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Cornish lithium

Summary:
Apparently Cornwall is floating on a pond of lithium containing brine. We have no view at all on whether this is a commercially viable prospect. This is not a share tipping column. The presence of lithium does not surprise at all though. There is, for example, a similar finding from the geologically very similar Ore Mountains on the German/Czech border. The point we do want to make is that this is just another example of how we’re not about to run short of any metal or mineral we might find economically useful. As we laid out in the No Breakfast Fallacy some years ago.When people start talking of mineral reserves and how they’re going to run out real soon now they misunderstand what a mineral reserve is. The best colloquial description being the stocks of minerals we’ve prepared to use

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Apparently Cornwall is floating on a pond of lithium containing brine. We have no view at all on whether this is a commercially viable prospect. This is not a share tipping column. The presence of lithium does not surprise at all though. There is, for example, a similar finding from the geologically very similar Ore Mountains on the German/Czech border.

The point we do want to make is that this is just another example of how we’re not about to run short of any metal or mineral we might find economically useful. As we laid out in the No Breakfast Fallacy some years ago.

When people start talking of mineral reserves and how they’re going to run out real soon now they misunderstand what a mineral reserve is. The best colloquial description being the stocks of minerals we’ve prepared to use real soon now. Such listings of reserves - the usual agreed source being the US Geological Survey - are not, not in any manner, shape or form, the calculation of what is left that can be used. Therefore all those alarmed stories and alarming shouts that we’re about to run out are wrong. Wrong because people simply are not understanding the terms of art in use in this field.

Mineral reserves are what we’ve proven we can extract, proven at substantial cost, and make a profit from. Mineral resources, a much larger number, are what we’re really very certain we can but have not proven as yet. The real limitation on usage is what’s out there in the other 99.9% of the world that we’ve not had a good look at yet. A useful even if sketchy estimate of lithium availability says we’ve got about 70 million year’s worth out there before we have to worry too much about actually running out. Which will be, we think, enough to be getting on with. Whatever happens in Cornwall.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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