Copper to remain weak, says mining chief – by Henry Sanderson and Neil Hume (Financial Times – May 19, 2016)

Antofagasta CEO warns prices will stay low for at least two years

Copper prices are likely to remain low for at least the next two years, the new boss of Chilean miner Antofagasta said on Thursday, as prices for the industrial metal fell to their lowest level since February.

The market is likely to be in a surplus of around 300,000 tonnes this year and next as growth in China’s demand slows to just over 2 per cent, said Iván Arriagada, who became chief executive of the UK-listed miner last month.

Commodity prices have retreated from their March highs after an estimated $1tn surge in credit in China in the first quarter pushed up imports to record levels. Prices for copper are down over 7 per cent this month to just above $2 a pound, or $4,500 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange. In March, they rose to more than $5,000 a tonne.

Other metals from nickel to zinc and aluminium also dropped on Thursday as the dollar rebounded to a seven-week high against a basket of major currencies.

The metal is key for the profits of some of the largest miners, such as Rio Tinto and Glencore. Copper prices have dropped by more than half since early 2011 when they peaked at over $10,000 a tonne as miners struggled to meet demand.

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