Peru’s copper output falls in December; zinc production up again

Peru reported a year-on-year decrease in copper production for the second month in a row in December, while zinc output continued to recover, according to the latest data from the country’s Ministry of Energy & Mines (Minem).

The country produced 221,980 tonnes of copper equivalent the last month of 2020, down 1.6% from the 225,496 tonnes produced in December 2019. Production had fallen 2.4% year on year in November.

Lower volumes from MMG’s Las Bambas project, Hudbay Perú's Constancia project and Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde were the main factors behind the production slide, the ministry said when publishing the data on Friday February 5.

Minem added that full-year 2020 copper output totaled 2.15 million tonnes, down by 12.5% from 2.46 million tonnes in 2019.

Most Peruvian mines had to halt operations in mid-March when the government declared state of emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and only began reopening in May.

In the major South American copper producer Chile, meanwhile, output also fell in 2020 due to restrictions put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Chilean copper production in 2020 was down by 1% to 5.73 million tonnes, from 5.79 million tonnes in 2019.

This cut in supplies put pressure on copper treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) from Asian smelters during the year.

Fastmarkets’ copper concentrates TC index, cif Asia Pacific was at $37 per tonne on Friday, falling from $38.20 per tonne a week before and standing at its record-low level.

The index averaged $50.97 per tonne in 2020, compared with $56.86 per tonne in 2019.

Minem also said that Peru produced 155,520 tonnes of zinc in December, a 17.6% year-on-year climb from 132,236 tonnes. Peruvian zinc output has consistently increased on an annual basis of comparison since June.

Antamina (which is jointly owned by BHP, Glencore, Teck and Mitsubishi). Glencore’s Los Quenuales and Nexa Resources led the production growth in December, the ministry said.

Zinc output in 2020 as a whole reached 1.33 million tonnes, down 5.3% from 2019’s 1.4 million tonnes, according to Minem.

Zinc TCs also fell throughout the year and into 2021.

Fastmarkets assessed the zinc spot concentrate TC, cif China at $70-85 per tonne on January 29, down from $75-90 per tonne on January 15 and at its lowest level since $65-75 per tonne on July 27, 2018.

The TC assessment averaged $165.42-185 per tonne in 2020, compared with $261.25-292.08 per tonne in 2019.

Data from the Peruvian ministry showed that lead output was 24,519 tonnes in December, down by 10% from 27.248 tonnes a year before. Full-year 2020 lead output reached 240,732 tonnes - a 21.9% decline from 308,116 tonnes in 2019.

December tin output in Peru was up, year on year at 2,464 tonnes - a 39.2% year-on-year rise from 1,770 tonnes in the same month in 2019. Annual tin production reached 20,647 tonnes, up by 4% from 19,853 tonnes in 2019.

And molybdenum output was 2,985 tonnes in the last month of 2020, down 12% from 3,392 tonnes in December 2019. During 2020 as a whole, molybdenum production totaled 32,185 tonnes, a 5.7% increase from 30,441 tonnes in 2019.

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