The development of a mineral deposit starts with a perceived marketing opportunity consistent with the characteristics of this industry. The conceptual business plan is then detailed with basic assumptions for potential validation. If this preliminary evaluation is deemed “attractive”, the process advances to early stages of mineral exploration. Note that the process at this point is more an art than applied science since the limited data available have a high degree of uncertainty.
Although it is impossible to foresee all of the new products that will be developed for use by society in the future, they certainly will be composed of chemical elements and minerals (adapted from Kesler, 2007). Moreover, growing global population and rising standards of living will require additional supply of naturally occurring minerals.
For many materials reserves are abundant and widely distributed. For these materials, future supply is not at risk and can be crudely assessed by using the ratios of (global reserve/yearly production) and (global resource/yearly production). For other materials (e.g., heavy rare earth elements, Nb, antimony) the assessment is more complex. Factors such as authoritarian regimes, monopoly or oligopoly-type market conditions, political instability, and potential or existing regional conflicts can threaten reliable supply, and analyses must account for these risks. Furthermore, some high-technology metals are derived as a by-product of base-metal extraction (e.g., Ga, Ge, In). Supply of these metals is tied directly to production levels of related base metals. Their level of production cannot be easily increased independently of the main base-metal co-product without a major increase in their price (adapted from Simandl et al., 2015).
Additionally, it is important to note that these reserves are made up of many separate deposits, all of which have to be considered in the local context of which they are a part. Each of these deposits is subject to geologic, engineering, economic, environmental, and political constraints that undergo continuous change (adapted from Kesler, 2007). Therefore, the specificity of mineral deposits creates interesting marketing opportunities.
Although recycling, substitution and more efficient technology can extend available mineral reserves, this would not be sustainable. Therefore, mining companies should re-invest the benefits from the depleting mineral assets replacing these useful assets. Also, most likely, the development of new and more complex reserves would require innovative mining approaches (e.g. ultra-deep underground mining, moon and asteroid mining), bringing yet more marketing opportunities for this resilient industry.
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Please provide your thoughts about creating marketing opportunities associated with mineral resources in your geography.
Kesler, S. E.,” Mineral Supply and Demand into the 21st Century”, Proceedings, Workshop on Deposit Modeling, Mineral Resource Assessment, and Sustainable Development, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, (May, 2007). Last accessed on 06/09/2016 at http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2007/1294/reports/paper9.pdf
Ishee, J.,” Going Critical: Being Strategic with Our Mineral Resources”, USGS, (December, 2013). Last accessed on 06/09/2016 at https://www2.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/going-critical-being-strategic-with-our-mineral-resources/
Simandl J. G. et al.,” Which materials are ‘critical’ and ‘strategic’”, Symposium on critical and strategic materials. British Columbia Geological Survey (March, 2015). Last accessed on 06/09/2016 at http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geoscience/PublicationsCatalogue/Papers/Documents/P2015-3/01%20Simandl.pdf
Goodfellow, W. D. “Consolidation and Synthesis of Mineral Deposits Knowledge”, Natural Resources Canada, (February, 2006)