World Mineral Supplies

May 28, 1976

Report Outline
Anxiety Over Availability and Price
Past Efforts to Meet Mineral Needs
Coping in an Age of Mineral Scarcity
Special Focus

Anxiety Over Availability and Price

Problem of Growing U.S. Dependence on Imports

Warnings about the depletion of minerals have been heard for centuries. But there was little public awareness until the Arab oil-exporting states imposed their embargo in 1973. Though the embargo has long since been lifted, it left America with a fuller realization of its dependency upon foreign sources for many essential mineral needs. Indeed, all nations need minerals and no nation is self-sufficient in them all. Out of this realization has arisen fear in the industrial West that embargoes, exorbitant costs, scarcities and eventual depletion of minerals will wreak havoc in the international order.

Some see the current minerals problem as a struggle between the industrialized nations, located primarily in the northern hemisphere, and the underdeveloped, resource-rich countries of the southern hemisphere. Recent discussions in the United Nations and negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade have focused attention on the attempt by developed nations to stabilize or lower the prices of the raw materials they need and efforts by Third World countries to bring commodity prices into line with the cost of finished goods they must import.

Such a view, however, overlooks the fact that with a few notable exceptions, the world mineral supplies are concentrated in developed countries. These exceptions include the large oil reserves in the Middle East and North Africa, copper in South America and Africa, tin and tungsten in Southeast Asia, bauxite in the Caribbean and cobalt in Zaire. But Canadian geologist M. H. Govett points out: “Five developed countries—the U.S.S.R., the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and South Africa—together dominate world supplies of most of the 20 minerals which account for more than 90 per cent of the total value of all minerals consumed in the world.”

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Mineral Industries
Oil and Natural Gas