That copper is an important ally in the health area and nobody doubts it. Today, this metal has become a seal of guarantee when seeking prevention against viruses and bacteria. Similar situation to what happens with sustainable development, a global trend that has it as one of its main partners to have a cleaner planet.

Copper will be another after Coronavirus. The relevance it has taken to benefit humanity in the field of health has far exceeded its prestige worldwide. So have global trends for more sustainable development, for which copper, with its physical and chemical characteristics, is a key element in the search for cleaner and more efficient development.

This new reputation for copper is undoubtedly an opportunity that Chile, a leading country in the production of this metal, cannot miss. “Today the willingness to value copper and consider it as a valid and valuable material has increased. This is an opportunity and also a great challenge for our country ”, explains Juan Carlos Guajardo, Executive Director of Plusmining.

Among these challenges is the positioning and market penetration of copper as a key element in the areas of energy, transport, construction and of course in health, taking into account the already proven beneficial properties of metal in the fight against viral and bacterial diseases . “Although the use of copper in hospital and health infrastructure is limited, it is possible that this pandemic will promote new areas of use of copper and with it also its demand,” says Guajardo.

Juan Carlos Guajardo tells us about the challenges, perspectives, evolution and future of copper for our country.

How can copper contribute against Coronavirus? What properties does it have that are so effective in fighting viruses?

Historically, copper and its alloys such as bronze have been recognized as a very effective antimicrobial agent in the medical literature. This recognition is both for direct contact between copper and microorganisms, including viruses, and as an essential micronutrient in the human diet.

Just to illustrate, several recent studies have shown that while copper manages to deactivate SARS ‐ CoV ‐ 2 (official name of Covid-19) in 2-4 hours, surfaces such as cardboard, stainless steels and plastics could take between 1-3 days. in achieving the same.

Another learning from this pandemic is the speed of its spread, due to the intensity of globalization of the world and the degree of interconnectivity, both at levels never seen before in human history. Therefore, this particularity of copper undoubtedly opens up great opportunities, and on a world scale, for red metal and its alloys in the combat of pathogens and viruses, especially in spaces with a large flow of people such as airports, hospitals, subways , mass transportation, shopping centers, etc.

How can we prevent viruses through increased use of copper? Where should we intensify its use to prevent this type of virus?

To prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria, the use of copper and its alloys is important in the generation of personal protection products, such as masks and gloves.

Additionally, contact with surfaces plays a key role in the spread of viruses and bacteria, where the time that viruses can be found on surfaces strongly influences this ability to spread.

Because copper and its alloys can more quickly eliminate viruses and bacteria on surfaces, they make it an excellent alternative in places with a high flow of people, so its use should be intensified strongly on everyday surfaces such as handrails, handles, seats, among others. Hospital services, both in Chile and in other parts of the world, have implemented the coating of surfaces with copper, identifying as the most contaminated areas those closest to patients such as the bed table, railings, chairs and call buttons. This should be repeated in airports, public transport and offices, for example, where the large flow of people increases the possibility of contagion.

How have you seen the evolution of the issue of new uses of copper? How could this metal be further exploited for the benefit of humanity?

As technology evolves, so does the use of different metals, among which copper has always played an important role due to its attributes of thermal and electrical conductivity, in addition to its malleability and bactericidal property.

The relevance that copper has taken to benefit humanity in the field of health has been strongly boosted during this pandemic. Without a doubt, new uses and benefits in this area will continue to be developed.

Furthermore, global trends for more sustainable development are highly relevant for new uses of copper. In this sense, copper with its physical and chemical characteristics is a key element in the search for cleaner and more efficient development in the areas of energy, transport and construction.

How can we as a country, leader in copper production worldwide, can take advantage of the benefits of this metal to contribute to generate greater copper products?

Although the scientific aspects are important, perhaps the most relevant for Chile is the reputational opportunity that has been promoted for copper, with which the willingness to value it and consider it as a valid and valuable material has increased.

What are the challenges that this pandemic leaves us with respect to the uses of copper?

An important challenge is the positioning and market penetration of copper as a key element in the health sector and in other sectors such as healthcare, taking into account the already proven beneficial properties of the metal in the fight against viral and bacterial diseases. Although the use of copper in hospital and health infrastructure is limited, it is possible that this pandemic will potentiate new areas of use of copper and with it its demand.

Besides copper, what other metals and minerals present in Chile can have a new use that allows creating new industries associated with them?

In addition to copper, Chile is a country with an abundance of lithium, molybdenum and rhenium, and with an interesting geological potential for gold.

As for lithium, the biggest driver of demand comes from batteries, currently driven by the development of electric vehicles. However, the advances in the development of the clean energy industry, based on unconventional renewable technologies, require the massification of energy storage media, which could be intensive in the use of lithium.

In the case of rhenium, it should be noted that Chile has the largest mining production and the largest reserves of the metal, closely associated with porphyry copper and obtained from the processing of molybdenum concentrate. This element is used to a greater extent in superalloys for the aeronautical industry, as well as in advanced materials and technologies of various kinds.

Finally, cobalt is an element that could be key in the elaboration of electric batteries in the medium term, however, although Chile has geological potential, it does not have estimated reserves in this element.

How can the new technologies that are gaining strength worldwide be able to contribute to promoting the use of copper and other minerals such as lithium, with important reserves in our country? What can we do as a country to take advantage of this global scenario?

Undoubtedly, new technologies in clean energy and electro-mobility represent a growing increase in the demand for copper and lithium, from which a producing country like Chile could greatly benefit.

In this sense, a sustainable and competitive expansion of these sectors could contribute to generating economic growth, employment, and tax revenues, added to production chains and technological development linked to these two industries. This, as long as the country’s public policies, regulatory context and stability are effective enough to attract and maintain mining investments.

Source: Corporación Alta Ley

Translated with Google Translator