The energy transition is fueling skyrocketing demand for copper, an essential metal for renewables, batteries, and other climatetech.

But supply isn’t keeping up. There’s more than enough copper in the earth’s known reserves to supply our growing demand for the metal, but supply is stagnating due to rising extraction costs and decades-long lead times to open new mines.

A July 2022 report from S&P Global predicts that demand could begin to exceed supply in just a few years.. Without action, a growing supply gap could last into the 2050s, hampering the speed and scale of the transition.

What can we do about it?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Cristóbal Undurraga, the CEO of copper mining technology company Ceibo. They talk about the causes of stagnating supply and the technologies that could help increase production. 

They cover topics like:

  • Energy usage and carbon emissions in copper supply chains
  • The limitations of scrap recycling to meet growing demand
  • The geopolitics of copper supply chains, including China’s major role in smelting
  • The pros and cons of the two major copper extraction methods – concentration and electrolysis
  • The two major types of ore – copper oxides and copper sulfides, and why one is so much harder to mine
  • The long lead times to build new mines and why constructing new ones isn’t easy
  • Ceibo’s approach to increase mine capacity using novel electrolysis technology for copper sulfides

Recommended Resources:

  • S&P Global: The Future of Copper
  • The Economist: Copper is the missing ingredient of the energy transition
  • Bloomberg: The Green Energy Transition Has a Chilean Copper Problem

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Support for Catalyst comes from Climate Positive, a podcast by HASI, that features candid conversations with the leaders, innovators, and changemakers who are at the forefront of the transition to a sustainable economy. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Catalyst is supported by Scale Microgrids, the distributed energy company dedicated to transforming the way modern energy infrastructure is designed, constructed, and financed. Distributed generation can be complex. Scale makes it easy. Learn more: