Assessing future supply of technology metals of Bi, Cd, Ge, Ga, In, Sb, Se and Te for new technologies using the WORLD6 model

Assessing future supply of technology metals of Bi, Cd, Ge, Ga, In, Sb, Se and Te for new technologies using the WORLD6 model

by: Harald Ulrik Sverdrup (presenting author), Anna Hulda Olafsdottir

University of Iceland, Iceland

 

The technologies of the future depend on some very exotic materials. To assess the sustainability of primary production, the required sub-models were developed and included in the WORLD6 model. The model is a mass balance model, incorporating dynamic market dynamics and internally generated dynamic market price resulting from supply and demand in every time-step. The supply security of technologically important metals like indium, germanium, gallium, tellurium, selenium, cadmium, silver, bismuth and antimony, were included in the model. The extraction of these metals is linked as the extraction is done from the same residuals from copper, zinc, lead, silver and nickel ore refining. Considering the importance of these metals for society, and the correlation of potential timing of fossil fuel scarcity, it is important to set adequate policies for resource efficiency and resource conservation for society. The recoverable resources for these metals were determined and found to be significantly larger than earlier reported. The major obstacle for their supply is the availability of opportunity for extraction and to have the required infrastructure available. Germanium and indium will come in short supply in the future, and unless production capability is increased, tellurium and gallium will also be in short supply by 2040-2050. With respect to supply sustainability, we may conclude as follows: Scarce: Indium, antimony, bismuth, germanium and selenium may become scarce and limit the application of key technologies in the future. Sufficient: Silver, gallium, cadmium and tellurium will probably be sufficient in the future to serve the application of key technologies. For silver, the key to this is a high recycling rate. The rate of recycling for all the technology metals with the exception of silver is far too low for the scarce metals, and their supply situation may be significantly improved if the recycling rate can be increased substantially.