Green-Energy Transition Could Be Hamstrung by Copper Mining

A new report has found that bottlenecks in copper mining have the potential to slow down America’s transition to renewables. Copper is one of the several “green minerals” that will play a critical role in the global green-energy transition as they serve as raw materials for renewables infrastructure.

However, a University of Michigan study found that America cannot mine copper at the pace it needs to keep up with national green-energy transition and electric-vehicle guidelines. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act requires that automakers replace their entire product lines with electric cars by 2035 as part of the country’s efforts to cut emissions from transportation and mitigate climate change.

But with the average EV requiring around three to five times the amount of copper needed in a conventional gas-powered car, the copper supply chain will likely struggle to provide enough copper. University of Michigan professor of earth and environmental studies Adam Simon says that while 40 pounds of copper are more than enough for an internal combustion engine Honda Accord, an electrified version of the same vehicle will need nearly 200 pounds of copper. Demand for electric grid upgrades will also put more pressure on copper mines over the next decade.

The study’s findings show that it will be virtually impossible for mining companies to produce the amount of copper the United States will need for this transition, Simon says. He and Cornell University researcher Lawrence Cathles studied more than 120 years’ worth of global mining company data before calculating the amount of copper the U.S. would need to build a fleet of battery electric cars and upgrade its energy grid.

Their calculations indicated that mining companies would have to ramp up their production significantly to meet the demand for copper.

Simon explains that the extremely long permitting process for mining companies will largely be to blame for this production shortfall. On average, it can take around 20 years from finding a new copper deposit to finally receiving a permit to construct a mine, meaning miners have no choice but to rely on current mines to fulfill the growing demand for the red metal. More than 100 companies currently mine copper across six continents.

The researchers’ calculations revealed that to meet the usual demand for copper from 2018 to 2050, these companies will have to mine 115% more copper than has been produced in all of human civilization. This would be enough to cover the usual demand for copper without any extra left for the green-energy transition. The world will have to launch six new large copper mines each year over the next couple of decades to meet copper demand from the nascent electric vehicle industry with 40% of this new production going to EV-related electric grid upgrades.

As more manufacturers such as Mullen Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: MULN) ramp up their demand for copper, mining companies could end up dealing directly with those vehicle manufacturers under mutually beneficial terms.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Mullen Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: MULN) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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