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Copper: The Essential Metal (Part I)

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Copper infographic

Copper is one of the most widely used metals on the planet, and has been for more than 10,000 years. It’s history is rich and distinctive as its unique colour, and it is now indispensable in modern society.

What Makes Copper Different?

  • Pure copper is ductile – it can be easily stretched and shaped into different forms
  • Highly conductive – copper conducts heat and electricity more effectively than all other metals save one: silver.
  • 100% Recyclable – 80% of copper ever mined is still in use today.
  • Highly Alloyable – there are currently more than 570 different known copper alloys, and 350 have been acknowledged as antimicrobial.
  • Colour: Copper unique reddish-orange hue is beautiful and easily identifiable. In fact, gold and osmium are the only other elemental metals with colours other than silver/grey.

The average single family home in North America uses:

  • 195 pounds –  building wire
  • 151 pounds –  plumbing tube, fittings, valves
  • 24 pounds –  plumbers’ brass goods
  • 47 pounds –  built-in appliances
  • 12 pounds –  builders hardware
  • 10 pounds –  other wire and tube

Not only that, there are virtually zero substitutes for copper in its applications. Only silver is a beter conductor, and is over 100x times more expensive.

Copper today is now the nervous system of our cities, homes, tools and toys. The simple truth is that the western lifestyle is completely dependent on copper.

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Energy

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium reserves by country, with 3 countries accounting for more than half of total reserves.

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A cropped chart visualizing the distribution of the global uranium reserves, by country.

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

There can be a tendency to believe that uranium deposits are scarce from the critical role it plays in generating nuclear energy, along with all the costs and consequences related to the field.

But uranium is actually fairly plentiful: it’s more abundant than gold and silver, for example, and about as present as tin in the Earth’s crust.

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium resources by country, as of 2021. Figures come from the World Nuclear Association, last updated on August 2023.

Ranked: Uranium Reserves By Country (2021)

Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada have the largest shares of available uranium resources—accounting for more than 50% of total global reserves.

But within these three, Australia is the clear standout, with more than 1.7 million tonnes of uranium discovered (28% of the world’s reserves) currently. Its Olympic Dam mine, located about 600 kilometers north of Adelaide, is the the largest single deposit of uranium in the world—and also, interestingly, the fourth largest copper deposit.

Despite this, Australia is only the fourth biggest uranium producer currently, and ranks fifth for all-time uranium production.

CountryShare of Global
Reserves
Uranium Reserves (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia28%1.7M
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan13%815K
🇨🇦 Canada10%589K
🇷🇺 Russia8%481K
🇳🇦 Namibia8%470K
🇿🇦 South Africa5%321K
🇧🇷 Brazil5%311K
🇳🇪 Niger5%277K
🇨🇳 China4%224K
🇲🇳 Mongolia2%145K
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2%131K
🇺🇦 Ukraine2%107K
🌍 Rest of World9%524K
Total100%6M

Figures are rounded.

Outside the top three, Russia and Namibia both have roughly the same amount of uranium reserves: about 8% each, which works out to roughly 470,000 tonnes.

South Africa, Brazil, and Niger all have 5% each of the world’s total deposits as well.

China completes the top 10, with a 3% share of uranium reserves, or about 224,000 tonnes.

A caveat to this is that current data is based on known uranium reserves that are capable of being mined economically. The total amount of the world’s uranium is not known exactly—and new deposits can be found all the time. In fact the world’s known uranium reserves increased by about 25% in the last decade alone, thanks to better technology that improves exploration efforts.

Meanwhile, not all uranium deposits are equal. For example, in the aforementioned Olympic Dam, uranium is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining occurring at the same site. In South Africa, it emerges as a byproduct during treatment of ores in the gold mining process. Orebodies with high concentrations of two substances can increase margins, as costs can be shared for two different products.

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