Chapter 1

The Road Ahead

Mining and the consumption of nonrenewable mineral resources date back to the Bronze Age, indeed even the Stone Age. So for millennia, they have made the lives of people nicer, easier, and more secure.

What is new is the pace of exploitation. Humankind has consumed more aluminum, copper, iron and steel, phosphate rock, diamonds, sulfur, coal, oil, natural gas, and even sand and gravel during the past century than all earlier centuries together. Moreover, the pace continues to accelerate, so that today the world annually produces and consumes nearly all mineral commodities at record rates (see Box 1-1).

At least four underlying forces are driving this explosion in use. First, advances in technology allow the extraction ...

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