

2009 Production Total change % Change Total change % Change 2015 production
base 2009-12 2009-12 2013-15 2013-15
Africa 1201 761 30% 109 4% 2071
Asia 3300 -12 0% 811 31% 4099
Latin America 7196 1276 50% 1867 71% 10339
North America 1741 333 13% -53 -2% 2021
Oceania 1136 -34 -1% -223 -8% 879
Europe 1496 231 9% 123 5% 1850
Total world 16069 2555 100% 2634 100% 21259

In thousands of metric tonnes

Source: Wood Mackenzie, Macquarie Research, April 2010

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Written and researched by
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