The World's 20 Largest Copper Mines
The top mines produce about 40 percent of the world's copper
The world's 20 largest copper mines produce nearly 9 million metric tons of the precious metal a year, about 40% of the world's total copper mine capacity. Chile and Peru, alone, account for more than half of the copper mines on this list. The U.S. makes the cut, as well, with two mines among the top 20.
Copper is expensive to mine and refine. The high costs of financing a major mine are reflected in the fact that many of the mines with the most production capacity are either state-owned or owned by major mining corporations like BHP and Freeport-McMoRan.
The list below is compiled from the International Copper Study Group's World Copper Factbook 2019. Beside each mine's name is the country that it is located in and its annual production capacity in metric kilotons. A metric ton is equal to about 2,200 pounds. A metric kiloton (kt) is 1,000 metric tons.
Escondida - Chile (1,400 kt)
The Escondida copper mine in Chile's Atacama desert is jointly owned by BHP (57.5%), Rio Tinto Corp. (30%), and Japan Escondida (12.5%). In 2012, the massive Escondida mine accounted for 5% of total global copper mine production. Gold and silver are extracted as by-products from the ore.
Buenavista, formerly known as Cananea copper mine, is located in Sonora, Mexico. It's currently owned and operated by Grupo Mexico.
The Morenci mine in Arizona is the largest copper mine in North America. Operated by Freeport-McMoRan, the mine is jointly owned by the company (72%) and affiliates of the Sumitomo Corporation (28%). Morenci operations began in 1872, underground mining began in 1881, and open-pit mining began in 1937.
Cerro Verde copper mine, located 20 miles southwest of Arequipa in Peru, has been operational in its current form since 1976. Freeport-McMoRan, which holds a 54% interest, is the mine's operator. Other stakeholders include SMM Cerro Verde Netherlands, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal (21%), Compañia de Minas Buenaventura (19.58%), and public shareholders through the Lima Stock Exchange (5.86%).
The Antamina mine is located 170 miles north of Lima. Silver and zinc are also separated from the ore produced at Antamina. The mine is jointly owned by BHP (33.75%), Glencore (33.75%), Teck (22.5%), and Mitsubishi Corp. (10%).
Polar Division (Norilsk/Talnakh Mills) - Russia (450 kt)
The mine is operated as part of the Polar Division of MMC Norilsk Nickel. Located in Siberia, you wouldn't want to work here unless you like the cold.
Chile's state-owned Codelco owns and operates the Codelco Norte (or Chuquicamata) copper mine in northern Chile. One of the world's largest open-pit mines, Chuquicamata has been in operation since 1910, producing refined copper and molybdenum.
The largest copper mine in Africa, Kansanshi is owned and operated by Kansanshi Mining PLC, which is 80% owned by a First Quantum subsidiary. The remaining 20% is owned by a subsidiary of ZCCM. The mine is located approximately 6 miles north of the town of Solwezi and 112 miles to the northwest of the Copperbelt town of Chingola.
Radomiro Tomic copper mine, located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, is operated by the state-owned company Codelco.
The Grasberg mine, located in the highlands of Indonesia's Papua province, boasts the world's largest gold reserve and second-largest copper reserve. The mine is operated by PT Freeport Indonesia Co., and the mine is a joint venture between regional and national government authorities in Indonesia (51.2%) and Freeport-McMoRan (48.8%).
Kamoto is an underground mine that was first opened by the state-owned company Gécamines in 1969. The mine was restarted under Katanga Mining LTD control in 2007. While Katanga owns the majority of the operation (75%), 86.33% of Katanga itself is owned by Glencore. The remaining 25% of the Kamoto mine is still owned by Gécamines.
Bingham Canyon - U.S. (280 kt)
The Bingham Canyon Mine, more commonly known as Kennecott Copper Mine, is an open-pit mine southwest of Salt Lake City. Kennecott is the sole owner and operator of this mine. The mine was started back in 1903. Operations continue through all hours of day and night, 365 days a year, but tourists can visit the mine to learn more and see the canyon in person.
This Peruvian mine is operated by Southern Copper Corp., which is itself majority-owned by Grupo Mexico (88.9%). The remaining 11.1% is owned by international investors.