All the Metals We Mined in 2021
“If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it” is a famous saying that encapsulates the importance of minerals and metals in the modern world.
From every building we enter to every device we use, virtually everything around us contains some amount of metal.
The above infographic visualizes all 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021 and highlights each metal’s largest end-use using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Why Do We Mine So Much Iron Ore?
Iron ore accounted for 93% of the metals mined in 2021, with 2.6 billion tonnes extracted from the ground. It’s important to note that this is ore production, which is typically higher than metal production since metals are extracted and refined from ores. For example, the iron metal content of this ore is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes.
|Metal/Ore||2021 Mine Production (tonnes)||% of Total|
|Technology and precious metals||1,474,889||0.05%|
With 98% of it converted into pig iron to make steel, iron ore is ubiquitous in our lives. Steel made from iron ore is used in construction, transportation, and household appliances, and it’s likely that you encounter something made out of it every day, especially if you live in a city.
Due to its key role in building infrastructure, iron ore is one of the most important materials supporting urbanization and economic growth.
Industrial metals are largely used in steelmaking, construction, chemical manufacturing, and as alloying agents. In 2021, the world mined over 181 million tonnes of these metals.
|Industrial Metals||2021 Mine Production (tonnes)||% of Total|
|Titanium (mineral concentrates)||9,000,000||5.0%|
|Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)||1,200,000||0.7%|
*Represents refinery/smelter production.
Aluminum accounted for nearly 40% of industrial metal production in 2021. China was by far the largest aluminum producer, making up more than half of global production. The construction industry uses roughly 25% of annually produced aluminum, with 23% going into transportation.
Chromium is a lesser-known metal with a key role in making stainless steel stainless. In fact, stainless steel is usually composed of 10% to 30% of chromium, enhancing its strength and corrosion resistance.
Copper, manganese, and zinc round out the top five industrial metals mined in 2021, each with its own unique properties and roles in the economy.
Technology and Precious Metals
Technology metals include those that are commonly used in technology and devices. Compared to industrial metals, these are usually mined on a smaller scale and could see faster consumption growth as the world adopts new technologies.
|Technology and Precious Metals||2021 Mine Production (tonnes)||% of Total|
|Rare Earth Oxides||280,000||19.0%|
|Platinum Group Metals||380||0.03%|
*Represents refinery/smelter production.
The major use of rhenium, one of the rarest metals in terms of production, is in superalloys that are critical for engine turbine blades in aircraft and gas turbine engines. The petroleum industry uses it in rhenium-platinum catalysts to produce high-octane gasoline for vehicles.
In terms of growth, clean energy technology metals stand out. For example, lithium production has more than doubled since 2016 and is set to ride the boom in EV battery manufacturing. Over the same period, global rare earth production more than doubled, driven by the rising demand for magnets.
Indium is another interesting metal on this list. Most of it is used to make indium tin oxide, an important component of touchscreens, TV screens, and solar panels.
The Metal Mining Megatrend
The world’s material consumption has grown significantly over the last few decades, with growing economies and cities demanding more resources.
Global production of both iron ore and aluminum has more than tripled relative to the mid-1990s. Other metals, including copper and steel, have also seen significant consumption growth.
Today, economies are not only growing and urbanizing but also adopting mineral-intensive clean energy technologies, pointing towards further increases in metal production and consumption.
Ranked: The World’s Top Diamond Mining Countries, by Carats and Value
Who are the leaders in rough diamond production and how much is their diamond output worth?
Ranked: World Diamond Mining By Country, Carat, and Value
Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production—also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds—mining for them from deposits within their territories.
This chart, by Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.
Rough Diamond Production, By Weight
Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.
Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.
Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||9,660,233|
|10||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||688,970|
|18||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||3,904|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||3,534|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.
As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.
Diamond Mining, by Country
However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||$1,538M|
|9||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||$143M|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||$0.20M|
|20||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||$0.16M|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.
Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.
Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.
Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.
Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?
Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.
|Rank||Region||Share of Rough|
Diamond Production (%)
|Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.
By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.
And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.
Energy3 weeks ago
What Electricity Sources Power the World?
Technology7 days ago
Which Companies Own the Most Satellites?
Markets3 weeks ago
The 25 Worst Stocks by Shareholder Wealth Losses (1926-2022)
Mining5 days ago
200 Years of Global Gold Production, by Country
Jobs4 weeks ago
Charted: Youth Unemployment in the OECD and China
Technology3 weeks ago
Visualizing Google’s Search Engine Market Share
Maps5 days ago
Mapped: How Much Does it Take to be the Top 1% in Each U.S. State?
Real Estate4 weeks ago
The Monthly Cost of Buying vs. Renting a House in America