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Andrew Bloodworth - Reserve judgement: Why misplaced concern about geological stocks distracts...

Updated: May 31, 2020

Reserve judgement: Why misplaced concern about geological stocks distracts from the urgent need to tackle the environmental consequences of resource use

Geologists and others working in the field of mineral exploration and mining use precise terminology to describe and classify minerals deposits, based on increasing levels of geological knowledge and confidence, and the feasibility of economic recovery. Although the terms mineral ‘resources’ and ‘reserves’ are sometimes used by other scientists and the media, they are frequently confused and/or used incorrectly. This can lead to misconceptions and flawed predictions that we may soon ‘run out’ of certain minerals and metals. While it is true that the Earth is a finite system, there is no prospect of physical exhaustion of minerals and metals in the foreseeable future. This scaremongering is a serious diversion from the immediate challenge of rapidly approaching environmental limits associated with current methods used in the extraction and refining of minerals and metals. The OECD recently warned that “Growth in materials use, coupled with the environmental consequences of material extraction, processing and waste, is likely to increase the pressure on the resource bases of our economies and jeopardise future gains in well-being”. Primary metals production is estimated to account for about 20 per cent of all industrial energy use globally, and 7–8 per cent of the total global energy use, thus significant greenhouse gas emissions. Unless interventions are made, this situation is likely to deteriorate, as primary metal production increases, as increasingly lower grade mineral deposits from greater depths in the subsurface are exploited.


As a science director at the British Geological Survey, Andrew is responsible for policy issues related to decarbonisation and resource management.His own interests include UK resource security, critical minerals and the impact of mining on developing countries. He has worked extensively in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world and was formerly Mining Advisor to the UK Department for International Development. 

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