American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Copper in the Fight against Coronavirus, Infectious Diseases: Vancouver Installs Anti-Microbial Copper Surfaces in Public Transit System

    Amidst election chaos and surging coronavirus case numbers, we got a piece of good news early this week when pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a vaccine candidate they had developed was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in study participants in their first interim efficacy analysis.

    Great news indeed – to the point that it had the United States’ top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci declare that “[the coronavirus crisis is] not going to be pandemic for a lot longer because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around,” at an event hosted by think tank Chatham House earlier this week.

    Fauci cautioned, however, that while the virus would likely cease spreading around the world at the pace it currently is, “it could circulate quietly below the surface, at least in certain areas.”

    “Putting it to rest doesn’t mean eradicating it,” he said. “I doubt we’re going to eradicate this, I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically, it may be something that becomes endemic that we have to just be careful.”

    And COVID-19 notwithstanding, experts are cautioning that deadly infectious disease outbreaks could become more common. Faced with an unavoidable future full of global pandemics, prevention and preparation will be key.

    Enter antimicrobial copper.

    Followers of ARPN will know that we have touted copper’s antimicrobial properties in the fight against COVID-19, and have highlighted how its application in hospital settings has proven to significantly reduce bacteria and thus and acquisition rates for hospital acquired infections.

    Specifically looking at coronavirus, a new clinical study conducted by National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists and published in The New England Journal of Medicine earlier this spring confirmed that while SARS-CoV-2 was stable “for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” it was only detectable on copper surfaces for four hours.

    We have featured several new ideas on how to harness copper’s properties in the fight against coronavirus ranging from the development of copper-infused fabrics to copper-alloyed cell phone cases, and the introduction of legislation at the state level calling for all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces – including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails.

    The latest example of copper finding its way into the fight against the current and future pandemics comes to us via our neighbors to the north in Canada:

    As part of a partnership with Vancouver-based Teck Resources and Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Vancouver is installing anti-microbial copper surfaces in its public transit system – specifically on two Sky Trains and two trolley buses. The TransLink pilot project explores whether the materials could be “effective in ensuring a safer transit system in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    According to the Vancouver Sun, the copper surfaces will be installed at high-touch points on board the two trains and two buses and will be swabbed twice a week. At the end of one month, they will be assessed for durability. Upon conclusion of the pilot, findings and results of the pilot program will be shared widely.

    Cautious optimism in light of this week’s vaccine news may be in order, but the fight against infectious diseases more closely resembles a marathon than a sprint. As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty pointed out earlier this year:

    “Now is the time for smart moves to respond to this threat and prepare for future ones. New public spaces—and particularly the touch-points of human contact within those spaces—must become our first line of protection. Anti-microbial metals like copper are an indispensable weapon in this war.”

  • Materials Science Revolution in the Fight against COVID — Copper Continues to Lead the Charge

    Copper is arguably one of the key mainstay metals and building blocks of modern society.  However, in recent years — and most certainly over the past few months as the coronavirus pandemic has spanned the globe, its antimicrobial properties — known and appreciated already by the Ancients — have re-entered the spotlight.

    Reports of novel ideas on how to harness copper’s properties in the fight against COVID and future pandemics, ranging from the development of copper-infused face masks to copper-alloyed cell phone cases, are a testament not only to the metal’s properties, but the promise of the ongoing materials science revolution, which is yielding research breakthroughs at neck-breaking speeds. 

    While a recently-introduced Assembly bill in New York State seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces, including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails going forward, copper’s antimicrobial potential is already finding practical application in Hong Kong.  

    As we reported, Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) announced in May that the government was going to distribute free reusable copper-containing masks “capable of immobilising [sic] bacteria, common viruses and other harmful substances” to all its citizens.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s Northern Territory also made headlines, as its Department of Trade, Business and Innovation became “the first organisation to deploy antimicrobial ACTIVAT3D copper throughout their building to help fight the spread of COVID-19.”

    Developed by a Darwin-based company, ACTIVAT3D copper has been tested by a clinical trial speciality lab accredited by the Australian National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), and was shown to kill off 96 percent of the virus in two hours and 99.2 percent of the virus in five hours. 

