China's copper mines: Identifying key cost drivers

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Report summary

Over the past 18 months, the global copper mining industry has announced cuts of 865kt of metal from the market in response to lower prices. We currently estimate 75kt, or 9% of these curtailments have taken place in China. On face value, this seems consistent with the country's overall market share; China is expected to contribute over 1.6Mt of mined copper this year, equivalent to 8% of total global supply. But when we consider that many view China's mines as much higher cost than the global average, why haven't we seen more of them closing? In this Insight we have reviewed some of the key characteristics of China's copper mines. In doing so, we have found a number of areas where the cost base seems to be highly competitive when compared to international peers. We identify some key cost drivers to help us infer the likely profitability of China's industry relative to global peers.

What's included

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  • Document

    China's copper mines: Identifying key cost drivers

    PDF 1.17 MB

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • An overview of copper deposit characteristics in China
    • Realisation and concentrate freight costs
      • Average salary of mine employees compared to country average (China vs Chile) and average wages for major countries
    • Fuel costs
    • Power costs
    • Consumable costs
    • Service Costs
    • Conclusion

Tables and charts

This report includes 13 images and tables including:


  • Key identifiable cost metrics for copper mines in China compared to global averages
  • Chinese mines currently analysed by Wood Mackenzie and their position on the C1 plus capex cost curve
  • China's copper mines: Identifying key cost drivers: Image 3
  • Economies of scale in the mining industry, compared to the China "standard" for operation size classification
  • Percentage of production from open pit vs underground mining for the top 20 mines
  • Percentage of production from mill vs SxEw processing plants for the top 20 mines
  • Comparison between global combined TC/RC and China TC/RC equivalent
  • Smelter capacity vs mine production capability: Top global and top Chinese copper mining companies
  • Chinese and global smelter and refinery costs, compared with TC/RCs
  • Diesel price changes in China
  • Power cost change: 2015 vs 2014
  • China's copper mines: Identifying key cost drivers: Image 10
  • Average on-cost rate in top 10 copper producing countries

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