Mineral Resources Scarcity

Position Paper | Year 2014
Mineral Resources Scarcity
Class of Technical Sciences

Both basic and technology metals are key for a modern society, its innovative technologies and its economy. The continuity of their supply at economically viable conditions is increasingly a matter of concern, especially in regions of the European Union, facing mineral resources scarcity such as Flanders. Increased consumption induced by population growth could result in supply shortages on the medium term, if the technologies for exploration, mining and extraction will not be significantly improved. Security of supply is governed by geological, technological and ecological parameters on the one hand and by economical, political and societal parameters on the other hand. Extraction processes need continuous optimization, new technologies can and should be developed and applied to increase the yield and to enable the use of untapped reserves in the deep sea. Future intelligent product development should incorporate more design aspects aiming at an efficient use of resources, ranging from reduced material consumption to easy disassembly for repair and easy recycling. Substitution of scarce materials by more abundant ones must remain a target. A holistic approach for high quality recycling should be applied to the urban mine as a key step towards a more circular economy. An important step in this process is to increase the awareness of the population through education and use of social media. Dedicated ongoing research and development efforts need to be combined with new business models to speed up this transition. Flanders has an excellent industrial and technological basis for addressing this scarcity threat. The report gives recommendations on how that competitive advantage should be nurtured and deployed on a world scale.

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