Recently gold prices have been up, but another metal connects countries around the world and provides insight into future economic and global trends. This metal happens to be copper and unlike gold, copper is not often viewed as a glamorous commodity. However, its practical use in water pipes, electrical wiring, computer circuit boards, and other electronic gadgets makes copper a valuable resource. Today the world’s copper mines are booming as copper prices continue to rise dramatically.
Copper mines in Zambia have grown tremendously since 2003 when copper prices were well below $2,000 per ton. Now with prices up to $9,400 a ton, copper mines in Zambia are digging further into the earth to reach the deepest ore. Workers from other countries are noticing the profits that can be made by mining copper in Zambia. Most miners are Zambians but the technical equipment workers are usually from South Africa and the managers from India. Many copper mines integrate workers from various countries with a shared goal of increasing output as prices rise.
The key to the rise in copper prices is soaring Asian demand. Many consumers in Asia want modern houses with up-to-date wiring and plumbing. The demand for technological accessories and new cars is also rising in Asia. All of these items use copper in some way so naturally copper is in huge demand. In 2005, China accounted for 22 percent of global copper consumption and in 2009 this figure was nearly doubled at 39 percent. Copper mines are trying to keep pace but these numbers are expected to rise even further. From a sustainability standpoint, the booming of copper mines may present some problems in the future for the environment and businesses alike.
The supply of copper in the world is not limitless. If the rest of the world consumes half the American per capita rate (1,389 pounds in an average lifetime), copper reserves would be exhausted within 38 years. If this is the case, businesses with products that use copper will have to find an alternative metal if they wish to continue production. This would have tremendous impact on key consumer products as many technological devices use copper. Additionally, copper mines in Zambia have begun digging deeper into the earth to reach more copper disregarding the contamination of vast amounts of underground water. If this continues, these copper mines may greatly affect the already problematic global water supply. However, the good news is these problems can be prevented if recognized early.
This situation regarding copper brings to attention many concerns but also sets a great goal for businesses to achieve. Going forward, sustainability should be a policy that is stressed by all especially for businesses involved in the collection of limited resources. A company with strong social responsibility will no longer make decisions based on short term desires but rather a full picture of long term global implications.