Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reflections on market and commodity risks

Consider these two charts (both have appeared here before).

Per capita (dollar value) annual production of certain metals. A note here--I have some different numbers for iron suggesting it has more dominance over Cr, although there are a couple of years going back to 2001 where Cr > Fe, though not as much as it appears on the chart above.

Fraction of global mineral exploration budgets (nonfuel only) for gold and copper. Gold exploration comprises over 50% of the global exploration total, and has done so for many years. Some years, gold and copper exploration combined for over 80% of all nonfuel exploration, including iron, chromium, manganese, aluminum, diamonds, and many other minerals.

One reason for the lack of expenditure on iron--it is relatively easy to find.

See if you can spot the iron deposit in the above image. This is a Google Earth image encompassing the Tonkolili project in Sierra Leone. The red line at lower left is as close to 20 km as I could make it. The artisanal mining area is gold in a project I looked at a few years ago.

Gold is very interesting. On one hand, gold exploration accounts for over 50% of nonfuel exploration effort, yet less than 10% of the value of mined minerals on an annual basis. Why is this? I think the explanation is that gold is the least risky commodity--from a marketing perspective.

If you plan to develop a new iron mine, and demand falls below existing production, you had better stop. If world demand is a billion tonnes per year, and you will be producing the billion and first tonne that year, then you are SOL. Gold, on the other hand, (and to a certain extent copper) can always be sold at reasonably close to spot price, which reduces its risk. Yes, it can be hard to find. But you never have to worry about being able to sell it.

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