TORONTO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Canadian copper and zinc producer Teck Cominco TCKb.TO said on Tuesday a recession in the United States is likely, but that copper prices would remain strong if Chinese demand continues at the current rate.
Don Lindsay, Teck's chief executive, said on a conference call that China's share of world copper consumption has surged while that of the United States has declined.
"So if China keeps going, regardless of what happens in the U.S. in terms of slowdown, it does suggest that copper will remain tight," he told analysts and media on the call, adding that there isn't much certainty ahead.
"We have a significant slowdown in the U.S., probably a recession, which historically would have a major effect on metal prices," he said.
"But so far, at least in copper and the outlook in metallurgical coal related to steel, it doesn't seem to be having much effect."
Vancouver, British Columbia-based Teck produced 252,000 tonnes of copper last year, down slightly from 254,000 tonnes in 2006. It and other producers of base metals have enjoyed a five-year boom in commodity prices.
The price of copper -- which is seen as the bellwether base metal -- has risen to its highest level since last October, logging a gain of more than 15 percent so far this year.
$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Peter Galloway