2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (2225 October 2006)
Paper No. 9-13
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM-11:45 AM

MULTIPLE MYTHS ABOUT MINERAL RESOURCES

CHENEY, Eric S., Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Box 351310 University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, vaalbara@u.washington.edu and BUDDINGTON, Andrew M., Science Department, Spokane Community College, 1810 N Greene Street, Spokane, WA 99217

Today, in economic geology our most important task, as instructors of non-geoscientists, geoscientists, the public, and the professoriate, is to dispel seven myths.

The foremost myth is that mineral resources are finite. This motivates many environmentalists. Currently, it is expressed as, "When are we going to run out of oil?" Economics, science, technology, recycling,, and substitution make world mineral resources virtually infinite. Gasoline always will be available at $10 to $100 (in constant 2006 dollars) per 3.8 liters, but eventually much of the "oil" may come from tar, cellulose, coal, and/or shale. Because ore is an economic definition, not a geologic one, we cannot run out.

A second myth is that only tenor, tonnage and the cost of extraction affect the economics of economic geology. Total cost includes capital, exploration/acquisition, taxes, and the expenses of societal, environmental, and post-closure programs.

The myth that production is environmentally devastating persists. Old "dirty pictures", such as oil gushers, drainage of acid mine water, and unreclaimed mines are vivid legacies, but they are seldom taken today in first-world countries. Production of mineral resources causes less pollution than their industrial processing and consumption.

A fourth myth is that mineral deposits are excessively profitable, hence, "rich as a gold mine". In the boom year of 2005, many producers did have unusually high profits; predictably, some became political scapegoats. Other corporations in other industries made similar profits. Moreover, in the mining and petroleum industries pre-production costs and risks commonly are large in size and duration.

The myth of excessive profitability implies that transportation costs are trivial. Obviously, low-value commodities, such as building materials, are only economic near consumers (except where transported by barge or ship).

A sixth myth is that deposits are uniformly mineralized. The delineation of ore shoots and/or multi-component grade-controls is the primary role of many mine geologists. Increased cut-off grades make deposits smaller, less continuous, and, in some cases, more difficult to mine.

Lastly, non-geoscientists believe that mineral resources are randomly (and, thus, fairly evenly) distributed. Hence, they believe that a NIMBY can be relocated elsewhere.

2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (2225 October 2006)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 9
Addressing Present and Future Energy, Mineral, and Water Issues in the Classroom: The Need to Prepare Both Educated Citizens and Geoscientists
Pennsylvania Convention Center: 113 B
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, 22 October 2006

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 7, p. 34

© Copyright 2006 The Geological Society of America (GSA), all rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to the author(s) of this abstract to reproduce and distribute it freely, for noncommercial purposes. Permission is hereby granted to any individual scientist to download a single copy of this electronic file and reproduce up to 20 paper copies for noncommercial purposes advancing science and education, including classroom use, providing all reproductions include the complete content shown here, including the author information. All other forms of reproduction and/or transmittal are prohibited without written permission from GSA Copyright Permissions.