World Copper Conference Chile – day 2: Majors, lithium and copper price outlook

10 April 2019

Global Copper Miners


The annual World Copper Conference is currently underway bringing analysts, producers, and investors to Santiago, Chile to discuss the future outlook of copper. Luke Viljoen, a project manager with several years experience in the mining industry, is in Chile reporting for MiningIR. These are the major themes he picked up from day two of the conference:

Missed our highlights from day one of the World Copper Conference? Step this way…

High demand expected for Chile´s lithium reserves

According to Chile´s minister of mines, Baldo Prokurica, Chile’s copper and lithium will be highly demanded by the global push towards electric vehicles. Chile is the world’s largest copper producer as well as the second largest producer of lithium. The minister expressed a need to jump on the value chain with CORFO (Production Development Corporation), having initiated a call for Chilean and foreign companies to invest and develop industries to produce lithium value added goods in Chile. The aim is to catapult Chile as a reference point for electromobility development. 

News from the major miners

Recurring themes from the majors revolved around their social license to operate and the need for copper to drive the renewable energy future. 

Rio Tinto’s Arnaud Soirat, Chief Executive, Copper & Diamonds, discussing Rio Tinto’s copper projects

According to Arnaud Soirat, Rio Tinto‘s chief executive of copper and diamonds, a responsible mining company in the 21st century must not only deliver value to shareholders over a long period of time, but also contribute to society. 

Soirat believes that “there is more to do, but we believe that we can be a part of the climate solution”. Renewable energy currently provides almost three quarters of Rio Tinto´s electricity needs. Rio Tinto has also been working with the World Bank by joining the Climate Smart Mining program, set to begin in a few weeks. This program is “designed to manage the clean energy transition, responsibly, pragmatically, and sustainably”.

Don Lindsay, chief executive officer of Teck Resources stated that “Responsible sustainable mining is absolutely vital to our modern society”, with clean technology built on a foundation of metals and mineral products. 

Teck´s oncoming QB2 hypogene project in northern Chile will be a top 20 global copper producer and help meet future demand. First production at QB2 is targeted for the second half of 2021, with an anticipated 316,000 t/y of copper over the first five years. Lindsay emphasized QB2´s exceptionally low strip ratio due to the past mining of oxides in the previous 25 years, effectively pre-stripping the orebody.

Keynote speaker Robert Friedland; founder, and executive co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, took a slightly different approach. He highlighted the health risk associated with air pollution instead of global warming as the main reason behind the need for renewable energy and electric vehicles. 

Friedland, who met with the Democratic Republic of Congo´s recently elected president, Félix Tshisekedi in Washington DC last week, reassured the delegates at the conference that everyone is invited to the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the country having a “frighteningly good mineral endowment.” He highlighted Ivanhoe´s Kamoa-Kakula project which is the world´s highest high-grade copper deposit. Intensive exploration is also ongoing on licenses surrounding Kamoa-Kakula, including at the Kamoa North discovery which reported a recent drill intersection of 22.3 meters (true thickness) at 13.05% copper. 

Copper price outlook has been downgraded

While the copper market will need new mines to close the future predicted deficit, Vanessa Davidson, director of copper research and strategy at CRU, told delegates that CRU`s forecasts have downgraded the price outlook of copper by 8.5% from the previous year´s prediction. The near-term supply gap is being filled more quickly than expected. Davidson cautioned that if the industry is not careful, the deficit could disappear completely, with negative consequences for the copper price. 

See our full list of mining events and conferences around the world in our events section.

Luke Viljoen is a project manager in the extractives sector with several years broad experience in exploration and mining across Africa. He specializes in helping companies solve complex issues in challenging environments. Connect with Luke on LinkedIn or email him directly on lukejv{at}

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MiningIR hosts a variety of articles from a range of sources. Our content, while interesting, should not be considered as formal financial advice. Always seek professional guidance and consult a range of sources before investing.
James Hyland, MiningIR