The project started out looking at copper, potash and platinum-group element (PGM) deposits, with plans to consider lead, zinc, nickel, gold and phosphate as well. Copper was chosen for the project due to its global economic importance, according to the publication. That's no surprise, as copper is widely used in residential and industrial infrastructure, as well as in electronics.The USGS also announced in March that Central Asia could hold five times the amount of copper in currently known deposits — such as Rio Tinto's (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO) Oyu Tolgoi. Last year, the government agency put out its estimate for the world's undiscovered copper resources. That number came in at 3.5 billion MT. South America was pegged as the dominant region for copper, although parts of Asia, including China, were also picked as having significant potential for undiscovered copper resources. The need for copper supply The copper price has dropped about 36 cents, or 12 percent since the start of May, closing at around $2.57 per pound on Monday. However, some market watchers are still holding to predictions that copper will swing into a deficit within the next two to three years, with the lower price squeezing producers even as they move to cut production costs. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers recently reiterated a point that many have been making with regards to copper supply, stating that there's "a growing concern over stability of supply," and that the forecasted surplus for 2015 is small enough that it could "easily turn into deficit should planned world copper production not materialise due to factors such as unexpected events caused by severe weather, labour unrest or technical issues, all of which are fairly commonplace." And while one might take the recent USGS report to mean that there's plenty of copper out there, that isn't necessarily the case. The USGS notes in its report that the estimates of undiscovered deposits made in its assessment "represent deposits that are likely to exist, not necessarily deposits that are likely to be discovered." For instance, it points out that even if discovered, some are deep enough that the logistics and costs associated with mining such deposits would prevent their development.
GMRAP has been going on for over a decade. Still, the fact that a US government agency has made it a priority to delineate the potential for mineral resources around the world speaks to the importance of copper and other metals to the global economy.Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article. Related reading: World's Biggest Mining Companies Betting on Copper USGS Estimates 260 Million MT of Undiscovered Copper in Northeast Asia from Copper Investing News