The World's 10 Largest Copper Producers
The world's 10 biggest copper producers accounted for over 9.83 million metric tonnes—or nearly 108 million U.S. tonnes (known as short tonnes)—of the precious metal in 2017. The top four companies accounted for more than 62 percent of that total. With copper going for $3.10 per pound as of fall 2017, the top 10 firms produced over $640 billion worth of the metal in that year.
Controlling about 19 percent of the world's reserves of copper, Codelco—or the Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile—is an autonomous company owned by the government of Chile. Codelco produced approximately 1.842 million metric tonnes of refined copper in 2017, roughly 11 percent of world's total, worth a whopping $125 billion, according to late 2017 prices.
Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX) is the world's largest publicly traded copper producer. The company's assets include the Grasberg mining complex in Indonesia, the world’s largest copper and gold mine in terms of recoverable reserves; the Morenci and Safford minerals districts in North America; and the Tenke Fungurume minerals district in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their ownership stake was sold to Chinese company China Molybdenum (CMOC) for $2.65 billion in early 2017. FCX produced 1.7 million metric tonnes of refined copper in 2016, about 9 percent of the world's total, making it the world's second largest copper supplier. Freeport-McMoRan posted revenues of $15.86 billion in 2017.
Australia-based BHP Billiton (BLT) produced over 1.326 million metric tonnes of refined copper in 2017 and is also one of the world's largest producers of aluminum, copper, manganese, iron ore, uranium, nickel, silver, and titanium. The company's copper assets include a 57.5 percent interest in Minera Escondida, the world's largest copper-producing mine, in Chile's Atacama Desert. In 2016, BHP Billiton posted its worst annual loss in history, losing $6.4 billion in the 12-month period. Thanks in part to an uptick in commodity prices, BHP Billiton posted a profit of over $6 billion at end-of-year 2017.
Baar, Switzerland–based Glencore (GLEN), a global commodity production and marketing company with 145,000 employees in over 25 countries, produced 1.309 million metric tonnes of copper in 2017. Glencore's copper assets include majority or full ownership stakes in Katanga Mining Limited in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Mopani mine in Zambia, the Cobar mine in Australia, and the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation.
Southern Copper Corp. (SCCO), a subsidiary of Grupo México, with offices in Phoenix and major operations in Mexico and Peru, produced 913,066 metric tonnes of copper in 2017, nearly the same as the year prior. The firm's major assets include the Cuajone and Toquepala mines in Peru and the Cananea mine in Mexico.
KGHM Polska Miedz—one of Poland's largest companies, with more than 28,000 employees and annual gross revenues over $3 billion—produced 656,000 metric tonnes of copper in 2017, a 3 percent decrease from 2016. KGHM, which operates three mines—Lubin, Rudna, and Polkowice-Sierszowice—also produces significant quantities of silver annually. The rise in metal prices has brought the group back from a substantial yearly loss it incurred in 2016.
Chilean mining group Antofagasta produced 638,930 metric tonnes of copper in 2017, a substantial increase from the prior two years. This increase in production was due to the successful integration of Zaldívar, a joint-venture mining operation about 900 miles north of Santiago, and the ramp-up of operations in the Antucoy and Centinela Concentrates mines, which are both also located in central Chile.
First Quantum (FM), based in Vancouver, Canada, produced 520,690 metric tonnes of copper in 2017. The company is a well-established and growing metals and mining company producing mainly copper, gold, nickel, and zinc. The company plans to greatly increase its copper production in coming years. "First Quantum is poised to become one of the largest widely held, pure-play copper producers in the world," the firm notes on its website in August, 2018.
British-Australian company Rio Tinto produced approximately 478,000 metric tonnes of copper in 2017. Its key copper assets include Kennecott Utah Copper, which has been in existence for more than 100 years, operating the Bingham Canyon mine near Salt Lake City. The group owns a 40 percent share of the production from the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, which is the world’s second largest copper mine, and currently owned by Freeport-McMoRan. Rio Tinto owns a 30 percent share in the Minera Escondida copper mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Brazilian mining firm Vale produced 438,500 tonnes of copper in 2017, the same as in 2016. The company has had record production in both its Sudbury and Salobo operations in Brazil. Vale, one of the world's largest mining companies, also mines iron, nickel, manganese, and even coal, noting on its website that it is "working with passion to transform natural resources into prosperity," which seems to be the case as of summer, 2018.