    According to news reports, the company has developed a “process to coat stainless-steel door touch plates and handles in under 5 minutes,” which was then applied throughout the NT Department of Trade, Business and Innovation building.

    While this technology and its associated test results have reportedly sparked global interest as governments and private companies look for proactive ways to protect their communities, the clothing industry is not sitting idly by. 

    According to British news sources, a hi-tech clothing firm claims to have created the world’s first ‘disease-proof’ jacket — a “super garment” designed to kill bugs and viruses like the novel coronavirus by also harnessing copper’s antimicrobial properties.  In what may — at least for now — limit its marketability, the futuristic-looking jacket made from 11km of copper has the hefty price tag of $895. 

    So while it may be unlikely that many of us will be wearing “full metal jackets” – as the super garment has been dubbed – anytime soon, there is a good chance that we will be harnessing copper’s properties in fabrics and garments.   Already, companies have developed copper-infused T-shirts to double as wound dressings, and are now making hospital gowns and bedding to battle hospital-acquired infections, and more and more companies are beginning to offer copper-infused face masks.  

    Speaking of face masks — here’s another testament to materials science:

    Like them or not, they have become a staple in our daily lives, but you’ve probably noticed that effective communication is hard when half your face is hidden — it’s hard to show emotions.  For some, like children, the elderly and the hearing impaired, this issue is even greater, particularly in the caregiving context, where being shown empathy is a big contributing factor to a patient’s wellbeing, especially when loved ones are not allowed to visit in person.  

    Initially looking for a way to make the contact between caregivers and patients less impersonal, Swiss researchers have now developed a technology to create a completely transparent biomass-based surgical mask.   Product launch could take place as early as the spring of 2021.  

    Who knows, maybe the next step will be copper-infused transparent surgical masks. With the materials science revolution going strong, the next breakthrough may be just around the corner. 

  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the [...]
  • Copper at the Frontlines – Hong Kong to Distribute Face Masks Containing Copper to Its Citizens

    Known and appreciated already by the Ancients for its antimicrobial properties, Copper has recently entered into the discourse over how to fight the current coronavirus outbreak and future pandemics.   A case in point is a new Assembly bill in New York, which seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction [...]
  • Against Backdrop of COVID-19, State Assembly Bill Calls for Use of Antimicrobial Copper in Public Construction

    Legislation introduced in the State Assembly of New York, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the current coronavirus pandemic, would require publicly funded construction projects to use antimicrobial copper. The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Marcy), would “require all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces [...]
  • College Seniors Develop Copper Phone Case – A “Smart Move” for Smartphones Amidst a Pandemic

    Courtesy of the current coronavirus pandemic, we wash our hands – perhaps more frequently and thoroughly than before, and contactless shopping is becoming the norm for many.  Disinfectant has become more than a household staple, and we find ourselves constantly sanitizing everything from light switches over door handles to groceries.   To borrow a quote [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution Vs. Coronavirus: Copper-Infusion to Turn Common Cotton Fibers Into a “Defensive Wall”?

    Last week, we discussed the antimicrobial properties of copper, the re-introduction of which experts argue could help the fight against Coronavirus and future pandemics — particularly in hospitals and other public spaces.  Taking the notion of a new idea often being an old one further, an Israeli scientist has taken the mainstay material copper, and [...]
  • COVID-19 Requires Rethink – Time to Bring Back Copper in Public Spaces?

    Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. Copper beats coronavirus. It sounds flippant, but at this moment of utmost seriousness, there’s a truth to it.  In a new piece, senior writer for Fast Company Mark Wilson discusses the thesis of Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, whose research has led him [...]
  • Renewable Energy Transition Continues to Fuel Copper Demand

    Rare earths and lithium-Ion technology metals and minerals may be the talk of the town these days — and for good reason — and stakeholders are finally pursuing policies aimed at facilitating secure access for them.   However, as a new analysis by Wood Mackenzie shows, we should not forget about the more traditional mainstay [...]
  • EPA Withdrawal of Preemptive Veto of Alaska Strategic Mineral Mining Project Positive Development for Due Process

    Amidst a recent uptick in government actions aimed at increasing domestic mineral resource development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month withdrew its preemptive proposed determination to restrict use of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) in Southwestern Alaska.  As followers of [...]