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      CommentAuthorBen
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2008
     (2852.21)
    People steal copper here as well, though it's usually from abandonded buildings or businesses that leave that certain back door open. I worked a sketchy labor job for a while and met someone who was doing it as a side job. Apparently you can get three bucks a pound for stripped wire. Who knew?

    Though I have heard stories of people blowing themselves up by trying to cut down telephone poles in northern Alberta. Something about snipping the hold-down wires and then having the tension blow the pole up. Microwave sized chunks of wood everywhere.
  1.  (2852.22)
    I need to start putting money into stock, specifically companies going into landfill reclamation technologies, huh?
  2.  (2852.23)
    @Reynolds What on *earth* did you have in your car?! - Also on a side note: I know someone who used to LARP with you back in the day, apparently. It's a fucking small world.


    A full ambulance uniform including the ID card that can get me into Ambulance Control, also my radiation detector. All handy stuff if you wanted to cause havoc. Luckily my stab vest was at work.

    And yes, it is a small world, although there is a fair degree of overlap in the comic/rpg world.
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      CommentAuthorAnoxia
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2008
     (2852.24)
    @Reynolds I can absolutely see why that would be a massive and potentially catastrophic security risk.

    @Val I was having the same thought. Sod investing in the electricity market as I had originally planned, elemental reclamation is where it's at.
  3.  (2852.25)
    The world currently has around ten years worth of copper reserves.

    The world has had about ten years worth of copper reserves for the past century.

    When proven reserves decline much below ten years, the price goes up. When the price goes up, old mines re-open, prospecting increases and the reserves go up. when the reserves get much past ten years, the prices goes down...

    As it happens, we are building a lot of flat-screen TV sets and computer monitors these days. Gallium is thought to make up 0.0015 percent of the Earth’s crust and there are no concentrated supplies of it. We get it by extracting it from zinc or aluminum ore or by smelting the dust of furnace flues. Dr. Reller says that by 2017 or so there’ll be none left to use.


    If we're extracting Gallium from zinc and copper and there are still plentiful supplies of zinc and copper, how is we're about to run out of Gallium?

    Let's see Gallium makes up 0.0015% of the Earths' crust. The Earth mass is roughly 6 x 10 to the 24th power kilograms.

    So that's roughly 10 to the 19th power kilograms of Gallium of which probably 99.99% is deep in the interior of the Earth or otherwise inaccessible. That leaves 10 to the 15th power kilograms or 10 to the 12 power tonnes. That's one followed to 12 zeroes or one quadrillion tonnes. Or roughly 150,000 tonnes for every human on the planet.

    Of course there are a lot of assumptions in there so I could be wrong by a couple of orders of magnitude. There might be as little as 1,500 tonnes per person. Of which we've probably used 1-2 tonnes (much of which is available for recycling.)

    Hafnium is probably around 40% as common as Gallium.

    Every few years since at least the 1970's someone comes up with a story along these lines. Every time, the metallurgists, geologists, miners and economists dismiss it out of hand.

    So far, every time, they've been proven correct.

    I worry about many, many, things.

    This isn't one of them.
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      CommentAuthorTed
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2008
     (2852.26)
    Let's see Gallium makes up 0.0015% of the Earths' crust. The Earth mass is roughly 6 x 10 to the 24th power kilograms.


    The most obvious flaw in your argument is your rather bizarre assumption that the Earth's crust is the same as the Earth, which is really skewing your maths. The crust is a small fraction of the mass of the full planet, especially when you consider the crust is the lightest stuff that's basically floating on the top of the dense mantle. I believe the density of the crust is something like half that of the mantle, and the crust is far thinner. I'm not going to even attempt the maths myself, since I'll be bound to get it wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's not nearly as optimistic a picture as you're painting.
  4.  (2852.27)
    Also, when we've got a situation where A) pennies cost more to make than they're worth, and B) people are stealing copper pipes out of buildings that people are still living in because copper is just THAT VALUABLE, it's a problem that we need to deal with, regardless of how likely it is that there will be zinc/copper/gallium left in a century or not.

    Besides, this argument:

    The world currently has around ten years worth of copper reserves.

    The world has had about ten years worth of copper reserves for the past century.

    When proven reserves decline much below ten years, the price goes up. When the price goes up, old mines re-open, prospecting increases and the reserves go up. when the reserves get much past ten years, the prices goes down...


    ...has the obvious flaw that those supplies are finite, and will run out eventually no matter what. Also, the flaw that the reason those old copper mines are opening back up is because the expense of extracting the more difficult-to-extract copper deposits in them has become profitable, where before it wasn't profitable to extract them. Regardless of day to day fluctuations in copper price, if you see something like that happening, it indicates an overall upward trend in the price of copper, one that is unlikely to change, since as I pointed out, the supplies of copper are finite.
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      CommentAuthorbjacques
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2008
     (2852.28)
    I work for a large telecom/ISP. We lost a backbone link all of a sudden, and had to reroute traffic a couple of days until it was fixed. Turns out some gypsies found a clever way to steal copper cable. They got caught, which is how Iwe learned the story. Some telecoms take advantage of railroad rights of way to string cable. The gypsies would dig up about a quarter mile or so of cable, lift the cable onto the tracks, then wait for a train to come along. Then they'd tie a rope to the middle of it and tow it away to a field and roll it up.

