As with many other elements, the wealth of ores (ore content) in copper has fallen from 4% a century ago to well below 1%, with a downward trend. Copper mining is therefore naturally limited. This requires more earthwork to obtain the same amount of copper. From 2006 to 2016, the copper ore content decreased by 25%, while the total production increased by 30% and the total energy consumption of the sector by 46%.
The road to sustainable industry is difficult and lengthy. Metal and mining companies are at a critical point. The way they respond to change now determines their future market position, reputation and value. Given the long lead times, the vision must be implemented today.
The demand for lithium and cobalt is growing exponentially as lithium-ion batteries become more widespread. The average annual growth rate for electric vehicles (EVs) over the next ten years is expected to be around 27%. The real growth rates are already much higher: In China, EV sales will increase by around 80% year-on-year. In Europe, too, EV registrations grew by 45.5% between 2017 and Q2 2018.
In general, the demand for most metals is rising rapidly. Compared to around 400 tonnes of annual gold production in 1900, current production is over 2,500 tonnes per year. 100 years ago, only a few hundred thousand tonnes of copper were mined per year. Today it is over 18 million tons. The demand for industrial minerals, coal and other mined raw materials is also increasing (US Geological Survey, Mineral Commodities Summaries, January 2016). There is a strong correlation between the growing demand for metals and global population growth. The United Nations estimates that by 2100 some 11 billion people will live on Earth (United Nations, Revision of World Population Prospects 2017, June 2017). The course has therefore been set for another century of growth in mining. This makes sustainable management all the more important.