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U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 02-418
Version 1.0

Policy -- A Factor Shaping Minerals Supply and Demand

By Thomas Goonan
With an Introduction by Eric E. Rodenburg


Valuable insights about the future availability of minerals for the U.S. economy can be gained from a study of the history of U.S. mineral development. From the beginning, first as corporate ventures, next as colonies, then as States united, American governments have pursued policies that had the effect to encourage development of mineral and other resources.

During the frontier period, 1781-1890, all levels of government in the United States spent public money for infrastructure development (canals, forts, ports, railroads, roads, and other), and the Federal government was particularly active in land acquisition, land surveys, and resource title transfer to private interests. These activities were effective support for the development of the nationís mineral resources. This was a period of rapid growth, wealth building, and substantial land disturbance.

During the post-frontier period, 1891-present, the consequences of resource development helped to move values for ecology and culture to the forefront of public policy, making them more competitive with development values. To date, American historyís lesson has been that policy is very important with regard to where and how minerals are placed into the service of human needs. This is also the history of global mining, as mining capital has moved to friendly policy environments. Although policy can create regional dislocations of mining, it has had little effect on the long-term global availability of minerals at continuously decreasing prices.

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For questions about the scientific content of this report, contact Thomas Goonan.

August 2012: a link provided in the reference cited section was replaced. See U.S. House of Representatives (2002).

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