coppers price surge boon for evs and green tech amidst market volatility 146

Market Trends

Copper's Price Surge: Boon for EVs and Green Tech Amidst Market Volatility


Lauren Miller

May 10, 2024 - 19:58 pm


Copper Prices Surging Amid Supply Challenges and EV Demand

In a dramatic shift witnessed this week, copper prices soared once again, surpassing the significant benchmark of US$10,000 per ton. This surge is attributed to projections that forecast a tightening of global supplies coupled with an increased demand emanating from the electric vehicle (EV) and power sectors. Remarkably, this has occurred in spite of a diminishing demand from China, which is the world's primary consumer of the industrial metal.

The past months have seen copper prices escalating by a notable 21%, a rally fueled by the anticipation of supply shortages. These pressure points on supply are due in part to the declining output from aging copper mines, which are struggling to keep pace with the robust demand. Copper producers, including Torex Gold Resources Inc., stand to benefit considerably from this surge in prices. Jody Kuzenko, the Chief Executive Officer of Torex, expressed high spirits about the company’s foray into the copper segment, stating: “We're so pleased to be in the copper story. When [our] Media Luna [project] is up and running it will produce about 45 million pounds of copper a year.”

The Media Luna project, with a roadmap to fruition by year’s end, may witness copper prices soaring as high as $12,000 per ton, as predicted by investment giant Goldman Sachs. The firm points to persistent supply challenges and potential acute shortages by the close of the year as bullish factors for the copper market. Likewise, Kuzenko is optimistic about the market outlook, sharing that “We like copper. We're quite bullish on it. I see no scenario where supply meets demand over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The Panamanian Problem

A crucial element contributing to the tightening supplies is the Cobre Panama mine's output, or rather the lack thereof. Owned by First Quantum Minerals Ltd., the mine has been inactive since November following a court ruling and subsequent unrest in Panama over the company's mining contract. Panama's president-elect, Jose Raul Mulino, has taken a hardline approach to the issue. He has stated that discussions about reopening the mine, which is responsible for more than 1% of the world's copper supply, will not commence unless First Quantum withdraws its arbitration claims against the nation. Mulino's stance is a direct consequence of a Supreme Court decision that uncovered numerous legal concerns with First Quantum's mining contract. He conveyed his viewpoint on the "Panama en Directo" radio show, indicating that a revamped model would be essential for any future negotiations.

Nevertheless, First Quantum has lodged arbitration claims amounting to an astronomical US$20 billion with Panama under the terms of a free trade agreement with Canada. Mulino remains steadfast, unyielding to discussions while the arbitration hangs in the balance, and firmly insists that a revised contractual framework is necessary. Analysts are bracing for extended negotiations, with the possibility of the talks stretching over a year before the mine is even considered for reopening.

Mergers and Acquisitions on the Horizon

The copper industry is rife with speculation regarding potential mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Reports that Barrick Gold Corporation may acquire Cobre Panama have been outrightly dismissed by their CEO, Mark Bristow. Despite this, the idea of M&A activity is very much alive in the copper sector, spurred on in part by BHP Group Limited’s pursuit of Anglo American Plc.

BHP’s proposition for a partial breakup and subsequent acquisition of Anglo has electrified the industry, inducing other leading mining companies to ponder counter-offers. Meanwhile, financial advisors are enthusiastically formulating various strategies. The mining sector, renowned for its vigorous M&A activity, often highlighted by bidding wars and strategic acquisitions, has major players on the edge of their seats, eager to boost their copper resources—a key motive behind BHP’s bid for Anglo.

Jamie Beck, CEO of Filo Corp., which counts BHP as its second-largest shareholder, commented on the potential corporate actions, "We've seen [BHP’s] approach to Anglo, and I think that just heightens everyone's desire to grow in copper. Whether they're successful in this proposed takeover attempt, one way or another, I think this is going to kick-start a bunch of M&A, and it's really great for all of us to have copper in the headlines, and highlights how hard it is for companies to grow their copper business."

