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All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization

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All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization

All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization

Metals are all around us, from our phones and cars to our homes and office buildings.

While we often overlook the presence of these raw materials, they are an essential part of the modern economy. But obtaining these materials can be a complex process that involves mining, refining, and then converting them into usable forms.

So, how much metal gets mined in a year?

Metals vs Ores

Before digging into the numbers, it’s important that we distinguish between ores and metals.

Ores are naturally occurring rocks that contain metals and metal compounds. Metals are the valuable parts of ores that can be extracted by separating and removing the waste rock. As a result, ore production is typically much higher than the actual metal content of the ore. For example, miners produced 347 million tonnes of bauxite ore in 2019, but the actual aluminum metal content extracted from that was only 62.9 million tonnes.

Here are all the metals and metal ores mined in 2019, according to the British Geological Survey:

Metal/OreQuantity Mined (tonnes)% of Total
Iron Ore3,040,000,00093.57%
Industrial Metals207,478,4866.39%
Technology and Precious Metals1,335,8480.04%
Total3,248,814,334100%

Miners produced roughly three billion tonnes of iron ore in 2019, representing close to 94% of all mined metals. The primary use of all this iron is to make steel. In fact, 98% of iron ore goes into steelmaking, with the rest fulfilling various other applications.

Industrial and technology metals made up the other 6% of all mined metals in 2019. How do they break down?

Industrial Metals

From construction and agriculture to manufacturing and transportation, virtually every industry harnesses the properties of metals in different ways.

Here are the industrial metals we mined in 2019.

MetalQuantity Mined (tonnes)% of Total
Aluminum62,900,00030%
Manganese Ore56,600,00027%
Chromium Ores and Concentrates38,600,00019%
Copper20,700,00010%
Zinc12,300,0006%
Titanium (Titanium Dioxide Content)6,300,0003%
Lead4,700,0002%
Nickel2,702,0001%
Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)1,337,0001%
Magnesium1,059,7361%
Strontium220,0000.11%
Uranium53,4000.03%
Bismuth3,7000.002%
Mercury2,4000.001%
Beryllium2500.0001%
Total207,478,486100%

Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

It’s no surprise that aluminum is the most-produced industrial metal. The lightweight metal is one of the most commonly used materials in the world, with uses ranging from making foils and beer kegs to buildings and aircraft parts.

Manganese and chromium rank second and third respectively in terms of metal mined, and are important ingredients in steelmaking. Manganese helps convert iron ore into steel, and chromium hardens and toughens steel. Furthermore, manganese is a critical ingredient of lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) batteries for electric vehicles.

Although copper production is around one-third that of aluminum, copper has a key role in making modern life possible. The red metal is found in virtually every wire, motor, and electrical appliance in our homes and offices. It’s also critical for various renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles.

Technology and Precious Metals

Technology is only as good as the materials that make it.

Technology metals can be classified as relatively rare metals commonly used in technology and devices. While miners produce some tech and precious metals in large quantities, others are relatively scarce.

MetalQuantity Mined in 2019 (tonnes)% of Total
Tin305,00023%
Molybdenum275,00021%
Rare Earth Elements220,00016%
Cobalt123,0009%
Lithium97,5007%
Tungsten91,5007%
Vanadium81,0006%
Niobium57,0004%
Cadmium27,5002%
Tantalum27,0002%
Silver26,2612%
Gold3,3500.3%
Indium8510.06%
Platinum Group Metals4570.03%
Gallium3800.03%
Rhenium490.004%
Total1,335,848100.00%

Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Tin was the most-mined tech metal in 2019, and according to the International Tin Association, nearly half of it went into soldering.

It’s also interesting to see the prevalence of battery and energy metals. Lithium, cobalt, vanadium, and molybdenum are all critical for various energy technologies, including lithium-ion batteries, wind farms, and energy storage technologies. Additionally, miners also extracted 220,000 tonnes of rare earth elements, of which 60% came from China.

Given their rarity, it’s not surprising that gold, silver, and platinum group metals (PGMs) were the least-mined materials in this category. Collectively, these metals represent just 2.3% of the tech and precious metals mined in 2019.

A Material World

Although humans mine and use massive quantities of metals every year, it’s important to put these figures into perspective.

According to Circle Economy, the world consumes 100.6 billion tonnes of materials annually. Of this total, 3.2 billion tonnes of metals produced in 2019 would account for just 3% of our overall material consumption. In fact, the world’s annual production of cement alone is around 4.1 billion tonnes, dwarfing total metal production.

