Now what? Peak metal?
1/24/2006 05:24:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
First it was Peak Oil

Then it was Peak Wood Pellet

Now what? Peak Metal?
Managing Metal: New Study Raises Questions About Sustainability Of Metal Resources

Researchers studying supplies of copper, zinc and other metals have determined that these finite resources, even if recycled, may not meet the needs of the global population forever. According to the study, if all nations were to use the same services enjoyed in developed nations, even the full extraction of metals from the Earth's crust and extensive recycling programs may not meet future demand.

The researchers suggest the environmental and social consequences of metals depletion become clearer from studies of metal stocks--those in the Earth, in use serving people and lost in landfills--instead of tracking the flow of metal through the economy in a given time and region.


Using copper stocks in North America as a starting point, the researchers tracked the evolution of copper mining, use and loss during the 20th century. Then the researchers applied their findings, and additional data, to an estimate of global demand for copper and other metals if all nations were fully developed and used modern technologies.

According to the study, all of the copper in ore, plus all of the copper currently in use, would be required to bring the world to the level of the developed nations for power transmission, construction and other services and products that depend on copper.


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On 3:42 AM , UNplanner said...

At least with the metals, there are substitutes (inferior maybe, but workable). Plus the metals that we have cast throughout history are generally still with us. Given high enough prices, we will scrounge up what we need from our landfills and put out of service stuff we don't need so that the scrap metal could be harvested. Oil on the other hand, is gone once it is burned.

Still, even then there are limits.
Whether it is peak oil or peak copper, Earth is constantly reminding us that it is not infinite treasure trove of goodies open for the taking. Yet we base our economic system if not our entire worldview based on the premise that there are no limits to our collective growth.

Until we figure that out we are destined smack hard into the physical limitations that peak whatever will pose to us.

On 2:10 PM , Engineer-Poet said...

We can literally never run out of some things.  A large fraction of Earth's crust is aluminum silicates (more difficult to refine than bauxite, but feasible), the oceans are full of magnesium, and when we get Richard Smalley's buckytube wires we'll be able to make stuff that conducts better than copper, is stronger than steel, and can be pulled out of the air.