Copper Ore – the key to an electrified world.

Switching from fossil to renewable to cut carbon emissions increases the demand for copper.

Reducing fossil fuels for energy supply – either mobile or stationary – drives a growing demand for one limiting factor: copper. Copper is a necessary raw material for generators, converters, transformers, and motors. Copper wire has to connect places of electrcity supply – like offshore windfarms – with major customer sites inland. A more diversified grid needs increesed interconnectivity to balance electricity supply and demand - every single second.

Studies suggest that demand will grow threefold during the next two decades.

The mining of copper

Land-based mines

Copper is refined from Copper Ores like Chalkopyrite, Covelite or Bornite, and usually mined at sites in Indonesia, Canady, or Latin America, underground and in open pit mines, with ores containing grades of less than 1% copper. Increasing the current supply would mean to dramatically increase both size and productivity of existing land-based mines, or open up new ones.

Secondary Copper – Recycling

Copper in electric application stays there for decades instaed of years, thus currently build applications will not contribute to a secondary copper market.

Massive Seabed Sulfides

Copper can also be found in huge abundance in Massive Seabed Sulfides. Massive Seabed Sulfides are geologically quite young ore formations compared to terrestrial mines, and contain much higher grades of copper: up to 10% and more, and is less compacted, allowing for much lower engergy consumptions during millig. No overburden has to be removed to reach the ore, and no landfill site has to be set up.

Copper concentration in rocks

Copper is refined from copper ores, which are mainly formed by hydrothermal processes since millions of years on seabeds. Currently mined onsore ores are apprx. 500 mio years old, and transformed and recrystallized by geological processes. Their copper content is ranging around 1% copper. Seabed massive sulfites, more or less freshly formed ores, can contain more than 10 or sometimes more than 20% copper.

Massive Seabed Sulfides

Massive Seabed Sulfides are formed by Black Smokers, underwaterstructures in the Oceans rift zones, where water is pressed down cracks in earths surface, heated up to several hundreds degrees Celsius, and pushed up again as a hot highly acid spring.

Contacting the Seabed and the cold Deep Sea Water the minerals – suluted in the hot brine – are falling out, forming chimneys of ore and generating cloudlike structures. During years and years of activity chimneys are formed, collapse, and are overlayed by fallout minerals from the dust clounds. Due to the immense heat in the surronding area Black Smokers are hosts of life during their activity – but fell idle as soon as their activity stops. Marine life dissapears as soon as heat is no longer provided.

After activity finally got to an end, the former site of a Black Smoker forms mound of mineral debris. These minerals are already highly concentrated ores with considerable low tensile strenghts. While currently mined ores at lind sites are roughly 500 million years older and compressed and compacted by sediments and geological processes, Seabed Massive Sulfides are relatively easy to break up. Mining these ore is quite low in energy utilization compared to existing mine sites. Utilizing these Massive Seabed Sulfide will increase the supply to provide copper for growing demands.