A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey Dept. said U.S. mine production of copper in 2015 decreased by 8% to about 1.25 million tons, and was valued at about $7.6 billion. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Montana, and Michigan—in descending order of production—accounted for more than 99% of domestic mine production; copper also was recovered in Idaho and Missouri. Twenty-six mines recovered copper, 18 of which accounted for about 99% of production. Copper and copper alloys products were used in building construction, 43%; electric and electronic products, 19%; transportation equipment, 19%; consumer and general products, 12%; and industrial machinery and equipment, 7%.
In 2015, the COMEX spot copper monthly average price increased to $2.89 per pound of copper in May from $2.65 per pound in January. In August, however, it fell to $2.33 per pound, the lowest monthly average since June 2009. The decrease in the copper price was in large part owing to reduced demand growth from slower economic growth in China. At the end of August, domestic stocks of refined copper were 12% lower than those at yearend 2014. The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) projected that in 2015, global refined copper production would exceed consumption by about 40,000 tons. Global production of refined copper was projected to increase by 1.0% and consumption was projected to decrease by 1.2%.6
U.S. mine production decreased by about 8% in 2015, mainly owing to decreases in production in Arizona and Utah. Copper production at the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah decreased by an estimated 100,000 tons owing to lower mill throughput during repair work on the east wall of the mine. The two leading domestic producers announced production decreases at mines in Arizona during the second half of the year owing to low copper prices. Decreases in production were partly offset by increased production at the Morenci Mine in Arizona and at several smaller mines. Total U.S. refined production decreased by about 5% mainly owing to a smelter maintenance shutdown and a concentrate shortfall at Bingham Canyon’s integrated smelter.
In 2016, domestic mine and refined production of copper were expected to increase moderately, and according to ICSG projections, global refined copper consumption was expected to exceed output owing to consumption growth of 3%, outpacing a 2.3% growth in global refined production. Mine and refined production were expected to lag behind earlier projections owing to mine cutbacks and reduced scrap availability attributable to lower prices.