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Sustainable Sourcing to Support Green Energy Shift – A Look at Copper

Followers of ARPN will know that Copper is more than just an old school mainstay industrial metal.   We’ve long touted its versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status. Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, scientists are constantly discovering new uses – with the latest case in point being Copper used in OLED technology to lower the cost to light up TVs and smart phones.

Perhaps more importantly in light of the current debate over a shift towards renewable energy, Copper is also one of the key building blocks of our green energy future.

In that, however, as we have previously argued, lies an inherent irony: Proponents of a green energy shift for the United States tend to vehemently oppose the domestic development of the very metals and minerals that make said shift possible.  However, as ARPN expert Ned Mamula recently indicated, that needn’t be the case.

Advances in technology harnessed by the modern mining industry make it possible to restore a balance between mining and environmental protection – a position recently outlined by Fleming Voetman, VP for Public Affairs at the International Copper Association.

In a piece for GreenBiz, Voetman outlines how “[i]ndustries are responding by recognizing their responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments,” and notes several positive trends that are currently underway.   These range from consumer electronics companies like Ericsson and mining companies like Rio Tinto overhauling their supply chain policies to ensure suppliers conform to certain environmental and social standards, to companies like consumer electronics maker Phillips and mining company Teck supporting local communities.

Concludes Voetman: 

“As the demand for copper and other materials necessary for the development of a low carbon society increases, the importance of these responsible sourcing actions grows. Responsible sourcing is a way of extending the benefits of this demand in materials to local communities.

With global copper demand expected to grow alongside the roll out of energy-efficiency measures and uptake of renewable-energy sources, it is clear that we as an industry collectively need to address societal expectations. The World Bank’s 2017 report on the growing role of minerals and metals states, ‘The shift to low carbon energy will produce global opportunities with respect to a number of minerals,’ and that limiting climate change to a global increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius will require radical changes to drive this increased demand.”

Industry understands that reconciling mining and environmental protection is both necessary and feasible. It is time for our policy makers to realize this, too, and devise a policy framework conducive to the responsible harnessing of the metals and minerals beneath our own soil.