After sinking as low as $3.30/lb earlier in the year when interest rates began to take off in the battle against inflation, the red metal has got back to $US3.82/lb in response, you guessed it, to hopes the interest rate/inflation cycle has turned.

China opening up after its COVID shutdowns, and global output for the year not meeting expectations for all sorts of reasons, has helped copper’s cause.

Even so, copper was meant to stay weak for a couple of years because of the start-up of some big new mines in Latin America and Africa.

The idea was that the copper market would only take off in 2025 when new production dried up, and demand from global decarbonisation became overwhelming.

But here we are and there is lots of chatter that the timing of the take-off in copper prices might need to be brought forward from 2025. That’s good news for our big producers and the copper explorers/developers which will increasingly be called on to fill the coming supply gap.

Happy to position himself early to a 2025 take-off, Garimpeiro had a look at four copper juniors back on November 25 when copper was starting a move from $US3.60/lb.

As it could well be that the 2025 take-off now needs to brought forward, they are staying put, and Garimpeiro has added a couple of junior copper names set to command more attention now that copper is back in town.

The four copper juniors mentioned on November 25 were:

REX MINERALS (ASX:RXM): It was trading at 23c at the time and has since fallen back to 21c for a 8.7% loss, even though it’s Hillside project on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula stands as a shovel-ready project – one of the Top 50 in the world according to Goldman Sachs.

HAMMER METALS (ASX:HMX): It was trading at 6.3c and has since scooted off to 7.7c for a 22% gain as interest builds in its exploration efforts in one of the “hot’’ copper explorations regions – the Mt Isa Inlier of northwest Queensland.

CARAVEL MINERALS (ASX:CVV): It was trading at 22c and is back at 19c for a 13.5% loss. Not to worry, its low-grade namesake 2.84 million tonne copper resource in WA is highly sensitive to copper price moves. Watch it light up if copper gets to $US4lb-plus.

CODA (ASX:COD): It was trading at 25c and has since moved higher to 29.5c for an 18% gain. It was included on the strength of its Emmie Bluff copper-cobalt project in South Australia being moved into the scoping study stage, and its ongoing hunt for a large-scale IOCG-type discovery at depth.

So there were two losers and two gainers. The bigger point today is that all stand to benefit from heightened interest in the copper price.

The two additions today are Lefroy and Eagle Mountain.

LEFROY (ASX:LEX): It is trading at 24c for a market cap of $36 million. It has just raised $3.5 million (before costs) at the same price to keep up a cracking pace in 2023 at its Burns gold-copper project southeast of Kalgoorlie.

Burns has become something of a forgotten discovery as Lefroy’s modest market cap suggests. But the company has been working away quietly since the early 2021 discovery and thinks it is on to a big Archean-aged porphyry system, a first for Australia.

The recent completion of an 80-hole drill-out program means a maiden resource estimate for the central part of the 2.5km long system is expected late in the March quarter next year. It will be restricted to shallow mineralisation only but will give the market a taste of the upside, all on Kalgoorlie’s doorstep.

EAGLE MOUNTAIN (ASX:EM2): Trading at 16c for a market cap of $45m. It has yet to catch the copper wave and has traded down during the year from a peak price of 70c. It looks to be another overlooked one in light of copper’s rebound.

It recently raised $5 million from a placement at 16.5c, with a $1 million share purchase plan about to complete, to keep up the pace of drilling at its Oracle Ridge copper project in Arizona.

The resource has been upgraded twice to 16.5Mt at 1.45% copper for 240,000t of contained copper, with significant gold and silver credits. It is already a handy resource position in a mining friendly state for a company with a modest market cap.

More to the point is that Oracle Ridge was a producer in the past, with the company now able to drill faster and cheaper from underground positions to add to the resource growth, as well as providing ready access to ore positions when it comes to a mining operation.