The Future of the Red Metal: Discards, Energy, Water, Residues, and Depletion

CSS Publication Number: 

Estimates for mine tailings, smelter slag, mine overburden, stock buildup, loss of copper discards to the landfills, and energy and water use requirements have been presented based upon scenario analysis results of three alternative copper futures. The resource availability concerns emerge to be the most critical. Globally, the copper resource availability barrier might potentially emerge during 2035-2060, with more likelihood of appearing in a highly technological and affluent world scenario first. Cumulatively, the amount of copper in mine tailings generated by 2050 will equal the amount of contemporary in-use copper stock. Such large amounts of production residues can serve as future sources of high-grade copper, as copper ore grades will continue to decline over time. Should we wish to mine the remaining low grade copper still, the amount of energy required will be equivalent to present global energy use. Unrealistically large amount of water would also seem to be required.

scenario analysis
material substitution
copper futures
resource depletion
industrial ecology
copper stock
substance flow analysis
production residues
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal
Date Published: 
October 18, 2006
Persistent URL: 
DOI: 10.1504/PIE.2006.011130
Full Citation: 
Kapur, Amit. 2006. The future of the red metal: Discards, Energy, Water, Residues, and Depletion. Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal 3(3): 209-236.
Admin Content
Publication Status: