Abstract

Historical production statistics are used to predict the quantity of remaining usable resources. The commodities considered are mercury, copper and its byproducts gold and silver, and petroleum; the production and discovery data are for the United States. The results of the study indicate that the cumulative return per unit of effort, herein measured as grade of metal ores and discovery rate of recoverable petroleum, is proportional to a negative power of total effort expended, herein measured as total ore mined and total exploratory wells or footage drilled. This power relationship can be extended to some limiting point (a lower ore grade or a maximum number of exploratory wells or footage), and the apparent quantity of available remaining resource at that limit can be calculated. For mercury ore of grades at and above 0.1 percent, the remaining usable resource in the United States is calculated to be 54 million kg (1,567,000 flasks). For copper ore of grades at and above 0.2 percent, the remaining usable copper resource is calculated to be 270 million metric tons (298 million short tons); remaining resources of its by-products gold and silver are calculated to be 3,656 metric tons (118 million troy ounces) and 64,676 metric tons (2,079 million troy ounces), respectively. The undiscovered recoverable crude oil resource in the conterminous United States, at 3 billion feet of additional exploratory drilling, is calculated to be nearly 37.6 billion barrels; the undiscovered recoverable petroleum resource in the Permian basin of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, at 300 million feet of additional exploratory drilling or 50,000 additional exploratory wells, is calculated to be about 6.2 billion BOE (barrels of oil equivalent).

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