View of the open pit copper mine of Chuquicamata, Chile

Clean energy? The world’s demand for copper could be catastrophic for communities and environments

Deanna Kemp, The University of Queensland; Eleonore Lebre, The University of Queensland; John Owen, The University of Queensland, and Richard K Valenta, The University of Queensland

The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge. As with any industrial activity, the transition has potential environmental and social impacts.

As we head towards net-zero emissions, record quantities of copper will be required. Copper is critical for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage.

Unfortunately, we’re headed for a supply crunch. Market analysts estimate the annual copper supply shortfall could be as high as 10 million tonnes by 2030 if no new mines are built. This means prices are on the rise, giving miners an incentive to bring new copper mines to market.

The complexity of these new mines will be unprecedented. Unless mining is done differently, rushing to bring these projects into production could unleash unacceptable, catastrophic impacts onto local people and environments.

A golden age for copper

Until recently, the copper market has been flat. Prices have been low, and it has not been a good environment for producers. The market is now on the move.

The demand for copper and other energy transition minerals has sparked predictions of a commodity boom, and a golden age for mineral exploration.

On April 12-13, major producers including BHP, Rio Tinto and Anglo American will convene for the World Copper Virtual Conference to gather market intelligence.

But in the face of high global demand, it’s critical these big companies don’t gloss over copper’s sustainability challenges.

4 major sustainability challenges

There are four major challenges the mining industry faces in the impending copper boom. How well these challenges are overcome will determine who wins and loses in the energy transition.

1. Unearthed copper deposits are locked up in remote and difficult locations

Unearthed copper deposits — known as “orebodies” — are often found in places such as the high Andes, the Arctic, and the deep sea.

The social, environmental and technical challenges of projects in these locations will be greater than before. For example, BMW, Samsung and Volvo have just backed calls for a moratorium on deep sea mining.

2. Many proposed projects face public opposition

This includes major projects such as Resolution Copper in the US, Pebble in Canada, Tampakan in the Philippines, and Frieda River in Papua New Guinea.

Public opposition towards these and other large-scale copper projects means they could face difficult legal battles before these projects are permitted to go ahead.

3. Future copper mines are projected to be lower grade and deeper

Grade is a measure of the how much valuable metal there is in the ore body (deposit). Deeper, lower grade orebodies means new copper mines are likely to generate more waste rock, more tailings, and hazardous elements such as arsenic.

Read more: World-first mining standard must protect people and hold powerful companies to account

Tailings are the residues from mining and minerals processing, and is made up of finely ground rock, chemicals and water. If the projected demand is met, we calculate the world will produce more than nine times the amount of copper tailings between 2000 and 2050, than in the entire century prior.

Meanwhile, the industry faces a crisis of credibility over its management of this hazardous waste.

4. New copper mines will likely be located in politically and ecologically sensitive areas

Our research from 2019 found 65% of copper ore bodies that haven’t been mined are in areas with high water risk: too little water means miners compete for it among other local water users, and too much means waste can be difficult to contain.

Almost half (47%) of these ore bodies occur on or close to Indigenous peoples’ lands, and 64% within or near areas critical to biodiversity conservation. 50% are in socially and politically fragile countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A simple price rise won’t solve major issues

In the past, the mining industry has relied on rising prices to address supply shortfalls. Higher metal prices give companies the financial capital they need to operate in difficult locations and invest in new mining technologies.

Some of this capital will support sustainability improvements, such as recycling and reductions in water and energy use. But many of the sustainability challenges we’ve outlined above are not price sensitive.

Read more: A brutal war and rivers poisoned with every rainfall: how one mine destroyed an island

Mining companies cannot pay their way out of biodiversity loss, extreme poverty, and corruption risk. If they don’t engage these big challenges before the copper boom gets underway these impacts will be baked in mining’s future legacy, without clarity about who takes responsibility in the long term.

This would add to the devastating impacts existing mines have already caused. One famous example is the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which led to massive environmental damage and triggered a civil war.

What’s more, intensifying social and environmental impacts of copper mines could jeopardise the long-term supply of copper. If opposition grows, and supply stalls, then so too will the clean energy transition.

So what are the options?

As demand for copper moves into overdrive, we are at a crossroads.

One option is to support large-scale copper mining and the clean energy transition for the greater good of the planet. Miners would do their best to minimise impacts, but we’d accept there’ll be collateral damage for local communities. This is far from the latest commitment to “zero harm to people and the environment” that the world’s largest companies recently made to tailings management.

Read more: Renewables need land – and lots of it. That poses tricky questions for regional Australia

A second option is to insist miners exhaust all opportunities to avoid harm. This is because sacrificing the interests of local people in the interests of a greater good would not be considered responsible, as it does not align with the concepts of equity and fairness that underpin the Paris Agreement.

This second approach would require significant improvements in managing social and environmental impacts of copper mining. It may also mean reducing global demand for copper, finding substitutes, and making hard choices about not developing mines if the risks to local people and the environment are too high. Doing this would require a wholesale restructuring of the function of global commodity markets.

We may not yet have a solution, but as the world prepares for this year’s major Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, we must start to ask: what kind of justice are we seeking in the “just transition”, and for whom?

Read more: Why most Aboriginal people have little say over clean energy projects planned for their land

Deanna Kemp, Professor and Director, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland; Eleonore Lebre, Research Fellow, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland; John Owen, Professorial Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Richard K Valenta, Director – WH Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre – The Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

3.3 16 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
April 10, 2021 10:09 am

I thought the :Pebble mine was in Alaska.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 10, 2021 10:26 am

It is. Headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Richard Page
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 10, 2021 10:30 am

It is, but the owners are a Canadian company. Similar story to other mines in the area.

Ron Long
Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 1:22 pm

The owners are the shareholders of the company.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 10, 2021 10:36 am

It is! These are Aussie academics writing for The Conversation. Make of it what you will.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 10, 2021 2:44 pm

They’re a bunch of woke people with no experience outside university’s campus

Reply to  Lrp
April 11, 2021 1:53 am

The Bouganville war was because the local Bouganvillians perceived that all the good jobs were going to the “red skins”, the Papuans. These were brought in because of their better education, & longer association with western culture made them more suitable for many of the better paid jobs.

The locals wanted the mine, & it’s wealth, but wanted the best jobs, although most of them could not handle what was involved.

I was there as a visiting yachtsman in 76, for the first of the riots, & could see where the mess was going. It was obvious that there was no easy answer, & perhaps no answer where the people of one island do not recognise those of another island as their countrymen.

April 10, 2021 10:14 am

I’m not willing to jump into a sty and wrestle pigs. The audience cannot tell the difference and the pig likes it. Until I can get a verifiable definition of “sustainable” there is no winning in these types of discussions.

Reply to  Rob_Dawg
April 10, 2021 11:11 am

“These discussions” have already been won. The so-called “Greens” have won every one of these discussions. If a wind tower factory blights the pristine landscape … you’re TOLD “the Towers are beautiful”. If the spinning blades chop hundreds of birds to death, you’re TOLD “they’re helping to study bird populations”. If the low pitched hum is rattling dishes and human brains, you’re TOLD “the frequencies are too low for human perception”

“These discussions” are pre-determined and pre-biased. One side ALWAYS loses … the other is guaranteed a win.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Kenji
April 10, 2021 12:06 pm

Yes Kenji, couldn’t agree more.
And that kind of thinking is now endemic throughout the whole of Western Society – just ask ‘most anyone round here or esp, ageing white, usually single, males.
It’s everywhere.

