T. E. Graedel, N. T. Nassar, 2015. "The criticality of metals: a perspective for geologists", Ore Deposits in an Evolving Earth, G. R. T. Jenkin, P. A. J. Lusty, I. Mcdonald, M. P. Smith, A. J. Boyce, J. J. Wilkinson
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The criticality of metals (the quality, state, or degree of being of the highest importance) is of increasing concern as populations and wealth increase and as mineral extraction follows. Many characteristics are involved in determining criticality, and those involving geology are among the most important. We discuss the state of knowledge of mineable resources across the periodic table, and how those determinations factor into criticality evaluations. We then illustrate criticality evaluations of the copper ore group elements for the specific example of the UK. Given the importance of the ore metals over the long term, we argue that efforts on the part of the geological community to update and maintain criticality-related information deserve much more attention than they are now receiving.
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Ore deposits form by a variety of natural processes that concentrate elements into a volume that can be economically mined. Their type, character and abundance reflect the environment in which they formed and thus they preserve key evidence for the evolution of magmatic and tectonic processes, the state of the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and the evolution of life over geological time. This volume presents 13 papers on topical subjects in ore deposit research viewed in the context of Earth evolution. These diverse, yet interlinked, papers cover topics including: controls on the temporal and spatial distribution of ore deposits; the sources of fluid, gold and other components of orogenic gold deposits; the degree of oxygenation in the Neoproterozoic ocean; bacterial immobilization of gold in the semi-arid near-surface environment; and mineral resources for the future, including issues of resource estimation, sustainability of supply and the criticality of certain elements to society.