Jonathan G. Price, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, MS 178, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV 89557
We are in the midst of the biggest boom in mineral production ever experienced, and the future is bright for continuing the boom. Despite the recent economic recession, for the most part, demand for mineral resources has steadily increased with rising world population and improvement in the standard of living in many parts of the world. Today is an exciting time for economic geologists. For nearly every mineral commodity, the long-term outlook is for increasing demand. Although recycling and extraction of metals from low-grade, former waste will contribute to supply, new resources will need to be found. To meet global demand for gold, we are mining the equivalent of a Carlin trend each year, and to meet global demand for copper, we are mining the equivalent of a Bingham Canyon deposit each year. The geopolitical landscape of mineral resources has shifted dramatically in recent decades. China is by far the leading mineral producer. After a century of dominance, South Africa is no longer the leader in gold; China has been first in annual gold production since 2007. China surpassed the USA in annual coal production in the early 1980s and now burns about 40% of the world’s coal, more than twice the USA amount. Dominance in annual iron-ore production has shifted from the USA (1935 to 1957) to the USSR/Russia (1958 to 1991) to China (1992 to present), with China now producing about 35% to the global annual total. Of 22 key mineral commodities produced in 2008, China was a significant producer (with >10% of world supply) of 16, and the USA was a significant producer of six. China effectively controls the current world supply of rare earth elements. For those commodities for which China is not a significant producer (such as platinum, chromium, nickel, copper, and potash), China engages in efforts to secure supplies to meet domestic and international industrial demand.