Changes in Mineral Exploration Practice: Consequences for Discovery
Published:January 01, 2005
Richard H. Sillitoe, John F. H. Thompson, 2005. "Changes in Mineral Exploration Practice: Consequences for Discovery", Wealth Creation in the Minerals Industry: Integrating Science, Business, and Education, Michael D. Doggett, John R. Parry
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This paper reviews and analyzes the role played by changes in mineral exploration practice on the discovery record worldwide, over a timeframe of roughly the last 50 years. Geologic field methods have remained relatively unchanged, although general geologic theory as well as some empirical and genetic ore deposit models and related concepts have undergone major revisions that have had significant but unquantifiable effects on the exploration process. The principal geochemical and geophysical methods employed in the 1950s and 1960s remain preeminent, notwithstanding the burgeoning sophistication of analytical techniques and geophysical instrumentation, and the exponential increases in data-processing capacity. Remote...
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Wealth Creation in the Minerals Industry: Integrating Science, Business, and Education
Global political and economic developments shape both the demand for minerals and primary metals and their supply. Overall, demand has moved broadly in step with economic activity over the past 30 years. Notwithstanding the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, demand grew more rapidly in the second half of the period than the first. The performance of individual products within this general trend largely reflects the specific nature of their main end uses. The geographic center of demand has shifted away from the mature industrial economies of North America, Western Europe, and Japan toward the newly industrializing countries of the Pacific Rim, China, and India. Mine production rose with demand, but not always in precise step. New capacity was required not just to meet demand, even where that was static, but also to offset the continuing effects of ore depletion. There were also changes in the location of production in response to geopolitical forces, the depletion of ore reserves, and the changing economics of extraction and processing. The number of mines contracted, especially during the 1990s, and the scale of mining operations was increased in order to achieve the requisite cost savings. Prices fluctuated in response to changing balances between supply and demand, trending downward from the early 1970s until the early 2000s. Most products witnessed at least one sharp price spike during the period, usually with continuing repercussions. Prices picked up from 2003, but generally not back to their earlier peak in real terms. Profitability varied according to the products concerned. In many years the average rates of return on capital employed have been insufficient to cover the risks involved.