Copper Reserves and Resources
Typically, the future availability of minerals is based on the concept of reserves and resources. Reserves are deposits that have been discovered, evaluated and assessed to be economically profitable to mine. Resources are far bigger and include reserves, discovered deposits that are potentially profitable, and undiscovered deposits that are predicted based on preliminary geological surveys.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), copper reserves amount to 690 million tonnes (Mt) (basis 2013). In 2013 the USGS completed a geology-based, cooperative international assessment of copper resources of the world 1/. The USGS assessed undiscovered copper in two deposit types that account for about 80% of the world’s copper supply. Porphyry copper deposits account for about 60% of the world’s copper. In porphyry copper deposits, copper ore minerals are disseminated in igneous intrusions. Sediment-hosted stratabound copper deposits, in which copper is concentrated in layers in sedimentary rocks, account for about 20% of the world’s identified copper.
The mean undiscovered totals for porphyry and sediment-hosted deposits are 3,100 and 400 Mt respectively, resulting in a global total of 3,500 Mt of copper. With identified copper resources currently estimated at 2,100 Mt, total copper resources (undiscovered + identified) are estimated at 5,600 Mt. Undiscovered resources do not take into account the vast amounts of copper found in deep sea nodules and land-based and submarine massive sulphides. Current and future exploration opportunities will lead to increases in both reserves and known resources. (see more in ICSG World Copper Factbook)
1/ Supporting studies, including documentation of the assessment methodology and descriptions of individual tracts, are available on the USGS Mineral Resources Program Web site, at http://minerals.usgs.gov/global/
Are We Going to Run Out of Copper? It Is Highly Improbable!
Since 1950, based on the then current rate of demand, there has always been, on average, 40 years of reserves, and significantly greater amounts of known resources (USGS data). In addition, recycling, innovation and mining exploration continue to contribute to the long-term availability of copper.
Despite increased demand for copper produced from ore in recent years, increases in reserves have grown more, and there is more identified copper available to the world than at any other time in history.
For more information please consult the International Copper Association briefing note on copper’s long‐term availability at http://copperalliance.org/core‐initiatives/sd/availability/