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 Frank Field, of MIT, have reported in Environmental Science and Technology that in order for clean-tech to make inroads into climate change, the world would need an increase in neodymium and dysprosium of over 700% and 2600%, respectively, over the next 25 years. The supply of these metals is currently increasing at 6% a year. To meet demand for clean-tech, the supply would have to increase by 8% and 14%, respectively.
Other metals such as copper, lanthanum, and platinum – in which New Zealand may have resource potential - are only weakly amenable to substitution. The pressure will come on globally to discover new resources, and in that respect, New Zealand is relatively poorly explored. All the more reason to promote minerals exploration and mining in New Zealand.