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 2016, Canadian mines produced 707,605 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 1.5% of the world total in 2016.
  • More than 90% of Canada’s refined copper exports were destined for the United States, while Canada sourced 62% of its copper imports from the United States, Chile and China in 2016.

Learn more about copper

Uses

Copper is mostly used in various industries, such as the manufacture of equipment, 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, 2016

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This bar chart shows the major global uses of copper as of 2016. The largest use was for equipment (31%), followed by building construction (30%), infrastructure (15%), industrial uses (12%) and transportation (12%).

Production

In 2016, Canadian mines produced 707,605 tonnes of copper in concentrate, a 1.5% increase from 2015, attributed to higher production levels in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, and Yukon.

Find out more about copper production in Canada:

Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2016 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 British Columbia 340.7 48.2%
2 Ontario 211.1 29.8%
3 Manitoba 44.3 6.3%
4 Quebec 41.8 5.9%
5 Newfoundland and Labrador 38.4 5.4%
6 Yukon 31.4 4.4%
- Total 707.6 100%

Canadian mine production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of copper from 2007 to 2016. Production was 596,249 tonnes in 2007 and 707,605 tonnes in 2016.

Canadian refined production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s refined production of copper from 2007 to 2016. Production was 453,453 tonnes in 2007 and 314,324 tonnes in 2016.

International context

Find out more about copper production on an international scale:

World production by country
World mine production of copper, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 Chile 5,545.4 27.5%
2 Peru 2,353.9 11.7%
3 China 1,895.7 9.4%
4 United States 1,461.9 7.3%
5 Australia 938.7 4.7%
6 Congo, D.R. 874.8 4.3%
7 Zambia 762.8 3.8%
8 Indonesia 727.4 3.6%
9 Mexico 725.2 3.6%
10 Canada 707.6 3.5%
11 Other countries 4,164.1 20.7%
- Total 20,157.5 100.0%
Refined production by country
World refined production of copper, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 China 8,436.3 36.0%
2 Chile 2,613.0 11.2%
3 Japan 1,553.0 6.6%
4 United States 1,222.5 5.2%
5 Russia 867.3 3.7%
6 South Korea 675.0 2.9%
7 Germany 671.4 2.9%
8 Poland 535.8 2.3%
9 Mexico 503.4 1.8%
10 Australia 479.5 2.0%
11 Spain 426.4 1.8%
12 Zambia 425.6 2.2%
13 Belgium 373.4 1.6%
14 Peru 331.3 1.4%
15 Canada 314.3 1.3%
16 Other countries 3,978.3 17.0%
- Total 23,406.5 100.0%

World mine production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual production of mined copper from 2007 to 2016. Production was 15,482,000 tonnes in 2007 and 20,158,000 tonnes in 2016.

World refined production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual refined production of copper from 2007 to 2016. Production was 17,928,000 tonnes in 2007 and 23,407,000 tonnes in 2016.

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, 2016 (p)

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This pie chart shows the estimated percentages of world reserves of copper by country in 2016. Chile had the largest share with 29%, followed by Australia (12%), Peru (11%), Mexico (6%), the United States (5%), Russia (4%) and China (4%). Canada ranked 11th with 2%, and other countries made up 26%.

Trade

Canada’s total trade (exports and imports) in copper and copper-based products in 2016 was valued at $8.8 billion.

Exports

Canada’s exports of refined copper and copper concentrate saw a decline in 2016. Canada’s total copper exports were valued at $6.2 billion in 2016, an 11.2% decrease from 2015.

Canada exported 475,500 tonnes of copper concentrate in 2016, down from the 481,100 tonnes exported in 2015. These copper concentrate exports were valued at $2.8 billion, down from $3.1 billion in 2015.

Canada exported 224,700 tonnes of refined copper in 2016, down from the 235,500 tonnes exported in 2015. These exports of refined copper were valued at $1.4 billion in 2016, down from $1.65 billion in 2015.

Imports

Canada sourced 62% of its copper imports from the United States, 8% from Chile, 6% from China, and smaller percentages from more than 100 other countries. The total copper imports were valued at $2.6 billion in 2016, down from $3.2 billion in 2015.

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. Copper prices rose in 2016 from US$4,461.40 per tonne in January to US$5,674.70 per tonne in December 2016.

Copper price, monthly average, 2007–2016

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This line chart shows the monthly average price of copper in U.S. dollars per tonne from 2007 to 2016. The yearly average copper price started at $7,118.23 per tonne in 2007 and peaked in 2011 at $8,828.19 per tonne before declining steadily to $4,866.07 per tonne in 2016. In 2016, the average monthly price was: January, $4,461.40; February, $4,591.86; March, $4,929.62; April, $4,835.69; May, $4,693.00; June, $4,636.61; July, $4,870.26; August, $4,771.05; September, $4,724.70; October, $4,749.71; November, $5,454.27; and December, $5,674.70.

Recycling

Copper is among 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 Montréal, respectively.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Copper, global uses, 2016
    • International Copper Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of copper, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World refined production of copper, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World mine production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World refined production of copper, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World reserves of copper, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Copper price, monthly average, 2007–2016
    • World Bank Commodity Price Data