You actually describe Magical Thinking, coming as it does, from chronically depressed minds/brains/bodies.
And that is The Real Problem here, all else is symptomatic of it

We know the reason…
We, almost the whole lot of us,
Confuse Quality & Nutritious Food With Calories

We condemn ourselves to the mad-house when we do.

Oh hi Nurse Ratched, what brings you into real-life actuality……

Joseph Zorzin
April 10, 2021 10:18 am

“The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge”
Especially for the companies producing the products and the raw materials needed for them.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 10, 2021 10:50 am

Be nice to have a list of benefits.

Reply to  Oldseadog
April 10, 2021 11:13 am

You will receive the list on your first trip to the re-education camp.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Kenji
April 10, 2021 12:25 pm

Is that on the first trip or the last trip, and is there a difference?

Bob Meyer
Reply to  Abolition Man
April 10, 2021 3:05 pm

Doesn’t matter. After 100 joules or so to the temples, you too will love Big Brother.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bob Meyer
April 11, 2021 3:31 am

especially knowing the joules came from clean and green energy

Richard Page
April 10, 2021 10:22 am

So, oil based products are unsustainable but copper is now a renewable resource, is it? Where are the calls to ‘keep it in the ground’ now?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 10:44 am

Only intellectually honest people attempt to be logically consistent.

Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 11:15 am

I thought we had already reached “peak copper”. You know … didn’t Jimmy Carter claim we’d already reached “peak copper” back in the 1990’s?

Reply to  Kenji
April 10, 2021 11:43 am

The Simon–Ehrlich wager included copper. That was 1980.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Kenji
April 10, 2021 5:20 pm
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kenji
April 10, 2021 8:26 pm

Copper has an interesting history. At one time, a major obstacle to mining copper from the Keweenaw Peninsula was how to dismember the huge masses and get them up the haulage shaft and to the smelter. As such high-grade deposits became depleted, ever lower grade deposits were turned to, such as today’s porphyry deposits. The style of mining has had to be changed. Instead of shafts and tunnels, copper is now typically mined with huge open pits and similarly huge trucks. The result is that mining is now energy intensive instead of labor intensive and copper has become much more expensive than formerly. The issue of disposing of waste rock and tailings isn’t really adequately addressed.

[Enlarge image of Bingham Canyon waste dumps at bottom]

That is the story of any finite resource. Once the high-grade deposits are exhausted, new ways have had to be invented to profitably extract the resource from lower grade deposits. As a result, the environmental damage to the surface, and cost of the commodity increases. Predictions about peak production can only be made based on the mining methods known, and there is no guarantee that new methods can be invented that will be satisfactory.

There are few metals that we will truly ever run out of. However, resorting to something like extraction from sea water requires abundant, very cheap energy (fusion!), and may be further burdened by the necessity of disposing of the un-needed halite and gypsum salts. But, there is always a possibility of at least some metals becoming so expensive that it no longer makes economic sense to use them.

Most likely, we will see near-term shortages and price spikes for copper and other elements necessary to support the energy revolution being foisted on us by the alarmist zealots who have no comprehension of where mineral resources come from.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 11, 2021 9:52 am

When it gets too costly on earth, there are plenty of asteroids to mine. Probably easier to alter their orbits to bring them to earth. We’ll have to see how the economics work out.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
April 12, 2021 9:18 am

alter their orbits to bring them to earth

No way THAT could go wrong…

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
April 12, 2021 6:40 pm

You think that mining asteroids (even in near-Earth orbit) is going to be inexpensive??? Dream on!

April 10, 2021 10:26 am

Double copied? Somehow the article seems posted twice.

“The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge.” Assumes there is such a thing as clean energy. The article goes on to prove that there are concerns with at least one of the fundamental materials required for allegedly clean energy technology, disproving the basic assumption.

It does not go into the requirements for immense amounts of reliable, high voltage electrical power, and irreplaceable diesel fuel required for mining and refining. The author avoids mention of the essential use of chemical explosives, which require petroleum and/or coal as base material, extensive industrial processes for production, and high-energy quantities of mostly CO2 when used. The article fails to address the “dirty” requirements for processing the base metal into usable material, or the petroleum/coal/gas requirements for transportation from refining to use.

This is more than a problem for the article, but goes to the basic confidence game that deliberately avoids these problems with “clean” energy production Politicians and fraudsters claim that clean energy has no carbon footprint, deliberately hiding the total dependence these commodities have on cheap, reliable energy and base materials obtained from fossil fuel.

April 10, 2021 10:26 am

So here’s something I’ve been wondering about: there have been multiple articles here and elsewhere by people supposedly knowledgeable about available resources, how much can be extracted, refined, etc. By their calculations, just converting the bulk of our worldwide car fleet to electric would require something like 100% of current copper production over a period of many decades. (IIRC the article specifically said ‘by 2100’). Similar estimates have been made for battery components.
So how to account for multiple car companies advertising that they expect to go 100% electric in a short period (I just saw a GM ad that said 100% electric fleet by 2035). Has no one at these companies researched supply line issues?
Where is the disconnect? I would really like to know. It’s difficult to argue with folks who say “don’t you think they’ve worked all that out? They wouldn’t promise it if they couldn’t do it. They’re not government, after all”.
The answer must be better than “the companies know it can’t be done, but they virtue signal for now”. I’m cynical, but not that cynical…

Richard Page
Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 10:39 am

How cynical do you have to be to realise that when the costs of the raw materials skyrocket, the costs of ev’s will be astronomical. Simple supply and demand curves will show that, by that point, car companies will only have to deliver a fraction of what they are delivering now. It can be done, just not well and not in the public interest. Invest in horse breeding – it’s the car of the future.

Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 11:48 am

I need a million pounds of aluminum.
What for?
What do you mean what for?
Well if you need it for sustainable projects like raptor reapers (windmills) or birdie burners (comericial thermal solar) then you pay half the market price. If you want it to build automobiles then the price is twice market.

Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 2:24 pm

How else are they going to reduce the manufacture of cars?

Rich Davis
Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 10:43 am

Apparently not cynical enough

Leo Smith
Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 11:21 am

I am that cynical. For now electric cars are profitable because subsidy.Before that it was diesel, and before that it was petrol (gasoline).
No one cares if ‘sustainable’ is actually sustainable. As I keep grinding the axe of ‘in matters of public perception, realism is irrelevant, because idealism is what they use’ – that is, people do not respond to what is the case, but to what they have been led to believe is the case.

Greenwash and ecobollox is not science, and its not ‘real’ its all pure marketing – of product, and of political power and a political ideology akin to Marxism.
Whether it works or is sustainable is irrelevant. It has traction, people are buying this excrement. Therefore money can be made and political careers advanced.

In Germany subsidies have been slashed and the numbers of (active) windmills and solar panels are falling. They aren’t worth replacing or fixing when they fail.
Electric cars and renewable energy will get so far before nations discover that they simply cannot afford them and they are economically and probably in term of EROEI, unsustainable.

And everybody will throw up their hands and say ‘surely we should have known about this before we started’ and everyone will declare that someone else assured them it would work…

Never mind peak oil. I’ve reached peak cynicism.

Richard Page
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 11:28 am

Now, don’t do yourself down. You and I both know that just when we think we’ve reached peak cynicism, some bunny hugger somewhere will make another huge f*€#up and we’ll find just a bit more.

Reply to  Leo Smith
April 11, 2021 7:59 am

Greenwash, Marxism adjacent eccobollocks, virtue signaling, mass hysteria— all of the above. 

