Understanding the modes of use and availability of critical metals-An expert-based scenario analysis for the case of indium

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Natural resources are an essential pillar of today's economic and technological innovation. Growing demand, in particular for certain metals relevant for emerging technologies such as low-carbon energy production, has recently led to supply concerns especially in resource-importing high-tech countries in Europe and North America. Current approaches for facing the challenges linked to supply security and general modes of use and re-use often focus on either technological innovation or on the development of relevant governance interventions, but lack a common pursuance of objectives. We used an expert-based formative scenario analysis to examine the role these approaches play in the case of indium, and how they interrelate. We identified four exemplary scenarios that reflect how indium use may be influenced in different ways: (i) an extrapolation of today's trends (business as usual); (ii) a focus on the recycling phase; (iii) a governance system with stringent governmental regulations; and (iv) a governance system with well-balanced power structures and cooperation. We then analyzed these system scenarios in terms of their plausibility when assuming different surrounding conditions (shell scenarios) to determine their overall robustness. The evaluation of the scenarios showed that measures should be taken to optimize life-cycle interfaces, including both primary and secondary production. We show that the state is a vital actor within the system of resource production and consumption, but has a limited operating range on an international scale. It must therefore provide the appropriate conditions to allow the evolution of private industry initiatives, which then can also contribute to the system's robustness. As a result, strategies targeting sustainable resource use could be the appropriate instrument to formulate a common objective and to more effectively coordinate such approaches for fostering sustainable indium use.

ZeitschriftJournal of Cleaner Production
Seiten (von - bis)376-393
Anzahl der Seiten18
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.05.2015