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ASX Copper Stocks: 5 Biggest Companies in 2023

Copper Investing
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What are the largest Australian copper companies? These five ASX copper stocks are the biggest on the exchange by market cap.

Copper initially performed well after 2020's COVID-19 lockdowns, hitting an all-time high of US$10,729 per tonne in 2022. However, the red metal fell as low as US$7,000 when China implemented fresh restrictions partway through the year.

The country finally began to open back up last December, and copper was able to break back through the US$9,400 mark by mid-January. However, prices have been volatile in 2023, plunging to a year-to-date low of just under US$8,000 in May. For most of the third quarter of the year, copper prices remained largely rangebound between US$8,200 and US$8,700 per tonne. After a brief dip below the US$8,000 level in early October to as low as US$7,812, copper prices were trading at US8,252 as of November 22.

Despite copper's recent setbacks, many market watchers have a positive long-term outlook for the metal. With few new mines poised to come online and demand from the energy transition set to grow, a future breakout could be coming.

Australian investors looking for exposure to these trends have plenty of options when it comes to stocks. As the eighth top copper-producing country, the nation is home to many ASX-listed companies exploring and mining for the base metal. Read on to learn more about the top five Australian copper companies on the ASX by market cap. All market cap and share price information was obtained on November 22, 2023, using TradingView's stock screener.

1. BHP

Market cap: AU$240.217 billion; current share price: AU$47.84

BHP (ASX:BHP) is a global copper producer with operating copper mines in Australia and Chile, as well as a copper project in the US. In addition to its copper operations, BHP mines iron ore, nickel, metallurgical coal and potash.

The company’s Australian copper mine is the massive Olympic Dam operation in South Australia, which also produces gold and uranium as by-products. In Chile, the company has the 57.5 percent owned Escondida mine — the world’s largest copper producer — and the wholly owned Pampa Norte operations.

In August 2022, BHP made an unsolicited offer to acquire OZ Minerals for AU$25 per share. OZ rejected that offer, but BHP's next proposal of AU$28.25 per share was supported by OZ, and BHP subsequently acquired 100 percent of the company through a scheme implementation deed that closed in May 2023.

"Bringing together the copper assets from OZ Minerals with OIympic Dam will create a Tier 1 copper province in South Australia," BHP said in the annual report for its 2023 fiscal year. In the document, the company reported guidance of 310,000 to 340,000 tonnes of copper for its 2024 fiscal year.

2. Sandfire Resources

Market cap: AU$2.87 billion; current share price: AU$6.26

Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) has multiple copper mines. Its MATSA copper operations are in Spain, while its DeGrussa copper-gold operations are in Western Australia and its Motheo copper mine is in Botswana. The company also has multiple projects in the development and study phases.

Sandfire has been winding down output at DeGrussa, most recently processing oxide stockpiles to produce copper and gold. However, as the stockpiles became increasingly low margin and the economics worsened, the company decided to transition the operations to care and maintenance. The mine produced 27,502 tonnes of copper in Sandfire's 2023 fiscal year, with only 1,457 tonnes of that coming in Q4.

Sandfire acquired the MATSA mining complex in February 2022 for US$1.87 billion, and it has become a major producer for the company, outputting 55,737 tonnes of contained copper in the 2023 fiscal year.

In August, Sandfire announced the opening of its Motheo copper mine in Botswana, which had been in development since 2020. As Motheo ramps up, the company is now focused on expanding production; it ultimately is aiming to produce 50,000 tonnes of contained copper per year by 2025.

In its 2023 fiscal year, Sandfire reported production of 84,056 tonnes of contained copper. The company anticipates combined production from MATSA and Motheo to fall between 110,000 to 120,000 tonnes in its 2024 fiscal year.

3. Develop Global

Market cap: AU$730.039 million; current share price: AU$3.08

Unlike the other companies on this list, Develop Global (ASX:DVP) is not a producer of copper; instead, it is developing its three copper projects in Australia with the goal of supplying the clean energy transition.

