Spatial distribution of copper in-use stocks and flows in China: 1978–2016

Hao, M.; Wang, P; Song L.-L.; Dai, M.; Ren, Y; and Chen, W.-Q.

Journal of Cleaner Production, 2020, 261: 121260.

Given copper mineral is becoming rarer and harder to obtain, China needs to find alternative sources to meet its future demand. Copper in-use stocks are potential reservoirs accessible for urban mining. Thus, detailed analyses of domestic copper in-use stocks and flows are required, especially for a high-resolution mapping of the spatio-temporal distribution of copper stocks and flows in China. This paper firstly constructs the China’s provincial copper in-use stocks (CPCS) database by compiling around 74 types of copper-containing products in 31 provinces from 1978 to 2016, and estimates copper in-use stocks, demand, and scrap generation in each province. Results indicate that (1) the total copper in-use stocks in China is about 90 MMT (million metric tons) in 2016, which is around four times as much as China’s copper ore reserves; (2) Per-capita copper in-use stocks increased from 14 kg in 1978 to 75 kg in 2016 with large regional disparity across the whole country, and is still below the western nations’ level; (3) Total copper scrap generation increased rapidly from 0.003 MMT in 1979 to 1.50 MMT in 2016, mainly in the eastern coastal region, indicating that the time window for copper urban mining is opening in the region. This study can help clarify the location, amount, and category of copper in-use stocks available for future urban mining, and tailor more regional-specific resource and waste management policies for sustainable copper management in China.

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