Mineral resource exhaustion is just a myth: study

April 28, 2017
Comparison of changing estimates for copper reserves, resources and theoretical estimate of ultimate resource to depth of 3.3 km. These estimates are based on grades similar to those of deposits exploited today. If lower grades become feasible to mine, as has occurred over the past century, the resource size could increase significantly. Note log scale. Credit: UNIGE

Recent articles have declared that deposits of raw mineral materials (copper, zinc, etc.) will be exhausted within a few decades. An international team including the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has shown that this is incorrect and that the resources of most mineral commodities are sufficient to meet the growing demand from industrialization and future demographic changes. Future shortages will arise not from physical exhaustion of metals but from causes related to industrial exploitation, the economy, and environmental or societal pressures on the use of mineral resources. The report can be read in the journal Geochemical Perspectives.

Some scientists have declared that deposits containing important non-renewable resources such as copper and zinc will be exhausted in a few decades if consumption does not decrease. Reaching the opposite conclusion, the international team of researchers shows that even though mineral resources are finite, geological arguments indicate that they are sufficient for at least many centuries, even taking into account the increasing consumption required to meet the growing needs of society. How can this difference be explained?

Definitions matter: reserves and resources

"Do not confuse the mineral resources that exist within the Earth with reserves, which are mineral resources that have been identified and quantified and can be exploited economically. Some studies that predict upcoming shortages are based on statistics that only take reserves into account, i.e., a tiny fraction of the deposits that exist," explains Lluis Fontboté, professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Geneva. To define reserves is a costly exercise that requires investment in exploration, drilling, analyses and numerical and economic evaluations. Mining companies explore and delineate reserves sufficient for a few decades of profitable operation. Delineation of larger reserves would be a costly and unproductive investment, and does not fit the economic logic of the modern market.

The result is that the estimated life of most mineral commodities is between 20 to 40 years, and has remained relatively constant over decades. Use of these values to predict the amount available leads to the frequently announced risks of impending shortages. But this type of calculation is obviously wrong, because it does not take into account the amount of metal in lower quality deposits that are not included in reserves and the huge amount of metal in deposits that have not yet been discovered. Some studies have produced figures that include the known and undiscovered resources, but as our knowledge of ore deposits in large parts of the Earth's crust is fragmentary, these estimates are generally very conservative.

The vast majority of mined deposits have been discovered at the surface or in the uppermost 300 meters of the crust, but we know that deposits are also present at greater depths. Current techniques allow mining to depths of at least 2000 to 3000 meters. Thus, many that exist have not yet been discovered, and are not included in the statistics. There have been some mineral shortages in the past, especially during the boom related to China's growth. However, these are not due to a lack of supply, but to operational and economic issues. For instance, between the discovery of a deposit and its effective operation, 10 to 20 years or more can elapse, and if demand rises sharply, industrial exploitation cannot respond instantly, creating a temporary shortage.

Environment and society

"The real problem is not the depletion of resources, but the environmental and societal impact of mining operations," says Professor Fontboté. Mining has been undeniably linked to environmental degradation. While impacts can be mitigated by modern technologies, many challenges remain. The financial, environmental and societal costs of mining must be equitably apportioned between industrialized and developing countries, as well as between local communities near mines and the rest of society. "Recycling is important and essential, but is not enough to meet the strong growth in demand from developing countries. We must continue to seek and carefully exploit new deposits, both in developing and in industrialized countries," says the researcher at the University of Geneva.

The importance of research

But how can we protect the environment while continuing to mine? Continuing research provides the solutions. If we are to continue mining while minimizing associated environmental effects, we need to better understand the formation of in order to open new areas of exploration with advanced methods of remote sensing. The continual improvement of exploration and mining techniques is reducing the impact on the Earth's surface. "Rapid evolution of technologies and society will eventually reduce our need for mineral raw materials, but at the same time, these new technologies are creating new needs for metals, such as many of the 60 elements that make up every smart phone," adds Professor Fontboté.

The geological perspective that guided the present study leads to the conclusion that shortages will not become a threat for many centuries as long as there is a major effort in mineral exploration, coupled with conservation and recycling. To meet this challenge, society must find ways to discover and mine the required while respecting the environment and the interests of local communities.

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Shootist
1.7 / 5 (17) Apr 28, 2017
Of course it's a myth. Another way for the elites to maintain control of the means of production. The threat of constant scarcity. Keep the proles voting for curbs on activities; can't have the normals gain control. (just like the motives behind AGW).
syndicate_51
1.5 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2017
Does any here really think they would actually tell anybody exactly (as much as is possible) when any vital resource would run out?

