How long are our mineral resources going to last?

Scarcity of Mineral Resources

How long are our mineral resources going to last?

Summary: Are our mineral resources already nearing their end, or do they have an unlimited lifetime? This question was the subject of discussion even before the book “The Limits of Growth” was published by The Club of Rome. Why are data concerning the statistical lifetime of mineral resources so controversial? What is the situation regarding the recycling of metals? What are critical mineral resources? This report provides answers to these and other questions and reveals some surprising facts.

1 Introduction

Indium is one of the world’s rarest mineral resources. In its elemental form, the heavy metal has only seldom been found in minerals, although it was proven to be present in rock samples from the moon. In 2007, the statistical lifetime of resources of this heavy metal was stated to be 6 years. This means that no indium would have been left in 2014 and the production of touch-screens (Fig. 1) would have ceased. As a commodity, indium did not become interesting until the end of the 1980s, when indium tin oxide (ITO) came into use because of its two chief properties, its electrical...

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