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All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization

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All the World's Metals and Minerals

All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization

We live in a material world, in that we rely on materials to make our lives better. Without even realizing it, humans consume enormous amounts of metals and minerals with every convenient food package, impressive building, and technological innovation.

Every year, the United States Geological Service (USGS) publishes commodity summaries outlining global mining statistics for over 90 individual minerals and materials. Today’s infographic visualizes the data to reveal the dramatic scale of 2019 non-fuel mineral production.

Read all the way to the bottom; the data will surprise you.

Non-Fuel Minerals: USGS Methodology

A wide variety of minerals can be classified as “non-fuel”, including precious metals, base metals, industrial minerals, and materials used for construction.

Non-fuel minerals are those not used for fuel, such as oil, natural gas and coal. Once non-fuel minerals are used up, there is no replacing them. However, many can be recycled continuously.

The USGS tracked both refinery and mine production of these various minerals. This means that some minerals are the essential ingredients for others on the list. For example, iron ore is critical for steel production, and bauxite ore gets refined into aluminum.

Top 10 Minerals and Metals by Production

Sand and gravel are at the top of the list of non-fuel mineral production.

As these materials are the basic components for the manufacturing of concrete, roads, and buildings, it’s not surprising they take the lead.

RankMetal/Mineral2019 Production (millions of metric tons)
#1Sand and Gravel50,000
#2Cement4,100
#3Iron and Steel3,200
#4Iron Ore2,500
#5Bauxite500
#6Lime430
#7Salt293
#8Phosphate Rock240
#9Nitrogen150
#10Gypsum140

These materials fertilize the food we eat, and they also form the structures we live in and the roads we drive on. They are the bones of the global economy.

Let’s dive into some more specific categories covered on the infographic.

Base Metals

While cement, sand, and gravel may be the bones of global infrastructure, base metals are its lifeblood. Their consumption is an important indicator of the overall health of an economy.

Base metals are non-ferrous, meaning they contain no iron. They are often more abundant in nature and sometimes easier to mine, so their prices are generally lower than precious metals.

RankBase Metal2019 Production (millions of metric tons)
#1Aluminum64.0
#2Copper20.0
#3Zinc13.0
#4Lead4.5
#5Nickel2.7
#6Tin0.3

Base metals are also the critical materials that will help to deliver a green and renewable future. The electrification of everything will require vast amounts of base metals to make everything from batteries to solar cells work.

Precious Metals

Gold and precious metals grab the headlines because of their rarity ⁠— and their production shows just how rare they are.

RankPrecious Metal2019 Production (metric tons)
#1Silver27,000
#2Gold3,300
#3Palladium210
#4Platinum180

While metals form the structure and veins of the global economy, ultimately it is humans and animals that make the flesh of the world, driving consumption patterns.

A Material World: A Perspective on Scale

The global economy’s appetite for materials has quadrupled since 1970, faster than the population, which only doubled. On average, each human uses more than 13 metric tons of materials per year.

In 2017, it’s estimated that humans consumed 100.6B metric tons of material in total. Half of the total comprises sand, clay, gravel, and cement used for building, along with the other minerals mined to produce fertilizer. Coal, oil, and gas make up 15% of the total, while metal makes up 10%. The final quarter are plants and trees used for food and fuel.

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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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