Mineral resource geology in academia: An impending crisis?
1 Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado 80401, USA
2 Dept. of Geosciences, Oregon State University, 104 Wilkinson Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-5506, USA
3 Dept. of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Gould-Simpson Building #77, 1040 E. 4th Street, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA
4 Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, 80401-1885, USA
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With continued industrialization in the developing world, prices for metals and other mineral products reached new heights from 2005 to 2008. Though currently at lower levels, prices are likely to rebound sharply when the global economy recovers. A primary driver of high prices was a slowdown in the addition of new supplies via discovery and an inability to expand production from known deposits. Increasing demand also highlighted vulnerabilities in the supply chain of minerals critical for industrial production and national security. Despite these economic and political drivers, the numbers of mineral-resource (“economic”) geologists being trained in the West has decreased significantly over the past three decades. The current downturn is likely to cement this trend.
The decrease in economic geologists is particularly evident in the United States, where long-term trends foreshadow the demise of economic geology education and research in the coming decade. What will happen to U.S. competitiveness, a sustainable supply of mineral resources, and the nationís ability to engage in scientifically sound planning and land management if economic geology disappears from academia?
Manuscript received 5 November 2008; accepted 3 March 2009.
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