U.S. Copper Industry Continues Record Growth

October 15, 1999


NEW YORK- Copper consumption in the United States grew about 30 percent for the period 1992 to 1998-that's a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent, outstripping the growth of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, which was 3.2 percent for the same period.

The USA represents nearly 5 percent of the world's total population; however, it consumes some 24 percent of the world's refined copper output. This amounts to almost 24 pounds per capita, one of the highest levels in the world.

Total 1998 U.S. end-use consumption (copper and copper alloy mill and foundry products to domestic markets), at 8.6 billion pounds, set an all-time record, up 2.0 percent from the 1997 level of 8.5 billion pounds. Consumption levels* for the first seven months of 1999 ran 2.6 percent ahead of last year. If the rate continues, nearly 8.9 billion pounds will be recorded for 1999-the fourth straight record year for U.S. copper and copper alloy consumption.

Copper and its main alloys of brass and bronze are essential to products we all use in our everyday lives. There are more than 450 copper alloys formulated for very basic applications such as wire, water tube and architectural products through such ultra high-tech uses as connectors, semiconductors and aerospace applications.

Building construction in 1998 continued to be the largest end-use market for copper products, accounting for more than two-fifths (41.4 percent or 3,572 million pounds) of total U.S. consumption. Other end-use markets include:

Electrical and electronic products- 26.0 percent (2,247 million pounds)
Transportation equipment- 12.4 percent (1,068 million pounds)
Industrial machinery and equipment- 11.2 percent (967 million pounds)
Consumer and general products- 9.0 percent (782 million pounds)

There's increasing demand for copper tube, brass rod, and electrical and telecommunications wiring stemming from robust activity in the housing, commercial construction, air-conditioning and transportation markets.

Copper maintains an 85 percent market share for water tube nationwide, while virtually all branch wiring in new homes and commercial buildings is solid copper. The growth of the Internet and the consumer and commercial demands for being "connected" is pushing up high-capacity (Category 5) copper wiring installations. Meanwhile, the increased production of automotive vehicles and their increasing reliance on electronics are fueling a surge in copper for wiring harnesses and related devices.

The demand for copper magnet wire (more than 700 million pounds in 1998), used for winding motors and transformers, continues to grow, based on the need for improved electrical energy efficiency in order to achieve America's conservation goals.

Exports to Third World countries, along with innovations in automotive radiators, business electronics, electrical motors and plastic mold tools, among others, are expected to spark greater demands for man's oldest metal in the new millennium.

Recycling counts, too. Not only is the USA the world's largest consumer of copper, it is also the world's largest collector of copper scrap. The USA has the world's largest resource base of copper products-in-use, estimated to exceed 81 million tons of copper. Copper continues to be one of the most highly recycled metals; copper from secondary sources currently accounts for 45 percent of all U.S. consumption.

(* 1999 consumption levels are based on CDA and American Bureau of Metal Statistics data.)