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Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Preface. Below I’ve excerpted some of Ugo Bardi’s “The Universal Mining Machine” (24 January 2008 europe.theoildrum), but I’ve left a great deal out of this excellent article, I encourage you to read all of it if you have time. The biggest problem the world faces is “Peak Diesel”, which is what my book “When Trucks stop running” is about. Bardi points out “that 34% of the energy involved in the US mining industry is in the form of diesel fuel.” Nor are there more minerals to be found: “There is little hope of finding high grade sources of minerals other than those we know already. The planet’s crust has been thoroughly explored and digging deeper is not likely to help, since ores form mainly because of geochemical (especially hydrothermal) processes that operate near the surface.”

Earth’s mineral resources

The Earth’s crust is said to contain 88 elements in concentrations that spread over at least seven orders of magnitude. Some elements are defined as “common,” with concentrations over 0.1% in weight. Of these, five are technologically important in metallic form: iron, aluminum, magnesium, silicon, and titanium. All the other metals exist in lower concentrations, sometimes much lower. Most metals of technological importance are defined as “rare” and exist mostly as low concentration substituents in ordinary rock, that is, dispersed at the atomic level in silicates and other oxides. The average crustal abundance of rare elements, such as copper, zinc, lead and others, is below 0.01% (100 ppm). Some, such as gold, platinum and rhodium, are very rare and exist in the crust as a few parts per billion or even less. However, most rare elements also form specific chemical compounds that can be found at relatively high concentrations in regions called “deposits”. Those deposits from which we actually extract minerals are called “ores”...

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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