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All the Metals We Mined in 2021: Visualized

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infographic showing all the metals mined in 2021

All the Metals We Mined in 2021

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“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/Ore2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Iron ore2,600,000,00093.4%
Industrial metals181,579,8926.5%
Technology and precious metals1,474,8890.05%
Total2,783,054,781100.0%

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

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 Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Aluminum*68,000,00037.4%
Chromium41,000,00022.6%
Copper21,000,00011.6%
Manganese20,000,00011.0%
Zinc13,000,0007.2%
Titanium (mineral concentrates)9,000,0005.0%
Lead4,300,0002.4%
Nickel2,700,0001.5%
Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)1,200,0000.7%
Magnesium*950,0000.5%
Strontium360,0000.2%
Uranium48,3320.03%
Bismuth*19,0000.01%
Mercury2,3000.001%
Beryllium2600.0001%
Total181,579,892100.0%

*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 Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Tin300,00020.3%
Molybdenum300,00020.3%
Rare Earth Oxides280,00019.0%
Cobalt170,00011.5%
Vanadium110,0007.5%
Lithium106,0007.2%
Tungsten79,0005.4%
Niobium75,0005.1%
Silver24,0001.6%
Cadmium24,0001.6%
Gold3,0000.2%
Tantalum2,1000.1%
Indium*9200.1%
Gallium4300.03%
Platinum Group Metals3800.03%
Rhenium590.004%
Total1,474,889100.0%

*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.

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Batteries

Ranked: The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

Three countries account for almost 90% of the lithium produced in the world.

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Voronoi graphic showing the top lithium producers in 2023.

The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Three countries—Australia, Chile, and China—accounted for 88% of lithium production in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of lithium production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on lithium statistics (published Jan 2024).

Australia Leads, China Approaches Chile

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard-rock mines, specifically from the mineral spodumene.

The country saw a big jump in output over the last decade. In 2013, Australia produced 13,000 metric tons of lithium, compared to 86,000 metric tons in 2023.

RankCountryLithium production 2023E (metric tons)
1🇦🇺 Australia86,000
2🇨🇱 Chile44,000
3🇨🇳 China33,000
4🇦🇷 Argentina9,600
5🇧🇷 Brazil4,900
6🇨🇦 Canada3,400
7🇿🇼 Zimbabwe3,400
8🇵🇹 Portugal380
🌍 World Total184,680

Chile is second in rank but with more modest growth. Chilean production rose from 13,500 tonnes in 2013 to 44,000 metric tons in 2023. Contrary to Australia, the South American country extracts lithium from brine.

China, which also produces lithium from brine, has been approaching Chile over the years. The country increased its domestic production from 4,000 metric tons in 2013 to 33,000 last year.

Chinese companies have also increased their ownership shares in lithium producers around the globe; three Chinese companies are also among the top lithium mining companies. The biggest, Tianqi Lithium, has a significant stake in Greenbushes, the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium mine in Australia.

Argentina, the fourth country on our list, more than tripled its production over the last decade and has received investments from other countries to increase its output.

With all the top producers increasing output to cover the demand from the clean energy industry, especially for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the lithium market has seen a surplus recently, which caused prices to collapse by more than 80% from a late-2022 record high.

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