The world’s appetite for materials is growing with its population. As resource-intensive megatrends such as urbanization and electrification pick up the pace, our material pie will only get larger.

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Misc

Visualizing the Abundance of Elements in the Earth’s Crust

The Earth’s crust makes up 1% of the planet’s volume, but provides all the material we use. What elements make up this thin layer we stand on?

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The Earth's Crust

Visualizing the Abundance of Elements in the Earth’s Crust

Elements in the Earth’s crust provide all the basic building blocks for mankind.

But even though the crust is the source of everything we find, mine, refine, and build, it really is just scratching the surface of our planet.

After all, the innermost layer of the Earth, the core, represents 15% of the planet’s volume, whereas the mantle occupies 84%. Representing the remaining 1% is the crust, a thin layer that ranges in depth from approximately 5-70 km (~3-44 miles).

This infographic takes a look at what elements make up this 1%, based on data from WorldAtlas.

Earth’s Crust Elements

The crust is a rigid surface containing both the oceans and landmasses. Most elements are found in only trace amounts within the Earth’s crust, but several are abundant.

The Earth’s crust comprises about 95% igneous and metamorphic rocks, 4% shale, 0.75% sandstone, and 0.25% limestone.

Oxygen, silicon, aluminum, and iron account for 88.1% of the mass of the Earth’s crust, while another 90 elements make up the remaining 11.9%.

RankElement% of Earth's Crust
1Oxygen (O)46.1%
2Silicon (Si)28.2%
3Aluminum (Al)8.2%
4Iron (Fe)5.6%
5Calcium (Ca)4.1%
6Sodium (Na)2.3%
7Magnesium (Mg)2.3%
8Potassium (K)2.0%
9Titanium (Ti)0.5%
10Hydrogen (H)0.1%
Other elements0.5%
Total100.0%

While gold, silver, copper and other base and precious metals are among the most sought after elements, together they make up less than 0.03% of the Earth’s crust by mass.

#1: Oxygen

Oxygen is by far the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, making up 46% of mass—coming up just short of half of the total.

Oxygen is a highly reactive element that combines with other elements, forming oxides. Some examples of common oxides are minerals such as granite and quartz (oxides of silicon), rust (oxides of iron), and limestone (oxide of calcium and carbon).

#2: Silicon

More than 90% of the Earth’s crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

Silicon links up with oxygen to form the most common minerals on Earth. For example, in most places, sand primarily consists of silica (silicon dioxide) usually in the form of quartz. Silicon is an essential semiconductor, used in manufacturing electronics and computer chips.

#3: Aluminum

Aluminum is the third most common element in the Earth’s crust.

Because of its strong affinity for oxygen, aluminum is rarely found in its elemental state. Aluminum oxide (Al2O3), aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3) and potassium aluminum sulphate (KAl(SO4)2) are common aluminum compounds.

Aluminum and aluminum alloys have a variety of uses, from kitchen foil to rocket manufacturing.

#4: Iron

The fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust is iron, accounting for over 5% of the mass of the Earth’s crust.

Iron is obtained chiefly from the minerals hematite and magnetite. Of all the metals we mine, over 90% is iron, mainly to make steel, an alloy of carbon and iron. Iron is also an essential nutrient in the human body.

#5: Calcium

Calcium makes up about 4.2% of the planet’s crust by weight.

In its pure elemental state, calcium is a soft, silvery-white alkaline earth metal. It is never found in its isolated state in nature but exists instead in compounds. Calcium compounds can be found in a variety of minerals, including limestone (calcium carbonate), gypsum (calcium sulphate) and fluorite (calcium fluoride).

Calcium compounds are widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries for supplementation. They are also used as bleaches in the paper industry, as components in cement and electrical insulators, and in manufacturing soaps.

Digging the Earth’s Crust

Despite Jules Verne’s novel, no one has ever journeyed to the center of Earth.

In fact, the deepest hole ever dug by humanity reaches approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) below the Earth’s surface, about one-third of the way to the Earth’s mantle. This incredible depth took about 20 years to reach.

Although mankind is constantly making new discoveries and reaching for the stars, there is still a lot to explore about the Earth we stand on.

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Misc

How Royalty Companies Manage Risk for Superior Returns

Royalty companies can flexibly manage risk more easily compared to mining companies, while still offering precious metals exposure.

