Sunday 20th May 2018

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Copper crusader

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

by Greg Klein

Evangelist he may be, but Gianni Kovacevic’s hardly a voice crying in the wilderness. His favourite metal displayed stellar performance last year, reaching more peaks than valleys as it climbed from about $2.50 to nearly $3.30 a pound. But Kovacevic believes copper has a long way to go yet. That will be a function of necessity as the metal shows “the strongest demand growth of any of the major commodities.” Especially persuasive in his optimism, Kovacevic brings his message to the 2018 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 21 and 22.

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

Increasing copper demand will unlock
lower-grade resources, says Kovacevic.

As a researcher, commentator and investor who’s also the CEO/chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, co-founder of CO2 Master Solutions Partnership and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche, he brings new approaches that link topics of energy demand, commodity supply and environmental stewardship.

Kovacevic sees a new paradigm driving copper’s future. “The invisible hand in commodities during the last cycle was China,” he says. “Its economic growth just came out of nowhere. This time the invisible hand is this pervasive use of copper in everything that’s electrified. That means even the smallest village in Africa, which per capita has negligible copper consumption, is becoming a line item. When you create, transfer and utilize greener and cleaner energy, it takes more copper by a power of magnitude. For example to establish a megawatt of windpower it takes five times more copper than it does a megawatt of conventional thermal-generated energy.”

Then there’s the battery-powered revolution and the attention it’s brought to lithium, cobalt and graphite. Saying “I like anything in electric metals,” Kovacevic stresses the importance of nickel as well. Still, “copper wins because the interconnectivity will always be copper and copper plays a role in each battery as well.”

That leads to a supply problem that can have only one solution. “I believe we’re going to have to make uneconomic deposits economic. And there’s only one way to do that—with a higher copper price.”

With no foreseeable hope of a copper mining “renaissance” comparable to the effect that fracking brought to oil and gas, the metal will simply require more money. “We’ve got the old legacy mines,” Kovacevic points out. “We’ve spent a lot of money on exploration in the last cycle and didn’t find a lot. What we do have is lower-grade resources. They are simply not economic at a low copper price.”

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

Kovacevic: Electrical generation, storage and
connectivity put copper at the top of energy metals.

Apart from diminishing grades, the business of putting new mines into operation is “taking longer with water, electricity and permitting issues, and it’s getting into funkier places,” he continues. “The Elliott Wave [technical/fundamental analysis] on copper is $7.50 a pound. I find that very interesting. All the buy-out action in the copper space happened for the most part between 2006 and 2012. The mean price for copper during that time was about $3.50 a pound. The all-time high was about $4.50 for a short while, but the mean was $3.50.”

Copper’s 2017 performance makes that figure look viable again. Kovacevic, however, cites analysis from BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP stating that 75% of future projects will require more than $3.50. “Could we see a scenario in which the copper price goes past the old all-time high and stays there for a while? And will the buy-outs in the next wave, if they occur, be higher on average than those in the previous 2006-to-2012 cycle? I believe the answer will be yes. But if you look at the average grade that went through the top 15 copper producers’ mills in 2010, it was 1.2% copper. In 2016 it was 0.72% copper. So if you were mining 30 million tonnes a year, now you have to mine 40 or 45 million tonnes for the same metal yield. And without higher copper prices, that doesn’t make much of a business case.

“So the first question is, are we going to need more copper in the next five, 10, 15 years? The answer in my opinion is yes. In fact it has the strongest demand growth of any of the major commodities. And where will that copper come from? Well, it’s going to come from a mix of places but we’ll have to make these projects economic. That should bode well for people who have invested in the copper junior space.”

Addressing the topic of how investors might look at the energy revolution in 2018 and beyond, Kovacevic speaks at the 2018 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, to be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from January 21 to 22. Click here for more details and free registration.


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