Link to U.S. Geological Survey home page

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 02-333
Version 1.0

Sociocultural and Institutional Drivers and Constraints to Mineral Supply

The Meaning of Scarcity in the 21st Century: Drivers and Constraints to the Supply of Minerals Using Regional, National and Global Perspectives

By William M. Brown
With an Introduction by Eric E. Rodenburg


The sociocultural dimensions of mineral supply at the outset of the 21st century are making the supply process increasingly complex. The dimensions encompass legal, financial, environmental, cultural, and global implications of mining, and are driving unprecedented change in the way minerals supply will be accomplished in the future. Minerals scarcity on a global scale is subordinate to other societal issues about mineral resources and reserves estimated to meet society's demands for decades to centuries in the future.

This report reviews historical and present-day sociocultural drivers of change, and reactions of the minerals industry to these drivers. It is reflective primarily of conditions in the United States, but also uses examples from other countries. It expresses viewpoints on sociocultural drivers as seen by constituents of the minerals industry and several other communities of interest including Aboriginal peoples, non-government organizations; labor; mining-dependent communities; mining-affected communities; researchers; and government (federal, state/provincial, and local). It provides overviews of the demand for minerals in the United States, and the status of land available for mining. The report uses a case study of a metals mining project in Wisconsin to illustrate specific sociocultural drivers and constraints to minerals supply, and how these influence the minerals industry.

Over the past 150 years, a progression of sociocultural movements under the headings of conservationism, environmentalism, and sustainable development have nurtured societal values that have come to influence the mineral supply process in important ways. These movements reflect a continuing tension between the demand for minerals and other resources, and the simultaneous demand for aesthetic, spiritual, ecological, cultural, and other attributes of the land. The tension is an important element in current international debates about the meaning and future of sustainable development. This report focuses on some of the social challenges to the minerals industry to supply minerals, while at the same time providing environmental protection, economic growth, and sociocultural acceptance. All these issues fall under the rubric of sustainable development. It also describes current industry responses to sustainability, including the Global Mining Initiative (2001a), an attempt to introduce major changes in global industry practices to begin the 21st century. This report complements other documents in the series on physical supply, technological advancement, and economic and policy drivers (Wilburn and others, 2001).

Download this report as a single PDF file (1.4 MB).

Download free Acrobat Reader software and to learn more about Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0.

This report is only available on the web

[an error occurred while processing this directive]