Will there be enough copper today and tomorrow? Yes. The United States is virtually self-sufficient in its reserves and resources of copper. The U.S. Bureau of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey provide documented data about the future supply of this metal that is most encouraging. Known worldwide copper resources are estimated at nearly 5.8 trillion pounds of which only about 0.7 trillion pounds (12%) have been mined throughout history...and nearly all of that is still in circulation, because the recycling rate for copper is higher than that of any other engineering metal.
Each year in the U.S.A., nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material as is derived from newly mined ore. And when you exclude wire production, most of which uses newly refined copper, the amount of copper used by copper and brass mills, ingot makers, foundries, powder plants and other industries shows that nearly three-fourths (72%) comes from recycled scrap. More than half of this scrap is "new". scrap, such as chips and turnings from screw machine production. The remainder is "old" scrap, such as discarded electrical cable, junked automobile radiators or ancient Egyptian plumbing. (Yes, it's been around that long!)
Copper's recycling value is so great that premium-grade scrap normally has at least 95% of the value of the primary metal from newly mined ore.
All mining and processing of minerals require the expenditure of energy in extracting a metal from its natural ores. Fortunately, copper production is conservative of energy. A recent study concluded that the energy content of a pound of copper totals from 12 to 16 kilowatt-hours depending on the copper content of the ore. Competing materials require three to five times as much energy to produce.
This is the amount of energy required for the entire operation - from moving off the overburden to uncovering the ore at the mine site through the casting of ready-to-fabricate copper refinery shapes.
The range of attractive natural colors of copper and copper alloys, along with their corrosion resistance and other outstanding properties, give today's architects a variety of options in the planning and design of enduring commercial, industrial, public and residential structures. Moreover, at a time of changing world material supplies and energy shortages, users can depend on U.S. self-sufficiency in copper-one of the earth's most recyclable resources. It can be extracted from ores and recycled from scrap with a relatively small expenditure of energy compared to competing metals.