Renewable energy and China’s economic shift toward consumer-led growth will be major catalysts for a new wave of copper demand that’ll accelerate a shortage forecast to develop from 2019, according to BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company.
“The real spark, though, is the demand for renewables,” said Jacqui McGill, asset president for BHP’s Olympic Dam copper mine, the world’s fifth-largest deposit of the metal. “Regardless of where the energy’s coming from, it needs copper.”
Mining companies, including rival Rio Tinto Group, are racing to meet the forecast global deficit as output is constrained at existing mines on lower grades. By 2040, the share of global electricity generated from renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, will double to 46 percent, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.
“Renewable energy needs a lot of copper and is one of the best conductors for transmitting solar energy to wind energy,” said McGill, who is studying options to potentially more than double output at the mine in South Australia to 450,000 metric tons a year.
Chile, the largest copper producing nation, sees prices poised to rise by about a third over the long term on growing demand from China, where power generation accounts for almost half of the metal’s usage. Copper may average $6,330 a ton after 2018, according to the Chilean Copper Commission. The metal has averaged about $4,710 a ton so far this year on the London Metal Exchange.
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