Mineral Resource Information, Supply, and Policy Analysis

Harris, DeVerle P. ; Vogely, William A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 44
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
INTRODUCTION Perspective The phrase "minerala resource appraisal" is widely and loosely used to refer to any quantitative description of a naturally occurring source of fuels, metals, or nonmetals. This leads to confusion when mineral resources are so conceived, for the term refers generically to information on stocks-mineral endowment, resources, reserves, and potential supply-that differ in ways that are important in economic analysis. Mineral resource and other stock measures- these are not flows, e.g., the supply of minerals-have precise technical meanings, which are presented in this paper. Quotation marks are used to separate the nontechnical use of mineral resource from the technical. The term appraisal also leads to some con- fusion because it too is loosely used. When an appraisal employs probability and statistical methods, the appropriate term is estimationb, not appraisal or assessment. This paper presents a conceptual framework or mineral resource information which renders technical, or well defined, relationships of mineral endowment to physical attributes of the earth's crust and earth processes, as distinct from economic values, and identifies estimation approaches that lead to different economic measures of stocks and flows. An important result of this approach is the distinction between the relevance of mineral resource information to economic and policy issues about potential sup- ply (stocks) and dynamic supply (flows across time). With regard to policy analysis, this paper recognizes that mineral resource information has a cost as well as an imputed value. Such a treatment implies that there is an optimum state of resource ignorance, or enlightenment, for a given policy issue and that the relevant economic issue is the selection of that information strategy and appraisal methodology that is indicated by the optimum state. Until the initiation of the OPEC oil embargo, the demand for information on mineral re- sources and potential supply was limited to occasional studies commissioned by Congress or the President of the United States. In these, mineral and energy resources remained loosely de- scribed. When quantitative estimates were supplied, they were not rigorously made, and the estimates and the methodology accordingly escaped close scrutiny. Usually, neither the geo- logical nor economic bases for estimation were carefully described or critically examined. The imposition by OPEC nations of the embargo on oil caused a sudden change in the public and scientific demands for specific 'resource" appraisals, especially of oil and of uranium. These
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