Amid a cacophony of discussion over the appropriate level for copper metal prices, listed copper stocks have assumed price leadership of the global resources sector, and likely rank first across all sectors. The development, seen in the past few days, has (only just) seen listed gold stocks pushed aside, for the first time in months. Gold bullion prices have been wobbly, just as copper has zoomed from multi year lows of USD 1.28/lb in December 2008 to levels within fractions of USD 2.00/lb, just under half the all time record seen in mid-2008 at USD 4.08/lb.Classifying copper stocks is no simple task. Chile's Codelco, the world's biggest, is State-owned and unlisted; Freeport-McMoRan also ranks as the world's biggest producer of molybdenum, and also as a Tier I gold producer; BHP Billiton ranks as the world's biggest diversified resources stock, while Xstrata and Rio Tinto rank as diversified miners with a good number of other interests.At this stage, a selection of 60 copper mining specialists have bounced by 136%, measured on a weighted basis, from stock price lows seen late in 2008. The very best performing stocks under the classification tend to be developers, rather than producers, indicating the possibility that investors are chasing potential acquisition targets, which could still be considered reasonably priced.The top 12-month composite price performance has come from Canada-listed Northern Dynasty, up nearly 300% from its stock price lows. It's not rare for copper and gold to be found in the same basket; Northern Dynasty's Pebble project in Alaska (where Anglo American, a diversified miner with large in-house copper production has a stake) contains a gigantic resource of 72bn pounds of copper, 94m ounces of gold and 4.8bn pounds of molybdenum; silver, palladium and rhenium are also found in the deposit.Sitting among the top performers as well are London-listed Monterrico (with its Rio Blanco copper-molybdenum deposit in northern Peru, one of the largest undeveloped copper resources in the world), Canada-listed Chariot (with its very big Marcona copper property in Peru), US-listed Augusta Resources (with its Rosemont, Arizona, deposit expected to produce 221m pounds a year of copper, plus molybdenum and silver once it begins production in late 2011), Canada-listed Imperial Metals (with its Mount Polley open pit copper-gold producing mine in central British Columbia, and its Huckleberry open pit copper-molybdenum producing mine in northern British Columbia), Centenario (busy merging with Quadra), the relatively small  African Eagle, Corriente.

(with its Corriente copper belt asset in Ecuador, it may become a partner of Tongling), Frontera (which produces copper cathode from the Piedras Verdes operation in Sonora, Mexico, after reaching full production there in May 2007, and Yunnan Copper.At the other end of the scale, there are a number of specialist copper stocks with prices that have recovered relatively well, but remain deeply under the water. Metorex, which ran into interesting times with its Ruashi project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sits with a stock price that is still more than 90% off its highs. Katanga Mining sits with a similar predicament, along with other DRC names Tiger Resources and Africo; better recoveries have been seen so far from Camec and Anvil (although both are also more than 90% below stock price highs).SELECTED LISTED COPPER STOCKS

