Peak Copper | Red, Hot, and Running Out

“If the entire world (lived by) same standards as North America … (the world) would not have enough copper to meet that demand.”

Red, Hot and Running Out

By Saif Qureshi,

Copper may seem like a boring old metal, but it’s used in many places and is quite useful in our society.  So where exactly is this metal used?  Try things like piping installations, electrical wiring, building construction, household products and of course pennies.  Due to this, the demand for copper is red hot in the world markets right now, as countries such as China and India continue to expand.  In fact, last year the price of copper increased by 126% and reached a 16-month high in December 2009.

However, if demand continues to grow at this rate, some researchers estimate that we may have less than 63 years before we hit Peak Copper and fully deplete our reserves.

Copper Uses

Humans have used copper for millennia and although over time its usage has changed, our society still continues to depend on this resource and probably will even into the future.  So you might be wondering, “What’s so special about this metal that we can’t just replace it with something else?” The reason why Copper is used so much is that it has some special properties.  For example, copper is a ductile and very conductive metal, which means that it can be shaped and bent easily and also that it conducts electricity very well.   This makes it perfect for the electrical wiring in houses and industrial buildings.  Another metal, which is an even better conductor of electricity, is gold, but copper is still used more often due to the obvious cost advantages.

Copper has also found its place in architecture because of the material’s long lasting nature (e.g. some copper roof installations last for 200 years), its recyclability, finish, environmental friendliness and its ease of use.  Due to copper’s useful qualities and low price, it is also used in many alloys such as brass and bronze, which are used in various places, such as musical instruments and in metal plating.  However, although the outlook for copper is rosy right now, in a couple of decades all this could change.

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