Richard (Rick) Mills
Ahead of the Herd
Page 3 of 3
Tomorrow’s Copper Demand
According to the Minerals Education Coalition every American born will need 978 pounds of copper over their lifetime.
We can see in the above Wood MacKenzie, Macquarie Research graph, from an August 2013 report, a projected refined shortage in 2018. The surplus forecast between now and then is diminutive in relation to the sheer size of the copper market and copper production often falls short of forecasts due to accidents, strikes, ore degradation or power shortages. Disruptions in the copper market averaged 900,000 tonnes of copper supply per year between 2004 and 2012.
We already have one billion people out of today’s current population slated to become significant consumers by 2025.
Another 2.8 billion people will be added to the world between now and 2050. Most will not be Americans but they are going to want a lot of things that we in the western developed world take for granted – electricity, plumbing, appliances, AC etc.
Out of a total of 10 billion people in 2050, 8.2 billion of them are expected to be in developing countries.
How much copper could they expect to use over their lifetime?
Will they each use 978 lb’s of copper in their life time? Is there 8 plus trillion pounds of new copper left to be mined in the world?
According to a September 2013 report from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) global land-based copper resources (contained in identified, mined, and undiscovered resources – undiscovered resource numbers are based on geological modeling, the copper should, might, be there) exceed 3 billion tons (6 trillion pounds). These identified, mined, and undiscovered resources do not include deep-sea nodules and submarine massive sulfides.
“Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.” E. F. Schumacher
“We’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding.” Paul Krugman, ‘The Finite World’
If we mined every last discovered, and undiscovered, pound of land based copper the expected 8.2 billion people in the developing world would only get three quarters of the way towards copper use parity per capita with the U.S.
Of course the rest of us, the other 1.8 billion people expected to be on this planet by 2050, aren’t going to be easing up, we’re still going to be using copper at prestigious rates while our eastern cousins play catch up.
Copper use parity isn’t going to happen, it can’t.
It’s this author’s opinion the developing world will not get a third of the way to our development levels here in the west before we all run out of USGS stated copper resources to mine.
Consider that this game of ‘Copper Catch Up’ is not going to happen in 100 years, it’s happening now.
The world’s exploding population, the massive shift from rural to urban, the growth of a very consumption minded middle class in developing countries, it’s all happening now.
Add in finite, increasingly hard to source resources.
The effects will felt long before we actually start to run out of copper and there will be severe consequences:
- Rising energy and commodity prices
- A decline in the global economy
- Civil unrest
Are the coming consequences of living in a finite world on your radar screen?
If not, they should be.
Richard (Rick) Mills
Richard is the owner of Aheadoftheherd.com and invests in the junior resource/bio-tech sectors. His articles have been published on over 400 websites, including:
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