first majestic silver

The world could run out of gold by 2050

January 18, 2023

TORONTO (Jan 18) As society becomes more complicated with the introduction of new technology, one researcher has issued a warning that the dwindling supply of resources in the face of growing demand means we need to improve how we use and recycle them.

In a research paper recently published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Josep Peñuelas, a research professor at the Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and at the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CREAF-CSIC), said that the world could run out of essential metals and minerals within the next 100 years. And even sooner than that for metals like gold.

"Based on the assumption of an annual growth in the consumption/extraction of mineral elements of around 3% until 2050, it is possible that the reserves of some of these elements may be exhausted by 2050 (gold and antimuonium) or in fewer than 100 years [molyddenum, zinc]," he wrote in his research paper.

He added that finding better uses for finite resources and better recycling is essential as the complexity of our society continues to evolve. In the paper, Peñuelas looked at the increasing divergence between the environment and humans' composition and our role in the ecosystem, also known as elementome.

"The human elementome has evolved from being formed basically by elements provided by biological systems to include other elements that need to be supplied from nonbiological sources," he said.

Peñuela noted that in 1900 biomass materials represented about 80% of total materials used by humans; that has dropped to 32% as of 2025. He added that by 2050 the amount of biomass material used is expected to drop to nearly 20%.

"Throughout the 20th century, the human elementome has gained elements from minerals used in construction, transport, industry, and more recently in new technologies, such as computation, photovoltaic devices, and mobile phones and, as a result, the human elementome is becoming more complex and now comprises almost all naturally occurring elements," Peñuelas wrote. "This divergence has ecological, evolutionary and environmental impacts but also economic, social, and geopolitical risks."

However, he warned that the use of rare-earth elements is unsustainable because of their rarity and the lack of recycling technology. Along with environmental repercussions, the paper also highlighted the growing geopolitical instability created by human's evolving elementome. Peñuelas noted that rare earth elements are located in only a limited number of countries, with China controlling about 40% of the total global supply.

"The availability of these elements is thus subject to fluctuations in supply and prices by geopolitical opposed interests, with the consequent risk of conflicts," he said. "There is, thus, an urgent need to develop new technologies that favor more profitable use of these scarce materials and that allow a widespread and efficient recycling and reuse of these elements."

Peñuelas said that some emerging technologies like bioleaching and biosorption, which use organisms during the extraction process, could play essential roles in how critical minerals are produced and recycled.

The idea of peak resources has been an ongoing discussion in the mining sector. Many market analysts noted that the number of discoveries of major gold deposits has dwindled in the last decade; however, they have added that the world is still far from peak gold.

At the same time, analysts have also said that resource extraction is expected to become more complicated and expensive as companies are forced to explore deeper underground for bigger deposits.

In a report published last month, British-based precious metals research firm Metals Focus said that the average mine grade in global gold production has dropped 8% from its 2017 of 1.46 grams per tonne (g/t).

The analysts noted that the fall in mine grade is partly attributable to the increase in the gold price over the same period, which makes lower grade material economic to exploit.


Gold Eagle twitter                Like Gold Eagle on Facebook