Potential Copper Shortages Loom: Demand-Side Measures Needed

July 1, 2024|Energy Transition / CRMs / SRMs

Copper wires | via PublicDomainPictures

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) forecasts that this year will see a 162,000-ton copper surplus globally, and a 94,000-ton surplus in 2025. Nevertheless, the U.S. and the EU classify copper as a critical mineral vulnerable to supply risks. The main concern is surging demand, driven by diversified power transmission networks, as well as a surge in AI-driven data traffic globally that will outpace supply growth.

Copper means a lot to Japan, which has a total copper refining capacity of 1.7 million tons/ year, the world’s second largest after China. Japan is also the world’s fourth largest exporter of refined copper products called copper cathode. However, the country’s four copper cathode producers rely entirely on imports for the ore concentrate.

In June, the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) decided to drive more investments into overseas copper mines by increasing state ownership of future mining projects. Equally significant, it also announced a plan to launch a framework that will encourage new businesses in the metal recycling industry.

Will these measures be sufficient to secure Japan’s copper concentrate needs, which are about five million tons/ year? Can other measures, especially on the demand side, be implemented to help manage possible shortages?

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