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In geology, reserves are considered to be the amounts of raw materials that have been fully evaluated and are able to be economically mined under current conditions.


Resources are the amounts of raw materials that cannot be economically mined at the moment and have not been yet been evaluated. Resources could become reserves if processing technology is improved or market prices increase.


Many factors are taken into account to calculate the lifetime of a raw material that sometimes involve considerable uncertainties such as, for example, changes in consumer behaviour. The lifetime of a raw material is referred to as its "static lifetime" and is calculated by dividing the volume of reserves or ressources of the raw material by the current global rate of consumption.

Strategic/critical raw materials

Strategic raw materials are materials, which, should they become scarce, would have a general impact on the economy. They are also referred to as critical raw materials.

Substitutability Index

The substitutability index refers to an EU study (EC 2010) that looks at the substitutability of a raw material. Substitution is evaluated for each area of use of the raw material and then values are given between 0 and 1, whereby the higher value means that substitution is very difficult or not possible.

IW Classification

The substitutability index refers to an EU study (IW 2008) [Secure Supply of Energy and Raw Materials] published by the Cologne Institute for Economic research (IW) are the static lifetime (calculated by looking at reserves), the regional and corporate concentration as well as the substitutability of raw materials. The supply situation has been classified as particularly critical if three of the following four criteria are applicable: the static lifetime is less than 30 years, more than 66% of resources are located in three countries and/or more than 45% are produced by three suppliers or a material cannot be substituted or is difficult to substitute in a production process. If two of these criteria apply then the situation is classified as critical.

ISI Indicator 2030

32 future technologies were defined and analysed in the study "Rohstoffe für Zukunftstechnologien" [Raw Materials for Future Technologies] (ISI 2009) which was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The study forecasts the development of these technologies up to 2030 and describes the expected growth in demand for 22 raw materials between 2006 and 2030 as a result of these applications. The raw material requirements calculated were then looked at in relation to the global annual production amounts identified for 2009 for each raw material. The raw material for which the greatest change has been predicted is gallium: it has been estimated that 6.1 times the current rate of production will be needed in 2030 for future technologies.

EU Classification

The EU report "Critical raw materials for the EU" (EC 2010) which has been available since June 2010, evaluates 41 groups of raw materials according to economic importance), supply risk and environmental country risk. A standardized index was drawn up with values between 0 and 10 for each of the three criteria. A raw material has been classified as critical if it exceeds the threshold values (economic importance = threshold value 5, supply risk = 1, environmental risk = 1.2). According to these calculations, the supply of 14 raw materials and/or material groups has been judged to be critical.

Economic Importance

The economic importance of a raw material is calculated by assessing the value added in the various economic sectors weighted by the relative share of the use of the raw material in the respective sector. (EU Classification/EC 2010)

Supply Risk

The supply risk involves an aggregated assessment of the following criteria: regional concentration of raw material supplies, the political and economic stability of the most important producing countries, substitutability and rates of recycling. (EU Classification/EC 2010)

Environmental Country Risk

The environmental country risk quantifies the risk that measures may be taken to protect the environment and by doing so restrict access to natural supplies of raw materials. By looking at this category it is possible to come to an approximate conclusion about the effects the mining of the raw material has on the environment. (EU Classification/EC 2010)

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