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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 2018, Canadian mines produced 535,509 tonnes of copper in concentrate, with over half originating from mines in British Columbia
  • 87% of Canada's refined copper exports were destined for the United States, while Canada sourced more than 58% of its copper-bearing raw material imports (concentrates, residues, waste and scrap) from the United States in 2018
  • Canada is responsible for 27% of all copper imports to the US (Global Trade Atlas)

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. With growing demand for electric vehicles and as more affordable models become available, future copper production is expected to increase as electric vehicles require two to four times more copper than conventional vehicles.

Copper, global uses, 2018

Text version

This bar graph shows the major global uses of copper in 2018. The largest use was for equipment manufacturing (31%), followed by building construction (28%), infrastructure (16%), transportation (13%) and industrial uses (12%).

Production

In 2018, Canadian mines produced 535,509 tonnes of copper in concentrate, an 11% decrease from 2017, attributed to lower production levels in Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Yukon.

Find out more about copper production in Canada:

Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2018 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 British Columbia 293.5 54.8%
2 Ontario 135.3 25.3%
3 Quebec 35.9 6.7%
4 Manitoba 33.6 6.5%
5 Newfoundland 27.5 5.1%
6 Yukon 9.3 1.7%
7 New Brunswick 0.5 0.001%
Total   535.5 100.0%

Canadian mine production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of copper from 2009 to 2018. Production was 484,605 tonnes in 2009, increasing gradually to a maximum of 707,605 tonnes in 2016. Production then decreased towards a value of 535,509 tonnes in 2018.

Canadian refined production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's refined production of copper from 2009 to 2018. Production was 335,896 tonnes in 2009 before decreasing to a low of 274,000 tonnes in 2011. Production then increased towards a value of 321,500 tonnes in 2013 and then stayed relatively stable until 2015 at an average of just over 325,000 tonnes before decreasing to 314,000 tonnes in 2016 and 286,000 tonnes in 2017. Production then rebounded to 304,000 tonnes in 2018.

International context

Find out more about copper production on an international scale:

World production by country
World mine production of copper, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 Chile 5,832 28.5%
2 Peru 2,372 11.6%
3 China 1,742 8.5%
4 United States 1,333 6.5%
5 Australia 979 4.8%
6 Zambia 957 4.7%
7 Congo, D.R. 946 4.6%
8 Indonesia 763 3.7%
9 Russia 656 3.2%
10 Canada 587 2.9%
- Other countries 4,320 21.1%
Total   20,487 100.0%
Refined production by country
World refined production of copper, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 China 8,680 36.0%
2 Chile 2,502 10.4%
3 Japan 1,607 6.7%
4 United States 1,113 4.6%
5 Congo, D.R. 1,010 4.2%
6 Russia 1,008 4.2%
7 South Korea 685 2.8%
8 Germany 667 2.8%
9 India 584 2.4%
10 Poland 497 2.1%
11 Kazakhstan 438 1.8%
12 Spain 434 1.8%
13 Mexico 421 1.7%
14 Belgium 384 1.6%
15 Australia 382 1.6%
16 Zambia 372 1.5%
17 Peru 359 1.5%
18 Canada 304 1.3%
- Other countries 2,664 11.0%
Total   24,111 100.0%

World mine production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows the world's annual production of mined copper from 2009 to 2018. Production was 15,934,000 tonnes in 2009 and increased gradually towards 20,560,000 tonnes in 2018.

World refined production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows the world's annual refined production of copper from 2009 to 2018. Production was 18,248,000 tonnes in 2009 and increased gradually towards 24,111,00 tonnes in 2018.

World reserves

On a global scale, Chile has the largest copper reserves, with 170 million tonnes, or 21% of the world total.

World reserves of copper, by country, 2018 (p)

Text version

This pie chart shows the estimated percentages of world reserves of copper by country in 2018. Chile had the largest share, with 21%, followed by Australia (11%), Peru (10%), Russia (7%), Indonesia (6%), Mexico (6%), the United States (6%) and China (3%). Canada is not ranked within the top 10. All other countries accounted for 30%.

Trade

Canada's total trade (exports and imports) in copper and copper-based products in 2018 was valued at $11.7 billion.

Exports

Canada's total copper exports were valued at $7.6 billion in 2018, a 4.1% increase from 2017.

Canada exported 389,844 tonnes of copper concentrate in 2018, down 1.0% from the 393,994 tonnes exported in 2017. These copper concentrate exports were valued at $2.9 billion, representing a 3.6% price increase over 2017 values. (HS code – 260300)

Canada exported 185,300 tonnes of refined copper in 2018, 18.8% lower than the 228,300 tonnes exported in 2017. These exports of refined copper were valued at $1.6 billion in 2018, down 11.1% from $1.8 billion in 2017. (HS code – 74031 and 74032)

Imports

Canada sourced more than 75% of its copper imports from the United States (58%), Chile (14%) and Mexico (3%). Smaller percentages were imported from more than 100 other countries. The total copper imports were valued at $4.1 billion in 2018, up 10.8% from $3.7 billion in 2017.

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 2018, copper prices dropped 14.0% from US$7,065.85 per tonne in January to US$6,075.32 per tonne in December.

Copper price, monthly average, 2009–2018

Text version

This line graph shows the monthly average price of copper in US dollars per tonne from 2009 to 2018. The yearly average copper price started at $5,149.74 per tonne in 2009 and peaked in 2011 at a yearly average of $8,828.19 per tonne before declining steadily to average at $4,866.07 per tonne in 2016. Prices recovered to 2013 levels at the beginning of 2018 before falling off, the average monthly prices were as follows: January, $7,065.85; February, $7,006.52; March, $6,799.18; April, $6,851.51; May, $6,825.27; June, $6,965.86; July, $6,250.75; August, $6,051.05; September, $6,050.76; October, $6,219.59; November, $6,195.92 and December, $6,075.32.

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, 2018
    • International Copper Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie

International context

  • World mine production of copper, by country, 2018 (p)
    • S&P Global
  • World refined production of copper, by country, 2018 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie
  • World mine production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World refined production of copper, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Copper Study Group
  • World reserves of copper, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Copper price, monthly average, 2009–2018
    • World Bank Commodity Price Data
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