Peak Minerals: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Application

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Journal Article
Natural Resources Research, 2012, 21 (1), pp. 43 - 60
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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. © 2011 International Association for Mathematical Geology.
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