No.

You don't say you have none left at this point in time otherwise as you approach that point things are going to go crazy! You also don't say it's forever away otherwise you will impact its value.

Think this goes for the majority of resources.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (11) Apr 28, 2017
There goes the whine about renewable systems.
rrwillsj
3.3 / 5 (10) Apr 28, 2017
The 'promiscuous' metal aluminum is a big proportion of the Earth's crust. However, only bauxite ores deposits are economically (i.e. expensive even with subsidized electricity) profitable to mine and refine.

So no matter what ideological tantrum the anti-environs bellow, recycling of aluminum products is very profitable by comparison.

What happened to the once precious metal silver? When consumers switched from film to digital. The value of silver lost it's luster.

With advancements in fiber-optics, the not-so-distant possibility that mini-robots could be laying the FO cable network, EVERYWHERE. There goes the artificial value of copper.

Gold-bugs are going to chatter in fury but the last great hurrah for the artificial value of Au is space technology. For it's e excellent resistance to radiation damage including reflecting heat. Until an energy-field is developed that will protect at a fraction of the cost plus savings in vehicle launch weight.
Mark Thomas
3.7 / 5 (7) Apr 28, 2017
Good to know, but if we really get stuck in a hard place for one particular element or another, it is a good bet we can find what we need in space. For example, the asteroid 16 Psyche probably has more iron, nickel, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, iridium and rhenium than we could use for the foreseeable future. NASA wisely approved a mission to orbit a probe around 16 Psyche by 2030.

https://www.yahoo...461.html

Note that bringing stuff all the way back to Earth from the asteroid belt probably doesn't make much sense cost-wise unless you are fairly desperate. The best use for such metals may be to use them to build things intended for use in space.

dudester
5 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2017
Of course this article doesn't mention that the easy stores of these materials were the first ones we went after. Sure, there may be a lot of everything left but getting it out will be very destructive with huge quantities of tailings left over. We have no idea how our ravaging of the geological strata affects the as yet mostly unknown macroecology of the microbial realm which contributes more trillions of dollars to this planet every day than all of humanity's scratchings have produced in 10,000 years.

Of course the sea floor will be pillaged first. Stuff just laying around doing nothing down there, we GUESS.

Maybe we should first try putting millions to work mining all of our garbage dumps from the 40s through the present to get at all that metal and other re-useable material we have thrown away just because a motor or a compressor failed, this time properly dealing with the waste and toxicity time bomb?
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2017
We have been mining the Mountain View dump for decades.

Silver and gold from semiconductor manufacturing.
Dingbone
Apr 28, 2017
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Da Schneib
5 / 5 (10) Apr 28, 2017
/me makes popcorn and watches for the argument over peak oil.
Dug
3 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2017
Consider that these metals and more critical resources like NPK are all dependent on the current petroleum transportation/energy economies-of-scale to support the economics of critical petro-chemical products required by all modern industrial processes and as well food production. Unless we can maintain current petro-chemical production economics within current paradigms by using much cheaper energy sources than fossil fuels - modern technology may come to a complete stop. Failing to understand the dependencies between petroleum energy and petro-chemical economics - makes the above article essentially as economically limited and clueless as it is meaningless. Especially considering one way or another we will be forced to drastically scale down petroleum transportation/energy scales either through depletion of economically feasible resources and or fossil fuel/CO2 ecosystem collapse. Unless we find an exceptionally cheap energy to replace fossil fuels very soon - we're done.
Dingbone
Apr 29, 2017
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Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Apr 29, 2017
LOL

I'm eating the popcorn, kernel by juicy kernel. Next comes the abiotic oil BS artiste.

Meanwhile the mother of all oilwells is sitting out beyond the asteroids laughing at us all.
Anonym
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 29, 2017
The Malthusian Death Cult takes another hit! I remember economist Julian Simon's bet with death cultist John Erhlich, at the height of the resource panic of the '70s. Simon predicted commodities prices would fall during the '80s, and of course, he was right. The death cult brandishes "scarcity" and "pollution" (CO2 these days) as the twin threats from "overpopulation" that will end civilization.

