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India, SE Asia may drive copper demand, eclipsing China

India and some Southeast Asian nations may account for 20% of the global demand for refined copper over the next five years

India, SE Asia may drive copper demand, eclipsing China
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider ]

India, Thailand and Vietnam are expected to bolster copper consumption over the next five years as growth in China tapers, analysts said at a global conference this week.

India and some Southeast Asian nations are forecast to account for at least 20% of the global demand for refined copper between 2023-28, industry analysts said at the World Copper Conference Asia in Shanghai.

Urbanization, the transition to green energy, and rising consumption driven by expanding populations in India and Southeast Asia, home to nearly 2 billion people, are key factors fueling copper demand, Reuters reported metals consultancy CRU analyst Craig Lang as saying.

Copper producers’ lobby International Copper Association of India said in a recent report that consumption of the non-ferrous metal in India surged 16% to 1,522 kilotonnes last fiscal, fueled by economic expansion, infrastructure progress, and a shift towards clean energy.

Demand for the metal in the transportation sector surged by 34%, propelled by railway electrification and modernization, expanding rapid transit systems, and a notable 21% increase in vehicle sales, including the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs).

In the construction industry, copper usage climbed by 11%, driven by its enhanced application per square foot, particularly in upscale and middle-class housing projects.

Copper demand also driven by the government’s production-Linked incentive (PLI) scheme, which generated investments of ₹1.7 trillion across sectors, ICAI said.

A rebound in post-pandemic demand and rising disposable incomes also contributed to a 13% increase in copper use in consumer electronics such as air conditioners, laptops, PCs, and mobile phones, it added.

India had earlier this year identified a preliminary list of 30 critical minerals, including copper, that it considers essential for economic development and national security. The list, which India says will be revisited periodically, also includes lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements.

“Copper is now officially a critical mineral, vital for progress across high-tech electronics, telecom, transport, defense, and clean energy. Copper is key in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Using one ton of copper in clean energy tech can cut 100 to 3,750 tonnes of emissions. This makes copper not just energy-efficient but economically invaluable,” Mayur Karmarkar, managing director of ICA of India, said in a statement.

India imported non-ferrous metals, including copper, valued at $1.9 billion in October, a 21% jump from the year-ago period, trade data released by the government on Wednesday showed.

India is expected to see its import requirements grow from 100,000 tons in 2025 to 350,000 tons by 2030, Reuters reported Mitsui and Co general manager Motoki Makita as saying at the copper meeting.

Meanwhile, Vedanta group said this week that it has set up a copper unit in Saudi Arabia through its subsidiary, Malco Energy Ltd. The new unit has been named Vedanta Copper International VCI Company Ltd, the company said.

In a separate development, Vedanta Resources and the Zambian government earlier this month signed an agreement that restores the Indian company’s ownership of KonkolaCopper Mines in that country. Vedanta’s copper assets had been seized by the Zambian government in 2019 primarily due to disputes related to financial and operational issues involving the foreign companies that owned the assets.

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