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BHP Billiton expects electric cars to drive a surge in demand for copper
November 1, 2016

The expected rise in electric vehicles and other renewable energy technologies could prove to be beneficial for some of the world’s largest mining companies because of the amount of copper needed for the vehicles.

At a at a conference in Shanghai hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Fiona Wild, BHP Billiton’s vice president, sustainability and climate change said BHP expects there will be a surge in demand for copper because of the move to electric vehicles (EV).

“As you see more renewables and EVs, we also will see an impact on copper demand,” Wild, said. “EVs at the moment have about 80 kilograms of copper in them. As they become more efficient, you see a greater amount of copper in those vehicles, so there’s always upside for copper.”

Bloomberg reported that one million electric vehicles were sold between 2010 and 2015, largely driven by regulatory mandates in important auto markets including the US, China and Europe, BNEF said last month. By 2020, about 2.2 million electric vehicles will be sold globally, up from 460,000 expected in 2016, according to the research company. Electric vehicles require a lot more copper wiring than standard internal combustion engines.

“As a powerful offset to substitution, copper is superbly placed to benefit from expanded end use demand on the back of observed trends in technology, which we expect will become material from around the middle 2020s,” Vicky Binns, vice president, marketing minerals, wrote on BHP Billiton’s website on Oct. 31.

Copper usage in electric cars will contribute to China’s demand growing at about 3.3 percent a year up to 2020, according to the government’s Five-Year Plan for the metals industry published by the ministry of industry and information technology last month.

Demand for metals in lightweight transportation and new energy vehicles is part of a “new normal” for metals as the economy slows, the ministry said. The country became the world’s biggest copper consumer amid a construction boom and build-up of the electricity grid.

BHP Billiton has invested several hundreds of millions of dollars since 2007 in the research and development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gases, including carbon capture, it said in a report last year. The technology that would catch gases from fossil-fuel plants and could become commercially viable in the next 15 to 25 years depending on government policies, it said at the time.

The Paris climate accord negotiated last year, which seeks to limit temperature increases from pre-industrial levels to well below 2 degrees Celsius, is “more substantial and ambitious,” than expected, BHP said in a statement earlier this month.

“People often think of energy challenges in terms of coal and oil and gas,” BHP’s Wild said. “But it’s much broader than that.”

 

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