SMM: Evert Swanepoel, executive chairman of the African Copper Development Association (CDAA), said in an interview that due to the limited domestic copper production in South Africa, South Africa should give priority to the recycling of waste copper to ensure adequate copper stocks as the economy shifts to a more energy-efficient economy and is less dependent on fossil fuels.
2/3 of the world's copper is still "in use," he said at an industry conference focusing on renewable energy technologies and the use of copper in the electric vehicle industry.
But he also pointed out that South Africa's copper supply was increasingly in short supply because only the Palabora copper mine was still operating to supply the domestic market.
Evert Swanepoel said the mine was nearing its useful life, while a planned new copper mine in the town of Prieska in the Northern Cape, developed by prospector and developer Orion Minerals, was scheduled to start production in 2023.
Evert Swanepoel said that as South Africa exports large amounts of waste copper to overseas recyclers, domestic copper supply is further strained.
This, he says, leaves the country with two options. "We can import copper raw materials or we can use recycled copper."
He points out that recycled copper is relatively more popular with South African manufacturers because it requires much less energy to melt and recycle copper than using native copper to produce products. "but the biggest problem is that the South African government currently allows the export of renewable copper materials to all parts of the world."
Evert Swanepoel said CDAA has been working with the government to help domestic metal recyclers.
"CDAA spent about 30 per cent of its time trying to persuade the government to keep scrap copper in South Africa."
The group's lobbying seems to have worked. South Africa issued an announcement on July 3 to stop the export of scrap copper.
But he said the move was based in part on a series of export restrictions related to New Crown pneumonia, suggesting that the campaign may not last forever.
South Africa is also benefiting from the growing electric vehicle industry, he said, with fossil fuel vehicles shifting to hybrid vehicles, especially to pure electric vehicles, around the world.
Local OEMs will eventually turn to meet the growing international demand for electric vehicles, which means South Africa will need more copper to make electric cars.
He pointed out that traditional fossil fuel vehicles contain about 25 kg of copper per vehicle, while hybrid vehicles contain about 50 kg of copper per vehicle, and pure electric vehicles contain about 75 kg of copper per vehicle.
These factors mean that copper will become an increasingly important commodity for the transition from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon economy. In addition, renewable energy power generation technologies also need to increase the use of copper.
Evert Swanepoel points out that about 70 per cent of copper is currently used in the power industry.
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