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Your author's beady little eyes are drawn to this English language presentation by Codelco (the State run copper giant and world's biggest single copper producer company), a report on its first six months of operations and comparatives to previous years. Along with good news such as the cutting by 68% of accident rates at the company (1.5 man hours lost per million due to workplace accidents...not bad at all) and middling news such as the stagnation of production growth (in fact it's dropped everso slightly recently due to lower head grades), the one that really sticks out is this, its cash costs per pound of copper produced in the last five years:
That's a big jump and there are lots of factors, such as electricity costs (up from 18c to 29c/Lb in the period), labour charges (the main cost input change and also the one which caused most of the big jump between 2011 and 2012, according to the company) and by-product prices (eg moly used to be over $30/lb, these days you don't even get $12/lb). We also get a breakdown of the Codelco divisions and their respective average cash costs, with Salvador (aka Atacama) at $2.71/lb, Mistral at $1.80/lb, Chuquicamata at $1.57/lb and Andina at $1.40/lb
But the main takeaway doesn't change: Due to costs and the price inertia at market, copper margins have dropped substantially.