Even if you go off the grid, society is using up minerals at an exponential rate to maintain the non-negotiable American lifestyle, which requires 3.7 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in each person’s lifetime, or 47,769 lbs per person per year (in 2006).
- Copper 1,398 lbs
- Phosphate rock 18,447 lbs
- Coal 578,956 lbs
- Aluminum (bauxite) 5,417 lbs
- Iron Ore 32,654 lbs
- Cement 75,047
- Natural Gas 5.71 million cubic feet
- Lead 911 lbs
- Petroleum 82, 19=69 gallons
- Stone, sand, & Gravel 1,720,000 lbs
- Zinc 773 lbs
- Clays 20,452 lbs
- Salt 31,909
How one earth do we use that much?
- 130 million homes (2010) need heating, cooling, and lighting. Each needs insulation (silica, feldspar, trona
- 2 million new housing units are built every year and each needs a quarter million pounds of minerals and metals.
- 4 million miles of roads that need to be built and maintained. 85,000 tons of aggregates are required for each mile of interstate highway.
- 255,917,664 passenger vehicles weighing an average of 3,000 lbs driven 12,000 miles/yr using 550 gallons of oil. travel these roads, consuming an average of 3 gallons of oil per day. The average automobile contains more than a ton of iron and steel, 240 lbs of aluminum, 50 lbs of carbon, 42 lbs of copper, 41 lbs of silicon, 22 lbs of zinc, and more than thirty other mineral commodities, including titanium, platinum, and gold?
- Each of them requires insulation (silica, feldspar and trona), roofing (silica sands, limestone and petroleum) and hardware (iron, zinc, copper, steel, brass). Glass windows are made of trona, silica sand, limestone and feldspar. Foundations consist of concrete made from sand, gravel and cement. Cement is made of limestone, bauxite, clay, shale and gypsum. The concrete is reinforced with steel rods.
- Over131 billion cans are produced / year; 63% of the steel cans and 52% of the aluminum cans are recycled.
- 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. is generated by fuels obtained by mining: 47% from coal, 20% from natural gas and oil, 21% from nuclear power. Only 7% is generated by hydro, with another 5% from geothermal, solar, wind and biomass combined.
- 1.28 billion cell phones sold worldwide in 2008 each has $1 of gold, plus 42 other minerals and metals.
Exponential growth is not sustainable. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says that “demand for critical mineral resources is increasing at a rapid rate. That means that we are depleting our known mineral deposits at an increasing rate.”
- 1776: 2,800,000 people : 1,200 lbs of minerals per year.
- 1900: 76,000,000 people: 7,714 lbs of minerals per year, 6 times more than 1776.
- 2006: 300,000,000 million people: 47,769 lbs of minerals per year, 40 times more than 1776.
source: 300 Million Americans use 7 Billion Tons of minerals a year. March 2007. Mineral information institute.