February 12, 2023

Upstream Copper Market Assessment

Stratas Advisors


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Global production of copper ore increased by 3.3% year-on-year in 2022, and is expected to grow by a further 4.5% in the full-year projection for 2023. Over 50% of the market is currently dominated by six companies, operating in Chile but also in other key markets including Peru, the US, Indonesia, and Australia. Freeport-McMoRan remains the largest producer of raw copper globally, with 43% of its operations focused on Indonesia. Mining giants who also operate in the extraction of other battery materials hold a significant market share in the upstream copper market, including Glencore, Norilsk Nickel, China Molybdenum, and Vale SA – which partially manage to defend their market position throughout the entire decade.

Overall, increasing copper demand will encourage significant brownfield expansions in the medium term, yet the upstream copper market sees little growth from greenfield projects, which remain generally small in scale compared to existing operations. With a weak greenfield project pipeline, mined copper supply is projected to increase at a CAGR of 3.5% over the outlook to 2030, with less than 40% of additional volumes originating from greenfield operations. Additionally, regulatory bottlenecks and political instability may significantly delay the implementation of some 900 KT/year of new capacity beyond 2030.

This report is part of a series covering all segments of the EV supply chain, and contains strategic insights on growth projections and production trends across major markets and 70+ players, outlining key investments which help shape estimates on annual supply through 2030.

Key takeaways:

  • Global mine production of copper grows at a CAGR of 3.5% over 2022-2030, with Chile remaining leader despite more rapid – though modest – growth in other regions
  • About 50% of the upstream copper market is currently dominated by six players with operations mainly concentrated in the Americas and the Asia Pacific region
  • While Freeport McMoRan remains leader throughout the entire decade, Rio Tinto sees strong growth through additions in Mongolia and Australia to consolidate as the world’s second-largest producer of copper by 2030
  • Growth in copper production will originate primarily from brownfield expansions and mergers and acquisitions of existing operations, yet the upstream copper market sees little growth from greenfield projects, which remain comparatively small in scale

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