Copper Projects in Brazil
Brazil is an important mining market. The country is one of the five largest mineral producers in the world. Although the country is known for its iron ore operations, it also has production in copper which until now has not received a lot of fanfare.
That is set to change with some exciting developments. The combined capex of Brazil’s mining firms is set to reach US$50bn in 2023-27. Investment in copper is expected to triple with investments worth US$4.47bn.
Although the amount of copper projects and the investment it entails is significantly less then iron ore or gold, the uptick in interest has done well to encourage exploration in copper which has traditionally not been the focus. Para and Carajas are two states that are benefiting from the interest in copper making them potentially world class copper districts.
Operating Copper Mines
The Salobo Mine is an open pit mine located in Para. Vale produced an estimated 127.2 thousand tonnes of copper in 2022 from the mine and it will operate until 2053. Last year, it commissioned the USD1bn Salobo III expansion project which increased the mine’s production capacity.
Located in Para, the Sossego Mine is owned by Vale. The surface mine produced an estimated 65 thousand tonnes of copper in 2022. It is expected to operate until 2027 but Vale has plans to process material after that from nearby deposits.
The Chapada open-pit copper-gold mine is in Goias. Lundin Mining produced an estimated 47.5 thousand tonnes of copper in 2022. The mine will operate until 2053. Lundin Mining continues to evaluate how it will take advantage of its recently discovered Saúva coper-gold deposit, located approximately 15km north of the Chapada mine.
The Caraiba Mine, owned by Ero Copper, is an underground mine located in Bahia. The mine produced an estimated 27.72 thousand tonnes of copper in 2022. The mine will operate until 2042.
Owned by Ero Copper, the Vermelhos Mine is an underground mine located in Bahia. It produced an estimated 17.28 thousand tonnes of copper in 2022. The mine will operate until 2026 but further discoveries have been made over the last few years.
Other Copper Projects
The Cristalino deposit is located 40km east of the Sossego deposit. The project was studied with conceptual capacity of 16Mt/a of ore producing up to 120kt/a of copper in concentrate. Cristalino has since been considered a satellite deposit and life-of-mine extension option to Sossega. The project remains in the feasibility stage.
The Alemão copper-gold deposit underlies the partly depleted Igarape Bahia gold mine that operated between 1991 and 2002. The deposit is located 40km south of the Salobo deposit. Vale expects production to be 60,000t/y of copper but no investment decision had been made yet.
Pedra Branca Project
Pedra Branca project is a copper and gold mine located in Carajás mineral district in Brazil. It was recently commissioned. It is owned by OZ Minerals. It only has a mine life of 8 years, but the project is meant to be a satellite deposit with contained reserves to be 104,000t of Cu and 89,000 ounces (oz) of Au.
Serrote Da Laje Project
With an initial investment to US$200mn, Serrote will produce an average of 22,000t/y copper equivalent over an initial 14-year mine life, exploiting mineral reserves of 52.7Mt.
Tucuma Project (Boa Esperanza)
Owned by Ero Copper, first production from the mine is expected in the second half of 2024. The project is expected to produce approximately 35,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of copper concentrates for the first five years and up to 27,000tpa over the rest of the mine life.
Copper is still a very small part of the overall project pipeline that Brazil currently has in the works. Most deposits are in Northern Brazil but there is still lots of room for growth as exploration dollars have mainly been focused on iron ore, gold, and nickel. Aside from Vales Salobo Mine which has a long life, most copper projects to date have not been as large as you would see in neighboring countries such as Chile or Peru. This will hopefully change with more exploration.
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