Long-term projections of non-fuel minerals: We were wrong, but why?

Ira Sohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This article revisits global projections made in 1981 of eight metallic and fertilizer minerals for the year 2000. The principal objectives of the present study are to quantify the differences between the projected and observed levels of consumption for the year 2000 for eight of the 26 non-fuel minerals covered in the earlier study, and, then, to attempt to attribute these (often) large differences to the major determinants of minerals demand: income, technological, regulatory and other public policy changes, and changes in the recycling rates of the metallic minerals. The eight minerals are: aluminum, copper, iron, mercury, nickel, phosphate rock, potash and tin. This follow-up study begins with a discussion of the need for long-term projections of minerals. This section also includes a summary of the major determinants of the long-term demand for, and supply of, minerals, and a review of some of the earlier assessments of mineral needs and availability. Section 3 of the article begins with a short summary of the World Input-Output Model, the main methodological tool used in the earlier study that was developed by Prof. Wassily Leontief, the 1973 Nobel laureate in economics, and the way in which non-fuel minerals were represented in that system. This section also provides a summary of other global modeling efforts of non-fuel minerals that were carried out at a similar point in time for a similar interval. Section 4 presents the actual population, GDP and per capita GDP changes over the 1970-2000 time interval compared with the projected rates for these important determinants of mineral use, along with the projected and observed growth rates of minerals consumption for the eight non-fuel minerals included in this study. When the projections are compared to the observed global consumption rates for the year 2000, the differences range from +43% for nickel to +229% for potash. Section 5 discusses the apparent reasons for the differences between the projected and observed global consumption rates of these non-fuel minerals that include differences in the growth of GDP and GDP per capita, changes in recycling rates (for the metallic minerals), technological change, and regulatory or other public policy changes that have affected mineral use over the 30-year-interval ending in 2000. In light of the data and analysis presented in Sections 4 and 5, the article concludes with some remarks, made almost a quarter of a century ago, by Prof. Leontief on the need and justification for long-term projections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-284
Number of pages26
JournalResources Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Aluminum
  • Minerals
  • Modeling
  • Projections


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