Electric vehicles, wind and solar electricity, and improved battery storage will all contribute to a sustainable economy. Because of its unique ability to transfer heat and electricity, copper is an essential component of energy storage. More copper is required for a greener, decarbonized economy.
A typical electric car, for example, consumes 200 pounds of it. Per megawatt, a solar panel contains 5.5 tons of copper. Wind farms, as well as energy transmission, require it, Azcentral writes.
However, the existing – and predicted – global copper supply is insufficient to enable this clean energy revolution. The United States today has a significant copper deficit and is a net importer of copper. A mineral impediment stands in the way of a clean energy future.
Copper prices have already doubled in the previous two years due to scarcity, and demand is expected to increase by 50% over the next two decades. Furthermore, price increases raise the cost of the clean energy transition, making it less competitive with coal and gas.
According to Goldman Sachs, the situation is a “molecule crisis,” and without additional copper, the clean energy economy “will not exist.”
Arizona could be of great assistance here. Mining employed one-quarter of Arizona employees in 1910, but by the 1980s, the sector had declined and was struggling. And now the Copper State has returned.
While long-established players continue to produce copper in traditional places such as Clifton-Morenci and Hayden, fresh copper exploration is taking place in both major and small ventures.
The massive Resolution Mine, proposed outside of Superior on the former Magma mine site, will generate up to 25% of America’s demands.
Meanwhile, producers are exploring smaller resources not hitherto commercially feasible. Bell, Carlotta, Florence, Arizona Sonoran, and Excelsior are among them.
The “copper triangle” between Superior, Clifton, and Cochise County is rich in copper, has been mined for decades, and has the manpower and physical infrastructure to extract and transport copper to smelters and markets.
The copper deposits provide an economic edge for Arizona in the same way that agriculture does for the Midwest and international shipping ports do for the coasts.
However, there are several threshold concerns that must be solved as we move forward. Copper firms must show reliable water supply, competent mining tailings management, and should be required to “go green” with electric cars and innovative carbon capture technology.