Estimate of Undiscovered Copper Resources of the World, 2013 (U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet – January 2013)

U.S.G.S.Map Final 600

Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 3,500 million metric tons of undiscovered copper among 225 tracts around the world.


Informed planning and decisions concerning future mineral supplies, sustainability, and resource development require a long-term global perspective and an integrated approach to land use and to resource and environmental management. This integrated approach further requires unbiased information on the global distribution of identified and undiscovered mineral resources, the economic factors influencing their development, and the environmental consequences of their exploitation.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the principal Federal provider of research and information on nonfuel mineral resources, has completed a geology-based, cooperative international assessment of copper resources of the world. Collaborators in this assessment include mineral resource experts from national geological surveys and from industry and academia worldwide.

This assessment indicates that in addition to identified copper resources of 2,100 million metric tons (Mt), a mean of 3,500 Mt of undiscovered copper is expected in 11 regions spanning six continents (table 1 and fig. 1). Annual U.S. copper consumption is 2 Mt; global consumption is 20 Mt (Edelstein, 2013).

The methodology for the assessment consisted of (1) compilation of geologic data and characterization of identified
deposits for each area considered, based mainly on published literature, (2) delineation of geographic areas (tracts)
in which the geology is permissive for specific types of copper deposits defined in mineral deposit models, (3) evaluation of amounts of metal in typical deposits by using grade-tonnage models, and (4) probabilistic estimation of numbers of undiscovered deposits.

Probable amounts of undiscovered resources were computed by combining estimates of numbers of undiscovered deposits with grade and tonnage models using Monte Carlo simulation. Finally, results for individual tracts were aggregated into regional groups, assuming independence between tracts.

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