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royalty company risk

Balancing Risk for Royalty Companies vs. Mining Companies

Risk is at the forefront of every company’s decision-making, especially for mining companies that operate large-scale mines in various jurisdictions.

While producing precious metals naturally carries a variety of risks, there is another way to get exposure to precious metals production with much lower risk: royalty companies.

Royalty companies provide up-front capital to miners in exchange for royalties on future mine production, providing a steady stream of revenue and precious metal exposure with far less risk attached to the company.

This graphic sponsored by Nomad Royalty looks at the risks royalty companies and mining companies face, and how royalty companies are able to mitigate and diversify with more flexibility to deliver stronger returns.

Trimming from the Top Line

By providing capital in exchange for a royalty or stream on a mine, royalty companies are an essential part of mine funding across the world. Along with competitively priced capital for mine developers, the lifetime royalties or streams received in return ensure royalty companies are invested in a mine’s lifelong success.

Mining royalty: A recurring percentage (typically between 0.5% to 3%) of revenue generated from a mine’s ore and mineral sales, paid out to the royalty holder.

Mining stream: An agreement for a recurring purchase of a percentage of a mine’s produced metals, at a previously agreed upon price (typically lower than the metal’s current market value). Typically mines will offer streams on metal by-products of the mine.

Royalties and streams are known as non-participating interests, meaning that the holders (royalty companies) have no obligation or expectation to further fund or assist with the mine’s production.

Along with this, royalties are from a mine’s top line revenue, meaning that the percentage given to royalty holders is calculated before operational expenses, sales costs, and other expenses are deducted. The difference between top line revenue and profit after expenses can be massive, changing the value of a royalty by millions of dollars.

YearVeladero Mine RevenueProfit after AISC Deducted2.5% Royalty of Revenue2.5% Royalty of Profit
2015$720M$106M$18M$3.7M
2016$685M$252M$17M$6.3M
2017$788M$219M$20M$5.5M
2018$732M$90M$18M$2.3M
2019$772M$166M$19M$4.2M
2020$666M$62M$17M$1.5M

Source: Mining Data Online

Both of these factors have a massive impact on the value of a royalty, as they ensure steady revenue shielded from the mine’s operational costs while requiring no maintenance or upkeep from the holder.

Sleeker Business, Lower Expenses

The nature of royalty companies naturally enables them to be lightweight businesses with incredibly low expenses. Compared to the many employees with varying skills needed to manage orebody exploration, project construction, and daily mine operations, royalty companies only require a tight team of specialized individuals.

While the top three gold mining companies (Newmont Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, and Newcrest Mining) have an average of around 15,500 employees each, the top three precious metals royalty companies (Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals, and Royal Gold) each have less than 50 employees.

With minimal G&A expenses and no exposure to fluctuating operational costs, royalty companies skirt large amounts of operational risk compared to mining companies. Setting up a royalty agreement carries far less risk and takes much less time compared to developing a mine, meaning royalty companies can be much more nimble and lock down future revenue more easily.

This protection from operational risk allows for steadier revenue to ride out the bumpy market cycles commodities can have, and royalty companies typically have dividend policies to reflect this operational and financial stability.

More Freedom to Diversify Risk

The lightweight nature of royalty companies allows them more freedom and flexibility to diversify a variety of risks. By spreading out their capital properly, many of the risks mining companies struggle to avoid can be easily sidestepped by a royalty company.

While many mining companies tend to cluster their operations in single regions based on the assets they own or can purchase, royalty companies can more freely decide on which jurisdictions to set up royalty agreements. This also includes the perk of spreading out counterparty risk, as royalty companies can choose to work with a diverse selection of mine operators.

Along with diversifying royalties across jurisdictions and counterparties, royalty companies can carefully tune their portfolio’s exposure to specific commodities, unlike mining companies who cannot change what they find underground.

Royal Rewards for Reduced Risk

If having reduced exposure to this variety of risks wasn’t enough, royalty companies reap a variety of benefits compared to mine operators. Since royalty and stream agreements often last for the life of a mine, royalty holders receive the benefits of resource extension and mine expansion at no additional cost.

They also benefit from increases in precious metals prices, as increases in a mine’s revenue is reflected for royalty and stream holders as well. In times of metals price downturns, royalty companies are protected by their high margins and can use their cash reserves and credit to invest in royalties at a discount.

With far more freedom and flexibility in diversifying their risk, precious metals companies like Nomad Royalty provide investors exposure to gold and silver while protecting them from the many risks that plague the mining industry.

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