Running out of natural resources
Mar 9, 2012
Bishop Hill in BBC, Economics

Gaia Vince, a environment writer with the BBC, has an interesting article about the world's lack of indium, a a rare element used in high-definition screens for iPads and the like. (The link is to a proxy view on the article, since people in the UK aren't allowed to see this part of the BBC's output).

In response, climatologist Michel Crucifix asks

Industrial adaptation to exhaustion of a natural resource. Did it happen before (excl. agriculture) ?

I've suggested coal as a reaction to deforestation, or fibre optics as a reaction to high copper prices, but there must be loads of other examples.

Update on Mar 9, 2012 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Interestingly, a graph of indium prices (source) suggests that the markets don't see exhaustion of indium as being quite the problem that Gaia Vince does.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

Based on content of indium in zinc ore stocks, there is a worldwide reserve base of approximately 6,000 tonnes of economically viable indium.[16] This figure has led to estimates suggesting that, at current consumption rates, there is only 13 years' supply of indium left.[17] However, the Indium Corporation, the largest processor of indium, claims that, on the basis of increasing recovery yields during extraction, recovery from a wider range of base metals (including tin, copper and other polymetallic deposits) and new mining investments, the long-term supply of indium is sustainable, reliable and sufficient to meet increasing future demands.

Ho hum.

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