Copper Demand with Renewable Energy Increasing

Globally, copper demand with renewable energy deployment is increasing with estimates of at least 10 million tonnes more copper needed over the next decade. Wherever there is electricity, copper is there to conduct it.

As we head towards net-zero emissions, record quantities of copper will be required. Copper is critical for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage. We are headed for a supply crunchMarket analysts estimate the annual copper supply shortfall could be as high as 10 million tonnes by 2030 if no new mines are built. This means prices are on the rise, giving miners an incentive to bring new copper mines to market.

Copper Demand Driven by Electrifying Energy and Transportation

Copper is the third-most-consumed industrial metal in the world behind iron and aluminium. The majority of copper production, about three-quarters, is used by the electrical industries to make electrical wires, telecommunication cables, and electronics. Copper is only second to silver when it comes to thermal and electrical conductivity. The rest is mostly used to form alloys by combining it with other metals. Some of these common alloys are brasses, bronzes, and nickel silvers.

Challenges to Increase Supply

  • Unearthed copper deposits are locked up in remote and difficult locations
  • Opposition to new mines
  • New mines lower ore % and deeper
  • New copper mines will likely be located in politically and ecologically sensitive areas

Copper Production

Copper production has increased from 15 million tonnes in 2000 to 25 million tonnes by 2020, and Chile accounts for a quarter of reserves.

Country2018 (Metric Tons) 2017
Chile5,831,6005,503,500
Peru2,436,9512,445,585
China1,561,1001,706,400
DR Congo1,239,0591,094,638
United States1,220,0001,260,000
Australia913,336849,121
Zambia861,946799,329
Russia785,300762,300
Mexico696,580742,246
Indonesia651,132621,979
Kazakhstan632,550540,700
Canada542,932597,194
Other 44 countries3,090,400 of the total 20m tonnes
Data from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/copper-production-by-country

The amount of copper in an ore can vary from 0.4% to 2% although there are some as high as 12%. Porphyry copper deposits, in which the copper materials are more or less uniformly scattered throughout the rock, account for the greatest tonnage of metal in the producing areas of the world.

Industry Dominated by 12 Companies in 4 Countries

Supply Crunch

The Looming Copper Supply Crunch
Graphic from Visual Capitalist https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-looming-copper-supply-crunch/