I avoid cynicism by looking to evolutionary psychology for a root explanation. Climate change alarmism is not a phenomenon explained by the science the alarmists cite to support the alarmism. It’s a different dynamic.  

That dynamic is a secular version of apocalypse psychology, ancient, endemic to the human condition, completely familiar. You can see this in the alarmist proclivity for the worst-case scenario. And tipping points.  

The key is that the materially well off (which includes all academics world-wide) are genuinely and uncynically afraid of climate Armageddon from CO2. They are following the typical evolutionary impulse of outcompeting con-specifics for their own survival. So, they embrace a path of increased energy poverty for the lower classes worldwide, proposing solutions that only the well-off will be able to afford. EVs are the perfect example. 

John Bell
Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 1:53 pm

I think the car companies merely say such things because it sounds good and is currently hip, they know that lots of EVs are not practical. It is all PR

Reply to  John Bell
April 10, 2021 4:29 pm

No, they say it because Joe Biden promises big money if they say it….they are businesses, that’s what they do.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Sandwood
April 10, 2021 8:07 pm

By the time they go all EV, inflation will be so high, the dollar so de-valued, that only 1% of Americans will be able to afford one.

Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 3:26 pm

You’re asking good questions, they’re no promising anything.

Jim Veenbaas
Reply to  JonasM
April 10, 2021 5:51 pm

Sorry, but you’re really not neatly cynical enough. Imagine what world happen to the grid if suddenly all new GM cars are EVs starting in 35. The grid would implode after 18 months, maybe less. Also GM cannot possibly be foolish enough to think all their customers will install charging stations in their home, just for the privilege of driving a new GM. Way too many of them will switch dealers. This is greenwashing. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

Reply to  Jim Veenbaas
April 12, 2021 7:34 am

When it comes time to replace my Silverado, one thing I know for sure is that I will NOT be getting an electric truck.

David Kamakaris
April 10, 2021 10:33 am

Why limit this discussion to copper? What about iron, nickel, cobalt, alumunum, vanadium, titanium, molybdenum, silver, palladium, platinum, gold, neodymium, dysprosium, samarium, europium, etc etc etc…

I’m sure I left out plenty other essential elements.

Reply to  David Kamakaris
April 10, 2021 11:10 am

Why limit it to metals? Cement and concrete, useful forms of alumin(i)um oxide, paper, silicon carbide, resins, electrical and thermal insulation materials, carbon fiber, glass and glass fiber, ceramics and ceramic/mineral fiber, cellulose products (to name a very few) depend entirely on coal/petroleum/gas. Why limit it to metals? “Clean” energy requires the purchase or lease (or seizure), access to, and industrialization of vast tracts of land to become useful. Why not include transportation and operational costs and materials. Why not include retirement (disposal) costs? Not to mention, production may be “clean” for a given value of the word, but distribution networks are not. All of these just part of the confidence game that these terrorist profiteers are playing.

David Kamakaris
Reply to  dk_
April 10, 2021 5:00 pm

Excellent point.

Richard Page
Reply to  David Kamakaris
April 10, 2021 11:29 am

How about Rhenium, essential for pacemakers and also found in the soon-to-be-closed Pebble mine?

Reply to  Richard Page
April 10, 2021 11:51 am

Rhenium makes some great catalysts but is generally limited because of its expense.

Reply to  Richard Page
April 12, 2021 3:52 pm

Hmmm was pebble ever opened?

Leo Smith
Reply to  David Kamakaris
April 10, 2021 11:33 am

For one simple reason – we already had a copper bubble – back in the noughties I dabbled in commodity futures and copper and silver went through the roof. They are in short supply and they are useful (unlike gold, which is in very short supply, but i in the end not that useful…
copper ore is relatively rare, and its used in million tonne quantities, Whereas iron and aluminium are plentiful. Which is why we use them rather than for example titanium, which is rarer and harder to extract.

Again the trace elements we use – rare earths, things like chromium, vanadium and so on, are not under so much pressure, and ultimately are not as essential in such quantities as copper.

You CAN – and we do – make electromagnets and cable out of aluminium. its bulkier, but it is lighter – most overhead cables are aluminium for that reason, round a steel core for strength.

So the elements most under pressure today are lithium and copper. And possibly cobalt. I haven’t researched this but if you look up historic price for metal ores, anything with a steeply rising price is likely to be demand outstripping supply.

David Thompson
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 6:49 pm

The Manhattan Project had to substitute silver for copper to build magnets for the calutrons in Oak Ridge.

Reply to  David Kamakaris
April 10, 2021 11:47 am

It seems like lithium is in short supply among world leaders, especially those in DC.

Reply to  Scissor
April 11, 2021 6:00 am

The only thing not in short supply is green stupidity.

Clyde Spencer
April 10, 2021 10:34 am

This article is from The Conversation, which has a known left-wing bias, and has publicly announced it has no responsibility for objectivity and will, at their discretion, delete reader comments that they don’t agree with. So, keep that in mind while reading.

Having said that, they remark:

A second option is to insist miners exhaust all opportunities to avoid harm. This is because sacrificing the interests of local people in the interests of a greater good would not be considered responsible, …

Indeed, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people” could be used to justify slavery as long as the number of slaves is smaller than freemen.

Ron Long
April 10, 2021 10:38 am

This report is the blathering nonsense that the Greenies favor. As a mining exploration geologist who has several copper discoveries to his credit, in three different countries, I can say the problem is stopping the frivolous lawsuits against viable projects and focus instead on gaining a social license as a project is designed, which requires coordination with the local community. Take Pebble, which the group mentioned as facing opposition. They should have named it “Which Is Worse: Mosquitos or Giardia?” as that is a more fitting name. Water? Any modern mine design includes two factors, 1. the company must locate and develop a new source of water for their mill and not just push their way into the local water market, and 2. the mine plan must include drilling water wells into the entire mineralized area, pumping out the groundwater, sending it via pipes to the downhill side of the project and reinject it into the water table. Or, distribute the water pumped in this fashion to local agricultural users with water rights, making friends and lowering costs for them. What’s actually going to happen as the price of copper (now above U$D 4.00 per pound) stimulates new copper mining projects? China is going to bribe their way into corrupt countries and mine without a lot of consideration for rules and laws. Wait for it.

I managed a gold placer test project near Grass Valley, California. One morning I saw Chuck Yeager eating breakfast at a small restaurant, and went to him and said “General Yeager, thank you for your service to our country”. He said thank you and asked if we were the boys playing in the placer gold project, and I told him yes. He then asked if we were going to make a mess, and I told him no, and any person that wanted to visit the project was welcome to and we would teach them to pan for gold. I then said, think about this, if we develop the project we need to pay a reclamation guarantee into an account, but we will reclaim anyway. So what do you want the reclamation to look like? A set-up for a Golf Resort? Parks and bass fishing ponds? Probably not a dirt bike race park? Something to think about, asking the locals how they want the reclamation to be set up.

Reply to  Ron Long
April 10, 2021 11:52 am

Yes, but the locals are often outrun by a few loud opponents and well organized Sierra Club reps. This leaves copper orebody development to legacy sites with marginal grade block additions.

Ron Long
Reply to  ResourceGuy
April 10, 2021 1:27 pm

Sure, ResourceGuy, but I beat the Sierra Club Legal Defense Club in California, getting a permit and drilling a gold discovery in the Panamint Mountains. Here’s a clue: file a Takings Lawsuit under the provisions of the fifth amendment.

