World's Largest Copper Projects - 2023

World's Biggest Copper Mines

Wood Mackenzie estimates that 9.7 million tonnes of new copper supply will be needed over the next 10 years from projects that have yet to be put into development. The world will be called on to close an “unattainable gap” between green energy demand and copper supply.

For a snapshot of the copper supply chain of tomorrow, Mining Intelligence compiled a list of the top 10 largest undeveloped copper projects and ranked them according to contained copper in the measured and indicated and inferred categories.

Based on our criteria, we excluded Udokan Copper’s large copper deposit in Russia and the Oyu Tolgoi joint venture in Mongolia, which have moved into the construction and commissioning phases.

Top Copper Projects 2023

#1 Pebble

Development status: Preliminary Economic Assessment. Geology: Porphyry, Supergene Copper

Once again, Northern Dynasty’s Pebble project located near the Bristol Bay region of Alaska takes the lead by a distance, with 37.18 million tonnes of contained copper. Despite its vast resources and an estimated $2.1 billion net value, this project has been plagued with controversy, delays and environmental opposition over the years. As of now, Pebble’s fate is still up in the air following the the Biden administration’s proposed ban on waste disposal in the project area.

#2 Resolution

Development status: Feasibility. Geology: Porphyry

Holding onto the No. 2 position is Rio Tinto and BHP’s jointly owned Resolution copper project in Arizona with 27.27 million tonnes of copper resource. For over 26 years, the the world’s top two miners have spent $2 billion trying to launch the Resolution project into production, but like Pebble have faced continued opposition from local communities and environmentalists. A 2014 decision by former President Barack Obama and Congress set in motion a complex process to give Rio federally owned Arizona land that contains more than 40 billion pounds of copper, though that decision is now being disputed.

#3 Kerr-Sulphuets-Mitchell (KSM)

Development status: Prefeasibility // Geology: Porphyry, skarn

Seabridge Gold’s Kerr-Sulphurets Mitchell (KSM) project in British Columbia moved up to third place with nearly 25 million tonnes of copper, up from 21.25 million tonnes in 2021. The project hosts four mineral deposits that will be operated as a combined open-pit and underground mine. Last summer’s preliminary economic assessment based on the standalone underground mine plan gave a glimpse of KSM’s “multi-generational long-life potential”, outlining a 39-year operation with a peak mill feed production of 170,000 t/d.

#4 Reko Diq

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Porphyry, supergene copper

An honourable mention from our previous list, the massive Reko Diq deposit in Pakistan now takes over the No. 4 spot after Barrick Gold resolved a long-running dispute with its Pakistani partners last year. As 50% owner, the Toronto-based gold giant is planning to to invest $10 billion into the project, which is expected to have a life of more than 40 years. A feasibility study update is expected by the end of 2024, and if all goes to plan, the aim is to achieve first production by 2028.

#5 La Granga

Development status: Advanced exploration // Geology: Porphyry

Dropping to fifth place is Rio Tinto’s La Granja property in Peru, holding a resource of 22.06 million tonnes of copper. Rio Tinto acquired La Granja over 12 years ago, but renewed the concession in 2019 and paid $5 million to continue exploring. The same year, it was rumored that Rio may team up with First Quantum to develop the mine.

#6 El Arco

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Porphyry

A new addition to the top 10 list is the El Arco deposit located in the central part of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, with total copper resource of 17.68 million tonnes. Southern Copper is currently laying the groundwork for an environmental permit application for El Arco, which, in terms of capex, is by far the biggest active mining project in the country.

#7 Hu’u Onto

Development status: Advanced exploration // Geology: Porphyry

Another new addition is the Hu’u Onto project located in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, with 17.16 million tonnes of copper resources. The project is held by a joint venture between Vale (80%) and Indonesian mining company ANTAM (20%), which has been exploring the Hu’u property since 2010. Following the discovery of the world-class Onto copper-gold deposit in 2020, the project’s resource was significantly boosted.

#8 Nueva Union

Development status: Prefeasibility // Geology: Porphyry

Teck and Newmont’s Nueva Unión 50/50 joint venture in Chile holds eighth place with 16.69 million tonnes of copper resource. The project is located in the Atacama region, with annual copper production estimated at 224,000 tonnes during the first five years of production.

#9 El Pachon

Development status: Advanced exploration // Geology: Porphyry

Glencore’s El Pachón copper and silver project in San Juan province, Argentina, takes the ninth spot with a 15.46-million-tonne resource. El Pachón involves an estimated investment of $5.6 billion and production of 400,000 tonnes per year with a mine life of 25 years.

#10 Tampakan

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Porphyry

The Tampakan deposit on the Philippine island of Mindanao falls four spots to tenth place with 15.25 million tonnes of copper. Sagittarius Mines is seeking local approval for the proposed mine, which is estimated to yield an average of 375,000 tonnes of copper a year over a 17-year mine life.

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