After falling by an estimated 6% in 2020, the capital expenditure of 20 leading miners is expected to rise by 23% in 2021 to reach US$58bn. This will be the highest point since 2015 and will be supported by both higher sustaining capex and greater development project expenditure after deferrals from 2020 due to COVID-19.

Rio Tinto and BHP will continue to be the highest spenders, with Rio Tinto’s capex to hit US$7.5bn in both 2021 and 2022, an increase of 21% on 2020. Major developments include the continued construction of the US$2.6bn Gudai-Darri iron ore mine, which is due to commence production in 2022. Significant increases in capex are expected at a number of other majors including Anglo American, Vale, Newmont, Teck Resources and Norilsk Nickel.

Anglo American is predicting spend of between US$5.7bn and US$6.2bn in 2021, compared with US$4bn in 2020. The 2021 figure includes US$0.6bn carried over from 2020 into 2021 and 2022 plus US$0.5bn for the Woodsmith mine, as well as US$0.8-1.0bn for its share of the development of the Quellaveco mine in Peru. The total spending on that project is expected to be between US$1.3bn and US$1.6bn. A similar overall level of spending is then expected in 2022, with a marginal reduction to US$5.6 – 6.1bn in 2023.

Vale is forecasting spend of US$5.8bn, including US$1.0bn on growth, up from a total of US$4.4bn in 2020, with spending of US$5.5bn in subsequent years. Meanwhile, Newmont, which registered an 11% fall in capex in 2020 to US$1.3bn, is expecting US$1.8bn in spend in 2021, split US$950m sustaining and US$850m development, including US$400m in development capex in Australia, primarily for the Tanami expansion project in the Northern Territory.

Guidance from Teck Resources for 2021 is CAD$2.0bn (US$1.6bn), net of partner contributions and project financing, up from CAD$1.49bn (US$1.2bn) in 2020. A significant proportion of this will be for the Quebrada Blanca 2. The project was 40% complete at the end of 2020 and is expected to achieve first production in the second half of 2022.

Norilsk Nickel’s capex increased by 33% to US$1.76bn in 2020 and will increase significantly again in 2021, to between US$3.0-3.4bn. It is then planned to increase to between US$3.5-4.0bn per year from 2022 to 2025.

Capital Expenditure of 20 leading miners