Reply to  Ron Long
April 11, 2021 11:16 am


But there are three large copper projects in AZ that are not moving along in the permit process.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Ron Long
April 10, 2021 8:35 pm

You remarked:

China is going to bribe their way into corrupt countries and mine without a lot of consideration for rules and laws.

See this news story:

Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 10:52 am

Copper ore is mined, transported, crushed, smelted, then transported again to a foundry… all with copious amounts of fossil fuels, mostly petroleum-derived diesel for the mining and transport, and then natural gas for the heating steps in the refinery. There are electrolytic steps in the final steps of refining that of course use electricity, and the source of that generated electricity likely being either hydroelectric, natural gas or coal in the Western and Southwestern US where most copper mines are located.

For those so inclined, you can read about the pyrometallurgical smelting methods used in the US. Pyrometallurgical techniques use heat to separate copper from copper sulfide ore concentrate, which again, are very similar to those used in many other countries, here:

Primary Copper Smelting”

Intermittent and unreliable wind and solar PV power sources have no chance of reliably delivering the electricity needed in the pyrometallurgical smelting process.

The whole Green claims of wind and solar PV electricity pushers for our economy and “net zero CO2 emissions” pushes from Democrats are simply a fraud on the truth as they take campaign bribes from the environmental Left.

And no one is going to successfully and economically electrify even one of these 160 tonne (empty wt), 2,000 HP ore movers that carries up to 200 tonnes of ore:

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 11:21 am

Yes! Because those ginormous “manly” trucks are a testosterone-driven blight on mother Gaia! Right?! They should be outlawed! /sarc.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 11:34 am

The standard capacity fuel tank on the above mining truck is 2,082 liters (550 gals) of standard grade no. 2 ultralow-sulfur diesel. No.2 diesel is blended usually to about 0.85 kg/liter, so just under 2 tonne (1,770 kg) of fuel weight (topped-off) in this beast. That’s enough fuel to run it through a typical 8-hr shift of near continuous haul and dump operations.

Batteries to electrify such a beast could not even begin to come close to this scale operation and deliver the productivity needed in the capital cost of such a vehicle.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 12:06 pm

Actually electric dumper trucks exist and can in some circumstances generate more
energy than they expend.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 1:29 pm

So now we can only mine at the top of a hill

Where are most minerals, ?

You are seriously DUMB, izzy !!

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 1:34 pm

That is pretty cool – for as long as there is no need to descend into a pit to retrieve ore.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 1:51 pm

At 1/3 the gross weight capacity, that thing is a battery-powered toy compared to pictured one above. Virtually all copper mining is done in open pits to get to ore grade rock under a removed overburden, then dug and trucked up to the grade level where it is processed. That needs a hard up-hill pull with a 200 ton ore load.

That 4.5 tonne battery hauling 50-60 tonnes wouldn’t last but one trip in such a uphill pull setting before needing recharge or swap-out. This is just a gimmick, and the Swiss mine folks and the researchers there know it.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 3:36 pm

Now, that’s a stupid remark.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 4:31 pm

They repealed the Laws of Thermodynamics?

Izaak Walton
Reply to  TonyG
April 10, 2021 5:41 pm

No. Read the article. They use regenerative braking to generate power
when descending while being fully loaded. They then go uphill empty and
the cycle continues. Clearly this isn’t an option everywhere but for some mines it makes electric vehicles the preferred choice.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 8:54 pm

Hysteresis is a real thing. You never get back what you put in. You’ll also have to convince me that regen braking on a big heavy truck would be sufficient to keep it out of free-fall on the steep inclines in such mines.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 9:02 pm

… for some mines it makes electric vehicles the preferred choice.

It MIGHT make it preferred, depending on initial cost, maintenance costs, and life expectancy of the battery and motor.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 11, 2021 3:54 am

wtf? you do NOT descend loaded
you ascend from the bottom where you pickup the load

Reply to  ozspeaksup
April 11, 2021 4:47 am

This a quarry near the top of a hill.

Delivering its load to the bottom of the hill.

A tiny niche type of mine that happens to lend itself to a gravity based solution.

Maybe 0.01% or less (wag) of mines would be able to utilize this system.

It is very much like other fantasy types of “sustainable” energy.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  fred250
April 11, 2021 10:24 am

It is obviously a prototype perpetual motion machine that produces more energy than it consumes. I have a washing machine like that. If I run it without any clothes in it, it feeds electricity back into the mains.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
April 11, 2021 6:10 am

Yes it can’t work in that situation aka an open cut mine which make it suitable for about 1% of the worlds mines 🙂

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 12, 2021 8:10 am

So it’s actually NOT creating more energy than it expends, it’s just deferring some of the energy expense to another source.

Where does the energy that it expends come from in the first place? Another source.

Energy input > energy recovered. Always.

Great example of first-order thinking there.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 10, 2021 8:58 pm

Once again, you post before thinking. Your example battery-powered truck carries less than half the load (61 tons) of the truck (200 tons) that Joel illustrated. Furthermore, in an open-pit mining operation, the duty cycle is the opposite of your ‘greenie,’ which is probably supplying aggregate from a cut on the mountain. In an open-pit mining operation, such as Bingham Canyon, the unloaded truck has to go down into a deep pit, be loaded, and then take its load up to the rim where, if it is waste rock, it gets dumped nearby. If it is ore, it may get dumped on to a train or conveyor-belt system, which still needs power. In some cases, the truck may need to drive a few miles to the mill and smelter, and negotiate steep hills there and back. The opportunities for regenerative charging are less than in your illustration.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 11, 2021 6:11 am

Yes the longer version of the report explained it can’t be used on open cuts … Izaak just doesn’t get basic physics.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 12:34 pm

You don’t believe in the magical Energizer Bunny?

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 3:35 pm

Griff will contradict you with no evidence

Russ Wood
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 11, 2021 7:03 am

The Palabora copper mine in North Eastern South Africa, next door to the Kruger Park, DID for a while use electric dump trucks to haul ore up and out of the pit. They ran railway style overhead cables along the ramps, and fitted the trucks with railway pantograph power pickups. I haven’t heard anything about the mine still using them – but maybe the continuing chances of electrical black-outs from Eskom has scared the gadgets away!

Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 11:07 am

Three points to make.
1/. Aluminium is nearly as good as copper.
2/. The excess use of materials in ‘renewable’ generation is a direct function of the capacity factor, which is itself as function 0f the average intermittency.
3/. The further use of materials to co-operate some other technology, with intermittent renewables, is likewise a direct function of the same capacity factors.

This is why your electricy bill is 20c whilst fossil/nucler electricity wholesales at 5c…

Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 11:29 am

Considering the average capacity factor of solar and wind (maybe 15% average for solar and 25%-30% for good wind sites) we will actually need 4-5 times as much copper/resources and the fossil energy required to mine it. We will actually have to have all these refined resources just sitting idle for the majority of time. That is real waste of everything. And when they try and roll out wind and solar to inefficient sites as the all the good sites become taken, this ratio will just get worse. How long until everyone has to admit that wind and solar are not really viable for grid scale replacement? Not to mention that they can’t replace the actual energy requirements anyway.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 12:14 pm

aluminum. (I know, it’s US vs British thing, like center vs centre).

Al has some problems compared to Cu when used in wiring. It is less conductive so that a typical 20 amp circuit installation requiring 14 Gauge Cu wire, would need 12 Gauge Al.

