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Potential copper production through 2035 in Chile


  • Gustavo Lagos

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

  • David Peters

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

  • Marcos Lima

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

  • José Joaquín Jara

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)


In the long term, primary and secondary supply of refined copper satisfies demand. Numerous models exist to explain and predict demand and secondary supply; however, the projection of primary supply relies mostly on detailed knowledge of potential mining projects and on existing ore reserves and resources. Much discussion has occurred historically regarding the availability of resources and reserves for the future. Chile, being the largest copper producer, also has the largest reserves in the world; therefore, it retains its potential to be a key player in future supply. This article explores some of the most relevant resource and technological challenges that may emerge with an accelerated development of brownfield and greenfield copper mining projects in Chile through 2035, without considering economic, regulatory, and environmental constraints. A “Full Scenario” was created to accommodate these conditions and restrictions. It includes estimates of future ore reserves, copper production, plant capacity, ore grades, energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and generation of tailings. Maximum production would exceed 10 million tons of contained copper from 2027 to 2030, with a resulting decrease of ore grades and the growth of energy and water consumption. The growth of indirect GHG emissions through 2035 is estimated at 18.4% less than copper production growth, because all new electric energy for this scenario would be based on renewable energy. Also, all new water used by 38 out of the 42 mining projects considered would be seawater, and some of the continental water used in 2019 would cease to be used in mining.

Suggested Citation

  • Gustavo Lagos & David Peters & Marcos Lima & José Joaquín Jara, 2020. "Potential copper production through 2035 in Chile," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 33(1), pages 43-56, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:33:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1007_s13563-020-00227-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-020-00227-2

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