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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 2019, Canadian mines produced 543,608 tonnes of copper in concentrate, with over half originating from mines in British Columbia
  • Canada’s total exports of copper were valued at $7.0 billion in 2019
  • Canada is responsible for 55% of scrap and 26% of refined copper imports to the United States (USGS, 2020)

Learn more about copper

Uses

Copper is used in a variety of industries such as equipment manufacturing, building construction and infrastructure projects. Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral. The adult human 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, copper production is expected to increase since electric vehicles require two to four times more copper than conventional vehicles.

Copper, global uses, 2018

Text version

This pie chart 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

Canadian mines produced almost 544,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2019, a 3% increase from 2018 attributed to increased production levels in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Find out more about copper production in Canada:

Canadian mine production of copper, by province and territory, 2019 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 British Columbia 295.7 54.4%
2 Ontario 158.2 29.1%
3 Quebec 35.6 6.5%
4 Newfoundland and Labrador 28.5 5.2%
5 Manitoba 24.9 4.6%
6 New Brunswick 0.7 0.1%
Total   543.6 100.0%

Canadian mine production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of copper from 2010 to 2019. Production was 507,883 tonnes in 2010 and increased gradually to a peak of 697,322 tonnes in 2015. Production then decreased toward 527,510 tonnes in 2018 before climbing again to 543,609 tonnes in 2019.

International context

Chile was the world leader in copper production from mines in 2019 with 5.6 million tonnes of copper or 28% of the global total.

Find out more about copper production on an international scale:

World production by country

World mine production of copper, by country, 2019 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage
1 Chile 5,600 28%
2 Peru 2,400 12%
3 China 1,600 8%
4 Dem. Rep. Congo 1,300 7%
5 United States 1,300 7%
6 Australia 960 5%
7 Zambia 790 4%
8 Russia 770 4%
9 Mexico 750 4%
10 Kazakhstan 700 4%
11 Indonesia 340 2%
12 Other countries 3,490 19%
Total   20,000 100%

World mine production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows the world's annual production of mined copper from 2010 to 2019. Production was 16.2 million tonnes in 2010 and increased gradually toward a peak of 20.8 million tonnes in 2018. Production was 20.7 million tonnes in 2019.

World reserves

On a global scale, Chile had the largest copper reserves in 2019 with 200 million tonnes, or 23% of the world total.

World reserves of copper, by country, 2019 (p)

Text version

This pie chart shows the estimated percentages of world reserves of copper by country in 2019. Chile had the largest share, with 23%, followed by Australia (10%), Peru (10%), Russia (7%), Mexico (6%), the United States (6%), Indonesia (3%) and China (3%). Canada did not rank within the top 10. All other countries combined accounted for 32%.

Trade

Canada's total trade (exports and imports) in copper and copper-based products in 2019 was valued at $10.6 billion.

Exports

Canada's total copper exports were valued at $7.0 billion in 2019, a 6.9% decrease from 2018.

Canada exported 411,031 tonnes of copper concentrate in 2019, an increase of 5.8% from 388,387 tonnes exported in 2018. These copper concentrate exports were valued at $3.1 billion, representing a 3.0% price increase over 2018 values (HS code – 260300).

Canada exported 149,330 tonnes of refined copper in 2019 representing a 19.4% decrease compared to 185,308 tonnes in 2018. These exports of refined copper were valued at $1.2 billion in 2019, down 25% from $1.6 billion in 2018 (HS code – 74031 and 74032).

Imports

Canada sourced 75% of its copper imports from the following countries: the United States (51%), Chile (16%), China (5%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (3%). Smaller amounts were imported from more than 100 other countries. Total copper imports were valued at $3.6 billion in 2019, down 12% from $4.1 billion in 2018.

Prices

The price of copper per tonne has fluctuated over the last decade. The average monthly price per tonne was US$7,535 in 2010 and achieved a peak average monthly price of US$8,828 per tonne in 2011. Prices declined after 2011 to reach US$4,868 monthly average price per tonne in 2016 before recovering somewhat in 2018. In 2019, copper prices dropped 8.0% from 2018’s US$6,530 monthly average price per tonne to US$6,010.

Copper price, monthly average, nominal US$ per tonne, 2010–2019

Text version

This line graph shows the monthly average nominal price of copper in US dollars per tonne from 2010 to 2019. The yearly copper price started at $7,535 per tonne in 2010 and peaked in 2011 at a price of $8,828 per tonne before declining steadily to $4,868 per tonne in 2016. Prices recovered to $6,530 per tonne in 2018 before again falling to $6,010 per tonne in 2019.

Recycling

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

The International Copper Study Group estimated that 33% of the world's copper consumption came from recycled copper in 2017.

Canada maintains a strong copper recycling industry. Substantial amounts of the metal are recovered 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, 2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie

International context

  • World mine production of copper, by country, 2019 (p)
    • S&P Global Market Intelligence
  • World refined production of copper, by country, 2019 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie
  • World mine production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)
    • S&P Global Market Intelligence
  • World refined production of copper, 2010–2019 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie
  • World reserves of copper, by country, 2019 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2020

Trade

  • Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada
    • Mineral trade includes ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products

Prices

  • Copper price, monthly average, nominal US$ per tonne, 2010–2019
    • World Bank Commodity Price Data (The Pink Sheet).
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