China's copper mining maintains momentum amid global production deficit
Updated: Jan 30, 2024
Copper ore is seen in this undated photo. [Provided to]

A deficit of copper production is expected to hit the global market after the closure of First Quantum Minerals' Cobre Panama mine and Anglo American's forecasts of reduced copper production at its mines in South America.

Amid these changes in the world copper market, Zijin Mining has announced a mined copper production of 1.01 million tonnes for 2023 and became the first Chinese company to surpass the 1-million-tonnes milestone.

Amidst a period of diminished faith in the market of the mining sector and fluctuating mineral prices in 2013, Zijin maintained its resolve to acquire several major copper mines at advantageous prices. These acquisitions included the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Julong Copper Mine in Xizang, the Bor Copper Complex and Cukaru Peki Copper-Gold Mine in Serbia.

By concentrating on innovation and technological advancements, Zijin lifted its mined copper compound annual growth rate to 23 percent over the last ten years.

The company is making considerable investments in international projects including the development of deposits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In partnership with Ivanhoe Mines, Zijin plans to expand the annual production capacity of the Kamoa-Kakula copper mine to over 800,000 tonnes, which could make it the second-largest copper mine in the world.

Potential destinations of imports include several major copper deposits near China's borders, such as Udokan in Russia's Trans-Baikal region (operated by Udokan Copper) and Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia (operated by Rio Tinto).

Udokan is the world's largest undeveloped deposit in terms of reserves, with JORC-compliant mineral resources estimated at 26.7 million tonnes and an average copper grade of 1.05 percent. Udokan Copper is developing the deposit, producing copper concentrate with a 45 percent copper content.

Oyu Tolgoi is one of the world's largest gold and copper deposits with most of its base metals underground. While only open-pit mining is currently ongoing, the mine's output is expected to reach about 500,000 tonnes of copper per year by 2036.

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