Abstract

Copper plays a crucial role in modern society across the world, contributing to infrastructure, technology, and lifestyles. Although mineral resources are commonly considered to be “finite,” global Cu production has grown steadily throughout the 20th century, and has been matched by substantial growth in estimated Cu reserves and resources. While there is growing concern about “peak oil,” there is very little research about “peak minerals.” In this paper, we present a detailed compilation and assessment of globally reported Cu resources by project and standard deposit types for the year 2010. The minimum amount of Cu reported globally as mineral resources is 1,780.9 Mt Cu, split over a total of 730 projects, with a further 80.4 Mt Cu in China. In addition, our compiled data indicate that global Cu resources continue to increase, despite a coincident increase in Cu production over time, along with declining cutoff and ore grades, increasing awareness of environmental issues, and other related aspects. Our data compilation indicates that the vast majority of global copper resources are hosted by Cu porphyry deposits, especially in Chile, with Cu porphyry deposits containing some 10 times more Cu than any other mineral deposit type. Overall, there are abundant Cu resources already identified that can meet growing global demands for some decades to come; the primary factors that govern whether a given project is developed will be social, economic, and environmental in nature.

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