The end of metals?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world is fast running out of metals, it would seem. So, after peak oil now peak metal? Haven't we done damage to the Planet and its resources?

Metals have been used by humankind for millennia and in today's modern technology they are essential and indispensable.

The world is fast running out of metals of all kinds and that at a very alarming rate and especially rare earth could soon become even rarer to the point of non-existence. Bauxite, the ore from which aluminium (aluminum for our American cousins) is made is almost coming to an end, or so we have been told already some years ago those experts often quibble as to whether or not this is the case, and for copper, zinc, and others things are also beginning to look quite bleak.

While some excuses are made as to those metals becoming rare, such as conflict zones, etc., fact is and remains that we are coming to the point that those are non renewable resources and that we are using them up at a rate of knots, in the same way that we have done it with everything, including fish stocks and the like.

Iron, copper, zinc, but also other lesser known metals, such as Europium, Neodymium and Lanthanum, so-called rare earth, are an important part of modern civilization. They are required for common alloys all the way up to electronics. Cars, computers, televisions, cellphones, but also washing machines and dishwashers – all those appliances cannot get by without all those different kinds of metals.

Time to mine the landfills

So-called “rare earths”, which are also metals/ores actually are diminishing at such an alarming rate that cellphones, computers, and other such devices must be recycled to reclaim those and industry has been calling for people to get old cellphone that they may have laying around and which they no longer use to the recycling centers.

--- So, this fact alone makes a mockery out of the claim that instead of the ICE motor car we will all be driving electric vehicles in the near future. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I have said before and will say again.

Another problem is, however, also that those very same rare earth are a major necessity for the production of solar panels …

Scientists around Thomas Graedel in a recent study have examined, aside from source and reserves of individual raw materials, also bottlenecks due to uneven distribution of deposits, social-political aspects, environmental risks in mining then as well as the possible substitution of those elements. The group does not see any shortages forthcoming in metals such as iron, zinc, copper and aluminium. However, unless things have very much changed in the last couple of years the reserves of bauxite have already been running very scarce some decades ago and this was one of the reasons for the drive of recycling of aluminium drinks cans.

So why suddenly the change in saying that we have enough aluminium, which in itself is not even an ore but is created from an ore, and other, including gold where it is said that the only reason of possible shortfalls is the reason that it has to be extracted using environmentally unsafe methods and dangerous chemicals such as cyanide. I, for one, vote for another reason for the change of the pendulum and that is that one does not want to put the cat among the pigeons. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but when we go from announcements of some years ago saying that reserves of, for instance, bauxite are running out to now it being said that aluminium, as if it were an ore itself, is fine then something smells rather fishy.

Thus we need to recycle all metals that can be recycled and to that end we will have to mine our landfills in order to get at all of those that were, in previous decades, tossed thoughtlessly into those holes in the ground in the believe, apparently, that the Planet would be providing those at infinitum. In the same way as some of the Christian Right (even though they are wrong) in the US claim that oil will never run out as “the good Lord put it there for our use and he will replenish it for our use forever”.

© 2016