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The world's 20 largest copper mines produce nearly 9 million metric tons of the precious metal a year, about 40% of the world's total copper mine capacity. Chile and Peru, alone, account for more than half of the copper mines on this list. The U.S. makes the cut, as well, with two mines among the top 20.
Copper is expensive to mine and refine. The high costs of financing a major mine are reflected in the fact that many of the mines with the most production capacity are either state-owned or owned by major mining corporations like BHP and Freeport-McMoRan.
The list below is compiled from the International Copper Study Group's World Copper Factbook 2019. Beside each mine's name is the country that it is located in and its annual production capacity in metric kilotons. A metric ton is equal to about 2,200 pounds. A metric kiloton (kt) is 1,000 metric tons.
The Escondida copper mine in Chile's Atacama desert is jointly owned by BHP (57.5%), Rio Tinto Corp. (30%), and Japan Escondida (12.5%). In 2012, the massive Escondida mine accounted for 5% of total global copper mine production.1 Gold and silver are extracted as by-products from the ore.
Chile's second-largest copper mine, Collahuasi, is owned by a consortium of Anglo American (44%), Glencore (44%), Mitsui (8.4%), and JX Holdings (3.6%). Collahuasi mine produces copper concentrate and cathodes as well as molybdenum concentrate.2
The Morenci mine in Arizona is the largest copper mine in North America. Operated by Freeport-McMoRan, the mine is jointly owned by the company (72%) and affiliates of the Sumitomo Corporation (28%). Morenci operations began in 1872, underground mining began in 1881, and open-pit mining began in 1937.3
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