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Exploration targeting for copper reserves, not resources

- By: John P Sykes
Posted in: Blog, Conferences, Exploration, PhD


Yesterday I presented at the AusIMM New Leaders Conference in Perth, Australia, on the subject of my PhD research: Finding the copper mine of tomorrow: Exploration targeting for copper reserves, not resources. Below is my abstract. The presentation can be found here:

Finding the copper mine of tomorrow – Sykes – Aug 2014 – AusIMM New Leaders Conference from John Sykes

Copper is an important component of the modern economy, however, total copper “resources”, and both the size and number of copper deposits are finite. For this reason, the copper mining industry sees its long-term future through the concept of resource depletion. In recent years, the previously opposing “opportunity cost” and “sustainable development” resource depletion paradigms have converged on a “controlling idea”, about the long term future of the copper industry. Under these paradigms, the “copper of mine of tomorrow” is a large, low-grade deposit, facing “sustainable development” problems and requiring higher copper prices (the “opportunity cost”) to become “economic”. As a result, the copper industry needs radical innovation and technological development in mining and processing to mitigate these problems. This assumes, by implication, only a minimal role for exploration in the future of the copper industry. In this future, copper exploration merely outlines further, ever-lower quality copper “resources”. In response to this “controlling idea” an alternate hypothesis is offered, suggesting that the ‘development problem’ is a ‘discovery problem’. Thus it is important to investigate whether exploration can help mitigate resource depletion and sustainability problems, by opening up new “search space” and unveiling high-quality copper deposits with the potential for both “economic” and “sustainable development”. In this case, the “copper mine of tomorrow” would be a high quality, as yet, undiscovered deposit, which can meet the twin goals of “economic” and “sustainable development”.