A growing number of elements on the Periodic Table are becoming “endangered species” of metal.

In 2010 global concern was voiced that China - as the producer of 97 percent of the world’s “rare earth elements” - would restrict exports of these hi-tech metals.
The US Department of Energy subsequently forecast looming shortages of REEs, as well as of some other metals (lithium, indium and tellurium), based on projected growth in electric and hybrid vehicles, wind and solar electricity, and energy-efficient lighting.
The European Union’s list includes all of the REEs and platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium and platinum), as well as antimony, beryllium, cobalt, gallium, germanium, magnesium, niobium, tantalum, and tungsten.
A growing number of elements on the Periodic Table are becoming “endangered species” of metal.


Copper

“If electrons are the lifeblood of a modern economy, copper makes up its blood vessels,” writes Richard Kerr in the February 2014 issue of Science Magazine. He reports that global copper production is forecast to peak in 2040 at 27 million tonnes, and then decline to less than 5 Mt a year by the end of...

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Critical and specialty metals

“Critical metals” may be defined as those that modern society cannot do without, while “specialty metals” are generally found in hi-tech and green-tech (Mickey Fulp). Like air, they tend not to be thought of until they become unaffordable or unobtainable.  A list of “critical metals” of interest to New Zealand as a supplier includes: iron ore...

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Replacing metals

A study by Yale University on 62 metals found that for 12 of them “the potential substitutes for their major uses are inadequate or appear not to exist at all”, reported in Chemistry World in January 2014. These metals include manganese, rhodium, yttrium and a number of other rare earth elements, importantly, dysprosium. Randolph Kirchain, Elisa Alonso and...

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