Not only are raw materials reserves adequate to the foreseeable future, but future consumption will be greatly reduced as people become more efficient in their use. (This trend is hundreds of years old.) For example, people will abandon 3-ton automobiles in favor of ultra-light vehicles that require a small fraction of materials to manufacture and require far less motive energy.
Anonym
Apr 29, 2017
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thomson9
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2017
In the early 1900's, when most everything industrial was powered by coal fired steam engines, the greatest scientists of the day were concerned that the world would run out of coal - peak coal, if you will. They discussed wind, solar, conservation, etc. One man got it right. Rear Admiral R. B. Bradford said, MAN'S WIT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM" And so it did, with the development of petrochemical fuels. Of course, no one can predict specific future technological developments but any study that does not mention that possibility at all is incomplete.
Search for "Startling Prediction of the World's Greatest Living Scientist in an Article Written for the Sunday North American"

We're still using coal today and fracking has extended the usability of petrochemical fuels. All technologies progress. Horse and man power gave way to steam engines and coal, which has given way to petrochemical fuels and atomic power using turbines.

I imagine mineral extraction will be the same.
Caliban
4.3 / 5 (11) Apr 29, 2017
Of course it's a myth. Another way for the elites to maintain control of the means of production. The threat of constant scarcity. Keep the proles voting for curbs on activities; can't have the normals gain control. (just like the motives behind AGW).


Yet another Scrotist oversimplify'n'misattribute trolljob.

The myth you identify is promulgated to induce the rightful fear of the "Law" of Supply and Demand.
Scarcity ineluctably produces increased expense, which you, Scrotist, should understand to be Capitalistspeak for PROFIT.

The proles aren't encouraged to limit activities, they are encouraged to submit to MAXIMUM PROFIT TAKING, and further, to accept the unfortunate consequences of MAXIMUM PROFIT TAKING: reduced quality of life, reduced opportunity, degraded socioeconomic expectations, pollution, accelerating extinction, environmental degradation, AGW --THE LOT.

How can you endure the moral stench of the filthy trollhole you inhabit?
Caliban
3.9 / 5 (11) Apr 29, 2017
Furthermore, just as Da Schnieb pointed out, the myth of "peak" resources is utilized -across the board- to artificially inflate the cost of ANY AND ALL "consumer goods" from food to petrol, from diamonds to lithium.

What is ACTUALLY cause for concern is the certainty that -present trends continuing- scarcity will rapidly, FACTUALLY, develop in clean freshwater availability and habitable environment.
Da Schneib
4 / 5 (8) Apr 29, 2017
To make it a conversation, @Caliban, we could discuss post-scarcity. I've been reading a novel about a conflict in a post-scarcity world so I'm all fired up. Heh.
PTTG
3.8 / 5 (10) Apr 29, 2017
Hey, look at that. All the people who shout "you can't trust models" whenever GW comes up are now shouting "this one particular model is 100% accurate."
rrwillsj
1.5 / 5 (8) Apr 29, 2017
I vaguely remember a Physicist explaining why batteries are so crappy. "We could of had a Universe with perfect batteries but no biological life. Or, we could have a Universe where biological life is possible but we will always have crappy batteries."

I think that is an offshoot of the miserable fact that there is plenty of energy available. We just lack an efficient method for storage and re-distribution of the energy produced.

That is why this is the Petroleum Age. As inefficient and grossly wasteful and environmentally catastrophic petrol is. There's nothing better available for distributing energy in our centralized corporate-state economy. And for each gallon of fuel consumed? Diesel only uses 50% of it's intrinsic energy. With strick regulation internal combustion engines only use 30%. Gee, where did the rest of that energy go? As you swelter in front of your rotary-fan praying the rolling brownouts miss your neighborhood this heatwave.
EmceeSquared
4 / 5 (12) Apr 29, 2017
Except the people lying about resource shortages to increase its perceived scarcity and drive up prices while shocking people into panicked suspension of environmental protections are the resource extraction and energy industries. Those are the same people (and their officemates) lying to you denying how we've changed the climate and continue to change it more - for the same reasons.

You'd rather believe Exxon is telling you the truth, even though Exxon has been documented forecasting climate change from its operations and investing $billions in mitigating its risks from the changes it's made. For anyone honest that evidence would be enough to stop repeating the lies Exxon and its cronies manufactured for you.

Shootist:
Of course

HeloMenelo
3.8 / 5 (10) Apr 30, 2017
LOL

I'm eating the popcorn, kernel by juicy kernel. Next comes the abiotic oil BS artiste.

Meanwhile the mother of all oilwells is sitting out beyond the asteroids laughing at us all.


