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BHP COO touts importance of copper

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BHP chief operating officer Edgar Basto detailed the important role copper will play in the future at the 2023 Austmine conference and exhibition on May 10.

Basto delivered the event’s opening address, where he touched on three key objectives: delivering safe and reliable operations, integrating the BHP and OZ Minerals businesses with a focus on people and culture, and most prominently the importance of copper for the future.

Basto spoke about copper and how the world can utilise the element to drive energy transition forward.

“We expect global demand for copper to increase significantly as the world transitions to lower carbon sources of energy powered by more solar panels and wind turbines,” Basto said.

“We have in front of us the opportunity to create a new copper province for South Australia that is globally first class. It can bring new jobs, new skills, local business opportunities and economic growth for this State.”

Basto said as the global demand for copper increases, global competition for investment to meet that demand will increase.

“We are seeing this in places like the US and Canada, which have brought in new policies and strategies to attract major investment in critical minerals,” Basto said, adding that inflation rises and global supply chain pressures such as the price of fuel, shipping, and labour are challenges every copper producer is currently facing.

Basto spoke about electric vehicles (EVs) possibly accounting for nearly 60 per cent of global annual car sales by 2030 and nearly all sales by 2050.

“EVs use around three to four times more copper than petrol-based cars,” Basto said.

“We often associate EV batteries with nickel and lithium, but they also require more copper – around three to four times more than an internal combustion vehicle.”

Basto said that BHP was in a good position to lead this transition, as it is already a top three global producer of copper and it has the largest copper endowment of any company, based on ownership interest.

“We also added to our copper assets in SA with the acquisition of OZ Minerals, bringing their mines at Carrapateena and Prominent Hill into our portfolio,” Basto said.

“We have operated Escondida in Chile, the largest copper mine in the world for more than 30 years… Every year, Escondida mines enough material to fill the Adelaide Oval to the roof 80 times, and produces enough copper to produce around 12 million electric vehicles.”

Basto said according to Geoscience Australia, Australia is ranked number 2 in the world for copper resources but number 8 in the world for mined copper production.

“Last year, BHP produced more than 1.5 million tonnes of copper globally… The world needs more copper supply to be brought to the market more quickly. We are part of the start of that supply chain,” Basto said.

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