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  Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences

ISSN 1736-7557 (electronic)  ISSN 1736-4728 (print)
An international scientific journal

Formerly: Proceedings of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Geology
Published since 1952

Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences

ISSN 1736-7557 (electronic)  ISSN 1736-4728 (print)
An international scientific journal

Formerly: Proceedings of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Geology
Published since 1952

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Minerals sustainability, emerging economies, the developing world and the ‘truth’ behind the rhetoric; pp. 57–74

(Full article in PDF format)   doi:10.3176/earth.2008.2.01


Michael G. Petterson


This paper reviews the principles and applications of sustainable development as applied to minerals (sustainable minerals). The key pillars of sustainable minerals are well known and include economic, community, environmental, and political considerations. The ideal solution is one that finds a balance between community benefit, economic development, profit, and minimal negative environmental and political impacts. This is, of course, fine in theory but in the ‘real world’ difficult to achieve. From a geoscience perspective this paper argues that non-private sector geoscientists have a crucial role to play in developing the sustainable minerals paradigm to an intellectually mature and usable form. The geoscience approach includes re-interpreting the rich legacy of geoscience data and acquisition of new data (geological mapping, 3 and 4D modelling, geophysical and geo­chemical information) and contextualizing this information with socio-economic and environmental data (e.g. ethnicity, social mix, wealth indicators, environmental sensitivity indicators) to assist with strategic and localized decision-making, maximizing benefits, and minimizing adverse impacts. This approach also involves modelling the full lifecycle of minerals, mines, mineral commodities, and mineral-bearing land in an attempt to quantify benefits and disbenefits of mineral extraction. One crucial key element of a sustainable minerals approach is a mix between ‘hard’ science and social science and genuine inclusion and consultation with stakeholders, especially impacted communities. As geoscientists we are in a position to explain clearly the benefits of mineral development to society and the disbenefits of ‘nimbyism’ (e.g. exporting problems to countries less able to manage mineral extraction) and promote a ‘custodianship’ ethos of mineral development that is the only way to realizing the key principle of sustainability, i.e. leaving the planet in a state that our grandchildren can enjoy.


sustainable development, minerals, geoscience, copper, coal, aggregates, developed and developing world.


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Current Issue: Vol. 63, Issue 1, 2014

Publishing schedule:

No. 1: 20 March
No. 2: 20 June
No. 3: 20 September
No. 4: 20 December