What is it about the red metal called copper that is making investors go crazy? Already this month Azure Minerals has more than trebled, while Inca Minerals, which we mentioned last week, has quadrupled.

These two are definitely on the small end of the Small Cap spectrum, with a combined market cap of less than $80 million, and they also have very little cash with about $3 million between them.

Azure Minerals (ASX: AZS) touts itself as ‘‘Australia’s Leading Explorer in Mexico’’. Yesterday it came up with more data giving investors hope that it has its foot on a lucrative copper deposit.

After drilling only one exploration hole on an untested prospect, it came out with a 70 metre intercept at relatively high grades from a shallow depth of 42 metres.

The company has proved up its JORC compliant resource of just over 500,000 tonnes, which means it dug more holes to increase the certainty that there is an ore body. And now the highly rated geologist and managing director Tony Rovira and his team will be working feverishly on what to drill next. For an explorer, it’s a nice problem to have.

Elsewhere Inca Minerals’ shares (ASX: ICG) quadrupled in two weeks after it came out with data that could only be described as preliminary, indicating it might be onto a giant copper deposit in Peru.

Gold does have more romance about it, but as industrial metals go, there aren’t any that are more essential than copper, which is used for construction, power generation and transmission, electronic product manufacturing, and the production of industrial machinery and transportation vehicles.

It’s important to remember that copper, like gold, is very hard to find.

Finding it is getting increasingly worthwhile, according to Matthew Trivett, an analyst with Patersons Securities, because of its improving fundamentals.

The red metal is priced at about $US8200 a tonne, and has more than trebled in the three or so years after the financial crisis. Says Trivett: ‘‘The consensus is that copper is going to have tight supply until 2015, however any surplus is dependent upon major projects being brought into production.’’

This last point is important because the big projects are being delayed due to cost reviews. Projects like BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam in South Australia and Antofagasta Minerals’ Antucoya copper project are forecast to produce millions and millions of tonnes.

The market has been expecting a surge of copper to hit the market in 2015 and 2016, but because of the delays, there is increasing probability that this copper supply won’t come on until much later.

One company Radar will be talking more about in our Spec Series which kicks off in our next issue tomorrow is Tiger Resources (TGS), a copper producer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Leaving aside the inherent sovereignty risk, this company now has funding for its expansion ($80 million via a South African bank) and is set to produce copper at 70 cents a pound, which it will sell for about $3.60 a pound.

Its Kipoi mine is expected to be one of the top 15 highest-grade mines in the world among projects with at least 50,000 tonnes a year copper production.

There is abundant exploration potential to boot with this company, but there is no doubting the risk you take on when you put your money into a company whose operations are in the DRC.

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