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Earth's Copper Supply Inadequate For Development?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the sky-is-falling dept.

Technology 838

ScentCone writes "Pennies, pipes, untold miles of CAT5 - they tie up a lot of copper. Unlike abundant iron and aluminum, copper is relatively scarce. But it's vital to electricity generation/transmission, plumbing, and other uses central to a modern standard of living. Scientific American is providing a quick overview of the situation. They report the conclusion that there simply isn't enough available. Canada, Mexico and the US average 170kg of copper use per person, and the most generous estimates suggest that only 1.6 billion unused metric tons exist. More reclamation and use of fiber, wireless, and PVC helps - but won't be enough to cover the billions of people who don't yet live in highly wired/mechanized societies."

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838 comments

Indentured Childhood (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501956)

When I was a kid, my dad made me spend hour after hour knocking the cores out of laminated transformers with a 15 lb. sledge so that the copper wire was free.

I also had to sit and cut the plastic off of foot after foot of copper wire with a utility knife and leather gloves so we could recycle the copper wire for cash.

At last, I can now put these valuable skills on my résumé! I just hope my career in technology doesn't come around full circle ...

Monster (5, Funny)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502058)

If this shortage is going to be as they say in the article, I could just see the ads for Monster Cable... "Our newest premium cable! New! Gold cable with copper connectors, just $199.99!"

Re:Indentured Childhood (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502141)

WHY????? Why must you post to every fucking story! How do you get modded "5, Interesting"? Get to work!

Off Topic (2, Funny)

lonb (716586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502144)

Didn't Homer make Bart do that too? Oh wait, that was grease reclamation [snpp.com] .

Pennies are not copper anymore (4, Informative)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501962)

They are Zinc, at least that is the predominant ingredient in their composition

Re:Pennies are not copper anymore (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502000)

One of my insider mining newsletters that I subscribe to just mentioned how zinc might end up being the most rare material in the coming years. One guy said that pennies made before 1971 are worth more than 1c in copper, and that the newer pennies might soon be worth much more than 1c due to their high zinc content.

Time to horde pennies maybe.

Pennies must go! (4, Insightful)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502099)

Yet another reason to get rid of this useless coin. Add this to:
Nobody uses them.
They are dangerous to children when swallowed, due to the zinc (unlike all other US coins)
And let's face it, Lincoln already has his picture in enough places!
(Ok, done ranting now...)

Re:Pennies are not copper anymore (5, Informative)

xkenny13 (309849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502133)

One guy said that pennies made before 1971 are worth more than 1c in copper, and that the newer pennies might soon be worth much more than 1c due to their high zinc content.

Oddly enough, the composition of pennies did not change between 1962 and 1982. There should be no difference between a 1971 penny and a 1981 penny, in terms of copper content.

The US Mint made 7 different variations of the penny in 1982 (counting the various different mint marks), after which they made pennies exclusively out of copper plated zinc.

More info is posted here [usmint.gov] and here [coaleducation.org] .

Re:Pennies are not copper anymore (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502257)

One guy said that pennies made before 1971 are worth more than 1c in copper, and that the newer pennies might soon be worth much more than 1c due to their high zinc content.

Is it possible for a one cent piece to be worth more than one cent?

Just being philosophical here, but shouldn't that be "a penny will be worth more than 1/100th of a dollar" ?

... Sorry, I had to throw in my two cents worth.

REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (5, Informative)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501966)

When I was in the supply installation side of IT consulting, the company that I co-owned ran network cables (and phone cord and work with electrical contractors that laid electrical wire). Copper price could KILL us if we bid a project and then the price of copper went up. In fact, on the largest projects we actually took advantage of futures-style market provisions to pre-buy our copper at a set price (even if it fell, we still paid a certain price).

To say that copper is scarce is not really accurate -- the price of copper has gone up but not in the way you'd expect if a needed item was about to run out. I blog [blogspot.com] (and publish a print newsletter) about gold -- I do about 90% of my research trying to find the manipulators in the gold market. One of the "worst" manipulators is the mining industry itself, but I believe hiding trade facts is very important for a free market. If copper was truly disappearing, you'd see the market react by the price hyperinflating, not just steadily growing. Mining companies spend 10-15 years just opening a mine. If they knew they were running out, they wouldn't sell it so cheaply.

