Visualizing All the Known Copper in the World
Copper has many important applications in the modern economy. From smartphones and cars, to homes and hospitals, we use the metal almost everywhere, especially with renewable energy.
Often, consumers take for granted the accessibility to modern technology without the thought of where the materials come from or their impact on the environment. The world and its resources are finite and confined by both geography and the technology used to extract resources.
As governments and economies struggle to achieve a sustainable balance between humanity’s material impact and the health of the planet, knowing the availability of resources will become a critical pivot for achieving and maintaining that balance.
Copper is one such resource—and today’s graphic from Trilogy Metals outlines all the copper ever mined and what known resources still exist on Earth.
Are we running out of copper?
Above Ground Copper Resources
The production of mined copper has increased dramatically over the last two decades, From 9.8 million metric tons in 1995 to 20 million metric tons in 2019, a 104% rise over 25 years.
A total of 700 million metric tons of copper have been mined throughout history. Based on the 2019 average price of $6,042/metric ton, that’s worth $4.2 trillion—more than the value of Apple and Amazon combined.
Chile has been the source of the majority of the world’s copper and the biggest copper mining nation. Together, Chile, Peru, and China account for 48% of current global copper production.
|Ranking||Country||Mine Production 2019 (Ktons)||Country||Reserves 2019 (Ktons)|
|Other Countries||3,800||Other Countries||220,000|
|World Total||20,000||World Total||870,000|
As we enter the era of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and see more global economic growth, the demand for copper will continue to rise. In fact, the Copper Alliance projects an increase of 50% in just the next 20 years.
Are We Running Out of Copper? Not So Soon
Although a large chunk of the Earth’s copper is already above ground, there’s still more to mine.
According to the USGS, identified copper resources amount to 2.1 billion metric tons, with a further 3.5 billion metric tons in undiscovered resources.
At current production rates, it would take about 105 years for us to use all of it and this does not even account for recycling or new discoveries. Copper is 100% recyclable, and nearly all of the 700 million metric tons of mined copper is still in circulation. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that we won’t be running out of copper anytime soon.
Despite copper’s apparent abundance, the red metal is expensive to actually get out of the ground. As a result, the supply of copper has often fallen short in meeting its rising demand. This, in addition to falling resource grades in Chile, the largest producer of copper, emphasizes the need for new discoveries and mines.
While there are known reserves of copper above the ground, the Earth remains largely unexplored because of the inability to explore for minerals in the depths of the oceans and other planets. As the readily available supply of copper becomes scarce, the incentive to mine currently uneconomic copper increases.
A Mineral Intense Future
Most consumers take the immediate availability of materials such as copper and other metals for granted, with little thought about whether there is enough.
But it’s important to remember that these materials are as finite as the dimensions of the Earth. In this material world, understanding what is and what is not available is critical for a sustainable future here on Earth.
Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain
Nearly 50% of global silver production comes from South and Central America. Here’s a look at the global silver supply chain.
Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain
Although silver is widely known as a precious metal, its industrial uses accounted for more than 50% of silver demand in 2020.
From jewelry to electronics, various industries utilize silver’s high conductivity, aesthetic appeal, and other properties in different ways. With the adoption of electric vehicles, 5G networks, and solar panels, the world is embracing more technologies that rely on silver.
But behind all this silver are the companies that mine and refine the precious metal before it reaches other industries.
The above infographic from Blackrock Silver outlines silver’s global supply chain and brings the future of silver supply into the spotlight.
The Top 20 Countries for Silver Mining
Although silver miners operate in many countries across the globe, the majority of silver comes from a few regions.
|Rank||Country||2020 Production (million ounces)||% of Total|
|8||United States 🇺🇸||31.7||4.0%|
|18||Papua New Guinea 🇵🇬||4.2||0.5%|
|19||Dominican Republic 🇩🇴||3.8||0.5%|
|N/A||Rest of the World 🌎||34.2||4.4%|
Mexico, Peru, and China—the top three producers—combined for just over 50% of global silver production in 2020. South and Central American countries, including Mexico and Peru, produced around 390 million ounces—roughly half of the 784 million ounces mined globally.
Silver currency backed China’s entire economy at one point in history. Today, China is not only the third-largest silver producer but also the third-largest largest consumer of silver jewelry.
Poland is one of only three European countries in the mix. More than 99% of Poland’s silver comes from the KGHM Polska Miedź Mine, the world’s largest silver mining operation.
While silver’s supply chain spans all four hemispheres, concentrated production in a few countries puts it at risk of disruptions.
The Sustainability of Silver’s Supply Chain
The mining industry can often be subject to political crossfire in jurisdictions that aren’t safe or politically stable. Mexico, Chile, and Peru—three of the top five silver-producing nations—have the highest number of mining conflicts in Latin America.
Alongside production in politically unstable jurisdictions, the lack of silver-primary mines reinforces the need for a sustainable silver supply chain. According to the World Silver Survey, only 27% of silver comes from silver-primary mines. The other 73% is a by-product of mining for other metals like copper, zinc, gold, and others.
As the industrial demand for silver rises, primary sources of silver in stable jurisdictions will become more valuable—and Nevada is one such jurisdiction.
Nevada: The Silver State
Nevada, known as the Silver State, was once the pinnacle of silver mining in the United States.
