The future of smart living is copper coloured

A switched-on, hyper-connected world where the so-called ‘internet of things’ will play an integral part – from kitchen appliances taking verbal instructions to other smart-home hi-tech devices interfacing with humans – is driving the ever-increasing demand for copper.

And although Africa is still taking a back-seat when it comes to clever technologies such as Alphabet’s Nest thermostat and Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant, the continent’s Copperbelt area bordering the DRC and Zambia is regarded as an all-important provider of the precious red metal. This is according to investors at the World Copper Conference in Santiago, Chile.

According to industrial data firm, BSRIA, smart homes are already using around 38 000 tonnes of copper but by 2030 that demand is expected to reach 1.5 million tonnes.

On average, a smart home uses about 1000 metres of wiring containing some 20 kilograms of copper and, as more homes the world over turn to smart tech, “we will need more copper,” BSRIA consultant, Meyer Holley, told delegates at the conference.

Wind turbines and electric cars, which use twice the amount of copper as combustible engine vehicles, are also heavily reliant on the world’s most conductive metal.

Moreover, it’s essential for turning the tide on global warming.

“Copper is going to be central to the green revolution,” said analyst Charlie Durant of commodities research company, CRU Group.

Don Lindsay, chief executive of Canadian miner, Teck Resources, added: “We know that the future of a modern, efficient digital world is copper.”

And yet, although port companies like Walvis Bay Corridor Group are focusing its build? efforts on maximising profits through linkages with mining areas around Lubumbashi and Ndola, very little mention was made of the Copperbelt at the conference.

By comparison, interest in up-scaled copper mining activities in America, Indonesia and even Panama stood in stark contrast to the apparent muted enthusiasm about SADC copper.

The jury is out as to why this is the case.

But it can only be assumed that persistent instability issues and logistical complexities dogging the DRC in particular, are holding back the Copperbelt’s output to grow in tandem with rival mines elsewhere in the world.

– Eugene Goddard

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