The Inequality of the Distribution Of World Mineral Supplies

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 784, 1977

G. J. S, Govett, Professor, Department of Geology, University of New Brunswick, and M. H. Govett, Mineral Economics Consultant, Fredericton, New Brunswick

World mineral production is dominated by six countries — the U.S., the U.S.S.R., Canada, South Africa, Australia and China — which also hold most of the reserves of the world's minerals. For the developed and centrally planned countries, there is a strong positive correlation between the mineral production of a country and its land area; there is no correlation between mineral production and land area for the less-developed countries. These facts imply that, after taking due account of geological controlling factors, a country -may expect to produce minerals in approximate proportion to its land area provided that political, economic, and historical factors are conducive to mineral exploration and mining. Contrary to popular political belief in many parts of the world, the developed countries are the major source of mineral imports for the industrialized countries. Moreover, exports of ores and minerals account for a relatively small part of world trade, and are an important factor in the export picture of only a few of the less-developed countries. The looming resource confrontation between the developed and the less-developed countries is based largely on the false premise that the industrialized countries of the world are minerals-poor and owe their wealth to cheap minerals from the less-developed countries. The data presented refute this. Geological controls are relatively minor in the present distribution of world mineral production; political and economic factors are dominant. It is argued that an expansion of world trade in minerals — based on increased exploration and new forms of finance for mining ventures — rather than cartels, price-fixing and trade restrictions is by far the preferable solution to the problem of redressing the legitimate grievances of the poor countries of the world. "The developing countries as a whole do not seem to me to be better or purer merely because they are poor and less efficient." W. Fox, Secretary of the International Tin Council (1956-1971).
Keywords: Mineral supplies, Mineral consumption, Resources, Reserves, Exploration, Development, Third World, Canada.