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Expanding 'Depletable' Resources: Solving a Paradox

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 9, 2012

The following was published at Econlib (Library of Economics and Liberty by Rob Bradley with the editorial help of David R. Henderson.

A website project of Liberty Fund, Econlib offers concise, online classical-liberal scholarship for “students, teachers, researchers, and aficionados of economic thought.”

Mineral resources, not synthetically producible in human time frames,1 are fixed in the earth. As each is mined, less supply remains, suggesting that cost and, thus, price must increase as production cumulates.

Yet, for virtually all minerals, the opposite seems to be true: As more is mined, more is discovered to be mined. Prices and costs do not inexorably rise. What was high-cost yesterday has become lower-cost, undercutting the perennial complaint that “the easy stuff has been found.” Overall, there seems to be little difference between minerals and general goods and services.