  • Resistivity of Cu is 1.68 x 10-8 Ohm
  • Resistivity of Al 2.65 x 10-8 Ohm
  • Al/Cu = (2.65 x 10-8) / (1.68 x 10-8) = 1.6

Accordingly, Al wire runs and bundles thus become larger in junction boxes and openings.

The biggee, Oxidation issues: Cu oxide (green) is still highly conductive. Al oxide (white) is poorly conductive, so used in connectors in corrosive environments and damp (high humidity) can lead to overheating in circuits. Special connectors are needed, usually screw down to ensure tight clamping. Push-in connectors on a receptacle are not allowed with Al wiring.

Large service stranded-wires to service homes and businesses and to high current (8 gauge and larger wires) are typically Al, but done by trained, licensed electricians who use a joint compound that protects the strands from oxidation at the connections which are then tightly clamped.

Virtually all transmission wires are stranded Al wires due to cost of Cu. Eventually copper prices though will rise under the Green madness, such that wiring standards and building industry will once be forced by economics to go back to Al in wiring in new construction.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 1:32 pm

re: “Cu oxide (green) is still highly conductive”

Um, not the case. Us “RF” (radio frequency engineer) types are particularly aware of this, as, silver plating is often used on copper coils/conductors in RF equipment in lieu of ‘painting’ copper coils (to seal out the atmosphere) …

Silver, you may have been thinking of silver; when it oxidizes it is still conductive, a different story than copper. Note that Silver Oxide and Silver Sulfide have differing conductivities too.

Copper wire, when placed under a screw terminal is less prone to ‘work loose’ than AL and also reference the joint, a small amount of contact area is kinda sealed off from the atmosphere when the screw is tightened … maybe mistaken impression was gleaned from this common ‘household’ process?

Silver is also used extensively in the mating surfaces of connectors for that and one or two more reasons.

Silver Sulphide

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 2:03 pm

Simple, just use Silver 😉

Abolition Man
Reply to  fred250
April 10, 2021 8:34 pm

Hey, fred!
I think most of the green wienies hope to use mithril instead! They say it’s as strong as steel and as conductive as gold, so you don’t need as many unicorn farts to stay powered up!

Reply to  Abolition Man
April 11, 2021 4:52 am

I heard somewher that unicorn tail hair is very conductive.

Maybe there is possibility to utilising more than just their farts. !

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 2:09 pm

And houses will burn down. The skill level of installers in residential construction is not high enough, mistakes WILL be made and people will die if AL is used for low amp branch circuits.

BX cable with AL conductors was used in housing in Las Vegas in the 70s and many fires resulted. The local electrical codes no longer allow, and haven’t for 40 years, AL for conductors smaller than #4. In general, #8 CU then to #4 or larger Al for higher ampacities. In general, lugs for #4 and larger are already rated for AL termination. The local code also didn’t allow branch circuits of less than #12 Cu for receptacle circuits since if the breaker kept tripping the homeowner would replace the 15 amp with 20 amp, risking overloading the conductor and damaging the insulation = FIRE.

Price a Co/Alr receptacle, required for AL termination. A copper one is 29 cents, Co/Alr is 3 dollars or more. What is a homeowner going to buy? They don’t know the difference.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Drake
April 10, 2021 5:48 pm

And houses will burn down

Exactly my thoughts. Just try putting aluminium in a fire next to copper, and watch. For real fun, add magnesium.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Drake
April 10, 2021 6:35 pm

Al was allowed in residential construction starting in the 1960s because of Cu shortages caused by the Vietnam war.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
April 10, 2021 8:37 pm

Further proof of how important it is to reuse your brass!

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 5:43 pm

aluminum. (I know, it’s US vs British thing, like center vs centre).

No, it’s not.

Centre vs Center is because of British English adaptation to European language over time, whereas American English did not. In fact many Americanisms are actually correct old British English, which I was surprised to learn.

Aluminum is merely the result of a spelling mistake or transcription error that persisted in American English.

In this case the American spelling is simply wrong, but now accepted.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 9:06 pm

(I know, it’s US vs British thing, like center vs centre).

I was going to ask you why you used the British spelling for tons in your description of mine trucks. 🙂

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 3:45 pm

Aluminium is nearly as good as copper.”

Not really. Aluminum has 50% higher resistance losses than copper for the same cross-section. Aluminum wire corrodes far faster than copper wire requiring replacement more often. The corrosion creates a fire hazard and insurance rates for aluminum wire installations are higher than for copper.

Most of these problems can be overcome. Use larger conductors and make sure your connection methods can handle the corrosion. All of this adds to the cost of substituting aluminum for copper. As copper gets more expensive aluminum gets more attractive. Just beware those who try to squeak by with poor connection methods.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 10, 2021 5:16 pm

Tim: my ‘nearly as good as’ included what you say. There are issues with Al but they are not insurmountable. The problems come when you treat it like copper.

E.g. an electric motor wound with Al wire, will be a bit bulkier but possibly a bit lighter. issues of corrosion won’t happen because the wires are typically enamel coated and terminated with spot welds.

I’ve already seen adverts for motors with Al windings, and loudspeakers with Al wound voice coils, as well as the use of square cross section wire to increase packing density.

If you are chasing light weight Al is better than copper. But you must adapt working practices to it.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 10, 2021 8:49 pm

The problem with the motors (a voice coil is a motor) is the interconnection with the external world. Copper to aluminum doesn’t work well. And it’s more than just a “bit” when it comes to size. Moving to 18ga aluminum from 20ga copper to carry the load current will be almost a 50% increase in size. And yes, I’m sure all this can be overcome but it won’t be at no cost. To replace the electric motor on my 5hp air compressor with one half-again larger would require a rebuild of the mounting frame and cover.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Leo Smith
April 11, 2021 5:12 am

No one wants to discuss the differences in Aluminium and Copper’s ductileness?

Yes, pure aluminum is quite squishy, but once you make it into wire – an extrusion process for the most part – you are adding in a degree of work hardening. Short answer is a lot of extruded aluminium doesn’t like being bent.

The other problem is that Aluminium is a very energy intensive material to process. So the more Al you want to help transfer into a electric society, the more electricity you are going to need. Sounds a bit like a death spiral, doesn’t it?

April 10, 2021 11:10 am

It seems the green movement hasn’t been paying attention to details, not only for where all these raw materials are going to come from, but where the energy is going to come from to mine all this, and then the electricity required to run all the new electrification they want everything to be, including electric heat which is really bizarre as electricity is a high grade energy product that is very valuable for many other things, whereby heating can be easily gotten on-site with highly efficient cheaper nat gas. I always ask them then, “Are you in favor of all the new mining that will be required to meet your Green New Deal?” That’s when their eyes glaze over and you just get a plain stare and crickets for an answer. Not even any arguing, but you know they are anti mining as well. Maths must be real hard for Liberal/Socialists.

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Earthling2
April 10, 2021 11:43 am

let alone looking at the disposal problem

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Earthling2
April 10, 2021 12:20 pm

Then there are the newcomers like AOC who have taken vapid commentary on important issues like energy and economics to a whole new level of absurdity.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 10, 2021 12:31 pm

Gunga Din
Reply to  Scissor
April 11, 2021 5:55 am

Too bad they told her what it really was and not her new jacuzzi.

April 10, 2021 11:11 am

Ya know, MHD (MagnetoHydroDynamic) power cycle was looked at and tested somewhat extensively in the 1970’s as a way to generate electricity directly from a ‘hot plume’ of steam or exhaust smoke from, say, a coal-fired furnace. The plan was to seed the exhaust with conductive material and pass that through the the MHD ‘channel’ where electron flow would be stimulated …

Too bad we don’t have a means to ‘stream’ some conductive material, like say, silver ions through an MHD channel and do that today using as a source, oh, I don’t know, maybe the SunCell reactor?