While BHP moves on its acquisition plans, its largest rivals, the Rio Tinto Group and Glencore Plc, are carefully considering their next steps. These mining behemoths might leverage possible asset divestitures from Anglo’s portfolio, should BHP's acquisition proceed, instead of putting forward competing bids for the entire company.

This tumult within the takeover sphere has precipitated a rigorous re-evaluation of the mining industry's landscape. Investment banks not currently affiliated with BHP or Anglo are approaching other major players, like Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Vale SA, positing possible strategic maneuvers. The culmination of BHP’s bid could have significant ramifications, potentially catapulting BHP to a position of dominance with a highly sought-after combination of copper and iron ore assets. Such an outcome would redefine the competitive dynamics and strategic opportunities throughout the sector.

As the markets oscillate, copper's price stood at $x,xxx a ton on the London Metal Exchange by the midday trading in Toronto. This figure is a testament to the volatility and the various factors influencing the price of this essential industrial metal.

Investing in a Greener Future with Copper

Beyond the immediate significance for producers and investors, the rise in copper prices is emblematic of a larger trend towards eco-friendly technologies. The metal's excellent conductive properties make it indispensable in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and the construction of renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar panels and wind turbines. As nations ramp up their efforts to combat climate change, the demand for copper is poised to skyrocket. This pronounced upward trajectory provides a clear signal that copper will be a critical component in our collective shift towards a sustainable future.

The China Conundrum and its Impact on Copper Demand

Although China's demand has weakened, the Asian giant remains a critical player in the copper market. China's economy, known for its rapid industrialization and expansive construction projects, has traditionally driven the demand for copper. The recent slowdown is attributable to various economic adjustments and attempts to mitigate environmental implications. However, the long-term growth prospects of the Chinese economy and its pivotal role in global manufacturing suggest that it will continue to be a copper-consuming powerhouse for years to come. Observers will keep a close eye on how China balances environmental concerns with its material needs, which will inevitably influence copper's global demand and prices.

Navigating Legal Quagmires: First Quantum and Cobre Panama's Future

The impasse surrounding the Cobre Panama mine illustrates the complexities facing multinational mining operations. Legal challenges, community relations, and political maneuvering are but a few hurdles that can affect a mine's productivity and, by extension, global supply. The unfolding situation in Panama serves as a cautionary tale for the mining industry at large. The resolution of the conflict between First Quantum and Panamanian authorities holds not only economic significance but may also set legal and diplomatic precedents influencing future international mining ventures.

BHP, Anglo, and the Reshaping of the Mining World

The overture made by BHP Group Limited towards Anglo American Plc is more than a corporate maneuver; it's a potential catalyst for transformation within the mining industry. Should the acquisition be successful, it would signal a period of consolidation that could see a concentration of resources and influence within the hands of a few key firms. This would not only influence the strategies of other mining companies but also have wider economic implications, given the vital role that mining plays in the global economy.

A Look Ahead: The Future of Copper

As we gaze into the future of the copper market, several factors will likely shape its trajectory. Progressive technological developments, advancing renewable energy efforts, and the rising proliferation of electric vehicles all portend a surge in copper demand. Additionally, with existing mines aging and new discoveries becoming rarer, the industry must find ways to increase efficiency and explore alternative sources to satiate the rising appetite for this red metal.

Conclusion: The Red Metal's Red-Hot Potential

The recent developments in copper pricing powerfully illustrate the unique confluence of supply constraints and burgeoning demand setting the stage for a potentially tumultuous yet lucrative period for the metal. As companies like Torex Gold Resources prepare to capitalize on these market forces, and the industry braces for a wave of M&A, copper remains a bright spot in the commodities sector, with a myriad of strategic opportunities on the horizon. With sustainable technologies becoming increasingly prevalent, there are ample reasons for both companies and investors to be bullish about copper's bright future.

For further insights into the dynamic world of copper and to stay updated on pricing and market developments, one can refer to the London Metal Exchange at