Copper facts

Copper is a soft and malleable metal that is used in:

  • electrical wires and cables for its conductivity
  • plumbing, industrial machinery and construction materials for its durability, machinability, corrosion resistance and ability to be cast with high precision
  • many emerging and clean technologies, such as solar cells and electric vehicles

Key facts

  • In 2017, Canadian mines produced 604,481 tonnes of copper in concentrate, with almost half originating from mines in British Columbia
  • Canada was estimated to have 11 million tonnes of copper reserves, or roughly 1.4% of the world total, in 2017
  • More than 90% of Canada's refined copper exports were destined for the United States, while Canada sourced more than 75% of its copper-bearing raw material imports (concentrates, residues, waste and scrap) from the United States in 2017

Learn more about copper

Uses

Copper is used in a variety of industries, such as equipment manufacturing, and building construction and infrastructure projects. Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral. The adult body contains between 1.4 and 2.1 milligrams of copper per kilogram of body weight.

Copper, global uses, 2017

Text version

This bar graph shows the major global uses of copper in 2017. The largest use was for equipment manufacturing (31%), followed by building construction (29%), infrastructure (16%), transportation (13%) and industrial uses (11%).

Production

In 2017, Canadian mines produced 604,481 tonnes of copper in concentrate, a 14% decrease from 2016, attributed to lower production levels in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Yukon.

Find out more about copper production in Canada:

Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2017 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 British Columbia 298.8 49.4%
2 Ontario 172.4 28.5%
3 Newfoundland and Labrador 39.2 6.5%
4 Manitoba 39.1 6.5%
5 Quebec 38.6 6.4%
6 Yukon 16.3 2.7%
Total 604.4 100.0%

Canadian mine production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of copper from 2008 to 2017. Production was 607,957 tonnes in 2008 and 604,481 tonnes in 2017.

Canadian refined production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's refined production of copper from 2008 to 2017. Production was 442,050 tonnes in 2008 and 330,750 tonnes in 2017.

International context

Find out more about copper production on an international scale:

World production by country
World mine production of copper, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 Chile 5,503.5 27.5%
2 Peru 2,445.6 12.2%
3 China 1,706.4 8.5%
4 United States 1,285.2 6.4%
5 Congo, D.R. 999.2 5.0%
6 Australia 867.1 4.3%
7 Zambia 785.2 3.9%
8 Mexico 767.5 3.8%
9 Russia 690.6 3.5%
10 Indonesia 637.9 3.2%
11 Kazakhstan 630.9 3.2%
12 Canada 604.5 3.0%
- Other countries 3,059.1 15.3%
Total 19,982.7 100.0%
Refined production by country
World refined production of copper, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 China 8,889.5 37.8%
2 Chile 2,439.5 10.4%
3 Japan 1,488.1 6.3%
4 United States 1,079.6 4.6%
5 Russia 913.5 3.9%
6 India 822.2 3.5%
7 Congo, D.R. 714.7 3.0%
8 Germany 697.2 3.0%
9 South Korea 672.2 2.9%
10 Poland 522.0 2.2%
11 Mexico 487.5 2.1%
12 Zambia 464.4 2.0%
13 Spain 415.2 1.8%
14 Belgium 398.9 1.7%
15 Australia 394.7 1.7%
16 Kazakhstan 337.9 1.4%
17 Peru 335.3 1.4%
18 Canada 330.7 1.4%
- Other countries 2,104.5 9.0%
Total 23,507.6 100.0%

World mine production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world's annual production of mined copper from 2008 to 2017. Production was 15,531,000 tonnes in 2008 and 19,983,000 tonnes in 2017.

World refined production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world's annual refined production of copper from 2008 to 2017. Production was 18,239,000 tonnes in 2008 and 23,508,000 tonnes in 2017.

World reserves

On a global scale, Chile has the largest copper reserves, with 210 million tonnes, or 29% of the world total.

World reserves of copper, by country, 2017 (p)

Text version

This pie chart shows the estimated percentages of world reserves of copper by country in 2017. Chile had the largest share, with 21.5%, followed by Australia (11.1%), Peru (10.3%), Mexico (5.8%), the United States (5.7%) and China (3.4%). Canada ranked 10th, with 1.4%, and other countries accounted for 40.8%.

Trade

Canada's total trade (exports and imports) in copper and copper-based products in 2017 was valued at $10.9 billion.

Exports

Canada's total copper exports were valued at $7.3 billion in 2017, an 18% increase from 2016.

Canada exported 393,994 tonnes of copper concentrate in 2017, down from the 475,500 tonnes exported in 2016. These copper concentrate exports were valued at $2.8 billion, an equivalent dollar value to the 2016 exports, reflecting the higher-priced global copper markets.

Canada exported 228,300 tonnes of refined copper in 2017, marginally higher than the 224,700 tonnes exported in 2016. These exports of refined copper were valued at $1.8 billion in 2017, up from $1.4 billion in 2016.

Imports

Canada sourced more than 75% of its copper imports from the United States (50%), Chile (23%) and China (5%). Smaller percentages were imported from more than 100 other countries. The total copper imports were valued at $3.6 billion in 2017, up from $2.6 billion in 2016.

Prices

The price of copper per tonne has shown large fluctuations over the last decade, with prices more than tripling from a low in 2008 to a peak in 2011. In 2017, copper prices rose from US$5,737.43 per tonne in January to US$6,801.16 per tonne in December.

Copper price, monthly average, 2008–2017

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This line graph shows the monthly average price of copper in US dollars per tonne from 2008 to 2017. The yearly average copper price started at $7,061.02 per tonne in 2008 and peaked in 2011 at $8,828.19 per tonne before declining steadily to $4,866.07 per tonne in 2016. In 2017, the average monthly prices were as follows: January, $5,737.43; February, $5,941.55; March, $5,821.52; April, $5,697.67; May, $5,591.50; June, $5,699.48; July, $5,978.60; August, $6,478.18; September, $6,583.19; October, $6,797.39; November, $6,825.57 and December, $6,801.16.

Recycling

Copper is one of the few materials that do not degrade or lose their chemical or physical properties in the recycling process. Recycling has the potential to extend the use of resources and minimize waste.

In 2014, the International Copper Study Group estimated that more than 30% of the world's copper consumption came from recycled copper.

Canada maintains a vibrant copper recycling industry, recovering much of it in the Quebec-based smelter and refinery located in Rouyn-Noranda and Montreal, respectively.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Copper, global uses, 2017
    • International Copper Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of copper, by country, 2017 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World refined production of copper, by country, 2017 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World mine production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World refined production of copper, 2008–2017 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World reserves of copper, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Copper price, monthly average, 2008–2017
    • World Bank Commodity Price Data