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Copper at the Centre of Renewable Energy Sources

Copper at the Centre of Renewable Energy Sources

An issue that has undoubtedly been kept high on the political agenda, mobilising citizens from all around the world, is climate change. The European Union has embarked on a global fight against climate change, while 187 countries have so far ratified the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. At the same time, at the latest World Economic Forum, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world is running out of time to contain climate change and has already reached out to a few G20 leaders, encouraging them to step up their efforts.

As key stakeholders around the world, such as governments, enterprises and NGOs are increasing their efforts for the protection of the environment, a metal that is considered essential in the fight against climate change is one that has been abundant in Cyprus since ancient times: Copper. Widely used across various industries, copper is a familiar material used in construction while it has the highest electrical and thermal conductive properties than any other commercial metal. It should also be noted that copper is a sustainable material since it is 100% recyclable and can be reused without losing any of its properties.

In recent years especially, demand for copper has grown significantly because of the growing renewable energy sector and the increasing efforts for decarbonization. “Copper is at the center of renewable energy systems that generate power from solar, hydro, thermal and wind energy”, said Peter van der Borgh, Managing Director of Venus Minerals, a leading Cypriot exploration company, currently exploring for deposits of copper and gold on the island. According to Mr. van der Borgh, Venus Minerals applies state-of-the-art exploration, mining and mineral processing methods, engineered to minimise environmental impact and maximise efficiency. He pointed out that many of these new innovative technologies are being applied in Cyprus for the first time and highlighted that the Company does not use cyanide at any stage of its activities.

In 2009, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive committed to fulfill 20% of the Union’s total energy needs with renewables by 2020. In December 2018, the revised renewable energy directive entered into force, establishing a new binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of at least 32%, with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023.

Wind energy plays an important role in renewable energy production in Europe and the rest of the world. However, in order to produce a sufficient number of turbines and achieve the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement, large quantities of raw materials are required, many of which are metals in limited supply. A recent German study, found copper to be one the most important of these metals, as it is an essential element in turbine design. This will lead to higher demand and eventually shortage of supply in the near future.

Cyprus can play an important role

Mr. van der Borgh explained that Cyprus is in a position to take advantage of this growing demand for copper and benefit greatly from the sector’s development. “Although mining in Cyprus has been limited since the ‘70s, there are indications for substantial untapped deposits across the island”, he added. He also stressed that “we have managed to build a comprehensive geoscience database across Cyprus, representing more than €100m of activity at today’s prices. This has enabled us to secure tenure over prime mining and exploration licenses in the most promising areas of the country”.

Venus Minerals’ Managing Director said that copper plays a key role in numerous applications and processes such as the electrification of transportation, the development of home electrical systems while it is the most used element in the telecommunications industry. In fact, the production of electric vehicles is expected to have a significant impact on the demand for copper, since it is an integral component of the electric vehicle technology and its supporting infrastructure. Copper is used in all the parts of electric vehicles, including the engine and battery. Charging stations for electric vehicles also contain copper because of the metal’s high electric conductivity.

Copper also plays an important part in energy automation, like heating and lighting systems and by extension, the creation of the next generation of “smart homes”. At the same time, demand for electricity is growing around the world resulting in the expansion of the electric grid and the integration of solar photovoltaic parks. As a consequence, demand for copper will inevitably increase.

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