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BHP’s Balhuizen: Copper ‘metal of the future’

Copper has slumped in price.

BHP’s commercial operations boss has said 2017 could be the “tipping point” for electric cars, and the copper sector with them, in an interview with Reuters this week.

BHP chief commercial officer Arnoud Balhuizen reportedly told the news agency on Monday the electric car boom would be massive for copper, but would not impact the oil market for some time.

“In Septmber 2016 we published a blog and we set the question, could 2017 be the year of the electric vehicle revolution,” Balhuizen said.

“The answer is yes … 2017 is the revolution year we have been speaking about. And copper is the metal of the future.”

BHP mines copper in Australia at Olympic Dam, near Roxby Downs in central South Australia. It also majority owns and operates the Escondida and Pampa Norte copper mines in Chile, and has a 34% stake in the Antamina copper mine in Peru.

While electric vehicles are a rapidly growing market, their numbers are still dwarfed by traditional combustion engine vehicles. Electric cars represent just 1 million in a global fleet of 1.1 billion.

But BHP believes that figure could rise to as many as 140 million electric vehicles by 2035.

“The reality is a mid-sized electric vehicle still needs subsidies to compete,” Balhuizen conceded, “so a lot will depend on batteries, on policy, on infrastructure.”

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