Dr. Nansteel takes a look at the possibilities:

Reply to  _Jim
April 10, 2021 11:57 am

Sorry. That site was full of malware a while ago, but I just did a scan and nothing malicious was found.

Reply to  Scissor
April 11, 2021 2:25 pm

Well, good to know. Nice to know you care as well.

Gunga Din
April 10, 2021 11:13 am

So they are now concerned about the methods used to obtain copper?
How about aluminum? Lithium? Dilithium? (OH! Wait. That last is Sci-Fi stuff.)

April 10, 2021 11:43 am

The last time I checked, the Pebble orebody was in Alaska not Canada. Obama used his special ops team to kill off the permit.

April 10, 2021 11:45 am

Someone posted a comment here recently about the miles and miles of wiring constantly being stolen from communications & electricity networks in South Africa by the locals.

Maybe this source of copper could be ‘re-purposed’ for EV manufacturing?

(I fear a ransom of some sort could be involved though)

YallaYPoora Kid
Reply to  Mr.
April 10, 2021 2:54 pm

Transferring ‘ownership’’ of existing copper installations is a new way of sharing the wealth generated by the copper price boom with socially disadvantaged groups to encourage wealth diversity and upwardly financial paths in our social structure.
The side effect of a copper price boom is that nothing works anymore due to theft.

April 10, 2021 11:47 am

“Grade is a measure of the how much valuable metal there is in the ore body (deposit)”
No–Grade is the concentration of mineral to waste. There are high grade ore bodies that are too little to be commercially developed. These authors are not mining engineers but environmentalists attached to a mining curriculum.

Reply to  DMA
April 10, 2021 8:57 pm

I suggest you look up who Rick Valenta is. He played an enormous role in mining in Northwest QLD with companies such as MIM.

Reply to  DMA
April 11, 2021 6:17 am

And how much of something in a volume (AKA an ore body) is by definition it’s concentration.

concentration is the abundance of a constituent divided by the total volume of a mixture

Michael in Dublin
April 10, 2021 12:03 pm

The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge.

When an article begins with a statement like this my first thought is, “have the writers done their homework?” Have they ever looked at a comparative graph of the different energy sources and at another graph showing how small the increase has been in what is called “clean energy” since 2000?

Abolition Man
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 10, 2021 8:41 pm

Oh! I thought they were referring to nuclear! My bad!

April 10, 2021 12:23 pm

Correct, China will drive future copper project financing and diplomatic road clearing.

Meanwhile a commodity price super cycle is coming but probably after a temporary rise in the dollar blunts the price increases. Wait for global economic recovery overlaid across the policy driven EV surge. At that point Dems won’t be able to jawbone industry like Kennedy did in the 60s and Carter did in the 70s along with windfall profits taxes on oil.

Inflation and Jawboning
President Kennedy’s “U.S. Steel Jawboning” Speech & News Conference – April 11, 1962 | Thinkwing Radio with Mike Honig

Carter Statement on Oil Tax – The New York Times (

Domestic affairs – Jimmy Carter – (

Some of those policymakers go on to use copper even in death…

April 10, 2021 12:53 pm

Not only laundered greenbacks, whitewashed environmental disruption, a first-order forcing of climate change, but intermittent/renewable energy, too. Win, win, lose in a niche market. That said, are there any practical limits to resource extraction, credit emission, logical domain conflation, and redistributive change?

Nick Schroeder
April 10, 2021 1:02 pm

I worked on a few copper mining projects including a FEED for one in the heart of the Panamanian jungle powered by a pair of 150 MW coal burners at the coast.
Easy copper is long gone.
Just ask SLC Kennecott.
That means bigger messes and higher costs.
It also means the same for cobalt, gold, iron and other key extractive minerals.

Jeff Meyer
April 10, 2021 1:03 pm

Lets just use gold….

Reply to  Jeff Meyer
April 10, 2021 3:42 pm

Mine the gold teeth

Reply to  Jeff Meyer
April 11, 2021 6:21 am

About 244,000 metric tons of gold has been discovered to date (187,000 metric tons historically produced plus current underground reserves of 57,000 metric tons). Most of that gold has come from just three countries: China, Australia, and South Africa.


To date, roughly 700 million metric tons of copper have been produced around the world. This would fit into a cube measuring about 430 meters on a side. Identified deposits contain an estimated 2.1 billion metric tons of additional copper, which brings the total amount of discovered copper to 2.8 billion metric tons.

April 10, 2021 1:15 pm

Mark Mills of Manhattan Institute has attempted to quantify the Green New Deal. Here’s a few calculations:

5. Renewable energy would have to expand 90-fold to replace global hydrocarbons in two decades. It took a half-century for global petroleum production to expand “only” 10-fold.

6. Replacing U.S. hydrocarbon-based electric generation over the next 30 years would require a construction program building out the grid at a rate 14-fold greater than any time in history.

14. To make enough batteries to store two-day’s worth of U.S. electricity demand would require 1,000 years of production by the Gigafactory (world’s biggest battery factory).

34. About 60 pounds of batteries are needed to store the energy equivalent of one pound of hydrocarbons.

35. At least 100 pounds of materials are mined, moved and processed for every pound of battery fabricated.

36. Storing the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil, which weighs 300 pounds, requires 20,000 pounds of Tesla batteries ($200,000 worth).

38. It takes the energy-equivalent of 100 barrels of oil to fabricate a quantity of batteries that can store the energy equivalent of a single barrel of oil.

Reply to  S.K.
April 10, 2021 1:50 pm

And ALL of those represent potentially LARGE “stranded assets” given what is on the horizon in the way of new primary energy sources. To those with ears to hear: Pick your investments wisely.

Roger Taguchi
Reply to  S.K.
April 10, 2021 2:16 pm

“About 60 pounds of batteries are needed to store the energy equivalent of one pound of hydrocarbons.”

One pound of gasoline contains 19,000 BTU.
19,000 BTU is 5.6 KWh. (3412 BTU/Kwh)
Li-ion batteries store 254 Wh/kg
You would need 22 kg of Li-ion batteries, which is 48.5 lbs, not 60.

Roger Taguchi
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 2:36 pm

That doesn’t even consider the fact that an electric motor is more efficient than burning hydrocarbons for motive power.

Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 4:14 pm

What about the efficiency of electricity generation? Also, for practical purposes you may use only 70% of the battery capacity, and you end up with same efficiency. And what about the time needed to recharge your electric truck battery; any impact on productivity and utilisation rates? I guess you don’t know, and you just google all the BS you come up with from other .know all

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 9:20 pm

But, in the wintertime, an ICE engine provides heat for the passenger compartment at no extra cost, and can quickly defrost the windshield. A battery-powered vehicle will drain the battery faster to heat, and reduce the performance in the cold.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 11, 2021 5:00 am

Don’t you know they only operate mines in the summer?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tim Gorman
April 11, 2021 10:18 am


Actually, many of the limestone quarries here in the Midwest do shutdown in Winter because the crushed aggregate that they produce is used mainly for road construction and repair, which is mostly done in the Summer.

