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SHANGHAI, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Chilean miner Antofagasta Plc forecasts copper consumption in the electric vehicle (EV) sector will increase tenfold by 2030, according to its chief executive, who expects Chinese refined copper demand growth to "moderate" next year.
"Electric vehicles, including hybrids, today require around 200,000 tonnes of copper. We would expect by 2030 that number would be in the range of 2 million," Chief Executive Officer Ivan Arriagada said in an interview at the company's Shanghai representative office on Thursday.
A lot of the incremental demand, which does not factor in the copper used in charging stations or other infrastructure, would occur towards the end of the 13-year period, he said, given the need for further technological development in EV batteries.
Prices for battery ingredient metals such as lithium and cobalt have surged this year on predicted demand from the EV sector though gains for copper have lagged. However, attendees at metal industry gatherings such as London Metal Exchange (LME) Week and the ongoing Asia Copper Week in Shanghai have been bullish on copper's potential role in the EV market.
Still, Antofagasta will not be rushing to churn out more copper to meet the incremental EV demand, Arriagada said.
"In our case it's good news because copper will play a role but I think the exact impact is something that we still have fully to understand. The pattern in use of cars will also change over time, and miniaturization will mean that you need less copper for the same type of applications," he said.
"But still, an electrical car does need four or five times more copper today than a conventional car."
Overall, Antofagasta expects refined copper demand in China, the world's top copper consumer and biggest EV market, to grow between 4 percent and 5 percent this year, slowing to around 3 percent in 2018.
"Continued growth in the property sector and in the electric grid are very key for copper in the mid-, short term and that is where we are seeing some moderation in growth rates," Arriagada said. "And that's why we expect 2018 to see a deficit in the market but not too different probably to what we have seen this year." (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)