News Focus

The Coming Copper Peak

Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 722-724
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6172.722

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Summary

If electrons are the lifeblood of a modern economy, copper makes up its blood vessels. In cables, wires, and contacts, copper is at the core of the electrical distribution system, from power stations to delicate electronics. As consumption has risen exponentially—reaching 17 million metric tons in 2012—miners have met the world's demand for 10,000 years. But that might soon change. A group of resource specialists has taken the first shot at projecting how much more copper miners will wring from the planet. Results of their model, described this month, show that production peaks by about midcentury even if copper is more abundant than most geologists believe. That would drive prices sky-high, trigger increased recycling, and force inferior substitutes for copper on the marketplace.