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Importing Copper: The Right Way To Import The Eternal Metal

A worker wrapping copper in a circle
Importing copper is fairly simple task. Nonetheless, you should follow our guide to ensure you make no mistakes during the importing process.
Jacob Lee
August 1, 2022
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Last Modified: September 27, 2023

Importing copper is a fairly common occurrence in the world of international metal trade. If you want to get in on the lucrative benefits of providing copper to the markets in the U.S., then you’ll need to figure out how to import the commodity into the country. Fortunately, importing copper isn’t an extremely difficult task. 

When it comes to importing copper, you’ll need to provide some basic import documents. Next, you will need to abide by hazardous waste regulations and obtain a certificate of origin (CoO) for your copper. To use a CoO, the proper HTS code will need to be applied to your import.

Importing copper might seem easy, but you’ll need to follow each step carefully to avoid any mistakes that could damper the importing process.

Copper springs on a table

What Is Copper?

If you’re going to import a commodity into the U.S., it helps to have a basic understanding of what it is. Copper is a type of metal and is characterized by its pinkish-orange coloration. For a metal, copper is soft and malleable to physical manipulation. The reason that importing this material into the U.S. can be so lucrative is because of all the different uses it has. 

Copper is used to some capacity in the following items:

  • TVs
  • Radios
  • Electrical Generators and Motors
  • Jewelry
  • Door Knobs
  • Pull Handles

Numerous industries require copper to make items like some of the ones above. Copper is valuable in the scrap industry which recycles and reuses the metal. This makes copper a sought-after commodity. 

The Copper Shortage

Currently, many different industries that use copper as an essential component within their products are currently experiencing a copper shortage. Many experts are now predicting that the copper shortage will slowly worsen over the next few years. 

There a few different reasons why this shortage is taking place. The first is that the demand for electronic goods has risen. Since copper is needed for electronic goods to function, more copper will be needed to keep up with the demand.  

The construction industry also uses an extremely large amount copper as part of its operations. Sustainable energy devices like solar panels require copper components to function as well. All of these factors have put stress on copper supply around the world, leading to a shortage that is likely to last for a while. 

Due to this shortage that will inevitably get worse, it’s a good idea to consult with a customs broker who can help find some good places to import your copper from. 

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Before importing copper can be carried out, copper needs to be extracted from a mine like the one depicted

What Are the Best Countries To Import Copper From?

There are numerous countries that you can import copper from. That said, there are five countries in particular that are known as the top copper exports in 2020. These countries and the amount of copper they export in USD are reflected in the table below. 

Top Exporters Of Copper (2020)

CountryAmount Of Copper Exported In USD
Chile$21.4 Billion
Peru$9.23 Billion
Australia$3.85 Billion
Canada$3.12 Billion
Mexico$2.92 Billion

Provided by OEC

1. Chile

Chile is a country that is filled with abundant amounts of precious metals and minerals. It ranks highest in the world for molybdenum, silver and even gold. That said, copper ores are the most important precious metal in the country. 

Due to the presence of so many precious metals in Chile, mining has been an important practice throughout the country’s history. When it comes to copper, Chile accounts for 28 percent of global production. Additionally, some of the largest and most well-known copper minds reside in the country. This makes Chile a prime country to import your copper. 

2. Peru

Like Chile, Peru has an extremely large amount of naturally occurring precious metals and minerals. Most of them are found in the mountainous areas of the country. Peru has around 200 mines currently operating in the country and more still being developed. With so many different mines in operation, along with abundant resources, Peru makes for a great second option for importing copper.

3. Australia

Mining has been an important industry in Australia since the 1850s and even helped the country’s early development. One of the many metals that Australia mines for is copper. While the country might be only the third largest exporter of copper, Australia has the second largest reserves of this precious metal. Therefore, Australia is likely to remain one of the top exporters of copper for some time. 

4. Canada

Of the many things Canada is recognized for, mining is usually not one that many people think of. The mining industry in Canada provides many jobs and is an important part of the Canadian economy. Copper is just one of the metals that Canada is known for. To show how important copper is in the mining sector of the country, here are the top five copper mines in Canada:

  1. Highland Valley Copper Mine
  2. Gibraltar Mine
  3. Red Chris Mine
  4. Mount Milligan Mine
  5. Copper Mountain Mine

One thing that makes Canada a more advantageous country to import copper from is that the U.S. and Canada share a border. This means that you’re not going to have to wait as long for your copper imports to travel up from South America or travel across the ocean. 

5. Mexico

Also rich in minerals of its own and known for its strong mining sector, Mexico is the fifth largest exporter of copper in the world. The mining industry in Mexico produces 734.1 thousand metric tons of copper. There are even parts of the country that have still not been mined, mainly due to the costs that would be incurred from doing so. 

Much of the copper that is produced in Mexico comes from one of these top five producing mines in Mexico:

  1. Buenavista del Cobre Mine
  2. La Caridad Mine
  3. Tayahua Mine
  4. Piedras Verdes Mine
  5. Milpillas Copper Mine

As with Canada, Mexico and the U.S. share a border which means you won’t have to wait as long for your copper imports if you get them from Mexico. If you're interested in getting copper from Mexico, our article on importing products from Mexico to the U.S. will help you get familiar with some basic information.  

