I wrote in late January about how Peru has been squeezing Chile in terms of copper supply to China.
And this week, it’s official. Peru is now the top copper exporter to the world’s biggest consuming nation.
Platts reported Monday that the latest customs data from China showed another surge in Peru copper shipments. With January imports from the South American nation rising 27 percent as compared to January 2016, to 398,568 tonnes of copper concentrate.
That was more than enough for Peru to seize top spot for Chinese copper supply. With imports from former number-one China supplier Chile amounting to just 318,618 tonnes during January — a full 20 percent less than shipments from Peru.
That’s a resounding statement on just how quickly copper output from Peru is growing. With much of the incremental production here being captive to China, from the Chinese-controlled Las Bambas and Toromocho mines.
The fact that China-destined production has risen to eclipse Chile shows just how prospective deposits in Peru are. And that may represent a major opportunity for copper producers — with Peruvian officials saying this week they’re looking for investment on a number of new projects.
Local press in Peru quoted the national Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment as saying that three big projects will be the focus for 2017 and 2018. With the government arm seeking incoming investors to advance areas of high copper potential in the country.
The most advanced of those opportunities is the Michiquillay project. Which reportedly hosts a copper-molybdenum ore resource of more than 1 billion tonnes.
The agency also said it will offer the Jalaoca and Colca projects, which have been flagged as having significant potential for copper, gold, and molybdenum. Meaning that incoming investors will have three shots at the kind of big upside that recent mining projects across Peru have demonstrated.
The recent export figures are likely to bring a lot of eyes to these projects. Watch to see if Chinese firms try to continue the trend by picking up these deposits — or if competition will emerge from other investors globally.
Here’s to staying on top.
By Dave Forest