Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















Yale Study: Not Enough Metals In Earth To Meet Global Demand

16th Century astrolabe: "The brass in this instrument has been in use for nearly 500 years," says Gordon. "Modern products often serve our needs for a few years or months before discard, jeopardizing the sustainable use of scarce metal resources." See larger photo.
by Staff Writers
New Haven CT (SPX) Jan 27, 2006
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 a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the study, even the full extraction of metals from the Earth's crust and extensive recycling programs may not meet future demand if all nations begin to use the same services enjoyed in developed nations.

The researchers Robert Gordon and Thomas Graedel of Yale University and Marlen Bertram of the Organisation of European Aluminum Refiners suggest that the environmental and social consequences of metals depletion became clear from studies of metal stocks--in the Earth, in use by people and lost in landfills--instead of tracking the flow of metal through the economy in a given time and region.

"There is a direct relation between requisite stock, standard of living and technology in use at a given time," said Gordon, professor of geology and geophysics. "We offer a different approach to studying use of finite resources--one that is more directly related to environmental concerns than are the discussions found in the economics literature."

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, titled "Metal Stocks and Sustainability," 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.

For the entire globe, the researchers estimate that 26 percent of extractable copper in the Earth's crust is now lost in non-recycled wastes; for zinc, it is 19 percent. Current prices do not reflect those losses because supplies are still large enough to meet demand, and new methods have helped mines produce material more efficiently.

The study suggests these metals are not at risk of depletion in the immediate future. However, the researchers believe scarce metals, such as platinum, risk depletion in this century because there is no suitable substitute for use in devices such as catalytic converters and hydrogen fuel cells. They also found that, for many metals, the average rate of use per person continues to rise. As a result, the report says, even the more plentiful metals may face similar depletion risks in the future.

"This is looking at recycling on a broader scale," said Cynthia Ekstein, the National Science Foundation (NSF) officer who oversees the Yale award. "This is looking at the metal lifecycle from cradle to grave."

The research emerged from collaboration among researchers funded by the NSF Biocomplexity in the Environment - Materials Use: Science, Engineering and Society program.

Citation: Proc. Natl. Acad, Sci. USA: early online (January 23, 2006)

Related Links
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Magnetic Reconnection Region Larger Than 2.5 Million Km Found In The Solar Wind
Paris (ESA) Jan 12, 2006
Using the ESA Cluster spacecraft and the NASA Wind and ACE satellites, a team of American and European scientists have discovered the largest jets of particles created between the Earth and the Sun by magnetic reconnection. This result makes the cover of this week's issue of Nature.







  • Coral, Mangroves Priceless As Natural Buffers, Fishing Grounds
  • Darkness Spikes EMS Helicopter Crashes, Fatalities
  • Contigency Plan Issued For Accidental Calamities
  • Hazard Mitigation Can Save Money

  • Of Mice Men Trees And The Global Carbon Cycle
  • NJIT Solar Physicists Report Paradox: Less Sunlight, But Temps Rise
  • 2005 Was The Warmest Year In A Century
  • Japanese Scientists Dig Up Million-Year-Old Ice

  • Japan's ALOS In Orbit: ESA Will Deliver Its Data To European Researchers
  • Winter Snow On The Hindu Kush
  • NASA Magnetic Field Mission Ends
  • TIGER Innovators Enhance North-South Collaboration

  • Ethanol Can Replace Gasoline With Big Energy Savings
  • Portugal Pushes Back Deadline For International Wind Farm Bids
  • Energy Techs Cut Path To Reduced Emissions
  • Iran, Nigeria Lead To Oil Spike

  • Vaccine Provides 100% Protection Against Avian Flu Virus In Animal Study
  • Scientists Says Bird Flu Threatens National Security
  • Internet Game Provides Breakthrough In Predicting The Spread Of Epidemics
  • WHO: Pandemic Threat Not Exaggerated

  • Pitt Professor's Theory Of Evolution Gets Boost From Cell Research
  • Life Leaves Subtle Signature In The Lay Of The Land, Say Berkeley Researchers
  • Duck Bill Dinosaur Mystery Finally Solved
  • Mute Swan Population Helps Explain Longstanding Evolutionary Question

  • Questions Linger After Songhua River Spill
  • Rain Gardens Soak Up Urban Storm Water Pollution
  • Clean Up Launched At One Of Czech Republic Most Dangerous Pollution Blackspots
  • Russia Halts Monitoring As Toxic Slick Dissolves In Amur

  • Study Suggests Why Neanderthals Vanished
  • New Technique Puts Brain-Imaging Research On Its Head
  • New Maps Reveal True Extent Of Human Footprint On Earth
  • Distinct Brain Regions Specialized For Faces And Bodies

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement