All animals are created equal…. George Orwell, Animal Farm.
Well so, you might argue, are all minerals. Maybe. Now we could get by, with a little discomfort, without rare earths, lithium and would possibly not even notice the absence of dysprosium, but copper? Without it, the world as we know it would come to a halt. No more hot baths, free flowing water, electricity……….There would be riots on the streets except that the streets would be gridlocked because, without copper, the traffic signals would not work. Now the DAGS (Doom and Gloom Society) tell us we are using the metal as such a rate that we shall soon run out. So shall we worry? Probably not. A summary in “Materials World”, the monthly comic from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, tells us this:
- The world uses c. 20Mt of copper metal per year, with the US taking 10%.
- Known reserves in the top five countries alone are 424Mt, or 20 years supply. The US Geological Survey puts the global total at 635Mt or 32 years.
- Undiscovered resources are 3.5bt, or 175 years.
- Of interest (or so it should be) is where the current resources are and where they are mined. It goes like this:
– World copper mined production (mt/yr)
– Chile 5.7, China 1.65, Peru 1.3, USA 1.22, Australia 0.99.
– World copper known reserves (mt)
– Chile 190, Australia 87, Peru 70, USA 39, Mexico 38.
So let us not panic. We have not documented Zambia or the DRC, nor the nodules which lie on the ocean floors. So let us rest easy, all metals are created equal, but copper is more equal than others.
*=Doom and Gloom Society
About David Hargreaves
David Hargreaves is a mining engineer with over forty years of senior experience in the industry. After qualifying in coal mining he worked in the iron ore mines of Quebec and Northwest Ontario before diversifying into other bulk minerals including bauxite. He was Head of Research for stockbrokers James Capel in London from 1974 to 1977 and voted Mining Analyst of the year on three successive occasions.
Since forming his own metals broking and research company in 1977, he has successfully promoted and been a director of several public companies. He currently writes “The Week in Mining”, an incisive review of world mining events, for stockbrokers WH Ireland. David’s research pays particular attention to steel via the iron ore and coal supply industries. He is a Chartered Mining Engineer, Fellow of the Geological Society and the Institute of Mining, Minerals and Materials, and a Member of the Royal Institution. His textbook, “The World Index of Resources and Population” accurately predicted the exponential rise in demand for steel industry products.