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Thread: When we run out of cheap metal ores...

  1. #1 When we run out of cheap metal ores... 
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    ...what are we going to do?

    I'm starting a log of a few reports into "peak metals". As we all know we are near peak oil, but what about peak metal?

    Check this graph out, based on Lester Brown's analysis of USGS reserves data and consumption growth of only 2% per annum. (Which as anyone involved with exponential growth math will be able to tell you equates to 4 times the resource consumed after one human lifetime of just 70 years).



    Any ideas?


    I can imagine an industrial system that runs and repairs itself without oil. Yet because of the Export Land Model, I don't think we have enough time to build it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Welcome to the End of the Oil Age!
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  3. #2  
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    Oh we're supposed to run out of everything within the next 100 years anyway

    including fresh air to breathe

    Humans are greedy self obsessed grasping creatures it will do the planet a favour to have a break from us

    Perhaps it will give a chance for a more functional pragmatic intelligent beings to come along


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  4. #3  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    hmm ... reminds me of the 1970s report by the Club of Rome
    according to them we should by now have run out of chromium

    remember that the definition of an ore is a deposit that can be mined economically - if there's a shortage, the price goes up, and uneconomic deposits become economic
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Except that the Club of Rome had a variety of scenarios based on the best information they had at the time, and that was over 30 odd years ago, and while the definition of "economically extractable" can change, the effects of running out of "cheap" or affordable resources can have devastating flow on effects in an economy.

    4 years ago I wrote a piece that predicted higher oil prices, higher inflation, and higher interest rates in Australia as a result. Bingo. But hey, those tar sands and deep ocean fields are looking attractive now? (Hasn't bought the price down though).

    So if we can put the cliché Club of Rome bashing for a moment, and avoid dodging the question by redefining "economically extractable", can we try and actually answer the question?

    The end of conventional metal mining may occur in the lifetimes of babies born today.

    Any idea what we are going to do after that?
    I can imagine an industrial system that runs and repairs itself without oil. Yet because of the Export Land Model, I don't think we have enough time to build it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Welcome to the End of the Oil Age!
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  6. #5  
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    mass recycling probably, or looking elsewhere for the stuff we need
    everything is mathematical.
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  7. #6  
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    Oh dear

    How are we going to build all these future Robots?

    And what are we going to case our mega computers in?

    And what are we going to drive? Cardboard cars?


    Is it now time to start a scrap metal business i wonder!???
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  8. #7  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipse
    The end of conventional metal mining may occur in the lifetimes of babies born today.

    Any idea what we are going to do after that?
    unfortunately i don't

    all i know is that the person who comes up with a solution + has the business sense to capitalise on it will be a very rich man
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  9. #8  
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    Last week I ran feeder cable to an outbuilding, and with today's price of copper being what it is, the customer opted for a smallish breaker panel, rather than invest a fortune in heavy cable - which means he's now forced to conserve energy with "underpowered" building.

    Interesting how limited resources play together, huh?
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  10. #9  
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    So substitution with other materials is good.

    Recycling is good.

    But ultimately, recycling loses a significant fraction each time....

    Wind turbines have a good amount of steel and copper in them, and they are the highest ERoEI energy source we'll have in the post-fossil fuel world. I used to think that once most industrial processes and transport systems were electric, and the 3rd world had been through a "demographic transition" to deal with population growth, that we'd finally be in a sustainable society. But now I'm not so sure... because the very basis of a renewable energy world is cheap metals.
    I can imagine an industrial system that runs and repairs itself without oil. Yet because of the Export Land Model, I don't think we have enough time to build it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Welcome to the End of the Oil Age!
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipse
    Wind turbines have a good amount of steel and copper in them
    Yes, ridiculous IMO. They embody money thrown at a problem.

