By Govind Bhutada
This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.
“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).
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.
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.