Title: The limits to growth and 'finite' mineral resources: re-visiting the assumptions and drinking from that half-capacity glass

Authors: Gavin M. Mudd

Addresses: Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering (Bld 60), Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia

Abstract: 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.

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.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2013.056562

International Journal of Sustainable Development, 2013 Vol.16 No.3/4, pp.204 - 220

Published online: 30 Jun 2014 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article