Not for a very long time, anyway:
Through submarine volcanic vents along the mid-ocean ridge, it delivers fresh basalt to resurface the planet\’s oceans every 200m years, and to drive the moving pavements on which the continents ride at a few centimetres a year, occasionally colliding to throw up features such as the Alps and the Tibetan plateau. These same forces built the Andes and the Rockies, and power the volcanoes that yearly discharge massive quantities of new water, gas and minerals to the biosphere. Earthquakes, too, are a reminder that the mantle is active, and determined to go on pushing us around. The great seams of concentrated mineral wealth – from the copper, tin, silver and gold that enriched the first civilisations to the rare earths and fissile elements that power new technologies – are ancient casual side-effects of the same process.
\’Coz this is still going on of course……
Actually, it would be rather fun, if someone wants to do the work, to make the calculation. We\’ve these new minerals coming up from the mantle each year. We\’ve a certain rate of consumption of the metals in such minerals each year. \”Sustainable\” should mean that we\’re not abstracing more virgin material (ie, after the effects of any recycling) from current stocks than are being added by this process.
So what is the number for the new copper, new aluminium, new whatever, being added as against current rates of abstraction? Are we in fact mining sustainably?