Ranked on 12-month composite price performance

Stock

From

From

Value

price

high*

low*

USD bn

Northern Dynasty

CAD 7.59

-28.4%

295.3%

0.569

Monterrico

GBP 0.98

-62.1%

306.3%

0.038

Chariot

CAD 0.25

-77.1%

316.7%

0.066

Augusta Resources

USD 1.48

-78.7%

279.4%

0.131

Imperial Metals

CAD 3.37

-67.9%

262.4%

0.088

Centenario

CAD 1.58

-74.7%

251.1%

0.066

African Eagle

GBP 0.04

-58.0%

222.2%

0.011

Corriente

CAD 6.38

-3.9%

155.2%

0.389

Frontera

CAD 0.74

-87.1%

236.4%

0.048

Yunnan Copper

CNY 19.77

-45.0%

190.3%

3.634

Pan Australian

AUD 0.27

-78.8%

223.2%

0.331

Capstone Mining

CAD 1.95

-56.4%

200.0%

0.260

Jiangxi Copper

CNY 22.83

-37.4%

176.1%

5.462

First Quantum

CAD 38.06

-60.1%

198.5%

2.406

Tongling

CNY 14.08

-21.7%

157.9%

2.666

Camec

GBP 0.060

-90.4%

215.8%

0.247

KGHM Polska Miedź

PLN 53.00

-53.3%

163.9%

3.143

Pacific Booker

CAD 6.00

-35.2%

134.4%

0.050

Quadra

CAD 5.40

-80.0%

174.1%

0.288

Freeport-McMoRan

USD 40.05

-68.5%

155.1%

16.487

Equinox

CAD 1.86

-63.9%

144.7%

0.898

Antofagasta

GBP 5.28

-36.8%

116.4%

7.626

Candente

CAD 0.34

-82.8%

161.5%

0.022

Sterlite

USD 7.64

-66.8%

144.9%

5.412

Anvil

CAD 1.20

-91.8%

166.7%

0.069

African Copper

GBP 0.02

-96.2%

167.9%

0.004

Taseko

CAD 1.60

-72.7%

142.4%

0.198

CuDeco

AUD 2.04

-56.5%

118.2%

0.339

Mercator

CAD 0.74

-94.3%

155.2%

0.065

New Gold

CAD 2.20

-77.4%

134.0%

0.379

Baja Mining

CAD 0.34

-81.1%

134.5%

0.039

Stingray Copper

CAD 0.28

-65.9%

115.4%

0.023

Discovery Metals

AUD 0.23

-65.4%

114.3%

0.026

Globestar Mining

CAD 0.62

-70.9%

113.8%

0.053

Norsemont Mining

CAD 2.09

-52.6%

95.3%

0.091

Southern Copper

USD 17.86

-57.4%

95.8%

15.249

Inca Pacific

CAD 0.27

-87.7%

125.0%

0.012

Con't Mines

CAD 0.58

-58.3%

93.3%

0.061

Western Copper

CAD 0.43

-73.4%

107.3%

0.025

Straits Resources

AUD 1.32

-83.7%

112.9%

0.219

Philex

PHP 5.80

-25.6%

50.6%

0.469

Aditya Birla

AUD 0.21

-93.2%

113.5%

0.046

Fronteer

CAD 2.62

-55.9%

69.0%

0.241

Nevada Copper

CAD 0.33

-88.2%

100.0%

0.011

Coro

CAD 0.14

-93.3%

100.0%

0.009

Thundermin

CAD 0.11

-77.6%

83.3%

0.006

Exco Resources

AUD 0.11

-74.1%

74.6%

0.039

Prairie Downs

AUD 0.08

-93.2%

78.6%

0.004

IMA Exploration

USD 0.22

-53.2%

37.5%

0.011

Rambler Metals

GBP 0.10

-81.4%

64.0%

0.009

Kagara

AUD 0.51

-91.3%

72.9%

0.093

Katanga Mining

CAD 0.39

-97.4%

77.3%

0.065

Benguet

PHP 7.00

-65.9%

44.3%

0.014

Polymet Mining

CAD 0.89

-80.2%

48.3%

0.099

Africo

CAD 0.58

-78.5%

45.0%

0.034

Tiger Resources

AUD 0.10

-81.8%

42.9%

0.018

Metorex

ZAR 1.72

-93.0%

49.6%

0.140

Palamin

ZAR 49.49

-69.5%

23.7%

0.262

Amerigo

CAD 0.31

-87.2%

32.6%

0.033

Redbank Mines

AUD 0.01

-87.2%

11.1%

0.009

Averages/total

 

-69.5%

134.9%

68.802

Weighted averages

-61.3%

135.5%

 

 

Diversifieds with copper

Stock

From

From

Value

price

high*

low*

USD bn

Ivanhoe Australia

AUD 1.36

-33.0%

806.7%

0.601

Ivanhoe Mines

CAD 7.67

-39.1%

272.3%

2.345

Boliden

CAD 7.44

-42.8%

272.0%

1.646

Lundin

CAD 2.05

-77.6%

197.1%

0.808

Inmet

CAD 33.87

-66.0%

178.8%

1.323

CGA Mining

AUD 1.75

-20.5%

118.8%

0.628

Xinjiang Xinxin

CNY 2.47

-60.1%

152.0%

0.242

Northgate

CAD 1.58

-54.7%

135.8%

0.327

Sterlite

USD 7.64

-66.8%

144.9%

5.412

Teck

USD 6.72

-87.5%

158.5%

3.209

Kazakhmys

GBP 4.25

-78.4%

149.0%

3.336

Rio Tinto

GBP 22.23

-69.0%

123.4%

47.072

BHP Billiton

GBP 13.46

-39.0%

84.0%

119.256

Vedanta

GBP 7.70

-72.4%

114.5%

3.140

Minera Andes

CAD 0.64

-59.7%

100.0%

0.119

Norilsk

USD 7.27

-77.0%

107.1%

13.859

Xstrata

GBP 5.20

-79.3%

80.1%

22.365

Vale

USD 14.65

-66.8%

66.5%

71.785

Mwana Africa

GBP 0.04

-92.4%

76.0%

0.026

Anglo American

GBP 12.91

-64.9%

42.5%

25.423

EMED Mining

GBP 0.05

-83.1%

59.3%

0.019

Asia Now

CAD 0.08

-84.6%

45.5%

0.004

Oz Minerals

AUD 0.57

-84.8%

42.5%

1.262

Averages/total

 

-65.2%

153.4%

324.206

Weighted averages

-63.9%

84.6%

* 12-month

 

Source: market data; table compiled by Barry Sergeant