Base Metals

A new potential use for copper is being looked at, and if successful, it could save lives.

A new potential use for copper is being looked at, and if successful, it could save lives.

In developing countries, over 2 million people die yearly after consuming deadly bacteria (like E. coli and Vibrio cholerae) found in water, according to The National. To help solve this problem, Dr. Ahmed Khalid, a former pupil of the American International School in Abu Dhabi, is leading a project aimed at making this contaminated water safe for human consumption.

The technology, if it can be called such, is based on an ancient Indian practice that saw drinking water stored in copper pots, Khalid explained to the publication. However, since copper pots are costly, a cheaper version of this technology has been developed.

Dr. Padma Venkat, director for the Institute for Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine in India, developed the simple device: a coil of electric copper cable that is suspended in contaminated water overnight. Because copper naturally generates free-radical ions, it has the ability to break apart and kill the offensive bacteria, rendering the water potable. So far, in laboratory testing, the device appears to have been successful. Currently, 200 homes in the slums of coastal Kenya and Nairobi are participating in field tests. If the trial is successful, a device suitable for a 10-liter water container will be made commercially available for C$10. The devices are meant to last a lifetime.

“It does not require energy to function, lasts a lifetime and is easy to use in a rural household. It could help save millions of children across the world, particularly in developing countries,” Khalid said.

What’s going on? 

Copper prices climbed to their highest level in nearly one month on Thursday as speculation that economic stimulus packages in both the US and China will continue for the time being. COMEX copper for September delivery was up 2.8 percent, at $3.1775, in early afternoon trading. The red metal made similar moves in London, with a 2.6-percent jaunt to $7,000 per metric tonne.

Chairman Bernanke’s statement confirming that US central banks need a continued monetary policy due to “tame inflation and fragile labour market” conflicted with recent Federal Open Market Committee minutes that showed representatives as torn between continuing or ending stimulus measures. Regardless, the Fed statement caused the US dollar to take some heat, falling against a basket of currencies and making US-priced commodities attractive to foreign investors.

Standard Bank analyst Leon Westgate told investors in a note on Thursday that “a softening in Ben Bernanke’s stance toward tapering saw markets rally strongly.” Furthermore, “comments from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stating that economic growth and employment must stay above a certain floor also gave Chinese equity markets an additional boost. The base metals have surged higher as a result, with copper leading the charge.”

While commodities were mostly up on Thursday, Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital, is slightly pessimistic as far as copper is concerned. “I don’t think this is sustainable for copper,” Kryuchenkov told Reuters, “I think it will stay in this range because there is no overwhelming demand from China and the market seems well supplied.”

The hope for Chinese stimulus is being spurred on by continued sluggishness in the Asian country’s economy. ANZ analysts have suggested that “China is unlikely to achieve its trade growth target of 8 percent, which could place downside risk to the GDP (gross domestic product) growth this year and pressure the labour market,” increasing speculation that the government could cut banks’ reserve rate requirement ratio.

Copper news

After several false starts, copper concentrate shipments from Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ,NASDAQ:TRQ) have finally started. On July 9, the first sale of roughly 5,800 tonnes of concentrate was shipped to customers in China. The rest of the shipments will be placed over the next two weeks.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) has restarted production at the Grasberg copper-gold mine in Indonesia. The mine has been offline for nearly two months following a tunnel collapse in May. Freeport has yet to lift the force majeure, and expects output to fall by one-fifth for the year.

 

Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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