The Largest Copper Smelters

A look at the biggest copper refiners

According to statistics from the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), in 2014 the world's 20 largest copper refineries had a combined capacity of over 10 million metric tons or over 35 percent of total world copper refining capacity. 

Four of the five largest refineries - and 10 of the top 20 - are located in mainland China. The five largest, alone, have a combined capacity of 3.25 million metric ​tons, or about 12 percent of global capacity. 

Three of the 20 largest copper refineries are owned by Chilean state-owned copper giant Codelco. These three facilities have a combined annual capacity of 1.5 million metric tons.

Codelco, not surprisingly, is the world's largest producer of copper. In 2014, the company produced nearly 400,000 tons more copper than the world's second largest producer, Aurubis. 

Flash-continuous technology is used in more than half of all refineries (about 70 percent), while world refinery capacity utilization in 2013 was estimated to be nearly 80 percent.

The list below is based on statistics and information available in the ICSG Directory of Copper Mines and Plants (2014). 

Listed are the common names of each smelter followed by the owner in parentheses. The smelter's annual refined copper capacity is then noted in thousands of metric tons, or kilotonnes (kt). 

Guixi (Jiangxi Copper Corporation) - 900kt

Guixi Copper Smelter, China

Owned and operated by China's largest copper producer, Jiangxi Copper Corporation, Guixi smelter is located in Jiangxi province. Copper cathodes from the smelter are traded via the London Metal Exchange under the 'Guiye' brand. Silver and minor metal by-products are also extracted from copper ore at the refinery. 

Jinchuan (Jinchuan Non Ferrous Co.) - 650kt

Located in Fengchengang, an industrial area in the south of Guangxi, China, Jinchuan's copper smelter is capable of producing about 650,000 tons per year. In 2014, global non-ferrous metal trader Trafigura paid a reported US$ 150 million for a 30 percent stake in the Jinchuan copper smelter. 

Daye/Hubei (Daye Non-Ferrous Metals Co.) - 600kt

Located in eastern Hubei province, Daye is believed to have been a copper mining district since the seventh century BC. The state-owned Daye Non-Ferrous Metals Co. is China's oldest copper producer. Recent investments have doubled the company's copper smelting capacity to approximately 600,000 tons. 

Chuquicamata (Codelco) - 600kt

Codelco's Chuquicamata smelter is fed by the Chuquicamata (or Chuqui) copper mine, one of the world's largest open-pit copper mines in the world. Located in northern Chile, Chuqui's smelting facilities were initially installed in the early 1950s.

Yunnan Copper (Yunnan Copper Industry Group 64.8%) - 500kt

Established in 1958, Yunnan Copper is China's third largest producer of copper-based on total capacity. It's smelter in Qingyuan, Guangdong province, is a joint venture between Yunnan Copper and China Nonferrous Metals Group, which mainly processes blister from the Chambishi smelter in Zambia. 

Birla (Birla Group Hidalco) - 500kt

 India's largest copper refiner, operated by Hidalco and located in Gujarat, Birla first began copper production in 1998. After numerous expansions, it now has a capacity of around 500,000 tons per annum. 

Pyshma Refinery (Uralelectromed) - 500kt

The Pyshma electrolytic copper refinery first began production in 1934. Located in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, Pyshma is operated by Uralelectromed, the publicly traded arm of Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company. 

Toyo (Sumitomo Metals Mining Co. Ltd.) - 450kt

The Toyo Smelter and Refinery, located in the cities of Saijo and Nihama, Japan, are operated by Sumitomo Metals Mining Co. Ltd. Fed by concentrate from South America, Australia, and southeast Asia, including that from the Sierra Gorda mine, the refinery also extracts gold and molybdenum as by-products from the copper. 

Amarillo (Grupo Mexico) - 450kt

The Amarillo Refinery in northern Texas employs over 300 staff, refining copper cathode and nickel sulfate. The copper refinery was commissioned in 1974 by Asarco Inc. and is now owned and operated by Grupo Mexico. 

Onsan Refinery (LS-Nikko Co.) - 440kt

Onsan Refinery

LS Nikko Copper operates Korea's largest copper refinery in Onsan. The Onsan refinery, which began production in 1979 and uses flash-smelting technology, now has an annual capacity of 440,000 tons.

Hamburg Refinery (Aurubis) - 416kt

El Paso Refinerty (Freeport-McMoRan) - 415kt

Baiyin (Baiyin Nonferrous Metals) - 400kt

Jinguan (Tongling Non-Ferrous Metals Group) - 400kt

Jinlong Tongdu (Tongling Non-Ferrous/Sharpline Intl./Sumitomo/Itochu) - 400kt

Xiangguang Copper (Yanggu Xiangguang Coppper Co.) - 400kt

Shandong Fangyuan (Dongying) - 400kt

Sterlite Refinery (Vedanta) - 400k5

Las Ventanas (Codelco) - 400kt

Radomiro Tomic (Codelco) - 400kt

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