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Andrew Alden

Toward Mineral Sustainability

By July 27, 2009

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It's an article of faith that the United States relies too much on "foreign oil" and that we should reduce that vulnerability. (Whether your preference is "drill more here" or "use less oil," we all accept the same premise.) But non-energy mineral resources are in the same state. The U.S. still leads the world in consumption of mineral resources, and we import a huge amount of what we use. Is your preference to mine more here, or use less? I prefer both, frankly. Both are difficult, yet mining more in America is an especially steep uphill fight. Americans hate mines, and the less we see of them the more we hate them.

In the newest issue of GSA Today, four geology professors report that economic geology is in a bad way on American campuses, saying "the United States is graduating fewer than 40 graduate-level economic geologists a year. This is probably less than half the number required to offset annual retirements in the domestic mining industry alone, much less in other organizations that require related expertise." What's the solution?


July 28, 2009 at 4:21 pm
(1) Eric Logan says:

I suppose that a decline in graduations of new ‘economic geologists’ parallels a decline in profitable extraction of geological resources. But questions I have are, first, are there large reserves of potentially exploitable mineral resources in the U.S? And, second, what economic conditions, or scientific advances, might tip the balance from importing mineral resources, toward exploiting national resources in an environmentally sound fashion?

August 3, 2009 at 11:58 am
(2) John says:

The National Mining Association has published Commodity Import Reliance percentages based on data from the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries.

A majority of the US mining exploration companies are based in Canadian markets. Perhaps an overhaul of domestic financing rules, relaxation of environmental laws, and protections from frivolous law suits could reduce our import dependence?

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