Dungbone aka antigoracle sockpuppet escaped from the mental institution Again lol..
Caliban
3.5 / 5 (8) Apr 30, 2017
Da Schnieb,

I'm guessing that "post scarcity" is a euphemism for catastrophic depopulation? Is the conflict a result of the characters having too much, and so having to force the surplus upon others? Or because the characters feel compelled to all sorts of excess in order to impress their peers with their extravagance? Perhaps a Michael Moorcock novel?

I wonder if Scrotist's Vikings understood the concept of scarcity in their verdant, wine-flowing temperate paradise?
Dingbone
Apr 30, 2017
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Dingbone
Apr 30, 2017
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Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2017
Da Schnieb,

I'm guessing that "post scarcity" is a euphemism for catastrophic depopulation?
No. It's precisely what it says: resources become post-scarce because the means of creating them become ubiquitous and cheap. Let's consider jet aircraft travel, computing, and refrigeration.

Is the conflict a result of the characters having too much, and so having to force the surplus upon others? Or because the characters feel compelled to all sorts of excess in order to impress their peers with their extravagance? Perhaps a Michael Moorcock novel?
No, it's Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi. The conflict arises because of ideological concerns, not material ones.
Dingbone
Apr 30, 2017
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Caliban
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2017

No, it's Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi. The conflict arises because of ideological concerns, not material ones.


Well, there's always that, eh?

TheGhostofOtto1923
4.4 / 5 (7) May 01, 2017
The Malthusian Death Cult takes another hit! I remember economist Julian Simon's bet with death cultist John Erhlich, at the height of the resource panic of the '70s. Simon predicted commodities prices would fall during the '80s, and of course, he was right. The death cult brandishes "scarcity" and "pollution
So whats the ugly buzzphrase for your side? 'Depraved indifference' perhaps?

And how does it incorporate the ONE BILLION ABORTIONS starting in the 70s which averted Malthusian disaster in the northern hemisphere? And how does it explain zephyrs arab spring of violence and starvation in those religion-dominated cultures where abortion and family planning were forbidden? Or why these regions are hemorrhaging millions of excess people?

I suppose you could blame it on the greed of western cultures which have managed to control their growth. Maybe you should only credit them with trying to contain the unfortunate results of reproductive aggression.
Dingbone
May 01, 2017
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rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2017
Sorry Db but I have to disagree that ColdFusion is viable or even realistic. Speculation is not proof.

The most likely reason for the unlikely event the researchers actually witnessed was just simply a natural decay of the atomic structure.

They saw a one-in-a-gazillion event and promptly leaped to the assumption that they had caused the event to occur.

Astronomers would love to be able to record a star through pre-nova cycle, all through the explosion and then afterwords. Their observations are not the cause of the stellar event!

Otherwise, they would be astrologers....
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) May 01, 2017
It's easy - the iraq war escalated the prices of oil, which initiated the financial (subprime) crisis at the West... Tunis, Libya, Egypt yadayada
Dozens of variations zeph but none include the relentless overgrowth of religion-dominated populations. Add to that cures for diseases that used to kill millions and chronic drought and blight, and its understandable why people choose to revolt or flee.

Mubarak was loved early on but had to become more and more oppressive as pops exceeded the threshold of instability. They all had no choice.

The only reason pakistan remained relatively stable is because the idle hotheaded youth were compelled by the taliban and al qaida to travel west and throw themselves into the guns of coalition forces. The potential of a failed nuclear state made this unavoidable.

Why dont you fiddle with that conspiracy theory? Makes a whole lot more sense. "Preemptive designer wars" Managing the flock is messy business but someones got to do it.

Dingbone
May 04, 2017
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Dingbone
May 04, 2017
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TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) May 04, 2017
im not fond of conspiracy theories
-and yet you posted a willie of one.
The overpopulation itself cannot explain why Arab Spring strike all countries selling the oil at the same moment in so coordinated manner
-Yeah almost like... it was planned to happen that way... kind of like European politics were arranged so that the assassination of one archduke from an inconsequential little country would set off a very thorough and satisfying world war of demographic reconstruction.

-Which only ended by the way because tech advancements in mobile armor and aeronautics were going to remobilize the front and so a time-out was needed to ascertain just what this would entail.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) May 04, 2017
And it ended in a very suspicious and contrived way I might add. The same way most major, world-changing events seem to occur.

As the defining quality of humans is the ability to anticipate future events and to plan for them, it is not unressonable tgat we should expect to find evidence of it at the very highest levels of organization.

The best Planners should ascend to the highest levels of power yes? Levels where more and more wealth is pointless and the insurance of survival in perpetuity is all that matters?
Dingbone
May 06, 2017
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