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January 22, 2010 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know where I can find a diagram outlining the predicted availability of elements for industrial purposes? I'm looking for something that would predict the number of centuries each substance could be mined before it would only be obtained through recycling.
posted by Smart Dalek to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Like this?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: They say it's the eyes that go first, but for me, it's my bookmarks. Many Thanks, Admiral!
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2010

Best answer: I've seen that graph too, but keep in mind that it's a bit of an oversimplication. It shows the 'Reserve' -- the portion that can be economically extracted at current prices and technologies. It does not show the 'Resource', which is the total estimated amount that could ever be feasibly extracted. With all materials, declining reserves increase prices which make more of the resources available, and also create demand for substitutes. Thus the reserve changes over time and is a function of lots of different things. It may be true that the reserve (today's estimate) will be exhausted in 10 years under current consumption, but that doesn't necessarily mean the reserve (estimated 10 years in the future) will actually be zero.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:31 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Percussive Paul is right. When reserves are limited, the element can either be substituted for something else (if possible) or people will pay more for it. When it's value rises, companies are more likely to invest in exploration, or research into better extraction methods - at which point more of the stuff becomes available. This happened with Uranium during the cold war.
posted by freya_lamb at 7:56 AM on January 23, 2010

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