Despite an ever-increasing demand for copper, there is more of the metal available today than at any other time in history. This, together with the ability to infinitely recycle copper, means that society is extremely unlikely to deplete the copper supply, and copper will continue to contribute to global initiatives, like the SDGs and clean energy.
Copper Reserves and 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 deposits that are potentially profitable 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. Current 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.
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 increasing demand and to build a sustainable future for future generations.
During the last decade, around 35 percent of global copper demand was met with recycled copper. Future innovative policies and technologies should continue to contribute to resource efficiency in mining “primary” copper and recycling “secondary” copper.
Sustainable Mining Practices
ICA's members are working to produce copper responsibly, whether that be through emissions reduction, renewable energy use, technological innovation, safe working practices, water and biodiversity conservation or social outreach programs.
Copper's Role in the Circular Economy
Alongside primary production, recycled copper will be needed to meet demand. Circular copper will play an essential role in the circular economy and the future of sustainable development.
Copper is essential to the modern world.
Learn more about copper's uses in sustainable development.