COPPER REFINERS UNLIKELY TO REDUCE PRODUCTION

COPPER REFINERS UNLIKELY TO REDUCE PRODUCTION

Copper refiners are unlikely to cut production any time soon, even though prices probably will remain under near-term pressure from lofty and rising inventories, Robert J. Botwell, vice president of sales at Asarco, told an industry gathering.

''I don't know when people will begin to cut back," he told attendees Wednesday at the Copper Roundtable of the Institute of Scrap Recycling. Asarco is a metals producer in New York City.He said the recent cutbacks in the industry had cut production costs dramatically, with the global refining cost now averaging about 65 cents a pound. That makes it less probable that producers will trim output, as they did in the 1980s recession, when production costs were closer to $1 a pound.

"If the recoveries in Europe and Japan begin this year or early next, you won't see any production cutbacks," he told the metals executives. "The cutbacks that were taken in the 80s were taken in North America. But I don't know when and where people will begin to cut back this time. I don't see them happening in North America."

In fact, he predicted that refined copper output will rise slightly this year. Other round-table participants predicted that world refined-copper capacity will continue to grow and that mining output will increase marginally this year and into 1994 and 1995.