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Top 10 copper mines in the world

According to the ISCG, world demand for copper has steadily increased, having more than tripled over the past 50 years, impacting the mining industry greatly. Mining Global looks through The Balance’s “The World’s 20 Largest Copper Mines”, highlighting the top 10 copper-producing mines by annual output in kilotons (kt) .

10 | 1) Escondida

Named after the Spanish for ‘hidden’, Escondida is a copper mine located Atacama Desert in Northern Chile and is the world’s largest copper mine by output. Open since 1990, it is one of the deepest open-pit mines in the world, with its output at 1,270Kt of copper, accounting for 5% of the world’s supply. It is co-owned by BHP Billiton (57.5%), Rio Tinto Corp. (30%), and Japan Escondida (12.5%).

9 | 2) Grasberg

Located in the Papua province of Indonesia, Grasberg is not only the second-largest copper mine in the world, but also the largest gold mine in the world (by reserve). A joint venture between Freeport McMoRan (90.64%) and the Indonesian government (9.36%) and run by PT Freeport Indonesia Co, it produces an annual output of 750kt. Discovered in 1988, with operations beginning in 1990, Grasberg is one of the largest open-pit mines in the world.

8 | 3) Morenci

Morenci is a copper mine located 16km south of Silver City, Arizona, in the United States with a copper output of 520kt. Open for operations since 1872, it is currently operated by Freeport McMoRan, which also owns 85%, while the remaining 15% belongs to Sumitomo Affiliates. Morenci is the largest producer of copper in North America.

7 | 4) Buenavista de Cobre

Buenavista de Cobre, also known as Cananea, is a copper mine located in Sonora, Mexico. The world’s second-largest copper mine by reserve and with an annual output of 510kt, it is one of the oldest open-pit mines in North America, having opened back in 1899. It is owned by Southern Copper Corporation (SCC), a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico.

6 | 5) Cerro Verde II

Located 32km southwest of Arquepica, Peru, Cerro Verde II is an open-pit copper mine with a surface area covering about 157,007 acres, making it the second-largest copper mine in Peru, based on reserves. Its annual output stands at 500kt. It is owned by a consortium consisting of Freeport-McMoRan (the mine’s operator at 53.56% ownership), SMM Cerro Verde Netherlands, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal (21%), Compañia de Minas Buenaventura (19.58%) and public shareholders (5.86%).

5 | 6) Collahuasi

Collahuasi is Chile’s second largest copper mine, producing 454kt in output annually. Located in the in the north of Chile in Atacama Region, it is one of the largest copper reservoirs in the worlds, with 9.964mn tons of copper available. It is co-owned by Anglo American (44%), Glencore (44%), and Mitsui + Nippon (12%) and sells most of its copper to china to be smelted. It has been open since 1999, and in 2012 provided 5.1% of Chile’s gross copper output.

4 | 7) Antamina

Antamina is a copper mine located 170 miles north of Peru’s capital, Lima. It is a joint venture by BHP Billiton (33.75%), Teck (22.5%), Glencore PLC (33.75%), and Mitsubishi Corp. (10%), according to ICSG. It produces 450kt of copper, and is scheduled to cease production in 2019. As well as copper, Antamina is a source of production of silver, bismuth, molybdenum, and lead. According to its company website, it was one of the largest mining investments in the history of mining, with $3.6bn backing.

3 | 7) Las Bambas

Las Bambas, located in the Cotabambas, Apurimac area of Peru, produces 450kt of copper. A joint venture by three companies: MMG (a majority shareholder at 62.5% ownership), Guoxin International Investment Co. Ltd. (22.5%), and CITIC Metal Co. Ltd. (15%), only 10% of the mine’s property has been developed. MMG’s company website states that when the mine is in full production, it will be the largest copper mine in the world, placing Peru as a global leader in the copper industry.

2 | 7) Polar Division (Norilsk/Talnakh Mills)

Polar Division is a Russian copper mine located on the Russian Taimyr Peninsula, near several other copper and nickel mines, all owned by the same company: Norilsk Nickel. According to The Balance, it produces an annual output of 450kt from what is the company’s largest deposit of ore. Polar Division was opened in the 1930s as a nickel mine, before becoming a mine of several different types of metals: cobalt, gold, silver, platinum and, of course, copper. 

1 | 10) El Teniente

Located in the Andes mountain range of Chile, El Teniente produces 432kt of copper annually, according to The Balance, making it the world’s largest underground mine, and sixth largest copper mine (by reserve size). It is approximately 80km south of Chile’s capital city, Santiago and was found in the early 19th century by its current owner company Codelco and has been in business since 1905. The company is currently undertaking a $3.4bn expansion product on the mine, with the intent of expanding production life by 50 years. The project was begun in 2011 and is scheduled to be finished this year, ultimately having created 3,500 construction jobs.

