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Mineral Resources: Reserves, Peak Production and the Future


  • Lawrence D. Meinert

    (U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 913, Reston, VA 20192, USA)

  • Gilpin R. Robinson

    (U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 913, Reston, VA 20192, USA)

  • Nedal T. Nassar

    (U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 913, Reston, VA 20192, USA)


The adequacy of mineral resources in light of population growth and rising standards of living has been a concern since the time of Malthus (1798), but many studies erroneously forecast impending peak production or exhaustion because they confuse reserves with “all there is”. Reserves are formally defined as a subset of resources, and even current and potential resources are only a small subset of “all there is”. Peak production or exhaustion cannot be modeled accurately from reserves. Using copper as an example, identified resources are twice as large as the amount projected to be needed through 2050. Estimates of yet-to-be discovered copper resources are up to 40-times more than currently-identified resources, amounts that could last for many centuries. Thus, forecasts of imminent peak production due to resource exhaustion in the next 20–30 years are not valid. Short-term supply problems may arise, however, and supply-chain disruptions are possible at any time due to natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes) or political complications. Needed to resolve these problems are education and exploration technology development, access to prospective terrain, better recycling and better accounting of externalities associated with production (pollution, loss of ecosystem services and water and energy use).

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence D. Meinert & Gilpin R. Robinson & Nedal T. Nassar, 2016. "Mineral Resources: Reserves, Peak Production and the Future," Resources, MDPI, vol. 5(1), pages 1-14, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jresou:v:5:y:2016:i:1:p:14-:d:64735

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    References listed on IDEAS

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