The Copper Market

About the copper market, demand and economic value

In 2014, global demand for copper was at a record high of around 27 million tonnes. This consisted up of 23 million tonnes of refined production plus 4 million tonnes of direct-melt scrap. The 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 non-precious metal—as well as its durability, copper is a key material for innovation in a number of sectors including renewable energy supplies, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings and  transport systems.

This also means that while the footprint of the direct copper industry in the EU is relatively modest (with an estimated turnover of about €45 billion, and 50,000 people employed), the copper industry feeds into much larger value chains that together represent a substantial part of the EU’s industrial base.

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

The demand for copper has doubled in the last 25 years and is projected to go up further. A recent report from McKinsey Global Institute predicts that copper consumption will rise by 43% by 2035. This is likely to be partly driven by green technologies, such as solar and wind power and electric vehicles.

To meet future demand, we both need to continue to mine and improve recycling rates even further. Europe already leads the world in terms of recycling with nearly 50% of its copper demand through the recovery and recycling of value-chain offcuts, plus end-of-life products.

Visit the Benefits of Copper 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 Europe’s annual copper demand of around 4 million tonnes, the European copper industry gathers 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%)

Copper mining production in the EU represents around 4.6% of total global production.

Use

In 2014, copper mine production in the EU was 847,000 tonnes and took place in countries including Poland, Finland, Sweden and Spain. On a global scale, 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).

Copper mining also provides many valuable by-products that can be used in advanced material applications. For example, it is responsible for the production of almost 500,000 tonnes of cobalt, molybdenum, rhenium, selenium, tellurium and rare earth elements, in addition to volumes of silver, tungsten, gold, lead and zinc.

Find out more about the structure of Europe’s copper industry, from miners and producers to semi-fabricators.

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.