Metal shortages alert from leading geologists

Oct 12, 2011

Geologists are warning of shortages and bottlenecks of some metals due to an insatiable demand for consumer products.

A meeting of leading , reported in the scientific journal Nature , highlights the dangers in the inexorable surge in demand for metals.

Dr. Gawen Jenkin, of the Department of Geology, University of Leicester, is the lead convenor of the Fermor Meeting of the Geological Society of London which met to discuss this issue.

Dr Jenkin said: "Mobile phones contain copper, nickel, silver and zinc, aluminium, gold, lead, , , platinum and tin. More than a billion people will buy a mobile in a year - so that's quite a lot of metal. And then there's the in your laptop, the iron in your car, the aluminium in that can – the list goes on...

"With ever-greater use of these metals, are we running out? That was one of the questions we addressed at our meeting. It is reassuring that there's no immediate danger of 'peak metal' as there's quite a lot in the ground, still – but there will be shortages and bottlenecks of some metals like indium due to increased demand.

"That means that exploration for metal commodities is now a key skill. It's never been a better time to become an economic geologist, working with a mining company. It's one of the better-kept secrets of employment in a recession-hit world.

"And a key factor in turning young people away from the large mining companies – their reputation for environmental unfriendliness – is being turned around as they make ever-greater efforts to integrate with local communities for their mutual benefit."

So, our appetite for technological goodies will be satisfied for some time to come still – as long as sufficient people with the skills to seek out the metals emerge into the marketplace.

Explore further: Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

More information: 'Beyond mining', Nature Geoscience, 4 (October 2011), p. 653.

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User comments : 3

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Squirrel
not rated yet Oct 12, 2011
'Beyond mining' is recycling. Whether or not that happens--and the technological advances and social changes that will increase its efficiency will determine if our appetite for technological goodies will be satisfied.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2011
Computer recycling yields gold in similar quantitities of current mines.
dub1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2011
Municipal garbage dumps are the gold mines of the future. I've been saying this for years. The amount of work/processing required to obtain minute amounts of many of these raw materials could be dramatically lessened if we tried imo. It could probably be done through private businesses, without the tax drain, very shortly if inflation continues and scarcity increases. It could also help our leeching pollution problems quite a bit.