Crucial minerals are running out fast
Critical minerals are running out too fast: there should be quotas
Last week, Theo Henckens has been promoted on this worrying thesis. “We need a kind of international agreement on minerals.”
Molybdenum is a mineral that is essential in the production of high-grade stainless steels. But within 80 years Earth will be running out of molybdenum, like many other major minerals. By the end of this century there will be a shortage, unless the reuse of molybdenum will be drastically increased.
Henckens is not the first to raise the alarm about the impending shortage of scarce resources. Last year Goldman Sachs published an alarming report about the finite nature of raw materials such as zinc, nickel, platinum, gold and diamond. According to Henckens, some materials are much scarcer than previously thought. It’s not only the molybdenum.
Henckens estimates that the stock antimony will be exhausted within 20 years. This mineral is used to create more heat-resistant plastic sheets, for example used in televisions.
Exhaustion of raw materials
I have researched 65 mineral resources which geologically could be extracted from earth. After that I have compared these with the current won quantities per year.
Tn order of scarcity: antimony, gold, zinc, molybdenum, rhenium, copper, chromium, bismuth and boron. They will be exhausted within 30 to 200 years from. The depletion period of other mineral resources is longer. In some cases even more than a thousand years.
What about the price mechanism?
“No, the price mechanism does not work. My research shows that there is no relation between the geological scarcity of minerals and price developments.
On the London Metal Exchange, investors only look ten years ahead. They should look ahead much further. Because purchasers of such minerals have a short horizon, the future shortage is not included. A structural price rise will only come when the mineral is almost exhausted.
What about recycling?
No one can foresee the future. But so far it is a fact that the demand is growing rapidly due to the increase of wealth and the growing world population. A mineral zinc is now recycled as 30 to 50 percent, but that percentage is growing barely.
Molybdenum isn’t recycled at all. There is no incentive to recycle more if the price mechanism does not work and rare minerals are not expensive.
Just as countries have signed an international environmental agreement in Paris last year, the world needs a mineral agreement. All countries should agree on sustainable extraction of these raw materials.
- We need to ensure the legitimate right of future generations to a fair share of these commodities
- This means that we must agree on a maximum extraction rate by mineral – call it a quota
- The production rate of antimony should decrease by 96 percent, zinc with 82 percent
For less rare elements like zinc and tungsten, the production rate should decrease with 11 percent and 10 percent.
What about the exporting countries?
Exporting countries should be compensated for the loss of income.
The solution is to introduce a controlling system with an independent supervisory board, which sets a fixed price for different kinds of minerals, and compensate these countries every year.
In return for that fee, the using countries can become co-owner of the raw materials remaining in the ground. An utopian? That seemed to be also the climate agreement. But the world succeeded. So can a global raw material agreement.
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