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On the current and future availability of gallium

Frenzel, M.; Ketris, M. P.; Seifert, T.; Gutzmer, J.


By-product availability curves were constructed for the production of gallium (Ga) from bauxite, sulphidic zinc ores and coal. They were used to assess both the current nature of its supply regime, as well as its potential future development. Not only was the current situation found to be firmly in the elastic supply regime for all three raw materials, indicating that significant future increases in primary Ga production are possible without increases in the production of the corresponding main products, but it was also found that estimated current supply potential from bauxite and sulphidic zinc ores alone is at least five times larger than actual primary production. Coal offers a significant additional supply potential (currently at least ~ 1.5 times primary Ga production). An extrapolation of growth trends in the primary production of Al, Zn and Ga into the future indicates that the minimum supply potential of Ga will not be exhausted before 2050. Once this point is reached, additional increases in Ga production relative to the production of Al and Zn will be possible via decreases in the relevant cut-off grades for its extraction. No significant shortages are therefore expected in the foreseeable future. Our results clearly refute the widely-held notion that the supply of certain by-product metals is currently limited by the production of the corresponding main products. Rather, the chief limitation appears to be installed production capacity.

Keywords: High-tech metals; by-products; long-term supply; reserves; resources


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