BGS logoMineralsUK logo

Risk list 2012

Figure 1: Chart indicates the number of times a country is the leading global producer of an element or element group of economic value.<em>Source: BGS World Mineral Statistics. BGS©NERC. Click to enlarge.

An updated supply risk index for chemical elements or element groups which are of economic value

The updated risk list gives a quick indication of the relative risk in 2012 to the supply of the chemical elements or element groups which we need to maintain our economy and lifestyle. The position of an element on this list is determined by a number of factors which might affect availability. These include the abundance of elements in the Earth's crust, the location of current production and reserves, and the political stability of those locations. New for the 2012 risk list, the recycling rate and substitutability of these elements has been used in the analysis.

The risk list highlights a group of elements where global production is concentrated in a few countries. The restricted reserve distribution combined with the relatively low political stability ratings for some major producing countries significantly increase risk to supply. This is compounded by low rates of recycling and limited substitutes for many of these elements. The list highlights economically important metals which are at risk of supply disruption including rare earths, platinum group metals, niobium and tungsten. The list also shows the current importance of China in production of many metals and minerals.

As demand for metals and minerals increases, driven by relentless growth in the emerging economies in Asia and South America, competition for resources is growing. Human factors such as geopolitics, resource nationalism, along with events such as strikes and accidents are the most likely to disrupt supply. Policy-makers, industry and consumers should be concerned about supply risk and the need to diversify supply from Earth resources, from recycling more and doing more with less, and also about the environmental implications of burgeoning consumption.

With the exception of substitutability, the list focuses on risks to supply and does not include any assessment of factors that influence demand, such as criticality of an element to a particular technology.

The Risk List was first introduced by the BGS in 2011 to coincide with the 'Metals, Mines & Mobiles' event at the British Science Festival at the University of Bradford. Download the Risk List 2011.

Download the Risk list 2012 publication.

Picture gallery