    When they learned it was worthless fiber instead of copper, were their faces red!
  5.  (2852.29)
    "The most obvious flaw in your argument is your rather bizarre assumption that the Earth's crust is the same as the Earth, which is really skewing your maths. The crust is a small fraction of the mass of the full planet, especially when you consider the crust is the lightest stuff that's basically floating on the top of the dense mantle. I believe the density of the crust is something like half that of the mantle, and the crust is far thinner. I'm not going to even attempt the maths myself, since I'll be bound to get it wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's not nearly as optimistic a picture as you're painting."

    Both Gallium and Hafnium are denser than Ieon and Silicon the main components of both the Earth's crust and the underlying maga. Hence if the word crust is indeed to be understood in the restricted sense you mean, the crust should actually be Gallium and Hafnium depleted compared with the entire volume of the planet.

    You may note that I firstly assumed the 99.99% of the Earth's mass making up the Magma and the lower mantle was inaccessible and then reduced my results by a further factor of 100.

    Let's look at it this way - the bit of the Earth's crust accessible for mining is a hollow spheriod 3 kilometres thick, 6,400 kilometres in radius 80% of that is covered by ocean or icecaps so let's throw that out. I get a volume for the crust of around 370 million cubic kilometres. 0.0015% of that is around 5,000 cubic kilometres of Gallium. 20% of that is 1000 cubic kilometres or a cube 10 kilometres on each face with a weight of approximately 6 trillion tonnes - which is still around 1,000 tonnes for every human on the planet.
  6.  (2852.30)
    "...has the obvious flaw that those supplies are finite, and will run out eventually no matter what. "

    In that the Errth is finite in volume this is correct. Of course, the Earth is also a closed system (kinda we shoot some stuff off it; bits get blown off by meteor strikes; the solar wind strips soem of the atmosphere; about 100- tonnes of asteriodal material land on the planet every day), we will not run out copper or any other material provided we have the energy and technology to recycle it.

    More broadly - the world's supply of oil is finite; so is the Sun's supply of fusible matter. We worry about the first because we're likely to deplete msot of the reserves within our lifetimes. We don't worry as much about the latter.

    For around two hundred years, the market prices of copper, iron and most other metals fell in inflation-adjusted terms. Over the same period, the average grades of mining ores also fell. But technology made it possible to not only extract metals from lower-grade ores but to do it more cheaply. Prices fell so low in the 1980's and 1990's that virtually no major new mines were developed. Combined with the boom in demand from China and India, that pushed prices back up. Prices will probably start to come, down again in a couple of years.
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      CommentAuthorhowyadoin
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2008
     (2852.31)
    Here in the UK there is an epidemic of people breaking into houses and stealing all the copper piping they can get their grubby mitts on.
    Lots of that shit goin' on here, too. If word gets out that my bar has a copper top, I could be in trouble.
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      CommentAuthorAnoxia
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.32)
    @Kosmopolit I'm glad to see that you have so much faith in that we will put as much effort into recycling what we've already used as the effort we put into mining, because our track record with that kind of thing so far as been great. If only our will and enthusiasm for recycling matched that of our enthusiasm for exploiting all possible natural resources. I'm afraid I do not share your optimistic outlook.

    Eventually demand will out-strip supply, as the standard of living across the world increases in an uneven fashion. As the consumer habits of people in different countries change, it will ensure that there will not be enough of everything to share around. This leads me to the following questions: Does the technology to recycle some of these materials even exist? If it does, how difficult or costly is it? If it doesn't, how much and how long will it take to develop such things? Who on Earth is going to take this research on or has someone already started looking into it?
  7.  (2852.33)
    "I'm glad to see that you have so much faith in that we will put as much effort into recycling what we've already used as the effort we put into mining, because our track record with that kind of thing so far as been great"

    Well currently the US gets the majority of its copper every year from recycling rather than from mines.
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      CommentAuthorBen
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.34)
    @howyadoin

    Unless your bar has a two inch thick copper slab, I think you are safe from people trying to bust into your personal space.
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      CommentAuthorAnoxia
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.35)
    @Kosmopolit I was not referring to copper as I am aware of the already established practices of recycling for it, hence my comment about people stealing it. I was referring to other materials.
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      CommentAuthorhowyadoin
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.36)
    @ Ben

    It's not solid copper, but it amounted to $500 worth back when I built the bar (4 years ago):

    My Bar
    •  
      CommentAuthorAlastair
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.37)
    Worth every penny by the looks of it
    •  
      CommentAuthorhowyadoin
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2008
     (2852.38)
    Oh yeah, no regrets.
  8.  (2852.39)
    I think that they’re just made of steel, but in Baltimore people actually steal manhole covers and have even cut down streetlights.

    It seems like recycling corporations make a brilliant long-term investment. Alcoa will remain the great blue chip is has always been due to Aluminum being the grand poobah of recyclables, but eventually strip mining our own landfills will be generating a ton of cash for whoever can manage the process at a profit. And whoever makes the robots that can handle the hazardous mess will be siphoning off a lot of that money! Of course, that all assumes nanotech geeks don’t figure out ways to build absolutely everything out of carbon sucked from the atmosphere by genetically-engineer super bamboo.
  9.  (2852.40)
    James,

    More likely the electronic companies will generously offer to provide "take-back" services for old equipment as an environmental measure then strip out everything of value.