There’s “a slightly silly piece at the BBC that claims that Apple and all other electronics companies are going to have terrible problems when indium runs out in 2017,” Tim Worstall writes for Forbes. “My apologies but these sorts of articles make me rather angry: this isn’t as bad as some, I’ll give the BBC that but it still ignores the most basic thing that you need to know about metals and minerals: about all the things we dig up out of the ground in fact.”
“Now the reporter, Gaia Vince, has in fact got correct what will happen if we actually do run out of indium: we’ll substitute for it. However, we do need to make clear that to an economist substitution doesn’t mean just using something else,” Worstall writes. “There’s a serious error made being made here though about ‘running out by 2017.’ We don’t in fact run out of minerals, we never run out of minerals or the metals that we extract from them. They just become more expensive. That might well prompt us to substitute them which of course means again that we never run out of them.”
Worstall writes, “Published reserves are those amounts that everyone knows are there, are recoverable at current prices. Further, the amounts that someone has spent the money to prove are there. And it’s that last which is the reason that published reserves of everything seem to run out in 30-50 year’s time. Because no one bothers to spend the money proving minerals reserves available for longer than that. Why bother (and it’s an expensive process) to prove absolutely that there’s 150 years, not 50 years, available at this one mine?”
“What you do is say here’s the reserves I’ve proven and then over there, well, it looks like there’s a lot more but we’ll spend money to prove it in a decade or two’s time,” Worstall writes. “Which in turn means that published reserve numbers for any metal or mineral are not what we should use if we want to talk about binding resource constraints. For that’s not what they are, they are economic constraints: here’s the amount that we know absolutely is there at today’s (or likely future) prices using today’s technology to extract it.”
Worstall writes, “Umm, yes, I do get angry, angry at length obviously, at journalists (and environmentalists) not understanding this point.”
Read more in the full article here.
[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Edward Weber” for the heads up.]