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world, 31 and 18 percent of which are in the Congo and New Caledonia,
respectively; Cuba has 15 percent of world reserves.
Only a small
amount of cobalt is recycled; consequently, the industrial nations are
almost completely dependent on two distant sources for their cobalt
Manganese imports toughness to steel, and when added with nickel
to copper produces the hardest and strongest copper alloy. The United
States has no reserves of manganese.
No manganese is recovered in the
metallic form for recycling. Of the world reserves, about 45 and 30
percent, respectively, are in South Africa and the Soviet Union.
are, however, other sources of sunply (Congo, Gabon, India, Brazil, and
Australia) which make the manganese supply problem, at least for the next
few decades, considerably less troublesome than it otherwise might be.
Fluorspar is a mineral containing fluorine. It is used in the mineral form as a flux in steel-making and aluminum nroduction and as an
opacifier and flux in glass-making; it is also used as a source of
fluorine compounds used in refrigeration. About 80 percent of domestic
consumption is imnorted, chiefly from Mexico.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines has estimated that known U.S. resources of
fluorsnar will be exhausted by 1995 or 1997 and that resources in the
rest of the world may be exhausted even sooner, say by 1986 or 1987.
Consumption of fluorine in aluminum metallurgy, which now accounts for
about 20 percent of the total demand, is expected to be the major end
use for this mineral by the year 2000. There are no known substitutes
for fluorspar in its major uses.
ion of emerging
nations will put an additional demand on the world supply.
It is hoped that, as present world reserves near exhaustion, price
increases for fluorspar will stimulate exploration and discovery and
will allow the recovery of fluorine from phosphate rock. Most of the
fluorine in U.S. phosphate rock, which contains an average of about 3
percent, is wasted by present methods of processing. An economic process
for recovering fluorine from phosphate rock would increase U.S. reserves
some 50 times and provide an escape from the scarcity trap the nation
appears to be headed for.
The future importance of helium is well summarized in the following
quotation from Harold Lipper of the U.S. Bureau of Mines (in Mineral Facts
and Problems, 1970, p.79),
"Helium, a gas with a combination of unique properties,
Helium in storage under the U.S. Government's helium conservation
program probably will be adequate to meet domestic demand until the
year 2000. Helium undoubtedly will become more costly by that time
and recovery from low-grade sources, substitution where practicable,
reclamation and reuse will contribute to meeting demand.
however, to be considerable room for doubt that these measures will
suffice to provide helium enough to supply the needs for which it may
still be indispensable.
In 1969, the Bureau of Mines, in an effort to
locate new supplies, analyzed 443 natural gas samples from fields and
wells in 23 states and eight foreign countries, without success.
The proved reserves of uranium ore in the United States are not
sufficient to support predicted increases in nuclear power generation
to the year 2000, with existing nuclear technology which makes use only of the comparatively rare isotope u235. Although the R/P ratio at the
end of 1971 was 21 and rising, the proved reserves at that time were
sufficient only to supply the AEC's forecast of commercial requirements
through 1982. Additional uranium calculated to become available at a
25 percent increase in price would meet the forecast demand only one
If the average additions-to-reserves rate of the 1967-71
period were to be maintained through 1987, all of the potential reserves (at the higher price) estimated by the AEC in 1971 would have been found
and would provide for fueling the growing nuclear-power capacity only to
It will be surprising if the present estimated potential-reserve
total becomes ore by 1988. Nuclear powerplants now under construction
and planned will be the beneficiaries of unusually penetrating geologic
foresight and some luck if they do not have to shut down or assume much
higher fuel costs well before their useful life of 40 years or so is
The hope has been that an efficient and safe breeder reactor would
be developed so that its commercial proliferation in powerplants could begin about 1980. Such reactors, using much more of the energy in
natural uranium ore than do the present generation, would extend existing
reserves at least 60 times and would make ore out of a great tonnage of
low-grade uranium material. But it now appears that such proliferation will not take place until after 1990, If it does occur then, there will
be a great draft on existing uranium stocks and new ore in order to build
up the large fuel inventories required for efficient breeding. Operators
of the breeder plants may be able to pay prices for available supplies
so high that the older plants, which will have to meet those prices to
obtain fuel, will become seriously uneconomic producers of electricity.
This problem does not seem to have been explored thoroughly by those who
will pay for the nuclear plants now being built or planned.
The relation of national strength to resource depletion
Agricultural production, industrial activity, consumer choice and
military strength depend upon minerals.
The great agricultural productivity of the United States depends upon mechanization and fertilizer. The tractors, plows, harrows, seeders, and harvesters are made of metals and are powered by petroleum products.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that 4.02 billion gallons of
gasoline and 2.45 billion gallons of diesel fuel will be used directly
in U.S. agriculture in 1973.
Fertilizers are largely mineral; phosphate
rock, naturally-occurring potash salts, gypsum, peat, and sulfur are mineral materials; only nitrogen among the important fertilizing elements is not supplied primarily from mineral deposits, and its production
requires a good deal of energy.
The importance of minerals to industrial activity lies in the myriad
useful properties of the metals and construction minerals and in the
production of cheap energy from the fossil fuels and uranium.
It was no
accident that the Industrial Revolution flowered in Great Britain.
its area, no nation on earth has had major deposits of iron ore and coal
so widely distributed as did Great Britain in the early years of the 18th
century. The British Empire grew out of those deposits.
Consumer choice is reflected in the availability of food, goods, and
energy in such abundance that one does not need to consider efficiency
of resource use in their selection and use.
One may choose to eat steak
or heat a room by electricity, without regard to the fact that both are
inefficient ways of using energy. One may choose to operate a heavy
automobile for the transport of himself alone or to buy razor blades which
contain small amounts of platinum, a scarce metal, without regard to the
depletion thus induced.
In the United States, the automobile is perhaps the outstanding
symbol of consumer choice as well as an important element of industrial
activity. In 1969 the manufacture of automobiles accounted for 8.3
percent of the U.S. consumption of copper and copper alloys, 9.9 percent
of the aluminum consumption, 11.2 percent of the nickel consumption, 19.4 percent of the iron and steel consumption, and 32.5 percent of the
The operation of motor vehicles accounts for more
than half of the petroleum products in the United States, and for about
15 percent of the total energy consumed.
The importance of nonrenewable resources to military strength
hardly needs elucidation. Military weapons, explosives and projectiles,
tanks, planes and naval vessels are made of, and powered by, mineral
materials. During intensive phases of the Viet Nam war, the U.S. Air
Force consumed more fuel than the entire civilian aviation sector.
As domestic mineral resources become depleted, the traditional
action of a consuming country has been to secure access to foreign mineral resources, by military conquest, commercial initiative, or both.
While the consuming nations were few and the producing nations were