Unresolved Complexity in Assessments of Mineral Resource Depletion and Availability

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Journal Article
Natural Resources Research, 2018, 27, (2), pp. 241-255
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Considerations of mineral resource availability and depletion form part of a diverse array of sustainable development-oriented studies, across domains such as resource criticality, life cycle assessment and material flow analysis. Given the multidisciplinary nature of these studies, it is important that a common understanding of the complexity and nuances of mineral supply chains be developed. In this paper, we provide a brief overview of these assessment approaches and expand on several areas that are conceptually difficult to account for in these studies. These include the dynamic nature of relationships between reserves, resources, cut-off grades and ore grades; the ability to account for local economic, social and environmental factors when performing global assessments; and the role that technology improvements play in increasing the availability of economically extractable mineral resources. Advancing knowledge in these areas may further enhance the sophistication and interpretation of studies that assess mineral resource depletion or availability.
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