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Visualizing the Metals You Can Buy with $1,000



visualization of metals you can buy for $1,000

Visualizing the Metals you can Buy with $1,000

For millennia people have purchased and relied on metals for decorative and industrial uses, figuring out their values based on their practical applications and visual luster.

Today, precious and industrial metals markets quote figures in millions and billions as they exchange thousands of ounces, with varying densities and values of metals making it difficult to compare them.

Using price data from TradingEconomics, this graphic visualizes how much of each metal you can buy for $1,000 so you can see just how much, or how little, of each metal you get for your money.

How we Value Precious and Industrial Metals

Characterized by their natural shine, metals are valued using the two key principles of rarity and their industrial uses, with unique properties such as their appearance or cultural significance also affecting their value.

  • Rarity: A more scarce metal or resource will often have a higher value than one which is more abundant.
    • For example, while there are an estimated 2.1 billion tonnes of identified copper deposits, there are only 57,000 tonnes of underground gold reserves. While copper is valued at $0.24 per troy ounce, gold is worth around $1,815 per troy ounce.
  • Industrial uses: Metals which are needed for important industrial processes will often have a high demand from manufacturers, increasing their valuation.
    • For example, for most of its history cobalt was used decoratively for its striking blue color and for the creation of superalloys and steel products. However, when it was recently discovered that cobalt could be a key component in lithium-ion batteries for EVs, demand for cobalt surged sending its price from around $23,000 per tonne to more than $90,000 per tonne at one point.

Along with these two primary factors, unique properties and historical uses can also affect a metal’s valuation.

Former monetary metals like gold and silver are still sought after by investors for their potential ability to retain value over time compared to today’s fiat currencies. Meanwhile, platinum’s durability, resistance to tarnishing, and its bright white color makes it highly sought after for jewelry, raising the demand and value of the precious metal.

Getting Less for More: Comparing Metal Density

A key factor that determines the volume of a metal you get for a certain price is also the metal’s density. Precious metals tend to be more dense than industrial metals, with sometimes more than double the density depending on the specific metals compared.

As seen in the graphic above, $1,000 worth of highly dense metals like gold (19.32 g/cm³), iridium (22.56 g/cm³), and osmium (22.59 g/cm³) amount to small cubes less than a centimeter across. Meanwhile, $1,000 of a less dense (and also less valuable) metal like aluminum with a density of only 2.7 g/cm³ yields a large cube nearly two feet tall.

To put these densities in comparison, if gold had the same density as aluminum, its cube on the graphic above would be more than seven times larger.

While it’s impossible to directly compare the value of each metal’s industrial uses and applications, seeing just how much (or how little) of a metal you get for $1,000 can give some perspective to their value.

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All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization

This infographic visualizes the 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2022.



All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization

Metals are a big part of our daily lives, found in every building we enter and all devices we use.

Today, major industries that directly consume processed mineral materials contribute 14% of the United States economy.

The above infographic visualizes all 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2022 and highlights each metal’s largest end-use using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Iron Ore Dominance

Iron ore dominates the metals mining landscape, comprising 93% of the total mined. In 2022, 2.6 billion tonnes of iron ore were mined, containing about 1.6 billion tonnes of iron.

Metal/OreQuantity Mined in 2022 (tonnes)% of Total
Iron ore2,600,000,00093.3%
Industrial metals185,111,8356.6%
Technology and Precious Metals1,500,0080.05%

Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Iron ores are found in various geologic environments, such as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary rocks, and can contain over 70% iron, with many falling in the 50-60% range.

Combined with other materials like coke and limestone, iron ore is primarily used in steel production. Today, almost all (98%) iron ore is dedicated to steelmaking.

The ore is typically mined in about 50 countries, but Australia, Brazil, China, and India are responsible for 75% of the production.

Because of its essential role in infrastructure development, iron ore is one of the most crucial materials underpinning urbanization and economic growth.

Industrial Metals

Industrial metals occupy the second position on our list, constituting 6.6% of all metals mined in 2022. These metals, including copper, aluminum, lead, and zinc, are employed in construction and industrial applications.

Aluminum constituted nearly 40% of industrial metal production in 2022. China was responsible for 56% of all aluminum produced.

Industrial Metals2022 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Titanium (mineral concentrates)9,500,0005.1%
Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)1,400,0000.8%

In the second position is chromium, which plays a primary role in rendering stainless steel corrosion-resistant. South Africa led chromium production, accounting for 44% of the total mined last year.

Technology and Precious Metals

Despite representing less than 1% of all the metals mined, technology metals have been on the news over the last few years as countries and companies seek these materials to reduce carbon emissions and improve productivity.

Technology and Precious Metals2022 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Rare Earth Oxides300,00020.0%
Platinum Group Metals4000.03%

They include lithium and cobalt, used in electric vehicles and battery storage, and rare earths, used in magnets, metal alloys, and electronics. Many of them are considered critical for countries’ security due to their role in clean energy technologies and dependency on other nations to supply domestic demand.

However, despite increasing interest in these metals, they are still behind precious metals such as gold and silver regarding market size.

The gold market, for example, reached $196 billion in 2022, compared to $10.6 billion for the rare earths market.

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Visualizing Mining’s Footprint in British Columbia

Mining represents 7% of British Columbia’s GDP despite only accounting for 0.04% of the land use.



Mining Footprint in British Columbia

Visualizing Mining’s Footprint in British Columbia

British Columbia is considered a global leader in the development of socially and environmentally responsible resources.

An estimated 54% of the province’s total land is protected, making it one of the world’s greenest mining hubs.

This graphic by the B.C. Regional Mining Alliance (BCRMA) details mining’s footprint in the province.

A Tier 1 Jurisdiction for Mining

British Columbia covers almost 95 million hectares (234 million acres), more than any European country except Russia, and more than any U.S. state except Alaska.

As the largest mining province in Canada, BC registered $18 billion in revenue from the industry in 2022.

British Columbia stands as Canada’s sole producer of molybdenum, which finds applications in metallurgy and chemistry. Additionally, B.C. is the country’s leader producer of copper and steelmaking coal, besides gold and silver.

B.C. mined material breakdown

At the heart of British Columbia’s mining industry lies the Golden Triangle, one of the hottest mineral exploration districts in the world.

More than 150 mines have operated in the area since prospectors first arrived at the end of the 19th century. The region alone is endowed with minerals worth more than $800 billion.

How Green is B.C. Mining

Mining represents 7% of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite only accounting for 0.04% of the land use. In comparison, farmland demands 3% of the land, bringing $2.1 billion (0.8%) per year.

Land Use in B.C.Revenue (2022, CAD $)
Mining 0.04%$18.0 billion
Oil & Gas 0.4%$9.5 billion
Infrastructure1%$25.0 billion
Farmland3%$2.1 billion
Forest62%$13.3 billion

Mining operations are also supported by a stable, transparent, and effective policy environment. The province ranked as the world’s least risky for mining in 2017 and 2018.

In addition, mineral exploration has received ample support from local Indigenous communities. Today, mining accounts for over two-thirds of all indigenous people employed in the extractives sector.

According to the International Energy Agency, up to six times more minerals and metals will be needed by 2040 to accelerate the energy transition.

In this scenario, British Columbia is well positioned to support the transition to a low-carbon future and make a significant contribution to climate action.

The BCRMA is a strategic partnership between indigenous groups, industry, and government representatives that aims to promote B.C.’s mining opportunities internationally.

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