Energy Transition

Which countries produce the most copper?

Mining trucks travel along a road at Chile's Esperanza copper mine near Calama town.

Chile is the world's largest producer of copper. Image: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

Bruno Venditti
Writer, Visual Capitalist
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Energy Transition

  • Copper is one of our most important metals – humans have used it since prehistoric times.
  • This metal is particularly crucial in the fight against climate change, as renewable energy technologies like solar panels and wind turbines rely on it.
  • The world's largest producer of copper is Chile, contributing 27% of the global supply in 2021.
An infographic depicting which countries produce the most copper.
These countries produce the most copper. Image: Visual Capitalist

Visualizing the world's largest copper producers

Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.

Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.

But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.

The countries producing the world’s copper

Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.

North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.

Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.

A table showing which countries produce the most copper.
Just 13 countries produce 85% of the world's copper. Image: Visual Capitalist

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.

Copper’s role in the green economy

Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.

For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.

A table comparing the copper used in solar, onshore and offshore wind.
Renewable energy generation requires tonnes of copper. Image: Visual Capitalist

With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.

As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.

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