(Bloomberg) — The last time the copper industry gathered in Santiago, prices were below $3 a pound amid concerns over a slowdown in Chinese demand, and there was little talk of supply-chain woes or inflation.
Now the executives, bankers and traders drifting in to the Chilean capital for the first in-person version of the Cesco-CRU event in the pandemic era are facing an entirely different set of circumstances.
Sure, mines are raking in the cash with prices now closer to $5. But commodity markets are in a state of flux as Russia’s war in Ukraine exacerbates supply-line frailties exposed by the reopening of economies. For so-called battery metals like copper, an acceleration in electric-vehicle demand adds another layer of tightness as the world tries to wean itself off fossil fuels.
All that should unleash a wave of new investments after a decade and a half of penny pinching triggered by the global financial crisis. But societies have grown much more demanding and costs are surging, making new mines trickier and pricier to build.
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