Top 10: Copper Mining Companies in Chile

Copper is a barometer of world economic health, and Chile is the world's biggest copper producer. These are the 10 biggest copper mining firms in Chile

According to the International Copper Association, one tonne of copper brings functionality to 40 cars, powers 100,000 mobile phones, enables operations in 400 computers and distributes electricity to 30 homes.

Because of its use across many sectors, copper is seen as a leading indicator of economic health. It is used practically everywhere – in homes and in factories, in electronics and in power generation. 

Because of this, when demand for copper increases it indicates a growing economy, while a decrease in demand can signify a looming economic slowdown.

As the world continues to shift towards sustainable energy sources the demand for copper – such a vital component in electrical systems – will soar. 

Copper’s role in global electric vehicle (EV) production is particularly key. An EV requires more than three times the amount of copper than is used in an internal combustion engine, while buses require at least ten times as much. 

The development of power grids in China and India – which together account for almost half the world’s population – will further expand demand for copper. 

But here’s the problem: copper production cannot simply be cranked up to meet soaring demand. New copper mines that came online within the past three years had an average lead time of 23 years from discovery to production.

All of which makes copper-producing countries central to so much that is happening in the world economy, and its hopes of moving to cleaner energy sources.

Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper, accounting for 27% of global supply. Last year, it recorded a year-on-year decline of 7% in production, mainly because of China’s property crash. (China is the biggest consumer of copper, and accounts for 40% of the world’s total copper imports.)

The following are 10 of the biggest copper mining companies in Chile, ranked by annual tonnage. 

01. Codelco

Company: Codelco 
HQ: Santiago, Chile  
Average annual tonnage: 1.8 million tonnes
The Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco) is a state-owned copper mining company. It is the world’s largest copper producer and is responsible for a significant portion of Chile's copper output. It operates numerous copper mining divisions in Chile. These  include: Chuquicamata (380,000 tonnes), El Teniente (440,000 tonnes), Andina (230,000 tonnes), Radomiro Tomic (350,000 tonnes), and Salvador (60,000 tonnes).

02. BHP

Company: BHP
HQ: Melbourne, Australia
Average annual tonnage: 1.47 million tonnes
Australian mining giant BHP holds a majority stake (57.5%) in the Escondida mine, which is one of the world's largest copper mines. Its annual production capacity is around 1.2 million tonnes of copper concentrate, which contains between 25-30% copper, and is produced by crushing, milling and concentrating mined copper ore. BHP also owns the Spence and Cerro Colorado mines as part of its Pampa Norte operations. 

03. Anglo American

Company: Anglo American
HQ: London, England
Average annual tonnage: 0.83 million tonnes
Anglo American is a British multinational mining company, and its interests in Chile include a 44% stake in the Collahuasi copper mine in northern Chile. Collahuasi has an annual production capacity of approximately 524,000 tonnes of copper concentrate.

04. Antofagasta Minerals

Company: Antofagasta Minerals 
HQ:  London, England
Average annual tonnage: 0.71 million tonnes
Antofagasta Minerals is a London-based Chilean multinational, and one of Chile’s most important conglomerates It operates several copper mining operations in Chile. Los Pelambres is one of the country’s largest copper mines, with an annual production capacity of around 360,000 tonnes of copper concentrate. Its Centinela mine complex includes concentrate and cathodes operations, and combined they have an annual production capacity of approximately 330,000 tonnes.

05. Teck Resources 

Company: Teck Resources
HQ: Vancouver, Canada
Average annual tonnage: 0.32 million tonnes
Teck Resources is a Canadian diversified natural resources company, and owns a stake in the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in northern Chile. This has recently been significantly expanded, and the newly named Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 is expected to have an annual production capacity of around 300,000 tonnes of production.

06. Rio Tinto

Company: Rio Tinto
HQ: London, England
Average annual tonnage: 0.25 million tonnes
Rio Tinto Group is a British-Australian multinational mining company, and the world's second largest metals and mining organisation. It has a 30% share of the massive Escondida mine, and trades roughly 300,000 tonnes of copper concentrate from the mine every year.

07. Freeport-McMoRan

Company: Freeport-McMoRan
HQ: Arizona, US
Average annual tonnage: 0.18 million tonnes
American mining company Freeport-McMoRan (more often known simply as ‘Freeport’) has copper mining operations in Chile that include an ownership stake in the El Abra mine, which produces around 180,000 tonnes of copper cathodes annually. Freeport-McMoRan's direct involvement in copper mining in Chile is small compared to its operations in other countries, such as the US and Indonesia.

08. Lundin Mining

Company: Lundin Mining 
HQ: Vancouver, Canada
Average annual tonnage: 0.17 million tonnes
Lundin Mining Corporation owns a 80% stake in Chile’s Candelaria copper mine, which produces up to 170,000 tonnes a year. The Candelaria Copper Mining Complex comprises two adjacent copper mining operations – Candelaria and Ojos del Salado – which produce copper concentrates from an open pit and underground mines. 

09. Sumitomo Metal Mining Co

Company: Sumitomo Metal Mining Co
HQ: Tokyo, Japan 
Average annual tonnage: 0.14 million tonnes
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co has its roots in the Sumitomo copper mining  company that was founded in the late 16th century. It part-owns the Sierra Gorda copper mine, which produces up to 140,000 tonnes of copper every year. Sumitomo develops and produces battery materials for rechargeable batteries

10. JECO Corporation

Company: JECO
HQ: Gyoda, Japan
Average annual tonnage: 0.12 million tonnes
The JECO Corporation consortium comprises Mitsubishi and JX Nippon Mining and Metals, and it owns a 10% stake in the Escondida mine, whose annual product is 1.2 million tonnes a year.

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