An international intergovernmental organization that tracks copper market data forecast that annual copper mine capacity will grow at an average of 2.2% per annum through 2021, with growth of 0.5% seen in 2018 and 2019, accelerating to 4% in the following two years as more projects and expansions come online.
Copper mine production capacity is expected to hit about 26 million tonnes by 2021.
The International Copper Study Group said Jan. 4 that 31% of copper capacity growth around the world through 2021 is expected to come from the ramp-up and expansion of currently operating mines, 56% from mines now under development and 13% from projects now under feasibility.
"Continued delays in project development are shifting new capacity forward mainly as a result of length in project permitting, opposition from local communities and budget/financial constraints," the group said, adding that it noticed a recent positive trend in capital expenditure and project approval. Expected capacity rises are increasingly linked to Chinese investments mainly in Africa and South America.
The group forecast that concentrates will represent about 85% of the total growth in world mine capacity until 2021.
Copper smelter capacity is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 3.5% through 2021. China will account for 68% of the expected growth in world smelting capacity between 2018 and 2021, and the country's capacity is seen increasing 3% by 2021.
Apart from China, new copper smelters are planned in Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Mongolia, and smelter expansions are planned in India, Iran and Poland by 2021.
Copper refinery capacity is seen growing at an average rate of about 3% per year through 2021. About 90% of the growth is expected to come from electrolytic refineries, of which China will be the highest contributor, followed by India and the DRC. In Chile, electrowinning copper refining capacity is seen falling 10% through 2021.