Saturday, April 10, 2010


Latest update: October 22, 2011 (under construction until February 2012)

Cheat Sheet for Using WK31671

1. Obtain and read all the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries (MCS) and the USGS Mineral Yearbook Chapters for the selected mineral commodity for the last 10 years, particularly noting items on recycling, substitutes, and world consumption by end-uses.

2. Ask the USGS specialist the questions that arose from your reading; the phone number is on the USGS website.

3. Make a calculation like the one for nickel in the Appendix of WK31671.

4. Identify the data problems and missing data from steps 1. - 3.

Oceanic & Sizeable Other Resources

This blog covers resources of inorganic materials (i.e. mineral commodities), such information as might be needed for an environmental product declaration or as part of a life cycle assessment. While the emphasis is on oceanic resources, there are some sizeable resources of many materials on land. Many of these oceanic and nonoceanic resources are currently mined or recovered or just beginning to be recovered (manganese nodules). Reserve numbers should not be used because they are too unreliable (distorted): too low by a firm trying to minimize a heavy tax put on reserves by a political jurisdiction (i.e. Minnesota iron firms knew the iron ore was there from the general geology of the iron ranges but they avoided proving it up and avoided the tax.), or too high by a firm trying to sweeten a very bad quarter to their stockholders.

Begin by collecting information on the metal or industrial mineral from the years of the USGS commodity and country Minerals Yearbook (MYB) chapters and the Mineral Commodity Summary (MCS), all at , U.S. Bureau of Mines Bulletin 675 Mineral Facts and Problems (1985 edition-the last), and United States Mineral Resources, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 820 (p. 21-25, other). The information in these sources covers the world. In addition to data on the resources and Reserve Base, data on recycling, consumption by end use, and available substitutes for the end-use products, will also almost certainly be needed (again, the MYBs and the MCS). The ASTM E60 Sustainability Committee is in the midst of work on a document that will provide helpful guidance. Background information can be found on the Natural resources economics wiki.

Some of the metals and materials available in large quantity oceanic resources include bromine, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc; see the entries below. The International Seabed Authority at is a helpful source of information for these metals and materials, particularly Technical Study #6, published in 2010.

In order to have a VALID life cycle assessment, each resource for the material being studied that is mentioned below must be considered, and a check should be made for any resources not mentioned under the materials items below. The researcher's goal is to show that a resource is perpetual, meaning that there is at least a 350 year supply, taking into account recycling and availability of substitutes for most end uses. The same goal applies to any material not listed below. If it is necessary to assume a mathematical upper limit on a clearly perpetual resource (i.e. magnesium, dimension stone), use 2100 years, although it will clearly last multiples of 2100 years.

Resource availability by materials:

Aluminum--bauxite resources should be considered, also resources of high-alumina clays (recovery of alumina from such clays just began in Canada), and probably resources of anorthosite.

Bromine--extensively recovered from seawater, so its resources are clearly perpetual.

Cobalt--the cobaltiferous laterite deposits and the limited cobalt resources on land need to be considered, but emphasis should be on the large oceanic cobalt resources in manganese nodules, cobalt crusts, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and cobalt-containing polymetallic sulfide deposits and muds. Subsea commercial operations particularly directed towards cobalt are about to begin.

Copper--the copper resources on land need to be considered, but emphasis should be put on the oceanic copper resources in the manganese nodule group and copper-bearing polymetallic sulfide deposits and muds. Subsea commercial recovery of some of these items is close to beginning, and of course copper would be extracted.

Dimension stone (i.e. granite, marble)--this is "rock", so resources are clearly perpetual.

Iodine--formerly recovered from the ash of burnt seaweed, this is a renewable resource. The question under consideration is whether or not seaweed ash could supply world demand.

Iron--emphasis should be on the widely distributed Precambrian iron ranges and the titanomagnetite bodies; probably perpetual if substitution and recycling criteria are met.

Magnesium--extensively recovered from seawater, so its resources are clearly perpetual.

Manganese--while resources on land should be considered, oceanic resources of manganese nodules and related items should be heavily emphasized.

Phosphate--huge land (i.e. the Phosphoria formation underlying some western U.S. states) and oceanic (i.e. phosphate nodules) resources; probably a perpetual resource.

Vanadium--has large unconventional resources: vanadiferous slag from titanomagnetites, high-vanadium ash from burning Venezuelan petroleum, ferrophosphorus slag from elemental phosphorus production in western U.S.

Zinc--large land resources, especially Kupferschiefer-type deposits, and major oceanic resources in polymetallic sulfide bodies and "black muds", manganese nodules.