Metal is a vital resource to the progression and survival of humanity, but the earth contains a finite number of the raw materials needed to make these and at some point, we are going to run out. In this article, we take a look at exactly what peak metal is, and what that means for Australia, the world, and the scrap metal industry.
What is peak metal?
The idea of a resource ‘peaking’ was first put forward in the 1950’s by an American geoscientist who used it to describe the point where the maximum rate of petrol extraction would be reached in America. Lately, a number of Australian scientists have hypothesized that the same thing is likely to happen in our own country and eventually around the world, but this time with metal. Like oil, all metals are a finite resource which are either dug out of the earth in a raw mineral state and then refined, or mined in their elemental form.
When will peak metal occur?
Admittedly, given that the earth’s crust is made up of 32% iron, it’s unlikely that we would run out of the raw materials necessary to make steel any time in the near future. However, there are a number of other precious elements and minerals like gold, zinc, copper and silver, which are predicted to peak by the end of the century. Putting a timeline on when a particular metal will peak is hard, as there are many small mineral and element deposits around the world which simply aren’t economically viable to mine, but this could change in the future if the value of the metals goes up.
What happens if we do encounter mineral shortages?
Interestingly enough, the world already dealt with shortages of the mineral cryolite in the 1980s. Cryolite used to play a crucial role in aluminium production, but when the last viable deposit was mined in Greenland, researchers were able to find a new way of producing aluminium which didn’t necessitate this mineral.
Of course, science is not going to be able to replace the function of every mineral as it’s availability depletes, and this is where metal recycling will become even more important. Unlike oil, metal is recyclable, and in the future as minerals and elements become more scarce and mining becomes less economically (and environmentally) viable, metal recycling will come to play a central role in the way we source metals for our endlessly growing needs.
Metal Men offer scrap metal pick up in Melbourne and pay fair prices for a wide range of materials. Get in touch with us today by calling 03 5941 6677.