How Much Copper Does the World Need to Reach Net-Zero by 2050?

how much copper does the world need to reach net zero by 2050

Just how much copper does the world need to reach net-zero by 2050? The sheer volume of new production required is hard to fathom, but EnergyMinute’s stylish infographic puts it into a relatively comprehensible context.

Over the next 27 years, the volume of global copper needed to reach net zero will have to be double that of all cumulative production over the last 3,000 years. Now that is wild!

The infographic below shows that approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of new copper production needed to reach net zero within three decades, when stacked up, would reach a height equivalent to the One World Trade Centre in New York City.

Volume of Copper Production for Net Zero by 2050 - EnergyMinute

History of Copper

Copper use has a lengthy history dating back millennia, first used by humans more than 10,000 years ago. A copper pendant was found in Iraq and was dated about 8700 B.C. For almost five millennia, copper was the only metal known to man and used in a broad range of applications.

Fast forward thousands of years, and today this precious metal is now in higher demand than ever before. Every year about three billion pounds are extracted from mining operations in the U.S., a barely discernable amount compared to the 700 billion pounds already mined throughout history [1].

How is Copper Used Today?

Copper is used in a full spectrum of industries such as building construction, electronic products, electrical grids, home appliances and transportation equipment to name a few examples. In fact, it holds the title of the third most-used industrial metal in the world.

Copper’s malleable form makes it easy to be moulded into various products. Additionally, its high corrosion resistance and high thermal conductivity and high electrical conductivity make it an ideal material for electronic products, which account for approximately one-fifth of global copper consumption [2].

Copper’s Role in Future Energy Technologies

EnergyMinute’s infographic shows just how important copper is to current and future technologies, with applications including (but not limited to):

  • Superconductivity applications
  • New marine uses such as offshore platforms and ship hulls
  • Electric vehicles
  • Earth-coupled heat pumps
  • Solar and wind energy
  • Fire sprinkler systems
  • Nuclear waste disposal containers
  • Military defence applications

Copper’s ability to resist corrosion and transfer electricity makes it an invaluable material for countless technological applications in any modern economy.

Canada’s Copper Reserves

In 2021, Canada was the world’s 11th largest copper producer, accounting for 2.6% of global production. Despite having just 1% of proven global reserves, Canada produces only a fraction of its estimated 9.8 million tonnes of copper yearly [3].

British Columbia and Ontario account for most Canadian copper production, at 57.4% and 23.8%, respectively. Mines produced nearly 542,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2021 and exported roughly $9.9 billion of copper-based products that same year.

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1. Copper Development Association Inc. (n.d.). Copper: Fact Future. Retrieved from (Date Accessed: July 2023)

2. Investing News Network. (n.d.). Copper Uses. Retrieved from (Date Accessed: July 2023)

3. Natural Resources Canada. (n.d.). Copper Facts. Retrieved from (Date Accessed: July 2023)

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