Keywords: mineral resources, resource depletion, limits to growth, LtG, coal, iron ore, nickel, lead, zinc, platinum group metals, PGMs, bauxite, aluminium, copper, mining industry, resource sustainability, sustainable development
The limits to growth and 'finite' mineral resources: re–visiting the assumptions and drinking from that half–capacity glass
The famous 1972 study 'Limits to growth' (LtG) created global controversy about its dire predictions for the 21st century - e.g., global population crash, rampant pollution and resource depletion. Amongst some of the most fervent critics was the mining industry, who argued that mineral-metals are easily recyclable, that exploration and new technology can increase known resources, and that price drives supply–demand balance. This paper will re–visit the fundamental assumptions in the LtG study, comparing them in detail with the mega–trends in the global mining industry over the past century - trends such as declining ore grades, increasing tailings and mine waste rock, more refractory ores, deeper and/or larger mines, etc. This paper therefore provides a unique and thorough assessment of the primal factors governing the sustainability of mineral resources.