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Future Copper Supply Imperiled by Project Freeze at Top Producer

The pandemic is raising questions over the biggest copper producer’s ability to maintain output levels in the coming years and satisfy growing global demand.

Like many of its private-sector peers, state-owned Codelco has largely given up on project development for the time being to focus on running existing mines with reduced staff. For the Chilean behemoth, though, the consequences of prolonged building delays would be far greater.

Decades of underinvestment mean Codelco is having to spend more than $40 billion over the next decade just to maintain production. Without those projects, the company’s output would tumble, dethroning it as the top producer, reducing global supply by about 2% and potentially sending what’s thought to be a fairly balanced market into deficit.

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