Leading copper mining firms including; Brazil’s Vale, Anglo American and Chile’s Codelco, have predicted a strengthened demand for copper in coming years buoyed by a rising production of environmentally friendly cars.
However, an increased demand and utilisation of copper in the coming years, raises some questions about the sustainability of the copper mining industry and the impacts of operations in mining communities.
This was brought to the fore by mining executives during a webinar about copper where it was highlighted that higher demand for the red metal was an opportunity for the industry to improve its image by adopting more socially-conscious practices.
Ruben Fernandes, base metals CEO for Anglo American Company said miners have to take the health and environment of members of the mining communities into consideration during mining operations, adding that the industry now had an opportunity to build alliances with governments and populations to improve their relationships and image.
Recounting some of the dangers of the hazardous implications of mining to the communities, he noted that two Vale SA dam bursts in a four-year period killed hundreds of people and caused extensive environmental damage in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, drawing attention to issues of safety and risk.He also mentioned that in other mining communities, the industry is grappling with pollution, deforestation and labor disputes.
Mark Travers, Vale’s base metals director, said the higher demand for copper was an opportunity for mining industries to do the right thing and work with local communities towards adopting sustainable practices.
He said the company’s copper projects had synergies with its iron ore operations and its shared infrastructure will facilitate a safer and more sustainable operation.
Reacting to the rising demand for copper, Fernandes said it remained unclear whether the copper was entering a new “super cycle” as the metal’s value climbed to almost a decade-high in March.
Eduardo Bartolomeo, Vale CEO also said the company had a bullish outlook for the metal and intended to accelerate copper projects in the Carajas region, in the state of Para, Brazil, where the company has its largest iron ore mines.
Juan Benevides,, chairman of Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, also said he expected demand for copper to keep rising over the next three to four years.