But, I’m pretty sure that the big open pit operations in the Andes resume operations after a snow storm just as quickly at they can get the ramps plowed. Time is money! Which raises a question about whether battery-powered haul trucks would be able to go up the ramps as quickly as the diesel-powered behemoths. They will need a fleet of Loydo’s ‘toys’ more than twice the size of what they currently use, even if the climb rate is the same.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 11, 2021 5:23 am

You have a battery made soley of lithium? I’d like to see it.

And why do you conflate electric motors and batteries? You need to generate the electricity, transmit it to the battery, put it into the battery, pull it out of the battery and then deliver it to the electric motor. It’s not a simple “run an electric motor”.

Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 3:46 pm

With no losses; all useable? Come off it!

Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 11, 2021 5:36 am

Energy storage per unit weight…

Gasoline stores about 47.5 MJ/kg and 34.6 MJ/liter; …… (25-35% energy conversion efficiency)

A lithium-ion battery pack has about 0.3 MJ/kg and about 0.4 MJ/liter (70-80% energy conversion efficiency)

Pretty PATHETIC comparison.. the battery just doesn’t rate.

John K. Sutherland.
April 10, 2021 1:15 pm

Without abundant, assured, and affordable energy, these green dreams are nothing but expensive, pie in the sky delusions, We will enter a societal death spiral if we go any further with these follies.

Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
April 10, 2021 1:44 pm

At least there will be a few good union jobs created in the demolition of the high rise Great Society projects. They are probably already counted as green jobs up front and hey, they will be busting up evil concrete foundations in the process.

John Bell
April 10, 2021 1:34 pm

Liberals hate those big greedy corporations, no matter what good they are doing.

Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 1:46 pm

“Copper is critical for solar panels”

Nope, flat out wrong. You can use aluminum for the wires.

Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 10, 2021 5:50 pm

You can, but they’ll be bulkier

Reply to  Roger Taguchi
April 11, 2021 7:00 am

re: “You can use aluminum for the wires.”

The application may be ‘interconnect’ *within* solar cells and/or the panels themselves (IDK), and if so then other factors such as coefficient of expansion of Al vs Cu may affect quite adversely the lifetime of a panel exposed to wide temperature swings as encountered in an ‘outdoor’ environment, and especially when placed purposely in view of strong solar radiation.

Gary Pearse
April 10, 2021 1:53 pm

I cringe everytime laymen write an alarming blurb about one of the most poorly known industries outside of the immediate industry circles. They also tend to be clueless about even basic economics. This marks them as coming from social ‘science’ which was taken prisoner by the marxbrothers about 6 or 7 decades ago.

USGS 2015 study on ‘undiscovered copper’

“The results of the assessment indicate that a mean of at least 3,500 million metric tons (Mt) of undiscovered copper associated with these (two) deposit types may exist worldwide, exceeding the 2,100 Mt of identified copper resources tabulated for these deposit types.”

Annual copper demand is presently a mere ~ 28M metric tons, one third of which is sourced from recycling (know ye, that almost every ton of base and precious metals that has been mined since antiquity is sitting on the earths surface. Your wedding rings will contain some tiny portion of the gold mined a few millennia ago in
Ghana (The Gold Coast) and brought by caravan across the much greener Sahara – we never threw such valuable materials away).

So, newly mined copper is some 19Mtpa. Stack this against 2.1Bt in measured resources and the conservatively estimated 3.5Bt of geologically estimated resources (the two types referred to supply less than half of demand).

5,600M/20M is 280yrs of present day’s demand for new copper. I’m confident there is actually multiples of this figure to be found. And No! girls, grade is percentage of recoverable copper measured in a deposit. And No! Porphyry Copper deposits are at the surface and amenable to open pit mining. Strata-bound ones to be found are by and large at similar depths to existing projects. Deeper ores are easily mined and indeed have a much smaller environmental footprint.

All the stuff in this totally useless paper is researched from the marxbrothers’ imaginings of what a mineral deposit is like. It is obvious no real geologist or mining engineer was disturbed in this research.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Gary Pearse
April 10, 2021 8:48 pm

Please lay off the Marx Brothers! Theirs is the ONLY kind of Marxism that has ever worked!

On the outer Barcoo
April 10, 2021 1:57 pm

As the old saying goes: you can’t make an omlet without breaking eggs. With all the opposition in the world, the price of copper will get so high that someone will eventually crack.

Reply to  On the outer Barcoo
April 10, 2021 2:16 pm

re: “the price of copper will get so high that someone will eventually crack.”

Who was it that famously said “The cure for high prices is, high prices.” meaning someone with ingenuity will ‘plonk out’ those undiscovered resources SINCE he has financial incentive to do so …“The+cure+for+high+prices+is%2C+high+prices.”&ia=web

John Garrett
April 10, 2021 2:02 pm

I can’t wait to see the first copper smelter powered by pinwheels and sunshine (but I won’t hold my breath while waiting).

The Chou Bai-Dan Administration’s Department of Energy will undoubtedly provide a combination of investment and 100% non-recourse loan for its construction based on the strong recommendations of Environmental Science and Art History majors now in charge.

John Bell
April 10, 2021 2:27 pm

WE NEED GOLD to make the climate trophies they award each other. Gore…Kerry…etc

April 10, 2021 2:31 pm

Add copper to the list of inflation sources that don’t count at the Fed. They have enormous capacity to ignore the list until it’s somebody else’s problem.

April 10, 2021 2:42 pm

There is a big disconnect between academics at the University of Queensland and Queensland’s mining communities

April 10, 2021 3:14 pm

A second option is to insist miners exhaust all opportunities to avoid harm. This is because sacrificing the interests of local people in the interests of a greater good would not be considered responsible, as it does not align with the concepts of equity and fairness that underpin the Paris Agreement.”

As before, mining is demonized using 18th century mining abuses as common to modern mines in civilized countries.

Totally forgotten are the reams and reams of mining regulations preventing/protecting wildlife, citizens, water supplies from those long ag historical abuses.

More virtue signaling from ignorant leftist elites.

Leo Smith
Reply to  ATheoK
April 10, 2021 5:29 pm

Totally forgotten are the reams and reams of mining regulations preventing/protecting wildlife, citizens, water supplies from those long ago historical abuses.

…especially by Chinese owned companies operating in third world countries….

They dont need no bleeding heart liberal regulatory frameworks, the US can copulate with itself while they copulate the local population, who are glad of the job because it is actually a longer, and economically less deprived life, even with the pollution…

April 10, 2021 3:20 pm

I’m sure the Chinese will work the problem while Biden and the EU ignore it as long as they can.

Geoff Sherrington
April 10, 2021 4:49 pm

It is amusing but tragic to meet these academic paper pushers trying to tell exploration professionals how to do their jobs. Their advice is mostly wrong or pointless.
In the 1980s I was Chief Geochemist for a company that found 4 new porphyry copper mines, now exhausted and being reclaimed. They were near Parkes in the middle of New South Wales, under flat wheat fields and showing very little signal at the surface. Only the distribution of Nature will prevent such new mines again and again. Nothing confines them to difficult places.
Mining industry people do not regard copper as a difficult environmental hazard. The hospital morgues of the world are not filled with victims.

