Copper had a strong presence at this year’s CRU Wire & Cable Conference—which took place 11 to 12 June in Brussels—through European Copper Institute and producers Aurubis and Sarkuysan.

Bernard Respaut of ECI presented on the key role of copper in wire and cable, remarking that there is a potential increase of at least 500 kilotonnes per year in a 2,000 kilotonne per year market. He outlined the key contributions copper can make to the clean energy transition, including that copper is a high-performance material, widely available and responsibly sourced, which closes the loop. He said ECI will continue to defend the interests of the copper value chain via:

  • The EU Emissions Trading System
  • The Clean Energy Package
  • The 2050 Roadmap for a carbon-neutral Europe
  • Chemical management in Europe (REACH)
  • Product Environmental Footprinting
  • Circular Economy

Moreover, he sees multiple opportunities to increase collaboration between the cable and copper sectors, initially through the development of a concrete roadmap.

Stefan Groener of Aurubis spoke on the sustainability of copper, highlighting its importance in terms of energy and resource efficiency. He drew attention to the fact that copper recycling requires about 80 percent less energy than primary production over the lifecycle, and that copper recycling saves about 40 million tons of CO2 per year. Copper is thus an essential metal for a sustainable future.

The Copper Mark for responsible sourcing was introduced. This new assurance system for responsible copper production aims to demonstrate and improve the industry’s contribution to sustainable development over time by assessing the performance of copper mines and refiners against responsible production criteria and verifying performance through the Copper Mark Assurance Process. It will enable investors in copper production and copper consumers to make informed decisions about responsibly produced copper in their supply chains, recognise and demonstrate their support for committed suppliers, and make positive contributions to sustainable development.

Wouter Haels and Cornel Abratis of Aurubis gave a presentation on copper wire rod with a focus on the differences between Cu-OFE (oxygen-free, high-conductivity copper) and Cu-ETP1 (electrolytic tough-pitch copper). It included an overview of the differences in production, grain structure, hydrogen embrittlement, properties, applications and potential alloys. Main applications of Cu-OFE are bus bars, complex profiles and wires, strands and cables to undergo vibrations, while Cu-ETP1 is suitable for a wide range of wires, strands, cables and magnet wires.

Peter Walmsley of AmpaSHIELD focused on an interesting innovation in nanotechnology. The nanomaterials in AmpaSHIELD’s new coating provide unique synergy with the conductor to allow for more current to be passed at a specific temperature. This action is predicted to improve the efficiency and productivity of any system which employs copper busbars. Depending on the shape and size of the busbar, an increase in ampacity of up to 50 percent is possible. An AmpaSHIELD-coated busbar can thus carry more power at the same temperature.

Other key interventions included Sevgur Arslanpay from Sarkuysan who gave an insightful perspective into the Turkish market, and Bernard Respaut of ECI in a panel discussion on recycling, who emphasised that “to recycle metals more effectively, we also need to think about Ecodesign of the products. We need to encourage that when products are designed, the recycling is strongly considered.”

Among the many key messages delivered and heard, some of the more noteworthy include:

  • Copper is the standard for conductivity, with excellent mechanical properties.
  • Copper provides the lowest lifecycle cost solution for wire and cable systems and applications.
  • Copper as a material and Europe as a region are recycling champions.
  • More copper means fewer losses, with an overwhelming environmental payback.