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PEAK MINERALS: Ground breaking report warns of resource depletion.

http://www.mpi.org.au
Contact: James Courtney, Researcher
Mineral Policy Institute
+61 (0) 418 927 821

Dr. Gavin Mudd, (report author)
Monash University
+61 (0) 419 117 494.



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A groundbreaking new report to be presented at the Minerals Council of Australia Sustainable Development Conference in Cairns today is the first comprehensive analysis of Australian mineral production figures gathered since the beginning of the mining industry.

In an Australian first, mining data from as far back as 1829 has been collected and analysed by Monash University academic, Dr Gavin Mudd in conjunction with the Mineral Policy Institute to determine the long term sustainability of a range of Australia’s mineral resources.

The research provides the foundation for a much needed discussion of the challenge becoming known as “Peak Minerals,” and highlights the short-sighted nature of current mining practices. The traditional industry approach is one of extracting minerals as fast as possible while exploring for more, a strategy which – although historically successful – is becoming increasingly unsustainable as fewer high grade resources are discovered.

The report predicts that at the current rate of production growth, and based upon existing economic demonstrated resources, many strategic mineral resources could be depleted by the year 2050. For example, the best iron ore deposits in the Pilbara could be exhausted with only smaller and poorer quality iron ore remaining.

The report is the first to ever compile quantitative evidence on various mining trends and demonstrates that :
• Ore grades continue to decline – meaning more rock needs to be mined to maintain production;
• Solid wastes are increasing exponentially – such as tailings and waste rock – which increases the environmental burden of metal and mineral production;
• Economic resources for many key strategic minerals appear to have plateaued (eg. coal, iron ore); some minerals have gradually increased (eg. gold, copper) over time but this is proving harder to maintain as ore grades decline and deposits move deeper.

The fundamental implications of these combined trends suggest that the environmental footprint of mining looks set to substantively increase into the future. This includes higher energy, water and chemicals consumption as well as higher greenhouse emissions.

“We are extracting and exporting minerals faster than ever before, with plans to increase output,” said Dr. Gavin Mudd, author of the report. “This trend is already placing a huge burden on the Australian environment – a burden which looks set to increase significantly. We can see the nation racing to the peak of economically available resources with little consideration of the consequences once this point is passed.”

The Mineral Policy Institute is urging government and industry to take more seriously the long term implications of the increasingly rapid depletion of a range of once vast mineral resources that have underpinned Australia’s strength and economic security.

“Whether you look at it from an economic, strategic, social or environmental perspective, the unfettered expansion of mineral extraction in Australia is a development strategy that is fatally flawed,” said James Courtney, researcher with the Mineral Policy Institute.

 

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