• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 28 June 2017


Successful delivery of the United Nations sustainable development goals and implementation of the Paris Agreement requires technologies that utilize a wide range of minerals in vast quantities. Metal recycling and technological change will contribute to sustaining supply, but mining must continue and grow for the foreseeable future to ensure that such minerals remain available to industry. New links are needed between existing institutional frameworks to oversee responsible sourcing of minerals, trajectories for mineral exploration, environmental practices, and consumer awareness of the effects of consumption. Here we present, through analysis of a comprehensive set of data and demand forecasts, an interdisciplinary perspective on how best to ensure ecologically viable continuity of global mineral supply over the coming decades.

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The authors are an interdisciplinary group, operating under the Resourcing Future Generations initiative of the International Union of Geological Sciences, the International Council for Science Unions and UNESCO. D. Nyanganyura of the International Council for Science and F. Masotti of Vale Corporation provided comments that led to this Perspective. S. Mohr of the University of Technology Sydney assisted with the model output results presented. Financial support provided by UNESCO, IUGS and ICSU, and logistical support provided by the Namibian Geological Survey, is acknowledged.

Author information


  1. University of Delaware, College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, Newark, Delaware, USA

    • Saleem H. Ali
  2. University of Queensland, Sustainable Minerals Institute, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Saleem H. Ali
  3. University of Vermont, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Burlington, Vermont, USA

    • Saleem H. Ali
  4. University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

    • Damien Giurco
  5. Institut des Sciences de la Terre, University Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France

    • Nicholas Arndt
    •  & Olivier Vidal
  6. Geological Society of London, London, UK

    • Edmund Nickless
  7. Graham Brown Consulting, Buckland, Buckinghamshire, UK

    • Graham Brown
  8. IUGS/IAGC Commission on Global Geochemical Baselines and EuroGeoSurveys, Athens, Greece

    • Alecos Demetriades
  9. University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

    • Judith Kinnaird
  10. University of Para, Belem, Brazil

    • Ray Durrheim
    •  & Maria Amélia Enriquez
  11. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Anna Littleboy
  12. US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, USA

    • Lawrence D. Meinert
  13. Potsdam University and International Union for Geological Sciences, Potsdam, Germany

    • Roland Oberhänsli
  14. United Nations Environment Programme, Bangkok, Thailand

    • Janet Salem
  15. MinEx Consulting, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    • Richard Schodde
  16. University of Western Australia, Centre for Exploration Targeting, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

    • Richard Schodde
  17. Namibian Uranium Institute, Swakopmund, Namibia

    • Gabi Schneider
  18. Newcastle University, London Campus, London, UK

    • Natalia Yakovleva


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S.H.A. designed and synthesized the written Perspective with N.A. and D.G.; E.N. led S.H.A., D.G., N.A., R.O., L.M., A.D., M.A.E., J.S., G.B., N.Y., A.L., G.S., J.K. and R.D. to develop the analytical framework and policy response recommendations through consensus; O.V. and N.A. contributed data for Fig. 1 and for material in Supplementary Information SI-1; D.G. contributed material in Supplementary Information SI-2; R.S. contributed data for Figs 2 and 3 and material in Supplementary Information SI-4. A.D. contributed material in Supplementary Information SI-5 and provided commentary on geochemical database and other existing tools and their data deficits. M.A.E. and J.S. prepared Box 1.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Saleem H. Ali.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks J. Gutzmer, S. Kesler and B. Reck for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures, Supplementary Tables and additional references.

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