NEW YORK Copper demand is expected to rise as its use is embraced in new industries, including alternative energy, according to a PolyMet Mining Corp. executive.
The Hoyt Lakes, Minn.-based junior miner is still developing its NorthMet copper-nickel-platinum mine in Minnesota, which could be in production as early as 2016, Brad Moore, executive vice president of environmental and government affairs, said during the New York Society of Security Analysts 14th annual Metals and Mining Industry Conference.
The global percentage of reserve- and resource-grade copper being produced by the worlds 30 largest copper mines has been decreasing, Moore said, citing a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce junior copper report in April. "The percentages are dropping, so well be seeing good demand for our concentrate," he said.
While the amount of copper being used in such markets as plumbing and telephones might be falling, copper is now being used in large quantities for wind energy production, solar energy and hybrid cars, Moore said, adding that Minnesota is a major producer of windmills and energy.
"Copper demand will continue to be robust, but there will be a change in the product mix," he said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is performing another review of NorthMets supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS) as the previous draft did not indicate there were enough wells in place at the mine, Moore said, adding that the company should have the draft approved this summer and once the EIS process is complete it should take 15 months for the mine to begin production.
Production at NorthMet was originally slated to begin in 2010 but the operation has been beset by permitting delays (amm.com, Dec. 24, 2008). The company expects to produce 72 million pounds of copper annually in the first five years.