Canadian Consulting Engineer

Experts give warning on copper

February 10, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Researchers at Yale University predict that the world's supply of copper won't be able to meet the demand by the ye...

Researchers at Yale University predict that the world’s supply of copper won’t be able to meet the demand by the year 2100 if populations increase and lifestyles rise to western levels.
A report by R.B. Gordon, M. Bertram and T.E. Graedel of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale entitled “Metal Stocks and Sustainability” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January, and reported in Scientific American magazine.
The researchers drew on archaeological, historical and modern data to see how much of the metal was used in the 20th century in engineering such essential assets as electricity, plumbing and in transportation, then measured per capite use in the U.S. and other developed countries.
They also compared how much copper was available to be mined based on current discovery rates and geological surveys.
Their data showed that in the U.S. overall copper use climbed to a high of 238 kilograms per person by 1999, mostly due to the production of more motor vehicles and domestic equipment. Canada required an average of 170 kilograms of copper per person. By multiplying that figure by world population estimates of 10 billion people by 2100, they found the world will require 1.7 billion metric tons of copper by that date. However, even an optimistic estimate of the copper available to be mined was 1.6 billion metric tons.
The researchers’ conclusion was “Providing today’s developed-country level of services for copper worldwide (as well as for zinc and, perhaps, platinum) would appear to require conversion of essentially all of the ore in the lithosphere to stock-in-use plus near-complete recycling of the metals from that point forward.”
The Canadian one-cent coin is copper-plated steel.


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