Phelps Dodge Corp.'s chief executive says that increased consumption of copper will produce stable prices at profitable levels for low-cost producers in the 1990s.
Douglas C. Yearley, Phelps Dodge chairman and president, said that use of copper in Asia, Eastern Europe and possibly South America will grow from expansion of telecommunications systems, construction of homes and demand for new cars.In the United States, demand will rise due to increased use of copper in cars and homes, Yearley told the American Copper Council.
U.S. consumption of copper wire in buildings rose 60 percent over the last 10 years, he said. Single-family homes now use 422 pounds of copper, primarily wire and plumbing tube, up from 230 pounds in 1980, he said.
Yearley said the average new American automobile has 50 pounds of copper, up from 30 pounds in 1980, thanks partly to expanded use of small motors for power options. Demand will rise if clean-air regulations increase the market for electric cars, Yearley said.
For the copper industry, the 1990s will more closely resemble the prosperous 1960s than the problem-filled '70s and early '80s, he said. Copper prices dipped sharply in the late 1970s, putting some producers out of business in the early 1980s, then shot to record levels in the late '80s before steadying in the past two years.