BHP, Codelco, Freeport Vie for Title of Biggest Copper Producer

(Bloomberg) — There’s a three-way battle underway for the title of the world’s biggest copper producer.

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After buying Australia’s OZ Minerals Ltd., BHP Group is challenging for the mantle at a time when hitherto leader Codelco has seen output slide as it battles to overhaul aging operations in Chile. In fact, the Melbourne-based firm produced more than Codelco last quarter.

“The risk is if Codelco doesn’t pick up production in 2024 and BHP does, then they could overtake the mighty Codelco” in annual terms, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Grant Sporre.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. briefly moved into first spot last year as it ramped up underground mining in Indonesia, although the US firm has seen its share of output fall after handing over half that asset as a condition for signing a new contract. Sporre has Freeport in third in the years ahead, with Codelco just staving off BHP for the crown.

In a presentation Friday, Codelco’s outgoing CEO Andre Sougarret delivered a trajectory that more or less matched Sporre’s forecasts (see chart below). Still, Codelco has been missing targets for years amid project delays that expose it to even lower quality ore.

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By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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