China accounted for 53.6% of the world’s refined copper consumption in 2020

China’s share represented 53.6% of the world’s total refined copper consumption in 2020, according to a report by ECLAC.

How is this explained? China has been the main force behind the increase in copper consumption in the last decade, driven by its rapid economic expansion, increasing urbanization and investment in infrastructure and industry.

Asia (excluding China) accounts for 21.4% of copper consumption, followed by Europe and North America with 13.4 and 9.1% of the world total, respectively.

Refined copper is obtained by mining, processing, and refining a variety of copper oxide and sulfide ores.

It is then processed into various semi-finished products (wire rod, rods, bars and sections, strips, sheets, plates and tubes) before its end use in construction, automotive, manufacturing, architecture and other applications.

Refined copper

It is important to note that when ECLAC refers to a country’s copper consumption, it corresponds to the consumption of refined copper for the manufacture of semi-finished products.

Cuadro: Cepal.

For example, if an air conditioner is manufactured in Japan, but the copper tubes contained in the product were manufactured in China, the consumption of copper is considered to have taken place in China, when the refined copper was converted into copper tube.

Wire rod constitutes the majority of refined copper consumption with 72.5% and is used mainly in the manufacture of copper wires and cables for power distribution and telecommunications.

Construction wire is the most common use for wire rod and is the most important end use for copper.

Copper tube and alloy tube have a wide variety of end uses.

However, its two most important end uses are plumbing pipe and use in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration manufacturing.

Tube use accounted for 12% of refined copper consumption in 2020.

Use of metal

Copper flat rolled products are widely used in applications such as electrical products, buildings and construction, automotive, and military segments.

Copper and copper alloy sheets and strips are used in the construction industry to manufacture doors and hinges, switches, wiring, locks and electrical sockets.

Total copper consumption includes not only refined copper, but also direct-use scrap, which is basically scrap that is used directly in semi-manufacturing plants.

This waste material is mainly alloy scrap and high quality scrap.

According to ECLAC, it is estimated that 4.4 million tons of scrap for direct use were consumed in 2020, and total copper consumption reached 26.9 million tons in the same year.