MELBOURNE, July 3 (UPI) -- Existing copper resources can sustain demand for at least a century, Australian researchers say, contradicting predictions supplies would run out in 30 years.
Scientists from Monash University, conducting the most systematic analysis of worldwide copper resources to date, said there are plenty of resources within the reach of current technologies.
That means social and environmental concerns could be the most likely restrictions on future production rather than any worries about the scarcity of copper ore, they said.
"Workers' rights, mining impacts on cultural lands, issues of benefit sharing and the potential for environmental degradation are already affecting the viability of copper production and will increasingly come into play," researcher Gavin Mudd of Monash's school of environmental engineering said.
The environmental impact of ongoing copper mining must be taken into account, he said.
"Pressingly, we need to acknowledge that with existing copper resources we're not just going to be dealing with the production of a few million tons of tailings from mining a century ago; we are now dealing with a few billion tons or tens of billions of tons of mine waste produced during modern mining," Mudd said in a university release Wednesday.
The researchers said they hope to create similar resource measurement for other metals such as nickel, uranium, rare earths, cobalt and others in order to paint a comprehensive picture of worldwide mineral availability.