Measuring Competition for Valuable Minerals
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Everybody loves a little competition.
It levels the playing field and ensures prices and products are kept affordable and available. But how do you measure and track the competitiveness of specific sectors?
The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) is a commonly accepted measurement of market concentration, and in today’s case, we use it to show which mineral sectors have healthy competition between countries, as well as the sectors that are more monopolistic.
What is the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index?
The HHI is calculated by squaring the market share of each competitor and then summing up the resulting numbers. It can range from zero to 10,000.
The closer a market is to a monopoly, the higher the market’s concentration, and the lower its competition. If there were only one company in an industry, that company would have a 100% share of the market, and the HHI would equal 10,000, demonstrating a monopoly.
Conversely, if there were thousands of firms competing, the HHI would be near zero, indicating almost perfect competition.
- HHI below 1,500: a competitive marketplace
- HHI between 1,500 – 2,500: a moderately concentrated marketplace
- HHI of 2,500 or greater: a highly concentrated marketplace
Interestingly, the same technique is also used by the U.S. Department of Justice to look at market competition and potential anti-trust violators, as well.
Global Metal Production
Today’s chart uses data from the World Mining Congress to look at the competition for global minerals between countries. The HHI scores show the minerals most and least exposed to competition, while uncovering opportunities for countries looking to bolster their own mineral production.
Here are 33 minerals ranked, going from highest score (most monopolistic) to lowest (least monopolistic):
|Rank||Mineral||HHI Score||Type of Mineral|
|#1||Niobium (Nb2O5)||8,413||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#2||REE (Rare Earth Elements)||7,219||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#3||Oil Sands||6,871||Mineral Fuels|
|#4||Tungsten (W)||6,828||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#5||Platinum (Pt)||5,383||Precious Metals|
|#8||Vanadium (V)||3,573||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#9||Coking Coal||3,423||Mineral Fuels|
|#10||Cobalt (Co)||3,184||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#11||Palladium (Pd)||3,163||Precious Metals|
|#12||Aluminum (Al)||3,078||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#13||Chromium (Cr2O3)||2,942||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#14||Molybdenum (Mo)||2,812||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#15||Boron (B)||2,749||Industrial Minerals|
|#16||Lithium (Li2O)||2,749||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#17||Steam Coal||2,639||Mineral Fuels|
|#18||Lead (Pb)||2,505||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#19||Uranium (U308)||2,233||Mineral Fuels|
|#20||Tin (Sn)||2,036||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#21||Iron (Fe)||2,015||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#23||Zinc (Zn)||1,687||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#24||Manganese (Mn)||1,627||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#26||Copper (Cu)||1,136||Non-Ferrous Metals|
|#27||Titanium (TIO2)||1,120||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#28||Silver (Ag)||1,015||Precious Metals|
|#29||Salt (NaCl)||982||Industrial Minerals|
|#30||Nickel (Ni)||949||Iron and Ferro-Alloy Metals|
|#31||Natural Gas||884||Mineral Fuels|
|#33||Gold (Au)||557||Precious Metals|
The data here makes it clear that mineral production is not uniformly distributed throughout the world, giving some countries huge advantages while revealing potential supply problems down the road.
Renewables in the Spotlight
While commodities like gold and oil have robust levels of competition around the world, the renewable energy industry relies on more obscure raw materials to make solar, wind, and EVs work.
Rare earth elements (REE) rank #2 on the list with a HHI score of 7,219, while battery minerals such as graphite (#6), vanadium (#8), cobalt (#10), and lithium (#16) also appear high on the list as well.
According to a recent study, the production of rare earth elements is an area of particular concern. Used in everything from electric motors to wind turbines, rare earth demand will need to increase by twelve times by 2050 to reach emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement.
The only problem is that China currently controls 84% of global production, which increases the odds of bottlenecks and scarcity as demand rises. This ultimately creates an interesting scenario, where a sustainable future will be at the mercy of a few a producing nations.
Visualizing Mining’s Footprint in British Columbia
Mining represents 7% of British Columbia’s GDP despite only accounting for 0.04% of the land use.
Visualizing Mining’s Footprint in British Columbia
British Columbia is considered a global leader in the development of socially and environmentally responsible resources.
An estimated 54% of the province’s total land is protected, making it one of the world’s greenest mining hubs.
This graphic by the B.C. Regional Mining Alliance (BCRMA) details mining’s footprint in the province.
A Tier 1 Jurisdiction for Mining
British Columbia covers almost 95 million hectares (234 million acres), more than any European country except Russia, and more than any U.S. state except Alaska.
As the largest mining province in Canada, BC registered $18 billion in revenue from the industry in 2022.
British Columbia stands as Canada’s sole producer of molybdenum, which finds applications in metallurgy and chemistry. Additionally, B.C. is the country’s leader producer of copper and steelmaking coal, besides gold and silver.
At the heart of British Columbia’s mining industry lies the Golden Triangle, one of the hottest mineral exploration districts in the world.
More than 150 mines have operated in the area since prospectors first arrived at the end of the 19th century. The region alone is endowed with minerals worth more than $800 billion.
How Green is B.C. Mining
Mining represents 7% of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite only accounting for 0.04% of the land use. In comparison, farmland demands 3% of the land, bringing $2.1 billion (0.8%) per year.
|Land Use in B.C.||Revenue (2022, CAD $)|
|Oil & Gas||0.4%||$9.5 billion|
Mining operations are also supported by a stable, transparent, and effective policy environment. The province ranked as the world’s least risky for mining in 2017 and 2018.
In addition, mineral exploration has received ample support from local Indigenous communities. Today, mining accounts for over two-thirds of all indigenous people employed in the extractives sector.
According to the International Energy Agency, up to six times more minerals and metals will be needed by 2040 to accelerate the energy transition.
In this scenario, British Columbia is well positioned to support the transition to a low-carbon future and make a significant contribution to climate action.
The BCRMA is a strategic partnership between indigenous groups, industry, and government representatives that aims to promote B.C.’s mining opportunities internationally.
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