Copper (Cu)

Nornickel — No. 12 in copper mine production (%)
Sources: producer reports, Company analysis as of 3 March 2023

Key trends in the copper market

Macroeconomic and geopolitical factors were the main driving forces of the copper market in 2022. Volatile demand in China, tough policies by the Fed and other central banks, strikes and social unrest in Latin America, Russian metal supply risks, low exchange and warehouse stocks, the push for transport electrification, and new renewable capacity additions all combined to slow the copper market in 2022.

The metal was traded within a wide range of USD 7,000–10,700/t during the year. It peaked in March amid geopolitical concerns and mine disruptions in South America, then corrected to USD 7,000/t by the middle of summer on the back of the interest rates hikes, stronger US dollar and subdued economic activity in China. Subsequently, the copper price bounced back to the range of USD 8,000–8,900/t against the backdrop of a more dovish Fed rhetoric, the threat of strikes in Latin America, low metal inventories, and a more optimistic outlook for the Chinese economy after the Communist Party congress and the lifting of COVID-related restrictions.

In December 2022, the total exchange stocks (LME, SHFE and CME) were at an extremely low level of 190 kt, roughly flat year-on-year, while China’s bonded stocks decreased dramatically by 71% since the beginning of the year to 55 kt, which is the lowest level for more than 10 years.

In 2022, the LME copper price averaged at USD 8,797/t vs USD 9,317/t in 2021 (down 6%).

Refined copper consumption by region in 2022 (%)
Average annual copper prices (USD/t)
Source: London Metal Exchange
LME copper price in 2022 (USD/t)
Source: London Metal Exchange

  1. Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine
  2. Copper price hitting an all-time high of USD 10,730/t 
  3. First LME statements regarding potential banning of Russian metal
  4. COVID-19 outbreak in China
  5. A cycle of rate hikes started by the Fed and the European Central Bank
  6. A tax reform bill introduced for copper producers in Chile
  7. Lowest copper price in 2022
  8. DXY hits a 20-year high of 115, price rebounds on expectations of a softer-than-anticipated Fed medium-term policy
  9. Aurubis and Codelco raise their copper premium offer by 85%, reports of shipment cuts to China by Codelco in 2023
  10. The London Metal Exchange decides against banning Russian metal
  11. The EU considers imposing sanctions against the Russian mining sector
  12. China lifts all strict lockdown measures across the country
  13. Protests start in Peru

Market balance

In 2022, copper mine output increased by 4% to 21.9 mln t and refined copper production by 1% to 24.6 mln t. Global refined copper consumption totalled 24.8 mln t, up 1%. Overall, the copper market was balanced in 2022 with an immaterial deficit amounting to 231 kt, or less than 1% of global consumption.

Copper market balance (kt)
Source: Company data

Refined copper consumption by industry
First use (%)
End use by industry (%)
Source: Company data


Thanks to its high electrical and thermal conductivity, ductility and corrosion resistance, copper is widely used in various industries. Up to 75% of refined copper produced globally is used to make electrical conductors, including various types of cable and wire. Key copper-consuming industries include construction, electrical and electronic equipment, power industry, transport, machine building, and the production of various equipment and consumer goods. Copper is also a key material for renewable energy development (solar panels, wind farms) and transport electrification (batteries, wiring, electric motors, and charging infrastructure).

In 2022, global refined copper consumption totalled 24.8 mln t, up 1% y-o-y.

With its 55% share of global consumption, China remains the largest copper consumer globally. Despite strict COVID-related restrictions throughout the year followed by lockdown lifting, China ramped up its domestic consumption to 13.6 mln t, or up 2% y-o-y. In 2022, China increased its imports of copper products, including refined copper to 3.7 mln t, or up 7% y-o-y, scrap to 1.8 mln t, or up 5% y-o-y, and concentrates to 25.3 mln t, or up 8% y-o-y.

Demand in Europe and North America remained flat year-on-year at 3 mln t and 2.2 mln t, respectively, while Asia (excluding China) showed a 2% growth to 5.1 mln t. In Russia, copper consumption stayed flat year-on-year at about 300 kt.


Global copper mine production rose by 4% to 21.9 mln t in 2022 as a result of the commissioning of new projects and the expansion of brownfields.

In 2022, copper mine production in Chile, the world’s leading producer of the metal, declined 5% y-o-y to 5.3 mln t. Peru, the world’s second-largest producer of copper, managed to increase its copper mine output by 4% to 2.4 mln t.

An 18% increase in Africa’s mining production to 3.4 mln t was mainly due to a higher output from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

China ramped up its production by 7% to 1.88 mln t, while copper mine production in Indonesia grew 26% to 0.95 mln t.

Production in North America was down by 2% y-o-y to 2.45 mln t, with US production up by 1%, a decline of 10% in Canada and a drop of 1% in Mexico.

Refined copper output also rose by 1% to 24.6 mln t. In 2022, South and Central Americas produced 2.6 mln t of refined copper (down 2% y-o-y), Africa grew its output by about 12% y-o-y to 1.8 mln t, and Asia increased its refined copper production by 2% y-o-y to 14.8 mln t, including China up 2% y-o-y to 10.6 mln t and Japan up 3% y-o-y to 1.5 mln t. Europe produced 3.5 mln t, roughly 4% down y-o-y, while North America produced 1.6 mln t (down 1% y-oy).

Production of refined copper (mln t)
Source: Company data