Adequacy of World Mineral Supply

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 785, 1977

Leonard L. Fischman, Fellow, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C,

It is important to define "adequacy," and the most useful definition is a continuing availability of mineral materials under cost and other conditions which imply no significant burden on the achievement of otherwise attainable levels of consumption and well-being. For current decision making, it is sufficient to consider adequacy just to the end of the century, with some regard being given to then remaining mineral inventory. A comparison of cumulative demand projections to the year 2000 with already identified reserves (economically recoverable amounts in known deposits) suggests little reason for concern with world adequacy of iron ore, aluminum, manganese, chromium or potash. Conservative estimates of "prospective" reserves (amounts producible at today's prices, but yet to be discovered) suggests that there are ample quantities of virtually all other mineral resources as well. A probable exception is oil and gas, of which there may be scant amounts remaining: after the turn of the century. However, there is an evident sufficiency of substitute forms of energy, though it is difficult to see just where developing technology will take us. The critical questions have to do with the increasing dependence of the industrialized countries on external sources of supply, coupled with a, new international politics which complicates the problem of insuring timely development of, and access to, remaining deposits. In this context, Canada, a still mineral-rich nation, is in one of the more favorable positions.
Keywords: Mineral supplies, Resources, Reserves, Energy resources, Consumption, Economics.