Industry Size and Geographic Distribution

Copper ore is mined in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres but is primarily processed and consumed by countries in the Northern Hemisphere. The U.S. is both a major producer (second only to Chile) and consumer of copper.1

The domestic primary unwrought, or unworked, integrated copper industry consists of mines, concentrators, smelters, refineries, and electrowinning plants (the nonferrous metals industry encompasses facilities engaging in primary smelting and refining, but not mining). Of the 65 mines actively producing copper in the U.S., 33 list copper as the primary product. The remaining 32 mines produce copper either as a byproduct or coproduct of gold, lead, zinc, or silver. Nineteen of the 33 active mines that primarily produce copper are located in Arizona, which accounts for 65% of domestically mined copper ore. The remaining mines are located throughout New Mexico and Utah, which together account for 28% of domestic production, and Michigan, Montana, and Missouri accounting for the remainder.14 Five integrated producers produce over 90% of domestic primary copper.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, 441,000 t of copper are recovered yearly by leaching/ electrowinning methods.14 Although solution operations are conducted throughout the Southwestern U.S., almost 75% of the facilities14 are located in Arizona. There are two facilities in New Mexico, one in Utah, and one in Nevada.

Of recycled, or secondary copper, 56% is derived from new scrap, while 44% comes from old scrap. Domestically, the secondary copper smelting industry is led by four producers. Like the secondary aluminum industry, these producers buy the scrap they recycle on the open market, in addition to using scrap generated in their own downstream productions. The secondary copper industry is concentrated in Georgia, South Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri.

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