CESCO-Brazil's Vale sees copper above $10,000/tn this year

Tue Apr 5, 2011 5:31pm EDT

* Vale sees copper prices remaining strong

* World No.1 steel producer looking to copper

* China demand seen underpinning copper price

SANTIAGO, April 5 (Reuters) - Copper prices could return to more than $10,000 per tonne this year, driven by Chinese growth, the head of Brazilian miner Vale's copper division said on Tuesday at the CRU world copper conference in Santiago.

World No.1 steel producer Vale (VALE.N) (VALE5.SA) has identified copper and fertilizers as key areas for the company's expansion.

"The price of copper is high and I think it will stay that way. We see that some mines are running out and demand will grow with the Chinese economy, so there could be another rise," Paulo Henrique de Godoy told Reuters.

"We might see prices rise again above $10,000 (per tonne)," he said.

Spot copper CMCU3 rose to a historic high of $10,190 per tonne in mid-February on tight supply and an outlook for strong Chinese demand despite attempts to avoid overheating.

Since then inflation expectations have raised concerns about global economic growth and hurt commodity prices, but copper has recovered to close on Tuesday with a 0.4 percent gain to $9,390 per tonne.

Vale has copper deposits and operations in Brazil, Chile, Canada, Angola, Congo, Zambia and Kazakhstan and expects to produce 332,000 tonnes of copper in 2011. (Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by David Gregorio)