The Influence of the Natural Abundance of Metals on Exploration

CIM Bulletin, 1971


The natural crustal abundances of the principle metals of commerce are examined in relation to production and prices for each metal. Two factors, the abundance x price ratio (BP factor) and abundance/production (B/T factor) are listed for each metal. Ideally, for these desirable commercial metals, each factor should be a constant and the same for all metals; comparing the divergences for the full list of metals allows conclusions to be drawn on the relative degree of natural availability of each metal and the ease or difficulty of winning the metal from the earth's crust. Plotting the two factors for each metal over the past decade of steady industrial usage illustrates the anomalous position of copper and, to a lesser degree, molybdenum and it is concluded that over the long term the price of copper will continue to rise steeply. Possible future prices for copper are examined and a suggested preferred order of ranking of the metals as exploration targets would be copper, nickel, tin, zinc, silver, molybdenum and lead, for the near term, with molybdenum possibly increasing its ranking in the list within the next decade.
Keywords: availability, Bulletin, copper, molybdenum, natural abundance, nickel, copper, metals, Molybdenum, nickel, Prices, Production