peak oil sustainability

Peak everything: global resource depletion rates

This is something I’ve been looking for for quite some time – the depletion rates of various non-renewable resources. This graph shows the number of years of supply that remain, if we were to carry on consuming at today’s rates.

Of course, consumption of every one of these resources is growing rather than remaining at a steady depletion rate, so we don’t actually have as long as the numbers here might suggest. They also assume that all known reserves are recoverable, but the easily accessible reserves are mined first. The last dregs might be in mountainous terrain or war zones, and just uneconomic to exploit.

On the other hand, recycling means there will be life beyond these figures. Gold and silver will be melted down and recast, although expect the prices to rise considerably. There are also alternatives. Indium is a metal that can be spread in uniquely thin layers, and is used to make LCDs and touchscreens. There may only be 13 years of naturally occuring indium left, but it can be produced from zinc or copper refining processes.

I’d also like a second opinion on these figures. They’ve been compiled by the information agency CIRCA and published in their book Where we are now, using data from the University of Augsburg. If anyone knows of a more immediate source, please let me know.

Either way, it’s pretty crazy to think that in 50 years time we may have used up all the economically accessible supplies of some very useful and important things, such as tin, lead and oil. Managing the decline of natural resources could turn out to be one of the political priorities of the century.



  1. The coal one looks a bit high, in the light of the various analyses done over the last five years – lots of stuff on the OilDrum about it, search under ‘Routledge’.

  2. I see what you mean Sam. Interesting that in this case global reserves have been revised downwards rather than upwards. Rather than finding more, we’re discovering there’s a whole lot less than we thought.

  3. I was noticing that you said that indium can be produced from zinc or copper. This is an odd statement because indium is an element, and can’t be synthesized with anything less than a particle accelerator. Are you referring to extracting indium from zinc or copper ore?

    1. Sorry, an unclear statement from me – it cannot be created out of zinc or copper, but it can be extracted from the zinc or copper refining processes. It is unusual to find pure reserves of indium, but it is often found mixed with other metals.

  4. In terms of a practical understanding of nature, compared to the bees we are but infants.
    When the ‘counter-culture’ movement was in full swing in the United States in the late 1960s,
    many younger people began a ‘back to the earth’ movement in an attempt to draw a closer connection the
    land that they instinctively knew sustained them. Offering
    a variety of specialty produce alongside strong selling products establishes a foundation
    of success with any business and this includes a fruit-stand or Farmer’s Market enterprise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: