Despite supply risks and possible rising future demand, the U.S. is not following Europe’s classification.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has denied bipartisan requests to include copper in the list of critical minerals which is updated every three years. Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema has led requests from both political parties since February, urging the Department of the Interior to designate copper as a critical mineral in interest of national security. According to the Copper Development Association Inc. (CDA), a loose U.S.-based association of the global copper industry with members such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Freeport-McMoRan, the USGS has now told congressmen and senators that the commodity has not yet reached the status to qualify as a critical mineral.
The CDA criticizes the decision, referring to the EU’s inclusion of copper into its list of strategic raw materials in March despite not meeting thresholds to qualify as critical. The association, furthermore, argues that copper’s supply risk score is currently above the threshold for automatic inclusion on the 2022 Critical Minerals List, but the USGS list is based on out-of-date data from 2014 to 2018.
The CDA is not the only organization critical of the USGS’ decision. Only last year, the financial services group S&P Global had forecast a doubling of copper demand within the next ten years (we reported). Rising demand in fields from cables and generators of wind and solar energy projects to electric vehicles could stretch the supply beyond capacities. This could jeopardize the transition towards clean energy and the combat against climate change. S&P Global hence urged policymakers to approve new projects and promote innovations in the field.