    Honest, realistic wind farms would be modularly supporting structures (or at least guyed together :x ), possibly of timber trestle and certainly built cheaper than at present, with several rotors driving a common turbine.
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    we need to start to make everything out of wood and paper this will lock up carbon for the life of the product. Remember the fastest aeroplane for 4 years during WWII was the British Mosquito which had a wooden airframe coated in Balsa and ply.
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    do you realise how many forests were needed last time we still had wooden boats and someone wanted to have a naval battle ?

    wherever you turn, it turns out that ALL resources become scarce when the world population is too high and everyone aspires to american living standards
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  14. #13  
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    Yes, I=PAT cannot be beat.
    I can imagine an industrial system that runs and repairs itself without oil. Yet because of the Export Land Model, I don't think we have enough time to build it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Welcome to the End of the Oil Age!
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  15. #14  
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    Yes, ridiculous IMO. They embody money thrown at a problem.
    I disagree. Wind farms are competitive on a dollars per kilowatt basis with nuclear, and are somewhat more expensive than fossil fueled power plants. However, no one making that sort of investment looks just at the initial cost. It is the total life cycle cost that matters, and that must of course include fuel costs as well as environmental mitigation, waste disposal and health effects of emissions. When the fuel is free and (presumably) everlasting, with no negative environmental impact, the life cycle costs come down considerably.
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    nuclear plant in the north of scotland, in the process of being decommissioned (can't remember the name) : building time 3 years, decommisioning time 20years - makes you think, doesn't it ?
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Why do we need all this metal in our cars anyway?

    Often I just see one or two people driving a big expedition or a pickup truck that has an empty bed.

    Why do you need to pay for the gas to lug a couple tons of metal with you to work everyday?

    What we need are smarter cars, not bigger cars!

    Then, once the trend of lightweight cars catches on can you imagine how much metal we could recycle out of those old cars for other things! And you don't necessarily have to restrict comfort or safety by designing lightweight cars either.

    That is the way it needs to go.
    "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." - Mark Twain
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Yes, ridiculous IMO. They embody money thrown at a problem.
    I disagree. Wind farms are competitive...
    I didn't say our current windfarms aren't competitive. You've good news and I'm glad.

    My point is that today's wind farm as a whole could be more efficient, cheaper to start up, and cheaper to maintain, if soberly designed. Like, what's with erecting all these stand-alone towers? They aren't even guyed to the ground or cabled together. What a waste of steel and concrete! I can't even imagine all the hidden tons of reinforced concrete footing each one must bear on. Compare how smartly engineered our electric transmission towers are. Today's wind farms are designed by flaky dreamers, not practical engineers.

    I walked among them, near Fort Macleod, Alberta, and was disgusted. Propped up by government funding, optimistically outputting some fraction of 1% of the provincial demand, and on that remarkably windy day half the turbines weren't even turning. A few slowly idled forward then backward... very few appeared to rotate at full speed. Apparently the cost to service these high tech wonders of sculpted steel is so high, it's more profitable to let them fail, and only run the motors I mean turbines for gov/media events. :wink:
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  19. #18  
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    OK, then check out Kitegen!

    I can imagine an industrial system that runs and repairs itself without oil. Yet because of the Export Land Model, I don't think we have enough time to build it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Welcome to the End of the Oil Age!
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  20. #19  
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    The wind farm I visited near Lamar, Colorado, had most of the turbines running, each one producing (IIRC) 1.3 MW, and there were no government or media people within miles.

    Today's wind farms are designed by flaky dreamers, not practical engineers.
    This is an opinion based on no evidence presented here.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Today's wind farms are designed by flaky dreamers, not practical engineers.
    This is an opinion based on no evidence presented here.
    I've presented evidence. Current farms are patently artistic in design, whereas soberly built structures are characteristically ugly (though beautiful from the builder's perspective). What I said about high cost materials, overbuilt for the sake of looking cute. Where are the truss towers of standard structural steel units? Where are the guy wires? Why is each tower freestanding? Why can't anybody maintain these structures without overpriced and proprietary equipment, materials, and training? Just compare the wind farm to our realistic & established structures, the cost of building and upkeep should be comparable.

    Wind farm design is inundated by visionary schemes and methodology. Just look into Eclipse's Kitegen link (above), for your evidence! Those ex-hippies don't even have a wind-tunnel prototype, no not a single proof of concept!
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  22. #21  
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    You know...the question this really boils down to is: How do we sustain a lifestyle of unlimited growth within a limited system. AND: what effort do we want to put up to find at least partial solutions??

