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Waves of the Future - The Magian Age

Climate Change, Non-Renewable Resources, Energy, Contaminants, Carbon Pricing...

Non-Renewable Resources: Mineral Supplies & Reserve Statistics

How long will current reserves of non-renewable resources like metals last?


The following tables offer various estimates of mineral supplies: reserves, reserve base, 0% growth, 2% growth...

The world's supply of many minerals is surprisingly low. Will metal shortages lead to economic crises like oil did or even collapse? If so, when?


See also Book I of the Waves of the Future Series

Non-Renewable Resources:
Mineral Supplies & Reserve Statistics

Resource Depletion Model Simulations:
Mineral Shortages & Prospect of Economic Crisis

Economics of Poverty
The Aging Baby Boomer Generation Problem

Non-Renewable Resources:
Mineral Supplies & Reserve Statistics (Book Excerpts)


Table 2. Years of supply left for certain minerals based on reserves and annual production using data from USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, 2011.

Mineral Average Annual Produc-tion 2009-2010 Reserves USGS 2011 Years of Supply Lomborg 0% Growth Years of Supply Bench-mark 0% Growth Years of Supply Diederen 2% Growth Years of Supply Latest 2.57% Growth
Iron Ore (MMT) 2,320 180,000 215 78 46 42
Cobalt (TMT)* 80 7,300 320 91 57 46
Aluminum (MMT)* 205 28,000 230 137 63 58
Silver (MT) 22,000 510,000 15 23 10 18
Gold (MT) 2,475 51,000 18 21 13 16
Zinc (TMT) 11,600 250,000 42 22 13 17
Tin (TMT)* 261 5,200 47 20 15 15
Copper (TMT) 16,050 630,000 43 39 23 26
Nickel (TMT)* 1,475 76,000 117 52 28 32
* Measurement units differ from the ones in USGS data tables.
Figures are adjusted for 2011. The data for aluminum includes bauxite and alumina sources only. Some of the minerals are more complex to assess than others, and the definitions used here may not match exactly those of Diederen or Lomborg. Source: USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, 2011. MT = Metric Tons; TMT = Thousand Metric Tons; MMT = Million Metric Tons; BMT = Billion Metric Tons.

[Note: Lomborg's data is calculated in years of consumption at stable 1997 levels and assumes 0% growth. At 2% growth, the 14 years between 1997 and 2011 alone would add up to a 28% increase in consumption. As such, Lomborg's data should not be viewed as realistic.]...


Table 3. Year of depletion [reserves]. A comparison of the four dataset estimates of the final year of supply of select minerals.

Mineral Lomborg Based on Reserve Base 0% Growth Benchmark Based on Reserves 0% Growth Diederen Based on Reserves 2% Growth Latest Data Based on Reserves 2.57% Growth
Iron Ore (MMT) 2225 2088 2056 2052
Cobalt (TMT)* 2330 2101 2067 2056
Aluminum (MMT)* 2240 2147 2073 2068
Silver (MT) 2025 2033 2020 2028
Gold (MT) 2028 2031 2023 2026
Zinc (TMT) 2052 2032 2023 2027
Tin (TMT)* 2057 2030 2025 2025
Copper (TMT) 2053 2049 2033 2036
Nickel (TMT)* 2027 2062 2038 2042
* Measurement units differ from the ones in USGS data tables.
The data for aluminum includes bauxite and alumina sources only. Some of the minerals are more complex to assess than others, and the definitions used here may not match exactly those of Diederen or Lomborg. MT = Metric Tons; TMT = Thousand Metric Tons; MMT = Million Metric Tons; BMT = Billion Metric Tons.

Waves of the Future ©2012

More information: USGS Conservation International Sierra Club UN Population Division