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Copper is a critical metal in the decarbonisation of the world’s energy networks. It is 100 per cent recyclable, an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, and is widely used in the buildout of renewable energy systems.

In February 2022 we acquired a 45% share in Sierra Gorda - a large, conventional, open pit copper mine located in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile.

With the expected grade and reserve decline of existing copper mines from 2027, new mine supply will be important to close the demand supply gap, despite higher scrap recycling.

Key stats

70.7 kt

Copper production in FY23

Key uses of copper

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Electric and hybrid cars

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Renewable energy infrastructure

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Cables and wiring

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Kitchen products and piping

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As the world moves towards electrification, copper will increasingly be used in power-related infrastructure, including renewable energy.

Copper is a key metal used in wind and solar energy infrastructure, cables and wiring, heating and air conditioning systems, batteries, charging infrastructure and more. Copper is crucial for hybrid and electric vehicles, which use significantly more copper than conventional vehicles.

Copper is also used in kitchen cookware and plumbing as it conducts heat well and has antimicrobial properties.

Producing copper

South32 acquired a 45 per cent interest in Sierra Gorda in February 2022. We have joint operating control, alongside our 55 per cent joint venture partner, KGHM Polska Miedz, a global miner listed in Poland. Situated at a relatively low altitude of 1,700m above sea level, the mine commenced construction in 2011, ahead of commissioning in 2014.

¹ Refer to market release “South32 to acquire a 45% interest in the Sierra Gorda copper mine” dated 14 October 2021. The estimates indicated in the original announcement are qualifying foreign estimate and are not reported in accordance with the JORC Code. A Competent Person has not done sufficient work to classify foreign estimates as Mineral Resources or Ore Reserves in accordance with the JORC Code. It is uncertain that following evaluation and/or further work that the foreign estimates will be reported as Mineral Resources or Ore Reserves in accordance with the JORC Code.