Copper prices are low now, but demand and costs could rise

(NewsNation) — The price of copper has gone down by nearly a third since March — but experts are warning that there could be a shortage of the previous metal in the future.

Bloomberg reports that a drop in cost is “masking the potential” that copper could soon be hard to find. Inventories, the news outlet said, are near “historical lows” and price volatility means new mine output could become tighter in the future.

Investors are “selling on fears” that a global recession will stunt demand for copper, Bloomberg said. In Europe, in fact, there is shrinking copper demand, because of a manufacturing recession that came out of an energy crisis, according to Reuters.

However, miners and metal traders say that a massive shortfall will emerge for copper in just a couple of years, as demand for it goes up.

John LaForge, head of real asset strategy at Wells Fargo, told Bloomberg that the market is just reflecting immediate concerns.

“But if you really thought about the future, you can see the world is clearly changing. It’s going to be electrified, and it’s going to need a lot of copper,” LaForge said.

This potential copper crunch is something experts have been warning about for years, Bloomberg said.

An industry-funded study from S&P Global found that net-zero emission goals will double demand for copper to 50 million metric tons annually. An estimate from BloombergNEF says demand will increase by more than 50% from 2022 to 2024, while mine supply growth will peak around 2024.

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Speaking to Kitco News, Rob McEwen, chairman of McEwen Mining, said the price of copper could almost double because of elevated demand for it, as well as new green technology.

“The world wants to electrify the energy transition,” said McEwen in Kitco News. “When you read all the projections of auto manufacturers increasing their electric vehicle production lines … there is not enough copper right now to satisfy that demand.”

Goldman Sachs, according to Bloomberg, forecasts that the benchmark London Metal Exchange price will almost double to an average of $15,000 a ton in 2025 — although these forecasts depend on governments reaching their clean energy targets to fight climate change.

However, there is a way prices could go down: higher costs could push clean-energy industries to find ways to reduce metals consumption or seek alternatives. Scrap supply can also fill production gaps, one Bloomberg analyst, Sung Choi, said. In addition, more copper being used can open up more opportunities for recycling, such as when electric vehicles are “scrapped,” Bloomberg wrote.

Another key driver of prices going up or down will be the outlook for demand from China, which is the world’s biggest metals consumer. Should China’s property sector shrink significantly, there will be much less copper demand, Timna Tanners, an analyst at Wolfe Research, told the publication.