Geoff Sherrington
April 10, 2021 5:09 pm

One of the biggest impediments to mining by professionals who are steeped in the technology is the industry-scale opposition to seemingly all mining everywhere by ignorant groups of activists.
In Australia, we have numerous hurdles to jump, usually costing significant dollars, before a new mine starts. Not uncommonly, the basis is so-called aboriginal land rights whereby some 3% of the population is allowed to dictate terms of approval and inevitable compensation. Not bad for a special interst group who 100 years ago could hardly read or write.
It is the result of pressure groups backed by ideas and cash, much from lawyers, who see a profit in stirring up the masses. In reality, a new mine in an area with traditional aborigines will be a benefit in every sense except the imagined sense of “other people interfering with the virginity of our land since time began” type arguments. These have no place in the better educated world of today. They are largely state-approved extortion.
Books could be written aout the tactics of activists opposed to uranium mining after my company discovered the Ranger uraium deposits.
The authors of this academic article typify how sticking your nose into the business of other people can be twisted into employment and income. It is time that people considered doing something that benefits all of a country, not just their own greedy careers. Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
April 10, 2021 6:03 pm

They are experts on the subject now that they have written this article; plus the PHDs

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
April 10, 2021 6:38 pm

“Not uncommonly, the basis is so-called aboriginal land rights whereby some 3% of the population is allowed to dictate terms of approval and inevitable compensation. Not bad for a special interst group who 100 years ago could hardly read or write.

Mmm, “so-called” rights.

“So-called” land owners who didn’t speak the invader’s language don’t deserve justice from those who are obviously their superiors? Wow, so that was the attitude of miners back in the early part of last century? Haven’t we come a long way since then.

Reply to  Loydo
April 10, 2021 8:30 pm

You imagine a lot, but let’s not speculate. So far they can be compensated as Australia still has a functioning economy, but when the green/Marxist paradise will have arrived I’m not so sure that will happen anymore

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Loydo
April 10, 2021 9:29 pm

Native Americans did not have the concept of private ownership of land. They only enforced a collective ownership of hunting grounds, which they often had to defend against other tribes. Sometimes one tribe would displace another tribe already living there.

Did Australian aborigines have a concept of “mineral rights” or even private ownership of individual plots of land?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 10, 2021 10:13 pm

Who cares? If they weren’t irradicated they were rounded up and placed in concentration camps where if they neglected to read about and lobby for their “mineral rights” and um, yeah “ownership” of their own land, then thats on them. Seems it still is.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Loydo
April 11, 2021 4:47 am

Please do some research before shooting off with uninformed opinion (and then cease anyhow).
I was very heavily involved in the topic of Aboriginal Affairs at the level of federal Government policy input. Were you? Geoff S

Reply to  Loydo
April 11, 2021 5:16 am

Poor loy-dodo..

…. all that deep-seated grovelling leftist victimisation apology that you have in your life…

But you make the most of all the benefits don’t you, hypocritical SJW.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Loydo
April 11, 2021 10:07 am

Most civilized societies have a form of ex post facto protection to prevent someone from being prosecuted and punished for doing something that was not illegal at the time it was done.

For symmetry, a person or group should not be able to sue to claim real estate or property rights that they did not lay claim to before Europeans arrived, and demonstrated that below-surface minerals have value. Actually, without the technology introduced by the Europeans, the minerals still would not have value to the Aborigines. It is the knowledge, technological skill, and transportation introduced by Europeans that converted land only suitable for subsistence hunter-gatherers, which created value. The Aborigines are usurping the cultural values introduced by Europeans and attempting to be paid for something they didn’t invent.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 11, 2021 4:46 am

No, not in any case I investigated. Geoff S

Reply to  Loydo
April 11, 2021 5:13 am

“Haven’t we come a long way since then.”

You certainly haven’t ..

Your mind still locked in the Dark Ages,

… uneducated and deluded by superstition and AGW cult fear.

John Sandhofner
April 10, 2021 5:32 pm

“If opposition grows, and supply stalls, then so too will the clean energy transition” Personally I am more concerned about the availability of copper with no regard to clean energy. The push to try and depend on that for 100% of our energy is a fools errand.

April 10, 2021 5:44 pm

In a major victory for environmentalists, the major copper producers have agreed that all copper needed to support solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage will be mined, refined and transported using only renewable energy.

OK, they haven’t agreed yet. But if they did agree, guess how many solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage would get made. Or, if you prefer, how much it would cost tax-payers to get them made.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Mike Jonas
April 11, 2021 4:11 am

There’s good chance that a solar panel will not produce enough power to mine the copper needed for its construction. Net zero? My left foot.

April 10, 2021 6:29 pm

It will take all human endeavour to extract energy for human energy needs from wind and solar intermittent germinators. These devices use one to two orders of magnitude more resources than thermal generators. They represent a huge impost on human existence.

This paper shines a light on why large mining companies are so supportive the “renewable” energy push. They stand to inherit the globe. They will command all human enterprise because they will be at the tight end of the supply chain.

April 10, 2021 10:01 pm

“Long-term investment certainty remains reliant on appropriate market reforms and forward-looking policies that incentivise new, flexible technologies that are needed to complement renewables,”
Study backs batteries for power peaks (
All these mere technicalities just need incentivising like their spruikers.

Alec Rawls
April 10, 2021 10:11 pm

Pretending that CO2 is dirty….

It is the most benign compound on the planet, the beginning of the food chain for all life on earth, right up there with H2O, and currently at near starvation levels.

At least the Chinese will still be burning coal. There is a small chance that extra CO2 will be able to significantly offset the global cooling effect from the period of low solar activity that it looks like we are in for, but the plant fertilization effect will certainly be very helpful.

Altogether a clear net benefit. If anything we should be subsidizing CO2 release into the atmosphere, not deterring it.

Craig from Oz
April 11, 2021 5:25 am

I used to mine copper back in the day (also Uranium, Gold and Silver).

(actually I worked for an engineering company directly supporting a copper/uranium/gold/silver mine by maintaining and expanding mine infrastructure, but tomato tomatoe.)

We processed on site. Fun stuff. LOTS of fun chemicals and LOTS of electricity. About as renewable as toilet paper and ‘sustainable’ as a pyramid investment scheme.

April 11, 2021 8:52 am

So much angst over environmental problems from possible future copper mining…

…none at all over the massive pollution already extant and continuing in the USA – e.g from phosphate extraction in Florida.

and if fossil fuel is going to electrify the developing world, it would do it entirely without copper?

Reply to  griff
April 11, 2021 11:21 am

The extraction rates would be similar to what they are now,; no need to accelerate them to cover for EVs and PVs

Loren C. Wilson
April 11, 2021 9:47 am

Copper prices over the last 60 years do not appear to be as flat as stated in the paper. Just over the last ten years the price of copper has varied from $2.00 per pound to $4.50. And the price dipped below $1 per pound back in 2000. As the other posters have noted, there are plenty of copper deposits that can be economically developed, the issue is government interference via permits or declaring that area a wilderness area.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
April 11, 2021 11:07 am

You might want to adjust for inflation and economic cycles. Part of the real growth was China going large in the global economy.

ferd berple
April 11, 2021 11:24 am

The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge
Karma, Newton’s Third Law, The Law of Unintended Consequences.

They all tell us that switching to clean energy, if it does have a huge benefits, it will also have a huge costs.

We see this in every market, where governments seek to artificially increase prices or reduce availability. A criminal enterprise will develop to take advantage of the artificial price gap.

Given the size of the energy market, the energy mafia will grow to dwarf economically many of the nations of the world, with corrupting effects far in excess of what we see with the drug mafia.

April 11, 2021 1:41 pm

Scientists have just discovered the secret of limitless energy without carbon (or maybe just a few pounds)

April 11, 2021 4:23 pm


What about using silver as they did in WW2?

Gums asks…

April 13, 2021 2:12 am

We must destroy the World to save the World.

Verified by MonsterInsights