The World’s 5 Most Valuable Natural Resources

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Planet Earth is a pretty generous place when you think about it. It’s got all this great air to breathe, fertile soil for growing fine foodstuffs, and even nice shiny metals like gold and platinum which are fun to look at (and occasionally kill each other over). But the planet is less generous with a few things – things we very much like to have in our modern lives. As scarcity breeds value, these five resources are incredibly valuable because they are decidedly less than abundant.

5 Water

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And when discussing valuable natural resources, we would be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to good old water. Not that valuable, you say? Readily flowing behind taps everywhere and available in convenient bottles in thousands of stores? 1.) That’s not true everywhere. 2.) Go a day or two without water and then tell us it’s not pretty damn valuable.

4 Phosphorous

Phosphorous may seem endlessly abundant, and indeed it can be found in many places on earth – not to mention within your own body. But large, concentrated deposits of this element are limited to a few regions, and large-scale collection of phosphorous threatens to deplete the supply within a century. That’s bad news, as phosphorous is the most commonly used fertilizer worldwide, and helps feed a hell of a lot of human beings.

3 Ivory

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Ivory is, unfortunately, pretty valuable. And the larger the piece, the higher the value. Whereas an ounce of gold is worth precisely one-sixteenth what a pound of gold would fetch you, not so with ivory. Smaller pieces – say an inch cubed – can be had for mere dollars. Once you start getting into samples measured not in inches but in feet, you start dealing in thousands and thousands of dollars. But if you are in fact dealing in ivory, then you pretty much suck.

2 Rhodium

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The most valuable metal in the world is not silver or gold. It’s not even platinum. No, it’s good old rhodium. Rhodium is prized for its industrial applications, including everything from automobile exhaust systems (more than three-fourths of mined rhodium goes to this purpose) to highly reflective surfaces used to focus beams of light. And in the jewelry industry, rhodium is used to make other metals truly shine; white gold and platinum jewelry are often “rhodium dipped” to provide added brilliance.

1 Californium-252 (Cf-252)

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Arguably the most valuable natural resource on earth is the element californium. In its most common seen form, the isotope californium-252, the half-life is less than three years; scientists wishing to use this element have very little time to work with very little californium. It’s used in the medical field as a cancer treatment, and it’s also great at starting reaction processes for nuclear reactors. This exciting element can also help detect subterranean resources ranging from gold to oil. The californium used in practical applications is manmade, but it does occur naturally in trace amounts, thus it makes our list.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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