Metal use and the world economy

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One goal of this paper is to develop a model that explains metal consumption over time by the trends in world economic activity. Two alternative models of this relationship are examined over the 1950 through 1994 period for world consumption of aluminium, copper, lead and zinc. Another goal is to determine if there has been an unusual recent surge in the demand for these metals. Total world metal consumption is well explained by the first model which relates metal use to world activity in a few general macroeconomic sectors. However, in many situations even greater aggregation and simplification is required by the lack of recent economic data, resulting in the second model which is the intensity of use method. Both of these models are used to make metal consumption predictions. Comparing actual metal use against the predictions from the models demonstrates that in 1993 and 1994 there was some degree of unexpected and unusually high levels of demand for copper, lead and zinc, but only slightly so for aluminium. A detailed analysis of the demand for copper in 32 nations shows that there does not appear to be any simple explanation as to why some nations have had unusually high rates of copper use, whereas other nations have had unusually low consumption. © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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