Consumption and Use of Non-Renewable Mineral and Energy Raw Materials from an Economic Geology Point of View
We outline a path to sustainable development that would give future generations the chance to be as well-off as their predecessors without running out of natural resources, especially metals. To this end, we have to consider three key resources: (1) the geosphere or primary resources, (2) the technosphere or secondary resources, which can be recycled and (3) human ingenuity and creativity. We have two resource extremes: natural resources which are completely consumed (fossil fuels) versus natural resources (metals) which are wholly recyclable and can be used again. Metals survive use and are merely transferred from the geosphere to the technosphere. There will, however, always be a need for contributions from the geosphere to offset inevitable metal losses in the technosphere. But we do have a choice. We do not need raw materials as such, only the intrinsic property of a material that enables it to fulfil a function. At the time when consumption starts to level off, chances improve of obtaining most of the material for our industrial requirements from the technosphere. Then a favorable supply equilibrium can emerge. Essential conditions for taking advantage of this opportunity: affordable energy and ingenuity to find new solutions for functions, to optimize processes and to minimize losses in the technosphere.
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