October is here – and so is Copper Month.
We’re kicking off our informational campaign to highlight the breadth of our nation’s metals and minerals needs by drilling down into the many utilities of and challenges associated with copper – a mainstay industrial metal that has more in common with the often-discussed rare earth elements (REEs) than you would think.
Increasing demand, particularly in Asia, and growing global supply challenges warrant a closer look at the base metal, which plays a largely underestimated role in the generation of economic growth, social well-being and economic security.
You may wonder how copper ties into the broader issue of U.S. resource dependency, if compared to the near total dependence on foreign REE imports, we only import 30% of the copper we use today – which may not sound like a big deal. It’s the historical perspective that matters, though:
In 1993, the year the last metric ton of copper was sold out of the National Defense Stockpile, U.S. mines produced 1.8 million metric tons of copper – roughly 60% more than in 2010. This means that over a less-than-20-year span, our net import dependency, which stood at 7% back then, has increased by a whopping 23%.
Throw in the geopolitical challenges associated with the geography of global copper mining which we will look at later in the week, and copper has all the makings of a highly critical mineral resource, the domestic development of which should be a priority for policy makers.