I believe the steady growth in the price of copper is more of an effect of fiat currency inflation causing all consumer goods and salaries to go up (basically devaluing everyone's labor even if they feel they're earning more). When copper goes up 1000% in a week, there will be a problem. 1% fluctuations is nothing.

Just as I don't believe we're anywhere near to running out of oil in the next 1000 years, I don't believe we'll be running out of copper. I study 5-10 mining reports a day and all I see is more and more oil, gold, carbon and copper being found. As we innovate and are able to drill deeper and deeper, we're finding that MOST of what geophysicists warned us about 10 years ago isn't true -- we keep finding more to consumer, not less. I think we will be able to say the same thing 10 years from now and 100 years from now -- we're amazed and what we're finding as we dig deeper.

All these "fear the scarcity" news reports on vital materials are bunk -- you'll know when there is a shortage when the price skyrockets (supply and demand is very hard to manipulate in the long run). And when the price skyrockets, it will give innovators reason to find new ways to recycle more efficiently, dig deeper or find other ways to provide the same service with a different product.

The day that copper is gone for good is the day that we take clay out of the ground and find a way to offer room temperature superconductivity. Serendipity doesn't end, and higher copper prices give innovators more reason to find new solutions to yesterday's problems. One of the reasons I formulated my anarcho-capitalist [blogspot.com] belief system is based on finding that supply and demand really does set prices in the long haul, even if government and industry tries to manipulate prices in the short run.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (3, Insightful)

ecryder (851413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502009)

Agreed. In the electrical construction market, we have seen very minor price fluctuations since 2002 (less that 5% per year on average - also on par with inflation). The US government has re-opened copper mining facilities in the american west to boost supply. I am not convinced there is a scarcity at all. Scarcity would surely trigger major price fluctuations.

I Guess You're Happy Now? (0, Troll)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502063)

Gold prices returned to levels not seen in 25 years. That would be an inverted bell-shaped curve, BTW.

Were you bullish on gold in 1983? Uhhh... huh... financial genius.

Re:I Guess You're Happy Now? (1, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502179)

1983 was merely a decade after currency was removed from a gold standard that fixed the price of gold at a low price for almost 60 years -- no one knew the value of gold versus the dollar. I firmly believe that 83 was a gold bubble similar to the housing bubble we have today -- the US government performed an easy money inflationary situation for borrowers, who then ran like lemmings into gold (and other assets) as those prices went up from the previous day.

Today I believe gold is undervalued almost 50% based on currency inflation and manipulations of the currency using imperialist mechanisms (war and threat of war) against other nations. I also believe that 2006 will be the year that the dollar starts a strong inflationary/devaluation cycle. I was bullish on gold in 1999 and started a newsletter that year -- and I've hit my target prices almost every 6 months since then. I was the only gold bug to publicly believe we'd see US$550 at the beginning of the year. I'm the only one who believes we'll see a BIG drop just before the end of the February as the futures market makes corrections (I foresee a US$100 drop almost), and I'm the only one who sees gold ending up at US$660-US$690 before Christmas.

I just noticed I said 1971 penny, I meant 1961, oops.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502089)

I don't believe we're anywhere near to running out of oil in the next 1000 years

No oil shortage???

gas prices [tompaine.com]
news article [reuters.com]
http://www.hummer.com/ [hummer.com]

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502151)

Check oil prices per gallon versus the following graph:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/WM3NS/ 28 [stlouisfed.org]

As the Fed inflates the currency (legal counterfeiting) prices rise. Gas has also had sideways manipulations in additional boutique fuels without licensing additional refineries, and some additional tax burdens inside and outside of this country. War also puts an added supply pressure on the oil we're currently pulling out of the earth, but I see no end to the new discoveries of wells I read about every week. Dig deeper, you'll find more. Leave dry wells alone, they'll regenerate.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (3, Insightful)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502163)

He isn't saying that copper is scarce right now. He is saying that it will be scarce when the developing world starts progressing enough to require large quantities of it.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (1)

OmniChamp (874914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502166)

If that's true, then we have nothing to worry about for the time being. Personally I think we (consumer/industry) should start taking more responsibility for all our purchases, especially being in a first world country. Yeah it's fun to upgrade our machines every month, but really we're adding to the piles and piles of computer junk that ends up in landfills. You want a solution to the copper? How about reusing it from old computers and computer accessories? The chinese do it under horrible conditions and contaminate village waters, but what about implementing an efficient factory-style process for recycling and re-introducing metals back into the manufacturing stream? Sure it could be a herculean effort, but come on, we're a first world country and I think it's about time to use our innovative minds in other areas. Oh and BTW, I'm not some idealistic hippie, I'm just a fan of reusing old machines. Hell, I still have a P90 running linux in the basement as my router.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502227)

Actually, I was speaking with a foreign investor who told me that some investors have been inquiring about buying old garbage dump sites. Would it be funny if the next property bubble came out of people buying garbage dumps so they could look for scarce materials we've thrown out for generations?

