Peak minerals: What can we learn from the history of mineral economics and the cases of gold and phosphorus?

Peak minerals: What can we learn from the history of mineral economics and the cases of gold and... The objective of this paper is to provide a conceptual and empirical historic analysis of applications, misunderstandings, and fallacies surrounding the Hubbert curve, the U-shaped production curve of a commodity, and peak minerals. We show that the ultimate recoverable resources (URR) cannot be predicted by fitting a symmetric curve to the data of past (historic) production for any commodity on a global scale. Without knowledge of the URR, it is not possible to determine the peak production time. For well-confined areas, in the case of a supply market, it might be possible today to construct a satisfactory Hubbert curve and to determine peak production. For phosphate, the case of Nauru Island is a good example, but so far, it is not possible for any commodity worldwide. URR comprise past production, presently known reserves, and future reserves developed from resources (known, but uneconomic at present) and parts of the geopotential (not yet known, but by geological reasoning and technological innovations, reserves can be expected to be discovered). The concept of reserves is a dynamic one, determined by economic conditions, technological developments, etc. The reserves of today can be the resources of tomorrow and vice versa. These factors also influence production curves. Therefore, it is not justified to interpret every peak as caused by geological constraints. In most cases so far, peak curves are demand driven and not at all influenced by geological availability. In only a very few cases (like the curve for the lower 48 states of the USA for oil by Hubbert in 1956 or gold production in South Africa), they are supply driven, i.e., true Hubbert curves. Gold showed four peaks in the twentieth century. Since gold mining is “money mining,” there is always a demand for gold. Therefore, the causes for the peak development must be economic ones with no influence of physical-production demand factors, purely supply factors—a model case to study. We also show how the kind of commodity, government regulations, technologies, and commodity prices influence U-shaped production curves. For phosphate, we show that a peak cannot be predicted with the present base of knowledge. We face a reserve-to-consumption ratio of higher than 300, which is higher than for every major commodity and at least 10 times the length of innovation cycles in the mineral industry. If we take the dynamic nature of reserves into account, we doubt that it is very meaningful to discuss the reliability of reserve and resource data. Instead, under the aspect of long-term future supply and a postulated right to know based on the universal right to feed oneself in dignity, the geopotential of phosphorus as the source of future reserves and resources should be regularly examined by an international scientific body. Mineral Economics Springer Journals

Peak minerals: What can we learn from the history of mineral economics and the cases of gold and phosphorus?

Loading next page...
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Copyright © 2016 by Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
Economics; Industrial Organization; Mineral Resources; Innovation/Technology Management; Environmental Economics; Engineering Economics, Organization, Logistics, Marketing
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site


You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.

DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Unlimited reading

Read as many articles as you need. Full articles with original layout, charts and figures. Read online, from anywhere.

Stay up to date

Keep up with your field with Personalized Recommendations and Follow Journals to get automatic updates.

Organize your research

It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

Monthly Plan

  • Read unlimited articles
  • Personalized recommendations
  • No expiration
  • Print 20 pages per month
  • 20% off on PDF purchases
  • Organize your research
  • Get updates on your journals and topic searches


Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial

Best Deal — 39% off

Annual Plan

  • All the features of the Professional Plan, but for 39% off!
  • Billed annually
  • No expiration
  • For the normal price of 10 articles elsewhere, you get one full year of unlimited access to articles.



billed annually
Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial