Against the backdrop of mounting supply chain concerns for critical minerals, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has officially added copper to its critical materials list in the context of the agency’s 2023 Critical Materials Assessment.
The annual report assesses the criticality of materials to the supply chains in the renewable energy technology sector and focuses on key materials with high risk of supply disruption.
The incorporation of copper into this year’s list marks the first time a U.S. government agency has added the material on one of its official “critical” lists.
While copper is included in several other national lists, including India’s, Canada’s, South Africa’s, and Brazil’s, as well as the European’s most recent critical minerals list, the official comprehensive U.S. Government Critical Minerals List, last updated in 2022, has yet to incorporate copper.
This is not for the lack of pushes to afford the material “critical minerals” status — ranging from public comments submitted to USGS during the drafting process (see Daniel McGroarty’s submission here) over congressional lettersand legislation.
As such the inclusion of the material in the DOE Critical Materials Assessment list represents an important acknowledgement of copper’s key role in 21st Century technology and the green energy transition.
As Copper Development Association (CDA) CEO Andrew G. Kireta, Jr. said in a statement on the announcement:
“Copper is a major contributor to US economic and national security, and with copper demand projections doubling by 2035, primarily due to plans for the clean energy transition, electrification and clean water infrastructure. The nation would be defenseless without electricity and copper’s vital role in its generation, transmission, and distribution.”
So copper is now a DOE Critical Material – but not (yet) a U.S. Government Critical Mineral: A bureaucratic distinction that ARPN will watch with interest, as copper demand in a net zero world continues to rise.