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How Much Iron is Left in the World, Will We Run Out, and What Happens if We Do?

Published by Lucy Thurston on

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All steel suppliers in the UK will tell you that iron is a vital element for modern civilisation due to the huge role it has played in shaping our world. It has its place in all manner of industries, including energy production, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and so on. Despite this, the depletion of natural resources is raising concerns about whether iron will be available in the future. As a result, if you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to get hold of steel angles or galvanised steel sheets, be sure to read on about our predictions for the future of iron.

A Worldwide Overview of Iron Reserves

As it stands, iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, accounting for roughly 5% of the planet’s crust. That said, its availability in usable forms is a different story. For instance, most iron ore deposits are found in sedimentary rocks, and the most abundant reserves can be found in the likes of India, China, Brazil, Russia, and Australia.

In 2022, it was estimated that there were roughly 180 billion metric tons of crude iron ore reserves globally. These reserves are distributed across identified and yet-to-be-discovered deposits. This estimation will consistently evolve as new deposits are always being discovered and extraction technologies continue to improve.

Will We Run Out of Iron?

Although nothing can be said with certainty, it’s highly unlikely that we’re set to run out of iron in the foreseeable future. This is down to the vast reserves available, as well as the constant advances in mining technology and ongoing recycling efforts to guarantee a steady supply of iron for years to come. Moreover, new iron ore deposits are constantly being revealed via ongoing exploration activities.

Despite this, the demand for iron is always growing, and this presents a challenge in itself. For instance, the consumption of iron is expected to rise as infrastructure projects grow and emerging economies continue to develop. As a result, alternative sources are being explored in order to promote recycling practices and improve efficiency in extraction – this is to mitigate future shortages and ensure sustainable iron production is being carried out.

The Consequences of Iron Depletion

We can say with confidence that it’s unlikely that the complete depletion of iron will occur; however, a significant scarcity could also have pretty big consequences.

Firstly, a scarcity of iron will have serious economic implications due to the fundamental role of iron in industrial production. For instance, the cost of stainless steel sheet metal and galvanised sheet steel will surely skyrocket if there’s a severe shortage of iron in the world. As a result, vehicles, machinery, and construction materials will all become more expensive, which will also affect the cost of consumer goods, housing, infrastructure projects, and so much more.

As technology evolves, we’re becoming more and more reliant on iron and its derivatives. Therefore, a shortage of iron could stunt the growth of technology, including innovations in telecommunications, transportation, and renewable energy. For example, the manufacturing of smartphones, electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines could all be significantly impacted.

It’s not just about economic and technological setbacks; a shortage of iron could present serious environmental challenges. This is because mining and processing iron ore can have considerable environmental consequences. From greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution to habitat destruction and deforestation, the extraction and production of iron can exacerbate a number of environmental complications. Naturally, if the demand for iron increases, these environmental concerns will follow suit. Therefore, sustainable mining practices must be explored, and recycling must be promoted.

Working Towards a Sustainable Future

As previously mentioned, in order to reduce the environmental impact of iron extraction and guarantee its long-term availability, sustainable practices need to be employed, and alternative solutions must be explored.

To begin with, recycling is one of the most effective ways of reducing reliance on primary ore. This means recycling the likes of sheets of steel and iron to conserve resources, limit energy consumption, and reduce the environmental impact linked to mining and extraction. Similarly, the efficiency of iron extraction and processing techniques should be optimised to make the most of available resources.

Equally, our current understanding of global reserves needs to be expanded as we work to discover new iron ore deposits. On top of this, we must continue to innovate mining technologies and processing methods in a mission to minimise the environmental impact of iron extraction, reduce waste, and enhance efficiency.

Lastly, we must explore alternative resources to meet future demands. This means making use of iron-rich asteroids or deep-sea mining; each of these methods is in the early stages of development, but we could see them alleviate the strain on terrestrial reserves in the near future.

Rapid Metals is Here to Help

While the future of iron may flag some uncertainty, Rapid Metals is here to ensure that you can get your hands on quality metals for affordable prices. Whether you’re after a galvanised steel tube or a cast iron section, we’re here to help. So, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any queries or concerns.

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How Much Iron is Left in the World, Will We Run Out, and What Happens if We Do?

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