As always, specific factors influenced the price of each commodity, with lower copper exports from Peru driving copper prices higher in early January than at any time since 2013, offering a boost to major African producers Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Noting the opportunity, the Zambian government has bought a majority stake in Mopani Copper Mine for $1.5bn from Glencore and is seeking a new equity partner by the end of the year. Zambia’s state mining investment arm ZCCM-IH had been in talks to buy the stake in Mopani since August. The mine has been unprofitable for years but is seen as a key employer by the government. While copper prices have held up, global coal demand is estimated to have fallen by about 5% in 2020 because of the pandemic, with many power plants mothballed amid lower demand for electricity. This had little impact on South African exports, which had already stagnated over the past few years, reaching 72m tonnes last year. Nevertheless, South African coal received an unexpected boost following Beijing’s decision to block most Australian coal imports from October onwards after Canberra led calls for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
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