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Dr. Demetrios Constantinides: “Copper Drives The Green Revolution”

Dr. Demetrios Constantinides: “Copper Drives The Green Revolution”

Historically, mining, especially for copper, contributed to the technological and social advancement of the island through the introduction of technology and scientific expertise, as well as the creation of infrastructure. Following a 50-year break, mining is experiencing a revival today, spearheaded by copper, the metal that will drive the green economy, according to Dr Demetrios Constantinides, a geologist and a Board member of Venus Minerals, a Cyprus-based company focusing on the exploration and development of copper-gold assets. Growing up during the mining industry’s heyday, Dr Constantinides has captured copper’s historical as well as future importance for Cyprus, in his recently published booklet, Aes Cyprium.

1. Is it fair to say that you had a personal relationship with mining before making it your occupation?

Indeed. My father used to be a miner in Kalavasos, very close to the community where I was born, Skarinou. The sparkling pyrite samples he gifted me at the age of three, fascinated me so much that when I was 19, I moved to Prague to study geology at Charles University. For my doctoral dissertation I chose to examine a mine in the Czech Republic with similar geological features to the deposits of Cyprus.

2. What led you to write Aes Cyprium?

On the one hand, a chance discussion I had with Kyriaki Costa of the Non-Profit Cultural Foundation of Faneromeni 70, and on the other, the personal need to share some of my knowledge with as many people as possible, while promoting the important "weapon" of the sea-girt Cyprus. One of those "weapons" that are not deadly and can also create value and prosperity for our country.

3. Historically, when did copper mining start in Cyprus?

It is as old as the island’s history. The discovery of rich deposits on the northern slope of the Troodos Mountains led to its exploitation and processing during the Bronze Age (3900-2500 BC), initially in locations such as Ampeliko and Aletri, and subsequently, in many other areas. Cyprus was a leading producer of copper until the end of the Roman Period (330 AD). During the so-called Late Bronze Age, there were intense mining and processing activities in almost all major production centres of the "red metal", such as Engomi, Kiti, Hala Sultan Tekke, Palepafos and Maronio. This was also the case in smaller settlements, such as Alassa and Kalavasos.

4. What were its uses at that time? Was it exported to other countries?

It was mainly used for the production of agricultural and medical tools, weapons and personal items. Copper was the reason why humans abandoned stone as a primitive tool. The export of the Cypriot Metal (Aes Cyprium), as the Romans called it, was what made Cyprus world-famous, and it was the main reason why the great powers of the past were interested in colonising the island. The Uluburun shipwreck, which was discovered in 1982 off the southwestern coast of Turkey, contained more than ten tonnes of Cypriot bronze talents dating back to the late 14th century BC; something that demonstrates how important Cyprus was for world trade during ancient times.

5. When and why did mining stop?

The fall of the Roman Empire signalled the end of the thousand-year history of copper mining in Cyprus. In my view, there are two main reasons: a) all the surface and shallow deposits of the so-called mixed sulphide ores had been depleted, and b) because later conquerors had not fully understood the value and importance of the metal. Of course, Cyprus’ copper industry was revived in the 20th century AD. The main deposits that were exploited were those of Limni and Foukassa (Skouriotissa). In 1919 the Cyprus Mines Corporation found the largest and richest deposit ever discovered on the island, that of Mavrovouni. Its reserves were estimated at 17 million tonnes of ore, with an average copper grade of about 4.5%.

Subsequently, the deposits in the areas of Sia-Mathiatis and Kalavasos were discovered and were later exploited by the Hellenic Mining Company. The period between 1950 and 1970 was the golden age of Cyprus’ mining industry, with mineral exports comprising about 50% of the country’s total exports. The fall in prices, the depletion of known deposits and the failure to locate new ones, led to the gradual fall of the mining industry. The Turkish invasion of 1974 however, led to the sharp and sudden decline of mining on the island, since quite a few mining and processing plants were located on the north side of the island.

6. How much copper is left in Cyprus?

Estimating the country’s total copper resources is not an easy task. If we are talking about geological resources, based on the modelling of various geoscientific data, but also the results of recent explorations, they amount to several hundred million tonnes of ore with an average grade that allows us to predict that they will be economically viable. Of course, in most cases, these deposits are found deep below the earth’s surface, requiring underground mining and therefore significant investment. However, the current price of copper and its forecasted further increase, due to the strategic role of the metal in the green and circular economy, makes us confident that there are interested investors. A typical example is the joint venture between Venus Minerals and Hellenic Copper Mines for the development of the copper mine in Apliki.

7. Where is copper used today and how important is it for the green growth / economy?

I would say it is everywhere.

  • In our offices and homes. It brings us electricity and water, it transports us everywhere by cars, trains and planes, since it is used in the wiring of vehicles, and all means of transport.
  • Almost 70% of copper produced is used in electrical applications. In cables of all types: telephone systems, electric power and telecommunications. In domestic and industrial wiring.
  • Copper is a crucial metal for electric vehicles.
  • It is the metal that literally unites us: it can be found in our mobile phones, televisions and computers.
  • It protects us from viruses - even from COVID.
  • The Digital Transformation, Circular Economy and Green Growth will be based on Aes Cyprium. Copper can be recycled infinitely without losing its properties and performance, while recycling requires up to 85% less energy than primary production.
  • It has a key role in renewable energy systems for the production of solar, hydroelectric, thermal, and wind power.

I dare say that copper is the leader of the Green Revolution that will create the environment people deserve.

8. Have new mining methods been developed that are more environmentally friendly?

It is true that the mining activity of the past left a significant environmental footprint, however, modern mining methods have changed radically. In particular, modern mining companies, such as Venus Minerals, use advanced exploration, mining and processing methods, specifically designed to minimize environmental impact and maximise efficiency. The standards we apply can be compared with those in the most demanding markets; areas with mature industries such as Scandinavia, North America and Australia. At Venus Minerals we remain committed to maintaining high environmental standards. We consider it our responsibility and duty, both towards the environment and society.

 

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