Nearly 2% of Global Copper Supply at Risk in Peruvian Unrest
Comment of the Day

January 19 2023

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nearly 2% of Global Copper Supply at Risk in Peruvian Unrest

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest. Here it is in full: 

Protests in Peru are threatening to choke off access to almost $4 billion worth of copper just as China’s emergence from Covid lockdowns promises to boost demand. 

Peru’s third-largest copper mine, Las Bambas, hasn’t dispatched copper concentrate since Jan. 3 due to security concerns. Glencore Plc’s Antapaccay is also facing restrictions. The mines, which share the same highway access to ports, together account for nearly 2% of the world’s copper output. 

Unrest has rattled Peru since the ouster and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, upending commodity supply chains from metals to organic coffee. The disruption comes at a particularly precarious moment for copper markets. Inventories stand at historically low levels while miners warn demand for the world’s most critical metal is poised to skyrocket with the growing electrification of vehicles.  

Base-metal prices have been on a bull run since New Year’s after China, a top consumer, abruptly abandoned Covid-19 controls. Prices settled Wednesday at a seven-month high on the London Metal Exchange. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts ongoing deficits and forecast a record price of $11,000 a ton within 12 months.

Las Bambas, whose operator MMG Ltd. is controlled by state-owned China Minmetals Corp., has been the target of multiple demonstrations since it opened in 2016 as indigenous groups seek greater compensation for land and roads used by mining companies.

Eoin Treacy's view

Social unrest is a significant issue in several Latin American countries. The reality on the ground is local communities have learned to agitate for better deals from miners through tapping into global activist talking points.

Buzzwords like indigenous rights, climate activism, environmental laws, water use, remediation, road congestion and social services funding all represent themes for protestors.

These are legitimate concerns but what I hear from miners is no sooner is a deal agreed than new grievances arise and negotiations begin afresh. It’s not exactly conducive to doing business and is why many miners are looking at alternative locations.

The challenge for Peru is it has until recently avoided some of the widespread protests seen in neighboring Ecuador. That many now be changing. This news story came at just the right time for copper prices which rebounded today following yesterday’s failure to hold the rally.  
MMG continues to rebound from the lower side of its 23-year base formation. A sustained move above $6.60 would confirm a return to demand dominance beyond occasional steadier action. This is a perfect example of how volatile and lengthy a base formation can be. The trough to peak swing is several hundred percent but upswings have not last more than three years in decades. 

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