Right now, it is cheaper to throw stuff out rather than keep it. Even recycling is costlier, which means it isn't really doing anything. Once we see scarcities in the market, we'll be thinking twice about dumping items that would have value to reuse.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (0, Flamebait)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502175)

"One of the reasons I formulated my anarcho-capitalist belief system...."

You do realize Heinlein has you beat by 50 years or more, right?

Jaysyn

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (3, Interesting)

bombadillo (706765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502235)

Just as I don't believe we're anywhere near to running out of oil in the next 1000 years

"I study 5-10 mining reports a day and all I see is more and more oil"


I agree with you on Copper. However, I think you may be off on Oil. I have read that it's been 2 years since any new major Oil fields have been discovered. For the past 50 years we have found at least 1 new Oil field a year. The cost of Oil has also gone from $30 a barrel to $66 a barrel. I have also read that the north sea Oils production peaked 3 years ago and is on it's decline. We will never completely run out of Oil. however, we will run out of enough Oil in the next 75-100 years to make life interesting if there are no alternatives.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (0)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502272)

No new oil fields have been discovered, I agree. Yet I've read between the lines and investigated some of the companies buying out "dry" fields and finding more that have magically refilled a certain amount. I also have been researching some companies with deeper drilling innovations that have found more oil as well. Right now, US$66 per barrel has many price manipulations in the price (including the M3 money supply explosion in the past 10 years finally catching up). I think oil is still cheap at this current price and as prices go up, innovation to find cheaper ways to drill and refine it will come to the market.

I'm not worried about it -- if there truly was an industry-affecting shortage, oil wouldn't be US$66, it would be US$1000.

Re:REAL Scarcity would mean HUGE price increases (1)

Robocoastie (777066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502268)

Your comments about copper might be spot on but this part: "Just as I don't believe we're anywhere near to running out of oil in the next 1000 years," Doesn't jive. Report after report has come out over the last few years stating that the drillers aren't finding any new usable oil. Your theory about the prices skyrocketing if there truely is a shortage doesn't work with titanic products like oil because its markets are watched by governments and intervened by them. Of course things like oil also have to be looked at from a much wider perspective. When I was in high school in the late 80s fuel was less than $1 a gallon. Today it's over 100% that amount. So how big does that percentage have to be for you to realize there's a problem hmm? 1000%?

So... (3, Funny)

Daedala (819156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501970)

Is this Peak Copper?

Re:So... (1, Funny)

ZaBu911 (520503) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502132)

That was a Cute joke.

mod parent up, hilarious! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502265)

mod parent up, hilarious!

It's not going to matter anyway... (4, Insightful)

ThinkFr33ly (902481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501986)

The oil and natural gas we use to generate electricity to power devices that require copper will become too expensive to use long before we run out of the copper we use in the construction of these devices.

Past peak copper (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14501990)

I urge everyone to see Stephen Gaghan's: Copperica, about the global reach, power structures and conspiracy of the copper elite. People die everyday over Cat5e.

Re:Past peak copper (1)

eyebits (649032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502269)

Is this a joke or is there actually a movie "Copperica"? There is no IMDB reference. And, Stephen Gaghan did American Gothic, The Practice, Sleepwalkers, etc. So, it seems to be a bit out of his domain. If there is a real documentary/movie, please provide some details.

Time for a tech revolution (2, Funny)

levik (52444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501991)

Hamster computing, here we come!

Mr. President, we must not allow... (4, Funny)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14501995)

...a copper gap!

Re:Mr. President, we must not allow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502039)

Don't say that. His solution will probably be to melt down the Statue of Liberty. After all, it's "just a statue".

Asteroid Mining! (2, Funny)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502007)

This is what asteroid mining is for! :)

Re:Asteroid Mining! (1)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502074)

Shipping is a bitch though.

