The Green Energy Transition Has a Chilean Copper Problem
Comment of the Day

May 16 2023

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Green Energy Transition Has a Chilean Copper Problem

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Codelco’s production is down by about a fifth from only six years ago. After a double-digit-percentage drop in 2022, it’s expected to fall as much as 7% this year, to 1.35 million metric tons.

Ore quality is deteriorating around the world as existing deposits are depleted and new ones are more difficult and costly to develop. “There’s no easy mining left—not in Chile nor the rest of the world,” said Sougarret at a shareholders meeting on May 2.

Because Codelco is the world’s biggest copper supplier, its production wobbles have greater impact on a market where warehouse inventories are near their lowest levels in 18 years. The company’s travails also have tremendous impact on Chile’s economy: Copper accounts for more than half of the country’s exports and a significant share of the government’s income. President Gabriel Boric’s administration is budgeting a 40% drop in tax revenue from Codelco in 2023 at a time when it’s trying to boost social spending.

Eoin Treacy's view

When the world is having difficulty sustaining production of a key commodity, it is reasonable to expect prices to rise. That’s generally the best way to attract the risk capital required to bring new supply online. It will not have escaped the notice of traders that copper prices are falling. That suggests one should be more concerned with demand than supply. 

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