Copper as a Critical Metal
Source: Copper Investing News, Leia Toovey (6/23/11)
"Copper deserves its title of critical metal for a several reasons. . ."
The world needs copper, and lots of it. Output of the red metal has already doubled in the last 16 years. However, according to Technology Metals Research Founder Jack Lifton, this output needs to double again—a feat that's going to be a very big challenge.
The definition of a critical metal is not precise. However, simply put, a critical metal is a metal that is "vital" for the world to function in its current state. Critical metals are "dynamic" and the definition of a critical metal depends on many factors, including location, period of time and current economic and political environment.
Copper deserves its title of critical metal for a several reasons. The copper market is currently faced with a supply deficit. Currently, there is not enough of the metal being produced to satisfy its near-term demand. As such, we will have to drastically increase the amount of copper being mined and refined before we will have enough supply. The second factor contributing to copper's criticality is the subject of substitution. If we run out of copper, what can we use? The answer is, unfortunately, with today's technology—nothing.
At the Critical Metals Symposium, all the panelists agreed that the definition of a critical metal is not concrete. When defining a critical material, it is important to consider what you're trying to do with it (i.e., what the material is needed for). In various applications, hybrid cards, for instance, producers will say that if they no longer had the availability of certain metals, such as a rare earth, they would model their technologies around the missing component. However, if you tell them they have no copper—they wouldn't know how to produce any vehicle, let alone a hybrid.