Cooper, regarded as the first metal used by humans, is mounting a resurgence.

With the price of the red metal hitting fresh three-year highs, ASX-listed copper miners and explorers are back from the investor wilderness.

Copper is used mostly in electrical generators and motors, for electrical wiring and electronic goods such as radios and TV sets.

The increasing demand for electric vehicles has also witnessed an increase in copper demand.

Copper’s recent price jump had prompted renewed interest among the investment community, CSA Global Eastern Australia and Pac-Rim manager Patrick Maher said at Vertical Event’s Mining 2017 resources convention in Brisbane this week.

Mr Maher believes that of all the metals, copper has the strongest connection to continued global economic growth.

“Over next couple of years we are looking at 3.5 per cent to 3.6 per cent global growth with advanced economies pushing in the right direction,” Mr Maher said.

“Where it starts to get exciting for everyone in the copper business is that copper really is the commodity that is most connected to the world’s economic recovery.

“Everyone is asking what are the new things that copper is coming into and of course the revolution around the electric car industry is one of the biggest ones we are all watching — and the extra amount of copper needed there.”

Copper exploration

Mr Maher noted the resources downturn over the past five years had resulted in a significant drop in maiden copper resource announcements from ASX-listed copper plays.

“Maiden resource announcements have really declined a lot on the back of a fall in exploration budgets,” Mr Maher said.

“Even though the budgets have dropped, there are still people out there discovering copper although not a lot of money is being spent on that side of things.”

Grassroots copper exploration, in particular, had been suffering.

“The dollars [in grassroots exploration] are not being spent and are only making up around one third of exploration spend in 2016 with most funds going into brownfields exploration,” he said.

ASX-listed junior copper explorers invested $296 million in copper exploration in 2016, according to CSA Global.

On the pricing side, things are on the up with the London Metal Exchange (LME) copper price hitting fresh three-year highs.

LME copper was trading at $US6796 per tonne yesterday, up almost 25 per cent from early May.

“This is very pleasing for anyone that is selling copper at the moment,” Mr Maher said. “It’s quite a turnaround in the space of a few months.”

There are about 57 pure copper stocks listed on the ASX of which 47 have market caps under $300 million.

Chile is the biggest producer of copper, followed by China and Peru with Australia ranked sixth in terms of the world’s biggest copper producing countries.