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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Cooper, Franklin D.
Mining and quarrying trends in the metal and nonmetal industries,   pp. 1-26 PDF (1.9 MB)


Page 1

  1Mining and Quarrying Trends in the Metal and Nonmetal 
Industries 
By Franklin D. CoOper1 
 The value of nonfuel mineral raw materials produced in the United States
in 1978 was $20 billion. In 1979, total value increased to an estimated $24
billion, up 20% from 1978. 
 Of the principal metallic ores produced in 1979, about half showed increased
quantitative output and all showed increased value per ton compared with
that of 1978. Most nonmetallic commodities showed increases in quantitative
output and in average value per ton. 
 Because of its decreasing share of the world market, the domestic mineral
industry's concerns were the increasing costs of capital, labor, and energy;
withdrawals of public lands from mining; and the increasing cost of environmental
regulations that tended to deter or delay investment in the Nation's capacity
for producing essential minerals. 
 In 1978, based on a survey of 64 mining and metals industries by Citibank,
the rate of return on net worth in nonferrous metal manufacturing ranked
55th, nonmetal mining ranked 61st, and metal mining, 64th. The combined mining
sector returned 3% of equity. Low profitability of some mining firms increased
the cost of their borrowing and reduced the availability of funds except
from banks at very high rates. 
 Pollution control expenditures in 1978 by the nonferrous metal industry
equaled 12% of its total capital spending. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.—A 1979 Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) inventory of 7,811 separate land withdrawals in the United States indicated
that of the 67.9 million acres with- 
drawn, as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, about 54.2
million acres were closed to mining under the general laws and 18.9 million
acres were closed to leasing. Some withdrawals covered both locatable and
leasable minerals. 
 The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOl) announced final approval of agreements
with Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, permitting these States to supervise surface
mining and reclamation on Federal lands within their borders. 
 DOI relaxed proposed restrictions for mineral development on 56.6 million
acres of public land in Western States that could be turned into wilderness
areas. 
 The primary conclusion of an 87-page report to Congress by the General Accounting
Office (GAO) issued in late 1979 states that the cumulative effects of restrictive
and contradictory Government policies and regulations are discouraging investment
in U.S. mining and mineral processing and are forcing an increasing reliance
on imported minerals. 
 Exploration and Development.—A University of Alaska report, issued
in 1978, showed that 26% of the State's land area was open to mineral entry
under Federal and State laws. Prospecting was permitted on 64 million acres
of Federal lands and 36 million acres of State lands. New mining claims filed
in 1978 totaled 18,500. Exploration in 1979 employed 1,700 persons and cost
an estimated $75 million. 
 The uranium industry in 1978 spent $290 million for 52.5 million feet of
exploration drilling in the United States. 
 The number of major companies report- 


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