Despite an ever-increasing demand for copper, there is more of the metal available today than at any other time in history. This, together with the ability to infinitely recycle copper, means that we are extremely unlikely to deplete our copper supply.
The future availability of minerals is based on the concept of reserves and resources. Reserves are deposits that have been discovered, evaluated and assessed to be profitable. Resources are far larger and include reserves, discovered and potentially profitable deposits and undiscovered deposits predicted based on preliminary geological surveys. Copper is naturally present in the Earth’s crust.
According to the United States Geological Survey, Copper reserves amount to 870 million tonnes, while resources could exceed 5,000 million tonnes (USGS, 2020). It is widely anticipated that current and future exploration of copper will reveal an increase in both reserves and known resources. United States Geological Survey data indicates that since 1950 there has always been around 40 years of copper reserves and over 200 years of resources left.
More detailed information, resources and materials are available on copper recycling, ICA briefing note on copper’s long-term availability and copper stocks and flows.