Due to the growth of our company, we ended up running out of Copper Coil before our scheduled order from our regular supplier. We contacted our regular supplier, who informed us that they would be unable to fulfil our order before the end of the year.
So we started making phone calls, reaching out to copper refiners and mills, and what we found out surprised us. We reached out to the largest copper mill in the country, and they responded that they were not able to deliver on new orders for "architectural copper" until 2024 and would not be accpeting new customers until at least 2025.
While their have been supply chain disruptions everywhere, this seemed a little excessive. Additionally, the greatest supply chain issues have been with importing finished goods, and we were looking for domestically produced copper (yes, while undoubtedly there are regulations limiting U.S. production, the U.S. still produces a significant amount of Copper).
Along our journey in the search for Copper, I came across a veteran of the "red metals" industry, who provided me with some insight into the domestic industry.
Appearently, there has been massive consolidation in the U.S. Copper Industry, with a large foreign (German) company buying up both U.S. mines, and Copper Mills.
In the past, the mines would sell the unrefined copper to various mills, who would each use different proccesses to create the type of copper for their customer base (different types of copper, have different refining and finishing proccesses).
What changed is that now the mines sell the copper to mills which they own essentially giving them a monopoly on domestic copper. Once they gained control of the supply, they realized they would be more streamlined and efficient (profitable) by limiting the types of copper that they offered.
They would still be able to sell all the copper they produced (especially in the current tight market), and they would have less manufacturing lines to manage and mantain.
While there is a large market for architectural copper (the term used for gutter and roofing copper), it is much smaller than other markets for copper, for example wire, air conditioners, or auto parts. So Architectural Copper drew the short straw, creating an accute shortage.
The good news is, we were able to eventually secure more copper, hopefully enough until our regular supplier can deliver.