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Using the cumulative availability curve to assess the threat of mineral depletion: The case of lithium

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  • Yaksic, Andrés
  • Tilton, John E.

Abstract

The cumulative availability curve shows the quantities of a mineral commodity that can be recovered under current conditions from existing resources at various prices. The future availability of a mineral commodity depends on the shape of its cumulative availability curve (determined by geologic considerations, such as the nature and incidence of the available mineral deposits), the speed at which society moves up the curve (determined by future demand and the extent to which this demand is satisfied by recycling), and shifts in the curve (determined by cost-reducing technological change and other factors). While the shape of the curve for any given mineral commodity may or may not be known, it is knowable since the geologic processes responsible for the curve's shape took place many years ago. In contrast, the factors governing how fast society moves up the curve and how the curve shifts over time are not only unknown but also unknowable. Using lithium as an example, this article shows that knowledge about the shape of the cumulative availability curve can by itself provide useful insights for some mineral commodities regarding the potential future threat of shortages due to depletion. Despite the inherent uncertainties surrounding the future growth in lithium demand as well as the uncertainties regarding the future cost-reducing effects of new production technologies, the shape of the lithium cumulative availability curve indicates that depletion is not likely to pose a serious problem over the rest of this century and well beyond.

Suggested Citation

  • Yaksic, Andrés & Tilton, John E., 2009. "Using the cumulative availability curve to assess the threat of mineral depletion: The case of lithium," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 185-194, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:34:y:2009:i:4:p:185-194
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ebensperger, Arlene & Maxwell, Philip & Moscoso, Christian, 2005. "The lithium industry: Its recent evolution and future prospects," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 218-231, September.
    2. Tilton, John E. & Lagos, Gustavo, 2007. "Assessing the long-run availability of copper," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 19-23.
    3. Roberto F. Aguilera & Roderick G. Eggert & Gustavo Lagos C.C. & John E. Tilton, 2009. "Depletion and the Future Availability of Petroleum Resources," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 141-174.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Frenzel, Max & Ketris, Marina P. & Seifert, Thomas & Gutzmer, Jens, 2016. "On the current and future availability of gallium," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 38-50.
    2. Stepanek, Christian & Walter, Matthias & Rathgeber, Andreas, 2013. "Is the convenience yield a good indicator of a commodity's supply risk?," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 395-405.
    3. Sauer, Ildo L. & Escobar, Javier F. & da Silva, Mauro F.P. & Meza, Carlos G. & Centurion, Carlos & Goldemberg, José, 2015. "Bolivia and Paraguay: A beacon for sustainable electric mobility?," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 910-925.
    4. Jean-François Labbé & Georges Daw, 2012. "Panorama 2011 du marché du lithium," Working Papers halshs-00809298, HAL.
    5. Monnet, Antoine & Gabriel, Sophie & Percebois, Jacques, 2017. "Analysis of the long-term availability of uranium: The influence of dynamic constraints and market competition," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 98-107.
    6. Maxwell, Philip, 2015. "Transparent and opaque pricing: The interesting case of lithium," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 92-97.
    7. Miedema, Jan H. & Moll, Henri C., 2013. "Lithium availability in the EU27 for battery-driven vehicles: The impact of recycling and substitution on the confrontation between supply and demand until2050," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 204-211.
    8. repec:spr:minecn:v:30:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s13563-016-0094-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Jordan, Brett W. & Eggert, Roderick G. & Dixon, Brent W. & Carlsen, Brett W., 2015. "Thorium: Crustal abundance, joint production, and economic availability," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 81-93.
    10. repec:eee:jrpoli:v:53:y:2017:i:c:p:173-189 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Brett W. Jordan & Rod Eggert & Brent Dixon & Brett Carlsen, 2014. "Thorium: Does Crustal Abundance Lead to Economic Availability?," Working Papers 2014-07, Colorado School of Mines, Division of Economics and Business.
    12. repec:eee:appene:v:212:y:2018:i:c:p:663-679 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Fizaine, Florian, 2013. "Byproduct production of minor metals: Threat or opportunity for the development of clean technologies? The PV sector as an illustration," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 373-383.
    14. Hatayama, Hiroki & Tahara, Kiyotaka, 2015. "Evaluating the sufficiency of Japan׳s mineral resource entitlements for supply risk mitigation," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 72-80.
    15. Jean-François Labbé & Georges Daw, 2012. "Panorama 2011 du marché du lithium," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00809298, HAL.
    16. Grosjean, Camille & Miranda, Pamela Herrera & Perrin, Marion & Poggi, Philippe, 2012. "Assessment of world lithium resources and consequences of their geographic distribution on the expected development of the electric vehicle industry," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 1735-1744.
    17. Daw, Georges, 2017. "Security of mineral resources: A new framework for quantitative assessment of criticality," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 173-189.
    18. Redlinger, Michael & Eggert, Roderick, 2016. "Volatility of by-product metal and mineral prices," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 69-77.
    19. Vikström, Hanna & Davidsson, Simon & Höök, Mikael, 2013. "Lithium availability and future production outlooks," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 252-266.
    20. Henckens, M.L.C.M. & van Ierland, E.C. & Driessen, P.P.J. & Worrell, E., 2016. "Mineral resources: Geological scarcity, market price trends, and future generations," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 102-111.
    21. Speirs, Jamie & Contestabile, Marcello & Houari, Yassine & Gross, Robert, 2014. "The future of lithium availability for electric vehicle batteries," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 183-193.
    22. Kushnir, Duncan & Sandén, Björn A., 2012. "The time dimension and lithium resource constraints for electric vehicles," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 93-103.

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