Plus after a few days of working all the miners would be going dum...duh..dum..duh..dum.duh...dum.duh...

peew peew peew duh dum duh dum.

and the occasional ufo that pops out and shoot at you isn't much fun.

Re:Asteroid Mining! (0, Offtopic)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502136)

Hilarious! Mod parent up. :-)

Not Enough? (5, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502008)

Canada, Mexico and the US average 170kg of copper use per person, and the most generous estimates suggest that only 1.6 billion unused metric tons exist. More reclamation and use of fiber, wireless, and PVC helps - but won't be enough to cover the billions of people who don't yet live in highly wired/mechanized societies."

Seems to me that at 170Kg a head, 1.6 billion tons is enough to support 9.6 billion people. At the standards to which we in North America have become accustomed. So, where exactly is the shortage?

Re:Not Enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502048)

You do realize we have 6.4 billion people, correct? The "philosophy" of our society is to build more, generate more wealth, and consume more and more in general.

Re:Not Enough? (2, Informative)

AlaskanUnderachiever (561294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502205)

To quote the article:

"Multiply that by overall population estimates of 10 billion people by 2100 and the world will require 1.7 billion metric tons of copper by that date--more than even the most generous estimate of available resources."

Pennies (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502010)

Why not just do away with the penny in american currency? It is one of the most useless peices of coinage in the world. Melting the current supply of pennies would give us how many million pounds of copper.

Re:Pennies (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502147)

Why not just do away with the penny in american currency? It is one of the most useless peices of coinage in the world. Melting the current supply of pennies would give us how many million pounds of copper.

Not much. Considering that pennies are not made of copper, only coated in it.

Re:Pennies (1)

freidog (706941) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502185)

not really. A penney (post 1982) is only 2.5% copper, and 97.5% Zink.

Re:Pennies (4, Interesting)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502206)

Maybe a lot of /.ers are too young to remember the great penny hoarding of a few decades back. At the time, copper reached a price that a penny contained more than a penny worth of copper so people started hoarding them and melting them down. There was a shortage of pennies for change and some shopkeepers resorted to rounding to the nickel, others used candy for change.

The composition of the penny was changed to use copper plate. I seem to recall that the feds outlawed melting of pennies as well but that was a long time ago.

Anyway, I agree that eliminating the penny is long overdue but the feds don't seem to want to make that embarrasing admission that inflation exists and money is becoming worthless. Back in the day when Nixon imposed the (ill-considered and ineffective) wage and price freeze it was in response to runaway inflation at ~3%. Nowdays we call that rate "controlled". Hell, during the reign of the great inflation-controlling Greenspan, the dollar lost about half of its purchasing power. Time to drop the charade.

Re:Pennies (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502248)

Because every price in the country would have to round to numbers divisible by five. And guess which direction they'll all choose? (UP)

Sales tax going from 8.25% to 10% won't be too bad, but wait until the federal/state/city taxes jump from like 16% to 20%. Each.

Space Mining? (3, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502012)

So anyone know any good asteroids that are rich in copper? ;-)

More realistically, I imagine that we'll move to other materials. Data lines don't need to use copper, but they do so because it's common and inexpensive. If the price of copper goes up, you might see fiber optics come down in price.

Same with power transmission lines. There's nothing stopping them from using Aluminum if copper becomes too expensive.

My guess, however, is that more emphasis will be placed on recycling copper. The price will rise some, pushing out the uses where it isn't needed. The remaining uses will continue to use copper supplied heavily by the recycling centers.

Re:Space Mining? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502119)

Same with power transmission lines. There's nothing stopping them from using Aluminum if copper becomes too expensive.

Actually, I get the feeling that copper will stay in transmission lines, over aluminum. CAT5 will probably loose copper first. Aluminum isn't anywhere near as efficient at transmitting electricity as copper is. The difference is at least 20%, probably more. Although I think they would love to put in superconductors if they become cheap enough.

As to your main point, yeah, we need space mining at some point.

Re:Space Mining? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502214)

That's why you bump up the voltages. All long distance power lines are aluminum, with voltages near and over 500,000V.

Re:Space Mining? (1)

hypnagogue (700024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502160)

Same with power transmission lines. There's nothing stopping them from using Aluminum if copper becomes too expensive.
AlreadyBeenDone, but not because of price -- copper is too heavy and not strong enough to be used for power transmission lines.

During the Manhattan Project... (4, Interesting)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502017)

... much of the equipment at Oak Ridge (perhaps at Hanford, too; I can't remember) had to be massively cooled. Normally one would use commoner metals to pipe things about in, but a lot of the copper in the US was bound up in important things like electrical wiring for warplanes, etc. So the Manhattan Project borrowed other things -- like silver -- from Fort Knox, and made things like pipes out of that, keeping careful track, of course, as to where it went. Fascinating stuff. Massive amounts of the wartime research depended on silver, even though it often directly involved in experiments.

Re:During the Manhattan Project... (2, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502041)

OK, so my facts needed some checking. Here's a link that should know whereof it speaks:

ahref=http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Research -Review/Magazine/1981/81fepi2.htmlrel=url2html-276 97 [slashdot.org] http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Research-Rev iew/Magazine/1981/81fepi2.html >

Who would have thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502018)

in a society obsessed with consumption and materialism that we might actually deplete our natural resources...

Re:Who would have thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502187)

I agree, the Japanese are ruining it for the rest of us.

simple solution (2, Funny)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502019)

use Gold.

oh wait...

Enough for 9.5 billion people! (1)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502022)

... and that at the (surely bloated) North American rate!

A penny saved is copper earned (4, Informative)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502024)

One solution is to stop using copper for pennies, this would save tons of copper for other uses.

"The largest known Copper ore deposits in the world are in Chuquicamata in the Chilean Andes, and the largest deposit of native copper is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula."
This [dartmouth.edu] is an interesting article about Copper. Apparently Copper is also released as pollution during the mining and refining process, possibly more could be saved if there were more efficient ways of extracting and refining the metal.
One other solution is to go wireless.

Re:A penny saved is copper earned (1)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502064)

Penny's are zinc not copper.

Re:A penny saved is copper earned (2, Informative)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502111)

Pennies [wikipedia.org] are 97.5% Zinc and 2.5% Copper.

Re:A penny saved is copper earned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502254)

Penny's are zinc...

(Exploded version): Penny is are zinc... Sheesh it's not difficult, the plural of penny is pennies.

Re:A penny saved is copper earned (2, Informative)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502162)

We could also try to develop wireless with the transmission of power [wikipedia.org] , like Nikola Tesla wanted to do (but, of course, JP Morgan and Westinghouse cut off his money when he told them he wanted to do this).

Wireless (1)

mac123 (25118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502025)

I hear that this newfangled wireless stuff might just catch on...especially for the rural areas that are not yet wired.

Might wireless result in a copper *surplus* as we all turn in our newly liberated copper wires?

Pennies (0, Redundant)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502031)

We should make pennies out of nickel and iron. All copper pennies should be returned to banks for redistribution.

Hell, maybe we should get rid of pennies anyway when paying in cash. Electronic transactions should be denominated using pennies (single cents) but cash has to round to the nearest nickel.

Re:Pennies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502225)

Pennies haven't had a significant copper component since, what, 1983?

Chill.

Wireless (1)

CountBrass (590228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502033)

Subject says it all. Developing countries are doing this already, skipping the wired stage for some of their infrastructure and skipping straight to wireless: phones is the most wide spread example.

So I'm not sure what value there is in going "OMG it took two gagillion tons of copper to get us where we are today" and multiply that by everyone else and come up with a meaningless number. Even power doesnt need long transmission lines: local generators, fuel cells.

Really I see no problem. Did these "researchers" by lots of copper stock recently?

Re:Wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502087)

Electricity?

Re:Wireless (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502223)

Wired still is, and always will be, faster, cheaper, and better than wireless communications. The problem with wireless is that the bands are limited. If you keep adding transmitters, everyone's signal quality will drop, eventually to the point of uselessness. On top of that, wireless has to account for a lot of signal noise that wired does not. This allows wired signals to run at much higher data rates than wireless.

The reason why developing countries are starting with wireless is because:

1. They don't have much of a pre-existing wireless setup to disrupt.
2. It's cheaper than building a wired infrastructure.

As these countries develop, I think you'll see them go from wireless to wired for much of their high-speed communications.

Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah (3, Interesting)

cyanics (168644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502034)

It is the worlds largest man made hole in the ground, and one of the few man made wonders that is visible from space.

http://www.utah.com/attractions/kennecott.htm [utah.com]

they actually produce 15% of the countries copper annually. But I have been hearing that the mine is basically tapped (at least the current mine) And that they will be starting a new mine a little futher back in the Oquirr mountains in order the meet the needs of the country.

Interestingly enough, they also produce a significant portion of the countries Uranium, Iron, and other precious metals. But i can see how we could eventually run out of resources. Hence them being natural resources. Luckily, since copper is a natually occuring element, it should be more abundant at deeper sub-terrain.

Re:Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502143)

one of the few man made wonders that is visible from space.

using google earth, the roof of my house is visible from space....

New Development (1)

jeffy210 (214759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502043)

"but won't be enough to cover the billions of people who don't yet live in highly wired/mechanized societies.
 
This statement contradicts itself with an earlier statement. Developing nations will skip some of the copper uses that are deployed today, just like more developing nations use cell phones rather than land lines. New pipes will be PVC, new data roll outs will use fiber, alternate methods will be found. Seriously this sounds like FUD to me.

Economics (1)

ka9dgx (72702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502047)

Using copper instead of some other metal is a choice in many applications. The use of alternatives will be more attractive as the price goes up. If I had to pick one thing to stop expansion of the economy worldwide, it would be OIL, not copper as the target of choice.

Galvinized steel and PVC are obvious alternatives to copper plumbing. Big transmission lines are now all steel/aluminum these days... and pennys are now more than 96% zinc... (which is why you can "melt" them on the burner on the stove)

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

--Mike--

Oh, if only... (1)

Eosha (242724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502056)

there was some other material that would do the same thing...like PVC instead of copper pipe, aluminum instead of copper cable, fiber instead of cat5, etc.

If and when we run out of copper, it might be a bit annoying for the plumbers, but AFAIK there's no widespread, critical job that can only be done by copper...

Just use lead-lined clay, like the ancient Romans (4, Funny)

csoto (220540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502061)

It never hurt anybody...

Wait a minute... (4, Insightful)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502062)

Gas, lubricants, untold miles of plastics - they tie up a lot of oil. Unlike abundant iron and aluminum, oil is relatively scarce. But it's vital to electricity generation/transmission, transportation, and other uses central to a modern standard of living....More reclamation and use of solar, wind, and other fossil fuels helps - but won't be enough to cover the billions of people who don't yet live in highly developed/mechanized societies.

Thought that sounded familiar.
ed

Mine the asteroids or junk piles? (4, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502068)

There's a fair amount of landfills out there that probably have useful amounts of copper. That'll probably be the first place to dig. The hard part is separation and removing toxic waste from useful minerals.

Mining the asteroids is currently prohibitively expensive, but costs will eventually go down. I'd like to see some legislation to encourage such endeavors, which might be the next profitable commercial activity after space tourism.

Of course, we could always wait for them to fall to the Earth [space.com] , but that requires lots of patience.

Re:Mine the asteroids or junk piles? (1)

craigob (944023) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502229)

Why would you want to see legislation to encourage that? The last thing we need is another subsidized industry. Left to the free market, asteroids will be mined when it's cheaper than just doing mining or recycling on earth. Further, it will be at the risk of a private citizen, private company, or any number of other peaceful, voluntary arrangements, and not to the general public. The force of government is not needed. Why people keep looking to the government for solutions, especially when it fails so badly at almost everything it does is baffling.

Doubt it (2, Interesting)

MarkPNeyer (729607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502071)

I've heard this tune before [overpopulation.com] .

I'd like to be the first (1, Funny)

Klowner (145731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502073)

To offer all the copper running into my house in exchange for fiber. That's right, I'm so dang benevolent I make myself sick!

You're welcome.

Re:I'd like to be the first (2, Funny)

Holi (250190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502156)

I'll take it all, Be really funny to see you try and plug a lamp into fiber.

Re:I'd like to be the first (1)

drpimp (900837) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502215)

Well that will solve your internet/phone wires, but unfortunately electricity for your AC power, will not run through fiber.

Use gold (2, Informative)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502093)


A friend here has been investing in gold for some time, maybe he is on to something.

BTW, pennies are not copper anymore. From the US mint:

The alloy remained 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc until 1982, when the composition was changed to 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper (copper-plated zinc).

Copper is very recyclable, and in demand. It pays anywhere between pennies to $1.50/pound or more to recycle it.