The Sulphur Springs project, which is comprised of the Sulphur Springs and Kangaroo Caves deposits, is a near-term volcanogenic massive sulphide project that contains copper, zinc and silver. Develop is also working on a potential mine restart for its past-producing Woodlawn zinc-copper project in New South Wales, which closed in 1998. In August, the company reported the discovery of significant high-grade mineralisation which will be incorporated into an updated resource estimate slated for release in the first quarter of 2024. The updated mineral resource estimate will inform the final mine plan.

Lastly, the company has a 20/80 joint venture with Anax Metals (ASX:ANX) for the past-producing Whim Creek copper-zinc project. In July, Anax identified spodumene in pegmatites at Whim Creek, giving the project lithium potential as well.

4. 29Metals

Market cap: AU$371.668 million; current share price: AU$0.515

29Metals (ASX:29M) has both of its copper operations in Australia, and its primary exploration asset in Chile. Golden Grove in Western Australia is a copper, zinc and precious metals mine, and the Capricorn Copper mine in Queensland produces copper and silver. In Chile, 29Metals owns Redhill, which includes the Cutters Cove copper-gold-silver project.

During the half year ended on June 30, 29Metals produced 10,000 tonnes of copper, down 51 percent year-on-year due to extreme flooding at Capricorn Copper, which took the mine out of commission until August 1. A phased restart is now underway at Capricorn Copper, but the mine won't be back to full capacity until the first half of 2024.

5. Aeris Resources

Market cap: AU$104.17 million; current share price: AU$0.155

Aeris Resources (ASX:AIS) has four assets in Australia spanning four states, three of which are copper primary: the Tritton operations, the North Queensland operations, the Jaguar zinc-copper operations and the Stockman project.

In Aeris' 2023 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, the company produced 51,500 tonnes of copper. Going forward into the company's 2024 fiscal year, Aeris will be putting Jaguar into care and maintenance for the time being due to operational challenges and low zinc prices. However, the company's copper operations are expected to perform strongly, with increased production at Tritton. Aeris has announced copper guidance of 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes for the year.

Ongoing development work at Tritton resulted in an updated mineral resource estimate for the Avoca Tank deposit in September, and increased confidence in the mineral resource estimate for the Constellation deposit in November.

FAQs for ASX copper stocks

How much is copper worth?

The copper price is tracked in two ways: COMEX copper and London Metal Exchange (LME) copper. The COMEX and LME are both options and futures metal exchanges, with the former being headquartered in New York and the latter in London. COMEX copper is priced by the pound, while LME copper is priced per tonne.

In 2022, copper saw historically high prices. In Q1 and most of Q2, copper prices on the COMEX ranged between US$4.10 and US$4.89 ⁠— an all-time high. For the same time period on the LME, copper moved between US$9,000 and US$10,730.

What are the uses of copper?

Copper is used in many industries, from construction to electronics to medical equipment. In fact, in 2021, 32 percent of copper globally was used in equipment manufacturing and 28 percent in building construction.

Two other growing sectors for copper are the burgeoning electric vehicle and green energy industries. Electric vehicles require a significant amount of the red metal per vehicle.

How to invest in copper on the ASX?

Investors have access to a wide variety of Australian copper companies on the ASX, from copper miners to copper explorers. This means that investors can choose what kind of company matches their risk appetite and portfolio.

When looking for a copper company to invest in, be sure to do your due diligence and learn about the company, its team, its finances and the geology of its projects. Once you’ve selected a company or companies to invest in, you can buy copper stocks using trading apps with access to ASX stocks, as well as with the help of stock brokers.

Click here to learn which ASX-listed copper stocks have gained the most year-to-date.

Is there a copper ETF on the ASX?

In November 2022, the ASX welcomed its first copper ETF: the Global X Copper Miners ETF (ASX:WIRE). It is designed to track the performance of companies that have, or are expected to have, significant exposure to the copper industry.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Lauren Kelly, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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