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U.S. Department of Energy Adds Copper to its List of Critical Materials

 by Jack McLellan,

Copper Added as a Critical Mineral

In its latest assessment, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) added copper to its list of critical materials in the medium term due to projected demands as the U.S. shifts towards cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind. Copper’s addition to this list makes it eligible for government subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act.

What are Critical Materials?

The U.S. Department of Energy defines critical materials as any non-fuel mineral, element, substance, or material that:

  • Has a high risk of supply chain disruption
  • Serves an essential function in one or more energy technologies
  • Technologies that create, transmit, reserve, or conserve energy
  • The Secretary of the Interior defines critical minerals as any mineral, element, or substance designated as critical.

The critical materials assessment is updated every three years to ensure the supply chain operates smoothly in the coming years so we can keep up with the material demands as we transition to cleaner energy sources and material demands naturally increase. Sustainable technologies on the rise, such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicle motors, are creating demand for more precious metals- including copper.

What is Copper Used For?

Copper is used in various applications, including electrical wires, home appliances, and jewelry. Copper is the second most conductive material after silver. This, alongside its malleability and corrosion resistance, makes it one of the best contenders for electrical wiring and applications.

Copper is an essential component in renewable energy sources like wind turbines and ​​copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) photovoltaic cells (more commonly known as solar panels). Both of these are becoming more affordable and more common in day-to-day use. Approximately one metric ton of copper is used in all wind turbine motors and wiring.

Copper as a Critical Mineral: The Future of Copper MiningCritical mineral matrix for the US in the medium term

While copper is not yet a critical mineral, as seen in this projection created by the U.S. Department of Energy, it will be a critical mineral in the medium term (2025-2035). This timeline is approaching quickly, so it’s crucial to begin preparing for increased copper demands in advance.

Currently, copper mining in the U.S. is primarily done in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. According to Statista, from 2018-2021, the U.S. got 64% of its imported copper from Chile, with Canada and Mexico being the other primary sources. However, as copper demands continue to increase, the U.S. will need to focus more on mining copper from U.S. mines or importing additional copper. 

Keep Up with Copper Demands with General Kinematics Mining Equipment

As the demand for copper and other critical minerals increases, mining companies must have quality equipment to screen and sort minerals efficiently. General Kinematics manufactures industry-leading mining equipment, such as the STM-SCREEN™ Two-mass vibratory screen, to help you maximize your throughput while minimizing maintenance. To stay ahead of the demand curve for copper, contact GK’s mining experts today.

Jack McLellan

Marketing Coordinator

Jack specializes in creating compelling digital marketing content such as social media, blog posts, newsletters, and more. He works with General Kinematics industry experts to develop educational content for the foundry, recycling, mining, and aggregate industries.