Monday, January 20, 2014

Using Mineral Demand and Supply Annual Production Rate Percentages to Determine Mineral Demand versus Supply

A recent report, “Review of Selected Global Mineral Industries in 2011 and an Outlook to 2017”, issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), provides historic production quantities from 2000 to 2010 for several minerals.  The report, which was issued in 2013, also provides estimates of future production quantities for some of these minerals between 2013 and 2017.  Click here (PDF file) to read this report.

From the historic production quantities, an average per year production growth rate, from 2000 to 2010, can be computed. Production amounts in a year generally do not equal consumption amounts in that year, but I suspect, on average, over several years, the differences are relatively small.  Therefore, I am assuming that the average per year production growth rate approximates reasonably-well the average per year consumption growth rate for a mineral.

One reasonable method of estimating annual production and consumption quantities is to use the historic average annual percentage production (consumption) rate.  Take the current annual amount of the material produced and multiply it by the historic average growth production rate to come up with the estimated production for the following year.

However, this is not what the USGS report does in its estimates of future production quantities.  Using only the historic average production rates does not account for expected external events, such as new mines opening or current mines being closed.  The USGS report does take into account such expected external events.  And therefore, the estimated production quantities that the USGS report shows have different annual growth percentage increases from the historic annual production percentage increases. 

Assuming that the historic production annual growth rate reasonably approximates the historic consumption annual growth rate (as discussed above), it seems to me that this rate represents a historic demand and, because it is an average over several years, the historic rate is likely to be as accurate for a future consumption demand as one is able to come up with. (Any possible external events in future consumption demands have already been accounted for, since possible future external events are no more or less likely than historic external events already accounted for in the historic quantities.)

On the other hand, because the USGS has estimated future production quantities, considering external factors (such as the ones discussed above), the future annual production quantities that the USGS has determined represent reasonable, as reasonable as likely to be determined, estimates of future supply.

So, based on the USGS data, two growth percentages can be determined, one the historic growth rate consumption percentage, which represents a demand rate, and the other a future growth rate percentage, which represents a supply rate.  With these 2 percentages, future demand versus future supply can be estimated, and if correct, an estimate of whether the mineral might be on the short or long-side supply can be made.

For example, based on the USGS data in the report, iron ore had an annual historic (from 2000 to 2010) consumption rate percentage (the demand line) increase of 9.04% ((1,320,000,000 MT- 607,000,000 MT)/607,000,000 MT; over 13 years).  And, using the USGS estimate data on future iron ore quantities, iron ore has an annual future production rate percentage (the supply line) increase of 3.78% ((1,750,000,000 MT – 1,520,000,000 MT)/1,520,000,000 MT; over 4 years).  

Assuming these demand and supply annual production rate percentages are reasonably correct, the significant difference in the percentages (9.04% versus 3.78%) suggests that iron ore supply may not keep up with iron ore demand between 2013 and 2017.

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