2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM


BROWN, William M., U.S. Geol Survey, Box 25046, MS 750, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0046, wbrown@usgs.gov

The sociocultural dimensions of mineral supply at the outset of the 21st century are having the effect of making the supply process increasingly complex. The dimensions encompass cultural, environmental, financial, global, and legal implications of mineral supply, and are driving potentially significant changes in the way mineral supply is likely to be accomplished in the future. Over the past 150 years, a progression of sociocultural movements under the headings of conservationism, environmentalism, and sustainable development have nurtured societal values that continuously changed the mineral supply process in important ways. These movements reflect a continuing tension between the demand for minerals and other resources, and the simultaneous demand for aesthetic, cultural, ecological, spiritual, and other human values given to the land. This report examines mineral supply and elements of current international debates about the mineral industry in the context of the meaning and future of sustainable development. The report also discusses how industry practices are evolving to respond to sociocultural demands.

U.S. Geological Survey researchers are analyzing the quantities of minerals in the Earth's crust, and economic, political, sociocultural, and technological trends with respect to mineral supply. These findings are being used in concert to create scenarios about mineral supply for the next 25 to 50 years. The scenarios are based on quantitative measures of long-term trends and current (2002) conditions. The scenarios are designed to help describe the roles of mineral suppliers in providing economic growth, environmental protection, and sociocultural acceptance during mineral recovery, and to compare alternative futures of mineral supply under the rubric of sustainable development.