Freeport May Double Copper Sales to China as Production Expands

Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc., the world’s second largest copper miner, may double sales of copper concentrate to China in the next three years as mined production expands, according to Javier Targhetta, the company’s senior vice president of marketing and sales.

Sales to China may be 800,000 to 1 million metric tons by 2016, up from more than 500,000 tons this year, Targhetta said in an interview in Madrid yesterday. The company’s concentrate sales to the biggest metals buyer have grown 10 times since 2005, he said. Copper concentrate is the material from mines that’s processed into cathodes for use in pipes and wiring.

“We hope to significantly increase sales to China in the coming three years,” Targhetta said before Metal Bulletin’s copper conference in Madrid. “We are one of the ones increasing our mined production. Certainly the Chinese market is a good one for us to place part of new concentrate that we will be producing.”

China will boost concentrate imports by 17 percent this year, soaking up some of the expected growth in mine supply, Barclays Plc said Feb. 15. Freeport in January forecast copper sales this year of 4.3 billion pounds (1.95 million tons) from

3.66 billion pounds in 2012. China is moving its import requirements toward copper concentrate from refined metal, Citigroup Inc. said March 4.

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This year, 1.9 million tons of production will be added to mine output, or 11 percent of output last year, Credit Suisse Group AG said in a report in January. Mines are adding output from Rio Tinto Group’s Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia to Xstrata Plc’s Antapaccay in Peru and Vale SA’s Salobo in Brazil, according to the report.

Freeport’s Atlantic Copper smelter in Huelva, Spain, processed 1.03 million tons of copper concentrate and produced a record 274,000 tons of copper cathode, according to the company. Targhetta is also president of the unit.

The plant will shut for 60 days in early September for the first time in eight years for maintenance, Targhetta said. This should reduce output of copper cathodes by about 15 percent for the year, Targhetta said. Codelco, in Chile, is the world’s largest copper producer.