Copper is the new oil

That’s what Goldman Sachs said in a recent report. Oil will no longer drive our 21st Century world. It will be copper. Why? Because our global imperatives for climate change, green energy, infrastructure and new technologies all depend on copper.

There’s Not Enough Copper. Period.

S&P Global recently outlined two scenarios emphasizing the growing copper demand, which could result in chronic supply shortfalls, potentially hindering the global energy transition towards Net-Zero Emissions by 2050. In the “Rocky Road Scenario,” the copper supply-demand gap could reach a staggering 10 Mt shortfall by 2035. This surge in demand, driven by electric vehicle deployment, power infrastructure upgrades, and increased renewable generation capacity, underscores the critical role of copper in enabling the energy transition and the need for innovative solutions to address this supply-demand challenge. The “High Ambition Scenario” is a highly optimistic projection that assumes significant increases in both capacity utilization and recycling rates for copper. Despite these increases, chronic shortfalls between copper supply and demand are expected to begin in 2025 and persist through most of the 2030s, with a shortfall of over 1.5 MMt in 2035 alone.

How did we become so dependent on copper? Because copper has driven every agricultural, industrial and technological revolution for millennia.

Copper and the Rise of Civilization

9000 BC to 2000 BC – Stone Age

Between 9000 BC to 2000 BC, Stone Age societies began to hammer copper into sheets and shapes.

The Copper Age, with the first copper smelting, began around 5,000 BC.

5000 BC – Copper Age

3000 BC – Bronze Age

The Bronze Age (copper and tin) followed, beginning around 3,000 BC.

Late in the first millennium BC, the use of brass (copper and zinc) spread across the world, followed by great copper alloy inventions such as clocks, watches, telescopes and microscopes.

First Millennium BC

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 1700s, required huge amounts of copper for machinery.

Then came the technology revolutions of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Steam power, electrification, automobiles and computers required copper.

Technology Revolution

The Next Great Copper Revolution
Now we’ve entered the next copper-dependent technological revolution

Solar, wind, hydro and hydrogen power, plus batteries and innovations to come
Wiring to deliver green power
Electric vehicles using three times as much copper as combustion engine vehicles
Infrastructure and manufacturing for a rapidly-developing world, including internet, transportation, water, power, buildings and more.

The Race to Source New Copper. Responsibly

To meet this challenge, copper discoveries and production must increase dramatically. But we have to source our copper responsibly. There’s no going back to the old ways of mining.

…brands that can transparently demonstrate that they are purchasing ethically produced materials will reap the rewards on their bottom line as, increasingly, consumers are choosing to buy products from companies that demonstrate sustainable practices and responsible sourcing.”

Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum