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2012 U.S. copper production at highest level in 3 years—U.S.G.S.

U.S. smelter copper output last year declined to its lowest level since before World War II, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

U.S. production of refined copper in 2012 decreased by about 3% from that in 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey observed in a Mineral Industry Survey made public Thursday.

Nevertheless, mine production for the full-year 2012 was at its highest level since 2009, according to the USGS.

Copper mining production increases in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico were partially upset by lower production in Utah, “where production at Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine decreased by 32,000 metric tons.”

“Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX) reported that owing to restart of mining and milling at its Chino Mine, production from its New Mexico mines rose to 103,000 t, a 55% increase from production in 2011,” said the agency. “With ramp up at China continuing through 2013, FCX projected New Mexico production to rise to more than 150,000 t in 2014.”

The Geological Survey reported that 1,170,000 metric tons of recoverable copper was mined in the U.S. last year, up from 1,110,000 metric tons of copper mined in 2011.

U.S. smelter production declined by 10% to its lowest level since before World War II “owing to lower concentrate production available to feed Kennecott’s integrated smelter, as well as maintenance shutdowns at two others smelters,” said the Mineral Industry Survey. Anode production at U.S. smelters last year was 485,000 metric tons, down from 538,000 metric tons for 2011.

“Consequently, exports of copper in concentrates rose by 19% and were equal to the record-high level established in 2008,” said the USGS. “Consumption of refined copper remained essentially unchanged in 2012.” U.S. consumption of refined copper for 2012 was 1.76 million metric tons, up from 1.75 million metric tons in 2011.

Preliminary data developed by the International Copper Study Group found that global apparent consumption for refined copper exceeded global production by about 340,000 t in 2012. “According to the ICSG, however, anecdotal evidence, supported by high import levels into China during the first half of 2012, indicates that unreported inventories held in bonded warehouses may have risen significantly,” said the Mineral Industry Survey.

World consumption of refined copper in 2012, incorporating China’s apparent consumption growth of 11%, increased by 3.1% compared with that in 2011. World mine production of copper increased by 4.5% (715,000 t) and mine capacity utilization increased slightly to 82%, ending a 7-year downward trend. World production of refined copper last year increased by 2.5% (485,000 t) from 2011.

iPad Version: – Picture- Worker walks past copper smelting machine, Philippines: REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

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