The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, one of America’s richest silver deposits, spurred a silver rush in Nevada. But after the Comstock Lode mines began declining around 1874, it was the Tonopah district that brought Nevada’s silver production back to life.
Tonopah is a silver-primary district with a 100:1 silver-to-gold ratio. It also boasts 174 million ounces of historical silver production under its belt. Furthermore, between 1900 and 1950, Tonopah produced high-grade silver with an average grade of 1,384 grams per tonne. However, the Second World War brought a stop to mining in Tonopah, with plenty of silver left to discover.
Today, Nevada is the second-largest silver-producing state in the U.S. and the Tonopah district offers the opportunity to revive a secure and stable source of primary silver production for the future.
Blackrock Silver is working to bring silver back to the Silver State with exploration at its flagship Tonopah West project in Nevada.
A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets
Carbon markets are booming. But how do they work? In this infographic, we show how carbon markets are advancing corporate climate ambitions.
A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets
Carbon markets enable the trading of carbon credits, also referred to as carbon offsets.
One carbon credit is equivalent to one metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Going further, carbon markets help companies offset their emissions and work towards their climate goals. But how exactly do carbon markets work?
In this infographic from Carbon Streaming Corporation, we look at the fundamentals of carbon markets and why they show significant growth potential.
What Are Carbon Markets?
For many companies, such as Microsoft, Delta, Shell and Gucci, carbon markets play an important role in offsetting their impact on the environment and meeting climate targets.
Companies buy a carbon credit, which funds a GHG reduction project such as reforestation. This allows the company to offset their GHG emissions. There are two main types of carbon markets, based on whether emission reductions are mandatory, or voluntary:
Mandatory systems regulated by government organizations to cap emissions for specific industries.
Voluntary Carbon Markets:
Where carbon credits can be purchased by those that voluntarily want to offset their emissions.
As demand to cut emissions intensifies, voluntary carbon market volume has grown five-fold in less than five years.
Drivers of Carbon Market Demand
What factors are behind this surge in volume?
- Paris Agreement: Companies seeking alignment with these goals.
- Technological Gaps: Companies are limited by technologies that are available at scale and not cost-prohibitive.
- Time Gaps: Companies do not have the means to eliminate all emissions today.
- Shareholder Pressure: Companies are facing pressure from shareholders to address their emissions.
For these reasons, carbon markets are a useful tool in decarbonizing the global economy.
Voluntary Markets 101
To start, there are four key participants in voluntary carbon markets:
- Project Developers: Teams who design and implement carbon offset projects that generate carbon credits.
- Standards Bodies: Organizations that certify and set the criteria for carbon offsets e.g. Verra and the Gold Standard.
- Brokers: Intermediaries facilitating carbon credit transactions between buyers and project developers.
- End Buyers: Entities such as individuals or corporations looking to offset their carbon emissions through purchasing carbon credits.
Secondly, carbon offset projects fall within one of two main categories.
Avoidance / reduction projects prevent or reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere. These may include avoided deforestation or projects that preserve biomass.
Removal / sequestration projects, on the other hand, remove carbon from the atmosphere, where projects may focus on reforestation or direct air capture.
In addition, carbon offset projects may offer co-benefits, which provide advantages that go beyond carbon reduction.
What are Co-Benefits?
When a carbon project offers co-benefits, it means that they provide features on top of carbon credits, such as environmental or economic characteristics, that may align with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Here are some examples of co-benefits a project may offer:
- Biodiversity: Protecting local wildlife that would otherwise be endangered through deforestation.
- Social: Promoting gender equality through supporting women in management positions and local business development.
- Economic: Creating job opportunities in local communities.
- Educational: Providing educational awareness of carbon mitigation within local areas, such as primary and secondary schools.
Often, companies are looking to buy carbon credits that make the greatest sustainable impact. Co-benefits can offer additional value that simultaneously address broader climate challenges.
Why Market Values Are Increasing
In 2021, market values in voluntary carbon markets are set to exceed $1 billion.
|Year||Traded Volume of Carbon Offsets (MtCO₂e)||Voluntary Market Transaction Value|
*As of Aug. 31, 2021
Source: Ecosystem Marketplace (Sep 2021)
Today, oil majors, banks, and airlines are active players in the market. As corporate climate targets multiply, future demand for carbon credits is projected to jump 15-fold by 2030 according to the Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.
What Qualifies as a High-Quality Carbon Offset?
Here are five key criteria for examining the quality of a carbon offset:
- Additionality: Projects are unable to exist without revenue derived from carbon credits.
- Verification: Monitored, reported, and verified by a credible third-party.
- Permanence: Carbon reduction or removal will not be reversed.
- Measurability: Calculated according to scientific data through a recognized methodology.
- Avoid Leakage: An increase in emissions should not occur elsewhere, or account for any that do occur.
In fact, the road to net-zero requires a 23 gigatonne (GT) annual reduction in CO₂ emissions relative to current levels. High quality offsets can help meet this goal.
Fighting Climate Change
As the urgency to tackle global emissions accelerates, demand for carbon credits is poised to increase substantially—bringing much needed capital to innovative projects.
Not only do carbon credits fund nature-based projects, they also finance technological advancements and new innovations in carbon removal and reduction. For companies looking to reach their climate ambitions, carbon markets will continue to play a more concrete role.
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