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10 | 1) Escondida

Named after the Spanish for ‘hidden’, Escondida is a copper mine located Atacama Desert in Northern Chile and is the world’s largest copper mine by output. Open since 1990, it is one of the deepest open-pit mines in the world, with its output at 1,270Kt of copper, accounting for 5% of the world’s supply. It is co-owned by BHP Billiton (57.5%), Rio Tinto Corp. (30%), and Japan Escondida (12.5%).

9 | 2) Grasberg

Located in the Papua province of Indonesia, Grasberg is not only the second-largest copper mine in the world, but also the largest gold mine in the world (by reserve). A joint venture between Freeport McMoRan (90.64%) and the Indonesian government (9.36%) and run by PT Freeport Indonesia Co, it produces an annual output of 750kt. Discovered in 1988, with operations beginning in 1990, Grasberg is one of the largest open-pit mines in the world.

8 | 3) Morenci

Morenci is a copper mine located 16km south of Silver City, Arizona, in the United States with a copper output of 520kt. Open for operations since 1872, it is currently operated by Freeport McMoRan, which also owns 85%, while the remaining 15% belongs to Sumitomo Affiliates. Morenci is the largest producer of copper in North America.

7 | 4) Buenavista de Cobre

Buenavista de Cobre, also known as Cananea, is a copper mine located in Sonora, Mexico. The world’s second-largest copper mine by reserve and with an annual output of 510kt, it is one of the oldest open-pit mines in North America, having opened back in 1899. It is owned by Southern Copper Corporation (SCC), a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico.

6 | 5) Cerro Verde II

Located 32km southwest of Arquepica, Peru, Cerro Verde II is an open-pit copper mine with a surface area covering about 157,007 acres, making it the second-largest copper mine in Peru, based on reserves. Its annual output stands at 500kt. It is owned by a consortium consisting of Freeport-McMoRan (the mine’s operator at 53.56% ownership), SMM Cerro Verde Netherlands, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal (21%), Compañia de Minas Buenaventura (19.58%) and public shareholders (5.86%).

5 | 6) Collahuasi

Collahuasi is Chile’s second largest copper mine, producing 454kt in output annually. Located in the in the north of Chile in Atacama Region, it is one of the largest copper reservoirs in the worlds, with 9.964mn tons of copper available. It is co-owned by Anglo American (44%), Glencore (44%), and Mitsui + Nippon (12%) and sells most of its copper to china to be smelted. It has been open since 1999, and in 2012 provided 5.1% of Chile’s gross copper output.

4 | 7) Antamina

Antamina is a copper mine located 170 miles north of Peru’s capital, Lima. It is a joint venture by BHP Billiton (33.75%), Teck (22.5%), Glencore PLC (33.75%), and Mitsubishi Corp. (10%), according to ICSG. It produces 450kt of copper, and is scheduled to cease production in 2019. As well as copper, Antamina is a source of production of silver, bismuth, molybdenum, and lead. According to its company website, it was one of the largest mining investments in the history of mining, with $3.6bn backing.

3 | 7) Las Bambas

Las Bambas, located in the Cotabambas, Apurimac area of Peru, produces 450kt of copper. A joint venture by three companies: MMG (a majority shareholder at 62.5% ownership), Guoxin International Investment Co. Ltd. (22.5%), and CITIC Metal Co. Ltd. (15%), only 10% of the mine’s property has been developed. MMG’s company website states that when the mine is in full production, it will be the largest copper mine in the world, placing Peru as a global leader in the copper industry.

2 | 7) Polar Division (Norilsk/Talnakh Mills)

Polar Division is a Russian copper mine located on the Russian Taimyr Peninsula, near several other copper and nickel mines, all owned by the same company: Norilsk Nickel. According to The Balance, it produces an annual output of 450kt from what is the company’s largest deposit of ore. Polar Division was opened in the 1930s as a nickel mine, before becoming a mine of several different types of metals: cobalt, gold, silver, platinum and, of course, copper. 

1 | 10) El Teniente

Located in the Andes mountain range of Chile, El Teniente produces 432kt of copper annually, according to The Balance, making it the world’s largest underground mine, and sixth largest copper mine (by reserve size). It is approximately 80km south of Chile’s capital city, Santiago and was found in the early 19th century by its current owner company Codelco and has been in business since 1905. The company is currently undertaking a $3.4bn expansion product on the mine, with the intent of expanding production life by 50 years. The project was begun in 2011 and is scheduled to be finished this year, ultimately having created 3,500 construction jobs.

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