Are we approaching a shortage of raw materials? A look at the future.

How long do we have before certain raw materials run out?

The concern that the world is running out of raw materials weighs heavily on the shoulders of importers and industrialists worldwide. This fear is not unfounded; Many of the raw materials essential for our everyday products, from electronics to cars, are finite in nature. This blog explores the lifespan of several critical raw materials, with a focus on those relevant to importers from Asia. We will look at rare earth elements, copper, oil, and lithium, and discuss how their availability will affect the future of international trade. This topic is critical not only because of its economic impact, but also because of the environmental and geopolitical implications associated with it.

Rare earth metals

Rare earth metals, such as neodymium and dysprosium, are essential for the production of a wide range of high-tech products, including smartphones, electric cars, and wind turbines. Although these metals are called 'rare', they are relatively abundant in the Earth's crust. However, the problem lies in their extraction. Most rare earth metals are mined in China, meaning that access to these materials for many countries depends on Chinese exports. There are also environmental considerations; the extraction of these metals is often polluting. Estimates of when these materials will run out vary, but even without physical depletion, political and environmental issues could limit access to these crucial materials.

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Copper plays a key role in the electrical industry, and is also widely used in building materials and various industrial processes. Although copper is an abundant element, concerns about its depletion center on the declining quality of copper ores and the increasing costs of extracting them. With current extraction methods and growing demand, especially from countries such as China and India, easily extractable copper reserves could come under pressure within a few decades. This could lead to higher prices and stimulate the search for alternatives.


Oil is perhaps one of the most talked about commodities when it comes to fears of depletion. It is a crucial part of the global energy supply and plays a vital role in the transport sector. Estimates of how long our oil reserves will last vary considerably. Some sources suggest that we could reach peak oil production within 50 years, while others argue that this could be within a few decades. However, the shift to renewable energy sources and electric vehicles will likely reduce demand for oil and potentially extend its lifespan.


Lithium has received a lot of attention in recent years for its role in lithium-ion batteries, which are essential for electric vehicles and mobile electronics. Although lithium is abundant, concern is focused on the environmental impacts of its extraction and concentration of production in a few countries, including Australia, Chile and China. Increasing demand for electric vehicles and the need for energy storage solutions are likely to increase pressure on lithium supplies. This highlights the importance of developing more efficient recycling methods and seeking alternatives to lithium in battery technologies.

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What does this mean for importers?

For importers, especially those dependent on Asian markets, these potential raw material shortages are a concern and an opportunity for innovation. It is essential to invest in sustainable sourcing strategies, to work with suppliers that adopt environmentally friendly practices, and to consider alternative materials. Importers should also be alert to geopolitical developments and consider diversifying their supply chains to mitigate risks. The era of easy access to cheap raw materials may be waning, necessitating a shift towards more sustainable and ethical business practices.


While it is difficult to say with certainty when certain resources will run out, it is clear that the world faces challenges related to resource management. For importers, this means adapting to a changing market, in which sustainability, efficiency and innovation are key words. By acting proactively and planning ahead, importers can not only contribute to a more sustainable future, but also ensure the long-term resilience and success of their businesses.

 Prepare for the future: Anticipate resource shortages

Be one step ahead in the trade by implementing sustainable and innovative sourcing strategies. Start today switching to sustainable raw materials.

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