In 2000, 60% of global copper consumption was directly related to its electrical conductivity properties. The balance was accounted for by its properties of thermal conductivity, machinability, malleability, aesthetics and signal transfer. However, by 2018, electrical conductivity had grown to represent 79% of the over 30Mt of world copper demand in all forms (refined consumption and direct scrap use).
Roskill has published its first major analysis of the copper market with its Copper Demand to 2035 report. The market outlook is built around a totally new and unique global industry reference data set covering the 2014–2018 period. This contains a detailed production, export, import and apparent consumption analysis for each of the eleven major markets for semi‑manufactures that comprises world copper demand. Roskill has used this analysis to verify historical time series statistics of apparent and reported refined consumption and to calculate new unique series of direct scrap use volumes that are now the most comprehensive and accurate available to the industry.
These numbers can only be derived from extensive analysis of the consumption side of the industry, since two-thirds of world copper scrap volumes are used by fabricators and only one-third by smelters and refiners. Roskill’s insights generate strong evidence to suggest that world direct scrap volumes are significantly underestimated. They are in fact a much larger and more volatile component of total consumption requirements and one that impacts cathode demand and copper prices quite fundamentally. One clear conclusion is that the industry is actually recycling more metal than it believes, which strengthens copper’s credentials as a greener and more sustainable raw material.
Based on this original perspective, it is clear that total global copper demand (refined copper consumption and direct use scrap) easily exceeded 30Mt in 2018 and that as a result, world consumption per capita has now reached the 4kg level, a major industry achievement. Roskill believes that historic assessments of world market size have been too low, due to faster underlying growth in some of the emerging markets where statistical coverage is at best partial and sometimes totally absent. In these countries, accurate data can only be compiled from expert industry knowledge backed up by on the ground fieldwork.
The report contains data for the world’s 23 largest national consuming markets and nine aggregates for the smaller sub-regions to give global coverage. Statistical data is presented in both gross weight and copper content terms. Annual forecasts are provided for all of the 11 major semi-manufactures and consumption metrics to 2025 and then five‑year point estimates for 2030 and 2035. The report identifies which countries are expected to benefit most from future consumption growth, and those that will gain little or even decline. Based on the projections, Roskill believes that world total copper consumption might exceed 43Mt by 2035, implying per capita consumption of 5kg by that date. Driven by population and GDP growth, urbanisation and electricity demand, applications utilising copper’s excellent electrical and heat transfer properties will account for the overwhelming proportion of world volume growth. Electric vehicles and associated network infrastructure are just one facet of this and may contribute between 3.1–4.0Mt of net growth by 2035. Direct use scrap use will fulfil a greater proportion of the total, but the expansion in the requirements for refined copper will remain substantial; fuelling the need for the next generation of brownfield expansions and greenfield mine projects.