Southern Copper Corporation SCCO has various organic growth projects up its sleeve that will help the company in achieving its target of producing 1.9 million tons (Mt) by 2028. The will aid the company capitalize on the surge in demand for the metal triggered by the global focus on lower-carbon emissions. Backed by world class assets and its incessant focus on cost efficiency, the company is poised well for growth in the long haul.
Through the years, the company’s strong financial discipline has enabled it to make investments in its asset portfolio. It currently has the largest copper reserves in the industry at 67.7 Mt outscoring peers like FreeportMcMoRan Inc. FCX, Codelco and BHP Group BHP with copper reserves of 52.6Mt, 46.6 Mt and 44.4 Mt, respectively.
Roadmap to Copper Production of 1.9 Mt
The road from now to achieving production of 1.9 million tons will be a bit bumpy at the beginning, as the company anticipates lower grades to impact production in 2021 and 2022. However, 2023 is expected to be an inflation year with copper production expected to reach 1,031,000 tons. This will be made possible by the Peruvian production coming back on track and new production on projects of Pilares, El Pilar and Buenavista zinc concentrators.
Southern Copper operates high-quality, world-class assets in investment grade countries, such as Mexico and Peru. Including the Michiquillay ($2.5 billion) and Los Chancas ($2.6 billion) projects, its total investment program in Peru runs to $7.9 billion. Peru is currently the second largest producer of copper globally and holds 13% of the world’s copper reserves. Peru’s national output is expected grow to 225000 tons in 2022 and 245000 tons in 2023, per Trading Economics.
In Mexico, the company has a planned investment of $413 million in the Buenavista Zinc — Sonora project. It is expected to be completed in 2023 and will double the company’s zinc production capacity. An investment of $159 million is estimated for Pilares – Sonora project in Mexico, which comprises an open pit mine operation with an annual production capacity of 35,000 tons of copper in concentrates. It is expected to begin production in first-quarter 2022. This project will significantly improve the overall mineral ore grade. The low capital intensity copper greenfield project, El Pilar project, with an investment of $310 million is expected to be completed in 2023. It will add 36,000 tons of copper annually. The El Arco - Baja California project with an estimated capital budget of $2.9 billion is anticipated to have annual production of 190,000 tons of copper and 105,000 ounces of gold. These projects will help the company attain production target of 1.9 million tons by 2028.
High Copper Prices & Low Cost to Boost Margins
Copper prices have gained this year on pickup in global industrial activity and recovery in automobile industry. Further, the $2 trillion infrastructure package announced by President Biden will significantly increase the demand for copper, which is a fundamental element at green energy facilities. Thus, the long-term outlook for copper is positive as copper demand is expected to grow, driven by electric vehicles and renewable energy and infrastructure investments.
However, grade decline, rising input costs, water constraints and scarcity of high-quality future development opportunities continue to constrain the industry’s supply. This demand supply imbalance will push copper prices north. Backed by its endeavors to increase low-cost production, the company’s copper production cash cost is lower than other miners like Vale S.A VALE, BHP Group, Codelco and FreeportMcMoRan, which is commendable. Higher copper prices and low costs will translate to improved margins for the company.
Shares of Southern Copper have appreciated 70% over the past year compared with the industry’s rally of 138.9%.
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Southern Copper currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
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