    E.g. Windfarms or Solar Power Plants. When asked if they favour it, 90% of the people tend to say: YES of course! When you ask them if they would support a windfarm in their vincinity........"Oh, well, of course not, the noise, the site of those uuuuuugly towers,.......and oh, those poor migratory birds (funny enough this one is almost always cited by those opposing the use of regenerative energy you know the types.....they would be drivin' their Escalade from the kitchen to the bedroom if the doors were wide enough and otherwise do not give a stinkin' ole rat's tushy about the environment) and the list goes on and on. Especially when the change comes with a price tag. Then they have 27 gazillion resons why they do not want to change the least bit in their behaviour.

    WHAAAT????? Those energy saving bulbs (just for your reference, humans tend to spend 15% of their electrical energy in household and street lighting) cost € 4,49 a PIECE ??!! I'd get 10 conventional bulbs for THAAAAT price!! (Wellllll, but you have to change them 10 times as often as the energy saving CFL and the energy savings per year can be as high as €5 depending on the usage and wattage) Oh, and it takes forever until they start!! I do not want to wait for 20 seconds until the light comes on!! (Well, with the old types this might be true but the new CFLs from GE, OSRAM or Philips start within 0,5 seconds and the lumen output is up to 70% of the nominal within 5 seconds) Oh, and the light is so COLD and get's me a headache/nausea/dizzyness/insert-whatever-negative-side-effect-you-can-think-of-HERE. (Check out the latest CFLs. They even look like a conventional bulb and the new covers result in a colour-temperature as low as 2800K, very much like the shitty conventional bulbs)

    Oh, and I am supposed to give up my Escalade??!! Why should I?? It's wayyyyy safer to drive around in an SUV draggin' 2500kg of metal around in order to move a human weighing in at 100kg from A to B!!!

    Oh, and why put decent insulation in my house??!! I just crank up the AC, why do I need insulation??


    What, recycling my WASTE!!?? Do I look like a dump-truck-driver to you (real quote)??!!

    Blablablablablablablablablablablablablablablablabl ablablabla...............
    Been there, heard all that and much more. So the correct time to think about changeing our ways actually was yesterday. Or would you like alternative (for a lack of better words let's it that for the moment) energy generation to become more and more expensive if we wait even longer to develop it? Just a fact of life: if you wait longer to change from A to B and the time left for the change get's less and less the more expensive it WILL get. YES, I know.......we still have plenty of oil and other resources left and we always found a way when we had to......yaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayaddayadda....... .....
    But this in my view is extremely egocentric. You did not have to pay lot's of money for energy so far, but what would you want your children to pay for heating/cooling/transportation/housing/lighting/goods in the future? Not only in terms of money but also time and effort to get 24 hours supply with gas/oil/commodities??
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  23. #22  
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    I've presented evidence.
    No, you haven’t. You’ve repeated your assertion. However, here’s a reference that supports your assertion that lattice towers are cheaper.

    http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/wtrb/tower.htm
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  24. #23 Re: When we run out of cheap metal ores... 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipse
    As we all know we are near peak oil, but what about peak metal?
    A tad of topic, but the deputy prime minister of Iraq today announced that the official size of Iraq's proven oil reserves have tripled from around 120 billion barrels to 350 billion barrels. Thats an increase of Russia's and Canada's total proven oil reserves combined.
    Eat Dolphin, save the Tuna!!!!
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    I've presented evidence.
    No, you haven’t. You’ve repeated your assertion. However, here’s a reference that supports your assertion that lattice towers are cheaper.

    http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/wtrb/tower.htm
    Man, if we were betting tortoise vs. hare, and I said "just look at that reptile's heavy shell and stumpy legs" would you rate that an "assertion not evidence"?

    Anyway, good link with sober info. Thanks for it. :-D
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  26. #25  
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    I seem to recall that the tortoise won.
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  27. #26  
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    The reference wasn't accidental. :wink:
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