BUT … they have to be pre-1982, because that was the last of 100% pure copper American pennies. Otherwise Australian author Robin Bromby says we’d be better off sending them gold, which – as it hasn’t fallen below $1100/ounce in over three years – would be more valuable to those needy Norwegians.
Norway had been a major copper smelter from the bronze age through medieval times, it was only recently discovered from unearthed ruins. For centuries after, they imported virtually all their copper. When they finally started mining again in earnest, in the mid-1960s, things were looking up again til copper production peaked in 1985 at over 65 million lbs. annually. Five years later it was still over 50 million lbs. Then it came to an abrupt and total halt in 2004.
The price of copper on the open market is currently 50% more to DOUBLE what it costs to take it out of the ground and yet despite increasing demand due to electric vehicles (EVs) and other so-called green tech, it stays IN THE GROUND in the face of limited production supply. Regulation based on environmental obstructionism is one reason. Hoarding by producing countries (topped by, among others, Russia and China) is another, which was partially offset by some industries such as electronics switching to silver, then gold, then other even rarer elemental minerals and unhappily not-quite-yet gases (after almost 50 years of trying). So it’s not looking good for Silicon Valley to the rescue.
Copper remains, and likely will, the best conductor for things like heavy-user EVs, and even thinning wire gauge in half or recycling (the greens’ incessant cry) cannot offset the coming demand avalanche.
Norway recently proudly announced that 1 in every 3 cars sold in 2018 was an EV. That means all that copper was again imported, rather than self-sustaining, since they are out of the copper mining business, only the tip of the precipitated crisis iceberg.
An upcoming op-ed I penned for Heartland Institute takes the looming dilemma a mile’s drive farther. Norway’s 50,000 car sales in 2018 pale in comparison to California’s goal for 5,000,000 EVs to hit the highway by 2030. That would require over 15% of the most-recently known world copper production for just one-half of one-percent of the world’s population (those greedy Californians). China predicts that same number by next year alone on top of consuming more than 40% of the world’s copper already. Many experts see demand soon outstripping ALL production, sending prices soaring out of this – endangered – world.
Where will Norway get all its copper so that the other 2/3 of its population can drive instead of ski (which apparently for them is only downhill, like their copper mining)? What will it take to cost-justify mining copper again – not even the ultimate cost – the loss of the planet?
Back to Bromby Basics
Perhaps we should take a bit more sage wisdom from Bromby, the Sydney-based mining journalist whose column, The Outcrop, is currently carried worldwide by a London-based publisher with almost 200 years in the business. He incorporates his over 30 years of experience in a recently published book, Gold Always Wins: How the Yellow Metal Defies Its Critics, which among other salient facts, talks about how gold is a little-realized by-product of copper mining, almost 40% of it acquired that way.
Bromby’s easy-read tome is full of many fun-damental facts (“#2 – It’s All About China”) besides just the investment side, but it always comes back to understanding the value of mining for minerals, rather than bitcoins or data. Are the fervent green believers willing and able to put aside their bias against mining to preserve their cause and the planet? They should be the biggest backers. There might even be some gold at the end of that copper rainbow to pay for all the other tech they seem to think will save us.
Gold mined for gold’s sake alone currently suffers the opposite fate, despite its sometimes substitution for copper. Gold contracts are hovering at a per-oz price of around $1200, not by happenstance as this is the now-cost of mining it separately. It hasn’t exceeded $1300 in over a year, not but twice in five, making it a stable safe haven in bad times and good both, but as incentive to mine by itself may never see its decade-ago all-time high of $1800 ever again thanks to bitcoin mania. Then again, as Bromby advises, that could be exactly why we should be investing in gold – instead of crypto, down more than 80% in just a year.
Even More Elemental
Mr. Bromby, though not a geologist, metallurgist or financial tout, also gives us a prequel primer, The Mining Investor’s Handbook, which explains the boom and bust cycles created in the mining industry by such governmental-induced folly. He reminds us that mining is as ancient as, well the Bronze Age; as rapidly as technology changes, so do our requirements for specific minerals; that ultimately minerals are finite, and we’ve been using them for thousands of years; that the highest grade ore is always used up first; and last, but certainly not least, the high financial risk taken by investors and miners to explore and mine the tiny minerals that eventually make their way into our EVs, smartphones, aircraft and wind turbines, and myriad life-reliant convenience devices like solar and batteries, among other more lifesaving medical ones – is usually a losing proposition.
This is fortuitous because it is just the business case needed for a new policy book I co-authored with renowned geologist Dr. Ned Mamula, US administration adviser and Congressional advocate. Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence details America’s growing import reliance on China and other dubiously friendly countries for rare earths and critical minerals, as well as what we need for our 21st century clean energy goals: copper.
Groundswell Needed for Norway’s Sake
Yes, we could send Norway pre-1982 pennies, but UNICEF would likely suffer and what would the kiddies do for Halloween besides get sick on candy? Instead, with help from leading organizations like Heartland, experts like Bromby and Mamula, and even the bravest long-sighted environmentalists who want to do something now to save the planet … WE COULD MINE.
Modern mining techniques are clean and safe for both humans and the environment, unlike in third-world countries, unrestricted by China’s hegemony. Not only would we have enough copper for all our cars, but our smartphones wouldn’t be at risk, nor our national and economic security. What could possibly go wrong if we don’t pursue mineral independence? My well-researched fictional account in the Silicon Valley novel, Rare Mettle, paints an ugly picture about what might happen if we don’t and allow our fate to be controlled by imperialists like China.
Just ask Apple Computer what that’s like – ouch!
The non-fake news that inspired this piece: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-autos/norways-electric-cars-zip-to-new-record-almost-a-third-of-all-sales-idUSKCN1OW0YP
For more information on all of the above, visit my website, authorannbridges.wordpress.com.