Due to geological availability, emerging technologies and industry innovation, copper will continue to contribute to society’s sustainable development goals. As global copper use continues to rise, meeting this demand will require additional copper mining and recycling sources.
COPPER RESERVES & RESOURCES
The future availability of minerals is based on the concept of reserves and resources. Reserves are deposits that have been discovered, evaluated and assessed to be profitable. Resources are far larger and include reserves, discovered and potentially profitable deposits and undiscovered deposits predicted based on preliminary geological surveys. Copper is naturally present in the Earth’s crust.
Global copper reserves are estimated at 870 million tonnes (United States Geological Survey [USGS], 2020), and annual copper demand is 28 million tonnes. These copper resources are estimated to exceed 5,000 million tonnes (USGS, 2014 & 2017).
According to USGS data, since 1950 there has always been, on average, 40 years of copper reserves and over 200 years of resources left, which include reserves, discovered and potentially profitable deposits and undiscovered deposits predicted based on preliminary geological surveys.
INNOVATION IN COPPER RECYCLING AND MINING
Copper recycling plays an important role in copper availability since today’s primary copper is tomorrow’s recycled material. The recovery and recycling of copper also helps to satisfy the increasing demand and to build a sustainable future for future generations.
During the last decade, more than 30 percent of annual copper use came from recycled sources. Future innovative policies and technologies should continue to contribute to resource efficiency in mining “primary” copper and recycling “secondary” copper.
More detailed information, resources and materials are available on copper recycling, ICA briefing note on copper’s long-term availability and copper stocks and flows.