Now that electronics are disposable because of quick upgrades and poor reliability, they will be recycled more in the future. There is a bunch of copper and gold and other nice stuff in there.

Its a crime that the zinc industry lobbies congress with cash every time we try to get rid of the penny. Its useless. In fact all change is. What can you really buy for less than a buck? If its less than a buck, splurge and get two.

If I start my own restaurant, I will not take or receive change. Its heavy, and it would cost more of my employees time to count, sort, and organize the change than if they just threw it in the trash. Or maybe I could just throw it in the tip pool, and give it to them in cash later.

Re:Use gold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502224)

Out of curiosity, do you have kids?

I'm glad there is change, so that my young ones can learn commerce in cents and not dollars.

Its not useless.

Re:Use gold (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502277)

"What can you really buy for less than a buck? If its less than a buck, splurge and get two." A diet coke? And no I just want one thanks.

No copper? Use plastic (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502094)

Sheesh. Time to make plastic fiber to replace Cat5. Something around 10GB oughta be possible over plastic for, say, 5km or less. I'm betting it's already out there.

Then we can consider optical connects for HDTV, all audio, etc. More copper saved?

Of course, it will probably take 2 pounds of copper to manke enough plastic fiber to replace 1 pound of copper wire.

If it's not one thing, it's your mother.

rick

quick (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502104)

buy calls on copper... serioulsy, has anyone access to historical datas on commodities?

What's the problem? (2, Informative)

kireK (254264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502123)

If you read the article, it does note that usages is down from the 1999 high of 238 kilograms per person to only 170 kilograms of copper per person in 2005. At this rate will there be a shortage?

Silver (2, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502126)

You've heard of peak oil and now peak copper, but there are only 12-25 years of known silver deposits left [underreported.com] , and silver is the best conductor of electricity and is also used in a lot of other (yes, non-photographic) industrial uses.

Economics (5, Insightful)

leandrod (17766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502134)

Economics is all about how we deal with scarcity. Prices go up, alternatives are found. If prices went up, we'd go 220V to use thinner wires, we'd prefer local sources of energy to use shorter lines, we'd go all fiber for data and voice, and so on... and we'd find new sources, alternative metals.

Recycle (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502138)

There are vast amounts of copper and other valueable materials in the dumps around the world. Eventually the dumps will be gold mines given many of the materials like copper are recyclable. It's not that copper is so rare but it's been cheaper than it should have been. What it really means is our technological society depends on cheap copper like cheap oil. Oil won't run out in our lifetimes and neither will copper but but it will go up drastically in price. It may not affect the price of electronic components that use realitively little copper but it will have an affect on things like power lines. It may not be practical one day to build vast infastructures of copper lines. Localized power would solve that problem and is another reason solar may not not be a solution but it can help. Copper pipes will be one of the first to go once copper gets scarce. Pastic in some ways works better these days. Copper isn't the new gold or silver but it could it could go up three or four fold in our lifetimes which is enough to change everything.

Small correction (0, Redundant)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502149)

Pennies are made mostly out of zinc these days.

Horn of Plenty (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502161)

PSSSSSSSSTTTTT!!! Want to know where you can find all sorts of copper lying around, preprocessed? The local landfill! People have been throwing away copper-containing components since Edison's day. All the garbage dumps in the world are probably brimming with old wires, telephones, vacuum tubes (did they use copper?), and all sorts of detritus containing copper. Start digging and don't mind the stench!

Oh boy it's the Chicken Little Herald again (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502167)

Surely we have worse things to worry about than a copper shortage.

I think our infrastructure can handle adopting different metals for certain purposes, and using what copper we have left for critical applications.

This is the way everything works, you piss away resource X like it's going out of style (e.g. copper tubing !?! ) and then when the resource starts to bottom out, you find replacements for most of the uses, and conserve the remainder for the neccessary applications

No big deal.

I swear, the media's getting worse by the day, what's next on the worry list? Not enough sand for making CPU's?

As a Plumbing Contractor..... (1)

sulphurlad (772436) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502172)

Ahhh Fuck.... just went through a price increase over PVC/CPVC because the they are oil based products to the tune of 50% in 2 months. Now this....
As it is, if it wasn't for the installation cost, the old Cast Iron pipe and fittings as the say price as PVC (Waste Pipe). The labor is alot higher because kids today have no gumpsion to lift cast iron pipe and be a real plumber, you know "Worker of Lead".