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A worker marking copper bars

Regulations For Importing Copper

Now that you know about the different countries that copper can be imported from, you will need to know what regulations have to follow when importing copper. While this commodity isn’t the most difficult to import, some procedures are unique to importing copper and require caution.  

Essential Import Documents

Your first order of business will be to get your essential import documents in order. All of these documents are required by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), regardless of what commodity you want to bring into the country. These documents include the following:

  • Bill of Lading
  • Certificate of Insurance
  • Pro Forma Invoice
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Bill of Entry
  • Letter Of Credit
  • Customs Bond 

Our article on documents needed for export and import will give you more specifics regarding each of these documents. 

Use copper wrapped up into a sqaure

Hazardous Wastes Regulations

Despite its aesthetic beauty, copper can be considered hazardous waste due to all of the heavy metals that it’s made up of. When it comes to handling hazardous waste, the U.S. abides by the regulations created by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces these regulations when hazardous waste is imported into the country. 

To stay in line with the RCRA regulations when you import copper, the EPA outlines the following requirements for importing hazardous waste. Many of these requirements are up to the importer to fulfill:

  • Obtain an EPA ID Number
  • Facilities receiving hazardous waste must establish a contract with the exporter and importer
  • A notice of intent must be submitted
  • The EPA must give consent to the importation of hazardous waste
  • Importers need to complete an RCRA manifest
  • Hazardous waste shipments must be accompanied by an international movement document
  • Notification for alternate management or return of hazardous waste should be submitted if the shipment cannot be delivered
  • In the event an import manifest isn’t provided to the EPA in time, an exception report must be given
  • The importer must package, label, mark and placard hazardous waste shipment before placing it on public transportation
  • The receipt of the shipment must be submitted within 30 days of the goods arriving
  • The facility that received the goods must confirm they recovered the goods within 30 days of handling the shipment
  • The recovering facility must biennial reports
  • The importer must abide by recordkeeping requirements

If you’re importing hazardous waste copper, you and the exporter will need to abide by the Basel Convention. As with the RCRA, the EPA outlines and enforces the Basel Conventions requirements

  • The exporter must inform the importer that the shipment is ready
  • The importer must give consent for the shipment to commence
  • The exporter must properly label the waste
  • Both importer and exporter need to give an annual report of the amount of hazardous waste that was shipped and the disposal methods that were used 

Lastly, keep in mind that when you import copper into the U.S., you will be subject to the RCRA hazardous waste standards. The details requirements that we’ve listed are detailed in the relevant subparts of Title 40 of the Code Of Federal Regulations.  

The tips of small copper wires laying on each other.

Certificate Of Origin

The next regulation that you will need to make sure that you follow is obtaining a certificate of origin for your copper import. There are two unique types of CoOs: non-preferential CoOs (also known as ordinary CoOs) and Preferential CoOs. 

Ordinary COs simply state the imported products are from. These types of CoOs do not indicate that the imported good is subject to preferential treatment granted by free trade agreements (FTA). Preferential CoOs, on the other hand, both state where the import is from and the preferential treatment it has under an FTA.

Imports given preferential treatment will have a lower duty rate, if one is applied at all. Fortunately, copper in its various forms does receive preferential treatment under different FTAs the U.S. has with various countries. The countries that the U.S. has FTA agreements with for copper imports are: 

  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Countries that are part Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)
  • Countries that are part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI)
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • South Korea
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • The Dominican Republic and countries part of the Central American FTA (DR-CAFTA)
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Countries part of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • Singapore

The great thing about this list is that it includes both Australia, Peru and Chile. Under NAFTA, copper imports from Mexico and Canada can also get preferential treatment. This will allow you to import copper from these high copper exporting countries, all while paying a lower duty rate. 

Check out our article on U.S. free trade agreements and the perks of importing from countries that are part of them. 

Copper wires rapped in circles and stacked on pallets

Applying the Right HTS Code To Copper

To take advantage of preferential treatment afforded to copper imports from countries that the U.S. has FTAs with, you will need to apply the correct HTS code to your copper shipment. If you don’t, your copper import will be charged the standard duty rate.  

Chapters 26 and 74 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. (HTSUS) are where the corresponding HTS codes for copper imports are located. Chapter 26 is dedicated to various ores, slag and ash. Chapter 74, however, is dedicated to HTS codes for copper in all its various forms that it can be imported. Some of these forms include:  

  • Cathodes and sections of cathodes
  • Wire bars
  • Billets
  • Various copper alloys

Our article on what HTSUS codes mean to import goods will help you better understand how to use them. 

Import Copper With USA Customs Clearance

Getting copper into the country can be a real challenge, even for the most experienced of importers. At USA Customs Clearance, we make importing easier for our customers. With our team of experienced and friendly Licensed Customs Brokers, we provide top-of-the-line consulting sessions for would-be importers.
We also offer a continuous customs bond if you plan on importing copper into the U.S. frequently. Armed with a continuous customs bond, you will be able to make multiple imports for the entirety of a year. Regardless of what your needs are, the team at USA Customs Clearance can assist you.

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