World copper reserves can satisfy rising global demand for at least a century and are far from peaking, according to a study by Australia’s Monash University.
Researchers compiled a database based on mineral-resource estimates from mining companies, the university wrote in an online statement. “Vast volumes” of available copper, used in pipes and wiring, mean social and environmental concerns might be the most important restrictions on future output, it said.
“Contrary to predictions estimating that supplies of this important metal would run out in around 30 years, the research has found there are plenty of resources within the reach of current technologies,” Melbourne-based Monash wrote.
Workers’ rights, impacts on cultural lands and potential environmental damage are already affecting the viability of copper production and will have an increasing influence, Monash cited Gavin Mudd, one of the study’s researchers, as saying.
Non-economic issues hampered some mining, according to the university. It pointed to the Pebble copper and gold project in Alaska, which lacks necessary approvals after more than a decade due to environmental and cultural concerns, according to Monash. Anglo American Plc and Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. are Pebble’s developers.
“With existing copper resources, we’re not just going to be dealing with the production of a few million tons of tailings from mining a century ago,” Mudd was cited as saying. “We are now dealing with a few billion tons or tens of billions of tons of mine waste produced during modern mining.”
The researchers plan to create databases for other metals, such as nickel, uranium and cobalt, Monash said.