Sunday, March 23, 2008

Peak Minerals

Peak oil is slowly seeping into the public consciousness, although it hasn't yet gotten the recognition that global warming has. Dramatic increases in food prices have brought the issues of food scarcity and trade offs between food and biofuels to the fore. But the production capacity for other minerals has not been studied extensively.

Now an Australian study by Dr Gavin Mudd in conjunction with the Mineral Policy Institute has taken an exhaustive look at Australain mining data and given some hard statistical evidence for peak production of minerals.

The report, the first to ever compile quantitative evidence on various mining trends, shows that ore grades continue to decline, solid wastes are increasing exponentially, and economic resources for many key strategic minerals such as coal and iron ore appear to have plateaued; some minerals such as gold and copper have gradually increased over time but this is proving harder to maintain as ore grades decline and deposits move deeper.

Another study by Ugo Bardi and Marco Pagani of the University of Florence, Italy, examined the world production of 57 minerals reported in the database of the United States Geological Survey. Of these, eleven has clearly reached peak production and are now declining. Several more may be peaking or be close to peaking. Furthermore the Hubbert model for peak oil seemed to fit these other minerals as well.

U.S. imports of these minerals continue to grow. Some alternative energy technologies such as fuel cells require rare minerals. Any planning for the future that does consider resource limitations is certain to fail. Conservation and recycling of these minerals--efforts that will need to be planned in to any future use--are the only ways around an otherwise disastrous collapse.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Smudge said...

I realize that this doesn't really follow the point of your update, but to address a small point made in your first paragraph, I have to say that there is no indication of food scarcity. There is food scarcity in Africa and parts of Asia because the specific zones cannot support the population. Also, the cultural ways of agriculture were mostly erased when they were colonized, which set them back several hundred years. Farming technniques specific to the region were lost. Besides these two, there is no food scarcity. The US actually produces so much grain that it's surplus feeds most of the world, including Europe, which is one reason why we have so many "allies". So there is no food scarcity, just difficulty in getting it or processes to create it to the right places

At 5:22 AM, Blogger igwana said...

Another Green World - Kevin Danaher

This episode explores the viability and necessity of a green economy
and methods to kick-start one through "green community-centers" in
every major city. Kevin Danaher is an anti-globalization activist,
and the co-founder of Global Exchange, and the executive producer of
Green Festivals. The Green Festivals are festivals that happen
annually in four cities to promote environmentally friendly ideas and

"The deed creates the doer"


At 4:20 AM, Blogger Yukiharu said...

A quick reply to smudge's comment:

I don't by any means want to start a flame war, but my understanding of the link between peak oil and food prices is that the energy costs of transporting food from where it is produced to where it is needed are on the prohibitive side, and those costs will clearly increase as the price of oil closes on $140/barrel--- as long as we remain as stuck in the oil-based economy as we seem to be right now. Now, I'm not an economist, and I haven't done the math to prove that this is really true, so I'd love to hear from those that might be a bit better informed on these issues than I.

-- First Time Planet Green Poster

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Smudge and yukiharu both have valid points. These are all factors contributing to shortages and high prices. At the same time grain consumption world wide has exceeded grain production for six of the past seven years, so there is an overall shortage that is draining stockpiles. This is particularly true of rice which is the staple of many of the poorest people in the world.



Post a Comment

<< Home