Peak Minerals: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Application
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This article reviews the theoretical foundations for the concept of peak minerals; drawing on similarities and differences with peak oil as modelled using Hubbert style curves. Whilst several studies have applied peak modelling to selected minerals, discussion of the appropriateness of using Hubbert style curves in the minerals context remains largely unexplored. Our discussion focuses on a comparison between oil and minerals, on the key variables: rates of discovery, estimates of ultimately recoverable resources and demand and production trends. With respect to minerals, there are several obstacles which complicate the application of Hubbert style curves to the prediction of future mineral production, including the lack of accurate discovery data, the effect of uncertain reserve estimates, and varying ore quality and quantity. Another notable difference is that while oil is often combusted during use, minerals are used to make metals which are inherently recyclable. Notwithstanding, by using a range of estimates of resources and/or reserves, a period of time can be identified which indicates when a peak in minerals production may occur. This information may then be used to plan for a transition from using a potentially constrained resource, to using substitutes if available, or to reducing demand for that mineral in society.
Keywordseconomic environmental Hubbert mining minerals peak oil resource depletion sustainable
This research has been undertaken as part of the Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster, a collaborative program between the Australian CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation); The University of Queensland; University of Technology, Sydney; Curtin University; CQUniversity; and The Australian National University. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution each partner and the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund. The Minerals Futures Cluster is a part of the Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship. Thank you to Gavin Mudd for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.
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