The Copper Market

The Copper Market: Demand and Economic Value

The direct copper market in the EU is made up of around 500 companies, has an estimated turnover of about €45 billion, and employs around 50,000 people.

However, what is far more important is the breadth of industrial and service sector employment that is based on the added value achieved through the use of copper products (e.g. energy utilities, electricians, automotive companies, electronic equipment manufacturers, plumbers and roofers). These “downstream” sectors employ several million people and represent a substantial part of EU’s industrial base.

While the global economic situation remained relatively weak, in 2014, the world demand for copper was at a record high of around 27 million tonnes. This made up of 23 million tonnes of refined production plus 4 million tonnes of direct-melt scrap. EU’s demand was estimated at around 4.2 million tonnes.

Used for its superior properties, such as having the best electrical and thermal conductivity of any commonly used metal, as well as its durability and hygienic properties, copper is a key material for innovation in a number of sectors including renewable energy supplies, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings, transport systems and healthcare.

Use of refined copper, by sector, within EU 28 (Source: IWCC / ICA, 2015)

To meet the modern world’s increasing demand for copper, which has doubled in the last 25 years, it has been important to exploit copper’s ability to be 100% recycled, without any loss in performance. Throughout the last ten years, it is estimated that 44% of the EU’s copper demand has been met through the recovery and recycling of value-chain offcuts, plus end-of-life products.

Visit the Applications section to learn more about the benefits delivered by copper and copper alloy products across multiple end-uses.

EU Raw Materials Supply Sources

To cover the total annual copper demand of around 4 million tonnes, the EU copper industry is sourcing its material from four sources :

  • Mining operations in the EU (20%)
  • Domestic and industrial scrap from within the EU (43%)
  • Imports of ores and concentrates (25%)
  • Metal nets imports from other regions (12%)

The diagram below shows the copper tonnage split (in millions) by source, relative to year 2014, according to International Copper Association, International Copper Study Group and International Wrought Copper Council.

Copper Mining Production in the EU Represents 4.6% of the Total World Production

In 2014, copper mine production in the EU was 847,000 tonnes. Chile was the largest mining country, with a 32% share, followed by China (8%), Peru (8%), USA (7%) and Australia (6%).

China was the world’s largest producer of refined copper, with 27% of the world output, followed by Chile (16%), Japan (7%) and the USA and Russia (5% each).

Europe’s Mine Production in 2013 (Source: European Minerals Statistics)

The International Copper Association conducts a wide range of copper-related market intelligence studies and is a leading authority on copper end use and the fundamentals of long-term copper demand. This page offers a selection of resources focusing on copper-end-use markets, including studies and presentations, fact sheets and related press releases.