Why We Shouldn’t Worry About Mineral Reserves Running Out

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745

It’s not exactly unusual to see some environmental type running around screaming because mineral reserves are about to run out. The Club of Rome report, the EU’s “circular economy” ideas, Blueprint for Survival, they’re all based upon the idea that said reserves are going to run out.

They look at the usual listing (USGS, here) and note that at the current rate of usage reserves will run out in 30 to 50 years. Entirely correct they are too. It’s the next step which is such drivelling idiocy. For the claim then becomes that we will run out of those metals, those minerals, when the reserves do. This being idiot bollocks.

For a mineral reserve is, as best colloquial language can put it, the stuff we’ve prepared for use in the next few decades. Like, say, 30 to 50 years. That we’re going to run out of what we’ve got prepared isn’t a problem. For we’ve an entire industry, mining, whose job to to go prepare some more for us to use.

I even wrote a book about all of this.

So, here’s an example of the point. Rare earths, lovely stuff. And there’s a lot of that lovely stuff in the remains and leftovers of other mining operations. I can quite happily point to vast lakes of stuff containing rare earths, hundreds of millions of tonne of stuff containing hundreds of thousands of tonnes – millions maybe. And we do know that a byproduct of phosphate mining is gypsum, and in that gypsum there will be rare earths. Florida has mountains of this stuff – although there’s also a certain amount of radium in that. In South Africa:

But there’s still 35mln tonnes of gypsum left on those stacks, containing an estimated 210,000 tonnes of rare earths, an estimate based on a grade of 0.6% TREO from Sasol’s grab sample assays, which has the highest percentage of neodymium-praseodymium in the rare earth basket in the world, at around 30%.

It will now be up to Rainbow to prove up the quality of that resource, which it intends to do with an auger drilling campaign which will be initiated shortly.

“This project now comes into its own,” says Bennett. “We plan to drill these gypsum stacks and get them to inferred and then measured and indicated, and possibly even a reserve, within 12 months.”

Note that. A mineral reserve is something created by the mining company. Created by measuring, testing, test extracting and proving that the mineral can be processed, using current technology, at current prices, and produce a profit. Proving that this is not just dirt but is in fact ore.

Mineral reserves are things we humans make, not things that exist. The question about resources availability isn’t what’s in mineral reserves at all then. It’s what is there out there that we can make mineral reserves from?

The environmentalists are starting from the wrong assumption. Ho Hum.

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Esteban
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Esteban

As I recall, in the 70s we were told that the World would run out of oil by the 90s.

Perhaps they meant the 2090s, we never thought to ask that.

Spike
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Spike

Like Imperial College’s initial prediction, like current Covid predictions, the exhaustion of resources always assumes humankind sits back and does nothing about it in the meantime. So the entire “sustainability” industry, requiring coercive intervention by an army of gadflies, is built on quicksand. Even that telephone wired into the wall was not sustainable. Thankfully.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

The only mineral I’ve noticed recently was uranium. Evidently we now get about 50% of it from fracking.

Barks
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Barks

Some were yelling “peak oil” as the West Texas rednecks were punching holes and injecting sand for fracking. In this century.

jgh
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jgh

If I look in my fridge I’ve only got enough food for about two days. Oh No! I’m going to starve on Tuesday!

Penseivat
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Penseivat

Some years ago, on holiday in China, watched an English language programme on China’s building programmes. It was mentioned that these programmes were so vast that, if China continues to make concrete at the current rate, they will need a a new planet for the raw materials by 2050.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Concrete is just cunningly processed dirt, it’s hard to imagine enough buildings on the planet that we’d somehow run out of that.