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The Geography and Geopolitics of Copper Mining

As we’re kicking off week two of “Copper Month” at American Resources, here’s a look at the geography at global copper mining, and the geopolitical challenges that arise from it. 

According to the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, most of the world’s copper is mined in Chile, Peru, and China. The U.S. ranks fourth, but domestic mine production in 2010 declined by about 5 percent.If for some reason, the U.S. were to simply stop copper mining today, Chile, Peru, the Philippines or Australia, all of which house known prospects, might be able to fill that void and step up supply.  Demand might also be met through mines in Russia, Angola, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or China.  While reserves exist in Pakistan and Iran as well, all of the latter group – with the exception of Pakistan, which is rated “partly free” – are rated “not free” in the current Freedom House “Freedom in the World Survey.” Consequently, while the world copper market does offer choices, we may find many of those choices unpalatable from a policy perspective.

Copper is a mineral resource of which we’re fortunate to have significant deposits.  In light of today’s geopolitical challenges, and keeping in mind that projects developed here in the U.S. are, on balance, likely to be conducted with higher safety and environmental standards, it would be foolish not to develop the mineral riches beneath our own soil. 

Be sure to check out our new microsite at www.coppermatters.org, and watch for more copper-related updates on Twitter and Facebook throughout October.