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Geoscientist Online

World Mineral Production 2008

gfyjktThe British Geological Survey maintains one of the world’s largest databases on the production and trade in minerals. This book is an annual summary of world mineral production statistics over a rolling five-year period. ‘Centenary Edition’ refers to the fact that the database underpinning it is continuous from 1913. The data provides necessary intelligence for assessing security of mineral supply, economic analyses, and issues of regulation, policy and planning.

As budget cuts continue in the UK, BGS is undertaking a review of how and why they continue to produce mineral statistics. Their website includes a short survey to inform the decision making process. It is opportune that a review of this publication is available to the geoscience community and especially those working in the minerals sector.

Initially, the prospect of reviewing this book was a little worrying. After all, tabulated data are monotonous and those that engage with statistical publications can be unusual (‘they may not be normal but they are transformable’). It was a relief then, to find that this edition, atypically, includes coloured infographic pages and a historical overview.

BGS’s mineral data covers a period of major historical change and the drivers behind its compilation have also evolved from a UK (and Empire) focus to a global web-based resource now covering 177 countries. The overview includes changes to patterns of mineral supply and demand and how these were reflected in global production. After the Cold War, for example, the main consuming nations became increasingly dependent on cheap mineral supplies from developing countries.

Today, concern continues over the supply of so called ‘critical’ raw materials used in the manufacture of new technologies and clean energy. China produces over 90% of rare earth elements and unease came to a head in 2000-2010. Both the USA and Australia subsequently recommenced REE mining after many years without production.

World mineral production data are available from other organisations. The database under consideration is more historically complete than these (e.g. USGS production figures commence in 1931) and has a greater international focus, especially during the 20th Century. This extensive, continuous database and BGS’s expertise in its management have allowed them a recent key role in a number of EU mineral projects.

The World Mineral Production volume could readily become a five-year publication, with a statistical summary for interim years available online only. Infographic pages for all commodities should be presented on the website and included in each five-year publication.

Reviewed by Peter Wormald

WORLD MINERAL PRODUCTION 2008-2012 CENTENARY EDITION by T J BROWN, N E IDOINE, E R RAYCRAFT, R A SHAW, E A DEADY, J RIPPINGALE, T BIDE, C E WRIGHTON & J RODLEY, 2014. Published by: British Geological Survey 115pp (pbk) ISBN: 9780852727669 List Price: £30.00. W: www.bgs.ac.uk/mineralsuk/statistics/worldStatistics.html