Over the past 15 yr, the domestic metal mining industry has been subjected to severe stress from a variety of sources. In the 1970's, double-digit inflation created an atmosphere of uncontrolled expansion. Sharply rising energy costs, worldwide recessions in 1975 and 1982, increased government regulation, increased foreign competition, and the acquisition of major mining companies by large international oil interests and foreign companies also impacted the metal mining industry. Early in 1987, the mining research directorate of the Bureau of Mines undertook an evaluation of the state of the industry to help in structuring its research programs to better respond to industry needs. The goal was to target the research on technological improvements needed to help U.S. producers regain and hold a competitive position in the world market. At the time this study was initiated, the future looked bleak for most of the industry. In the intervening 2 yr significant improvement has occurred owing to such factors as massive restructuring and plant closures, changes in tax structures, the weakened dollar, and adoption of new, more productive technology. This paper briefly reviews the key issues still confronting the metal mining industry in 1989. Characteristic trends for key commodities are documented to show the general nature of the changes that have occurred, and the needs of the producers are identified and analyzed as potential areas for research.
62nd Ann. Mtg. of the Minnesota Section AIME & 50th Annual Mng. Symp., Duluth, 1989, PP. 1.1-1.56