Right now CPVC ( Water Pipe ) is about the same as copper Pipe. Labor is higher through. It's easier to glue shit together than to prep copper and heat it up to 1000 Degrees and solder it.

Man this is just going to kill the construction industry which keep the economy afloat during the Dot Com Bust.

Aluminum (2, Interesting)

po8 (187055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502173)

If copper becomes expensive, developing countries will just use aluminum. The biggest problem with aluminum wiring is joining it to copper; this is the only thing that really inhibited aluminum wiring in this country, where there was already a ton of copper wiring everywhere. Places starting from scratch won't have that problem so much. Long-distance transmission lines will likely be copper for a long time due to the lower resistance. (Gold, BTW, is a worse conductor than copper, and is quite comparable with aluminum. Silver is slightly better than copper, if you're willing to pay.) There will be more and more transmission lines being built with superconductors [supercables.com] , though!

Of course, the incredible energy requirements of aluminum production yields its own set of headaches. But if we don't solve that problem, the wiring dilemma will be moot anyhow.

Substitute for copper (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502176)

Copper/aluminum alloys are often used in electrical connections, where either pure copper or pure aluminum must be connected. The alloys are less conductive than either of the two pure metals, but only small amounts are used, and their purpose is to reduce or prevent the possibility of electrochemical corrosion when dissimilar metals are in contact.

Thus, CAT5 could in theory be replaced by a heavier-gauge pure-aluminum cable, and the connectors on the end could be either copper/aluminum alloy or something better, like gold-electroplated aluminum. Aluminum is a very plentiful element compared to copper. The electrical industry found that it could not use the metal reliably in end-use situations (homes, businesses, etc.) because the metal is soft and the connections loosen (and sparks across the gaps have caused fires), but it IS used quite reliably in major power-transmission lines. It COULD be used in communcations wiring because the current loads are tiny (and the appropriate heavier gauge, to match the lower resistance of copper, still costs less than copper). You just need to ensure the communications wiring is well-sealed away from corrosive stuff like "salt air" at an oceanside resort (such as by electroplating exposed aluminum with gold).

Recycling (1)

midifarm (666278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502184)

Is there an efficient way to recycle old wire? I'd rather not have to throw it away. How about alternative metals?

Tesla (1)

Dorion caun Morgul (851570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502202)

Looks like Tesla's wireless conduction dream gets more and more attractive. No need for long High Voltage lines.

UK pennies are magnetic (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502209)

Since 1992, UK "coppers" have been made out of Copper plated steel [royalmint.com] , rather than bronze.

There are several interesting links between the Royal Mint and Neal Stephenson's [nealstephenson.com] ( Slashdot Interview [slashdot.org] ) Baroque Cycle [metaweb.com] , including references to Hooke and Newton, to whom the quotation "standing on the shoulders of giants", which is engraved around the edge of £2 coins, is ascribed. The Trial of the Pyx [royalmint.gov.uk] , which forms part of the plot, exists, and has been carried out ever since 1282.

or... (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502217)

you could replace copper with something else. My house (in Argentina) has PVC pipes. There are a lot of varieties. PVC and Teflon, aluminum shielded, etc. Also, you could stop using copper in coins. Why use such an expensive and heavy material when you could use something lighter (your pockets will thank you).

In Other News (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502221)

There are not enough trees to sustain the industrialization of the western world.

All the factories will be shutting down any day now.

I knew it... (2, Funny)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502234)

that those minimal spanning tree algorithms I learned in university would come in handy!! :-)

Cry me a river (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14502259)

"Waaaaaah we dont have enough food"

"Waaaaaah there arent enough Xbox 360s!"

"Waaaaaah we dont have enough copper" - cause its all in the 360s!

Christ, people all over want everything!

Great News (1)

willardj (473360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502264)

As an Employee of Kenncott / Rio Tinto I have to say this is music to my ears! All Your copper mines are belong to us

Use Aluminium (1)

2901 (676028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14502274)

It has already [world-aluminium.org] replaced copper in electrical applications that benefit from it being twice as conductive per unit mass.

It is 65% [world-aluminium.org] of the conductivity of copper by volume, close enough that one can just use a slightly fatter (though lighter) wire, and still get the same resistance.

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